The future is here – Hot stuff for developing skills for the 21st century

I recently attended a « Learning expedition » to Finland to the JASK University of Applied Sciences special unit of Entrepreneurship within the Business Administration department. The special unit is Team Academy.

Wow! It is an innovative next generation organisational model for learning, matured over its 18 years of existence. Though the model is applied to the domain of entrepreneurship, the learning designer in me sees this more as a brilliant model for the development of skills for the 21st Century that could be applied to many domains.

As all types of learning providers struggle to integrate into their programs the key skills necessary for today’s knowledge society and connected world this Finish experience sheds some light. The skills I am referring to  go by many different labels (key skills, employability, 21st century skills etc) can be summed as:

  • Autonomy/initiative taking
  • Communication/
  • Collaboration/team work
  • Learning to learn/self-awareness
  • Solving complex problems

Team Academy has thought long and hard about its entrepreneurship program and has dared to not just let go of an old model but chuck it out and let emerge a new and bold one. What has crystallised is spreading across Finland and into Europe (France, Spain and the Netherlands, UK and Hungary). It is a way of of the future.

Despite being radically different from any other university program I have ever seen, there is nothing complicated to this model – it is common sense.  It’s about taking some simple, smart, healthy practices and working them into a proper sustainable organisational model. Can I give some examples? Sure, but be warned, taken separately each of the examples sounds like nothing, it is the successful system whole that integrates it all into a something that ignites and works, therein lies the wow. So…

  • Dialogue circles: abandoning table focused room furniture for cosy chairs in a circle and lots of big paper and big markers and some simple rules for sustaining a respectful dialogue, 4 hours each dialogue, twice a week.
  • Cross-fertilisation:  sitting in on what others dialogue circles of others  and learning via observation
  • Reading points: producing book reports for oneself, the reader, to ensure sense making for now and your future (developing your own knowledge library) and for putting ideas into your practice
  • Open contexts: Giving tasks without providing guidelines, trusting in people and process
  • Monthly school meetings: meeting of all students, all years combined, for a 2 hour sharing around a theme
  • Real projects:  yes real life, with real world and real people and real work
  • Teams: based on individual profiles, students are organised into teams that last the entire 3 and 1/2 years with their own team space

You were warned, doesn’t sound like much. But when you add them up, with all the other practices and  evaluation that is synched with it all  and spin that into a coherent system, without classrooms,  well it get’s me going.

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