Education Opinion

30 Attributes of Next-Gen Learning

By Tom Vander Ark — September 08, 2014 5 min read
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The learning opportunity set improves every month with new tools powering new experiences and environments. While EdPolicy politics can be frustrating to
watch, innovation momentum is very strong and I’m confident that the 2020 learning landscape will be dramatically improved.

Andy Calkins, Next Generation Learning Challenges, suggested that next gen learning is blended (as
defined by Christensen), personalized, and competency based (as
defined by CompetencyWorks). Reviewing NGLC winning school designs points the way toward the 2020 landscape. This posts
contemplates the outcomes and design elements of next gen schools and systems.

10 successes.
More than readiness, students should experience success in what’s next so they plan next steps with knowledge and confidence. Students should leave the
secondary system having experienced success in:

  1. College: earning a job certificate and/or college credit, visiting several campuses, and could (like YES Prep) require acceptance to a post secondary pathway;

  2. Several work settings: job shadows, internships, paid projects;

  3. Team experiences; multiple types and missions;

  4. Community service;

  5. Visual and performing arts;

  6. Problem solving; multiple types and settings;

  7. Publication: blogging, research paper, newsletter;

  8. Presentation: multiple settings and vehicles;

  9. Project management, and

  10. Personal wellness routine.

These successful experiences could make up a series of badges required for graduation. Some of these would be taken up in a formal education setting,
others could be completed independently. Some would be blended, some community based, while others would be online. Some schools may want to add badges for
launching a business or developing a mobile app.

10 LX attributes.
While school settings will vary, quality learner experiences (LX) will include at least these 10 characteristics (an update from January):

  1. Daily engagement in powerful learning experiences--a mix of individual and group, short and extended;

  2. Culture, policy and tools that support quality work products with frequent presentation and publication to public audiences;

  3. 24/7 access to an Internet connected device (or devices) and access at school, home and in the community;

  4. Modern customizable user interface with seamless movement and data collection between applications;

  5. Achievement recognition (e.g., badges) and data visualization tools that guide/motivate progress;

  6. Flexibility in learning path and pace;

  7. Effective academic support systems;

  8. Sustained advisory relationship including college/career awareness and guidance;

  9. Positive physical environment that supports learning experiences; and

  10. Meaningful and healthy extracurricular activities.

10 system attributes.
There will be several state policy frameworks for elementary and secondary education that promote blended, personalized, and competency-based learning,
some will share the following ten elements (an update from December

  1. Good goals.
    Next gen learning systems will set goals that promote an innovation mindset and preparation for
    participation in college, careers, and civic life. Next gen systems will have standards that express in some detail what students should know and be
    able to do--more detailed in literacy and numeracy; more general when it comes to dispositions and experiences.

  2. Assessments.
    Next-gen systems will support competency-based progressions with on demand end of unit/course demonstration opportunities. Achievement recognition and
    matriculation will often be managed using an open badge platform. Providers in next-gen systems will use
    performance tasks and experience embedded assessments to track progress and growth (in ways that make it comparable with other environments). Provider
    quality may be verified by a sampling strategy (e.g., NAEP) and inspection.

  3. Authorizing.
    In a next-gen system, all full and part time providers will operate under a performance contract--a system that replaces accreditation and results in
    contracts of three years, perhaps longer for proven providers. A well developed authorization process would ensures that every family has access to a
    variety of quality blended and online full and part time options. Most would providers benefit from perpetual rather than political leadership with a mission-focused
    board. Next gen authorizers will use multiple application pathways for
    new, innovative, high performing, turnaround, virtual, special services, and conversion providers.

  4. Personalization.
    Next gen systems will power personalization with a data backpack of portable learning plans,
    transcripts and portfolios. Students will benefit from an advisor and online guidance system and a single application and enrollment process,.

  5. Data systems.
    Next gen systems will support portability, transparency, and accountability with comprehensive longitudinal data systems (starting with the 10 Elements
    and Actions of the Data Quality Campaign. As noted above, next gen systems provide frameworks for
    measuring academic growth rates of individual students and facilitate sharable learner profiles and portfolios.

  6. Funding.
    Next gen systems will provide weighted, flexible, portable and
    performance-based funding. Operations will be separate from facilities management;
    all providers will receive facilities funding.

  7. Talent.
    Next gen systems will support multiple competency-based preparation
    pathways and certify based on performance. They will use differentiated roles from assistant to master teacher and will make use of some part time
    specialists at a distance. Next gen schools will recruit, develop, and leverage the talent of great teachers. High potential leadership candidates have
    access to a variety of developmental experiences and learning opportunities.

  8. Connections.
    Next gen systems will facilitate connections with job training, work-based learning and college credit opportunities. Virtual mentors will monitor
    progress and provide real time advice.

  9. Support.
    Next gen systems will connect students to a web of support services for youth and families by partnering with groups like Community In Schools.

  10. Accountability.
    Next gen systems will not renew ineffective providers and will actively intervene in chronic failure (like the LouisianaRSD and the Michigan EAA the Tennessee ASD). Proactive authorizers will target underserved geographies and groups.

These 30 design elements would ensure that every family had access to powerful full and part time learning experiences, sustained guidance and strong
supports. They would provide better working conditions and career options for teachers. And they would boost student achievement and career preparation.

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The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.