Neuroscience + Technology + Education = The Perfect SXSWedu Panelist

Posts from WOL - 10 hours 22 min ago

Christa Simone – neuroscientist turned ed-tech professional – might have one of the most interesting professional and educational backgrounds.

She started her career in neuroscience research at the Brain and Creativity Institutee at USC, focused on the effects of culture on adolescent social-emotional development. She then worked at Lumosity, the brain training company, researching the effects of cognitive training. Now, as a current researcher at NoRedInk, she works with the team to help students become better writers through adaptive, interest-based grammar and writing curriculum.

Neuroscience meets education meets technology. How cool is that?

KnowledgeWorks submitted a SXSWedu session that would feature Christa’s insight on how we ensure students are prepared for the future workforce. If our session is selected, she would be able to share her experience working in research and ed-tech to help support learning.

I asked Christa a few questions about readiness and the panel discussion. Learn more below, and be sure to vote for our session today!

Why do you think we should rethink what workforce readiness looks like in the future?

While I don’t believe that the sole purpose of school should be to prepare students for the workforce, I think the disconnect between what is taught in school and what is required to be successful at work has become increasingly apparent, putting many students at a disadvantage when they leave school, especially if they haven’t been afforded opportunities outside of school. Rethinking workforce readiness led us to the idea of creating lifelong learners as a key purpose of education. Being a lifelong learner, I believe, is important for both workforce readiness and creating personally meaningful lives beyond work.

Based on your experience, what skills do you think employees will need to succeed in the future?

In my experience, I’ve seen people really succeed at work because of their creativity and grit. It’s no longer about following a prescribed path or job description; the people who excel are the ones who can identify problems and design solutions without being asked. Inter-personal skills are also really important, because, generally, doing something outside the box requires buy-in from others.

Why do you think people should vote for this session?

I think our session is unique in that we’re bringing together some really diverse perspectives from inside and outside education to talk about education. I believe that’s going to be key to how we, as a society, make impactful changes to the way our school systems work.

A public thumbs up is worth 30% of the total vote, so if you would, please exercise your civic SXSW festival duties and cast your vote for KnowledgeWorks!

A public thumbs up is worth 30% of the total vote, so if you would, please exercise your civic SXSW festival duties and cast your vote for KnowledgeWorks!

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5 Ways to a More Student-Centered Classroom

Posts from WOL - 13 hours 22 min ago

Ask any educator and they’ll tell you they want to do what’s best for every learner in their classroom, their school, their district. The best way to make that happen? Student-centered, personalized learning.

It might seem like a big job, and it is, but it’s possible to take small steps at the start of the school year to begin the work of building a school and classroom culture that supports students as unique individuals.

1. When planning lessons or activities for your classroom, ask yourself, who is doing the work?

If you are, consider if you need to be the one who is doing it, or if there is a way to turn it over to the students. When you give students some control in the classroom and over decision-making, they can begin to take ownership of their learning and better understand themselves as learners. Building in this time for reflection as an educator is an important step in inviting student voice and choice into the classroom.

2. Co-construct classroom rules and standard-operating procedures.

When learners take part in deciding appropriate behavior and consequences for the classroom, they feel a greater sense of connection to the classroom environment as something that belongs to them – and more of a responsibility to hold each other accountable to uphold procedures they’ve decided on together, rather than rules that were just posted in the classroom by their teacher on the first day of school.

3. Consider using flexible seating.

Giving students the freedom to move around and learn where they learn best is an easy first step toward making your classroom more student-centered. Some might need to sit on an exercise ball or a swivel seat, to move around in a way that isn’t disruptive to the rest of the class. Some may prefer a desk, table or even to lay out on the floor with their work.

4. Let learners be the experts.

It’s natural as an educator to want to be able to answer every question, but it’s okay not to know everything. If you know that there are students in your classroom who have mastered certain topics, let them help each other. Students love to be the teacher – and you’re freed to facilitate learning, rather than being in a position to deliver direct instruction.

5. Foster a growth mindset.

As adults, we recognize that failure is just a part of the learning process – some might even argue that it’s the most important part. When students are also given the freedom to try something new without fear of being penalized if it doesn’t work out, they have greater confidence in themselves as learners. Encourage the use of language that stresses “not yet” rather than “I can’t.”

Download KnowledgeWorks' Back-to-School Toolkit to uncover insights from other district and school leaders.Looking for more ideas on making your district student-centered? Download our Get Ready: Back-to-School Culture Toolkit to uncover insights from other district and school leaders.

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Five Examples of Effective School Communication Strategies, on Five Different Platforms

Posts from WOL - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 8:00am

Communicating effectively to people throughout your school district presents several challenges. What’s your message, who needs to hear what and, more and more, what vehicle is the most appropriate for each message. As digital platforms proliferate, things can be both quicker and easier. The challenge remains as it always has, though: how do you make best use of the marketing vehicle to deliver your message?

Read about five examples of school districts effectively sharing their stories using very different marketing tools:

1. District Website:

Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) reaches 35,000 students and their families, staff and community partners with their easy-to-use website. While a website is a must-have for any school district, a good website is more difficult to achieve. That is especially the case when you’re providing information to so many people about more than 50 schools. So what makes the CPS site stand out?

  • The design is bright and clean with lots of photography. That combination makes you want to spend more time on the site.
  • The web architecture, or how the information is organized, is done in as few broad categories as possible. This means fewer links cluttering up the navigation, as well as few clicks as possible to find what you need.
  • The most important information – a login access point and an index of CPS site – is accessible through omnipresent links that float along the right-hand side of the site.

Visit the CPS website and see how they’re taking advantage of web communications for their district.

2. Classic School Building and Classroom Signs:

Garfield County School District 16 is communicating expectations to students and their families, as well as school staff, using signs throughout the schools in their district. Colorfully decorated bulletin boards in hallways and classrooms aren’t necessarily innovative, but the transparency of expectations at Garfield 16 is helping transform the district to be more student-centered and transparent.

Students at Garfield 16 are introduced to five habits of a learner that the district refers to as CRISP (collaboration, responsibility, inquiry, service and perseverance) and evidence of these habits are prominently displayed in hallways on different signs. While the communication may seem simple, it’s working.

“Students can be heard using CRISP language and holding each other accountable to being a Crew member,” KnowledgeWorks Director of Teaching and Learning Abbie Forbus said.

Learn more about CRISP and how Garfield 16 approaches making students owners of their own learning experiences.

3. School and District Twitter Accounts:

In Marysville, Ohio, the community can keep up to date with what’s happening across the school district and in specific schools by checking Twitter. District staff are taking advantage of this social media platform to provide quick access to information and increasing transparency. Navin Elementary is building build school pride with the hashtag #NavinRocks. Student success is a common theme on the Marysville Early College High School account. Bigger news stories, announcements and celebrations are shared from the district account. Marysville Superintendent Diane Mankins and many school staff from across Marysville are actively communicating on Twitter, which helps foster easy, open communication.

Follow some of the Marysville Twitter accounts for idea of how to use that platform in your own school communications: @MarysvilleEVSD, @MarysvilleECHS, @BunsoldMS, @Edgewood_ES, @NavinElementary, @NorthwoodES and @Raymond_Elem.

4. eNewsletters:

In the Kenowa Hills Personal Mastery eNewsletter, the Kenowa Hills Public Schools District engages parents and community members on an ongoing discussion of the district’s transformation to personalized learning. Featuring guest writers, lots of photos from classrooms and bite-size stories, the newsletter is an easy way to deliver a lot of information without overwhelming people.

By incorporating various voices in their newsletter, Kenowa Hills is able to provide a platform by which many people can share messages along the same theme:

  • “We wouldn’t expect most children to ride a bike first without training wheels, but the traditional education system commonly attempts to build upon prior learning even when the student hasn’t demonstrated proficiency in the foundational learning,” said Kenowa Hills Superintendent Gerald Hopkins when he explained the need for a competency-based progression.
  • “Schools are transforming from the factory-model of education to one that is student-centered and designed to better prepare students for 21st Century college and career,” said Assistant Superintendent Mike Burde when reinforcing the need to transform education in a way that better serves students.
  • “Within this shift towards personal mastery, Michigan is emerging when compared to many other states, and Kenowa Hills is leading the charge,” KnowledgeWorks Director of Teaching and Learning Laura Hilger said.

Communicating similar messages in different ways is a powerful way to reach more people. By giving voice to district leadership and partners, Kenowa Hills is creating more opportunities for open communication.

Access the Kenowa Hills Personal Mastery eNewsletter archives to read past newsletters.

5. Events:

Mesa County Valley School District 51 (D51) provides rich professional development opportunities for their staff and is demonstrating their commitment to personalized learning through the Elevate Summit.

The D51 hosted their first Elevate Summit, they had more than 400 educators attend for integrated, cross-district, cross-role development. The second annual event occurred earlier this month and had 600 educators in attendance from D51 and surrounding districts.

“The district is creating a strong community of practice by hosting this conference,” KnowledgeWorks Vice President of Communications and Marketing Cris Charbonneau said. “It shows commitment from the educators there to the district vision and to providing students with rich personalized learning experiences.”

Now that the Elevate Summit has been opened up to additional communities near D51, the district is communicating personalized learning best practices to a wide audience and positioning themselves as leaders.

#D51ELEVATE was filled with learning, laughter, and many opportunities for collaboration. Thank you for a great two days. @knowledgeworks pic.twitter.com/YdfmJ8nLdX

— Virgel Hammonds (@VirgelHammonds) August 1, 2017

Learn more about the Elevate Summit:

See more school stories by following @EdPersonalized.

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Charlottesville and Talking to Students about Traumatic Events

Posts from WOL - Thu, 08/17/2017 - 1:00pm

As current events continue to remind us, the world can be a frightening place. While we might try to shield our children and our students from some events, we can’t shield them from everything. When exposed to traumatic events, whether personally or through the media, children can display fear and anxiety. And while no conversation can resolve the state of the world, it can reassure children of their support systems and help them process what they are seeing and hearing. The conversations are a critical piece to developing children’s social-emotional skills for the future.


— Amy Fast, Ed.D (@fastcranny) August 17, 2017

Last weekend’s events in Charlottesville, and the political and social turmoil that followed, have many school districts wondering what to do. Do you address it at all? If so how? If you ignore it, what message is that sending? While you’re not along in your questions – we’re all having them – here are some resources that can help.

Resources for talking about Charlottesville:

Example district responses to Charlottesville:

Educator perspectives on talking about Charlottesville:

You can get more ideas about addressing Charlottesville in the classroom by following  #CharlottesvilleCurriculum.

Hours after the attack, teachers were sharing resources online. Do you have recs?
#CharlottesvilleCurriculum https://t.co/6wEtBdp7O6

— NPR (@NPR) August 14, 2017

This is an important conversation and one that isn’t limited to Charlottesville. It’s pertinent to many state, national and global events. The most important part is that we keep talking, ensuring the lines of communication are open between friends, family, peers, children and students.

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ESSA and Personalized Supports: Interesting Examples of Opportunities to Improve Accountability in States

Posts from WOL - Thu, 08/17/2017 - 10:02am

Last week I explored some trends in how states are approaching ESSA’s School Support and Improvement provisions. The trends I featured highlight the ways in which states are empowering districts and schools in the improvement process, as well as how states plan to customize supports to fit what a specific school’s needs. Though a large number of states were included in that analysis, there are a few states that stood out to me.

Read about three states creating opportunities for schools to improve their accountability status in ways that focus on empowerment, engagement and innovation:

Rhode Island: Providing Principles and Strategies that Prioritize Community Involvement

Rhode Island’s plan does a thorough job outlining the state’s philosophy for change alongside strategies for improvement. Because the underlying principles are so specific, I thought it would be worth including each of them in this post, rather than synthesizing them.

Here are Rhode Island’s principles for school improvement as stated in their plan:

  • A belief that learning must be personalized to meet the needs of all students, and that a broad variety of pathways to college and career readiness must be made available, so that student and family choice can be a key driver in educational attainment.
  • School improvement requires innovation, and that innovation cannot be achieved through coercion, but rather through empowerment of those closest to the students, namely families and educators.
  • This empowerment must come through the form of greater flexibility and autonomy at the school level, while maintaining tight standards of accountability for outcomes, and taking appropriate action if needed when outcomes are not met.
  • School improvement is the work of all members of the state community, meaning Rhode Island must emphasize shared responsibility for improving opportunities and outcomes for every Rhode Island student. This mutual responsibility acknowledges that all education partners in the state can and should play a role in improving access to high quality opportunities and educational outcomes for students.
  • School improvement is not possible without authentically engaged communities and families at all stages of the planning and implementation of school improvement efforts.

These principles are important for a few different reasons. They establish a shared belief that all students can succeed, put forth expectations for responsibility at all levels of the system and, in the same vein, they elevate priorities so that everyone is operating with a common understanding that schools, and the state and the community will all be held accountable for turning schools around.

The state’s outlined strategies for improvement align with the principles above (precisely why I think establishing principles and overarching visions are so important—they ground the strategies in something specific). One strategy that stuck out to me is that the state will require districts with schools identified for Comprehensive Support and Improvement to put together a Community Advisory Board (CAB). This board is designed to give community stakeholders a structured way to provide feedback and support on the initial development of an improvement plan, as well as to provide ongoing support during the improvement process. The state notes, and I think it’s important to include here, that the role of the CAB is not to operate schools, but rather to provide the community voice.

Although school districts have flexibility in establishing a Community Advisory Board (CAB) to fit the district’s particular needs, the board’s membership should, according to the state’s ESSA plan, “be representative of a broad range of community stakeholders from the communities served by the identified school(s).” Among the options included by the state are community-based organization representatives, members of the faith community, business leaders, representatives of advocacy organizations and afterschool or summer program leaders, among others.

The CAB is charged with, at the very least, reporting on a school’s improvement status annually to the local school board and to the Rhode Island Department of Education, giving them more ownership in the process because they are held accountable to the school’s improvement more than just in a traditional “advisory” status. School districts may also call on CABs to help identify direct roles that other community members can play in the school improvement process. I like this because it elevates school improvement as a community issue rather than just as a problem to be solved in a vacuum, and it allows people to think creatively about what’s right for their specific needs.

Rhode Island’s Department of Education will also reserve 50% of its school improvement funding to support additional school improvement efforts. These efforts include Innovation Grants for strategies that improve student achievement at low-performing schools. The state will identify strategic priorities annually that will increase students’ access to learning opportunities and pathways that prepare them for college and career success, as well as proficiency-based student-centered learning strategies.

Read the complete Rhode Island state’s plan.

Tennessee: Empowerment, Innovation and Data Collection

Tennessee’s department of education also highlights the principles under which it will operate through ESSA. Though I will not include them in full here, what sets Tennessee apart from other states to me is the direct connection between its accountability principles and school improvement, creating clear alignment between those two sections of the plan. The state’s accountability principles focus on meeting the needs of, and prioritizing growth for, students at all levels of proficiency, including growth for students who have already reached proficiency. The state’s accountability principles also prioritize continuous improvement for schools and districts by aligning data and customizing improvement strategies based on district needs.

Tennessee also includes a range of emphasized strategies to meet those goals and principles for schools in need of support and improvement. With an overall focus on empowering schools to focus on their unique needs, the state will do the following:

  • Empower leaders and educators with access to accurate and timely data linked to clear action steps.
  • Provide decision-making supports for districts—communicating and prioritizing choice points, options, and flexibility for various initiatives.
  • Provide coaching and support.
  • Encourage innovation through earned autonomy for high-performing districts.
  • Provide pilot opportunities and space for districts to innovate.
  • Create strong networks of learning and opportunities to contribute to decision-making around statewide initiatives.

Additionally, Tennessee has a risk-analysis tool designed to identify districts for targeted technical assistance and support. Although I don’t know the details of the indicators they use, it contains more than 60 indicators across multiple areas, including federal funding, student achievement, human capital, the number of federal discretionary grants received, audit findings, predictive performance indicators and other points of data that could inform the need of a specific school. The state is focused on continuous cycles of improvement in schools, and monitors schools’ progress by taking “snapshots” throughout the year using this tool.

Tennessee has also opted to continue the state’s Innovation Zone model, which, according to their plan, acts like a district within a district. Innovation Zones provide accelerated turnaround for low-performing schools by providing increased autonomy and a chance for true innovation for school leaders and educators by exempting them from specific district-level policies and procedures. Districts can apply for Innovation Zone grants as a school turnaround strategy.

Read the complete Tennessee state’s plan.

New York: Establishing A Participatory Budgeting Process for Parents

New York’s philosophy is that schools receiving support and improvement funds need flexibility to consider support strategies that are localized and fit their specific needs. The state expects that school improvement expenditures result in tangible improvements, and wants to ensure that schools and districts have ownership over the spending choices they have made.

One strategy they’ve decided to implement, participatory budgeting, is fascinating to me, in large part because I was previously unfamiliar with the concept. According to the nonprofit organization The Participatory Budgeting Project, “Participatory budgeting (PB) is a different way to manage public money, and to engage people in government. It is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. It enables taxpayers to work with government to make the budget decisions that affect their lives.”

New York will require schools receiving funds for Comprehensive Support and Improvement schools to implement a participatory budgeting process that allows parents to help determine how these funds are spent, and as a way to give parents a choice in their child’s education. There is some oversight. Part of the process requires that parents help determine the most appropriate ways for the school to spend the funds connected to the results of the school’s needs assessment. I will be curious to see what specific strategies schools use to engage parents in this process, and how the state will support them in those efforts.

Read the complete New York state ’s plan.

These are not the only states with interesting approaches to address School Support and Improvement. As I mentioned in my last post, “ESSA Trends in School Support and Improvement: Meeting Students Where They Are,” the hard part begins when communities are asked to begin  implementing these strategies, so it remains to be seen if these are the right ones to use. However, especially in the case of Tennessee and Rhode Island, because the underlying philosophies and principles behind the strategies presented create a system of support for struggling schools. Hopefully, with a focus on continuous improvement, states will also continue to learn from each other and continue to improve the ways in which they help schools become, and remain, successful.

See for yourself how states are incorporating personalized learning into their ESSA state plans and what is happening in your state with our interactive map.

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Savannah VanGotum: CPI NAN

Posts from WOL - Wed, 08/16/2017 - 8:00am

Reflections from Imagine FutureEd

This blog series features highlights from interviews with the winners of Imagine FutureEd, an online student design competition that KnowledgeWorks hosted in partnership with Teach the Future. Excerpts from the winning scenarios, additional reflections from their creators, and educator resources can be found at the Imagine FutureEd website.

Savannah VanGotum is a recent high school graduate from Trigg County, Kentucky. The scenario and artifact she submitted to Imagine FutureEd depicted the CPI NAN, and individual robot tutor every child is assigned at age five that enables students to learn on their own and find social opportunities separate from learning environments. The scenario is written from the perspective of a parent who reflects on how differently children learn in 2027 and questions how those differences will affect young people long term. Below is an excerpt of an interview with Savannah, edited for length and clarity.

Describe how you came up with your ideas.

My school has a Makerspace class, and that’s where we worked on the competition. We did activities in class to get us to think about how fast technology, social media, human interactions, and schooling has already changed. We then did activities that helped us think about what the future of education might be like. I do believe the world will one day have robots that will help us do more than they currently do today. I believe people will still have jobs and that the world won’t become an awful place to live; everyone will just be more intelligent. I wanted to end the story in a way that help those who read it to think about how different the world might be and how much it might be changing within the next fifteen years.

The narrator of your scenario is a parent, who reflects on how Maria’s education is quite different than the parent’s. How can we make sure that people understand changes that are occurring and don’t feel overwhelmed or left out of making decisions about them?

I don’t necessarily know how we could control the speed at which things are changing. And although I do think it is essential for everyone to keep up with those changes, we can’t spoon feed adults. To keep them from getting overwhelmed, schools should start a group for parents to discuss things outside of a school setting to give them a place to ask questions and be honest about how they feel about the changes that are happening.

Do you think that thinking about the future of learning is important? Why or why not?

Thinking about the future of learning is most definitely very important. Most of us will grow up and have our own children and we need to think about what we want it to be like and what might happen. Also, education is the foundation and the passageway to who we will be and what our future will be like.

What are your major takeaways after completing the Imagine FutureEd competition?

I started to realize how important thinking about the future of education actually is and how it will affect the rest of my life. The world is evolving and changing constantly. When it comes to education, it’s good to know what those changes are and what you can do to help improve them.

KnowledgeWorks is hosting a student design competition, Imagine FutureEd.Visit the Imagine FutureEd website to read excerpts from Savannah’s scenario and more reflections from her on the process of thinking about the future of learning.

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Five Resources to Help You Learn About Social-Emotional Learning in the Classroom

Posts from WOL - Tue, 08/15/2017 - 8:00am

There is a growing body of research indicating that social-emotional learning (SEL) helps provide students with skills that are beneficial to them both inside and outside the classroom. Our newest research puts SEL at the core of skills students will need to be college and career ready. As the body of evidence on the value of SEL grows, so do the amount of resources on the topic and it can be hard to keep up.

Here are five resources to help give you a foundational knowledge in SEL:

1. Social-Emotional Learning: What It Is and Why It Matters

This short video from the Committee for Children gives an introduction to SEL that’s appropriate for all audiences. Although not a deep-dive into the subject, it helps illustrate that “social-emotional skills help us manage emotions, have empathy, solve problems, make responsible decisions and maintain healthy relationships.” Watch this video.

2. “When Social and Emotional Learning Is Key to College Success”

Emmanuel Felton’s article in “The Atlantic” uses student stories to help illustrate the power of SEL. He makes the case that “content knowledge isn’t enough to prepare students for life after high school” and that’s where social emotional skills come in. Felton does a good job of explaining the challenges that exist in helping making SEL available to students, but also ensure that its applied consistently, with quality and done equitably. Read the full article.

3. Spring Issue of “The Future of Children,” titled “Social and Emotional Learning”

The Brookings Institution out of Princeton University devoted an entire issue of their “The Future of Children” journal to SEL. The journal contains nine articles that help readers look at SEL from different vantage points, including public health, different age groups, equity and discipline, teaching and assessment. By addressing so many aspects of the teaching and learning experience, this provides a deep look into SEL and has articles relevant to teachers, school support staff and administrators. Access the journal.

4. “Promoting Positive Youth Development Through School-Based Social and Emotional Learning Interventions: A Meta-Analysis of Follow-Up Effects”

This July 2017 study is a short read but packed with statistic that outline the value of school-based SEL interventions. The research shows correlations between SEL interventions improved competencies in areas like problem solving and relationships skills, improved academic performance and self-worth and smaller rates of drug use. The data also showed that SEL was equally effective across demographics and the effects of interventions remained in effect for up to four years. Read the full study.

5. Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning: Research and Practice

So many of our social-emotional skills are learned in school. It’s in part for that reason that authors Joseph Durlak, Celene Domitrovich, Roger Weissberg and Thomas Gullotta explain that schools need to invest in effective SEL. They define effective SEL programs as being sequenced to help build grow skills, reliant on active forms of learning, focused on developing personal and social skills and explicit in targeting social and emotional skills. In this book, there are lessons that can be applied in the classroom, the school and in the community. Get details on this book.

Interested in learning more about social emotional learning in the classroom? Follow @knowledgeworks on Twitter and join our #B2SChat on August 17 at 7:00 PM EST. Get more details.

Download “The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out” to learn more about how social emotional learning is a critical component in an evolving definition of both college- and career-readiness. -->

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Interested In State ESSA Plans? This Webinar Is For You.

Posts from WOL - Mon, 08/14/2017 - 11:30am

States are using flexibility in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to embrace and advance student-centered concepts. Throughout recent months, KnowledgeWorks team has been pouring over state plans to find common themes and bright spots in personalized learning. Our interactive map shares our findings thus far.

Later this week, KnowledgeWorks Senior Director of National Policy Lillian Pace will share further insight during a webinar with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). To learn more, we asked Lillian for some more information about the webinar and what attendees will learn.

Q: What can attendees expect to learn during the webinar?

A: My goal with this webinar is to help attendees better understand the trends we are seeing across state ESSA plans to advance personalized learning. This includes a deep dive around accountability, school improvement, educators and leaders, and supporting all students. In addition to that information, I hope attendees will identify state examples that peak their interest and deserve more exploration. I also hope attendees will leave energized by the real possibility of a national shift toward personalized learning. States are deeply interested in this work and they will need the support of the public, policymakers, business, community leaders, and advocacy organizations to ensure their success in the hard work ahead.

Q: Why is this an important conversation right now?

A: ESSA gave states an incredible opportunity to redesign education systems that better align to their own vision for student success. All 50 states have been hard at work over the past 18 months engaging with stakeholders to design these new systems, asking critical questions such as “What is the profile of a successful graduate in our state and how do we measure that?”, “How do we design a system that feels less compliance-based and more empowering?” and “What new programs or strategies can we put in place to support each student’s success?” These are big questions that many states have addressed in compelling ways. In fact, personalized learning has been a very popular focus are for states. As states embark on this transition, it’s important for all education stakeholders to better understand how states are rising to the challenge.

Q: Why should people register for the webinar?

A: This webinar is a great way to avoid months of research and analysis reading through 50 state ESSA plans to discover bright spots for personalized learning. The KnowledgeWorks policy and communications teams have done the heavy lift for you – creating a great digital resource that captures all of this data. By registering for the webinar, you get the condensed version and still have time to build your own strategy for advancing personalized learning. How about that for efficiency! Hope to see you on the webinar!

Register now to learn more from Lillian Pace and NCSL.

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A Bell Schedule without Bells: Redesigning the High School Infrastructure

Posts from WOL - Mon, 08/14/2017 - 8:00am

High school education for the masses was born during the Industrial Revolution. In his book “Creative Schools,” Sir Ken Robinson states:

“As in typical factories, high schools and higher education in particular are organized around the division of labor. In high schools, the day is usually segmented into regular chunks of time. When the bell rings, everyone changes task (and often rooms) and starts doing something else instead.”

But… two centuries after the birth of mass public education, we are starting to see a learner-centered paradigm shift.

  • An increasing emphasis on more personalized learning
  • An increasing interest in learner voice
  • A movement toward competency based education
  • Focused exploration as to how technology may support all of the above at scale

These are exciting times folks!

The problem is many high schools that are making the learner-centered paradigm shift are trying to do so within the same traditional infrastructure.

Let’s take a school called “Typical High School” as an example. At Typical High School (THS):

  • Every learner has a load of 6 classes that meet for 90 minutes every other day
  • Every class has about 30 same-aged kids and 1 learning facilitator
  • A bell rings after every class to signal to mass movement

Hmmmm… What if all business meetings were 90 minutes long? What if a mechanic had 90 minutes to repair every car, regardless of the problem? Think about our learners…

  • What if 90 minutes isn’t enough time for a learner?
  • What if 90 minutes is too much?
  • How can we allow learners to access more support and/or learning extension opportunities during the school day?
  • Are 6 “classes” needed for every learner?
  • Is this traditional schedule preparing learners for college and career?

If we believe that learners learn in different ways and time frames, it is time to redesign and rebuild our traditional high school schedule. It’s a linchpin to the success of learner-centered education.

Starting from scratch

We need to build “school” and “classes” around the individual learners. But to do this I urge you to consider the notion that learning doesn’t always have to take place in a school, and that classes don’t have to be organized by subject. We should consider a wide range of learning environments and networks as well as the role of adults to build relationships with learners to guide and support learning.

Here are 2 ways a school might begin to redesign school infrastructures:

  1. Flex Mod Schedule
  2. Asynchronous Schedule
Flex Mod Schedule

Flex Mod is essentially a schedule like you would have in college, but with accountability and a bit of structure added to the time learners have between “classes.” This system was popular in the 1970’s but fizzled out because the technology didn’t exist to be able to keep account of learners efficiently.

In a flex mod schedule, class lengths are designed around the particular needs of each “class” and each learner can determine their course load each semester…it could be 5 classes, it might be 8 classes. A flex mod schedule could work well in large high schools that are trying to personalize for the masses. The term “class” here could mean a course, internship, project-based learning group, etc. that meets regularly at a consistent time each week. The weekly schedule would typically stay consistent for a quarter or a semester length of time.

Two high schools that have both been very successful using flex mod are Wausau West HS in Wausau, Wisconsin, since 1970 and Omaha Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska since 1967.

Asynchronous Schedule

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, asynchronous means “not happening or done at the same time or speed.” This is a truly customized schedule that allows for anywhere, anytime learning to occur. Learners and learning facilitators could schedule time daily, weekly, or in multiple week segments for:

  1. Intensives
  2. Seminars
  3. Advisory
  4. Project-based learning
  5. Workshops
  6. An Internship
  7. Office Hours
  8. Field Trip

Asynchronous Schedule Example:

Yesenia is a 16 year old learner in a health occupations pathway. She meets with her advisor one on one each Monday to plan out how she will learn a set of competencies for the week. On Monday afternoon, Yesenia will attend a workshop on blood borne pathogens at the local Health and Human Services Agency. On Tuesday and Thursday, she will attend her Certified Nursing Assistant field experience at the local nursing home. On Wednesday and Friday mornings this week, Yesenia is working on math competencies with a learning facilitator since she needs more direct instruction in math; in the afternoons she is working with peers and a learning facilitator to finish up a social studies project on the role government plays in the healthcare industry.

As we continue to explore the learner-centered paradigm, let’s continue to question and rethink the schedules and infrastructures that were designed during the Industrial Revolution. Let’s build infrastructures that adjust to the learner rather than the learner adjusting to the infrastructures.


Download KnowledgeWorks' Back-to-School Toolkit to uncover insights from other district and school leaders.Looking for more ideas on making your district student-centered? Download our Get Ready: Back-to-School Culture Toolkit to uncover insights from other district and school leaders.






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EdWeek Asks the Right Questions About ESSA’s Innovative Assessment Pilot

Posts from WOL - Fri, 08/11/2017 - 10:45am

When the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) passed with an opportunity for states to pilot and scale more meaningful assessment systems, we were excited. So excited that we launched www.innovativeassessments.org with the Center for Assessment to help states navigate the opportunity.

The project featured seven State Readiness Conditions, A Visioning Toolkit and Innovative Assessment Survey Tool, all aimed at supporting states as they began to prepare for the pilot opportunity.

What the Heck Happened to ESSA’s Innovative Testing Pilot? https://t.co/nji7LTkACO #edpolitics

— Politics K-12 (@PoliticsK12) August 8, 2017

Now, over a year and a half later, Education Week is wondering: “What the Heck Happened to ESSA’s Innovative Testing Pilot?”

“It’s not that states aren’t jumping at the opportunity,” KnowledgeWorks Senior Director of National Policy Lillian Pace told EdWeek. “It’s just that there hasn’t been an opportunity presented.”

Read more insight from Lillian and EdWeek reporter Alyson Klein.

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Sharing the Load: How You Can Work Together With Local Business and Community Leaders

Posts from WOL - Fri, 08/11/2017 - 8:00am

An essential component to a strong learning community is transparency – everyone, from students to teachers and parents, business and community leaders, needs to be able to see and understand what students are learning, how and why. And the start of the year is a good time to think about how you can cultivate advocates for personalized learning.

Champions likely already exist within your community, but how can you identify and engage them? For guidance, I consulted with some experts, including Brad Ray, superintendent of Garfield School District 16 in Colorado, Brett Grimm, assistant principal of curriculum and instruction at Lindsay High School in California and KnowledgeWorks Chief Learning Officer Virgel Hammonds. Here are four recommendations based on their experiences.

Focus on making connections

Most individuals within your community, parents and leaders alike, are invested in the success of students. “It’s not difficult to get people to want to be involved,” said Grimm. “We have specific personnel to do this work: an assistant principal who does a lot of work with pathways, internships and sits on advisory boards. We also have a work-based learning coordinator whose whole job is to reach out to partners and community members, to get them involved, to follow up with our kids doing internships.”

Don’t count anyone out

Hammonds stressed that even those who want to help may not know how. “If they don’t have kids or a connection to the school, it’s hard for them to see how they can be involved,” said Hammonds. “But when we’re an open book about our goals as a district, we’ll find more ways to tackle universal challenges together. There are many organizations within your community – find out what they’re trying to address, whether it’s inequity or opportunity or something else, and how you can support each other.”

Create clear goals, together

According to Ray, “by creating strategic goals with the board of education, building administrators, community and staff, you are left with clearly articulating those goals and budget to implement, measure and achieve them.” When everyone has a hand not only in the creation of strategic goals, but a stake in ensuring their success, community members will take an active role in realizing the outcomes that you want.

Invite your community not only to work with you – but to celebrate with you

Ray shared that learners and educators bring everyone together, either at their school or somewhere within the community, to celebrate the semester-long learning projects the students have engaged in. “We partner with local business and industry experts to be involved in the planning, delivery and celebration of the learning,” said Ray. “For a project on habitat and ecosystem control, for example, they partnered with the Division of Wildlife and hosted their culmination at the park and pond downtown.”


Download KnowledgeWorks' Back-to-School Toolkit to uncover insights from other district and school leaders.Looking for more ideas for partnering with your community? Download our Get Ready: Back-to-School Culture Toolkit to uncover insights from other district and school leaders.

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ESSA Trends in School Improvement: Meeting Students Where They Are

Posts from WOL - Thu, 08/10/2017 - 1:11pm

If we want to improve schools and communities, we need to first meet students where they are. This isn’t a belief I came to arbitrarily. Rather, it’s one I developed while in school to become a social worker and one that I see as essential to an education system that is effective for all students. In social work, we talk about meeting a client where they are, recognizing individual and systemic concerns. The same is true in teaching and learning. Personalizing individual support for students and systemic support of schools, both important parts of personalized learning, will help the education system in the United States be more effective for everyone.

Under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), schools were required to use specific types of support to help students achieve academic success, which didn’t work for far too many of them. Federal law is no longer prescriptive about how the lowest-performing schools improve their accountability status, and instead leaves much more room for states and local districts to decide how to turn around low performing schools. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), NCLB’s successor, requires states to establish two categories for intervention and support and to implement more rigorous interventions in the identified schools that do not improve after a certain amount of time, but states have the flexibility to establish their own framework for providing supports and interventions for schools.

There are some promising trends in state ESSA plans for school support and improvement that focus much more on meeting students and schools where they are, and providing them with the individualized support they need to succeed. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but I think it illustrates the direction that a good number of states seem to be headed as they strategize ways to best support the needs of their schools.

Using Real-Time Data to Support Continuous Improvement and Address Emerging Needs

States have begun to emphasize the importance of providing (and understanding) real-time data to support continuous improvement at all levels of the system, including differentiating instruction for students and evidence-based supports for educators and schools. Some states will begin to provide existing data more frequently to educators, while others will begin to monitor and collect additional data “snapshots” throughout the year.

Simply having access to data is not enough, so many states will use this access to provide targeted technical assistance and help schools improve upon their emerging needs in a timely fashion. At the classroom level, teachers will now have access to data that will help them create personalized learning plans and differentiate instruction, also highlighted in state ESSA plans.

Engaging Families and Communities to Create the Right Kinds of Support

The trend of better engaging families and communities in creating supports seems to be playing out in both strategy and guiding principles for states. Stakeholder engagement is emphasized throughout ESSA, and while a good number of states have not proposed specific strategies for engagement in their plans, others are obviously thinking critically about how to thoughtfully involve parents and families in the school and improvement process.

A couple of exciting highlights include Rhode Island’s development of Community Advisory Boards for School Redesign, and New York’s participatory budgeting process that will allow parents to help determine how support funds are spent in their student’s school. I’m particularly fond of the ways in which states can utilize this strategy for improving schools. Authentically engaging parents, families, and community members in developing improvement plans alongside traditional school stakeholders not only empowers them in providing feedback, but also empowers schools in developing plans that will best benefit their students.

Opportunity for School-Level Flexibility and Innovation

A handful of states have proposed creating opportunities for flexibility and innovation for schools in need of support, allowing schools to personalize their strategies for improvement. These states will allow low-performing schools to apply for some additional flexibilities from policies most often using innovation zones and/or pilot programs. Key to this trend is that states are also providing intensive support, feedback, and evaluation for these schools, and will continue to hold them accountable for reaching rigorous outcomes.

Guidance for Social and Emotional Learning, Climate, and Wrap-Around Services

States are beginning to recognize the importance of differentiating support for students beyond academics as a strategy to improve academic outcomes, especially in traditionally low-performing schools. State strategies to address this issue through ESSA include work on the development of social and emotional learning standards, providing additional guidance and support to better utilize existing statewide initiatives (for instance the Whole School Whole Child Model being used in North Carolina), and training around mental health services, trauma-sensitive schools, and behavioral interventions.

BONUS: States are also focused on ways to continually improve all schools!

Although schools that fall under ESSA’s school improvement designation will receive far more intensive supports, states are also aware that tools and resources to help schools continuously improve are important for everyone, whether it’s including all schools in the continuous improvement plan process, or providing multiple tiers of support for all schools in the state.

Of course, the hardest work is yet to come for schools in need of improvement. I am encouraged that states are considering how to meet schools and districts where they are to develop a plan that’s meaningful for their specific needs. I am also encouraged to see that a good number of states have chosen to find ways to support all their schools with differing levels of continuous improvement opportunities, not just those categorized as highest need.

Next week I will highlight a few of the states that thoughtfully approached this topic. Stay tuned! In the meantime, see for yourself how states are incorporating personalized learning into their ESSA state plans and what is happening in your state with our interactive map.

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Layne Shelton: The Limits of Technology

Posts from WOL - Thu, 08/10/2017 - 8:00am

Guest post by Katie King

Reflections from Imagine FutureEd

This blog series features highlights from interviews with the winners of Imagine FutureEd, an online student design competition that KnowledgeWorks hosted in partnership with Teach the Future. Excerpts from the winning scenarios, additional reflections from their creators, and educator resources can be found at the Imagine FutureEd website.

Layne Shelton is a high school student from Trigg County, Kentucky. The scenario she submitted to Imagine FutureEd explored some of the downsides of an overdependence on technology in the classroom, such as lack of face-to-face communication and socialization among students and potential vision problems. Ultimately, she concludes that each student learns differently and needs access to tools that work for them. Below is an excerpt of an interview with Layne, edited for length and clarity.

Describe how you came up with your ideas.

I did research and we had guest speakers in our class talk about what the future might be like. I also watched videos and relied on my imagination! We are all uncertain of what the future is going to be like, but that is the fun in the project for me. In the year 2027, I hopefully will have kids of my own who will soon be in school. I will enjoy telling my kids about the project and tell them I helped to shape their future!

You mention that the future is uncertain, which is true. How do you think we can help people make good decisions for themselves and others amid that uncertainty?

Making good choices is a decision made by one single person, yourself. We can try to give guidance and help others make good choices but the decision is ultimately yours. At my school, we have amazing guidance counselors to be there at each need and to help us understand this uncertain world. In my community, we have encouraging pastors and leaders to help the young generation get involved and have good influences. There are numerous resources available to lead us to positivity and good choices.

Do you think that thinking about the future of learning is important? Why or why not?

I believe thinking about the future of learning is extremely important because we need to become prepared for what is to come. As a future educator, I need to think ahead and change with the future. If I am stuck in the past then I am setting my future students up for failure. It is important to stay with the time and become familiar with what is out there.

What are your major takeaways after completing the Imagine FutureEd competition?

My largest takeaway from the competition is that thinking the future is fun! Many would be skeptical that could be fun or useful because there is a large probability that they could be wrong. However, there is a small chance that I could be right and even if I am not, we can still think about all the ways things will change and grow and try to help shape the future.


KnowledgeWorks is hosting a student design competition, Imagine FutureEd.Visit the Imagine FutureEd website to read excerpts from Layne’s scenario and more reflections from her on the process of thinking about the future of learning.

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5 Goals to Set This Year for a Strong Classroom Culture

Posts from WOL - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 8:00am

Take advantage of this new school year, while everything from school supplies to students’ smiling faces is shining and new, to set classroom goals that will help you and your students co-create a strong classroom culture. Here are five goals you might consider for your classroom:

1. Empower students as leaders and decision makers

Key to personalized learning is the idea that students own their own learning; it’s the difference between a teacher-centered classroom and a student-centered classroom. When students own their own learning, they are empowered to make decisions about how to demonstrate mastery, when and how to ask for assistance and to explore topics that are interesting to them.

As you work with students over the course of this year, ask the question: “How will you encourage and empower each one to own his or her own learning?” Marina Hopkins recommends using “How might we…” questions to further this type of exploration, such as:

  • How might we amplify student voice in the classroom?
  • How might we make learning interactive and experiential over the course of this school year?
  • How might we encourage stronger teacher/student relationships?

2. Celebrate student growth

Learning opportunities come both from successes and failures, particularly when we take the time to reflect on what has and hasn’t worked and how that effects our actions moving forward. How will you take the time this school year to celebrate student growth? Here are some ideas you can borrow from:

  • At Northwood Elementary in Marysville, Ohio, students wear brag tags to celebrate growth in academics and behavior. Students are recognized by teachers as well as peers, promoting a culture of collegiality.
  • At Henry Cottrell Elementary in Monmouth, Maine, students celebrate their growth with balloons. As students progress toward mastery, their balloons get bigger; all students have balloons and feel pride as their balloons grow!
  • At Waukesha STEM Academy in Waukesha, Wisconsin, students share their growth at STEM Student Showcases. Students share what they are passionate about via their STEMfolios, or digital portfolios.

3. Model a growth mindset and foster the same in your students

When Abbie Forbus sat down with State Teachers of the Year to talk about personalized learning, there was consensus that teachers wanted to see more students becoming lifelong learners. They saw teaching growth mindset alongside the academic curriculum as essential to helping students graduate college and career ready. One way to teach growth mindset is to model the behavior for your students!

“A growth mindset is so important because it means our intelligence isn’t fixed,” said Robin Kanaan. “Our intelligence can be grown or developed with persistence, effort and a focus on learning.”

We have an obligation to gift each one of our students with the chance to become better. When we can foster an environment where everyone has a growth mindset, it leaves us open to struggle, trial and failure, but also triumph.

Students often don’t know that effective learners reflect on the strategies they use https://t.co/WCt8e68BV0 #edchat #growthmindset

— MindShift (@MindShiftKQED) July 16, 2017

4. Partner with students to apply the district vision to your classroom

“Vision isn’t something you put up on a plaque,” said RSU2 Superintendent Bill Zima during a conversation with Jesse Moyer. “It really needs to be revisited and thought about and talked about. Is what we’re doing aligned to our vision? If not, do we need to readjust the how or why to make sure everything is aligned?”

If a district vision is strong, it can be applied at every level of teaching and learning within the district, particularly within the classroom. Work with your students to look at the vision and apply it to the work you are doing.

A #schooldistrict‘s shared #vision informs the system culture https://t.co/VlfMnuJQ4J @knowledgeworks #personalizedlearning #edpolicy

— Learning Community (@EdPersonalized) July 1, 2017

5. Create a culture of transparency within your classroom

We often talk about transparency as being essential to personalized learning because it allows members of the learning community to be informed about what’s happening and play an active role in creating the desired culture. Students are an essential part of the learning community, so how can you promote transparency in your classroom?

At the Early Childhood Center of Kenowa Hills, where students range from ages two to five, staff have focused on increasing transparency with both students and parents throughout this school year using data walls.

“Hallways have been transformed into a public data wall to correspond with each learning standard,” said Laura Hilger. “When students demonstrate the standard, they post their accomplishment – in the form of a key to ‘unlock their future’ – for all to see.”

Using #DataWalls to Increase Transparency in #CompetencyBasedEducation: https://t.co/CeX8Bpc7zD @KenowaHills @HilgerL #CompEd #CBE

— Abbie Forbus (@Aforbus) June 26, 2017

For Angela Patterson, a teacher in the Elmbrook School District, transparency has helped transform relationships between students and teachers. “Transparency has helped to solidify the commitment to student-first environments,” she said. “It ensures that each child in our school is truly “our student,” not just mine, yours or theirs.”

Interested in learning more about creating strong classroom culture? Follow @knowledgeworks on Twitter and join our #B2SChat on August 17 at 7:00 PM EST.

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We need your help! Vote for KnowledgeWorks to present at SXSWedu!

Posts from WOL - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 4:30pm

KnowledgeWorks is hoping to present at SXSWedu and we’d like your help. Frankly, we’d like your vote. A public thumbs up is worth 30% of the total vote, so if you would, please exercise your civic SXSW festival duties and cast your vote for KnowledgeWorks!

(*Note: You are allowed unlimited votes so please vote for as many sessions as you’d like)

Preparing Students for an Uncertain Future of Work

Let’s face it. Book smarts probably won’t mean as much in a future workforce more supported by increasingly smart machines. Future workers will need to adapt and quickly learn new skills in order to succeed. How can we help students prepare for this future of unknowns? How can we prepare them not only for college and career, but also to create fulfilling lives as adults? Between a futurist, superintendent, neuroscientist and ed-tech start-up insider, we have some ideas and we’re ready to share.

Personalized Learning and Gubernatorial Candidates

It’s election season and this hotly contested governor’s race will be decided by their educational platforms.  Come and watch our two candidates in a mock town hall forum. They will present their education platforms and debate the merits of retaining current school structures or shifting to a personalized, competency-based learning ecosystem.  Audience members will be given the opportunity to ask questions and share their experiences as learners and educators.

Building Consensus for Personalized Learning

Competency-based, blended, project-based, inquiry-based, experiential, Montessori… and the list goes on. How do you build consensus for personalized learning in such a seemingly divided education landscape? With thoughtful messages and communications strategies, state and school leaders can gain buy-in and overcome myths and negative messages. Here’s how to build consensus for personalized learning, according to research data and real-world examples.

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A Futurist Freak-Out: My Personal Response to a Platform-Based Future of Work

Posts from WOL - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 8:00am

As a foresight professional, I’ve been trained to create scenarios that contain a mix of positive and negative elements. Taking a balanced view is more useful than indulging in utopian visions or detailing dystopian nightmares. Even though we aimed to do that in writing our recent paper on the future of readiness, I have a hard time seeing the positive in one of the scenarios that it presents.

Set in the year 2040, “Working the Platforms” describes a future in which a laissez-faire societal response to high levels of technological displacement leads to an extremely taskified employment landscape. In this highly competitive scenario, most people find piecework via automated dispatching platforms (think Lyft or Taskrabbit on steroids). They often make specific contributions without much sense of the whole, and they rely heavily on digital reputation management to find successful matches. It’s kind of like access to work has become mediated by an online dating platform, except that people can’t get away with posting decades-old photos. While some people harness the power of the platform for their own uses (for example, to manage a plumbing business or find distributed markets for niche goods or services), working in this world requires emotional resilience, persistence and careful data management.

Even as a futurist who is used to playing in the world of uncertainty and considering future possibilities, I find this scenario destabilizing. Its extreme uncertainty and fragmentation scare me. While I have had different kinds of jobs over the course of my career and found it deeply strange when in 2003 I secured an employment contract that could have lasted until I turned 65, I find it hard to imagine having the fortitude and the resourcefulness to piece together sufficient work from many small assignments, or gigs. Some people do that today and thrive in it, but I haven’t developed that muscle. The overlay of the matching’s being handled algorithmically makes this platform-based scenario feel particularly sterile and stressful to me.

I worry not just for my own ability to navigate such a future, but also for its potential impacts on communities. Inequities could increase as those few with the means to access higher education occupy an elite reminiscent of robber baron days. Communities could become more fragmented as competition increases and becomes more global. Stress levels could increase as people inhabit a constant state of hustle. I know that there could be positive outcomes, such as greater flexibility, new collective solutions that help buffer people against uncertainty or greater variety of experience, but I have a hard time seeing and feeling them.

My personal response aside, foresight professionals are taught to hedge our bets. Generating scenarios that exploring multiple possible futures can help us generate strategies for thriving no matter how current uncertainties play out. For me, my future readiness strategy currently centers around continuing to learn, pushing my professional practice by developing new skills, incorporating new perspectives and applying current skills in new contexts. Fostering professional relationships also feels important. In addition, I’m looking at ways to demonstrate competency around skills such as project management that are less central to my work than they were earlier in my career but which I might need to document for the future. I’m considering, too, how I might deepen my emotional resilience so that I’ll be more likely to thrive in ambiguity and uncertainty. Lastly, I’m musing on how to get better at telling the story of my career in ways that convey the resilience and learning that have already marked a journey characterized by working again and again in fields or jobs that I did not know existed until I stumbled upon them.

What skills will you need to be ready for the future of work? Download “The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out” for an in-depth look at the readiness skills the students of today may need to be successful for the work of the future.

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Unlikely Partnerships: Superintendents Can Find Additional Support Outside District

Posts from WOL - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 8:00am

Personalized learning doesn’t happen in a bubble. Instead, it depends on support from a network of advocates who work tirelessly toward its success.

Mesa Valley District 51 (D51) has reached beyond the school walls to build partnerships to support the work. While D51 has learned to engage its community, the district also turns to other like-minded districts to build a community of practice, state leaders for policy help and outside organizations for support and professional development.

“If we want our kids to be successful, we have to do something different,” said Steve Schultz, now-retired D51 superintendent. “I’m just convinced that you have to have connections and partnerships in order to do this work, because the problems in every community are different.”

By turning to partners, D51 has built a support system to help district staff, teachers, students and community members throughout the personalized learning journey.

Connecting with like-minded districts

District leaders have recently organized purposeful visits to districts and schools in the Denver area. By sharing lessons learned and pooling resources, the districts have started collaborating to help each other succeed.

“We’re encouraged about districts throughout our state,” D51 Director of Performance-Based Learning Rebecca Midles said. “We’re working with districts and networks to pool our resources and work together and support one another. It’s not at all competitive; it’s very collaborative. People are making themselves vulnerable and throwing themselves into the arena to talk about what’s best for kids. It’s really drawn people together instead of apart and it’s an exciting place to be in Colorado.”

Turning to state policymakers

While some states are showing increased support for personalized learning, there are still many policies that pose challenges to district innovation.

Because of these barriers, D51 has found friends in the state capitol.

“It’s also helpful to have partnerships at the state level,” Schultz said. “This is not something you go alone, and we’ve been lucky that state leaders have been encouraging us and, at the same time, looking for ways to reduce barriers for districts that are interested in doing this work.”

Partnering with outside organizations

D51 has partnered with national organizations, like KnowledgeWorks, to provide technical support through professional development, a summer institute for staff, strategic communication advice, and general support for the move to competency-based, or proficiency, education.

“Without having partners like KnowledgeWorks, you just can’t bring it to scale without that kind of support,” Schultz said. “You just need technical support. We had KnowledgeWorks come help us create recommendations for communication. We’re working on upgrading our website, going to community service club meetings and giving presentations to local community groups. We’re continuing to explore different ways of communicating and build on the recommendations KnowledgeWorks provided.”

Learn how another district used partnerships to strengthen its personalized learning work.

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Personalized Learning and Discovery

Posts from WOL - Fri, 08/04/2017 - 11:51am

By Lindsey Bowen, an intern with the talent management team at KnowledgeWorks. Lindsey is a student at Xavier University pursuing her Master of Arts Industrial/Organizational Psychology.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a common question we all got asked as children. I never had an answer. I didn’t want to be a firefighter, or a teacher, or a doctor, but those were the only three careers I knew of when I was a kid. Fortunately, personalized learning allowed me to use my education to discover my interests and explore different future career options.

I was homeschooled starting in the first grade which allowed me to learn at my own pace, visit historical sites in person, perform extensive research on topics of my choosing and participate in many sports and theater performances. I continued with homeschooling until high school. At that point, I chose to enroll in an online high school and had advanced far enough in my course work that I was able to start as a sophomore instead of a freshman. Earning my high school diploma this way gave me a lot of flexibility and taught me applicable time-management skills. Knowing I had to get all of my work done by June each year if I wanted to have a summer vacation was a strong incentive. I had no choice but to become very self-regulated in managing my school and extracurricular activities. It took some trial and error, but I became very responsible and accountable for my own learning.

My nontraditional education gave me the chance to explore and discover my interests and learn more about myself. Through my personalized coursework I was able to identify what I was passionate about. I was drawn toward the social sciences as an early teen. I sought out psychology literature to read “for fun,” and at 14 years old, I seriously considered how I could translate my scholastic interest into a career. I took it upon myself to perform extensive internet and library research on what a career in psychology might look like. Shortly after, I chose psychology as my intended major on college applications. I moved away to college at 16 years old, and received my bachelor’s degree in psychology four years later.

Personalized learning provided me the opportunity to explore my strengths, uncover my passions, and cultivate my interests in a way that could translate into a career. My education opened the door to all that I could be good at, and then allowed me the personalization in my studies to hone in on what I really loved. While my college friends changed their major three or more times, I was confident that the field I chose as an early teen was right for me. It also made me independent and reliant only on myself when it came to learning. The transition to college was easier for me than it was for my friends who experienced a more traditional education. For them, college was too unstructured, they had too much freedom and lacked the time-management skills necessary. For me, I was doing exactly what I had done my whole life, which was taking responsibility for doing work independently, and pursuing continual learning and discovery. The only thing that changed for me was that I had to go to class at specific times (and not in my pajamas). I graduated college with a 4.0 GPA, and I am now nine months away from completing my graduate degree in industrial/organizational psychology.

Personalized learning allows children to learn at their own pace in an individualized environment. They can learn instead of being taught at. I had a well-rounded education, and completed all state requirements, but instead of using 50 minutes equally in every class, I could spend 30 minutes doing X and Y, then dedicate the rest of my time to what I really cared about. For me, personalized learning meant I got exposed to a wide variety of subjects and choose what I wanted to dedicate my time and energies more intensely into. Not only did I develop the self-regulatory skills that allowed me to succeed in college and my career, but I effectively avoided calculus like the plague.

The way that personalized learning came together in my life was unique, and I am very grateful that my family could sacrifice their time and finances to provide the tools I needed to be successful. Through personalized learning, I had the freedom to discover, and I learned how to learn. Personalized learning taught me that learning is a lifelong process, however structured or unstructured that learning may be. In 2017, educators and policymakers have the opportunity to make personalized learning accessible on a broad scale: a transformation that was not possible 20 years ago. The value that personalized learning brings to education is that it provides the foundation for students to take control of their futures by discovering their passions and acquiring transferable skills that will help them become competent, malleable, and passionate workers who are ready to confidently enter their careers.

To me, personalized learning means discovery, and I now know what I want to be when I grow up.

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Sierra McLeod: The FutureEd Interactive Simulator

Posts from WOL - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 8:00am

Guest post by Katie King

Reflections from Imagine FutureEd

This blog series features highlights from interviews with the winners of Imagine FutureEd, an online student design competition that KnowledgeWorks hosted in partnership with Teach the Future. Excerpts from the winning scenarios, additional reflections from their creators, and educator resources can be found at the Imagine FutureEd website.

Sierra McLeod is a recent high school graduate from Charlotte. The scenario and artifact she submitted to Imagine FutureEd depicted the students’ experiences using the FutureEd Interactive Simulator (FIS), which allows students to use holographic images to fully explore concepts such as astronomy and geography. She explores how the FIS might address some of the challenges of using technologies such as virtual reality in the classroom today. Below is an excerpt of an interview with Sierra, edited for length and clarity.

Describe the FutureEd Interactive Simulator from your scenario.

The FutureEd Interactive Simulator (FIS) encourages children to become more active, aware, and engaged in the classroom. The FIS is unlike any regular projector or virtual reality system. It’s an enhanced combination of both. A regular classroom projector only shines towards the front on the room. Students who sit towards the back of the classroom may be unable to see well or at all compared to those who sit towards the front of the classroom. Virtual reality glasses block a person’s view from their surroundings, or hinder a glasses-wearer’s view. Augmented reality systems require someone to hold a device, which may cause damage if it is dropped. The FIS is a hands-free solution to bring a movie-like learning experience into a classroom. Students can view, touch, and interact with holographic images. They are taken to a new realm with sound and special effects (such as steam or flashes of light). The FIS has manual controls on both the classroom light and the light switch. There are endless possibilities when it comes to the future of learning – the FutureEd Interactive Simulator is a revolutionary invention that would change how we learn.

Imagine if the FIS system were widespread. What might that mean for the education system and our society overall? What would be the benefits of such a system? What might be the downsides?

If the FIS system became widespread, many opportunities are opened for our education system. Some benefits of the FutureEd Interactive System include inclusiveness to all students, increased physical activity in the classroom, and increased attentiveness for students. Due to the life like nature of the FIS system, it may be a downside that students cannot feel the holographic images they are viewing. However, I hope to add touch sensors (similar to touch screen tablets or phones) to allow students to feel different structures (i.e. crevices of the moon).

Do you think that thinking about the future of learning is important? Why or why not?

It is important to recognize and think of ways to improve for the future. We should recognize methods of learning that are beneficial for students, and adjust or re-develop methods that are not as effective.

What are your major takeaways after completing the Imagine FutureEd competition?

After completing the Imagine FutureEd competition, I realized the possibilities of the future of education. Though we have come far with developments and technological advancements, we still have a long way to go.

KnowledgeWorks is hosting a student design competition, Imagine FutureEd.Visit the Imagine FutureEd website to read excerpts from Sierra’s scenario and more reflections from her on the process of thinking about the future of learning.

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ESSA: Bright Spots in Student-Centered Accountability Design

Posts from WOL - Wed, 08/02/2017 - 8:00am

As I shared in my post last week, states are embracing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as an opportunity to advance student-centered concepts in their accountability systems. While complete system transformation is a high bar, a few improvements now can create the momentum for major change down the road. So, where do I see momentum building? Keep reading for a few bright spots that peaked my imagination.

Nebraska: A Compelling Vision for Accountability Design

One of the hardest tasks in accountability design is identifying the core tenants that will drive your system. Nebraska engaged in this process in 2014 after the legislature enacted legislation requiring a new accountability system for public schools and districts. The new system, called AQuESTT (Accountability for a Quality Education System Today and Tomorrow), includes six tenets for student and school success that are strongly aligned to a vision for personalized learning.

  1. Positive partnerships, relationships & student success – This tenant includes engagement with families and communities as key to enhancing educational experiences and focuses on individualized/personalized learning plans for students.
  2. Transitions – This tenant emphasizes supports for students transitioning between grade levels, programs and ultimately college and/or career.
  3. Educational Opportunities and Access – This tenant includes a focus on comprehensive instructional opportunities to be prepared for education and career goals including early childhood education, expanded learning opportunities and blended learning.
  4. College and Career Ready – This tenant emphasizes areas that help every student become ready for college or career opportunities through rigorous standards, technology/digital readiness and support for career awareness and career/college goals.
  5. Assessment – This tenant is based on the belief that multiple types of assessment including national, state and classroom-based, and individualized/adaptive assessments should be used to measure student growth and achievement.
  6. Educator Effectiveness – This tenant is based on the belief that students should be surrounded by effective educators throughout their learning experiences.

Nebraska is still in the process of aligning AQuESTT to ESSA, but plans to include a school quality and student success indicator in its accountability system that measures school and district responses to questions based on these six tenets. Future drafts of the state’s plan will include more detail about the indicator.

Vermont – Communicating a Deeper Picture of School Performance

Vermont has a rich legislative history of advancing personalized learning. This includes legislation to advance personalized learning plans, multiple pathways and perhaps the best diagnostic process I have seen for school improvement. The state continues to build on this legacy in its ESSA plan with a commitment to capturing and communicating comprehensive information on school performance in a simple and actionable way.

To accomplish this, the state will integrate a wide range of data from its own system with reporting requirements for ESSA to create a display that communicates a single, summative rating as well as deep diagnostic information on school performance.  All measures in the accountability system will be linked to a four-label level to describe performance: Off-Target, Near Target, On-Target and Bull’s Eye. For each measure, and for the school as a whole, a scale is generated which describes the degree to which the school is meeting the “target.” An image of an arrow moving toward a bullseye will visually depict a school’s current status and growth status (the difference in performance from year-to-year) as well as progress on an equity index meant to shine a spotlight on the year-to-year change for historically marginalized students. This approach aligns well to the state’s commitment to proficiency-based learning (also known as competency education in some circles) and is meant to support the continuous improvement of all schools.

Louisiana: Elevating Student Interest and Opportunity

During the stakeholder engagement process for ESSA, state officials in Louisiana identified a strong interest in expanding student access to a well-rounded education. Specifically, stakeholders wanted a system that providing learning experiences that align to student interests and career pathways. In response to this feedback, the state is proposing to include an Interests and Opportunities indicator that will determine whether all schools – from elementary through high school – are exposing students to diverse learning experiences that help develop their skills and talents. A work group comprised of superintendents, principals, educators, practitioners and experts will provide 2025 goals for this component and will identify fair ways of measuring access to these student experiences. Louisiana’s Accountability Commission will propose a method for scoring desired outcomes for all schools and the state will provide a plan to USED prior to implementation for review and approval.

Here’s a sampling of how the state is thinking about diverse learning experiences:

  • Elementary and Middle School Levels – Schools should offer every Louisiana student access to quality visual and performing arts, foreign language instruction, technology consistent with current standards, and a variety of co-curricular activities (academic, athletic, and special interest clubs), all of which are supported by research-based evidence.
  • High School Level– Schools should provide students the opportunity to take courses needed to successfully transition to postsecondary studies, including courses for college credit and those that lead to a recognized industry credential. Schools should also offer students a variety of statewide Jump Start training pathways leading to advanced credentials, or an associate’s degree aligned to top-demand occupations.

These are just a few of the ideas that peaked my interest while reading through state plans. While they show promise, it is important to remember that accountability systems do not operate in a vacuum. A high-quality student-centered education system is the sum of all its parts, and accountability is just one piece that must be aligned to a powerful vision for student success.

See for yourself how states are incorporating personalized learning into their ESSA state plans and what is happening in your state with our interactive map.See for yourself how states are incorporating personalized learning into their ESSA state plans and what is happening in your state with our interactive map.

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