Friday, April 30, 2010

21st Century Learning Rules

Rule #8 -- Learning occurs simultaneously and interactively within the individual, the community, and the organization.

We think of the learning as something the person is doing. At the same time, the community in which the person is participating is also learning -- whether a community of two ("teacher" and "learner") or more (e.g., collaborative workgroup, team, meeting participants). And at the same time, the organization that provides the infrastructure for the learning process (e.g., a school or business) is itself learning.

This multi-layered, simultaneous learning process is an intricate ecosystem; powerful learning for any part of the system depends on the power of the learning that occurs in the other parts. If teachers are not powerfully learning, it's likely their students won't be either. But the reverse is also true. If the school as an organization is not learning, its teachers and students probably aren't either.

In fall 2009 St. Vrain School District (Longmont, CO) initiated a Digital Learning Collaborative (DLC) for about 50 teachers (13 teams of 4). The structure of the DLC includes monthly F2F meetings after school for each team (learning how to use various edtech tools to strengthen students' learning in the respective teachers' classrooms), monthly F2F meetings for the teams' leaders (8 a.m. - 3 p.m.) to learn about tools for the classroom and team process), and various online communications (including postings from the DLC leaders [Bud and Michelle], reflections by participants, tool resource/assessment reports, and process or tool use resources).

In the team leader meeting on April 29, participants reflected on how the kinds of learning experiences they're having could/should be reflected in how they facilitate learning for their students. For instance, they're discovering the multiplier effect that explicit (usually, in their case, written) reflection has on both implanting and extending what's being learned. What if they offered more reflective opportunities to their students? What if they offered those opportunities every 10-15 minutes rather than cramming them into the end of each class period?

The conversation among the DLC team leaders reflected their own learning (both the content and the process), and it radiated beyond each individual -- "out" to the community of team leaders; "down" to their team members and, potentially, their students; and "up" to the DLC leaders as well as to Dixie Good and me, who have been observing the DLC's development. Meanwhile, the DLC as an organization is learning, as is St. Vrain School District as an organization.