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Meet Luke Kerr, Real Time Learning

April 22, 2016

Real Time Learning is a social enterprise that empowers education providers to personalize learning by setting up real time opportunities between schools, industry and the community to engage in authentic learning tasks as engaged students perform better on every level.

From assisting seniors with technology, providing media services like filming conferences and events for local businesses or working with engineers to use 3D printing and code to build robots – through Real Time Learning students are able to align their passion with their learning, develop skills in an interdisciplinary way and have their skills validated in the marketplace.

Luke Kerr, Real Time Learning Program Director and Crunch 2016 participant, shares his experience in teaching, engaging young students in their learning and the plans to roll out this opportunity in more schools.

How did Real Time Learning evolve?

We were birthed out of a program called Hands On Learning (HOL), which has been going for over 15 years now. Russell Kerr (my father) founder of HOL started the program at Frankston High School, as a way of reaching disengaged youth and those who were at risk of not really engaging with school, so it was really focussed on student engagement and wellbeing.

The rates of re-engagement with education as a result of the program were quite significant, so after four years they partnered with SVA who helped them take the model to scale. Deloitte Economics did a study of the program in 2012, which demonstrated a $12 return for every dollar that was invested into the program and largely all that work had been funded by philanthropy.

Three years ago we started thinking that there were so many more kids who were missing out on this opportunity to engage in a purposeful way with learning that is aligned to their passion and interests. At the same time we had the Education Minister of the time, Martin Dixon, saying he would fund Hands On Learning if we could roll it out for every student and make it a mainstream program. At that point we had a prototype in mind – that would be Real Time Learning – which is about giving every single student an opportunity.

We’re now piloting the program at Mt Eliza Secondary College and every student has one day per week to engage in learning that they can connect with and we can in real time develop a lot of their soft skills – their EQ. That’s a huge focus now for education, to look at how they can do more than just focus on content knowledge but really develop technical, social and the creative intelligences.

We’ve also got a lot of interest from other cross sector schools wanting to know how we foster these partnerships and opportunities, so now we’re in that space of bringing more schools on board.

What sparked your passion to continue your dad’s work in this space?

I’d been in mainstream education for 19 years prior to working on this program as an outdoor ed and maths teacher.

People will tell you the problem in the system is that we’re not engaging kids in a way that they can see those real world connections well enough in maths and science and we’ve got kids dropping out in those subjects. So I’ve put teaching in the classroom on hold to take up the opportunity to have kids see a really practical application in the outside world. I’m really passionate about kids doing well in a mainstream context, but I realised that there’s something missing.

The Education Department as part of the delivery of their education has one third set aside for general capabilities, which is around the skills of being creative and an analytical thinker, building resilience and collaboration – 21st century skills. But there hasn’t been a real focus on how to teach and deliver it. So we looked at it and thought, if we can put these real world projects in front of the kids, it’s going to drive and initiate the kind of learning that was always intended through the curriculum.

Now we’re working closely with VCAA and the Mitchell Institute along with eleven other schools as they roll out the new general capabilities that are being implemented next year to look at how we can help schools look at different ways to deliver those general capabilities.

How do the students respond to the Real Time Learning program?

Once a kid connects their passion and purpose, their Real Time Learning day is a day they look forward to all week. That’s what we hear from the kids. That’s why I went into it and that’s the really rewarding piece.

The students talk about Real Time Learning being a place of opportunity, where it’s not just activities that we drive, it’s largely down to them putting forward ideas and us seeing if we can make them fly – which gives the kids the opportunity to take much more ownership over their own learning.

In the first two years we were provided with seed funding but now the school has largely taken on the funding themselves because it’s done so much for the students, as well as for the community buy in as well.

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What attracted you to participate in the Crunch?

Last year we saw there was an appetite to take this program to scale, and with a background in teaching, I hadn’t done a business model before. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and I come from a family of entrepreneurs, but it’s not something that I’ve had a lot of experience in. The last two years running RTL has felt very much like off-piste skiing – which I love doing! – But I thought it would be helpful to have a guide by the side.

So I’m doing my own real-time learning through this process and absolutely loving it because there’s a sense of practical application. It’s not just theory for me, for me to take this program to scale, I really need to get my head around the kind of learning we’re doing. I’m finding it really stimulating learning and it’s great to partner with people at a similar place on their journey in the initiatives that they’re building.

What’s been the most valuable learning through the Crunch so far?

Right from the get go looking at the Theory of Change and the Lean Canvas models. I’d seen the Lean Canvas a year ago, but because I hadn’t been stepped through the process I left it to the side. Having guidance to go through the canvas gave me a lot more confidence to engage in the process and I feel I have a much better handle on that now.

Also fully understanding the problem you’re trying to solve. That’s become far more apparent through this process and has helped to sharpen our pitch. I would tend to go and sell the program, but go all over the place, so what I’m learning through the Crunch is to be quite specific about our customer’s problem and what we’re trying to address.

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