Imagination, engagement and the moments of now – Prof Stephen Heppell shares at Learning Technologies 2013 eXchanges

by | Feb 4, 2013 | Articles

Prof. Stephen Heppell took part in @towardsmaturity eXchanges at #LT13UK – here are some reflections on the future of learning captured by eXchange Host Kelly Thomas.

I recently had the very great pleasure of hosting an eXchange session with Professor Stephen Heppell on behalf of Towards Maturity at Learning Technologies.  If you’ve not come across Stephen to date you are missing an enlightening and thought changing opportunity.

After a brief introduction to what is an incredible list of international achievements spanning 250 million hours of research in education and learning, we eagerly kicked off an exceptional discussion around the future direction of learning.

How can Professor Heppell’s research inform corporate learning?

Each of our attendees was interested to understand how Stephen’s research could shape and inform corporate learning activities.  To understand this you first need to comprehend the essence of Stephen’s approach; he explained that the majority of organisations structure themselves around accountability and not imagination.  When you consider much of what an organisation needs is to be ready for the unexpected you can see the connection.

We explored some examples of how imagination has driven exceptional learning.  In London, a radical change of approach to setting up a new school; the children leading the design, using technology to conduct worldwide research, deciding on the furniture; recognising that people are all different shapes and sizes so opting for a mix of chairs.  Designing surfaces that could be written on to share their thinking and work. Open plan learning spaces with 3 teachers working in parallel, which proved much faster than individual teachers.  But what’s particularly interesting is the results, children than had previously been excluded from other schools are now within 2 years, achieving A’s and B’s; out-performing the schools that had excluded them.  There was even an instance of the children breaking into the school over Easter to continue learning, what does that say about how they view learning!
In a similar vein Stephen described a project he’d been involved in where a corporate organisation recognising they had issues decided to challenge their youngest most dynamic talent.  They put the team to work in a basement to focus on making improvements to the company; what they delivered was the most useful changes the company had seen in 5 years and nothing they delivered had anything less than a hundredfold benefit.

Engagement and imagination are the secret weapons.

Everyone in the session was excited by the examples, but all trying to work out how you link this up and create connections into the corporate world.  Stephen went on to explain.  A key focus of his work is the set up a 0-21 school in the South of England, the concept being one single school until graduation.  The school is set up in completely different circumstances, situated on a business park, they have taken over a hotel, cinema and spa.  The environment is radically different to a typical school and is seamless to the normal world. They expect to be able to have children graduating with a degree between the ages of 16 and 17.  Stephen is so confident in the project that his grandchild is one of the pupils, not pressure then!

Learn with the learners

In a corporate sense Stephen explains the trick is to learn with the learners, if you learn with them then you change yourself. A challenge raised by the group was how to deal with the diverse needs of a mixed age workforce, Stephen’s response; not to develop or deal with them differently but to enable learning from each other.  In the same way there are examples of companies learning from kids and kids learning from companies.  We went on to imagine how powerful combining the two could be.

Influenced by the ‘moments of now’

Many things have changed over the recent past, the ‘now’ has become really important, Stephen explained kid pay lots of money to go to a concert, they wouldn’t think twice about sharing music on their phone or computer now, but they wouldn’t give away their tickets.  All tv now has real ‘now moments’ people being voted off shows, the growth of reality TV.  Ten years ago if you missed a formula one race you watched the recorded version later, now if you missed it, the ‘now moment’ has gone you don’t bother to watch it.  Thinking and behaviour has moved on.

Stephen predicts a growing drive towards user led learning and the ‘moments of now’ will be what draws them in.   For this to happen two things need to exist a better way of membership and belonging and the ability to annotate and add to the community you can trust.  This goes beyond a community of practice and becomes the operating system.  You know who you can trust and where you can find trusted support.  Stephen is confident of the outcome and predicts that whilst we’re not there yet the time is approaching and maybe in 18 months we’ll see it happening.

So, how do you summarise such a rich and interesting discussion?  I could go on and on.  One thing was really clear, the opportunity for corporations to learn from Stephen’s experience is wide reaching and compelling.  If you do nothing else, check out what it’s all about.  http://www.heppell.net/

Professor Stephen Heppell

Professor Stephen Heppell, Chair in New Media Environments, Centre for Excellence in Media Practice, Bournemouth University, Visiting Professor Universidad Camilo José Cela, Madrid. Emeritus Professor Anglia Ruskin University and Executive Chairman, Learning Possibilities+.

 

Stephen took part in the Learning Technologies eXchange run by Towards Maturity and our partner Training Journal.Catch up with other #LT13UK eXchange sessions here.

 

Photograph courtesy of freedigitalphoto.net

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