“School” is Where We Create the Future

homeless 1

[Note: The numbers have increased since then …]

A Different Way of Looking at “School”

School is far more than a building in which we educate our children to pass tests and grades. It is the place where we create the future of our country.

During the last 5 years I have had the pleasure of meeting young students around the country. I only asked them one question: “What is your dream for your future?”

Here are some of the answers:

“I want to be a teacher like my teacher.”

“I want to be an astronaut and go to Mars.”

“I want to cure the cancer my Dad died from.”

“I want to be doctor and help people.”

“I am going to be going to Mars.”

“I think I can be the President or maybe a Governor.”

“I want my Mom to be sent home from prison.”

“I want to finish this grade.”

“I want to find a place to live.”

“I just want to be safe.”

“I want to find enough food for me and my brother.”

“I want a home.”

I grouped the answers into two categories for a reason. Some of the answers are from kids who have a home, food, a feeling of security. Basic Maslow pyramid foundational stuff. Too many of the kids I met are missing a parent or parents, do not have enough to eat, live in poverty, and worse are homeless.

So if schools really do create the future, then here’s an idea about the ‘least of us’.

During many tornadoes and hurricanes I see that shelters are put together in gymnasiums all over the country. Disaster relief for people in need of help. The kids who are living in poverty, hungry all day, in homes that are not safe or worse living homeless are also in need of help. Their very lives are a daily disaster.

Personally I cannot fathom why or how these kids manage or even bother to go to school every day. I suspect that it’s a temporary shelter, warm and dry in the winter, there’s some food, a safe bathroom with toilets that work and running water. Other kids with whom to play, some structure.

And perhaps for many, even the dream of doing well and graduating to a better life, which has always been the basic underlying dream of education.

They need help. And it will not even cost a lot, especially for the kids who are homeless or in need of a safe place to spend the night.

Many other people pray for what most of us take for granted.  


I propose that school administrators redefine the ideal of school as more than getting grades and passing tests. I suggest that we adopt and adapt the Red Cross disaster relief model.

Some of these kids will chose not to be identified as needing help. Too proud. To into their gang or drug or alcohol addiction. Too lost. Too much freedom from irresponsibility and nothing left to lose. Enjoying a life with no expectations or any rules. Not thinking about anything more than today.

For others, a small leg up will be most welcome. They will consider it an invitation to the future, their future, a better future.

They would welcome some rules as a small price to pay:

  • Class attendance and passing grades the price of admission
  • Separate girls and boys
  • No smoking, drinking or drugs
  • No gangs, no bullying, no fighting
  • No loud music (use your earphones)
  • Cellphones in a calling area only
  • Lights out at a reasonable hour.

These kids will no longer be targets for judgments. It is not their fault, and no one is to blame. Blame is for losers. We do not heap blame upon the victims of a hurricane or tornado. We should not heap blame on these kids. Most of them just want an even playing field to show how smart they are, and how far they can go with a little help from their friends. In many ways, their success is harder to earn than their more fortunate schoolmates.

And for the kids who are doing okay, it would be a chance to act as a mentor and help these kids learn and progress in school. If they have clothes that have been passed down as far as down can go, or stuff they no longer wear, they can provide it to those in need. They can experience sharing and caring and learn the value of helping others. Of empathy. Of kindness. Again school is where we create the future. The question is, what do we want to teach kids about the kind of people we want them to be in our future?

Just an idea. Like this new idea of school. A place where we build the future of our nation. A nation where everyone has the opportunity to become the best they can be. A level playing field. For them. For us. For our future.


Inside the Crystal Ball: Education and the Future


Children are the future, and their education needs to be part of that future, woven into the web of the digital world, not stuck in the rut of the industrial economy we are leaving behind. This really summed it up for me ….

“We’re still teaching our kids using a 20th-century paradigm, but many visionaries–like the ones in this video–have plans to take our advances in computing and technology and use them to explode the idea of what education can be.”



The Lost Art of Learning


This is a very short post for a very BIG topic. Still, I hope to make 3 key points:

1. Learning has always been a natural one-on-one human process

2. Formal education, driven by the needs of the 19th century Industrial Revolution, disabled the natural learning process

3. Technology will take us back to where learning again is a natural one-on-one human process.

Learning as a Natural One-on-One Human Process

Millions of years ago we started out as learners. We know that we as a species — genus homo — began our evolutionary trek around two million years ago.  That makes us a relatively young species.  Current research by neuroscientists indicates that in the last two million years, the human brain has nearly tripled in mass, going from the 1¼-pound brain used by our Homo Habilis ancestors of 2,000,000 years ago, to the modern three-pounder that we Homo Sapiens carry between our ears. This entire transformation took place during the last 200,000 years, a blink in the evolutionary eye. Why?

When brains triple in size, they don’t just get bigger so they can store more memories, they actually gain new structures. The main reason our brains got so big is that they added a whole new part in the frontal lobe called the prefrontal cortex.

What amazing function did the brain need to perform to justify a complete redesign in a mere 200,000 years? What was so important to our survival as a species that we underwent a total overhaul that doubled the size of our brain in the mere blink of the evolutionary eye? The answer is learning.

The evolution of the human brain and our intelligence — called “encephalization” — was first driven by our need to learn the names of the ‘things’ in our concrete world. As we became more social, there was the need to learn how to live and work together. Or not. If that wasn’t enough brainfood to munch upon, we then evolved from the concrete to the abstract. Time. Space. Creation and more. So we grew a new part of the brain to handle the learning process.

What we needed to know and know-how to do, we learned directly from one another. Initially, before we invented words and language, we learned by mimicking. We watched someone and copied what they did – or did not – do. Then we invented language, so people no longer needed to be in the same place – or even time.  And so on …

We became Homo Sapiens because we had a better brain for learning, and because we could learn we became better Homo Sapiens. Round and round she goes. And after 200,000 or so years of intense learning and encephalization, we invented “school”.

Formal Education Disables Learning

War was the reason school was created. When you need to quickly teach a large number of men (back then) how to kill, school was a useful way to do it. Apparently in the 19th century, the Prussian army perfected the model. Later in that same century, when our consumer society needed to teach large numbers of men and women how to read, write, mass produce and buy things, the school model again was the answer. One problem with schools is that you take away the one-to-one learning and substitute one-to-many. What had been a very personal human interaction for 200,000 years – learning – became an impersonal, dehumanized distraction. What we really needed to learn disappeared into a curriculum dominated by ‘school boards’ and then handed to ‘teachers’. One-to-many.

Technology Will Take Us Back

The most profound impact of technology-driven online education will be to make face-to-face personal interaction as important as it was before the educational model of ‘school’ took over.

Think it through with me. Technology allows us now to flip a classroom. It enables the MOOC. It gave rise to the virtual online course. All instances where the lecture can be viewed anytime and anyplace. Classroom and teacher and student’s attending no longer required.

On the surface it seemed to displace the teacher or instructor even more. Until social learning began to emerge. Social learning that takes the teaching or instructing piece out of the education equation, and replaces it with mentoring or coaching. Teachers become coaches, instructor turn into mentors. Peer-to-peer networks are already starting to replace classes and courses. People are once again learning what they need from one another, instead of waiting to be told what to learn.

The lecture by teacher / instructor is becoming a canned anytime anyplace video learning tool similar to the etextbook. What used to be called “homework” has become the real work of learning when you get together with your learning mates, mentors or coaches. Real learning is moving back towards performance instead of remembering, regurgitating on a test and then forgetting. Back to one-on-one learning.

So here’s the point of this post:


Content as a Service (CaaS)


The etextbook in 2018 will be dramatically different than the etextbook of today. It will be coupled to an app that will provide you with Content as a Service (CaaS). CaaS will include many of the following features (and more that have yet to be imagined):

  • Multimedia
  • Simulations
  • Educational Games
  • Animations
  • Pre- and post-tests
  • Formative and Summative Quizzes
  • Adaptive testing
  • Networked Social Learning
  • Study groups
  • Analytic Datasets 
  • Virtual and Flipped classes
  • Communities of Learning and Practice
  • Virtual classes.

It will be designed to make learning easier and more effective. It will replace the old print (and even current online) early prototype etextbook that still uses content as the product. By 2018, you will be purchasing the services which the CaaS app will provide. Dream with me a moment …

I am sitting at my desk in the near future, the year 2018. My Ecology etextbook is on my tablet and my elearning app helping me take notes. I read the following: “The biosphere is interconnected with three other spheres of the physical environment: the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, and the atmosphere.” I press the ASK THE EXPERT button and an email form pops up. “What” I write “does the term Gaia have to do with all the spheres?” The answer will probably be in my inbox before I go to sleep. I watch the animation of clouds forming and rain falling and plants growing. I skip the I Dig the Earth game and decide to test myself to see if I’m getting it.


So I touch the TEST ME button and a menu comes down asking what kind of test do I want? I say Chapter, and a test of the chapter appears. I could have asked for Page, Chapters or Book. I answer the questions, get most right, and the ones I missed are automatically turned into flashcards. I skim all the sentences I highlighted when I was reading, check the notes my friends sent about the book, answer a few questions they asked, and bookmark my place. I remember to place a yellow sticky note on the front to find my reading glasses although enlarging the type was no problem. I check the times of my remaining biology courses that week, and make sure there are no tests coming up. Taking a break from studying, I switch from the etextbook to an old Big Bang Theory TV episode I missed.

Nice fantasy? Not at all. The etextbook of the future is all about the idea of Content as a Service (CaaS). Textbooks in the not-too-distant past were a product. You wrote them, packaged them, and sold them. Period. They were a product, often a commodity that had many versions from many authors on the same topic. As textbooks moved from analog print to digital online something amazing started to happen.

They were free. Not free as in no cost although they are cheaper (and lighter). They were let out of the analog prison. Think about it for a second, even though it’s such an embedded part of our lives we take it for granted. You print and bind a textbook and that’s it. You can write in the margins or highlight a passage and that’s about it. Now take that same book and put it online. Suddenly the constraints of print are gone. You can use your tablet to enlarge the print, highlight the text, and even take notes. Okay so aside from making the font bigger it’s about the same.

Now here’s the big deal. Add an app that has been developed to help you learn. eBooks are great when you’re reading for pleasure. Reading for learning, or RFL, is an entirely different process. And the app is there to make your day. It almost magically knows you. You are connected to you to your fellow students and even students that have already passed the course. Your notes, highlights, questions and more are all collected in one place. You can ask to be tested, and what you have not yet learned is instantly turned into flashcards for later studying. The etextbook is there to serve you. To help you learn. The app transforms the etextbook of tomorrow into Content as a Service (CaaS).

Content as a Service will be the marketing and sales differentiator for the etextbook of the future. The services that you can will be able to purchase will be THE deciding factor in what publisher and/or CaaS app provider offers you the best learning services. And that is a gamechanger. The current established publishers may disappear as new digital publishers, especially those with great CaaS apps, disrupt the print textbook publishing market that has been around for hundreds of years. The printing press invention spun off the invention of the analog textbook. The perfect storm of digital etext, mobile technology, and tablets,  is at the heart of the reinvention of the new CaaS etextbook.

I recently had the opportunity to review a number of these apps. They are designed to work with students who are learning from etextbooks. Developed in response to the needs of people who read etextbooks for learning.  They’re real and they are here. And they will change the way we teach and learn. Not only for students but for authors, teachers, instructors and administrators as well. Content as a Service (CaaS) is a new paradigm for putting the “e” into the etextbook. Only this time it will mean enhanced and enabled instead of merely electronic.

For more information take a look at Brandon Hall Group Executive Summary on CaaS.

Here’s the final word on the future of the textbook as we know it today:

The “4th Annual eBook Survey of Publishers” was completed in April, 2012, and in remarks addressed to the National Press Club, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, “Over the next few years, textbooks should be obsolete,” citing a need to not only keep up with the times but also with other countries such as South Korea, whose students outperform those of the U.S. and which has set a goal to make all of its textbooks digital by 2015, excluding some grades and to allowing paper textbooks to be used alongside digital etextbooks while paper books are phased out.  “The world is changing,” Duncan said. “This has to be where we go as a country.”[1]

The Teachers versus The Corporate Machines?


Nobody likes change, and some people really hate it …

I suppose I should be happy. Two of my heroes, David Brooks and Thomas Friedman, both had recent articles about educational technology – MOOCs and Testing. Yet my joy has turned to consternation. Their articles have added fuel to a small but growing fire about education in general, and educational technology in particular. The theme seems to be that the machines are coming, the corporations are already here, public is morphing into private, it’s all about the money, and teachers are an endangered species.

Let’s back up a bit.

Here is what I read as a key part of David Brook’s piece The Practical University:

The best part of the rise of online education is that it forces us to ask: What is a university for? … My own stab at an answer would be that universities are places where young people acquire two sorts of knowledge, what the philosopher Michael Oakeshott called technical knowledge and practical knowledge… Practical knowledge is not about what you do, but how you do it. It is the wisdom a great chef possesses that cannot be found in recipe books. Practical knowledge is not the sort of knowledge that can be taught and memorized; it can only be imparted and absorbed. It is not reducible to rules; it only exists in practice.

The problem is that as online education becomes more pervasive, universities can no longer primarily be in the business of transmitting technical knowledge. Online offerings from distant, star professors will just be too efficient. As Ben Nelson of Minerva University points out, a school cannot charge students $40,000 and then turn around and offer them online courses that they can get free or nearly free. That business model simply does not work. There will be no such thing as a MOOC university.

 Nelson believes that universities will end up effectively telling students: “Take the following online courses over the summer or over a certain period, and then, when you’re done, you will come to campus and that’s when our job will begin.” If Nelson is right, then universities in the future will spend much less time transmitting technical knowledge and much more time transmitting practical knowledge.

The goal should be to use technology to take a free-form seminar and turn it into a deliberate seminar (I’m borrowing Anders Ericsson’s definition of deliberate practice). Seminars could be recorded with video-cameras, and exchanges could be reviewed and analyzed to pick apart how a disagreement was handled and how a debate was conducted. Episodes in one seminar could be replayed for another. Students could be assessed, and their seminar skills could be tracked over time.

So far, most of the talk about online education has been on technology and lectures, but the important challenge is technology and seminars. So far, the discussion is mostly about technical knowledge, but the future of the universities is in practical knowledge.

And here are some gems from Thomas Friedman’s My Little (Global) School:

There was a time when middle-class parents in America could be — and were — content to know that their kids’ public schools were better than those in the next neighborhood over. As the world has shrunk, though, the next neighborhood over is now Shanghai or Helsinki … imagine, in a few years, that you could sign on to a Web site and see how your school compares with a similar school anywhere in the world.

Well, that day has come, thanks to a successful pilot project involving 105 U.S. schools recently completed by Schleicher’s team at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which coordinates the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA test, and Jon Schnur’s team at America Achieves, which partnered with the O.E.C.D. Starting this fall, any high school in America will be able to benchmark itself against the world’s best schools, using a new tool that schools can register for at http://www.americaachieves.org. It is comparable to PISA and measures how well students can apply their mastery of reading, math and science to real world problems.

“If you look at all the data,” concluded Schnur, it’s clear that educational performance in the U.S. has not gone down. We’ve actually gotten a little better. The challenge is that changes in the world economy keep raising the bar for what our kids need to do to succeed. Our modest improvements are not keeping pace with this rising bar. Those who say we have failed are wrong. Those who say we are doing fine are wrong.” The truth is, America has world-beating K-12 schools. We just don’t have nearly enough.

Seems like these and other recent pieces have created a proverbial tempest in a teapot. The arguments seem to rest on this idea:  Testing and MOOCs are the spawn of Big Corporate America and have little to do with students learning or teacher’s teaching. Actually they are perceived as a threat to both. The underlying reasoning is the same for both. It boils down to the “facts” that testing and MOOCs reduce the person-to-person time, the opportunity for real discovery, lateral learning and whatever else is supposed to happen in the ideal classroom.

Here’s another quote from a piece I wrote last year that looks at the bigger picture:

Daphne Koller is a computer science professor at Stanford, and a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow. She has been working for years to make online education more engaging and interactive.

“On the long term, I think the potential for this to revolutionize education is just tremendous,” Koller says. “There are millions of people around the world that have access only to the poorest quality of education or sometimes nothing at all.”

Technology could change that by making it possible to teach classes with 100,000 students as easily and as cheaply as a class with just 100. And if you look around the world, demand for education in places like South Africa is enormous.

Almost two weeks ago, at the University of Johannesburg, more than 20 people were injured and one woman was killed trying register for a limited number of openings. Thousands had camped out overnight hoping to snag one of the few available places and when the gates opened, there was a stampede.

Koller hopes that in the future, technology will help prevent these kinds of tragedies.

The point is this is NOT an either-or situation. Technology and Corporations have always played a part in education from making pencils to printing books. The educational goal has always been to prepare students for success in higher education and/or the workplace. The focus is always on providing the best education possible. It just seems to get harder and harder to reach. If you don’t believe me, look at the numbers for high school graduation or grade school STEM test comparisons with other countries.

When we were a little country in a big world, making our own things, driving the global school bus, it was perhaps okay to only get a minimal high school education or even to leave classes behind and go to work. That no longer makes sense. As Thomas Friedman says this is now a global school and we compete with the best and brightest from around the world. As David Brooks says it not an either-or situation, but a chance to see how we can bring the technology and the teachers together to make education better.

So to the critics who try and place the conversation into a black&white and either-or context all I can say is “gray”. It’s all about change and change is messy. Change is also an opportunity. Education is not only technology led by greedy corporations, seeing privatizing and testing as opportunities for making lots of money. It’s not about Silicon Valley taking over the world mind with MOOCs that replace colleges and universities. It about trying to keep ahead of the wave that has already started to break over America and the rest of the world.

Should education be for free? Should we stop testing students to try and raise the overall standards of learning and preparedness? I have no final answers, only an interest in the ongoing conversation, and the forward motion that provides the best outcomes.

The Learning Relationship


It’s time to plant my backyard garden again. Nice thing about Spring it always returns around the same time. I was carefully interplanting my tomatoes and marigolds, lettuce and broccoli, the three sisters (corn, beans and squash), and I stopped to remember my neighbor Tom from many gardens ago.

Once day Tom was watching me put in a garden and asked me if I ever heard of interplanting. I had not, and he taught me what it involved and why it would help my garden grow. He had learned it from his grandfather who really was a farmer. After the WWII Tom’s grandfather decided he needed as much peace and quiet as he could find, and a farm in Nebraska seemed just like the ticket. He was visited by his friend, a fellow warrior, who had just taken charge of the local Agricultural Extension Service. They talked about a new approach called interplanting. Beating their swords into plowshares seemed to go with the harmony of interplanting, where your corn helps your squash, and your squash watches out for your beans.  This was well before corporate farming and monoculture, but not too long after the dust settled from the 1930’s. So Tom’s grandfather’s relationship with his ag service buddy leads to Tom and his relationship with me and the lesson about interplanting lives on. The sun beats down on my garden and my hat’s off to Tom’s grandpa, and the long line of lessons about interplanting that helps my garden grow.

There’s an old maxim about corporations that starts with find the smartest person in the company. The question then is “Who is the second smartest?” And the answer is the person sitting in the next cube or office. Real learning is, and always has been, about relationships. It’s not what you know, or know how to do, but who you know and what they can teach you. Learning has always been a participatory social endeavor. Most of us just didn’t have the tools until now to get back to what real learning means.

Brandon Hall Group has explored and explained the importance and value of relationship centered learning (RCL) in your company today and into the future. Their paper focuses on the ROI of RCL, the current state and the inevitable and irresistible future, To learn more about it, check out Relationship-Centered Learning here.

Who is training the online teachers to teach online?


NEWSFLASH: Online Education is Here to Stay.

Okay so tell me something I don’t know. When I start to see articles and stories appearing in the NY Times, NPR, WSJ, on TV and lots of other places I start to think “mainstream”. What every one of you reading this already knows has become The Latest Big News. Online education is here to stay.

So that begs an important question. The more traditional onground version of education has been around since Moby Dick was a minnow. As in forever. And formal education was truly formalized when Teacher’s Colleges were started and teacher’s were taught to teach.

From Wikipedia:

Generally, Teacher Education curricula can be broken down into four major areas:

  1. Foundational knowledge in education-related aspects of philosophy of education, history of education, educational psychology, and sociology of education.
  2. Skills in assessing student learning, supporting English Language learners, using technology to improve teaching and learning, and supporting students with special needs.
  3. Content-area and methods knowledge and skills—often also including ways of teaching and assessing a specific subject, in which case this area may overlap with the first (“foundational”) area. There is increasing debate about this aspect; because it is no longer possible to know in advance what kinds of knowledge and skill pupils will need when they enter adult life, it becomes harder to know what kinds of knowledge and skill teachers should have. Increasingly, emphasis is placed upon ‘transversal’ or ‘horizontal’ skills (such as ‘learning to learn’ or ‘social competences’, which cut across traditional subject boundaries, and therefore call into question traditional ways of designing the Teacher Education curriculum (and traditional school curricula and ways of working in the classroom).
  4. Practice at classroom teaching or at some other form of educational practice—usually supervised and supported in some way. Practice can take the form of field observations, student teaching, or (U.S.) internship.

All this leads to a certification and ongoing teacher education to make sure the level of quality of the teaching is maintained. We would not let our kids go to a school where the teachers were not certified to teach. We do not go to colleges and universities to learn from from people who are not prepared to teach. Yet we flip on our headphones and sit in front of our [fill in your device here] for hours on end taking online courses, not ever really knowing who is inside the screen, or what training they had that qualifies them to be the instructor.

Traditional onground teachers are highly qualified professionals. I cannot say the same for online teachers. According to the numbers I’m hearing lately, more than 63% of Americans have taken one of more online courses. That means a course with a curriculum and several sessions of teaching and learning, not a one-off webinar. And in many countries the numbers are dramatically higher (South Korea for example at over 85%).

Towards a Smarter Nation

Here’s the question:

Who is training the online teachers to teach online?

Some of the worst ‘teaching’ I have ever tried to learn from has been online. The worst. And I’m not alone. Everyone I know has stories about an online class that was a total waste of time. Poorly organized content. Terrible to no graphics. So many bullet points that the screen ended up being 8pt Arial.  A droning voice with no modulation or interest in the subject. Talking bullet points. Less than a modicum of enthusiasm. Hardly any interaction in a medium defined by interaction.

In sum, it was taking the untutored teacher without certification person and putting that so-called teacher in a box, without so much as a nod to the tools afforded by the fantastic digital medium being used. Cheaper perhaps than getting people in a classroom. But what a waste of brainpower and yet another missed opportunity.

There are exceptions that always prove the rule. The free university level courses being taught by outstanding teachers who are first and foremost outstanding  teachers and then outstanding online teachers as well. Starting with Khan academy. Great teachers using a new online approach and really working hard to find ways to make online education work online (e.g. Udacity and Coursera). Taking advantage of Communities of Learners, peer-to-peer learning, great interaction, and graduating students into Communities of Practice. Those are the exceptions.

The question again is when do we answer the question? When will we start to take online teaching as seriously as we take onground teaching? I found only one decent online teaching program and it’s from Cisco, where they are certifying their online – virtual – teachers so they know how to teach online. Certified to understand how online teaching – in a virtual classroom – is different than teaching onground – in an actual classroom. Some are still better than others when it come to teaching – the art and science of lighting a fire, not filling a bucket.

At the very least, when they are certified – actually certified after going through a process as rigorous as any other Cisco certification – they know how to correctly use the online classroom to maximize the capabilities of their virtual presence and get learners interacting and, dare I say it, actually learning something. As in those rare and wonderful “Aha!” moments.

So once again I leave you with a question.

Who is training the online teachers to teach online?

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ADDIE Must Die!

NOTE (October, 2012): I first posted this piece in 2004. At the time I was looking at educational theories and methods that had been developed in the early 1970’s and that rather mysteriously became the de facto standard for developing educational programs.

I saw two major problems with ADDIE.

The first is obvious. The way we learned back then was simple and singular. Classroom, teacher, facing front in rows, be quiet, raise hands, take tests and more tests then PASS or FAIL. The ADDIE model worked and perhaps that is why is was adopted as THE standard even though there was no standards body that developed and accepted ADDIE. Thanks to Don Clark‘s research into ADDIE (which I recommend), it was developed by the US Army in 1975, and then copied by corporations, presumably by people who heard about it and experienced it in that environment. The problem is that today – and into the future if the past is any guide – we learn and will learn in dramatically different ways. Ways that ADDIE cannot support as a developmental model.

Second, either explicitly or implicitly ADDIE still is the default for defining, designing, developing, delivering, managing and measuring education. That means – and I still experience this – whenever educational programs are being created, the underlying thinking is A – D – D- I -E. This not only limits the way new educational programs are developed, it hamstrings the creative use of new learning technologies. Technologies that were not even dreamed of when ADDIE became the accepted guideline for development. It precludes many, if not all, of the powerful capabilities technology promises . Learning that is blended, mobile, flipped, social and more. So my conclusion then and now is that ADDIE must die. 

The Premise

ADDIE is the illegitimate child of the Industrial Age, and using it is an addiction that almost always leads to formal training programs that are, in these digital days of rapidly advancing Blended,Mobile, Flipped and Social Learning, close to worthless if not actually counterproductive.

The good news? There is a better alternative …

Note: This is Part One of a two part series.

The future is a foreign country where

they do things differently than we do today…


I never minded school that much. It was the place where my friends hung-out and occasionally suffered through a class with me. I’m not sure what I learned or if it was of any use, but it was at least social. Learning in the workplace was the same until the computer started to pop-up everywhere. Then learning became lonely, it became anti-social.

Those of us who are trying t put the social back into the learning too often focus on the forest. The Big Enterprise 2.0 picture. This is a look at one of the trees – ADDIE – and it’s contribution to ongoing tradition of cranking out ineffective Enterprise 1.0 formal learning programs.

Change is Hard

Change is the most difficult yet desired state to which people want to move. Yet we live in the past in which habits rule and rules become habits. They don’t even need to be good habits or intelligent rules. Just habits and rules.

You’ve probably heard that expressions “If every problem is a nail, then every solution is a hammer”?

With ADDIE, if every problem is a lack of knowledge or know-how, then every solution is a formal training program …

Now I already know that you are falling into one of several categories of readers.

  • You are so hooked on ADDIE that anyone who tries to show you that ADDIE has no clothes is an instant turnoff, and you are in the process of clicking away as fast as your finger can find your  mouse
  • You think ADDIE is okay, agnostic and can be used ‘back then’ as well as ‘moving forward’ and might consider reading what I have to say
  • You develop really compelling and exciting social learning experiences and have no idea what ADDIE means … you can go.

Hopefully those of you in the first two groups will read on …

The ADDIE Habit

ADDIE.  As you may (or may not) know, it stands for the five linear phases or guidelines for building effective training:

  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Development
  • Implementation,
  • Evaluation.

ADDIE evolved into a more circular model in the late 1990’s and looked like this:

Evaluation became embedded in every part of the model. The variation was often called “Rapid Prototyping” which simply meant you ‘evaluated’ how well it was working at each A-D-D-I step.

There’s only one problem.

It no longer works.

Background Check

Here’s some ADDIE history. After doing an extensive search for the origin of ADDIE¹, I came to the conclusion that no one created the model. It was not the outcome of years of research, or a brilliant point of insight at the intersection of the disciplines that explore how we learn.

This idea is not new. It was, for example, originally published in an article by Michael Molenda of Indiana University, In Search of the Elusive ADDIE Model(Performance Improvement, May/June 2003).

During my halcyon ISD days, I didn’t really care who built the model, or that it was merely “… a colloquial term used to describe a systematic approach to instructional development, virtually synonymous with instructional systems development (ISD).”

Happy New Year 2005 (2013).  Now I do.

When Learning Was a Noun

It was around the late 1970’s when ADDIE suddenly became the de facto standard for developing training programs for the US government and everyone else. ADDIE seems to have been adopted as an acronym in all the RFP’s that were issued by TWLA (Those Who Love Acronyms).

That meant that ADDIE had its roots in the Industrial Economy.  A time when we managed hands and produced things. ADDIE was useful for helping people develop formal education programs in which knowledge was transferred and tests proved that it was ‘learned’.

ADDIE became the cutout you traced, the “paint by numbers” approach to developing and delivering programs that were the formal start – and too often the end – of your education. ADDIE was popular when organizations were bricks and mortar, development of programs was top down, and performance with regard to training was about getting a passing grade not adopting and adapting what you learned and transferring it back into the workplace.

When it came to really learning how to do anything, ADDIE led to the place where, if you were lucky, your informal education began. That was when you really started to learn how to do something².

Learning is Now a Verb

Times change. Take a look at the following chart to see how different the world of work is today:

Shift Happens

Performance, Performance and Performance

Today it’s all about performance. What can you do for me?  How can you do it faster and better? We’re well into the Knowledge Economy (aka Idea Economy), in which we manage minds and produce ideas. We no longer need to focus primarily on knowledge. We need to refocus on know-how and develop a model that supports learning how-to do something. Fix a thing. Make a thing. Come up with a solution. Steps to meet a challenge.

We need to focus on a developmental model that is more than just a “colloquial term”, one that helps incorporate new technologies and new ways of learning. One that enables rather than disables what we now understand as the learning process. A new model that provides knowledge AND  is the launching pad for know-how and real learning in the future.

A model that drives a Social Leaning program.

From this perspective, let’s take a closer look at ADDIE and judge how relevant it is today. In Part Two of this blog, we’ll look at replacement model that enables Social Learning.

WARNING: Boring details and research up next!

Read More

Independent Learners Cannot Use A LMS

Independent Learners Cannot Use A LMS

Learning has become an ongoing process and the CLS is destined to take over where the older event-driven LMS stopped.

Innovative CLS Starts Where LMS Stops

A new program, the Certify Learning System (CLS), has been developed and designed to track and reward continuous independent learning for your most talented employees who learn what they need to know to stay at the top of their field.

Learning today is an ongoing anytime and anywhere process driven by independent learners who learn what they need to know to stay at the top of their field. When learning was formal and event driven, Learning Management Systems (LMS) were developed to help track and record programs that employees were assigned to attend. That was then.Today, learning has become a continuous informal process that occurs independently whenever and wherever people need to learn. Employees can choose on their own to take a webinar, attend a conference workshop or read an important new industry whitepaper. Until now there has been no way to track and record what they are learning.

The Certify Learning System (CLS) was developed to modernize the process and pick-up where the older LMS drops off.Independent learners are often the most knowledgeable and talented people in any organization. Being able to reward them is important. Being able to identify, hire, promote and assign them to key teams is even more valuable. The old LMS cannot provide you with this information, or reward your independent learners for their efforts.The CertifyLearning System (CLS) registers employees online from any device, and records every kind of learning event from a wide variety of providers. By assigning credits to these events, the cloud-based system allows employers to maintain an up-to-date record of employee’s informal ongoing and independent learning.

“Since learning never stops or even slows down, you want to be able to identify the people who are always learning.” states David Grebow CEO, KnowledgeStar and worldwide expert in informal learning. “Highly motivated learners are the smartest employees, and CLS is like a GPS that guides you to them when you need to know who they are.”

With everything online and no software to install, CLS is quick and inexpensive to setup and maintain.  The system is designed to be customized to reflect the brand and identity of your organization.  Because the CLS records are cloud-based they are portable and follow the registered individual from company to company. This again differs from Learning Management Systems where records are kept private by a single employer. This makes CLS especially useful for people who frequently work for different employers in the same field.

The CLS has just completed a successful 3-month pilot with one of the largest educational publishers in the country and is ready to help your organization identify your knowledge stars.

If you would like a free demo, let me know so I can send you a pair of warm stockings since it will blow your socks off and I wouldn’t want you to get cold feet!