Archive | October, 2008

The Schools We Need: Chris Lehman @ Ignite Philly

About a year ago, my husband came home from work, started gushing about a school he had visited that day, and continued to talk for hours about how inspired he was by its students and faculty.  That was my introduction to Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy, a Philadelphia public high school that opened in 2006.

Here are high school students inventing an efficient flow process for creating biodiesel fuel–how cool is that?  And it’s happening in a Philadelphia public school!

Fast forward to the second Ignite Philly, when Chris Lehmann, principal of SLA, gave his  presentation on the schools we need.   Take five minutes to see a compelling speaker and learn about something wonderful in our city.

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Presentation: How to Engage Today’s Students

Over the summer, a few colleagues and I had the opportunity to present at the 2008 Higher Education Web Symposium, held at the University of Pennsylvania. Our topic was How to Engage Today’s Students: Portals, Instructional Technology & Learning Simulations.

My portion of the presentation was an overview of what we called the New Learner (not the best term, but we liked it better than Digital Native, Millennial, and especially Learner 2.0). Lou Metzger, Jason Lehman, and Erin Wyher followed up with specific examples of how we’re trying to engage this demographic throughout their activities at the school.

Overall, the presentation went well, though we ran long and didn’t have a lot of time to hear ideas from other schools. We also got some feedback that the examples were too Wharton-centric. It’s true that much of the content was Wharton and/or Penn-related, but I hope that didn’t obscure our underlying points:

  • Making small changes or adding modules can promote engagement—you don’t have to AJAX-ify or re-write your existing web applications.
  • Integrate existing information and present it in the context of a task at hand.
  • Animations, avatars, bells, and whistles don’t always translate into a better student experience.
  • Buzzwords can distract from what’s important.
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Stories in Learning: The Firm

Last week, Erin Murphy and I attended Brandon Hall’s Innovations in Learning conference, which also included the Excellence in Learning Awards. One of the award winners, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, had a great spin on corporate training.

PWC created a video series called “The Firm,” which follows several characters—the Sr. Associate who parties too much, the New Hire, the Partner, the Baby Boomer executive assistant, the Generation Y fashionista Associate—through their everyday lives as PWC employees and illustrates the finer points of employee coaching.

They released a new episode of The Firm every two weeks, got thousands of internal views, and made the episodes available on YouTube and to as part of their recruiting strategy.

I love this approach because it’s a story. The people are real employees with real quirks—they shave in the bathroom after partying all night and complain about the way their co-workers dress. The second season of the show was even accompanied by a fictitious blog*.

The cases used in business education already incorporate the element of story, so why not take those stories to the next level (someone out there already is, no doubt)? For starters, what about the Learning Lab’s Raise game, in which students allocate salary increases by reading employee profiles? It be so fun to give those characters a voice.

*Writing a fake blog as part of your job? Sign me up!

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