Museums Can Take on Learning Ecosystem Leadership

Topics: Community Partnerships, Future of Learning

Museums and other community-based learning organizations have a critical role to play in cultivating vibrant learning ecosystems that enable personalized, open-walled, lifelong learning. Bringing their distinctive strengths to interconnected learning ecosystems can help museums strengthen their contributions to learning while also supporting organizational and community vitality.

These opportunities exist in the context of rapidly changing societal and educational contexts. As we move deeper into the era of partners in code that colleagues I have been forecasting, we can expect to find ourselves developing new uses for, and new relationships with, increasingly smart, wearable and connected machines. In addition, work will become increasingly automated, with more and more people working on a project, contract or task basis. These changes will require society to redefine readiness for work, life and ongoing learning. We will need to shift our focus to put human development at the center. To help people develop the emotional capacities needed to bring our uniquely human attributes to work, civic life and other settings, education will need to place a new focus on feeling and relating.

In The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out, we explore how career readiness may be redefined to better prepare students for an uncertain future, based on a series of in-depth interviews with employees at cutting-edge organizations, as well as site visits to workspaces and strategic foresight research into current trends.
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As I explore in “Museums Can Take a Lead in Cultivating Vibrant Learning Ecosystems,” a chapter in Marsha Semmel’s Partnership Power: Essential Museum Strategies for Today’s Networked World, museums are well positioned to help enable this shift in focus. With their emphasis on free-choice and interest-driven learning and their relative freedom from regulation and accountability, museums can help people extend their ways of thinking and knowing; grapple with quandaries; and broaden their cultural, historical and social perspectives.

More specifically, museums could respond to the changing landscape by:

  • Prioritizing support for social-emotional skill development
  • Partnering with K-12 schools, postsecondary institutions and other organizations to raise awareness and exchange practice about effective ways of doing so
  • Cultivating learning experiences that help people engage with ambiguity and uncertainty
  • Supporting people in developing creativity, cognitive diversity and flexible thinking
  • Helping people nurture aspirational visions for their lives and reflect on how their experiences relate to their passions, purpose, aspirations and goals.

While many museums already support learning in such ways, museums could help lead the way toward creating more personalized learning for people of all ages by partnering with other organizations to foster interconnected learning ecosystems that make such learning far more widespread than it is today. Pursuing deep partnerships will help museums and other learning organizations respond to the changing landscape and reorient education around the learners who depend on it and who should be at the center.

For more on these ideas as well as perspectives from a broad range of great thinkers, check out Partnership Power: Essential Museum Strategies for Today’s Networked World.

You can see KnowledgeWorks’ latest guidance on shaping the future of learning in Navigating the Future of Learning: A Strategy Guide.