Saturday, January 24, 2015

Teachers, Students, and Entrepreneurial Learning


em*ploy*ee  
noun

: a person who works for another person or for a company for wages, salary, or some other form of compensation

en*tre*pre*neur  noun

: one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise




"How do you constantly look around you, all the time, for new ways, and new resources, to learn new things?" - John Seely Brown

Heutagogy is the study and application of self-determined learning. Rather than merely improving or reframing education, Jon Andrews explains that an entrepreneurial mindset is necessary to transform education "into a complete experience and preparation for the world today, as well as, for an uncertain future." (1)

World renowned scholar, Yong Zhao, states, "Traditional schooling aims to prepare employees rather than creative entrepreneurs. As a result, the more successful traditional schooling is (often measured by test scores in a few subjects), the more it stifles creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit." (2) 



Why is entrepreneurial learning relevant? 


With a skill half-life of only several years, it will become increasingly essential for people to reinvent themselves, and acquire new skill sets, for economic and social sustainability. Zhao differentiates employment-oriented education from entrepreneur-oriented education by contrasting employability skills versus enhanced human talents. 









Sometimes framed as informal or personal learning, entrepreneurial learning challenges schools to move from content transfer to participatory education models. The network age in which we live provides infinite information and learning possibilities, but what does entrepreneurial learning look like in formal learning institutions, schools?
  • Students, with the help of a mentor, plan, organize, manage, measure, and reflect upon their learning.
  • Teachers, also entrepreneurial learners, provide cross-curricular mentorship to students.
  • Connecting and networking helps shift learning from content-based, to context-based experiences.
  • Making and tinkering reinforces creativity, persistence, collaboration, and problem-solving.
  • All learners use portfolios for journaling, reflecting, documenting, and sharing.
  • Project-based/problem-based education provides the foundation for authenticity in learning and assessment.
  • Curriculum and assessment are flexible and negotiated between mentor and learner.
  • The learner defines and manages the educational pathways.
  • The learner asks the key questions that drive inquiry and discovery.

Examples of Schools Featuring Entrepreneurial Learning


There are undoubtedly other shining examples of schools featuring entrepreneurial learning. Please share your examples in the comment section below. Thank you to Terry Heick at TeachThought for sharing this terrific video highlighting entrepreneurial learning.




(1) Experiences in Self-Determined Learning, L.M Blaschke, C. Kenyon, & S. Hase

(2) World Class Learners: Educating Creative & Entrepreneurial Learners, Yong Zhao



photo credit: Nathan Wind as Cochese via photopin cc

Monday, January 12, 2015

Digital Contribution vs. Digital Citizenship

Last week's frigid weather not only prompted many school closings, it prompted some students to take to social media in a negative way. The reaction to the negative messages was swift and predictable with teachers, administrators, and parents calling for digital citizenship training programs. A common popular analogy suggests young drivers take coursework and an assessment before obtaining a license to legally drive. Shouldn't similar steps be taken before people put their reputations and futures at risk from ill-advised sharing on social media? 

"We need to look beyond the scary stats and help kids start thinking about the things they want to share with their families, with their classrooms, or with a larger audience." - Alec Couros

With the stakes being so high, it's hard to argue against teaching young people about responsible use and proper etiquette when using digital tools and social media. However, I would like to suggest another way. Educators should model, enable opportunities, and guide students in the ways of becoming digital contributors to learning. Here are three reasons why digital contribution trumps digital citizenship;

  1. Digital citizenship assumes a minimum standard. Learners can move beyond consumption of rules and regulations by sharing processes and creating products that contribute to a worldwide knowledge base. Teachers who model and guide digital contributions are raising expectations and going beyond the minimum standard. Digital contributors are developing the habits of relationship building, growth mindset, and lifelong learning.
  2. Digital contributors are taking ownership of their digital footprint. Self-publishing and entrepreneurial learning will increasingly gain prominence in a web 3.0 environment. People who conscientiously share their learning are building followings and reputations worth protecting. Naturally, digital contributors are less likely to risk damage to their work with dishonest or distasteful posts.
  3. Digital contributors are assigning purpose to their sharing activity by feeding and supporting the learning of others. Digital contributors are inviting learning relationships through conversation and the sharing of perspective. Digital contributors extend learning beyond the walls and schedules of the traditional classroom. Deeper and richer learning is the result of digital contributions. Digital contributors quickly learn the meaning of the phrase, "give more, get more". 



So, how does one become a digital contributor to learning? Engaging in Twitter chats, creating and sharing video and slide show presentations, and posting to blogs are popular ways for learners to share their knowledge and experiences. Digital portfolios are quickly becoming an essential component of writing and sharing to authentic audiences. Learners of any age can share processes, reflections, and products of their learning in a digital portfolio. Longitudinal tracking of progress make portfolios a powerful tool for sharing learning stories. (5 Reasons Your Portfolio Should Be A Blog - George Couros)

I am not opposed to the goals of students learning about, and living as, good digital citizens. However, too often the digital citizenship lessons involve someone telling someone else the rights and wrongs of social media use. Wouldn't it be better to provide students with an authentic canvas to share their learning? Raising expectations, modeling best practices, and building a positive network presence are better ways of helping young people make good choices when sharing online.


Does digital contribution trump digital citizenship?

How are you and your students contributing to the learning of others?


Related Learning Resources




Students as Meaningful Contributors - Langwitches Blog, Silvia Tolisano



photo credit: Remko van Dokkum via photopin cc 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Next Generation Learning Spaces & Meaningful Learning Experiences


"The classroom remains a location of possibility."

The HipHopEd Manifesto


Does this learning space facilitate meaningful learning experiences? 

How many of our learning spaces resemble this Philadelphia classroom from 1897? 

Yesterday, David Jakes, a highly respected educational thought change leader, led a three hour session to help us stretch and validate our thinking in creating "next generation" learning spaces. 

"Why do you want to change your learning spaces?", asked Mr. Jakes.

Our district has made a strong commitment to 1:1 enhanced learning. Teachers and students are realizing that many aspects of the traditional classroom "container" no longer provide the "flexibility, agility, and adaptability" offered in digital learning spaces.

During his introduction, Mr. Jakes referred to the book, The Third Teacher. The authors state children learn and develop through their interactions with adults, peers, and their environment. (1) 

Are we designing and creating future-ready environments supportive of personal, connected learning? Are we providing a third teacher worthy of our next-gen learners?  


"How can we include students in these modernization processes?"





Mr. Jakes then asked the critical question... 

"What do you want the learning experiences at your school to be?" 

While school missions and vision statements can sound rather generic. Learning spaces can impact school climate and student empowerment profoundly. Learning, it was said, is a series of stories. The collection and sharing of these stories contribute to the school's culture. School climate was described as a tone or feel of the environment, while school culture is made up of norms, beliefs, and values. We acknowledged simply moving, or removing, existing furniture influences classroom climate. It seems safe to assume that improved climate yields better stories, and meaningful learning experiences.

"The first step in redesigning the classroom is to discard the notion that it has to be a classroom..." - David Jakes



Following the introductory comments, teams of educators wrote descriptors of ideal learning experiences on sticky notes. These were posted around the meeting room. The large group identified trends to help focus discussions of classroom design. Our trending descriptors included; capacity for connecting, space for movement, space for building and creating, and a space that is inviting, comfortable, and welcoming.




Nine boards containing a variety of learning spaces were posted around the meeting room. For our second activity, we were asked to put stickers (green, yellow, and red) on the pictures. The colored dots indicated degree of personal preference of the pictured learning space. Once again, common trends were identified and discussed. The follow-up conversation reinforced common language while adding perspective to the discussion. David helped focus our terms to technological. interconnected, and intentional use of physical space supportive of increasingly virtual learning. This exercise helped us visualize the creative possibilities for our learning spaces.


With time winding down, we discussed potential goals and metrics to help us identify and measure the impact of innovative spaces on our learners. Mr. Jakes shared slides showing how schools creatively used levels, corners, and surfaces to influence engagement, empowerment, and climate. If we had more time, I would have liked to work with my team in creating a map of an innovative classroom based upon our identified trends and preferences.


Our session with David Jakes proved to be a valuable use of time as we were able identify reasons for changing our learning spaces, we acknowledged the role of climate and culture in designing learning spaces, and we were able to use common language in describing key criteria for moving forward from ideation to planning. Our plans include bringing more teachers and students into the conversation of designing prototype classrooms. We will also do our own "space inventory" with the intention of converting non-instructional areas into next-generation learning spaces.

The key takeaway, it's difficult to expect innovative instruction and learning without innovating the learning environment, as well. Our thanks to David Jakes for stretching our thinking and listening to our ideas. It's time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Are you updating your classroom or school to accommodate next generation learning? Please accept this invitation to share your ideas, plans, and examples of creative and innovative learning spaces.

Related Resources & Reading


Active Learning Spaces; Insights, Applications, & Solutions - Steelcase Education

2014 Classroom Cribs Finalists - AJ Juliani, Erin Klein, Tom Murray



(1) The Third Teacher; CannonDesign, VS Furniture, & Bruce Mau, 2010


Photo (1) By John Trevor Custis [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo (2) Whitiora School, Flexible Learning Spaces (CC Image)
Photo (5) credit: mleiboff via photopin cc