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A University Student Perspective on the Future of Learning

Posts from WOL - Mon, 2015-08-03 09:00

As we enter a new era of communication and sharing, we have been given the tools to personalize and inject more customizability into education.

I sat down with Jason Swanson, the Director of Strategic Foresight at KnowledgeWorks, to discuss the implications for the future of learning on students like me. I am entering my fourth year at the University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio, majoring in Marketing and International Business with a minor in Professional Selling. This summer I am intering with StriveTogether, a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks.

 

Jason: When you think about the future of learning, what makes you excited?

Alec: The future of learning is absolutely wide open – as we enter a new era of communication and sharing, we have been given the tools to personalize and inject more customizability into education. It is exciting to see the easy access of data and information, making education and learning more and more accessible as a result.

Jason: From a current student’s perspective, what do you find the most troubling about the future of learning?

Alec: The idea of stagnation and continuation of “one-size-fits-all” mindsets. Sitting idly by would serve to stunt our growth as a country and hurt an entire generation, we must utilize the tools at our disposal and ensure that our posterity are given the utmost opportunity to succeed.

rely-tech

Jason: What do you feel is the biggest uncertainty to the future of learning?

Alec: As touched on earlier, it is whether or not we can evolve to make these incredible opportunities a reality. On top of this, if we do evolve, it’d be interesting to see what new setbacks and challenges would arise from a new way of doing things. As students rely more and more on our steadily improving technology, how will they learn differently? While this change would no doubt be a good one, any type of overhaul will come with a great deal of uncertainty around potential faults that would eventually have to be addressed.

Jason: We are currently exploring the implications of artificial intelligence in education, such as a wearable device for students that has built in AI. How do you think this might change education?

Alec: This opens up a whole world of opportunity – my first thoughts are AI tutors that provide instant feedback for students in class when answering questions, that can pick out weaknesses and what the student can do to improve. This serves to offer the student a personalized education based on their own specific strengths and weaknesses.

Jason: What does “personalized learning” mean to you?

Alec: It’s the elimination of “one-size-fits-all” in education. Fully adapting a course to a student based on the way they think and solve problems. It gives students the chance to interact with the subject matter in a way they feel is beneficial and enjoyable.

Jason: What will personalized learning be like in the future?

Alec: In the future, we will have the technology and the capacity to personalize education based on individual student need. We will have students independently studying, learning the way that works best for them and in general being happier. Students will be more apt to choosing their future careers and discovering exactly what they are passionate about.

future-learningJason: What is your own vision for the future of learning?

Alec: Much like I was saying before – a learning environment of passion, optimism and diversity. Having the ability to study the subjects that interest you no matter what the budget constraints of your school are, or being able to explore career prospects BEFORE going to get a higher education. The future could see our students naturally learning in a more efficient and generally better way.

Students – we want to hear from you! Are you a student who would like to do a guest post interview with Jason Swanson discussing the future of learning? Contact us!

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Moving away from ‘one size fits no one’ to learner-centered ecosystems

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2015-07-30 16:47

learning-ecosystemMore and more organizations and communities are taking an ecosystem approach to supporting learning. For example:

  • Chicago’s Digital Youth Network fosters supportive learning ecosystems that help youth cultivate learning as a lifestyle, with the goal creating an equal platform for all to be digitally literate.
  • Cities of Learning is a national effort to surface and connect cities’ many resources to help youth of all backgrounds develop curiosity, resilience, and 21st century skills.
  • The STEM Ecosystems Initiative is supporting communities across the country in cultivating STEM learning ecosystems and in connecting with others in the network to build a national community of practice.
  • Six Next-Gen Learning Hubs are building off cities’ assets and bringing together partners to create innovative student-centered education ecosystems.

As Andrea Saveri, Jason Swanson, and I explored in “Cultivating Interconnections for Vibrant and Equitable Learning Ecosystems,” ecosystem participants can address learners’ needs in the context of their particular geographies and future trends by cultivating webs of services and learning experiences comprised of many kinds of organizations and resources. Some ecosystem participants will do well to act as concentrators that provide core infrastructure, aggregation, and brokering services at scale.  Others should as creative niche specialists, or fragmenters, that target user needs and customize services. Still others should act as catalysts that mobilize cross-boundary initiatives, bridge ecosystem gaps, and forge shared goals.

No organization will be good at filling all three of these roles. But if many organizations work together, they can build effective value webs that create new possibilities for meeting learners’ needs and responding to local realities.

Ecosystem approaches such as those listed above begin to illustrate the power of fostering ecosystem interconnections as a core strategy for the future. Scaling impact through the diversity of relationships and connections in a single community rather than by replicating a few strategies and programs across geographies promises to help communities develop resilience, put learners at the center, and work to achieve equity for all young people.

As Jason and I have begun sharing these ideas with education stakeholders through conference sessions and other engagements, we’ve been excited to see how prototyping possible ways of combining diverse roles and services can open up conversations about what is possible for learners and learning. There’s a lot to consider as we move away from one-size-fits-no one to learner-centered ecosystems. But stepping back from today’s approaches to consider new possibilities for the future can help surface possibilities, tensions, and strategic opportunities.

You can explore the potential of ecosystem interconnections for your own community through the “Strengthening Learning Ecosystem Interconnections” activity at the end of our paper.

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A Student’s Perspective on the Future of Learning

Posts from WOL - Mon, 2015-07-20 10:12

Personalized learning means education that accounts for the fact that every student is different and tailors learning experiences to an individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

I sat down with Jason Swanson, the Director of Strategic Foresight at KnowledgeWorks, to discuss the implications for the future of learning on students like me. I am a rising senior at Loveland High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, and an INTERalliance of Greater Cincinnati intern with KnowledgeWorks.

Jason: When you think about the future of learning, what makes you excited?

Hannah: I’m excited to see all of the new ways that technology will be implemented in learning environments. In my opinion, more and more educational websites like Khan Academy will start to pop up on the internet, allowing everyone to seek out information and learn new skills under their own initiative. There’s also a lot of opportunity for classrooms to use digital tools like online games and tutorials to engage students. Although personal interaction and physical school assignments are important, I think that a greater shift towards leveraging technology could really benefit the education system.

Jason: From a current student’s perspective, what do you find the most troubling about the future of learning?

Hannah: One thing that worries me about the direction that education is moving in is the possibility that over time, students will spend more and more of their time on school and lose the ability to pursue outside interests. During my time in high school, I’ve noticed that the competitive nature of applying to colleges has led students to pack their schedules with as many AP classes, college courses, and outside learning opportunities as possible. Although I’m grateful that there are so many opportunities to prepare yourself for higher education, I also believe that we need to measure the amount of pressure put on students and ensure that they can still live well-rounded lives.

Jason: What do you feel is the biggest uncertainty to the future of learning?

Hannah: One aspect of learning that I’m interested in observing as it changes is our society’s attitude towards education. At the present time, many students don’t understand how what they’re learning in the classroom lines up with their goals in life, and supporting schools and teachers isn’t a strong priority in the general public’s minds. I hope that society moves towards concentration on the importance of education so that learning environments have the support and resources they need to be successful.

Jason: We are currently exploring the implications of artificial intelligence in education, such as a wearable device for students that has built in AI. How do you think this might change education?

Hannah: I think that making artificial intelligence available to students could cause schools to shift from classes learning together to individual students seeking out information on their own with the help of an AI. In this environment, teachers would guide students and help them to establish goals for their education rather than distributing information. I believe that incorporating more technology into learning environments will almost always be beneficial, since most students in the education system at this point in time spend their lives immersed in digital environments.

Jason: What does “personalized learning” mean to you?

Hannah: To me, the phrase “personalized learning” means education that accounts for the fact that every student is different and tailors learning experiences to an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. In addition, it means recognizing that not every student has the same educational goals or interests.

Jason: What will personalized learning be like in the future?

Hannah: In the future, I believe that students will begin customizing their class schedule even before high school to prepare for an increasingly competitive job market. There will also be a greater emphasis on career readiness, which could manifest itself in more resources and support for students looking for job opportunities in high school and beyond. Teachers will hone in on individual learning abilities and styles by giving assessments to determine how each student can best be instructed, then put this information into action by giving out different materials such as videos, papers, or infographics depending on a learner’s needs.

Jason: What is your own vision for the future of learning?

Hannah: I hope that in the future of learning, schools take a greater role in preparing students for the real world. Students would receive education that applied to their future lives and careers, and rather than simply regurgitating memorized facts during a test, they would take meaningful assessments of the skills they’ve gained through their learning. In this future, educational opportunities would be equal for everyone, and all students would leave school prepared to use their talents to benefit society.

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Reflecting on an Internship with KnowledgeWorks and the Opportunity to Work in a Business Environment

Posts from WOL - Fri, 2015-07-17 13:37

Exactly one month ago, I wrote a blog post reflecting on the beginning of my internship with KnowledgeWorks, and today, I’m looking back on my experiences as my internship comes to an end. My name is Hannah Matuszak, and I’m a rising senior at Loveland High School. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been part of the KnowledgeWorks Communications Department, where I’ve done work involving graphic design, social media and web design.

I’d like to think that I’ve changed a lot since the first time I walked into the office, nervously clutching my laptop bag and feeling like I was adrift in a sea of new people, new experiences and new expectations. One of the most important things that this internship has given me is a sense of confidence in myself and my abilities. Before this summer, I would have never imagined that I could take charge of the INTERalliance career camp visit and lead students as they competed to design a new kind of educational environment. With the help and mentorship of KnowledgeWorks team members, I was able to make the visit a success. In addition, as a part of the communications department, I learned a lot about different ways of getting a message across. Writing blog posts, tweets and PowerPoint slides required me to tailor content to different audiences and find ways of expressing information both concisely and effectively. Designing posters and email headers led me to learn to balance my creativity and ideas with brand guidelines and outside input.

Most importantly, I gained something invaluable that I think every student should have access to: the experience of working in a business environment. Interacting with coworkers professionally, collaborating at meetings and discovering the unique culture of a workplace are things that you simply can’t learn while sitting at a desk.

One thing that I hope to take away from this internship is the ability to provide other students with advice that might help them on their career pathways. The most important piece of guidance that I’d like to share is that you should never underestimate how much you can gain by reaching out to professionals in a field that you’re interested in. During the past few weeks, I’ve met so many amazing people who have been happy to teach me what they know and help me with anything I might need. This leads into my next point—always be willing to try new things. My interests are mostly focused on writing and graphic design, but I’ve enjoyed learning about subjects like marketing software and competency-based education because in the year before I go to college, I’m trying to explore all of my options and keep an open mind. Lastly, don’t overlook the skills that you bring into a new situation. Today’s teenagers are completely immersed in a digital environment, and that means that we acquire abilities that are useful in the technology field without even making a conscious effort—we’ve grown up surfing the web, so these things are second nature to us. Do you have hundreds of followers on Twitter? You’re using social media marketing. Do you edit pictures to post on your Instagram? You’re learning the basics of graphic design. Understand the skills that you already have and build on them to further your goals in life.

I’ve had an amazing time discovering what it’s like to be a member of the KnowledgeWorks team. Although I’m sad to leave, I can’t wait to see where this experience will take me in the future.

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If students re-imagined school, this is what it could look like.

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2015-07-16 15:31

interalliance-high-school-studentsWhat could an innovative learning system look like through the eyes of 20 current high school students?

Yesterday, KnowledgeWorks hosted a career camp with the INTERalliance of Greater Cincinnati, an organization dedicated to providing students with knowledge and opportunities needed to enter the technology field and become a part of Cincinnati’s IT workforce. Throughout the week-long camp, 20 local high school students visit businesses and compete in problem-solving challenges that leverage technology solutions.

Of course, because of our work, we created a design challenge around 21st-century learning.

The Problem: KnowledgeWorks supports personalized learning that enables every student to thrive in college, career and civic life. How might Cincinnati change the world by becoming a learning destination through the evolution of innovative learning structures within its schools to ensure personalized learning for every child?

The Challenge: Your team is given $15k per student to create a learning structure to empower and motivate students in ways that are meaningful to each student. How would you utilize this money to design your ideal learning environment?

Things to Consider: You are working with a population of 29,000 students, grades K-12. Half your money will go to administrative costs, leaving you with about $8k per student. ALL students must reach their learning goals, and students must be accounted for at all times.

Four teams presented their solutions to a panel of KnowledgeWorks employees, offering ideas from online platforms to track learning progress to community-wide educational opportunities.

While the ideas were creative and insightful, the most inspiring part of the day was listening to students re-imagine the very system in which they currently learn.

Here are some of our favorite insights into their newly reimagined learning structures:

  1. Cater to all types of learning. INTERalliance students recognized that not all of them learn in the same way. If they were to create a new system, they would consider all learning styles so everyone can thrive.
  2. Measure mastery in other ways, besides high-stakes testing. Team members wanted choice in proving their mastery. Rather than only testing, their systems would give learners the chance to show mastery through presentations, portfolios, essays or projects.
  3. Expose students to career opportunities. By creating partnerships with professionals from Silicon Valley to New York City, team members wondered if they could schedule video calls to allow learners to explore different fields and think more about future professional careers.
  4. Put students in charge of their own learning. While the teams recognized the importance of teachers, guidance counselors, parents and guardians, they wanted to offer learners more control over their education experience. In their new systems, learners would have the opportunity to build individual schedules and explore interests.
  5. Use technology as a tool to enhance learning. The teams suggested technological ideas beyond individual devices. They suggested using video calls to talk with students in other countries to learn about different cultures or study languages. They talked about an online platform to track subjects mastered, learn ways to improve learning, and choose classes.
  6. Allow for learning throughout the community. Considering outside-the-classroom learning opportunities, teams wondered how to build community-wide educational opportunities. One team imagined a system that would allow learners to shuttle throughout the city to different learning venues, ‘checking in’ to each location through an ID card that links to their online profile.
  7. Build personalized learning for all students, regardless of zip code or ability. During the design challenge, teams were particularly concerned that their new learning structures consider all students, especially those who are first-generation or low-income, as well as those who have special needs.
  8. Create different levels of mastery for each subject. Team members wanted to offer the opportunity to “level up” in subjects based on learning pace. Learners could be at “Level 5” in math, “Level 7” in science and “Level 1” in Spanish.
  9. Get rid of traditional grades based on age. Instead, team members said they’d like to move through learning based on when students excel and master subjects. See No. 8.
  10. Teachers can help students through more than instruction. All teams included teachers in their plans, not only as instructors, but also as guides and coaches to help students throughout the system. They wanted to be in charge of their own learning, but also wanted teachers to help them with community learning opportunities, career exploration and subject mastery.
  11. Tailor learning to students’ interests. One team specifically talked about learning different subjects through their own interests. For example, if a student really likes extreme sports, such as skydiving, he could study math, physics or meteorology through those activities. This would make learning more fun and relevant in their re-imagined system.

What do you think? What would an ideal personalized education system look like to you?

 

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Reflections on an Edu-Adventure in Finland

Posts from WOL - Mon, 2015-07-13 13:45

finlandOver the past couple weeks I have been blogging about my time in Finland in late June. I first want to thank EF and EdLeader21 for providing me with the opportunity to view the Finnish education system. It was an insightful and rewarding experience.

As a review, my first post was a pre-trip post examining expectations and biases, the second focused on the Finnish concept of  Well-Learning, and the third post delved into the shift from a teacher-centric to student-centric approach to education.

As a way to wrap up my trip, I wanted to share 10 additional insights I gained while on my edu-adventure in Scandinavia:

  1. Teacher Prep: As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the high water marks of the Finnish system is their teacher preparation program. The teacher prep programs have an expressed focus on field-based research and data-analysis for all teachers regardless of grade level focus. Can you imagine how powerful that could make a kindergarten teacher?
  2. Education and Culture: Another powerful element of the Finnish system is the link between education and the country’s culture and citizenship. This is certainly a component in our system as well. The movement towards Finnish autonomy in the 1860’s hard-linked the Finnish language (as an equal to Swedish), national railways and currency, and a national education system. These reforms all occurred under Russian Tsar Alexander II who to this day is called the “Good Tsar” in Finland. 75 percent of Finns believe that their education system is one of the great achievements in Finnish history.
  3. Breaks: There are a great many breaks in the Finnish education system, something I learned while observing the Finns. Typical lessons for Finnish children are 45 minutes with 15 minutes of break. Also, lunch breaks are much longer allowing for eating and play. For adults there are many, many coffee breaks involving very small cups of coffee. Finland leads the world in coffee per capita consumption – one tiny cup at a time – which takes some work. One word, venti.
  4. Funding: In discussions with Helsinki City Schools, I was struck by the funding mechanisms in place in Finland. Helsinki City Schools receive what amounts to a block grant from the state (read as national body). This funding, approximately €9300 per student, is used to provide public and private school options for all students in the city free of charge. Most students go to public schools as they are universally seen as the better educational options.
  5. Well-learning: I wrote at length on the Finnish concept of well-learning in my second blog post. This concept remains not only compelling but opens many questions about our own commitment to our children. I ask this after a weekend of violence in my hometown including the shooting of a six-year-old girl. I ask this as debate begins of the reauthorization of ESEA. I ask this in the aftermath of Charleston. I ask this at a time when 20 percent of our nation’s children live in poverty. Are we losing our commitment to true access, equity, and safety for all children? My hope is that we renew our personal and national commitment to our children in a real, focused, and tangible way.
    ministry-of-education-finland
  6. Trust in the System: One clear strength that I see in the Finnish system is a significant amount of trust within the system and between the levels of the system. They aren’t wrought with the political issues that have inflamed the edu-policy debates in our country. There is also a willingness to allow autonomy (and thus trust) down the system from school system to building leader to teacher. Trust and alignment allow for a strong foundation to build a world class system upon.
  7. Personal Perspective: As I mentioned in my first two blogs, I have a Finnish friend that I reconnected with while in Helsinki. In talking to her about her experience in high school in Finland and her boys’ experiences, she has a very critical take on the Finnish system. Riina moved back to Finland after spending three years in an American school in Dubai. She, as I’ve mentioned, was incredibly bright and artistic and thrived in our little American school. When she returned to Helsinki she was promoted one full grade level as she was so far ahead but she still complained of feeling bored and contrived in a one-size fits all educational experience. Because of her experience she has chosen (to use our term) a magnet opportunity (English Language School) for her sons to allow them to be challenged and to better prepare them for our interconnected world.
  8. Teacher Manuals: One of the more illuminating moments came at the end of the afternoon at Helsinki City Schools with Pasi Silander. He leaned in and promised to offer the secret to the stellar Finnish results on PISA. He said the secret was teacher manuals. Our group, of district leaders, was stunned. Did Pasi mean tight, “teach-by-numbers” daily teaching manuals? In fact he did. The secret, from his perspective, wasn’t the much discussed teacher autonomy but the direct opposite in prescribed teaching manuals and pacing guides. Over dinner one evening our group had the opportunity to discuss this issue with an American teacher who teaches in Finland and he said it is very much frowned upon to deviate from the manual. This revelation leaves me scratching my head somewhat. This sounds like a very American way to try to achieve higher test scores and, as I stated before, is clearly incongruent to the vision of Finnish teacher autonomy being sold by so many both in the States and in Finland.
  9. EdLeader 21: I want to give a shout out to some of my travel companions. Ken Kay, Valerie Greenhill, and Alyson Nielson have built something truly special in EdLeader21. For those that do not know EdLeader21 is a professional learning community (PLC) for district leaders to enhance the implementation of the 4Cs (critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity) in schools and thus preparing students for citizenship in a changing economic landscape. This is a special group of thinkers and doers. The district leaders that are part of this PLC are some of the most thoughtful, insightful, committed, change agents that I’ve met. Ken, Valerie, and Alyson are the right leaders at the right time for this important, emerging national network. It was a pleasure to travel with them and learn from them. I’m grateful for the journey.
  10. District Innovation: Lastly, I want to revisit my hypothesis that the Finnish system could bear great fruit for districts in the United States. As I’ve written before, districts are at the right level of the American system to focus on alignment, implement a strong vision, culture, and to engage all stakeholders (transparency). Districts have the ability by implementing the aforementioned to drive trust and autonomy into the system and thus sustain and scale innovative practice. Districts can help ensure a student centered, personalized approach by connecting content, skills, creativity, and aligned, customized student supports. Some of these elements we clearly seen in the Finnish system. Other elements are present in the most innovative districts in the United States.

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Innovative Assessments Earn First Class Seat in Senate’s K-12 Education Bill

Posts from WOL - Fri, 2015-07-10 08:15

After years of debate and countless failed attempts to reauthorize the nation’s federal K-12 law, Congress finally appears ready to give the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) its best shot. Skeptics quieted as ESEA legislation passed the House Wednesday and took center stage on the Senate floor for an amendment process that will carry into next week. Hopes are higher than ever that a conference committee will finally have the opportunity to negotiate a compromise to replace the nearly decade overdue law.

While most of the debate in the Senate will center on a handful of highly controversial issues, others have earned a first class seat to conference thanks to broad support from committee leadership. Among the favorites is a new innovative assessment pilot that would give states the opportunity to design new, competency-based assessment systems in place of the current federally-required assessments. This pilot would enable states to build better, flexible assessments that enable educators and students to improve teaching and learning in real-time and to demonstrate mastery of knowledge and skills when students are ready.

KnowledgeWorks and its partners, iNACOL, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and America Forward, worked closely with committee staff as well as Senators Angus King (I-ME), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) to strengthen the proposal in preparation for the Senate floor. Our primary goal was to design a workable program that would enable states to produce the next generation of high quality assessments.

We are grateful to our Senate champions and committee staff for their leadership in making a number of critical improvements to the proposal in the new substitute bill currently under consideration on the Senate floor.

Highlights of these changes include:

Timeline

Instead of the initial three-year demonstration period with the possibility of a two-year extension, the substitute would allow states to propose their own timeline for implementation as long as the timeline does not exceed five years. States would still remain eligible for an additional two-year extension as long as they continue to meet their application requirements and can demonstrate that they will be able to scale statewide by the end of the additional two-year window. This improvement would provide states with a more workable timeline to scale the assessment system statewide.

State Participation

The substitute would permit up to seven states, or a consortia of states (not to exceed four in partnership), to participate in the program in the first three years of the demonstration authority. This cap was increased from a cap of five states in the committee-approved proposal. The substitute also replaces a required evaluation of the assessment system’s impact on teaching and learning indicators at year three with a non-binding progress report meant to provide transparency around a broad range of indicators. The Secretary would use this information to improve technical assistance for participating states, but the information would not impact whether additional states could participate in the demonstration authority beyond the initial three-year cap.

Demographic Similarity

The substitute amendment would ensure that states are thoughtful in their application about how to scale to a demographically similar group of districts by the end of the demonstration period and to report progress annually toward this goal. This approach would replace the original requirement that states demonstrate at the outset that participating school districts are demographically similar (“as a group”) to the state as a whole. While well intentioned, the original approach would have restricted states from launching the pilot in their most innovative districts and leveraging the success to build capacity in districts that require additional support.

Peer Review

The substitute would require the Secretary to either approve or deny a state’s application within 90 days of submission and give states the opportunity to revise and resubmit their application within 60 days after an initial decision has been made. The amendment would also ensure that the peer review panel consists of individuals with experience implementing innovative assessment systems.

Evaluation

Rather than require an evaluation of participating states at year three, the substitute would evaluate a participating state’s assessment system at the end of the demonstration authority to determine if the state is ready to transition to the innovative assessment indefinitely. The substitute clarifies that the baseline year for comparison is the first year of the demonstration authority to ensure comparisons are accurate and fair.

Comparable vs. Equivalent

The original proposal permitted the Secretary to withdraw demonstration authority from a state if the state was not able to demonstrate that the innovative assessment system was “equivalent” to the federally-required statewide summative assessments in “content coverage, difficulty, and quality.” The substitute would change the standard to “comparable” to clarify that states are not expected to develop assessments that are nearly identical to their previous systems.

These improvements represent a significant step in the design of a program that has the potential to redefine the way our country thinks about and implements assessments of student learning. While there is still more work to do before the language is perfect and ready for the President’s signature, we should all rest comfortably knowing that really thoughtful bi-partisan conversations unfolded in Washington, D.C., to craft a high quality proposal that responds to the growing national demand for better assessments that empower continuous improvement of student learning.

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How Might Education Help Inmates Contribute to Their Communities?

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2015-07-07 12:14

Operating within the San Francisco County jail, Five Keys Charter School is the first comprehensive charter school to operate within a correctional facility. Founded by the Sheriff’s department according to the principles of restorative justice, the school is fully accredited and seeks to support the education of inmates during and after incarceration in order to help them rebuild their lives and strengthen communities. Five Keys recently initiated a tablet-based program using cordoned-off online curriculum and resources to provide incarcerated students the opportunity to access broader resources and personalize their learning. The school also includes a network of micro-schools embedded in 18 workforce development agencies across San Francisco so as to follow students post-incarceration and support the re-entry process.

This signal of change provides one example of how education stakeholders are beginning to find new ways of addressing the needs of incarcerated learners. As Jason Swanson, Andrea Saveri, and I explored in our recent paper, “Cultivating Interconnections for Vibrant and Equitable Learning Ecosystems,” learners living in incarcerated settings can face particular challenges in addition to the common challenges described in the opening post of this series:

  • Access to learning content that is customized so as to help build a bridge back to society
  • Access to technologies and media that are tailored for use in restrictive settings
  • Pronounced stigma and isolation both during and after incarceration
  • Societal narratives saying that learners in such locations cannot learn and that being incarcerated has little to do with education
  • Help developing new relationships to learning
  • Intensive remediation

Looking ahead to 2025, our paper imagines that a restorative justice network would facilitate classroom- and community-based learning opportunities for inmates through social entrepreneurship. Located in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles regions, RestorED would catalyze flexible learning environments through an interdependent web of educational, workforce, and social service organizations that were available to incarcerated students from their time within correctional institutions to their re-entry into their communities. RestorED would help change the cultural narrative around incarceration by linking inmates’ learning experiences in jail to productive work and projects in local communities. Learning pathways that began during incarceration would extend beyond that time, connecting to opportunities afterward.

This story from the future represents just one way in which ecosystem participants might address the needs of learners in incarcerated settings by bringing in some resources from large concentrating platforms and tailoring other resources to help students customize their experiences. Where else do you see possibilities for using new community-level approaches to support incarcerated learners?

Interested in learning ecosystems? Read more:

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What Might Expand Learning Infrastructure in Rural Communities?

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2015-07-02 09:20

Eagle’s View Learning Center is located in Seward, Pennsylvania, a rural town of 486. It offers a learning environment whose curriculum is diverse and personalized despite scarce local resources. Eagle’s View has an onsite staff of three adults but uses online lesson content developed by the 200 teachers at the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School to bring diverse perspectives and material to its rural learners.

This signal of change provides one example of how education stakeholders are beginning to find new ways of addressing the needs of learners in poor rural communities. As Jason Swanson, Andrea Saveri, and I explored in our recent paper, “Cultivating Interconnections for Vibrant and Equitable Learning Ecosystems,” learners living in them can face particular challenges in addition to the common challenges described in the opening post of this series:

  • Lack of social and economic infrastructure
  • Limited access to high-quality educators and place-based extended learning opportunities
  • Limited diversity of perspectives and interest
  • Focus on meeting basic, immediate needs
  • Lack of access to basic health services

Looking ahead to 2025, our paper imagines that a rural learning commons might provide a new layer of infrastructure that seeded educator development and expanded access to cross-cultural learning experiences. The Rural Oklahoma Learning Ecosystem would use a co-presence technology platform and a global matchmaking platform to enable teachers and students to connect with classrooms in other locations. In addition, it would develop educator capacity through a resident teaching program that seeded educator development, hosted a robust open education resource platform, managed an integrated data warehouse for rural school districts, provided training in data analytics for school leaders, and coordinated a quarterly educator Collab MeetUp that rotated across rural communities. Educators would have access to a mentor cloud so as to access expertise that was not available locally and would also be able to enhance their local learning geographies using customized augmented reality software.

This story from the future represents just one way in which ecosystem participants might address the needs of learners in poor rural communities by extending local infrastructure and fostering educator development. Where else do you see possibilities for taking new community-level approaches to support learners in rural communities?

Interested in learning ecosystems? Read more:

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No room for innovation: Finland’s barrier to educational progress

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2015-07-01 09:46

photoOne of the key issues that is always discussed when talking about the Finnish education system is the elevation of the teaching profession and teacher pre-service training. These are, most assuredly, aspects of the system that should be discussed. Finland has elevated the profession on par with doctors and lawyers. In so doing, they have reserved the slots in teacher colleges for elite students.

Part of this process was reducing the number of teacher education programs by 80 percent to allow for better alignment, consistency in instruction capacity and practice, and allow for more uniformity in Finnish classrooms. Teachers are trained to use and analyze data, to do their own field-based research, and implement research-based practices in their classrooms.

The pre-service system is heavy on theory and content. Over the first three years, students build that foundation before entering the classroom to student-teach in their last year in college. All Finnish teachers have a master’s degree. This sort of uniform and rigorous training allows teachers to have greater autonomy. Every discussion that I had with higher education and education officials focused in on this key issue of teacher autonomy. This is obviously something that American teachers crave and feel that they do not have because of the constraints of NCLB and in particular our current testing regimes.

The Finnish system, for lack of a better compound word, is teacher-centric. This is an important concept. This teacher-centric focus on high-quality training, pedagogy, research-based instruction, and elevation of the profession has helped Finland become one of the highest performing systems in the world. Couple the teacher-centric focus with the culture, vision, and transparency I wrote about in my last blog and it creates a powerful equation to drive results. This is all true and should be celebrated.

Now comes the but…

My observations and my conversations with key stakeholders also began to expose a barrier to moving the Finnish system forward. It is a rigid system that does not support innovation well.

There have been movements towards a more student-centric model. Helsinki schools are leading this charge with the creation of e-campus. The cornerstones of e-campus are portfolio-learning, a culture of creative and collaborative learning, and an approach called phenomenon-based learning (think interdisciplinary project-based learning). This movement in Helsinki comes on the cusp of a new national curriculum in 2016 built on the notion of student-centrism. These new approaches to learning are supported by the business community and economic forums and to some degree being met with resistance by teaching professions that see it as an assault on their autonomy. This must all sound ever so slightly familiar, correct?

In so many ways the movement in Finland is directly analogous to the push in the United States around personalized learning. Finland, to their own admission, lacks the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit of the United States. Their economy is still relatively flat post the worldwide recession post 2008.

They know that to stay on top of the educational rankings and more importantly, to prepare their children to propel their economy, they need to shift their system from the teacher-centrism of the last several decades to a student-centric, student-driven system. Again, does this sound familiar? It was startling and fundamentally interesting to me that Finland and the United States were struggling with many of the same issues. The want to move to a student-centered approach but the difficulty in making that shift from providing the right capacity-building for teachers, engaging the right stakeholders, engaging parents, and empowering students to take control of their learning.

Systems perpetuate themselves, and each country, Finland and the United States, are trying to break out of the constraints of legacy, history, and inertia. I do have to fundamentally give Finland credit for proposing a shift from a teacher-centric national curriculum to a student-centric curriculum and aligned approach. This is a difficult shift and particularly difficult if you are on top as Finland is. We, too, can make this shift. We need to in order to be an economically viable leader in the future.

 

Read more about Matt’s trip to Finland:

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Why I’m scared of the future of education

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2015-06-30 09:49

scared-of-future-educationWhen I started at KnowledgeWorks almost a year ago, “strategic foresight” was a new concept to me. I had seen the KnowledgeWorks future forecast and thought through what the future of learning could look like, but my understanding of “forecasting” was limited to the Weather Channel telling me whether it was supposed to rain.

In May, I had the opportunity to learn more about strategic foresight when I took a leap out of my comfort zone and attended the Institute for the Future’s 2015 Ten Year Forecast Retreat. I’ve sat through plenty of conferences discussing how to tweak our education system to push it toward improvement, so trying to wrap my head around the education implications of Application Program Interface (API), block chain, and the seven economies that give structure to our world was mind-bending to say the least.

As much as I wish I could write a clear piece on how the corporate, consumer, creative, collaborative, civic, criminal, and crypto economies are going to be shaping education in 10 years, I still haven’t really wrapped my head around what those words even mean. I highly recommend looking to Katherine Prince’s reflections for deeper insight on the educational implications.

Along with major brain overload, I left the retreat with a revelation that I can fully comprehend and that I hope all involved in education and policy will start to take note of, as well.

First of all, our world is advancing very quickly, and while that can sound a little scary, that kind of fear is misdirected. The real scary idea is that our system of education – and the politics surrounding it – is not innovating even close to quickly enough to keep up with the reality of today, let alone the reality of 2025.

A lot has changed in the education world since 2005, regardless of whether or not we see it when we walk into a classroom. Most, if not all, of the students have always known smart phones, the internet, and social media and probably never had to use those things called Encyclopedias on research papers. There are innovative programs and schools that have popped up in the last 10 years that keep up with the reality of what it means to be prepared for tomorrow’s careers. Students are encouraged to focus on STEM classes to be competitive in the job market.

However, when I flash back to my time in high school, compared to my recent teaching experiences, I don’t see those changes in the education system.

When I walked into my first kindergarten class, an overhead projector was the most advanced piece of technology students could interact with (and by interact with, I mean look at). Students were leaving that K-8 school for high school without knowing how to type, let alone use the internet for research. Sure, my students were learning math and reading, but so were students in the 80s. Technology, progress, and future education’s potential weren’t even an option for my students.

And while there are future-ready schools that are willing to break from tradition to push children’s potential, they are often only available to students from well-off families. Game-changing innovation is happening and technology is advancing exponentially, but for the most part, it is reserved for the privileged and wealthy. Schools similar to the one where I taught are sliding farther and farther from the cusp of innovation.

I’m left frustrated with the system that too many students are being pushed through. As long as education conversations are dominated by the constant fights over the same controversial topics, we stall progress in public education, and the wealthy are able to race ahead with students prepared for the jobs of the future. Without the education community’s investment in the drastic transformation required to prepare all students for the future, education in 2025 looks devastatingly inequitable.

My experience at the IFTF retreat grounded me in the fact that my work in education is not about responding to the squeaky wheel, helping the rich get richer, or creating more stability for those with power. This work has to be about addressing the desperate reality that if our system doesn’t change soon, this country will continue find that the gap between the haves and have-nots will continue to grow until it is insurmountable.

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Finland’s Educational Focus: Well-Being + Deep Learning

Posts from WOL - Mon, 2015-06-29 08:59

I’ve wondered for a few years: what makes the Finnish Education System tick? As I’ve mentioned in my last blog, I trended towards being dismissive of what the Finns had built. What could the United States truly learn from Finland?

Maybe, I thought, Vermont could learn something from the Finns. Finland was, after all, educational reform in a small, socialist, homogeneous country. So it was like Vermont but with less flannel and maple syrup.

I was also somewhat jaundiced because I thought some interest groups in the U.S. picked and chose what they wanted out of the Finnish system to assist in building their selected advocacy case, while ignoring the obvious issue that the U.S. was exponentially bigger, more diverse, more fraught with poverty and its crushing effects, and without the social undergirding of a traditional socialist government.

My point of view coming into this experience was quite logical, fully factual, but often wrong.

In our publication, District Conditions for Scale: A Practical Guide to Scaling Personalized Learning, we focus on three Meta themes: vision, culture, and transparency. These all are present in the Finnish system and, even more so, in the Finnish society.

Setting governmental structure aside, this is a society that is set up to support children and families. It is everywhere. It is on street signs. It is present in their system of early childhood, health care, vacations, and overall support for mothers and families. It is ever-present in their education system. Students do not start basic (primary) education until 7 years of age, but they also learn and are nurtured throughout the early education system.

When they start basic education, they are nurtured there, as well, with 15 minutes of break time for every 45 minutes of instruction. Lunch is an hour to allow for eating and play. Let that sink in a moment. I’ll wait…

…Yes, they allow their kids to play.

There a simple, beautiful concept that is the foundation for the culture of their education system and society as a whole. Finland is a small country with only 5.5 million people. They believe that they cannot let even one child slip through the cracks. It is essential that all children are supported, because they know – and believe – that children are their future.

They put such a gorgeous primacy on providing a foundation for a childhood that produces not just productive citizens, but thriving children.

Their vision for the education system is one of well-learning: a concept that combines well-being and deep learning.

I’m traveling with a group of district leaders and my friends from EdLeader21 and EF. This concept struck so many of us: Could we focus on well-learning? Would we have the audacity in the United States to commit to well-learning? Would we have the tenacity to build and sustain it?

To allow for Finland to capitalize on their cultural support for children, to bring the vision of well learning to action, they needed transparency. Each and every person that we’ve talked to or listened to in Finland, from different levels of the system, can articulate the vision and how it operationalizes. This is the transparency that the system needs to sustain itself and continuously improve. This is in place in Finland.

Now is everything coffee and biscuits in the Finnish system? Well, no, but you’ll have to read my next posts to find that out.

Postscript:

In my last blog post, I used a middle school friend as a metaphor in the piece. Her name is Riina Ruska. I happened to do a quick Google search (since I’m not on Facebook) and I happened to find an interior design studio in Helsinki owned by a Riina Ruska. Now I didn’t know how common her name was or wasn’t. Maybe Riina Ruska was the Finnish equivalent of Jenny Smith in the States. So I searched for her brother, Teemu, and images of both and confirmed it was her. I sent her a short email and heard back from her in a matter of minutes. We met for a drink on Wednesday. We hadn’t seen each other in 26 years when we were 14 years old (you are doing the math, aren’t you?). It was a lovely reunion with conversation about our past and present.  She is married with two soccer playing boys, she’s the team leader for the soccer team, owns a design studio, and in so many ways, hasn’t changed in 26 years.

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What Might Expand Job Mobility in Disrupted Suburbs?

Posts from WOL - Fri, 2015-06-26 08:58

This is the third of a five-part blog series on creating equitable and vibrant learning ecosystems for all students, no matter where they live.

Louisiana’s statewide Jump Start program prepares high school students for careers via a career-ready diploma. It uses a unique point system, whereby participants earn graduation index points that correlate directly with the state’s Workforce Investment Council, linking local business needs with skills developed in the Jump Start program.

This is just one signal of change illustrating how education stakeholders are beginning to find new ways of addressing the kinds of needs that learners in disrupted suburbs tend to face. As Jason Swanson, Andrea Saveri, and I explored in our recent paper, “Cultivating Interconnections for Vibrant and Equitable Learning Ecosystems,” learners and families living in disrupted suburbs can face particular challenges in addition to the common challenges described in the opening post of this series:

  • Growing economic uncertainty, social instability, and income polarization
  • Difficulty adapting to poverty and dealing with the resulting stress, isolation, and anxiety
  • Help understanding that the old system of education that enabled many of the community’s adults to succeed might no longer be sufficient for their children

Looking ahead to 2025, our paper imagines that an education-employment consortium might expand job mobility in struggling suburbs by creating flexible and intersecting education and career pathways. The FlexCareerWeb Consortium would enable learners to earn career credits while also developing core academic skills. The consortium would catalyze contributions across education providers and businesses by working with schools and local employers to articulate a shared long-term vision for learning in the region and to design outcomes that guided contributors’ respective initiatives.

This learning ecosystem would also make use of a cross-agency data warehouse to integrate data from schools, social services, mental health, and juvenile justice agencies in support of providing relevant and integrated services to a rapidly changing school population. Lastly, it would use a niche career-diploma dashboard to help learners connect with the right experiences and would offer specialized services such as a local career gap year.

This story from the future represents just one way in which ecosystem participants might address the needs of learners in disrupted suburbs by expanding the notion of who contributes to learning and linking resources and data flows across a region. Where else do you see possibilities for taking new community-level approaches to support learners in disrupted suburbs?

Interested in learning ecosystems? Read more:

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A Collective Commitment to Quality Early Childhood Education for All

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2015-06-24 13:57

 increased access to quality early childhood education works.

“What is required is a sense on the part of all of us that what happens to those kids matters to me — even if I never meet them.”

Since yesterday headlines have been filled with President Barack Obama’s use of the n-word during an interview with comedian Marc Maron on his popular “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast.

Lost in the controversy and the national conversations stirred by his use of the word however were some very poignant points on the importance of early childhood education and the role it can play in overcoming cyclical poverty and issues of racism. (Skip ahead to minute 48:45 in the podcast to hear his full remarks on early childhood education.)

During the podcast, President Obama stated, “I am less interested in having an ideological conversation than I am in looking at what has worked in the past and applying it and scaling up.”

I couldn’t agree more.

So here’s what we know: increased access to quality early childhood education works.

The facts show that:

  • Quality preschool has a greater impact than interventions at any other point in a person’s life, including K-12 schooling and job training programs.
  • Every dollar invested in high-quality early childhood education can save more than seven dollars later on—by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. (President Obama, 2013 State of the Union)
  • Students from low income neighborhoods enter kindergarten on average 18 months behind their more affluent peers and are 42% less likely to be reading at grade level by 3rd
  • Students who do not read at grade level by 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out of school unable to meet the basic education requirements of most employers.

So, like President Obama shared during the podcast that hasn’t been mentioned, “if a 3-year-old, 4-year-old kid is in an environment of love and is getting a good meal and has a teacher that is trained in early childhood development and is hearing enough words and is being engaged enough, they can get to where a middle-class kid is pretty quickly….What hasn’t happened is us making a collective commitment to do it.”

The Cincinnati Preschool Promise is making that collective commitment. The Promise will provide tuition credits for all Cincinnati families to use to send their 3 and 4 year old children to a quality rated public or private preschool of their choice, regardless of income.

The Cincinnati community has one of the highest child poverty rates in the country. It is time we did something systemic about it.

Join us in making an impact. Learn more about becoming a Cincinnati Preschool Promise Ambassador today:  www.cincy-promise.org.

William Thomas is the Community Engagement Manager for the Cincinnati Preschool Promise, which is a cross-sector effort to provide two years of quality preschool for every child in Cincinnati.

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What might make urban dropout rates plummet?

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2015-06-24 10:05

This is the second of a five-part blog series on creating equitable and vibrant learning ecosystems for all students, no matter where they live.

Ever Forward Club is a community-based club operating in Oakland, California, that helps young men, particularly underserved and at-risk young men of color, foster emotional maturity and overcome the hyper-masculinity code that can be a barrier to empathy, personal growth, and academic achievement. The club uses conversation, play, and community to support young men’s development by expanding their emotional toolboxes so that they can better handle the challenges of school and life now and into the future.

This is just one signal of change illustrating how education stakeholders are beginning to find new ways of addressing learners’ needs in poor urban neighborhoods. As Jason Swanson, Andrea Saveri, and I explored in our recent paper, “Cultivating Interconnections for Vibrant and Equitable Learning Ecosystems,” learners living in them can face particular challenges in addition to the common challenges described in the opening post of this series:

  • Difficulty accessing surrounding resources
  • Lack of access to essential learning resources, quality teachers, and technology
  • Cultural isolation and the difficulty of dealing with complex or misunderstood social narratives associated with poverty and race
  • Conflicting narratives about what success means and the role of education toward it
  • Significant needs around work, safety, food, and health uncertainty

Looking ahead to 2025, our paper imagines that urban learning crews could provide personalized learning and deep social support to middle and high school aged students in the largest inner cities in the U.S., causing dropout rates to plummet. An Urban Learning Crew League would coordinate crews’ educational programming across city-wide learning venues, integrating visits to locations such as museums, maker spaces, media labs, parks, and science centers with online curriculum and in-person classes to help students achieve individual learning goals. The crew experience would also include a social-emotional curriculum and personal growth activities that were interwoven throughout the day and week, with crew members having several in-person check-ins during the week to reflect on personal challenges. Crew members would engage in emotional intelligence skill-building activities and would use a mood capture application to track and reflect on their emotions throughout the day in support of practicing self-regulation and develop a healthy inner self. Monthly potluck open portfolio celebrations would bring together parents, neighbors, and guardians to see members’ work and help community members understand how best to support the kids.

Such a learning ecosystem would provide niche education experiences and tailor support to small groups of urban youth by leveraging common platforms and using a specialized suite of social media apps.  It would also mobilize learners, parents, and learning agents to come together to reflect on learning and related supports.

This story from the future represents just one way in which ecosystem participants might address the needs of learners in poor urban neighborhoods by helping them access the city’s resources and by providing strong social and emotional support.  Where else do you see possibilities for taking new community-level approaches in to support learners in poor urban neighborhoods?

 

Interested in learning ecosystems? Read more:

 

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Edu-Pilgrimage: What can we learn from Finland?

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2015-06-23 11:03

Well, I’m heading to Finland. Like some sort of edu-pilgrimage as if I’m the Wife of Bath or a swallow to Capistrano. I’m going with a group of district leaders from across the United States. I’ve heard the tales of Finnish education: its teacher selection and training programs; its singular focus on the child; its social supports; its lack of teacher evaluation and test-based accountability.

I have, at times, been dismissive of the talk of Finland as an edu-wonderland. This is not because I don’t have respect for the system that the Finns have built. In fact, I love aspects of this system as it is aligned, focused on outcomes, focused on getting the right people in the right places to positively effect the lives of children. It is a system that puts the efficacy of the teacher at the center of the system. It also prioritizes the training of that teacher and particularly in the pre-service realm.

But here is where I get tripped up. I don’t know what to do with that data. The United States is dramatically different from Finland. Finland is a country of 5 million people, it is socialist and centralized, it is homogenous, and there aren’t the massive disparities between the haves and the have nots that we have in the U.S.  Additionally, there are no local union contracts in Finland with all of the contracts being negotiated at the national level. Would that work in the U.S.? Umm, no. There is no annual testing or teacher evaluation. That wouldn’t fly in the U.S. either. This is not a judgement of either system. It is merely fact. Our systems are dramatically different.

I lived six years of my childhood/teenage years overseas in Dubai, UAE, where I attended an American school, the Jumeriah American School (now Dubai American School). One of my friends was Finnish. Her name was Riina Ruska. She was amazing. She was beautiful, artistic, athletic, humble, and funny. She had a certain style about her (even in middle school) with her blue rimmed eye glasses, long blond hair, and ability to simultaneously stand out and hide in the background. She was by far the smartest student in our class if not the school. She was by all definitions that I had as a teenager the very embodiment of perfection. For me, in many ways, Riina is a great example of the Finnish system of education. She is very much like the Finnish education system which is often held up by some Americans as an example of perfection. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder and leads to comparisons that are both unsustainable and unattainable.

With that said, do I think that we mighty Americans with our rigid system, our focus on access and equity, and our incredibly diverse, heterogeneous system can learn from Finland? Absolutely, I do. I think the lessons we glean need to focus in on the right level of the education system. Can we institute a national-level system like Finland? No, that is not, nor will it ever be, our system. We are a state-driven, federally supported (access and equity) system.

That said, I’m most interested in how the system is aligned and what that means for districts in the U.S. For example, how have they aligned professional development and supports and what does that mean for states and districts? How have they scaled practice (much of which has been borrowed from the U.S.) and, again, what does that mean for American districts? How have they been able to connect, in a systemic fashion, content, skills, creativity, and student supports? There is a great deal to learn from Finland and from other high performing countries. We need to solve for the right level in the U.S. system and we cannot assume that if it is a national system there, it can work as a national system here. I believe the answer lies at the district level. I believe that we can learn from intentional alignment, and in our system, that also means ensuring jurisdictional alignment as well (i.e. between the federal, state, and district levels)

I look forward to learning about the Finnish system first hand and will set aside my biases. I know that the experience will be enlightening. I will certainly be using our District Conditions for Scaling Personalized Learning as a guide to investigating alignment, sustainability, and scaleability. I’m also curious about some of the new changes (new curriculum and focus on student-centered learning) in Finland and how it effects the students. It will be an adventure. I will be checking in periodically during my travels so look for new posts, and please, check back.

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Wheels Up

Posts from WOL - Mon, 2015-06-22 15:22

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The first time she packed her bags to fly, she packed her purple Dora the Explorer backpack with her boo bunny, her blankie, some crayons and her favorite pop-up book, Guess How Much I Love You. We boarded a plane together, hand-in-hand. My daughter, Kate, was barely two.

And today, she’s taking off, solo, for the first time – two weeks shy of her 16th birthday. She’s headed to New York City, alongside dozens of other students to attend the National Youth Leadership Forum (NYLF): Business Innovation – 8 Days to Startup.

Housed on Columbia University’s campus and other various locations throughout the city, the program focuses on business creation, globalization, personal leadership and career opportunities in business across industries.

The invitation came by mail back in February. A flurry of text messages and Snap Chats filled with excitement from Kate were sent. “Can I go? Can I go?”

We read all the package of materials, combed through the NYLF website together, watched videos. Kate texted with others to see if they had gone through the program and learned very quickly that this was an amazing opportunity – even highlighting in orange pen: “The program provides high school scholars with the opportunity to gain insight into the various aspects of the business world, challenged by real-world business issues through interactive simulations, hands-on workshops, informative seminars and site visits.”

The National Youth Leadership Forum (NYLF) focuses on business creation, globalization, personal leadership and career opportunities in business across industries.“Mom! Read this… I can choose from Columbia University in New York, or Stanford or UC Berkley in California!! OMG. How did I get this? Who nominated me? Is it because they think I’m a leader?”

Amazing, right? As a parent and communications / marketer by trade, who happens to also work for an education organization that champions early college exposure, business and community engagement and personalized learning experiences that engage young minds, my eyes were big – excited for her. I saw that spark – that wide-eyed enthusiasm and belief that she could do this. Someone believed in her and nominated her for this unique opportunity and she was going to go for it.

She saved babysitting money, cash gifts from family and monthly allowance. When choosing between a new cute shirt and setting aside more money for New York, she picked New York.

I took her to open up a bank account. We went shopping for business attire – two new blazers, professional length skirts and dresses, closed toed shoes. I was beaming and a little teary eyed. My little girl was growing up.

Last night, she was highlighting her itinerary. Noting her keynote speakers; sessions on goal development, business case discussions, meetings with venture capitalists; skill development workshops from design challenges, to business cases development, public speaking and leadership; and of course, the excursions: Wall Street, various college campuses, Central Park, Madison Square Garden… and following the program, her extended cultural stay to visit the sites of New York, including the Empire State Building and Times Square to watch a Broadway show.

As we look at the future of learning, the future is now. And we as a nation need to consider the design of programs like those seen in Envision, to transform the culture and structure of learning.

Kate’s program is a tremendous early college opportunity designed to challenge students’ abilities and provide them with a foundation in business that can be used to start up their future, no matter what their aspirations are.

It’s real-world experience with multiple, high-quality approaches to personalized learning that is supporting Kate and other learners who attend, in pursuing the right combinations of learning experiences and supports, enabling many possibilities for how, when, and what people learn and addressing their non-academic needs. This one happens to be eight days. Imagine if the design principles of this program extended into our current structures of learning to embody a wider range of settings, platforms and diverse learning agents that enable students to create individualized learning opportunities and experiences that reflect their particular interests, goals and values.

kate-youngShe’s texted me a couple of times from the gate at the Raleigh-Durham (RDU) airport. Delayed. ‘Should I call the program advisor to let them know my plane will be late?’ That’s my girl. Responsible, strong, excited about what the future will hold. And while I will always see her as that curious toddler with a Dora backpack strapped to her back, I know the strong foundation we have built as parents, in partnership with her teachers at Wake County Public Schools, her coaches and mentors throughout our community and these kinds of learning opportunities have helped her to grow her wings.

Wheels up honey. I’m so proud of you.

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Internships Empower Students and Open Career Opportunities

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2015-06-17 09:48

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When I thought about my plans for the summer during the beginning of my junior year of high school, I never imagined that I might be commuting into Cincinnati to intern in the communications department of KnowledgeWorks. I first walked into the KnowledgeWorks office to begin my internship last week, and already, my perception of who I am and what I can do has started to change. My name is Hannah Matuszak, and I’m a rising senior at Loveland High School. I’ve been in love with technology and coding since I was twelve years old, when I first started to learn how to create a webpage, and I enjoy writing fiction and creating designs both on paper and with digital art programs. I work best when I combine the logical side of computer programming with the creativity I use in my artistic expression, and I’ve had plenty of chances to merge these two areas in the past few days of my new job.

During the first three days of my internship, I’ve experienced the varied roles of a communications team and worked on several different projects. My favorite thing that I’ve worked on so far has been making small changes to the KnowledgeWorks and StriveTogether websites. Although I’ve created and edited webpages before in school, this has been my first chance to work on a real website and see the changes appear in front of me when I type the URL into the search bar. I’ve also learned a lot about using social media for promoting a brand and sharing information rather than posting selfies and tweeting friends.

Interning at KnowledgeWorks is giving me tools I can use in any type of workplace, which fits perfectly with my goals for this summer. One of the biggest challenges that faces any student starting to think about their path after high school is choosing from the huge array of college majors and career choices. Narrowing down your interests into one specific field can sometimes feel impossible. I know that as I’ve taken my first steps towards college, deciding what to do with my future hasn’t been easy, but an internship is a good way for anyone to see how their interests apply to the real world and try out a possible career option. In my internship, I’m learning a little bit about everything, from marketing tools to conference planning, which will hopefully allow me to figure out where my skills and interests fit best.

I was connected to this internship opportunity through the INTERalliance of Greater Cincinnati, an organization dedicated to providing students with the knowledge and opportunities they need to enter the technology field and become a part of Cincinnati’s IT workforce. Each summer, INTERalliance partners with Cincinnati companies like KnowledgeWorks to place high school students in internships where they gain real-world experience. However, even before I was offered an internship for this summer, I had the chance to visit the KnowledgeWorks office as part of the INTERalliance IT Careers Camp. I remember that talking with a few of the current college interns and touring the office gave me a sense of creative energy that led me to feel that working with the company would be a great fit for me, and a year later, here I am!

I’m looking forward to spending the summer as a KnowledgeWorks intern and seeing what I learn from this experience and where it takes me in the future.

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Internships Empower Students and Open Career Opportunities

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2015-06-17 09:48

An internship is a good way for anyone to see how their interests apply to the real world and try out a possible career option

When I thought about my plans for the summer during the beginning of my junior year of high school, I never imagined that I might be commuting into Cincinnati to intern in the communications department of KnowledgeWorks. I first walked into the KnowledgeWorks office to begin my internship last week, and already, my perception of who I am and what I can do has started to change. My name is Hannah Matuszak, and I’m a rising senior at Loveland High School. I’ve been in love with technology and coding since I was twelve years old, when I first started to learn how to create a webpage, and I enjoy writing fiction and creating designs both on paper and with digital art programs. I work best when I combine the logical side of computer programming with the creativity I use in my artistic expression, and I’ve had plenty of chances to merge these two areas in the past few days of my new job.

During the first three days of my internship, I’ve experienced the varied roles of a communications team and worked on several different projects. My favorite thing that I’ve worked on so far has been making small changes to the KnowledgeWorks and StriveTogether websites. Although I’ve created and edited webpages before in school, this has been my first chance to work on a real website and see the changes appear in front of me when I type the URL into the search bar. I’ve also learned a lot about using social media for promoting a brand and sharing information rather than posting selfies and tweeting friends.

Interning at KnowledgeWorks is giving me tools I can use in any type of workplace, which fits perfectly with my goals for this summer. One of the biggest challenges that faces any student starting to think about their path after high school is choosing from the huge array of college majors and career choices. Narrowing down your interests into one specific field can sometimes feel impossible. I know that as I’ve taken my first steps towards college, deciding what to do with my future hasn’t been easy, but an internship is a good way for anyone to see how their interests apply to the real world and try out a possible career option. In my internship, I’m learning a little bit about everything, from marketing tools to conference planning, which will hopefully allow me to figure out where my skills and interests fit best.

I was connected to this internship opportunity through the INTERalliance of Greater Cincinnati, an organization dedicated to providing students with the knowledge and opportunities they need to enter the technology field and become a part of Cincinnati’s IT workforce. Each summer, INTERalliance partners with Cincinnati companies like KnowledgeWorks to place high school students in internships where they gain real-world experience. However, even before I was offered an internship for this summer, I had the chance to visit the KnowledgeWorks office as part of the INTERalliance IT Careers Camp. I remember that talking with a few of the current college interns and touring the office gave me a sense of creative energy that led me to feel that working with the company would be a great fit for me, and a year later, here I am!

I’m looking forward to spending the summer as a KnowledgeWorks intern and seeing what I learn from this experience and where it takes me in the future.

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Cultivating Vibrant Learning Ecosystems in High-Need Geographies

Posts from WOL - Fri, 2015-06-12 11:37

This is the first of a five-part blog series on creating equitable and vibrant learning ecosystems for all students, no matter where they live.

In our recent foresight design paper, “Cultivating Interconnections for Vibrant and Equitable Learning Ecosystems,” Andrea Saveri, Jason Swanson, and I explore two key questions:

  • What kinds of learning ecosystem interconnections might help participants create vibrant learning ecosystems?
  • What might learning ecosystems look like in different high-need geographies?

These high-need geographies often reflect conditions that make it difficult for learning ecosystems to become learner centered, equitable, modular and interoperable, and resilient. While the specific conditions vary from one high-need geography to another, we traced them back to a common set of challenges:

  • Isolation in various forms and barriers to accessing resources can prevent vibrant learning ecosystems from developing.
  • Instability of, or extreme constraints to, an area’s economic base can undermine effective planning and prevent consistent movement toward solutions that could make local learning ecosystems vibrant.
  • Cultural barriers and stigma can prevent viable solutions from taking hold in meaningful ways.

Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be taking a closer look at four high-need geographies to consider the particular challenges that learners in them tend to face and how ecosystem participants might combine three structural roles to cultivate vibrant learning ecosystems. The three structural roles operate as described below.

  • Ecosystem participants that take on concentrator roles will provide core infrastructure, aggregation, and brokering services that will provide foundational services and efficiencies. Today, we see concentration in areas such as school governance, education resource platforms, learning management systems, and e-portfolio development platforms.
  • Ecosystem participants that take on fragmenter roles will focus on well-defined niches, differentiating their offerings to deliver high-value user experiences. Today, we see fragmentation in diversifying school formats and learning venues, classroom models, and professional learning communities.
  • Ecosystem participants that take on catalyst roles will mobilize resources and attract diverse participants to forge connections across boundaries and pursue shared goals. Today, we see catalyzation in areas such as educational policy, standards, and accountability systems.

Jason, Andrea, and I adapted these structural roles from the Deloitte Center for the Edge’s The Hero’s Journey through the Landscape of the Future. Together, they promise to help ecosystem participants create flexible value webs that meet learners’ needs through the contributions of many organizations and individuals.

I hope you’ll join me as I look at possibilities that these structural roles suggest for cultivating vibrant learning ecosystems in poor urban neighborhoods, disrupted suburbs, poor rural communities, and incarcerated settings. We think that shifting the focus from school systems to community-level learning ecosystems could bring about some breakthrough changes that could help all learners thrive.

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