The Future of Work: Learning by Doing

Screen Shot 2013-03-17 at 1.41.24 PMThe strategic planning process to date has primarily been one of listening and paying attention. When we look at the comments from the parent and faculty surveys and the listening sessions we are struck by the thematic congruity.

One thread – woven throughout – can best be summed up as Learning by Doing  – a desire for school to be about designing, making, building and creating.

It connects directly with the leagcy of PDS as a place where learning has always been active. It connects also with the growing idea that learning must be active: Hence all the current fervor for project-based learning, STEM to STEAM, makerspaces and design thinking. We seem to be entering a shiny new edworld of making to learn and learning to make.

A second one that emerges loud and clear is a renewed commitment to the arts, creative expression and creative contribution.

In a digital driven era this may be a natural hunger for the practical, hands-on, 3-D world and the joy that comes from creating something new, pleasing and useful.

But it may also arise from the growing realization that creativity is at the heart of education;  and making things and new and anew is central to intellectual growth and the capacity to manage and shape the future.

It’s also increasingly central to the world of work in an entrepreneurial era where the brand-of-one and free-lancing appears to be the fast-growing and predicted trend.

Predicting the future is a perilous business.  And we’ve all taken on the habit of saying we can’t do it with any accuracy. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Educators are in the future business whether we like it or not because it is where our children will live  And one way to predict and shape the future is to start building it now.

And I think we can say some things for sure. Technology will continue to march forward and the pace of change will continue to pick-up. We will confront continued social and political upheaval, environmental change and competition for key resources.

The Tofflers have some credibility in future thinking. 40 for the next 40– 40 ideas for the next 40 years – gives us their take and it makes an interesting read. It’s a sampling of the drivers of change that, in their view, will shape our world between now and 2050.

I don’t think it’s going out on any limb to say that the future will benefit from, and likely reward, those capable of being self-sustaining learners and flexible thinkers, problem solvers who can work across boundaries to connect, create and communicate.

It suggests that these are attitudes, aptitudes, habits and modes of thinking we should focus on in school. After all – the change is not just in the future, it’s here and now already. We have access to ubiquitous knowledge, speed of communication, global collaboration and we have a growing need for creative and compassionate contributions to pressing problems.

As Dewey told us back in 1897– school is a process for living, not a preparation for future living. Furthermore, education is a process of becoming, not a training ground for the workforce.

That said, look at what futurists are now saying about that new world of work and what it will take to thrive in it. Not so much particular skill sets but ways of thinking, creativity and a boundless spirit of, and capacity for, connection and collaboration. This is a far cry the factory era and we are not contemplating a narrow set of skills for an assembly-line set of work experiences.

There are aspects in this emerging new world of work that sound like elements of the best classrooms environments for learning.

What do you make of this for example?:

Screen Shot 2013-03-17 at 3.39.52 PMPSFK Future of Work Report 2013

This report uncovers major themes, key trends and opportunities to help you grow your business and progress your career into the future.

You can see the whole slide show at the end of the post but I was very struck by these.

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“Learning by Doing” has been a school slogan for so long and especially at a school like ours. It’s fun to see it now touted as the way of the work world of the future.

It suggests to me that we are onto something with our emphasis on activity, engagement and the creative arts.

A collaborative start-up mentality plus multidisciplinary teams of people with diverse experiences and talents with a cross-over between teaching and learning.

Sounds promising to me.

Here’s a slide with the key takeaways from the report:

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Those takeaways have to do with workplace and corporate organizational structure and culture but some have direct bearing on what can, and should, be created and valued in schools as students and teachers go about their learning lives.

Constant learning and empowered education as one example. Structures that bring people together – collision collusion – is another. At PDS we have always valued the interage connections and transdisciplinary approaches. Something else to build on going forward.

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Here’s another slide that caught my eye.

It connects with our thinking at PDS that all future furniture and design should be as flexible as possible to meet the changing needs of children and learners.

Here, it’s called the pop-up workplace.

There are some interesting examples on other slides.

I love the idea of being able to “pop-up” what works best for now.

So here is the full slide deck. Have they got some things right?





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