I didn’t always hate school. In fact, I used to love it. I still recall exactly when I fell in love with school, and precisely when I started disliking everything about it.
The image is dim, but I can vaguely see the front of the classroom. I see the teacher, and I see me. We’re decorating the walls for the new school year. Yup! Just me, Miss Jones, lots of construction paper, Elmer’s glue and Scotch tape. The process was creative and fun. She made me feel like the project we were doing really mattered, and I felt connected and valued. I was somewhere around six years old and utterly convinced that school was cool.
Don’t know why my sisters and I moved to a new school, but I remember everything about the culture shock. We went from being one of 10 kids in a class to be one of around 30. I can’t remember any of my teachers’ names and wonder, in retrospect, if they ever knew mine. I do recall feeling invisible and disconnected. I went from sitting in the front of the room to hiding out in the back. Eventually, my body was showing up for class, but my mind would leave the building.
Fast Forward Again…
Both of my sisters are now educators.They have advanced degrees and a three-decades-long history of walking through school doors. They apparently loved school enough to go back again and again. Not me… I bolted for freedom at the earliest possible opportunity. I was going to be a pilot or an entrepreneur -- whichever one didn’t involve algebra.
No family member, teacher or crystal ball could have predicted that I would end up spending 10 years deeply immersed in topics like formative assessment, cognitive load, metacognition, knowledge transfer, social emotional learning, differentiated instruction, blended learning, universal design, restorative practice, Bloom’s taxonomy, and a host of education concepts that I still can’t believe I know and understand.
But through another lens, there’s less irony here than appearances suggest. It turns out that like many educators I have an insatiably curious mind. I like to understand the who, what, when, where, how and why of stuff. In short, I may have hated school, but I love learning.
Curious About Education
Though I love learning, I can't say that working in education was on my bucket list. But once I landed here, there was no doubt that learning about how people learn is a fascinating topic.
Spending a decade working with the most thoughtful minds in education has been a privilege, a blessing, and an education. But the highlight was discovering that traditional schooling is being rethought and reimagined. Most fascinating are the emerging approaches to engage and develop self-directed learners.
Curiosity about reinventing learning led me to Jon Bergmann and a deep dive into flipped learning. So, when the invitation to co-author the definitive book on flipping corporate training arrived on our doorstep, I was intrigued.
Schooling Versus Training
Video has become an increasingly popular tool in both schooling and corporate training. The debate has long been settled: video can be a very effective teaching tool in both learning scenarios.
But here’s where things get interesting.
Some deep-pocketed companies are spending the cost of a Hollywood B movie to produce training videos. The aim? Create a professional training tool that will engage trainees and impress management.
It turns out that the relationship with the teacher supersedes high production values.
Hmm… To quote the great instructional designer, Edgar Bergen, "Who’d of thunk it?"
Do relationships matter in corporate training videos? If so, how many corporate training bucks have been flushed down the toilet on Spielberg-Lucus-Howard-level productions when in-house talent and an iPhone video would have hit the target?
Can corporate trainers learn anything from K-20 educators?
It Goes Both Ways
Both schooling and training are struggling with engagement, knowledge transfer and accountability. But there can be a grand-canyon-sized gap between the priorities in these two camps. Schooling will likely remain focused on confirming what learners “know” for some time. Meanwhile, trainers are increasingly shifting the focus to what learners can actually “do.” Perhaps informal learning guru Jay Cross said it best,
"Executives don't want learning; they want the job done."
This focus on performance over knowledge is leading to some intriguing thinking. Trainers are exploring when, where, and how training is best delivered. Many are moving away from the education-based model that views the classroom as the epicenter of learning.
More striking is the thinking around the notion of "curriculum." K-12 largely remains deeply committed to a top-down, prescribed curriculum. Meanwhile, thought leaders in the training space are exploring the bleeding edge of student-directed learning. Stephen J. Gill, a leading learning culture expert, says the world is changing too fast for traditional approaches to curriculum:
“We no longer have the luxury of time to define, design, develop, deliver, manage, and measure formal courses. Survival will require people who can… find their own curriculum and courses, figure out an appropriate way to learn, and get on with it.”
This may sound preposterous at the K-12 level until you consider that kids today are using social media to master all sorts of skills on their own.
Can K-20 educators learn anything from these corporate trainers?
Lessons from the Crossroads of Schooling and Training
Some people love school.
Some people love teaching.
Some people love training.
Some people love learning.
There’s something more important than loving school, teaching, training or loving learning. It’s the ability to fall in love with “unlearning and relearning.”
Alvin Toffler said it best,
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
It’s cathartic to those who hated school to know that teachers and trainers are reimagining the craft. The good news is we now have the technology and knowledge to radically reduce the number of people who loathe classrooms. More importantly, we have the potential to increase the number who love learning.
How fast we get there will likely be determined by how quickly we can “unlearn and relearn” what we've all learned about learning.
The journey begins!
Look for the new book, Flipped Learning 3.0: The Operating System for the Future of Talent Development July 30th, 2017.
The success of flipped learning is opening new possibilities and new frontiers. Flipped learning is seeping into other fields and has now found its way into the world of corporate training.
Jon Bergmann and Errol St.Clair Smith set up camp at the global intersection of K-20 education and corporate training. They are mapping the future as it unfolds, cross-pollinating ideas and documenting how flipped learning is increasingly being recognized worldwide as the “operating system” that supports all other instructional models.