Why More Schools Haven't Rethought Student Learning

Plus, The Robots Are Coming, But So Are Investments In Human Capital

It’s no secret that I’ve been frustrated at the inability of many schools to fundamentally rethink the learning experience that they offer students over the past 12 months.

Many schools have instead focused on logistics and operations—which are important given health concerns, but also insufficient.

As schools reopen—and many offer or even require summer school, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona told Education Week in an interview that they shouldn’t just replicate the traditional experience. “any summer learning enrichment experience really needs to be re-engaging students in a community of learners. That’s done through experiential learning, getting outdoors, doing projects, [while] maintaining the health and safety standards that are required, to really re-engaging them with experiences.”

But will schools heed the call and start to design new student learning experiences? There are a whole bunch of what you might call the “standard” reasons one might assume not. Things around balancing so many community concerns with limited resources, federal, state and local regulations, and work contracts that often limit educators’ responses.

In my latest piece for Forbes, I discuss another one—one that Clark Gilbert, now the president of BYU Pathway Worldwide, uncovered in his doctoral research many years ago. It’s call threat rigidity response, and it’s something that many schools are suffering from right now in my estimation. But Gilbert’s research also points to a playbook for how to escape it. Read more and let me know what you think.

The robots are coming

It might not quite be the cry that Paul Revere never actually uttered, but it’s induced fear in plenty of workers.

For the first time, the majority of robots ordered last year in North America won’t be going to automotive factories. Instead, companies in the consumer goods, pharmaceutical, and biomedical industries are responsible for a significant upturn in orders.

The COVID-19 pandemic made new standards for social distancing critical, and that, in turn, has empowered companies to turn to robots. Employers across the country turbocharged their investments in technology and automation. These accelerated investments, combined with a crippling recession and mass layoffs, disproportionately affected low-wage workers, women, and underrepresented minorities.

But there’s some good news for workers, as my Guild Education colleague CJ Jackson and I wrote for the MIT Sloan Management Review in “A Paradox No More: Investing in Automation and People.”

Automation is here, but so too is a deeper appreciation for and investment in things like upskilling, learning and development, and education for all workers.

There’s a simple explanation underlying this apparent paradox.

Check out the full piece to learn more and read case studies of three companies making these critical investments in education and upskilling—Walmart, Chipotle, and Discover Financial Services.

Secretaries of Education Spellings & King Join Future U

Jeff Selingo and I were honored to have two former Secretaries of Education join us on the latest episode of Future U.

Secretary Margaret Spellings served in President George W. Bush’s administration and Secretary John King served in President Barack Obama’s administration. The conversation was notable for not just how civil it was, but how downright friendly it was. There was a remarkable amount of agreement.

I encourage you all to listen to the episode—not just for the moment where they both disagree with the premise of a question I posed (as well as my reaction later on)—but to hear what they are focused on for the next four years.

Now this isn’t to say that they had no disagreements. They did, but they weren’t strong ones, and they didn’t lean into them. They instead emphasized their commitment to student outcomes above all else. Vehement agreement from me on that one.

There was much to take away from the conversation—not only in substance, but also in how we have these conversations.

One more time on pandemic pods?

Finally, there was another article on pandemic pods worth reading in Good Housekeeping. Titled “My Pandemic Pod Blew Up—As It Turns Out, They Weren’t Made to Last,” it spotlights the inevitable challenges parents have faced as they’ve run learning pods for their children during the pandemic, as well as the human cost of those challenges.

As always, thanks for reading, listening, and writing.