College and Career Readiness with My Tomorrow Initiative

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2016-03-10 15:10

I am grateful to work for an organization that focuses on reforming education and personalized learning, but most of us work passionately behind the scenes without the opportunity to interact directly with the students we ultimately serve. So when the planners of the My Tomorrow initiative at Cincinnati Public Schools asked if we would host students for a job shadowing experience to foster college and career readiness, I was excited to offer the volunteer opportunity at KnowledgeWorks.

We paired sixteen students from Aiken High School with KnowledgeWorks employees who volunteered to spend the day sharing their professional journeys, current roles, and career advice. Students observed meetings, practiced mock college entrance interviews, shared and received feedback on their resumes, interviewed employees about their careers, and learned about the operations of a foundation.

In reflecting on the event and hearing students share their learnings at the close of the day, it’s clear that students left with more than KnowledgeWorks branded pens and tote bags.

  1. A real-world connection between academic success and success in career. Students asked questions about employees’ education and ongoing training, and made notes in their interview guide about the skills the employees use in their roles – including technical skills like accounting and graphic design, and workforce readiness skills like teamwork and communication. One student spent the day with Drake Bryan, Manager of Network Quality for StriveTogether, a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks. Bryan collects and analyzes data on the StriveTogether Network, and after observing him, the student said she learned that “information in my AP Statistics class really can be used in a career!”
  1. An understanding that many career paths are not linear and a variety of opportunities exist. Harold Brown, Senior Officer for the Advancement of Underserved Learners at KnowledgeWorks, stressed to students that, “many careers are not linear. When you look back at your resume, it seems to align and make sense in a chronological order, but that’s not always how things happen.” This rang true for my own experiences, as many times roles were adapted or new positions were being formed as I took them. This is also true as we look across the range of skills and talents of KnowledgeWorks employees: a former teacher who is now an education policy researcher, a colleague with an accounting degree who went on to become a technology professional, or a biology major who is now the director of a nonprofit organization. I’m hopeful that the range of career fields at KnowledgeWorks opened students’ thinking to the possibilities available to them.
  1. Advice and encouragement. During a lunch question-and-answer session with KnowledgeWorks’ President and CEO Judy Peppler, students asked, “How long did it take you to become a CEO?” and, “What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a CEO someday?” She recommended that students find a good mentor, and “not be afraid to take risks.” Judy also shared a story about a former job in which she set a goal for herself to eventually work her way into a state president role within the company. She encouraged the students to set goals and “start with the end in mind” so that every decision is made with a lens of, “Will this help me get closer to my goal?”

My colleagues and I left the day feeling energized and grateful for the opportunity to spend time with such curious, engaged, and talented young people.  Sharing the day with one student served as a great reminder to why our work to improve outcomes for every student is so important.

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You don’t want to miss these SXSWedu sessions

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2016-03-03 13:45

We’re heading southwest next week to Austin, Texas, for SXSWedu!

Our very own Lillian Pace and Virgel Hammonds will be speaking on a couple panels which – in our 100 percent unbiased opinion – will be the two best sessions of the week.

We have a cool new resource to give out, stories to tell and insight to share. Stop by one of the following sessions to say ‘hello!’

K-12 Education Policy: New ESSA Enables PL + CBE

Monday, March 7, 5-6 p.m.
Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon H

In the new Every Student Succeeds Act, there are opportunities to advance personalized learning and competency-based education. Come to this session to hear Lillian Pace, KnowledgeWorks senior director of national policy, explore these opportunities and share a brand new resource (hot off the press!).

Lillian will join iNACOL’s Susan Patrick and New Hampshire’s Paul Leather to take a deep dive into ESSA and personalized learning.

Planning on attending this session? Tweet about it!

Can’t wait to learn about #ESSA and #PersonalizedEd w/ @KnowledgeWorks and @nacol at #SXSWedu!
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Transforming Education with Learners at the Center

Tuesday, March 8, 3-6 p.m.
JW Marriott Salon 3

Can we imagine a future of learning where every child fulfills their endless potential? Virgel Hammonds, KnowledgeWorks chief learning officer, will share some of his story working with personalized learning at two school districts – RSU2 in Maine and Lindsey Unified in California.

Virgel will join a panel of personalized learning pioneers, including: Trace Pickering from Iowa BIG, Margaret Black from Big Thought, Michael Hinojosa from Dallas ISD, and Kelly Young from Education Reimagined.

Want to join us for this discussion? Help spread the word on Twitter:

Can’t wait to talk about #PersonalizedEd w/ @KnowledgeWorks & @EdReimagined at #SXSWedu!
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Join in the conversation at #SXSWedu and follow @knowledgeworks for our conference-going experience throughout next week.

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Go big or home: Thinking big for education reform

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2016-03-03 11:56

Recently, I read an article by one of my favorite edu-wonks about threading the needle between education policy change that is too incremental to make any real difference and ideas that are too bold to be taken seriously.

As I read the article, I wrestled with questions about today’s education policy environment. Are we thinking too big about education reform? Are we trying to change too much, too fast? Does the nature of public policy lend itself only to incremental change?

In Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, Palmer Lake Elementary School is making big changes by implementing personalized learning to better support students.

While still in the beginning phases of implementation, Palmer Lake’s vision means increased use of technology (including one-to-one devices for older students), standards-based grading and assessment, and instruction driven by real-time data, allowing students to receive the personalized supports they need, when they need them. It also means school norms for how students and teachers behave.

Isn’t it our responsibility to dream big for those who may not have a voice? #PersonalizedEd
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Last week, my travels brought me to Palmer Lake. As I walked around the school with Margo Kleven, their outstanding assistant principal, talking with students about their school experiences, I had a revelation:

Isn’t it our responsibility, as education advocates, to dream big for those who may not have a voice? Isn’t it our duty to push the boundaries of what’s possible in order to provide the type of experience that all our students deserve?

After visiting Palmer Lake, I want to push for the big changes.

At KnowledgeWorks, that’s exactly what we’re doing. Are you? Check out some of our resources to think outside the box and dream big:

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Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss: A Celebration of Reading Aloud

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2016-03-02 16:28

According to celebrated educator Jim Trelease, “it’s long established in science and research: the child who comes to school with a large vocabulary does better than the child who comes to school with little familiarity with words and a low vocabulary.” And it doesn’t take much more than a few minutes a day to build that vocabulary, and a whole lot else, besides. In a world where learning is becoming increasingly personalized, building a strong foundation for literacy and critical thinking equips our learners to truly thrive.

read-kidReading aloud to our children every day not only better prepares them for school, but also builds a lifelong love of reading for pleasure and strengthens the relationship between parent and child. It’s a special, distraction-free time for everyone, with memorable characters and stories our youngest children can tell themselves when they revisit books on their own. My voracious little reader tucks her books in bed with her at night, and loves to tell herself the stories we’ve read together over and over again. She asks questions, makes predictions, and is beginning to tell stories of her own.

So in honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday today and a celebration of early reading, here are her top five favorite books (for now).

  1. Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood is a progressive riff on an old favorite, featuring an ingenious girl mechanic who favors fixing ships over getting hitched.
  2. Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke is a sweet little story about kindness and the importance of everyone doing their share. Even if they’re a mermaid or a troll.
  3. Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pop Osbourne is the first in the Magic Tree House series, which make for perfect first chapter books. Captivating to read aloud – we’ve read the whole book through twice already – and newly independent readers alike.
  4. Maple by Lori Nichols features a big sister and a baby sister, both of whom are named after the trees that dance for them. A lovely story for siblings.
  5. Inspector Hopper by Doug Cushman is an early reader that features simple sentences and compelling mysteries for growing minds. She discovered this one from among my teaching materials, and loves listening to a “big girl” story.

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I’m a Social Innovation Portfolio Director. What’s Your Role in #FutureED?

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2016-03-01 10:41

9:00am on March 13, 2015, was my exact favorite moment of teaching.

I know the time because of the photo I took to capture the experience. It may not look like much: 7th graders sitting in three circles, talking with adults. What they were talking about, how they came to be in this place, and the hope it gives me for the future of education are what made it special.

As part of a current events unit, we had recently been focusing on the issue of homelessness, which is a pressing topic in Eureka, California, where I was teaching. We read articles, discussed how “homeless” doesn’t always mean what we think it does, and tried to understand some of the causes of this social issue. Learning came to life, though, when we reached beyond the walls of our school.

With vibrant-ed-roleguidance, my students found and invited three local experts – a professor from Humboldt State University, the executive director of a local shelter, and an advocate for homeless youth – to visit our classroom for a “salon.” When they did, I witnessed the most authentic and inspiring discussion I’d ever seen in a classroom. I like to think that our preparation helped, but it was clear that engaging on a topic about which they were genuinely curious with people who understood it from real experience was the special sauce.

When I took the quiz on VibrantED to find out what role I might play in #FutureEd, I got social innovation portfolio director, which came as a surprise to exactly no one, given my interest in helping students learn to take meaningful action in the world. Reading the job descriptions on the site allowed me to imagine a world in which teachers are not expected to take on every aspect of students’ development and learning alone, where the responsibilities and titles of educators are as diverse as the individuals filling that role and the learners they serve.

I wonder what next steps my students could have taken to address homelessness in our community if my role as an educator had been different, and if helping them learn to make change in the world was my primary job? I wonder what young people in Flint, Michigan, or Recife, Brazil, could contribute to their communities’ battles against public health crises if they were seen as not only students but also active problem solvers and if educators were seen as leaders with real-world impact?

As our latest forecast highlights, involving learners in the world around them must be part of our education system if we hope to equip them with the skills and passion necessary to face the challenges of the future. That means also rethinking the roles of the adults guiding them on that journey.

If you are ready to explore possibilities for social innovation portfolio director and other future educator roles, jump ahead to 2025 at VibrantED.org.

If you enjoyed this blog, you might also like:


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Hints of the Future: News of today, norms of tomorrow?

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2016-02-24 10:52


Since launching KnowledgeWorks Forecast 4.0, “The Future of Learning: Education in the Era of Partners in Code,” our strategic foresight team has kept their eyes peeled for signals of change – or early indicators of the future of learning in today’s world.

Signals of change give glimpses into the future by providing insight into how current trends in society, the workplace or schools could impact education.

Join us in considering what these signals of change could mean for the future of education.

  1. Building artificial intelligence to… run his home?
    Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO and aspiring education philanthropist, set his 2016 New Year’s resolution: build a simple artificial intelligence to help run his home and help him with work.“Every challenge has a theme, and this year’s theme is invention,” Zuckerberg shared on his Facebook page.

    According to the post, he will start by exploring what artificial intelligence technology is out there already. From there, he will teach it to understand his voice to control features throughout this home, such as music, lights and temperature. Then, he’ll teach it to let friends into the house by facial recognition when they ring the doorbell.

    Download Forecast 4.0 (for free!) to explore possibilities for Educator Swarms or Autonomous Administration, and consider how Zuckerberg’s resolution could signal  the potential for artificial intelligence to support learning and education administration.

  1. Taking leave to start a university without lectures or classrooms
    A dean and professor from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is taking a leave from her current positions to start a new nonprofit university, which will have no majors, no lectures and no classrooms.Christine Ortiz says many specific details are undetermined still, but she aims to answer a larger question: “What if you could start a university from scratch for today’s needs and with today’s technology?”

    The new university’s core will be project-based learning, but students will have deep, integrative, long-term projects, Ortiz says. There are similar efforts to build new types of colleges, such as the Minerva Project, but this one will be a nonprofit venture to serve the public.

    Read through Forecast 4.0 to explore possibilities for Artisanal Education, Resilient Learning Ecosystems and Post-Bubble Sheet Metrics, and consider how Ortiz’s new venture may provide a glimpse into new learning structures that can reflect learners’ needs while supporting them in demonstrating mastery in meaningful ways.

  1. Reimagining the path to a college credential
    The University of Texas System and its partners are exploring what post-secondary pathways could look like in the future – and piloting some sites to provide more options to help students succeed.The university’s goal is to increase student engagement, retention and college success. This future-looking approach reconsiders every part of the college-going experience to help students succeed. As one example, students will be able to work toward a universal transcript that includes traditional course credit, earned competencies, selected work portfolios, and extra-curricular and professional experience that is aligned to educational goals.

    The plan also includes a digital learning platform that allows learners to move from module to certificate to degree, all at their own pace. The system is mobile friendly and offers real-time actionable insights about student pace, engagement, persistence and performance, which will help in personalizing student support and instruction.

    Explore Forecast 4.0 to consider Readiness Redefined or Custom Learning Contracts, and consider how this move by the University of Texas may hint at new expectations of, and structures for, post-secondary education.


Signals of change illuminating the future of learning are all around us. What other signals have you noticed lately?


(Photo credit: Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook)

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I got “Pop-Up Reality Producer” for #FutureEd. What about you?

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2016-02-23 11:35

I’m by no means a transmedia production expert. I don’t even like to learn by watching videos or listening to audio. I’m pretty old-school in liking tactile and text-heavy learning experiences. But every time I take the future career quiz on VibrantED, I come up as being a fit for the pop-up reality producer role:

You are not the life of the party; you make the party happen, and you do so with a creative and visual flair that is all your own. You harness your creativity by working with educators, subject matter experts, story developers, and game designers to produce pervasive learning extravaganzas that engage learners in flow states and help them develop relevant skills, academic competencies, and know-how.

As an introvert, I’m certainly not the life of the party, though I do love a good immersive experience such as standing in the middle of an installation or being in the particular moment when actors and audience interact at a live theater production. Those moments evoke an emotional response, shift my perspective, make me think and feel all at once.

Immersive learning experiences lift me out of my day to day, and I come back changed. #FutureEd
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They lift me out of my day to day, and in some small way, I come back changed.

I also never trained as a teacher and can’t see myself fitting into a traditional school environment. But I do love to coordinate the creation of new products that explore ideas or support new ways of working.

pop-up-reality-producerSo maybe pop-up reality producer really is my best fit for an expanded learning ecosystem, a way I could contribute more directly to fostering engaging learning experiences for kids.

We think that the kinds of learning extravaganzas such a role would produce could be a new form of curriculum: immersive, ephemeral, vivid, insightful, and different for every person attending one because every person would bring a unique perspective to the collective learning production.  Our latest forecast, The Future of Learning: Education in an Era of Partners in Code, highlights the possibility of drawing upon neuro- and emotion science to design learning experiences for flow and creating responsive learning biomes in which augmented and virtual reality tools meld learners’ physical environments with personal and shared learning overlays.

It could be pretty fun to play a role in creating pop-up reality productions that made use of such opportunities to transport learners to other locations, evoke historic moments, or deepen individual insights. But I’m not qualified to do so today: to have a chance at working as a pop-up reality producer managing LearningExtravaganza’s learning events for the 2025 production season, I’d have to skill up on experience production and technical media design and learn more about neuroscience and game strategy.

As many of us face a proliferation of not just employers but also careers over the coming decade and as we consider possibilities for an expanded and diversified learning ecosystem, playing with such possibilities can be a useful way of considering one’s personal contribution to the future of education and also what we want that future of education to be. So play in the future on VibrantED and see what future teaching role might fit for you. Where might you need to reskill, upskill, or create your own future educator role?

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Answering Arne Duncan’s Five Must-Answer Questions

Posts from WOL - Mon, 2016-02-22 09:30

In December, then-U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan posed five must-answer questions to the presidential candidates. Since then, none of the questions have been addressed. So, we’ve taken the liberty of answering the questions ourselves.

Today we are 27th in the world in access to preschool. What’s your goal for preschool access in the next five years?

Decades of research by economists, neuroscientists, and educators prove that investments in the first five years result in long-term gains for students and produce significant savings for governments and taxpayers. If we want to improve outcomes for generations, fix our talent pipeline, strengthen our schools and communities, and produce long-term, meaningful savings to taxpayers, we have to invest in quality preschool for all of our children.

The next President must take this charge seriously, leveraging the energy of local initiatives like the Cincinnati Preschool Promise to significantly expand access to high-quality preschool education. These communities need a leader that will elevate the national conversation, invest in local infrastructure, and help scale quality practices to benefit children in every community in the nation.

To improve outcomes and strengthen schools, we have to invest in quality preschool.
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High school graduation rates are the highest ever at 82 percent, but they are not nearly high enough. What’s your goal for high school completion in the next five years?

While graduation rates are important, a high school diploma that translates into readiness for college and a meaningful career is far more important. Our collective goal should not just be about raising the graduation rate, but also working to personalize learning so every student receives a rigorous education customized to his or her unique skills, interests and readiness. We have to move outside the four walls of a classroom to an education system where learning is challenging, ongoing and relevant to everyday life. When we stop designing for all and design for one, high school graduation is inevitable.

The federal government has a key role to play in this transition. Our country needs a President that will empower education visionaries at the state and local levels by giving these leaders the running room to innovative and scale strategies that will accelerate educational success for all students.

A high school diploma should mean a student is ready for college and meaningful career.
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Today, far too many students graduate high school and still need remedial classes in college. What’s your goal for true college readiness in the next five years?

Early College is a way to blend high school and college experiences.The greatest problem with our education system is that it is designed around time instead of proficiency. We are so focused on credit hours and grade-level promotion that we lost sight of the one thing that matters most – whether our students master the core knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and career. A high school diploma is no longer a guarantee that a student is ready for the next stage of life. In fact, over half of community college students and twenty percent of students at four year institutions now place into remedial education classes.

Our next President must reverse this dangerous trend by embracing competency education, a new approach to teaching and learning that emphasizes mastery over time. Early adopters across the country are piloting this new approach with great success, customizing instruction to ensure every student masters required standards before advancement. Our goal should be to restore meaning to the high school diploma through widespread adoption of this approach. Students, parents, postsecondary institutions and the workforce deserve more transparency around education outcomes.

We are so focused on credit hours and grade-level promotion that we lost sight of what matters most.
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A generation ago, we were the world leader in the college graduation rate of our young people; today, we are 13th. What’s your goal for the next five years?

If we are serious about addressing college completion, we need to start with access. College costs have skyrocketing over the past decade, putting postsecondary education out of reach for far too many students. To make matters worse, the federal financial aid system, which was established to prevent this problem, has become increasingly disconnected from today’s students. The system continues to cater to the traditional student that graduates high school and immediately enrolls in a full-time postsecondary program. It does little to help the increasing numbers of non-traditional students that may seek to access college courses early or later in life, or to complete a degree part-time, or even to seek a second degree to reskill as their industries evolve.

Our nation should set an ambitious goal to overhaul the Federal financial aid system to ensure it is more flexible and reflective of today’s students. The system should enable students to access their total amount of Federal student aid based on their learning and financial needs, rather than being limited to arbitrary yearly limits that do not accurately reflect the cost or the nature of learning in a personalized learning environment. A fresh approach would give all students the opportunity to access a high quality education under reasonable financial terms that do not limit their future success.

If we are serious about addressing college completion, we need to start with access.
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Finally, for each of these goals, what are your concrete strategies to achieve them, and what financial resources and political capital are you willing to expend to get us there?

Our nation’s presidential candidates are uniquely positioned to raise the level of education debate in this country by offering concrete ideas for reform. We encourage them to visit www.educationplaybook.com to read ideas generated by KnowledgeWorks after soliciting feedback from teachers, students, policymakers, and education leaders across the country. These strategies will dramatically improve the state of education in this country and better position the United States to compete on the global stage. The voters deserve a plan and our students deserve a quality education.

The presidential candidates are uniquely positioned to raise the level of education debate in this…
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(Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education)

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Education or Economic Development: What Comes First, the Chicken or the Egg?

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2016-02-18 10:31

Marion County, like so many other communities across the country, faces the proverbial question of, “What comes first, the chicken or the egg?” Do they attract businesses to Marion and provide jobs for the community? Or do they line up their education system with workforce requirements and then attract businesses with a higher-educated workforce?

Chicken? Egg? Should they put a lot of money into attracting economic development only to see companies leave because the workforce is not up to par? Or should they develop that workforce, taking the chance that some may be unwilling  to wait for economic development and choose to take their families elsewhere?

With a 4.2 percent unemployment rate, and the lowest number of small businesses compared to surrounding Ohio counties, there’s a real need in Marion to answer these questions.

 Lucky for Marion, they’ve been answered before.

At Lindsay Unified School District (LUSD) in Lindsay, California, steps were made years ago to shift the education system. This wasn’t a a gradual shift, but a complete ctrl+alt+dlt. Through project-based learning, students achieve mastery in their academics and find learning opportunities both in and outside of the classroom.

During a visit to Lindsay late last year, it became evident to me through a variety of converations with parents, stakeholders, learning facilitators, learners and school leadership that the school district is no longer an isolated entity. Lindsay is a learning community where everyone is a stakeholder. Everyone is driven by a shared vision. With high quality education and increased career and college opportunities for its learners, this small town took the road less traveled to pursue economic opportunity for everyone.

At Lindsay High School, graduation rates are increasing, and learners are speaking of their continued education aspirations and their desired careers. Learners also speak of family, culture, and taking care of their peers. The sense of community and a ‘roll up your sleeves’ mentality runs deep in Lindsay.

It runs deep in Marion, too.

The love of community in Marion is almost palpable. Parents, stakeholders, learners and community members are coming together to create a high-quality and rigorously-educated workforce ready for the 21st century, and they’re building the local infrastructure and economic opportunities that will be essential for graduates and their families.

At a recent meeting at Marion City School district (MCS), I observed our KnowledgeWorks coaches coming together with school and community leaders to develop a common vision with a shared outcome that promised greater opportunities for learners in Marion, and greater opportunities for the community at large, too. They defined their portrait of a learner: an ideal of what skills, knowledge and dispositions the Marion community wants their learners to have when they graduate Marion High school for college and career.

Because Marion had decided, just like Lindsay, that they wouldn’t settle for the chicken or the egg. They wanted both.

What I hope Marion, and all communities, can take away from Lindsay is that this work doesn’t happen overnight, and that no one underestimates the required cultural shift that must happen in a community to ensure success. Because it’s not just a school district, just a city, just a county. It’s a learning community.

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An education shout-out to… Kanye West?

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2016-02-17 12:53

I have to admit: There’s a special place in my heart for Kanye West. Maybe it’s my Chicago roots, or maybe it’s the nostalgia that hits me whenever I hear “Stronger” or “Love Lockdown.”

Yes, he’s a little weird and out there. And yes, he says strange things and speaks out of turn sometimes (ahem, Taylor Swift). But every once in a while, he says something that just makes sense.

Yesterday was one of those days.

Kanye took to Twitter to share a story about a friend who makes a decent amount of money but still has trouble affording her son’s education.

I have a friend who works really hard and makes $370 dollars a day…

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 16, 2016

Her son just got in a really good school and his textbooks are like $400 dollars each … — KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 16, 2016

I mean, his mom has to work 2 days just to afford 1 book for her son … — KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 16, 2016

she’s giving everything she has to make sure her son has a better future… — KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 16, 2016

Then, he (randomly) mentions Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs wanted to lower the cost of textbooks…

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 16, 2016

But then he drops the mic.

Education puts Americans into debt before they even get a chance to get started…

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 16, 2016


Unfortunately, he’s right. During the past 25 years, the median student debt at graduation increased 163 percent, according to the Huffington Post. In the same time frame, the median wage for 20-something college grads increased by less than $700.

This is a big problem.

We launched EducationPlaybook.com to ask presidential candidates to start discussing teaching and learning at a deeper level. We’ve only heard education mentioned a handful of times in the 2016 Presidential Race.

But hey, if Kanye runs in 2020 like he says he’s going to, maybe these tweets are proof that we’ll finally hear some #EdDebate… four years too late.


(Photo by rodrigoferrari (Kanye West 05) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

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Worth a Read: “Four-Dimensional Education”

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2016-02-17 09:58

What should students learn to be best prepared for the 21st century?

The Center for Curriculum Redesign (CCR) recently published its book “Four-Dimensional Education,” which was introduced last month at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Baccalaureate (IBO). The book has been widely acclaimed by education thought leaders such as Carol Dweck (Stanford University); Todd Rose (Harvard University); David Autor (MIT); Andreas Schleicher (OECD); Wendy Kopp (Teach for All); Valerie Greenhill and Key Kay (EdLeader21) and executives from Google, and IBM among others.

The book wrestles with the fundamental question that many educators, business leaders, and policymakers are confronted and often confounded by: “What should students learn for the 21st century?” CCR’s framework describes the dimensions – Knowledge, Skills, Character, and Meta-Learning – of a relevant 211st-century curriculum required to promote fulfilled individuals, sustainable societies and productive economies.

This book challenges us to redefine what we mean by success. It’s well worth the read.
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I have known two of the authors since my early days on the P21 board. While I’m no longer on the board, the work remains compelling and foundational for me. Charles Fadel and Bernie Trilling have thought deeply about the skills needed for students to be successful in today’s world, as well as what the system and its supports for all students need to look like. I was proud to offer some advanced praise for the book. I did so because of the compelling vision that the authors cast for what education could be. Additionally, I was pleased that the book cited and used KnowledgeWorks’ Strategic Foresight work and our forecasts on the future of learning. The following was what I had to offer:

“Four-Dimensional Education offers a compelling vision for transforming education and how we look at education. In a global economy, driven by nimbleness and innovation, it is increasingly clear that success depends on the transformation of education system. This book challenges us to redefine what we mean by success at all levels of the education system from the foundations of K-12, to the entrance requirements for higher education, to what the workforce can and needs to be.”

If you’d like to learn more check out www.curriculumredesign.org, and I also highly recommend the book. It’s well worth the read.

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Museums Can Star in a Vibrant Future of Education

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2016-02-16 11:05


With their many assets and educational expertise, museums have the potential to play a starring role in making the future of education vibrant. Already, we’re seeing them make key contributions to expanding learning ecosystems through city-wide networks such as Remake Learning in Pittsburgh, Surge Columbus, and Hive Chicago; through advocacy and education efforts such as the Columbus Museum of Art’s upcoming Creativity Summit; and through a growing number of museum-based schools.

‘Museums have the potential to play a starring role in making #FutureEd vibrant.’ @katprince
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The Center for the Future of Museums at the American Alliance of Museums keeps an eye on many such signals of change and is looking to deepen its efforts to help build the future of education by hiring a fellow. It is currently inviting applications for the Ford W. Bell Fellowship for Museums & P-12 Education. The Ford Fellow will help the Alliance build the next era of learning – one in which museums play a starring role – by spending two years working with museums, educators, schools, futurists and learners to:

    1. Spread the Word (compiling and sharing information needed to guide planning and decision making by museums, educators and learners)
    2. Disrupt Conventional Dialogue (promoting ideas that disrupt conventional thinking about education and expanding our conception of the educational landscape)
    3. Create Systemic Change (instigating innovative experiments that could increase the role museums play in education.

More information on the fellowship and the application process, along with great resources on the potential for museums to shape the future of education, are available on their site and from a CFM blog post describing the search.

While you’re at it, check out a contribution to their future fiction challenge from KnowledgeWorks’ own Katie King, in which a future Museum of Social Movements plays an engrossing role in one student’s customized learning playlist.

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About Last Night’s #DemDebate…

Posts from WOL - Fri, 2016-02-12 16:43

The debate train rolled on last night with the #DemDebate in Milwaukee, Wisc., and once again we didn’t hear very much about education. In fact, we may have heard more about Henry Kissinger than we did about education.

We did hear about how Sen. Sanders would make college tuition, at public institutions, free and debt free. Secretary Clinton has a similar plan designed to bring down the out-of-pocket costs of college for students. These are laudable ideas, but might very well be bad federal policy. I get it fully; college costs are too damn high (to paraphrase Jimmy McMillian). This is a significant issue and we need to take a serious look at supply and demand, college accountability, the cost of tuition, fees, and books, the arms race for college endowments, and return on investment of a college degree.

But what about the students who don’t even get to college? What about the students who don’t complete high school? The students who don’t have a full opportunity to complete high school?

Last night was an opportunity to talk about the achievement gap in this country. The debate was held in Wisconsin, which has some of the worst achievement gap issues in the nation. In fact, Wisconsin has the biggest disparity in graduation rates between black and white students, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Department of Education. The rate for black students in Wisconsin held steady in 2013-14 at 66 percent, while the graduation rate for white students rose a half-point just under 93 percent.

There are many factors that influence these sorts of dramatic gaps including poverty, unemployment, homelessness, historic racism and segregation, and low expectations, to name a few. Does this mean that the teachers and leaders in Wisconsin don’t care about students of color? No. Does this mean that they don’t care and aren’t trying to shift the culture, provide the right supports and interventions, and reform their system? Absolutely not. I know many educators, including the state chief in Wisconsin, Dr. Tony Evers, and they are focused and committed and they will make the right changes and help all students learn in their state. Many of our states, communities, and districts are struggling with this issue. It is a national issue and I applaud Wisconsin’s Dr. Evers head-on commitment to addressing this issue not only in his state but as President of CCSSO.

Now about last night, the achievement gap issue should have been a discussion point during the debate. Moderators should have pressed the candidates on their plans, on how they would intervene, on what the federal role is in helping states address these systemic issues, and on what the candidates’ vision is for educating all students in our country. The federal role in education, and I admittedly have a traditional take on it, is to provide access and equity. Why wouldn’t we ask candidates about the achievement gap? It seems to be smack dab in the middle of access and equity.

We should collectively demand that we raise the level of debate on education during the 2016 campaign. Our children deserve it. I invite you to engage with us and with our Education Playbook and spread the word if you’d like. Join the conversation using #EdDebate and visit www.educationplaybook.com to learn more.


(Photo credit: Time.com)

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College Access and Affordability in the #EdDebate

Posts from WOL - Fri, 2016-02-12 15:45

Is it just me, or are their other nerds out there that love a (good) debate? Or what we now affectionately call at my home, #DebateDateNight. Little ones in bed, popcorn, snuggled on the couch – me, my husband, our high school-aged daughters, and my Twitter buddies.

But it isn’t all fun and games. Disheartened by the lack conversation around education over the last 15 debates, we decided to add the #EdDebate bingo card.

In the first thirty minutes, nine words came up. Nine, out of a card of 24. But we’ll take it. It was two minutes covering college access and affordability, which are long overdue for debate.

This subject hit home for my daughter, a junior in high school. She’s stressed. Her GPA is nearly a 4.0. The rigor of her class load includes multiple AP and honors classes. She volunteers. She has a job. And she’s super anxious about her ACT and SAT scores – yes, she’s taken both.

And with good reason. It’s predicted that by 2020, an estimated two-thirds of job openings will require post-secondary education or training.

Worse still, it’s estimated that the average class of 2015 graduate with student-loan debt will have to pay back a little more than $35,000.

We’re talking about finances and FAFSA. She’s asking about programs, location, and her chances of getting in. But while we’re discussing whether we should enroll her in an SAT prep course, we’re also talking about those that don’t have this guidance. That don’t have the means. That don’t have the support. And that also concerns her.

Education is a civil right. Every hard-working student deserves a real opportunity to earn an affordable, high-quality degree or credential that offers a clear path to economic security and success.

1 in 10 people from low-income families do attain that level of education. But, regardless of income status, high-school graduates who enroll in college too often fail to finish. In fact, barely half will complete their degree in a reasonable time at four-year institutions; and at two-year schools it’s only about a third. Lack of access and college affordability is an issue in an overwhelming majority of American homes. We should be talking about it, and our candidates should be talking about it, too.

The next debate is this Saturday. Make it #DebateDateNight.

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An International Student Perspective on the Future of Learning

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2016-02-10 11:06

Throughout the past year or so, I’ve been talking with students about the future of learning. For this post, I interviewed Kelli Hamill, a student from Ontario, Canada, who is finishing up high school this spring. Next year, she will head to university to study psychology. She shares her insightful perspective on the future of learning.

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

Thinking of the future of education makes me extremely excited for countless reasons. There is so much potential for both the education system and students in the future. Students should not dread school as much as we do today. I believe that if the education system was remodeled, we would see more positive impacts on all students. Change is scary to everyone, but we can only go up from here. Once the changes are made, everyone will realize how needed they actually were. Until then…

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

The most troubling aspect of the education system is belittlement. It saddens me that some students have felt stupid their whole lives because of schooling. Once a student discovers their areas of interest, it can spark a flame that will stay lit throughout their whole life. The problem with that is that both the teachers and students who think that certain subjects are superior, and choose to belittle students who aren’t always successful. Personally, I had one teacher that had such a negative impact on me that I felt like giving up completely, yet thankfully I chose not to. High school is hard enough trying to find yourself and recognize your future goals, the last thing students need is an authoritative figure putting you down.

‘Our education system will never be perfect, but it can be so much better for everyone.’ #FutureEd
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What do you feel is the biggest uncertainty to the future of learning?

I think that the scariest thing about the future of education is the fear that there won’t be any changes at all. When I began my personal research, I contemplated why I was the only one who felt this way and wants a change. But in society, conformity is so important. Nobody wants to be different – yet we are. More importantly, the realization that most students are not even aware that there is a need for change. Raising awareness is our best chance, which was one of my goals as I conducted forty surveys throughout my own high school.

How do you think different value sets might change education in the future?

Every generation has experienced different educations and teachings with the way that school has evolved little by little. Though the base of schooling is the same, there are smaller details that have changed, such as technological differences. My parents have had a completely different education and still have good careers, yet it is so unlike the millennial generation. A university degree previously guaranteed you employment, but now it means close to nothing. Competition for university and programs are strict, and requirements become harder and harder each year. We do not prioritize extracurricular activities to the same extent as previous generations, which diminishes the creativity in children development.

What does “personalized learning” mean to you?

To me, personalized learning means accepting the differences between students’ learning styles. Everybody has diverse strengths and weaknesses so one education system will not work for everyone. It never has worked for everyone. The frustrating part is the students who are alienated for being different, they are the ones who suffer.

I did a survey of 40 grade-twelve students, and a slim 30 percent were aware of the Multiple Intelligences Theory. The Multiple Intelligences Theory, founded by Howard Gardner, focuses on eight different learning theories that play a leading factor in comprehension. The education system only caters to one type of learner, so what about the rest of us?

Education means something different to every student, so we shouldn’t be compared to one another.
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What will personalized learning be like in the future?

In the future, personalized learning will be very open for all students. Education means something different to every student, so we should never be compared to one another. We all have our goals in life, so there should be individualized learning outlines for every student to ensure the objectives are met.

Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, then it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid,” describing our education system perfectly. Personalized learning would be creating a separate plan for a fish and a separate plan for monkey, one that caters to their skills and does not concentrate on one in particular.

What is your own vision for the future of learning?

My dream for the future of education is individualization and acceptance. I believe differentiation between students is extremely important when it pertains to learning. I am fully aware that our education system will never be perfect but it can be so much better for everyone.

Are you interested in discussing your thoughts about the future of education? Let us know in the comments below! Jason is always looking for students to talk to about #FutureEd.

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A New Kind of Gold Rush: Personalized Learning in Lindsay, California

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2016-02-09 12:43

Julius Orton was born in 1825 in Richland County, Ohio. Orton later moved to Missouri and in 1859, accompanied by his wife and two small daughters and driving a small herd of cattle west in search of gold, he settled along the Tule River southwest of Lindsay, California. Orton became a part of Lindsay history in the 1880s when he took up a 160-acre homestead, the town’s second landowner, and was credited with planting the first orange trees in the Lindsay district, giving rise to the motto, “Central California’s Citrus Center.”

Against a back drop of the Seqoia National Forest, Lindsay, California is in the the heart of the Central Valley. Though Orton hoped to strike it rich in the gold rush, historically, Lindsay gold is actually orange. The entire community is in some way connected to the orange trees grown in Lindsay and showing up in grocery stores all over the United States.

But what Lindsay is known for is changing.

In the words of Lindsay Unified School District Superintendent Thomas Rooney, Lindsay didn’t just “tweak” their education system. They “dismantled” it. What sets Lindsay apart from many districts that aspire to a more personalized learning approach is that they didn’t just talk about doing it, they did it. They asked themselves big questions (“What kind of learners do we want our students to be?”) and in the 2003-2004 school year, began implementation of a competency-based approach that has gone on to transform not only their education system, but their entire community.

Jaime Robles, Director of Human Resources at Lindsay Unified School District, insists that, “Graduating from high school is no longer the best day of their lives for Lindsay students. It is a great day, but one of many great days in their lives.”

So could it be that now, Lindsay gold is education? Visitors from around the United States make their way to Lindsay and leave in awe. A large contingent from Grand Junction, Colorado, visited recently and are now creating the platforms needed to lead the change for their learners. After their visit, a smaller group from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, are hard at work figuring out how to implement competency-based education in their own community. One cannot leave the Lindsay community without thinking, “What can I do to make changes for learners?”

Perhaps personalized learning could be a modern-day gold rush.

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Want real change? Visionary leadership isn’t enough.

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2016-02-04 12:40

As I sat and watched the Iowa caucuses roll in, I couldn’t help but think of all the Election 2016 education policy articles I’ve been reading throughout the past month.

And there have been some good ones. Education Week’s Policy K-12 blog has a great series on the five key things you need to know about the leading candidates in Iowa.  Andrew Rotherham and Richard Whitmire, on The 74, wrote about how Michael Bloomberg might be the education candidate we’ve been waiting for.  And Rick Hess wrote a great round-up of where the candidates stand on edpolicy.

But as the results poured in, I couldn’t help but think: “Who even knows where the candidates stand on today’s real education issues… much less the education issues we will face in the future?”

A few weeks ago, Matt Williams and I joined Greg Landsman on a Saturday morning radio show to talk about education policy. As we discussed the passage of ESSA and what it means for districts, Greg asked me what disposition is most important for a district leader to possess in order to achieve the kind of results we expect from our partner schools. The answer was not what he expected: while district leadership is crucial in creating change, a single district leader is no more important than a presidential candidate if we want that change to be sustainable.

Visionary leadership is crucial for systems change… but it’s only one piece of the puzzle.
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Don’t get me wrong. Visionary leadership is important in systems change. That’s why we launched educationplaybook.com to help our presidential candidates think and crucially and talk critically about learning in a new way. But a presidential candidate or a district leader can’t single-handedly solve the problems our current education system is facing. These are wildly complicated social problems that many of us, including me, struggle to understand, much less solve. These problems need foresight, courage and collaboration throughout the system. In order to solve these problems, people from all corners of society – not just our leaders – have to be part of the solution.

We explored sustainable systems transformation in District Conditions for Scale: A Practical Guide for Scaling Personalized Education. In order to achieve this kind of change, we need leaders from districts, higher education, business and the community, along with students, parents and the nonprofit community to come together. We need everyone’s best thinking to create the complex solutions required to fix the wildly complicated social issues we’re trying to resolve.

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Visionary Leadership in Action

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2016-02-03 13:47

Recently, I received this email from a colleague who leads an education nonprofit:

Hi Katie,

I’ve been madly reading and downloading the papers you suggested from the KnowledgeWorks site. A couple more just arrived in my email. The vision and scenarios make so much sense to me. Given the intransigence of systems change, particularly in education, how do you see the mechanisms for change? 

If that message had appeared in my inbox a few days earlier, my response likely would have claimed that the forces re-shaping our society are too strong even for the most established systems to resist and that change is unavoidable. I probably also would have lamented that transformational change is, in general, the result of existential threat instead of carefully designed and bravely executed action, which means we may end up with a new system that’s different, but no better, than the old one.

Instead, because of a recent workshop that Jason Swanson and I facilitated, I was able to tell him the story of a team in New Mexico that is actively working to transform its district.

‘Considering the future is part of this district’s daily work.’ #FutureEd
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Las Cruces Public Schools invited us to help their administrators deepen their understanding of the changes described in our most recent forecast and their implications for the district. The half-day workshop was optional for the staff, yet about 30 principals and district leaders chose to join us.

We detailed the drivers of change moving us toward a new era of partners in code, and they worked through how that new era might influence their district priorities, defining success and the steps to reach it. The activities sound standard, but I can assure that you the results were not. We saw visionary leadership in action.

Specifically, I saw Las Cruces’ leaders acting out John Kottner’s 8 steps of leading change and exploring the levers of change outlined in KnowledgeWorks’ “Innovating toward a Vibrant Learning Ecosystem,” likely without realizing it. The sense of urgency on issues such as learning structures, educator roles and human capital, and community ownership was palpable, and the workshop ended with Stan Rounds, the superintendent, inviting others to join him in a guiding coalition that would make decisions and allocate dedicated resources to make their visions for the district’s future a reality.

When Jason and I mentioned how readily the teams dove into grappling with complex issues, pushing their thinking beyond today’s realities and finding opportunities amid the prospect of turbulent change, Mr. Rounds joked that it’s probably because they hear him talk about the future all the time. In a way, he’s right. Considering the future is part of this district’s daily work, and that makes them exceptionally positioned to shape it.

The type of vibrant, equitable learning ecosystem that we envision will not occur as the result of social forces and disruptions alone. We need courageous leaders willing to engage with uncertainty and challenges, to examine their own assumptions, to hold steadfastly to values of equity and student-centeredness, and to create a culture that empowers everyone to be a decision- and change-maker. Not every district is as ready to transform itself as Las Cruces Public Schools seems to be, but anyone can begin with a simple question: What role will you play in shaping the future?

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What it Takes to Learn

Posts from WOL - Mon, 2016-02-01 13:24

As an educator, I never thought I would be the parent that struggled to support my own children with homework. I envisioned using my teacher tool kit to support numeracy, literacy, scientific inquiry, and strong habits of mind. Little did I know how powerful the attitude of a 6-year-old could be.

In the learning communities KnowledgeWorks supports, we discuss supporting the personalization of learning by empowering children to understand the depth of knowledge outlined in the standard. When learners understand just how deep their knowledge needs to go, they can create, present, and support a piece of evidence that proves their understanding while providing agency into how they do so.

Having served in learning communities that give children the opportunity to personalize their learning at the appropriate cognitive level in Lindsay, California and RSU2  in Maine, we’ve started to do this same work at home. The best time for my daughter and I to practice and learn together is before school as we wait for her bus. One morning as I was reviewing my day’s schedule, I noticed some huffing and puffing from my daughter. She was scratching her head in frustration as she practiced new sight words. As any good father would do, I told her to quiet down so I could concentrate. Her aggravated response to my sarcasm?

“Daddy, this is so level 2. I need to practice to get to level 3. You just don’t get it.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle.This was one of my proudest moments as a father and an educator. My 6-year-old daughter understood that to prove mastery of the standard, she had to acquire this basic set of skills and words. She was determined to persevere, and understood that this was the first step in reaching her goal – and was sure that I couldn’t possibly understand what it meant to her to achieve mastery.

With a proud smile I said, “Maya, I laugh because I get that you get what it takes to learn.”

She was not amused.

“Are you going to help me or not?”

So you’ll have to excuse me while I support my daughter, and other learning communities, in designing learning structures that empower children through competency.

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Find Your Fit in the Future of Learning

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2016-01-28 08:59



How might you contribute to the future learning ecosystem? Time and again, KnowledgeWorks’ strategic foresight work invites readers to look ahead, explore possibilities, and consider what role you might play or how you might fit into the future of education.

With today’s launch of VibrantED, a simulation job recruitment site from the year 2025, that question just got a lot more personal. By highlighting fictional job announcements as if they were openings for which someone could apply, the site brings to life possible future educator roles based on our August 2015 paper, “Exploring the Future Education Workforce: New Roles for an Expanding Learning Ecosystem.” It imagines that the learning ecosystem has expanded beyond today’s understanding of school and that educator roles have diversified to support learners in new settings and fill new ecosystem-level needs.

vibrant-ed-logoThe world that VibrantED inhabits is highly customized, highly personalized, and just might have an unexpected place for you.

Sure, you can simply scroll through the job announcements, keep an eye out for new postings over the coming months, and follow the activity of a cast of fictional characters on Twitter. But you can also find your fit in the expanded learning ecosystem by taking an interactive quiz. Might you thrive as a learning pathway designer? A social innovation portfolio director? A micro-credential analyst? A data steward?

Take the quiz to explore your fit and then check out the fake job openings associated with your ideal role. Ask yourself:

  • How might your current experience translate to the new role?
  • What new skills and competencies might you need to develop?
  • In what ways does the recommended role surprise or dismay you?
  • Is there another role that interests you more?
  • If so, how might you broaden your experience or hone how you describe it?

By providing an immersive experience of a possible future education ecosystem, VibrantED aims to spark conversation and lead to change in how we support learners. It’s one thing to read about future possibilities in a paper. It’s another thing to talk about them in a workshop, to ideate about what you think might be ideal, or to strategize about how to stretch toward new goals.

#FutureEd ‘just might have an unexpected place for you.’ @katprince
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Entering a future world can help us feel the future more directly. Immersing ourselves in future possibilities, if only for a few minutes, can help us shift our thinking and challenge our assumptions about what education has to look and feel like. It can also help us sit with both the positive and negative implications of alternative approaches to learning.

So take a moment to immerse yourself in the world of VibrantED. See what you come back thinking, feeling, ruminating on. See what new questions or new answers emerge. And most of all, enjoy your trip to 2025! Does 2016 look different upon your return?

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