Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Chief Learning Officer

Is it time for education to take a cue from the organizations that hire the students we teach? Is it time for schools to create a Chief Learning Officer (CLO)? Businesses understand the importance of intellectual capital as a critical resource. Towards that end, they have created the new executive position of CLO and as of two years ago, about one third of large corporations had a CLO. The significance is that the new role is on par with other top leadership positions (e.g., CEO, CFO, COO, CIO, and CMO).

CLO Role
The role of a CLO in an educational setting is to stay current on research and help teachers implement it in their lesson plans and classroom practices. The CLO will be on the pulse of important 21st century skills. A CLO will help craft the professional growth and development blueprint, but must also have a direct and meaningful impact on the day-to-day activities of teachers and students. The CLO needs to lay the groundwork for new ideas. Refined ideas will make adoption easier and more likely.

Virtual Classes
A school CLO will become increasingly important as the education takes place more outside of the traditional classroom. Online classes and virtual environments are gaining popularity because of their convenience outside of traditional classrooms. They make it possible for students to take specialized classes and learn on their own schedule. It also makes better use of physical space. For example, students could take different classes while sharing a common classroom and teacher.

PLN Builder
Teachers need a Personal Learning Network (PLN) to grow professionally and take full advantage of the boom in social networking technologies (web2.0). If classes become more asynchronous, then it will be equally important for students to become more autonomous by growing their own PLN. The PLNs that students develop can be refined in successive grades and eventually used in support of a job. There is a notion that the best jobs will be those which cannot be outsourced to low-costs emerging nations or automated to a computer. This means that value-added analysis and creativity (nee design) will be paramount skills for 21st century students. PLNs are important and CLOs can help teachers and students build productive PLNs.

Schools NEED a CLO to bridge the gap between emerging academic research findings and classroom practice. There has been a great deal discovered about how people learn over the past fifteen years. I would bet that not much of this has made it into classroom practice. Most teachers do not have the time to stay current with educational research. Even if they did, it would take even more time to reboot their classroom.

Bottom Line: Adding an educational CLO would have a significant and favorable impact on teaching practices. Their influence would extend beyond teachers to students in to foster more autonomy to be Lifelong Learners. At the very least, the CLO should help teacher relinquish some of their content monopoly in favor of helping students developing their own PLNs.

(1) Bersin & Associates (link)