I just came across a great article written by Eric Lai of SAP, on Forbes.com entitled, How This School District Turned its Students’ Love of Mobile into Better Learning, Test Scores.
I was curious to see if there was anything HR could learn from… gulp… teenagers.
As Lai points out, teens would be the dream demographic for an organizational Bring Your Own Device policy – they use them constantly, they could train your IT staff on the latest devices, etc., and they would never, ever go anywhere without their devices.
But schools haven’t been keen on allowing students to spend classroom time surfing the web, and the risk of abuse (texting, Facebook, inappropriate content, on and on) is so high, most schools simply opt for the path of least resistance and ban mobile devices in the classroom all together.
Well, here’s a shocker: “People were already trying to hide what they were doing on their smartphone because it was illegal by the school rules,” said one student, “so by opening it up, we got a lot more freedom and things moved a lot faster.”
And just like those ne’er do well teens, I’ll bet many of your employees are using their own devices on the job whether you support them or not.
So how did Katy Independent School District in Texas figure out how to leverage BYOD with its students, turning what had once been a classroom disruptor into a learning tool – and better test scores?
It would seem like giving 12-year-olds their own smartphones to use during class would be a recipe for disaster. But Katy did two smart things: it turned off the calling and texting features, and it renamed the phones “mobile learning devices,” or MLDs. I think this would be very easy for HR to call these things MKDs (mobile knowledge devices) or PED (performance enhancing devices)..hmm
So, here is something we can learn. The beauty of technology is that it can be bent, shaped, and ultimately formed into something useful, even if it seems rigid or limiting, at first. Too often, we are locked into a “that-won’t-work-here” mindset, either because of a policy that was likely crafted [insert time frame >= 6 months ago], or HR isn’t able to justify, and clearly communicate the benefits.
Lai writes, “According to teachers, students took to doing Internet searches and using apps with gusto to help them work collaboratively and finish assignments. ‘The biggest thing for me was the engagement,’ said one teacher. ‘It was instant. We were learning figurative language and looking up lyrics from music and they became totally interested in words. They were really truly pulled into the learning.’”
The results? As Lai notes, “In some instances performance on math tests increased from the 70th to 90th percentile, with similar results posted in all subject areas. There wasn’t one teacher who didn’t see improvements in engagement and test scores. We heard so many testimonials from teachers who said, ‘I’ve been teaching for 20 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this.’ The creativity these tools allowed was just amazing.’”
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Many of you may be thinking about how you could use mobile devices to improve knowledge, learning and collaboration in your organization, and some of you may even be mustering up the nerve to talk to IT about relaxing some of the internet access policies, or BYOD support.
Now, replace the word “learning,” with “growth,” “innovation,” or “business improvement,” because that’s what learning and collaboration is all about. In our world, we don’t learn for learning’s sake. Sure, we need training, and we need ongoing skill development, but that’s just to perform baseline job functions… right?
Workforce knowledge is about so much more than that. It is about becoming domain experts, market experts, forecaster, and predictors. It is about deeply and intimately knowing what is important to our customers, competitors, business partners, suppliers, and colleagues. It is about really understanding our own company’s products, benefits, and value and being able to map that to the ever-changing needs of the market. The organization’s brain is only as big as the collaboration network in place to share that information.
The days of being held up, or held back waiting for information or directives from the “engineering guru,” or “systems expert” are gone. The “collective” moves so much faster, and is so much smarter than any one person, no matter what their position, years at the company, or pay grade.
Now is the time for HR to stop thinking about learning as an activity that supports a function or business need, and start thinking about it like the very life-blood of the organization’s existence and putting it at the middle of every HR and Talent Management strategy.
Think about learning like you would profit: you can survive for a while on the capital (knowledge) you have, but eventually, unless more is generated, your business will stagnate, then wither, then die.
Another infusion of knowledge…