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School Culture and Perpetual Beta

Perpetual beta is the retaining of a program or system in the beta, or unfinished, stage of development for an indefinite period of time. If schools are committed to becoming cultures of learning, then embracing a state of perpetual beta is a constructive mindset.



Author and professional learner, Harold Jarche, tells us learning, in a networked world, is complicated without establishing personal and organizational structures. In the words of George Siemens, "creating coherent centers on the web". PKM (personal knowledge mastery) is Jarche's framework for professional, ultimately personal, learning. His recipe for continuous learning involves three perpetually repeating activities. (Learning through doing)
  1. Seeking - obtaining and curating useful information
  2. Sensing - reflecting, practicing, and personalizing the information
  3. Sharing - exchanging resources, ideas, and experiences

Work is learning, and learning is the work - Harold Jarche

This week's change.school provocations included the driving question, "Is your school a teaching organization or a learning organization?" The answer to that question can usually be found in the narratives of the school's associates. Do the school mission/vision/value statements explicitly identify learning as an organizational objective? When dissecting school practices, are conversations and decisions focused on increasing teaching efficiencies or do they champion learning effectiveness? 

Experience tells us learning is messy, often taking experimentation and many iterations before mastery is claimed. The mindset parallels of learning and change are so conspicuous, it would seem a commitment to change is a commitment to learning. Can the terms be used interchangeably? How many of us take it as a personal affront when asked to change? What's wrong with me and what I am doing? Recalling Missy Emler's challenge from an early change.school session, "I'm not asking you to change, I'm asking you to learn." (How School Leaders Can Attend to the Emotional Side of Change)

Seemingly, organizations that establish change cultures are also committed to learning. Continually seeking, reflecting, practicing, and sharing. Perpetual beta. Never a finished product, always looking to improve. As Seymour Sarason told us in 2004, "productive learning is the process which engenders and reinforces wanting to learn more." Bruce Dixon and my implied commutative property, remind us, change is not a singular event, but a perpetual process; change and learning go hand-in-hand. Modern learning, much like our networks, applications, and digital tools, is stuck in perpetual beta, and this is a good thing for schools committed to creating and nurturing a culture of change.

References and Related Reading

Learning, Work. "Work Is Learning, and Learning Is the Work." Harold Jarche. http://jarche.com/2012/06/work-is-learning-and-learning-is-the-work/.

"Perpetual Beta vs. Perpetual Education." The Thinking Stick. http://www.thethinkingstick.com/perpetual-beta-vs-perpetual-education-2/.



Creelman, Alastair. "The Corridor of Uncertainty." Learning Is Perpetual Beta. January 01, 1970. http://acreelman.blogspot.com/2015/04/learning-is-perpetual-beta.html.

photo credit: Ferino Design Destiny 2 Beta_20170723034221 via photopin (license)

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