Integrated Learning: Tapping into Social Power

I am not a school teacher, but I was intrigued by the concept and attended EdCamp Philly — a socially-oriented unconference for educators held May 21 in Philadelphia.

One great session at the conference was on Integrated Learning with presenter Mike Ritzius. Mike is a teacher in New Jersey who is part of a very interesting approach to learning. Essentially, they have created a one-room classroom for high school students with grades 9 through 12 all learning together. Kids are not separated by walls, proficiency, schedules, interests, etc. They are empowered to use teachers as learning guides and are largely responsible for teaching each other and learning together within a creative and supportive environment.

“This is not a top-down program,” Mike says. “If you look at this from the outside you don’t know what is going on.”

Mike explained that some parents and administrators were not initially comfortable with this because they expected traditional learning. But when they hold showcase days where students demonstrate what they are learning, what they have done and why they have done it, the end result is clear and the power of the approach can be seen.

This is a great approach to learning, and one that I believe closely models how work will increasingly be done within organizations on a professional level in the future. Just like students are being empowered to get things done and demonstrate results, more organizations need to unleash their employees to get work done and produce results.

Closer relationships, interdependence and collaboration are all part of this education model — and business going forward. Social networking and social business strategies can be a key part of this equation for businesses. What are you doing in your organization?

Here are some key cultural principles shared by Mike, paraphrased a bit. Maybe these can be applied to your organization.

  • Empower students (workers) to seek resources out rather than rely on teacher (executive/boss) programmed tools.
  • Use resources that work best with student (employee) learning (working) styles.
  • Create projects that pique their interests AND meet state (organizational) standards (business needs and requirements).
  • Seek out information (data, info, knowledge, understanding and wisdom in the Ackoff model) students (employees) need and want to learn (to do their jobs well).
  • Use education and knowledge as a tool to achieve goals.

Thank you, Mike — there’s a lot here that we should all be applying!

–Chuck Hall

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