Friday, September 18, 2015

Organizational Learning

Students share their Chromebook experiences

Last Spring, my 8th grade son presented to the school board with a group of teachers about their Chromebook experiences. The district had piloted a 1:1 Chromebook program for 8th & 9th grade. I attended the meeting because I was proud of my kid, but also, I was proud of the teachers.

Not to harp too much about Chromebooks, but they are really great. They support engagement, organization, research, effective use of time, efficiency, best-practices, etc., etc., etc. In short, Chromebooks support learning.

So much of my career has been focused on individual learning - for myself or for students. In recent years as an administrator, I have thought more and more about organizational learning. This is a bigger and stickier ball of wax.

I found a paper on Scribd (a new fun tool for me) about Individual Learning. Read it, it was fun. The part that was the most compelling for me was about the differences and the connections between individual and organizational learning.

All of us are "islands of knowledge," which is great to a certain extent. But connecting those islands and embedding new learning into organizational patterns is the challenge.

How can we accomplish broader organizational learning? How can schools have structures in place that encourage adaptive behaviors for all learners (adults and students alike)? How can we create challenging, shared goals? How can we sustain a culture of continual evaluation and refinement of our structures and practices?

These questions will plague me all weekend (and for years to come, no doubt). But for now, I'll hold up as a fine example of organizational learning that team of teachers and students who presented to the school board last April. Their islands of knowledge were not only connected, but in sync and continuously communicating their needs, ideas, set-backs and successes.

Part of their success, I think, was ownership. Those teachers and students were given tools and guidelines and asked to create a "program." They were encouraged to experiment and try new things - the outcomes of which were innovative and effective models for teaching and learning. They became enthusiastic experts who were able to share their passions with others. If you look closely at the picture, you can see the excitement on the faces of the listeners - how cool is that? Those pilot teachers and students led the change - and got others to connect their islands with the massive continent-sized group of thinkers that they had become.

Organizational learning at its finest, I think.

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