NGLC’s higher ed and K-12 staff just attended the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference—where over 7,000 of our colleagues convene to learn, reflect, and engage with professionals from around the world. I see a lot of parallels between the K-12 and higher ed work, and I think my colleagues do too. Being curious, I asked NGLC K-12 Program Officers Stefanie Blouin and Sarah Luchs what they gleaned from the event.
What’s one nugget of wisdom you’re carrying away with you from your time last week?
Stefanie: Daniel Pink’s keynote reinforced the importance of thinking about student agency and how to foster autonomy and choice in our schools. Using information and research from other fields, he punctuated that human beings are engaged by autonomy—not by being managed—and that self-direction is the road to engagement.
He gave an example from a study in a Chinese factory where workers with close oversight were actually less productive and less collaborative than those who were not as closely watched and monitored. Much of the traditional role of teachers engenders this kind of oversight and “micromanagement” of student learning, and it’s clear that it won’t produce the results we really want and need for and with our students.
Sarah: Andrew McAfee built nicely on Daniel Pink’s ideas. He helped us to see a critical shift where computers have moved from solving technical problems with discrete solutions and formulaic tasks to an era of adaptive feedback and complex problem solving. Computers can now do things we initially thought they couldn’t, like drive a car (Google), win trivia game shows (Watson on Jeopardy), and out-predict our best global experts and speculators in selecting winners in wine futures.
Computers can continue to solve more complex problems through “feedback” which is built into the system design; this is how computers are now programmed to “learn.” And the rate of their learning is very rapid and efficient. Frankly, it’s a little mind-blowing to those over the age of 30, who suffered through early iterations of computing pre-cell phone ubiquity. We’ve grown accustomed to a slow-burn pace of change, and yet, according to McAfee, things are on the fast track now. We’re just past the halfway mark of the current trajectory, so this is our “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet” wake up call with implications for schools and next gen learning designs.
Is there something you wish you could learn more about? If you had the time, what would you dive deeper into?
Stefanie: Daniel Pink talked about the physicists that won the Nobel Peace Prize and how they used “Friday Evening Experiments” to generate their winning approach. These 2-3 hours of self-directed time were outside of their regular lab work; they focused on self-selected problems with the goal of simply making progress in meaningful work. If progress depends on feedback, and most workplaces and learning environments are “feedback deserts,” I wonder how we might incorporate more meaningful feedback into our practice. I’d like to explore ways to do that…coaching is one type of practice to enhance feedback. There are lots of connections to be made here; I just need more time to ponder and apply!
Sarah: I’m not sure we’ve gone far enough in our thinking on possibilities for next gen designs and leveraging available technologies. I’m struck that we’ve taught computers “to learn” and achieved that by mimicking children’s thinking patterns. Children digest an array of contextual, complex, and at times ambiguous or conflicting feedback. There’s something odd and ironic here—many would argue our system is not successfully helping our own children learn. Yet, children are inherently designed for learning, so we may need to unlearn school. Right now, I’d look more deeply into the science of learning and how to tap the intrinsic assets all children have. And, due to the rapid pace of change and to ensure my own health and balance, I’d also look into how to best flow, integrate, and adapt to the accelerated pace of change.
If one of our K-12 breakthrough model grantees asked you what the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference was like, what would you tell them?
Both: We’d tell them there’s a wealth of expertise walking the halls waiting to be tapped. Most sessions are applicable and/or connect to the world of K-12. Topics address common challenges and opportunities, especially around supporting student success, enabling faculty collaboration and learning, and utilizing the best technologies to help achieve intended results.
What can higher ed learn from K-12?
NGLC’s Andy Calkins and Getting Smart’s Tom Vander Ark brought a K-12 perspective to conference attendees. Their session, Reimagined Schools and Next-Gen Tools: What They Mean for Higher Education, forced participants to think about the implications of current innovations occurring in K-12 schools for their institutions, the preparation of incoming students. And they explored together similar efforts in K-12 environments and higher education. Read about the 10 implications for higher ed that Andy and Tom identified.
For other K-12 and higher ed connections, see these related posts:
- NGLC @E15: Next Gen K-12 Models & Student Success in Higher Ed
- Next Generation K-12: 10 Implications for HigherEd
- Marketing Non-Traditional Programs in K-12 and Higher Ed