LILA ~ Learning Innovations Laboratory at the Harvard Graduate School of Education

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New LILA Theme announced: Ecologies of Learning in a Transforming World

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This year (Fall 2019 – Summer 2020) LILA will explore the theme of Ecologies of Learning in a Transforming World.  If you are interested in applying for membership, contact marga_biller@harvard.edu.  Below is the description of the learning arc for the year.

The world is transforming and it’s changing the ways we work, make decisions, adapt, learn and interact – in other words, the rules of the game have shifted impacting current business models. The digital economy is a primary driver. The way we view careers and who is “in” the workforce has expanded. The possibilities and combinations for learning and performing have morphed and multiplied. Stakeholders interact with each other to create new products and services. As the boundaries of organization become more porous, innovations originate from diverse sources. So how do organizations stay ahead of this transformation in order to grow their business?

Learning ecologies offers a perspective on how organizations can develop new capabilities, organize work, and manage careers in order to take advantage of the new world order. The idea of a learning ecology recognizes that learning is unfolding all the time in complex ways, through peer relationships, networks, informal coaching, the way people interact in person and virtually, etc. which can be learning-synergistic or not. What people are learning includes not only particular skills and understandings that formal learning might target, but also the “hidden curriculum” – how to informally pick up on the patterns of survival and thriving within the organization.

This theme will aim to explore and answer questions such as: What forces are shaping learning ecologies? How can organizations best nurture learning ecologies for today’s professionals? How can learning ecologies help navigate the digital transformation journey? Our exploration will draw from research in multiple disciplines to explore what it means for practice on the ground. We aim to generate insights that aid organizations to better support capability-development for the organization and careers of the future.

Lay of the Land: Changing Ecologies (Fall)

We launch our year by gaining a footing in the landscape of ecologies: What are ecologies? In what ways can an ecological framework expand the way we understand how to best position our people, their work, and their development in the transforming world? What are the components of learning ecologies? This session will draw on foundational concepts of learning ecologies. We know that leaders – and the employees and organizations they represent – feel overwhelmed by the sheer pace and amount of change occurring inside and outside their organizations. With guidance from our session speakers and facilitators, LILA members will reflect, discuss, debate, collectively explore and start to see for themselves how an ecology-based understanding can begin to help their organizations make sense of, prioritize, and decide what to give attention and resources to in the face of changes. An individual’s learning ecology comprises the processes, contexts, and interactions that support their development. These elements play out in everyday micro-ecologies as well as in more macro-level ways as professionals’ interface with larger patterns in their organizations and culture.  A core component of this session is for members to gain a representation of what their organization’s learning ecology looks like today. Members will be building on this representation over the course of the LILA year to help them see new opportunities in their ecologies, to chart where they’d like their learning ecologies to be, and to help them communicate learnings back to their teams and organization.

Ecology of Experiences and Structures (Winter)

In between the Fall and Winter gathering, LILA member calls will introduce specific interdependencies that exist in learning ecologies today – such as, conflicts between individuals’ incentives and organizations’ incentives for learning. The LILA Winter gathering will continue building on our conversations by diving into the experiences of learning that emerge inside our ecologies. This session aims to give traction on the simple but difficult question on leaders’ minds: What kind of experiences lead to the kinds of learning we’re interested in? And how do we create the conditions for them?

 

This session will draw directly on recent learning research in different contexts. Our focus is to explore how learning experiences emerge from the formal and informal structures in an ecology – from the intended versus unintended structures. As LILA’s David Perkins describes, formal learning can be likened to a garden, while informal learning is like a jungle. Learning gardens are highly controlled and in service of carefully targeted learning outcomes, just as in a real garden one might be targeting carrots or peonies. Learning jungles, in contrast, capture learning experiences happening naturally in the complex “jungle” of everyday activities in the workplace and life more broadly. With a formal-informal/intended-unintended orientation, we aim to also explore learning experiences and structures from the individual perspective (e.g., what opportunities exist for individuals to create their own ecology?) and from the organizational view (e.g., how do we think about structures and experiences for learning across individuals?). Through discussing our speakers’ latest knowledge in the field and through collective sense-making, we will extend the session’s investigation to explore implications for how we could manage our ecologies toward favorable outcomes, and what steps could be possible within the current ecologies our members have in hand.

Ecology of Interactions (Spring)

Relationships are cornerstones of a professional’s learning ecology. With whom and from whom professionals learn is shifting dramatically. A more mobile, digitally connected, and global workforce creates new opportunities and challenges for an individual’s ecology and the overall learning ecology in organizations. The Spring gathering immerses us directly into the relational aspects of learning.

This session, complemented by member calls, will draw on latest thinking and research that intersects networks, social systems, and technology. Our focus is to explore not only how our organizations have new opportunities for facilitating personalized learning for individuals, but also whether and what opportunities exist for an individual’s ecology to contribute to the learning ecologies of others in the organization. With new perspectives from our speakers and through members discussion and debates, we aim to provide member another opportunity to assess interaction opportunities and constraints in their organizations’ current learning ecologies. Likely in the member call preceding this session, advancements in artificial intelligence will be put on members’ radar, such as machine learning, predictive analytics, and adaptive learning, to provide a context for our gathering’s discussion.

LILA Summit: Nurturing and Changing Ecologies (Summer)

The LILA Summit will be the culmination of our exploration of Ecologies of Learning. After a year of examining learning ecologies in their components, synergies, and challenges, how do we effect change? How do we sustainably change a learning ecology with its legacy structures, interaction patterns, and organizational reinforcements? What is the role of the global learning organization? We will invite faculty and alumni to join us as we gather to consolidate our learning from the year, as well as infuse a new idea that help us establish reach change toward high-impact learning ecologies in our organizations.

Harvard Graduate School of Education