"All Aboard" with Blended Learning and My Future "Learning Engineer" Career

When was the last time you asked a kid, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and got the answer: “A Learning Engineer!” If you’re being honest, you likely would say it’s never happened. But maybe that all will begin to change soon. Rick Hess and Bror Saxberg give life to the concept in a new book that’s excerpted as “Education Rebooted” at Education Next:

When it comes to realizing the promise of digital technology, educators need to start approaching classroom challenges as learning engineers. While such a label may sound unfamiliar at first, stick with us for a moment. The fact is that learning engineering is what tech-savvy education leaders—and more than a few who aren’t so tech-savvy—already do every day (whether they know it or not). These educators ask what problems need to be solved for students, turn to research to identify solutions, and devise smarter, better ways to promote terrific teaching and learning. What is education technology’s role in all of this? Learning engineers see this technology as a tool, not a solution.

At times I’ve thought about becoming a railroad engineer (I kind of like the tall, striped hats!). A lot better than a chemical engineer, which I have to confess sounds hard and boring. Since I rarely act rude, maybe a civil engineer would be appropriate. But no: for now, I’ll set my sights on becoming a learning engineer.

Anyone who reads this blog long enough knows that I am a champion of smart innovation and reimagining education. As astutely point out by the authors (doesn’t Hess-Saxberg sound like an old German duchy?), simply transplanting new kinds of digital technology into the traditional structures and traditional governance is a recipe for… well, not very much.

For me, the highlight of the article is yet another close look taken at Arizona’s Carpe Diem charter school. Founder Rick Ogston explains how the school rebooted and takes a whole different approach, with the consistently outstanding results to show for it.

In the article, Ogston is quoted saying “the secret sauce is not the technology, it’s the relationships.” The former — used wisely — makes the latter possible. The school in its now multiple campuses is living proof that the freedom to innovate doesn’t guarantee success, but it sure makes it a lot more possible.

For those immersed in the education policy world, Carpe Diem and its version of blended learning are old news. But it’s a great story to retell to listening ears. Not to mention the growing number of other innovative schools and models to keep track of. “One size fits all” is so 20th century!

In a traditional K-12 system, the “learning engineer” model may not be widely appreciated or embraced. But I’m just young and optimistic enough to believe that by the time I’m old enough to start a career (when will that ever happen?), there will be lots more room for learning engineers like me.