Will LinkedIn Transform the Global Workforce?

Answers to this question will range from “Never!” to “LinkedIn has already changed the game!” Regardless, allow me to use that question to reflection on the emerging future of people, companies and learning organizations.

I just got my copy of the summer 2015 Aspen Edition. This is an inspirational publication because it highlights to great work that The Aspen Institute supports and amplifies. While there were many announcements and articles that captures my interest, one entitled “The 3-Billion-Strong Workforce” was a highlight for me, providing a powerful example of how a socially minded entrepreneur can leverage life in an increasingly connected world. It is an example that shows how LinkedIn helps people connect with organizations and others who can benefit from their gifts, talents, skills and passions.

In the article, Jeff Weiner (CEO of LinkedIn) explains his vision for the company this way: “our dream is to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce. That begins with representing your professional identity to the world – your experiences, your skills, your ambitions, the knowledge that you possess.” (Aspen Idea, Summer 2015, p. 34). In Show Your Work, Austin Kleon supports the impact of such a vision when he writes that having an online presence is part of existence in the connected world. As Kleon explains, “if your work isn’t online, it doesn’t exist.” This may not be a fact, but is an important proverbial truth for life in a connected world, and LinkedIn is a company built around this truth, leveraging it for business success while also connecting people with other people and organizations.

This is about economic opportunity for people. How often someone miss having an impact because she doesn’t find the organization where her gifts, talents, abilities and passions are valued, needed, strengthened and used? In the short article, Weiner shares a crisp, six-step plan for LinkedIn.

  1. Create a “digital profile” for every person in the global workforce.
  2. Have a profile for every company.
  3. Have a record of every job needed in each of those companies.
  4. Break down the skills needed for each of those jobs.
  5. Include a profile/presence for every higher education institution that provides education and training related to each of those discrete skills.
  6. Let these people, companies and IHE’s connect; sharing what they have to offer with one another.

Clearly LinkedIn has a ton to gain with such a plan, but it is one that has several potential outcomes.

1. It helps people display what they have to offer.

Since I first created my profile on LinkedIn several years ago, I’ve received dozens on contacts from companies and search agencies about possible job opportunities. Well over a hundred others have reached out to me for potential collaborations on projects, consulting work, to share our insights with one another, or just to encourage me in my work. Other forms of social media, namely Twitter, have provided similar benefits. My work hasn’t really changed. It is just that more of it is visible to the rest of the world, and that provides an opportunity for meaningful connections.

Most people find jobs by finding out about the job and applying. That is still a significant part of the workforce, but platforms like LinkedIn make it that much easier for potential employers and interested others to reach out to you with possibilities and opportunities. You don’t even need to know that a job exists to be contacted about it, and that means that you have yet another opportunity to discover how your gifts, talents, abilities and passions meet the critical needs of others. In addition, as analytics continue to mature in communities liked LinkedIn, they will get even better at surfacing potential matches between people and companies, providing that information to both parties.

2. It helps higher education institutions articulate part of the value they bring to society, companies and individuals.

Point #5 in Weiner’s list needs to be expanded, but I still commend the general concept. If a company needs people with certain knowledge, skills and abilities; then it is great to match people with those companies. However, there are times when the current workforce lacks enough people who have those skills. Maybe it is a shortage of people with certain programming skills, leadership skills, the requisite knowledge and experience to handle important international business interactions, or abilities in a new or emerging area. In this case, matching people and companies is not enough. We need to match people with routes to acquire the in-demand skills and abilities.

Focusing on IHEs as the provider of these skills is too narrow of a vision. As a higher education administrator, I love the idea, and it can help us find prospective students who need and want what we can provide. At the same time, there are too many education companies, online communities, and other routes to new knowledge, skills and competencies to limit this “linking” to only higher education institutions. If LinkedIn is willing to broaden the vision to include the larger world of learning opportunities, that will increase access and opportunity for people. It will help people consider their options. Taking a class or getting a certificate or degree might be the best route, but why not help them learn about the many other options? This would magnify the impact of Weiner’s vision in important ways.

Of course, as an advocate of open badges, one way of expanding these connections between people who need/want to learn a new skill and resources/providers to help would be to take advantage of the growing open badge ecosystem. We already have the technological beginnings of a way for us expand the credentialing of learning beyond just formal learning organizations. Connect that to Weiner’s vision for LinkedIn, and we have a powerful and potentially impactful alliance.

3. It helps companies find the people who will best help them achieve their business goals.

As I mentioned in #1, people don’t always know about all the jobs available. This means that companies don’t get a chance to interact with some of the best potential prospects for their job openings. They only get what comes to them or what a search agencies brings to them. LinkedIn changes that, allowing for a larger and stronger of qualified candidates.

4. In doing so, it has the potential to transform the way people/organizations/IHEs relate to one another.

In some ways, Weiner’s 6-part plan gives greater voice and vision to individuals, organizations and education providers. By creating a system where the conversation can be initiated by any one of them, we give each of them a greater chance to achieve their goals. We create more opportunity for companies and IHEs (or other education providers) to discover synergies that might lead to new partnerships. We create more opportunities for people to find jobs or training that they need or want. We create more opportunities for companies to find the talent they desperately need. In doing so, we strengthen the economy and find that we are far more effective at leveraging the gifts, talents, abilities, passions, and callings of people around the globe.

Re-imagining Learning & Credentialing in a Connected World

I’m playing with this idea of multiple pathways to learning and earning associated credentials. So, I wanted to get the following rough ideas out to you as a way to spark discussion and invite help; especially help creating better ways to illustrate the possibilities. I’m particularly interested in how all this relates to the promise and possibility of micro-credentials. As I was driving to work a few months ago, I had this ideo of a map that could represent what I’ve been thinking about with regard multiple pathways to learning. I describe it below and then end with a 5-minute rough visual intended to visually communicate some of these ideas.

I pictured three main road: Continuing Education Court, Self-Directed Street, and Degree Drive.

Continuing Education Court 

This street represents the many accelerated, non-credit, intensive and/or compacted learning experiences available to people today. There are experiences like weekend workshops on writing, how to start a business, managing your finances or anything else. This road also includes learning from the thousands of webinars that are free or fee-based on the web today, covering topics ranging from personal development to compliance issues at work. It also includes stops at other learning events: conferences, retreats, “boot camps”, etc. These are usually just-in-time learning experiences, and I put them in the class of semi-formal learning, as they don’t include all the trappings of a full formal schooling experience. They are usually discrete and disconnected, self-selected based on learner need and interest. Sometimes there are credentials associated with the experiences, but often not. They are a collection of experiences, often provided by multiple organizations; and there is less of an overall formal curriculum across all learning experiences. Instead, the learner opts in and out as she deems useful for her goals and interests.

Self-Directed Street

Like Continuing Education Court, the learner determines the curriculum / path on this street. Activities and learning experiences are largely designed or coordinated by the learner. Sometimes they are independent learning experiences. Other times learners come together to share and learn with or from one another. Learners not only choose what to do, but how much they will do. For example. note that I put MOOC Mountain on Self-Directed Street when it could also go on Continuing Education Court. I did this because of what the research tells us about how learners use MOOCs. Most do not sign up and complete the course as formally planned. They do it their way, on their timeline, and the extent do which they believe it useful or a high priority. Nonetheless, a case could be made that there are MOOC mountains on both roads. Over time and with focus and effort, people can become incredibly knowledgeable and skilled by traveling on Self-Directed Street, but there are few to no credentials to use of evidence of this learning.

Degree Drive

This is the most familiar road when people think about learning. It represents the formal programming of a student in a school (k-12, higher education). It is often course-based and a pre-determined curriculum (decided largely by others). This curriculum determines where learners stop along the way, what they do and how they do it. There can be sights and features that resemble what you see on Continuing Education Court and Self-Directed Street, but the formal structure and directedness is a common hallmark of this road. Also, the stops along the way can be carefully connected, with one stop preparing a person to get the most out of the next. Even as one progresses, there is careful documentation of what travelers completed and how they performed. Traveling on this road culminates in a credential that is intended to give evidence of one’s accomplishments and growing competence in some area of study.

Combining the Three

What happens when we don’t think of these as three disconnected and unrelated learning pathways? What if we see this as representative of a city or region in which one travels on a lifelong learning journey? What possibilities does that create for us? Consider a model where credentials can be provided as people demonstrate competence through any of these stops along the way, whether it is the weekend workshop, the self-guided tour, the self-study stop, or a formal course. This is one of the interesting and exciting possibilities of micro-credentials and digital badges. Their affordances give us a greater ability to imagine such contexts, as evidenced by the cities of learning initiatives.

What we imagine can be exciting and terrifying. Some worry about what this would mean for formal learning organizations if such an idea were to spread. Others point out that, in this age of democratized information, it may be even more dangerous if the idea does not spread, as it could turn schools into credentialing factories instead of rich, human, and collaborative learning communities…what they are when they are at their best.

Regardless, what I just described is already partly in place. This is not simply some vision of a possible future. This, apart from the credentialing element, is already what happens for many people. It is how we learn in a connected and increasingly digital world. Now we have the opportunity to let this current reality inform our thoughts and planning about 21st and 22nd century credentialing.

Below I’ve included an embarrassingly rough draft visual to help illustrate the idea that I just described. I would love to have partners in this effort, people who can take what I started and create a more robust and aesthetically appealing version of the visual. Please let me know if you are interested, or just create it, share it, and let the conversation spread. Even if there are no takers on that front, I look forward to continuing the conversation about how we might imagine and re-imagine learning and credentialing in a connected world.

Alternative Pathways to Credentials

Work & Learning in a Networked World

Brilliant! I just experienced one of those learning vistas, those “aha!” moments when seemingly disconnected ideas and experiences come together to show a beautiful and connected constellation. It happened while starting to re-read a wonderfully insightful text by Jay Cross about Informal Learning. I made it all the way to pages 6 and 7 before setting it aside to frantically scribble in my idea book, sketching out all the possible connections. Then I picked up the book to finish the chapter before writing this.

In this part of the book, Cross provides the following simple visual to illustrate the changing nature of human organizations, business, computers, and learning in the 21st century.

Cross Evolution of Learning - Three Stages


Referencing the work of Tom Malone (MIT) to explain that networks consistently evolve in three stages. The first is disconnected nodes or what he calls bands. The second is a more hierarchical model which he calls kingdoms. The last is largely organic and inter-connected set of nodes, which he calls democracy. Cross uses these stages to explain how human organizations go through these same three stages as we move to a networked society. It is the same for business operations and even learning (the focus of Cross’s book).

This is a brilliant illustration because I can overlay it on a dozen different communities and organizations with which I work, and it provides rich insights about what is working, what is not, why there are seeming conflicts, why things sometimes just “click”, and why some of us just seem to be talking right past each other. We are living and thinking about different stages.

Allow me to illustrate from a formal schooling setting. In the K-12 world, there is the community, the school board,  the superintendent, the principal, department chairs, classroom teachers, and students. For many, they are thinking of this from a stage two perspective. This is a hierarchy. Where do parents fit into the picture? Well, they are part of the community, but I wonder if this is not part of why I consistently see tensions about the role of parents. If parents stay out of the way or just play a role of helping their kids fit into the hierarchy, all is well (from some people’s perspective). If, on the other hand, parents are communicating messages to kids that do not align with what the teachers want or they want to influence what happens in the school, then there are problems. Or, what if a student chooses to learn about things outside of school, by using separate tutors, through self-study, or something else? We have another potential conflict. The teachers thinking from a stage two perspective may well see this as a challenge to their authority and rightful place in the hierarchy. All works well as long as the students do things the teacher’s way, according to the teacher’s timing and standard.

As Cross explains in page 10 of his text, people in different stages have different ways of thinking. Stage three thinking is organic, seemingly chaotic at times, participatory, people are multifaceted, the organization is emergent, cooperation trumps competition, and change is constant and welcome. For a stage two organization, things are carefully managed, linear,  controlled, predictable, deliberately designed, competitive, and change is a concern. The more I think about this comparison, the more I suspect that part of struggle and growing pains experienced by many people and learning organizations today comes from the fact that we have the clash of stage two and three thinking.

I participate in many online communities ranging from Twitter chats to private professional networks, communities of practice to MOOCs. I approach most of them from a stage three mindset. I recognize that there may be a formal leader, but I find myself frustrated when that leader seeks to control too much or wants everything to be siphoned through them. I’ve seen such a mindset stifle the energy and passion of many online groups. These hierarchical thinking leaders are running it like a stage two community, and while I can appreciate lessons and experiences from such organizations, I thrive on the messiness and inter-connectivity of stage three contexts.

There are still authorities, leaders and people with different degrees of influence in stage three communities, but some still function from the mindset that you need one central leader or coordinator who functions almost like a puppet master. That may or may not be true for various communities and efforts, but the presence of a leader doesn’t need to conflict with stage three thinking. They can work together, but it requires a leader with humility who doesn’t need everything to be closely managed by this single person. It calls for a leader who persistently welcomes people to step up and take things in unexpected directions, to network and collaborate in wonderful ways. I’ll be running a MOOC through the month of January. I am clearly the main organizer and leader, but I am hopeful that I will not be the one to dictate and determine who does what, when, and why. Each person comes to the course with something to learn, something to offer, and I treasure their participation in helping shape the community, determine what is learned and how, and improvising, sort of like they are a musician in a Jazz band.

Communication is another clash between stage two and three thinking. A stage two leader might scold people for talking to too many different people, advising them to focus on their assigned tasks and not others. What might be happening, however, is that the one person is doing stage three thinking: networking, collaborating across teams, exploring things from different angles, seeing a broader perspective and deeper insights that inform their work.  Trying to force stage three thinkers into a stage two world is likely to frustrate, and it might cause organizations to lose some of their best talent.

On the flip side, there are stage three thinkers who are crossing traditional boundaries, improvising, and diving into the chaos; but they have missed a critical part of the stage three context. The nodes are inter-connected. In a stage two organization, if I do something different, the communication structure is more carefully controlled. In a stage three organization, the person making a change often needs to communicate much more broadly, developing a nuanced understanding of all the different people impacted by a decision. This is where we get the messiness. I need to be thinking about the thirty people impacted by a decision and communicate to them or have a means by which they become aware of what is happening. They need to be able to give me feedback that might lead to a changed direction. Stage two thinkers are likely to be frustrated with all this “over-communication” and they may also work from more of a “need to know mindset”, being careful not to “bother” subordinates with information that the leader deems unnecessary for them. These two habits of thought clash because different strategies work on one and not the other. Left unaddressed, this leaves people frustrated with themselves, the organization, and/or others in the organization.

It is not as simple as addressing it. We have people with strong convictions about how the organization should operate. People have preferences for a stage one, stage two, or stage three way of thinking. People may not even realize that they are battling over these differences because a certain way of thinking may be all they’ve ever known. As such, one step seems to be surfacing the source of the challenge.

What about learning in the digital age? Some people approach their learning from a stage two way of thinking. They await direction from a leader to shape their learning. Tell me what to learn and how to learn it. Yet, those same people may also operate from a stage three mindset for learning when they are away from school or the workplace. They choose what, how, and when to learn about gardening, playing an instrument, discovering the nuances of having a new house built, finding the best prices for a product or service, etc. It seems to me that we think differently about learning depending upon the context.

The problem is that a person with stage two thinking in the workplace is likely to experience a limit to their growth in an organization. They follow rules well, but they’ve never learned to own their learning and to improvise. They wait for orders. When told what and how to learn, they do it well. What happens when they encounter problems with unclear solutions? They turn to an authority to solve it for them or they are overwhelmed. This is more than just collaborating with their boss and others to explore a solution (which seems valuable and wise). They want someone to direct them. Just tell me what to do.

I see this tension between stage two and three thinking in some of our schools, and I am concerned about it. I’ve read student complaints about professors, and parent complaints about K-12 teachers who did not give students the answers. “How am I supposed to learn something if they don’t give me the answers?” There are teachers who think the same way. They are wonderfully organized, often engaging and beloved; but they are not necessarily helping students learn to be a stage three learner. We have schools that are re-imagining formal education with stage three thinking in mind, and there is much that we can learn from these schools. I’ve learned about and visited dozens of these schools, and I’ve learned that it can be approached effectively in different ways. In fact, I suggest that every stage three school is entirely unique. We can learn from them, but there is no certain recipe for perfectly replicating them (a difference between a sentient living organism and a machine).

It is still important to be able to learn from highly structured and authoritarian contexts. That is a valuable life skill even in an increasingly connected world. I turn to “experts” all the time to sit at their feet and learn from them. I can enjoy a good lecture or keynote. I appreciate the fact that I don’t know what I don’t know and that I sometimes need to trust or lean on those ahead of me to get a solid start to learning something new or complex. This is important, but it just isn’t enough today.

It is why I often refer back to the value of helping students build their personal learning networks. When I interview people, I always ask them what they do to stay current in their work, how they spend unstructured time on the job, how they go about learning something new, how they seek to solve messy problems, how they function in contexts with the goals are unclear, and what they would do if suddenly everything on their “list” at work was complete. I’m looking for self-directed learners, and helping one cultivate such thinking and habits is a wonderful gift that will better prepare them for life and learning in an increasingly networked global society. If we fail to help students become confident and competent with level three thinking, we may be unknowingly setting them up for disappointment and frustration in the workplace and as lifelong learners. If we recognize the reality of these two ways of thinking, we have an exciting opportunity to help ourselves and others learn to thrive in a world where stage two and stage three thinking are frequently conflicting and interacting with one another.

15 Organizations That Model & Inspire Educational Innovation

We live in exciting times. There is unprecedented educational experimentation and exploration. Even more exciting, people and organizations are exploring new and creative ways to address important social problems and challenges by rethinking how we go about education in an increasingly connected world.

There are hundreds, even thousands of organizations that are doing good and important work in education. While there are plenty of organizations in the education sector that continue to be driven by the yearning for as much market share as possible or for what seems like the primary goal of self-preservation, there are plenty of others that have clear and compelling visions, that embrace their responsibility and calling to promote social good through work in education, and that are helping us explore and imagine new and promising possibilities for education in a connected world. While far from an exhaustive list, here are fifteen such organizations, ranging from private to public, non-profit to for-profit, education providers to facilitators of educational movements. If you want a glimpse into some of the more promising things happening in education today, take a look at what these organizations are doing. In fact, if you want to be part of  some of the most promising movements in education, find a way to get involved with one or more of these groups. 

1. Digital Promise – The mission of this organization is to, “Improve the opportunity to learn for all Americans through technology and research.” This mission has led them into any number of initiatives: efforts to bridge the skills gap for adult learners, the league of innovative schools (a coalition of K-12 schools working together to address important challenges through a blend of educational research and learning technologies), and their new micro-credential / digital badge project focused upon reimagining ongoing professional development for educators.

2. Jobs for the Future – This is one of the more exciting organizations to me right now. They are “working to expand the college, career, and life prospects of low-income youth and adults across 25 states.” This includes projects like Credentials that Work (“aligning career training with employer demand”), efforts to increase college readiness, as well as impressive work around early college designs (“reinventing high schools for post-secondary success”). 

3. Badge Alliance – Started this year (2014), this alliance of key organizations like the Mozilla and MacArthur Foundation, “is a network of organizations and people working together to build and support an open badging ecosystem, with a focus on shared values including openness, learner agency and innovation.” They are leading the way and providing important connections among those who are interested in exploring the possibilities of micro-credentials for everything from out-of-school learning to increasing job opportunities for veterans, creating citywide networks of learning around digital badges, or even a growing number of K-12 and higher education institutions experimenting the role of these new credentials. This is a new group and much of the work is just getting started, but I am already seeing some exciting developments from the early working groups organized by the Badge Alliance. 

4. Western Governor’s University – WGU has been around for over 15 years, and it currently serves over 40,000 students throughout the United Sates with quality competency-based online degrees. There are parts to their model that I would like to tweak (like leaving more room for self-directed learning within a competency-based model), but what they have done has created a model for others. They have been groundbreakers in the developing world of competency-based education, challenging the odd historic practice of measuring student progress by seat time instead of what students know and can do.

Arizona State University – What Michael Crow has promoted during his time as President of ASU is nothing short of impressive: casting a vision for an entrepreneurial state University, building a high-quality online program through ASU Online, creating “trandsciplinary schools”, efforts to increase access and opportunity to higher education, corporate partnerships like the recent ASU / Starbucks program, and nurturing a startup culture. ASU is, without question, one of the most innovative higher education institutions in the world.

5. P2PU – Their tag line reads, “learning by everyone for everyone about almost anything. completely free.” P2PU is a brilliant social experiment in open education, leveraging the power of life and learning in a connected world, and peer-to-peer learning. Their MOOCs and other open courses are not just replications of authoritarian educational institutions and frameworks put into an online format. They have re-envisioned and redefined the word “University” with an unswerving commitment to openness and peeragogy.

6. Udacity – This one gets mixed reviews in the media (as to almost all innovative organizations), but Udacity is helping us to rethink credentials and education leading to employable skills through their new nano-degrees and courses designed around project-based learning. Unlike other online learning provides, both Udacity and P2PU are making their work about more than just digitizing old school courses and programs. They are giving us new and promising models. In fact, Udacity’s most recent is potentially a direct challenge to traditional Universities that dismiss workforce development as beneath them (which, by the way, is just what happens to companies and organizations that are just about to experience a disruptive innovation).

7. EdSurge – This is my single favorite news source for educational innovation and educational technology. If you have not done so, sign up for their newsletter today. From their website, “EdSurge is an independent information resource and community for everyone involved in education technology.” It is more than a news and resource center. Leaders at EdSurge are pulling up their sleeves and helping to build important networks, communities, gatherings, and even helping to recognize and highlight high-impact people and organizations through their Digital innovation and learning awards. Organizations like EdSurge help build bridges and networks among educational innovators that help great ideas spread, and help people find their place in this exciting world of educational entrepreneurship and innovation.

8. Maker Faire – The Maker Faire movement is helping to elevate a culture of creation in a world of consumption. They are doing it one maker faire at a time: providing a forum for makers to share their amazing creations, giving people a glimpse and invitation into the maker world, and promoting a vision for learning by doing and creating.

9. Thomas Fordham Institute – Here is their stated mission, “The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is the nation’s leader in advancing educational excellence for every child through quality research, analysis, and commentary, as well as on-the-ground action and advocacy in Ohio.” Even if I do not agree with all the commentary, I find this to be one of the more researched and enlightening sources of information about current and emerging research focused on educational innovation. They are leading voices in places like Ohio around a vision of ample choices for diverse students; whether it be charters, magnet schools, school choice programs, blended and online learning options, and dual credit. 

10. Khan Academy – If you haven’t check it out lately, take a few minutes. Their mission is, to change, “education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.” It is an instigator for a world-wide conversation about the flipped classroom (although there are certainly many other major voices). Along the way, they have grow into some fascinating work that ventures into mastery-based learning, personalized learning, self-directed learning, adaptive learning, and learning analytics. As such, Khan Academy is a great example of a how an education startup can help people imagine new ways of going about teaching and learning, even impacting traditional schooling environments from the outside…but then seeing it find its way into many of those very traditional schools.

11. North Star Self-Directed Learning for Teens – I remember talking to one of the founders about three or four years ago on the phone, just learning more about the work they do. They are not a school. Instead, students sign up with the state as a homeschooler, but they come to this place of self-directed learning, get coaching and guidance as needed, and take responsibility for their own learning. Check out their site and videos for a better understanding of their work. Since my initial conversation several years ago, they have gained national attention and become a model for other self-directed centers around the United States. As such, they have essentially created a new model of schooling, neither traditional homeschooling or a teacher-led traditional school. They are an example of

12. Kidnected World – “kids create social good by doing what they love to do” – I learned about this group at the 2014 ISTE conference, more specifically as part of the the startup pitchfest (Have I mentioned that I am addicted to education startup pitches…what I consider the poetry slams of the education startup world?). This nonprofit exists to provide the tools that kids need to change the world. The goal is to connect kids to one another and provide them with tools to be agents of change by using their imagination and playing with others (what they already do well). That is where their “wonderment” comes in. It is a community. Kids enter, pick a path, participate in a challenge, see other kids joining in, the “wonder meter” rises, and they see the impact of a social good project. This is one of many exciting efforts to blend education and having a social impact. Is it more effective to tell kids about the good they can do once they finish twelve or sixteen years of formal school, or to actually provide them with the tools and means to impact the world right now? Organizations like Kidnected World are showing us the wisdom and possibility of the latter.

13. The Learning Revolution Project – Developed by Steve Hargadon, the Learning Revolution Project includes opportunities to learn about and from leaders and innovators across the field of education. The project has an impressive list of partners ranging from higher education institutions to professional organizations and companies in the education sector. This project includes opportunities to learn from and network through various communities, a growing number of free online conferences (with a refreshing spirit of openness), tour events with a special theme, as well as the beloved ISTE unplugged event hosted before the official start of the ISTE conference each year. Education is a field that thrives on openness, sharing, and networking; and The Learning Revolution Project is a champion and model for all three.

14. Alternative Education Resource Organization – The stated goal of AERO is to, “advance student-driven, learner-centered approaches to education.” As such, this is a single organization where you can learn about everything from Waldorf education to Sudbury schools, Montessori to Reggio Emilia, educational co-ops to unschooling. Even if you don’t embrace any of these models or visions, it is an organization that provides a collection of alternative voices to the dominance of talk about testing and national standards that seem to drive so many other contemporary K-12 efforts. This is an organization to follow if you want to learn from diverse models and perspectives.

15. Duolingo – At first glance, this is just a company if a fun and user-friendly app for learning a new language. Look closer and you see a company serious about figuring out how to best help people learn a new language, promsing work around the gamification of learning, and a willingness to also step into the realm of credentialing and certification of learning. It is probably this last part that ensured a spot on my list of fifteen, as they are providing a distruptive innovation in the world if English language certification for students seeking to study in the United States. They are offering a free (soon to be $20) test that is comparable ot TOEFL! This is a trend to watch, education companies that don’t just stop at offering educational opportunities, but are also willing to establish new forms of certification and credentialing that challenge traditional systems.