Innovation Addiction: How Do We Sustainably Advance the Future of Work

Posts from WOL - Tue, 09/05/2017 - 1:21pm

Our latest strategic foresight publication, “Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out,” explores how readiness for further learning, career and life might come to be redefined as work changes in the future. That forecast highlights how the rise of smart machines will lead to significant changes to how work is organized and how we complete work tasks. We define the rise of smart machines as the advancement and proliferation of technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning and other forms of automation that are increasingly able to carry out tasks that people perform today.

When I ponder this driver of change, I find that I have mixed feelings about how the rise of smart machines might play out for the future of work. On one hand, reflecting on the long arc of history, technology has played a key role in making work better for the vast majority of people. Technological advancement has helped to automate and reshape work, historically making work safer and less boring by automating or making more efficient repetitive and dangerous tasks. As smart machines continue to advance and proliferate throughout the workplace, this historic pattern gives me hope that the future of work might be one that encourages people to bring their humanity to the workplace and that eliminates more highly repetitive or dangerous tasks.

On the other hand, the rise of smart machines reflects a broader trend that gives me trepidation. Because the rise of smart machines is altering our dominant production paradigm, it represents a paradigm-shifting innovation. Such large-scale innovations in the past include the application of iron, steam, coal and computers to human production. As time goes by, the time between such major applications has gotten shorter and shorter. For example, the time between the second and third Industrial Revolutions was roughly 100 years, but the time between the third and fourth Industrial Revolutions was around fifty years. Zooming further out, the time between the Stone, Bronze and Iron ages was in the thousands of years.

This acceleration of innovation has allowed humanity to enjoy near open-ended growth in our population, our quality of life and our economies. Unbounded growth cannot be sustained without such innovations or access to infinite resources. Since we don’t have the latter, each paradigm-shifting innovation sidestepped the issue of potential collapse. This is where my trepidation comes in: in order to continue to enjoy continuous, open-ended growth, we must not only continue to generate paradigm-shifting innovations; we must do so at ever-faster rates. To put it another way, we have become addicted to innovation to sustain wealth creation and fuel our social systems. If left unchecked, this addiction may ultimately lead to collapse.

There is no quick-fix solution to this dilemma. It is a solution that will require generations and involve reframing core assumptions such as how we define success and value. In the near-term, we can expect the rate of change to continue to increase. Education must prepare learners for a world of work where paradigm-shifting innovations come faster and faster, changing the way work is completed. Looking longer term, we need to prepare ourselves for recovery from our innovation addition. Educators needs to begin fostering a dialogue with learners about how they define success and value so as to sow the seeds of deep change before the accelerating rate of change runs out of paradigm-shifting fuel and leads to collapse.

Download “The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out” to read more about an evolving definition of both college- and career-readiness.

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Why are Standard Operating Procedures a Necessary Foundation for Positive School Culture?

Posts from WOL - Thu, 08/31/2017 - 8:00am

Have you ever watched the scene in The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon uses a flow chart for how to make a new friend using a friendship algorithm?  With the added bonus of humor, it provides three foundational structures that highly compare to what we need in our schools for nourishing a positive culture and building student agency:

  • Student Driven
  • Independence
  • Peer Supports

Student agency is about getting out of the student’s way; it’s about how to answer the question, “what am I supposed to do now?” Even when we create a solution-oriented process for or with students to use at the beginning of the year, many times, we end up promoting a dependent culture because instead of expecting them to use the process or procedure, we jump to giving them the solution. Sometimes, we might take it away too soon because we assume it isn’t going to work.

We want to help, but in the long run, we aren’t. A positive school culture is one that is alive with student-driven actions that range from how they go get a drink of water to how they are going to get through their rigorous learning for the day. Positive school culture doesn’t happen overnight; how we use student voice to set up procedures and processes in combination with consistency and modeling are essential for succeeding in building the positive culture that we need. These standard operating procedures (SOP) must not only exist at the classroom level, but it is also vital to have systemic building level procedures as well.

When Laura Hilger was an administrator at Highland Academy, she and her staffed faced a building level problem with the boy’s bathroom. Find out how they addressed it.When I was an administrator at Highland Academy in Anchorage, Alaska, one of the first lighthouse secondary competency-based schools in our country, we had a building level problem with the boy’s bathroom. The whole school knew about it. Although we had a SOP for when to use the bathroom, students weren’t following our code of cooperation. They were littering and trashing the bathroom. On the one hand, students were following the procedure correctly, but on the other hand, did they deserve to have a SOP that gave them a lot of freedom if they were no longer able to live up to the expectations of our code of cooperation? Was the answer to take the procedure away because students were abusing the school environment? Of course, the abuse was only coming from a small group of students, but there was also the issue of the spectators involved and the bathroom was part of our school. The typical response would be to find those responsible, and provide a consequence such as removing their access to the procedure. But what if you couldn’t determine who was responsible? What if your culture was still working on owning behavior and mistakes? Rather than ignore it because those responsible couldn’t be determined, our answer was to close the bathroom during class time. While this was a legal move because the boys could still go to the bathroom during passing times while a chaperone stood watch near it, the mood of the building imploded with emotions. Even the girls were upset because our culture had been shamed. Because of a few boys, the hallways were now full of hard feelings.

You can imagine how upset the boys were about us essentially taking the bathroom procedure away from everyone. However, our message to them was that this is our school and it’s our responsibility to come to a solution together. According to the data at hand, the boys were clearly demonstrating that they weren’t ready for a bathroom procedure that allowed so much freedom. One student came to me upset saying, “Ms. Hilger, it’s not fair. Most of the boys are using the procedure correctly and following our code.” I replied, “You are correct. What are we going to do?” As an administrator, questions about how to deal with these cultural challenges arise throughout the year. What is important is how we use our agreed upon processes and collegial norms to work with the students to come to a solution. Culture isn’t based on the actions of one person; it’s based on the collective whole that harmonizes around its vision each and every day. It also takes time to build culture and if we don’t take advantage of those learning opportunities, we end up doing what we’ve always done, and that is having the adults as the directors and the students as the followers.

Answering the call, students tried several methods to solve the problem, ultimately leading to a student summit that consisted of the advisory representatives, both boys and girls, all while the bathroom remained closed. They had to go through several ideas before coming to a solution that made sense to them. This involved them holding boy only assemblies, rewriting the bathroom SOP and holding discussions with upper level students. Although it took a while to come to a solution, the bathroom was never messed up again.

Some may argue that spending that amount of time on solving that problem took away from instructional time. Is the bathroom SOP really that important in comparison? In my experience, in the end, the student body was stronger, and therefore, it was very worth it. Would we have preferred for the students who made the mistakes to come forward and own it themselves? Of course, but at the time, they weren’t ready to do that.

At a systems level, that is what we mean by the importance of having SOPs that build a positive school culture. It isn’t just about having a poster on the wall; it’s about putting the students at the center to practice independence and peer supports so that eventually they become stronger agents for themselves and their learning community.

At the classroom level, it is exactly the same. If a SOP is in place, in those moments when a student comes to you with a question that they can answer themselves by using that SOP, try remaining silent and point to the SOP. Or try asking a question that gets the student to the SOP instead of giving them the answer.

If a SOP doesn’t exist and students are forced to come to you instead of figuring it out on their own, that’s a sign that one is needed. When adults are constantly at the center, quite frankly, we are missing the point. Rather than build equitable leadership across the student body that becomes the positive school culture, we live with our pockets of success.

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

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ESSA: State Pioneers in Personalized Educator Support

Posts from WOL - Wed, 08/30/2017 - 8:00am

As students pour back into schoolhouses around the country for yet another year of learning, the final deadline for states to submit their ESSA Consolidated State Plans is fast approaching. All but a few have now released at least a draft of those plans, and the collective results send a clear message to inquiring minds: a new frontier is on the horizon for education in America.

A number of pioneering states are exploring innovative strategies to prepare students for success in the 21st century, and often at the heart of the conversation is student-centered learning. Last week, I noted some of the common trends appearing among the different plans in the Supporting Excellent Educators section. We saw that states are leveraging ESSA’s broad flexibility to rethink everything from how they provide professional development (PD) for educators to how they prepare and certify educators. This week, I’ll highlight some of the most innovative student-centered learning strategies from around the nation and identify a few of the state pioneers lighting the path. Specifically, I’ll focus on the plans to support educators in Arkansas, New Hampshire, and Delaware.


I’ll lead off with the Natural State, as its plan contains one of the most comprehensive, cohesive systems of support for educators concerning the implementation of student-centered learning. For Arkansas, the whole plan is driven by its vision: “to lead the nation in student-focused education so that every student graduates ready for college, career, and community engagement.” Recognizing that to execute such a vision depends heavily on the capacity of the state’s educators to cultivate student-centered learning environments, Arkansas is redesigning how it trains, supports, and evaluates its educators.

Arkansas’s overall Theory of Action includes transforming to a system of competency-based, personalized mentoring and professional learning for teachers (this is reflective of the system the state envisions for its students as well). It all starts with a multi-tiered system of support. At the foundation of that system are the state’s quality standards for teaching and leading. Those quality standards inform data-driven professional growth plans (required for all educators) that are used for evaluative purposes. Data from those growth plans can then lead to personalized PD opportunities for teachers.

Arkansas will offer PD through both face-to-face meetings and virtual options, wherein teachers will have access to an online platform of professional learning that can be accessed anytime, anywhere and can be chosen based on teachers’ individual needs. By demonstrating competency in specific skills or content areas, teachers can earn digital badges known as microcredentials. These microcredentials will signify attainment of skills or knowledge and will streamline the state’s process for review and renewal of teacher credentials. The state will further incentivize districts to align compensation to microcredentialing and advanced licensure. Finally, the whole system of support will be bolstered by an expanded mentoring program, which will provide ongoing, personalized learning opportunities for teachers and access to competency-based, personalized learning tools.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire is already among the most advanced statewide systems for personalized learning in the nation, and its ESSA Plan will only extend that status. With almost half of the school administrative units (SAUs) in the state piloting its personalized learning program—the Performance Assessment of Competency Education (PACE)—New Hampshire has tremendous momentum for personalized learning.

In an effort to create what New Hampshire calls “learner-responsive educators,” the state is building a system of integrated support across the continuum of a teacher’s career. A learner-responsive educator must demonstrate the ability to personalize learning for all students and deliver competency-based education, among other expectations. Like other leading states, New Hampshire will offer access to personalized, digital PD opportunities for all teachers. However, what sets New Hampshire apart is its inclusion of higher education in the effort to advanced personalized learning.

New Hampshire prioritizes the development of learner-responsive educators in both policy and practice. For accreditation and program approval purposes, the New Hampshire Department of Education (NHDOE) includes in its administrative rules the expectation that educator preparation programs produce learner-responsive educators. To that end, the state requires also that educator preparation programs evaluate teacher candidates based upon their ability to demonstrate certain competencies aligned to their chosen area of certification.

Furthermore, state leaders have established the Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) Network, whose members have convened a committee to explore strategies for equipping school leaders with the necessary level of understanding and proficiency to support competency-based and personalized learning environments.


Delaware has a highly integrated, streamlined cycle of support for teachers that begins with a data-driven learning management system (LMS), which leads to personalized, digital trainings for teachers or face-to-face trainings. The state has linked its Schoology LMS with its Professional Development Management System (PDMS) for registration and tracking purposes to provide online PD, mandatory trainings, and technical assistance to the state’s educators based on data. Delaware offers a variety of online, eLearning trainings for educators through both facilitator-led and on-demand, self-paced courses. By pairing such eLearning with any face-to-face PD opportunities that are provided by the state or districts, Delaware is truly personalizing professional learning for its teachers.

As validation for professional learning, and as a way to differentiate career pathways for individual teacher goals and needs, the state has also launched a microcredentials pilot with two districts. Microcredentials in Delaware will be competency-based, personalized, and available on-demand. The goal is to meet the needs of individual teachers and to provide a potential path for educators to earn hours towards re-licensure.

Finally, Delaware offers Reimagining Professional Learning Grants, which support the improved quality and efficacy of professional learning. These grants are awarded based on a district’s ability to integrate Delaware’s professional learning standards and to incorporate innovative, rigorous professional learning models that will strengthen teaching and learning in ELA, math, and literacy.

To be sure, several other states have proposed innovative strategies in addition to those mentioned here. Idaho and Georgia, among others, have unique solutions of their own that should be celebrated. But while the three states featured in this post certainly don’t represent all of the innovations being discussed, I do think their plans can be instructive for those who are rethinking how to prepare a teaching corps for today’s and tomorrow’s world. What we hope will be evident from this post is that as the world around us evolves at a historic pace, so too should the way we prepare our children to thrive in that world. Without the proper training and support, however, the teachers responsible for preparing our children may be hopelessly lost. It is therefore incumbent on our state leaders to light the path and create opportunities for our teachers to build the skills they need to succeed in continuously evolving student-centered environments.

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

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Using Your District Budget as a Communications Tool: Building Trust Through Transparency

Posts from WOL - Tue, 08/29/2017 - 8:00am

It may not seem like it, but using your district budget as a communications tool reinforces both the value you provide as well as where you need financial reinforcements to have great impact. A clear and strong communications strategy around your budget helps parents, educators, staff and the community see the advancement of a shared vision, and work together to achieve your collective goals and strengthen the culture and transparency of your learning community.

Your strategy should begin with articulating your shared vision and demonstrating the alignment of resources, budget priorities and expected outcomes. The investments you make are a clear signal to the community of what you value and are key indicators of your commitment to the vision and achieving your goals.An integrated plan to communicate can also help to strengthen awareness and understanding for taxpayers who do not have students in the system, but will make decisions on whether to invest and vote yes in a future bond referendum and/or levy request.

When creating a basic communications plan for your budget, ask yourself are you:

  • Communicating an overview of the budget process?
  • Ensuring forums and opportunities for stakeholder and public engagement to participate and understand how the budget was developed?
  • Providing an explanation of the decisions that resulted from the budget process?
  • Creating opportunities for public feedback?
  • Identifying credible messengers (both people and communications vehicles) that are trusted with each audience?

Check out this practical resource created by The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) for greater details.

Ready for the next step? When expanding your communications strategy, consider the following:

  • Map out key opportunities and forums throughout the year to provide an update on key investments
  • Clearly and consistently communicate the successes of schools or milestones in initiatives through a storytelling campaign
    • Identify which budget priorities to highlight and develop strong storytelling around the initiative – strive to highlight a story once a month through social media/web, outreach events, newsletters, local media, speaking engagements
    • Create a campaign tagline with accompanying visual identity and #hashtag to help promote and strengthen connections with their investments
    • Invite and encourage board members to visit schools / initiative activities so they may highlight at the board table during Board comments
    • Consider building upon your budget webpage to include updates and link stories
  • Establish regular two-way communications with families and the community
    • Develop a publication for distribution to district residents (taxpayer focus) – consider partnership with utility or town water distribution to broaden reach
    • Implement a “speaker’s bureau” of in-district experts for use by community and business organizations
    • Develop a realtor and chamber outreach campaign to provide resources to help new residents/businesses learn about the school system

When it comes to budgets, start the process early. Be transparent. Get the community engaged by meeting them where they are. Find your story. And make sure to always connect the faces of students and the impact on their lives with the numbers.

Download KnowledgeWorks' Back-to-School Toolkit to uncover insights from other district and school leaders.Download our Get Ready: Back-to-School Culture Toolkit to learn four essential things to consider when beginning – and communicating – the budget process.

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Do Your Students Know Themselves as Learners? Three Tips To Help Your Students Discover Their Learning Styles.

Posts from WOL - Mon, 08/28/2017 - 8:00am

The beginning of the school year is upon us and I see you, hardworking educators. I see you planning lessons and preparing your classroom for new learners. You are collecting supplies, organizing textbooks, and thinking through the best way to get to know your students.

This year, consider this new, two-part challenge: Get to know your students as learners and then help students know themselves.

By helping students discover their learning preferences, strengths and growth areas, you give them a skillset that lasts far beyond this school year. If a student knows how to learn, they will be set up for success throughout life.

If you have 25-30 kids in your class, I know this may seem daunting. I’ve been there. But this isn’t about 25-30 unique lesson plans per day. It’s about giving students some voice, choice and engagement opportunities to access your content and lessons in the best way for them.

Here are some ideas to help your students discover their learning styles:

1. Offer flexibility with parameters

Set guidelines within which students can make choices. How are they best going to accomplish a specific task? This can work with students across all ages. I can talk to a five year old about reading time, and ask them, ‘Do you want to read to Miss K? Do you want to read aloud with a buddy? Do you want to read on your own?’ Still hesitant? Here’s proof that personalized learning is possible no matter what age.

2. Partner with your students to create a learner-centered classroom

What could your culture look like if you asked learners to take part in setting classroom rules? What types of flexible seating would students like? Build the best learner-centered classroom by bringing your students into the conversation.

3. Create personal learner profiles

This is my favorite tool for getting to know your learners. It helps identify how students learn best based on strengths, challenges, interests, aspirations, talents and passions. The best part? It’s not for you to fill out. Allow students to think about how they like to access information (through books, videos, a teacher?), what working style engages them most (through hands-on projects, working alone, working in groups, listening or talking?), and how they best express what they’ve learned (through a presentation, creative project, or report?). This activity gives learners the opportunity to self-reflect, and it also gives you insight into their learning styles.

Personal learner profiles – district approach to help learners know themselves #personalizedlearning @MarysvilleEVSD pic.twitter.com/bGOGH6l6xG

— Robin Kanaan (@RobinKanaan) August 11, 2017

I recently heard the story of an early college high school student who discovered her strength as an auditory learner. She talked with the teacher and they found space for her to read test questions aloud to herself. This small change focused on and recognized the student’s learning style and strength, and she immediately started passing all her tests with flying colors.

Imagine the potential this has to change your classroom this year. How can you empower your students to be learners?

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Michelle Strickland: #FutureEd Reflections from an Educator

Posts from WOL - Fri, 08/25/2017 - 8:00am

Reflections from Imagine FutureEd

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

Michelle Strickland teaches a Makerspace class at Trigg County High School in Cadiz, KY. The class is meant to give students hands-on learning experience that can help them build skills that will prepare them for college and career. She supported her 27 students in her class to compete in the Imagine FutureEd competition, and two of her students, Savannah VanGotum and Layne Shelton, were selected as winners. Below is an excerpt of an interview with Michelle, edited for length and clarity.

What made you decide to participate in the Imagine FutureEd competition?

My principal received an email about it, and he forwarded it to me. This year we started a makerspace in our school, and he suggested that the competition might be a good fit, so that was the catalyst.

Can you describe the makerspace setting? How did you incorporate Imagine FutureEd into your other activities?

We are in a very rural area and there aren’t a lot of places available for kids to have internships or co-ops, but we are constantly looking for those opportunities. We run the makerspace as an internship and do all project-based learning. For example, we teamed with the day care that’s in our school and made construction projects for them out of cardboard. We learned 3D printing and went through some CAD training for that. We learned how to run wiring.

We spent a month on the competition. We did the lessons and I added some supplemental activities, such as watching and discussing videos about the future and inviting a guest speaker to offer some of her ideas about the future of learning. One student found the video A Day Made of Glass. We decided that if that future was possible, we should all start investing in window cleaning products today!

Why do you think teaching your students to think about the future is important?

A lot of our students don’t really think past graduating. I think it was important to start thinking outside of our area. We do have about 4 or 5 factories here, and there are not a lot of other job opportunities besides farms. Some of those jobs can be replaced by machines, so we spent a lot of time talking about that, and it was a really good catalyst for them to start thinking: if a factory gets replaced, what would I do? We watched excerpts from Hidden Figures and discussed how the characters saw that a new computer was going to be able to do the work they were doing, so they taught themselves how to use that machine and changed their own ideas of what their job could be.

What were some of the highlights of the process in your opinion?

I think it was great to help them think about something besides their own immediate future, like  their graduation. They started to realize that education is going to affect them when they pay for taxes. When they become adults, they will have a part in education, even if you aren’t directly taking a class. It’s important for everybody to think about.

What’s your ideal future of learning?

I want a future where we understand how to motivate students and how to tap into their internal motivation to learn. I want teachers to be the catalyst that helps kids realize “I need to learn this” and then help them do that. That’s what we really tried to do this year by introducing them to things that none of them had experienced but that they realized might be important skills for them to learn. I want to see a future where we better understand how to instill that desire to learn within students.


KnowledgeWorks is hosting a student design competition, Imagine FutureEd.Visit the Imagine FutureEd website to read excerpts from the winning scenarios and access materials Michelle used to support her students in the competition.

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The Gig Economy Isn’t Coming; It’s Here. What Does that Mean for Education?

Posts from WOL - Thu, 08/24/2017 - 8:00am

You can recognize them by the spinning contraption that sits on top if their roofs. This contraption is lidar, a form of radar that helps a self-driving car navigate and manage distance. In my home city of Pittsburgh, it is almost impossible to spend anytime outside and not see a vehicle with lidar.

The emergence of self-driving cars in the steel city stems from the ride sharing company Uber testing their fleet of autonomous vehicles. This fleet signals an emerging future where smart machines, such as the self-driving car, are capable of doing more and more tasks that used to fall strictly in the domain of human work. It also signals a future where work is organized differently than it is today.

Uber and other ride sharing platforms such as Lyft represent work that falls under what is often called the gig or project-based economy. As the names imply, workers who participate in these economies are hired to do a gig or a project for a duration of time. Work in this economy is typically not full time and is often contract based. In the case of ride sharing platforms, the driver is considered a contractor, not an employee; and the gig or project is to drive.

As our latest forecast, “Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out” detailed, project-based work is on the rise, and the average job tenure is falling. Today, the average adult holds 11.7 jobs in his or her lifetime. To put that statistic in perspective, if the average adult works for fifty years, that person will have a new job roughly every four years, making frequent job changes the norm for many people. Research firm McKinsey Global Institute estimates that 54 to 68 million people in the United States already work in the project-based economy. This number is expected to rise thanks large part to the lower coordination costs afforded by the internet and the access to an expanded labor pool resulting from globalization. The internet is making it increasingly cost effective for firms to access people with specialized skills on the open market instead of employing people full-time.

Even as the project based economy is growing, it is already beginning to change by becoming increasingly granular. This granularity is called taskification, or the breaking down of formal jobs or projects into discrete tasks, often at lower wages and with informal job structures. Examples of taskification include Amazon Mechanical Turk and Daemo. Both are online, crowdsourced marketplaces where individuals and businesses coordinate on “human intelligence tasks,” or tasks that computers are currently unable to complete. Another example is Task Rabbit , an online platform that matches freelance labor with people who need tasks, such as house cleaning, home repair, or running errands, completed.

As jobs are broken down into projects, and project are broken down into tasks, such platforms are creating new avenues for people to earn or supplement a living by creating relatively easy “opt in” employment structures where someone who needs a job signs up to work and can dip in and out of working as needed. This type of breakdown or segmentation of work also makes such types of employment structures easier to automate.

Going back to Uber as an example, the job of driving a taxi was broken down into the task of driving. Where a taxi driver has to be hailed, navigate and collect the fare, Uber simply summons a human driver to a point of need while algorithms handle finding the customer, navigating and collecting payment. Now that Uber is trialing self-driving cars, the company will eventually replace even the human behind the wheel.

As more and more people enter employment through the platform and taskified economies, education must consider how to prepare them for a future of work that is organized quite differently than it is today. Discrete skills will always be important, but, given how fluid work can be and how susceptible jobs are to automation in these new types of economies, such skills will likely have a drastically shorter shelf life than they do today. Education will have to prepare learners to thrive in an increasingly uncertain world, where jobs and professional pursuits are reconfigured even as they are being created. It is not just technological displacement and a new future of work for which educators must prepare young people, but also new ways of organizing jobs and tasks.

How do you think education can prepare young people for a world where much work will be organized differently than it is today? Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #RedefineReady or comment on Facebook.

Download “The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out” to read more about an evolving definition of both college- and career-readiness.

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After Reading 10,000+ College Applications, Will Geiger knows a Thing or Two about “Readiness”

Posts from WOL - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 10:00am

If you want to have an interesting conversation about “readiness” and the workforce, Will Geiger is your guy.

As a first-generation college student, his college search experience sparked his interest in education. While working in the postsecondary sector, he helped hundreds of students through the admission process and read nearly 10,000 applications. It quickly became clear to him that test scores, recommendations, interviews and essays are not necessarily the best predictors of postsecondary success.

Now, Will works at Knack, a mission-focused startup that uses gamification and predictive analytics to unlock talent and connect individuals to opportunities. He sees Knack as a valuable tool for students to show their cognitive, social and emotional skills, and, as director of education strategy and partnerships, he helps educational organizations innovate their recruitment and talent development processes.

KnowledgeWorks submitted a SXSWedu session that would feature Will’s perspective on how we can better ensure all students are prepared for success in the future. If our session is selected, he would be able to share his experience as a first-generation college-goer who now works to help more students achieve their goals.

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

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

The current system simply is not working. Antiquated systems of credentialing, ineffective hiring processes and the rise of technology have all created an incredible inefficiency in our labor market. We can see one example of this here in the United States where records have been set for the number of job openings that have gone unfilled (according to the Labor Department, this number passed 6 million in June). This clearly shows that there is a mismatch in regards to how we prepare students for current job opportunities.

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

The ability to learn quickly and adapt to new environments is currently critical and will continue to be necessary for success. The World Economic Forum says that 65 percent of kids entering elementary school today will wind up working in jobs that don’t exist today. This is staggering and underscores the need for individuals who know how to learn and adapt.

Why do you think people should vote for this session?

The future of work is an incredibly complex topic that requires a multidisciplinary approach to truly appreciate the scope of it. This session leverages the collective wisdom of people with expertise in K-12 education, technology, education policy, and neuroscience, which will provide a robust overview and discussion of how we can prepare students to take advantage of the opportunities in the future.

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

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

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ESSA: Exciting New Strategies for Educator Effectiveness

Posts from WOL - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 8:00am

With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015, the federal government peeled back many of the most prescriptive provisions of its previous education laws in exchange for greater state-level flexibility. The new law encourages states to capitalize on this flexibility by developing innovative strategies to improve student outcomes and advance educational equity for all. In response, many states are launching bold new plans to make student-centered learning a centerpiece of their education systems. No doubt, such plans aim to shift the focus of education from the one-size-fits-all, factory model of old to a system built to foster the individual success of each and every child in the 21st century.

One of the most exciting opportunities within ESSA to advance student-centered learning lies in Title II of the law, Support for Educators. Several states have revealed groundbreaking new strategies to prepare teachers and leaders for student-centered learning environments. In today’s post, I’ll share a few of the most common, promising trends we’re seeing around educator support systems and highlight some of the pioneering states that interested readers might want to check out. Here are our top trends so far:

Personalized Professional Development for Teachers

A number of states are updating their professional development PD systems to include personalized supports aligned to the individual needs of each educator—a shift from the old paradigm of “sit and get” PD delivered in a whole group setting. Some of the more innovative concepts include individual professional growth plans tied to teacher evaluations and educator competencies, personalized PD aligned to such growth plans, one-on-one mentorship provided to new teachers and micro-credentialing opportunities offered to advance progress towards individual career goals or pathways. While only a few examples, they signal states’ increasing recognition of the need to focus on individual growth, both at the student level and the teacher level. The most progressive states are exploring ways to integrate many of these concepts into a seamless continuum of support. States to watch include Arkansas, Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon and Tennessee, among others.

Self-Paced, Online PD Opportunities

Truly personalized PD means not only that the content of PD is selected based on individual needs, but also that the method of accessing that content is based on individual needs. Several states are now developing a menu of online PD offerings that can be accessed anytime, anywhere in addition to more traditional face-to-face PD opportunities. Such online offerings may allow teachers to progress through professional learning at their own pace and choose from a broader array of PD opportunities, in addition to those offered in face-to-face settings. Some of the more advanced online PD portals may be linked to online educator dashboards or learning management systems and may lead to micro-credentials. Check out Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina and Oregon for innovative models.

Training for 21st Century Teaching & Learning

As states transition from factory model education systems to a focus on student-centered learning, many are thinking about the preparation their educators will need to better facilitate student success in a new environment. Some states are proposing to launch statewide training initiatives—often delivered regionally via cooperative educational agencies—on best practices in 21st century teaching and learning, and some are creating digital trainings to be embedded within online PD systems. Though the method of delivering such training opportunities may vary by state, the more common topics for state trainings have included the following: competency-based education, personalized learning, blended learning or social-emotional learning. Any strategies designed to deliver training on one of these themes would signal the state’s intention to ensure that educators are prepared for 21st century pedagogy. Look to Arkansas, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire and South Dakota for models of training strategies on 21st century teaching and learning.

Aligned Educator Preparation Programs

As the frontlines of the teacher pipeline, educator preparation programs are perhaps the most fertile and critical grounds to begin preparing teachers for success in student-centered learning environments. Although higher education can sometimes be a more challenging sector to transform using policy as a lever, some states have developed collaborative partnerships with institutes of higher education to prepare teacher candidates for student-centered learning environments. In fact, some have gone so far as to update accreditation standards for educator preparation programs, requiring that such programs incorporate student-centered learning principles. Some states are even exploring ways to partner with postsecondary institutions to begin preparing the next generation of educators while they are still in high school. Among those advancing student-centered learning principles in educator preparation programs are Idaho, New Hampphire and New York.

Multiple Pathways to Certification

By eliminating the highly-qualified teacher requirement, ESSA gives states an opportunity to design a new strategy for educator quality that aligns to a vision for personalized learning. Many states are implementing strategies that will align their certification and licensure requirements to reflect new teaching roles and competencies for instruction in student-centered learning environments. To ensure that students have access to teachers with the content knowledge and expertise needed to offer a well-rounded array of educational opportunities, forward-thinking states have proposed multiple pathways to credentialing and flexible routes to re-certification. Additionally, some states are looking at creating multiple tiers of certification aligned to compensation. Compelling proposals around certification can be found in the plans from Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii and Mississippi.

Read about groundbreaking new strategies to prepare teachers and leaders for student-centered learning environments, as submitted in ESSA state plans.

ESSA permits states to reserve up to 3% of their Title II, Part A grant dollars to build a workforce of principals and other school leaders with the skills to help schools transition to personalized learning environments. Recognizing the importance of preparing today’s school leaders to be stewards of growth-oriented teaching and learning environments, numerous states have set forth plans to establish leadership development programs, leader competencies and leader evaluations. Several are proposing personalized PD for leaders, and a few have even proposed the establishment of new leadership roles aligned to student-centered learning. See plans from Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Missouri, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Utah.

While ESSA offers unprecedented opportunities for flexibility and innovation, states nevertheless face profound challenges in meeting the needs of 21st century learners. As each state reflects on its current educational landscape and attempts to build for future needs, it is our hope that our educational leaders keep one truth front-and-center: that one size can no longer fit all. By sharing some of the most innovative proposals to advance student-centered learning, we hope in this blog series to encourage more states to explore new ways to improve student outcomes and advance educational equity for the children of today and tomorrow.

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

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Who better for SXSWedu than RSU2 Superintendent Bill Zima?

Posts from WOL - Tue, 08/22/2017 - 11:00am

Every time I talk to Bill Zima, superintendent of RSU2 in Maine, I learn something new or think a little differently about education. He has over 15 of school experience, both in the classroom and in the district offices, and he constantly thinks about how to best educate students. Bill always advocates for the success of every kid in his district.

And did I mention he started his career at the Phoenix Zoo and Disney’s Animal Kingdom training animals and designing learning experiences for people to interact with and learn from the natural world?

KnowledgeWorks submitted a SXSWedu session that would feature Bill’s insight on how we ensure students are prepared for the future workforce. If our session is selected, Bill would be able to share RSU2’s progress toward including hope as a success measurement throughout the district.

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

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

We continuously hear from experts that the world of work is changing. Recently, I heard an interview with Thomas Friedmen where he said America has lost the high-wage, low-skill jobs that built the middle class in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. He cited several reasons but one is the iPhone and its ability to do algorithmic operations on a customizable scale. Machines continue to get smarter, smaller, and more affordable so their availability to the masses allows individuals to seek solutions they desire. Students of today will be the working learners of tomorrow. We need to build their skillset so they have the mindset that they will if they can just think around the obstacles that lay in front of them. Being the one who remembers all is no longer enough. The people of value will be those who can use the knowledge to create value.

Advanced technologies also make data more accessible. In order to take advantage of this data, workers of tomorrow will need to know the right question to ask. Data should not inform but instead be used to answer questions about an organization’s health and the best next steps to take. Constant improvement happens when we ask the right questions to reflect against. Those questions are the ones that drive us and not simply confirm what we want to believe.

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

Students in our school should practice:

  1. How to set goals and monitor progress to meeting those goals.
  2. Reading for understanding: Ability to obtain and analyze information, whether it be written, spoken, or quantitative (numeracy), to make decisions.
  3. Effectively communicating concise conclusions, orally through presentations and discussions, and also written.
  4. Problem solving / Thinking, including Design Thinking, Engineering, Social, etc.
  5. Practice collaborating with others.
  6. Being a self-motivator. They need to learn how to drive themselves.

Why do you think people should vote for this session?

This is a good session to vote for because it will give participants a chance to learn how one district is using research-based practices in learning sciences and future forecasting to create a school system that supports the development of the skillset and mindset that will be required to be successful in the future workplace. We should give learners opportunities to set goals for their future selves, and to find pathways through the obstacles to meet those will build their sense of agency. Our job is to create the conditions in our schools for learners to practice those important competencies of hope.

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

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

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More Than 500 Educators Gathered to Innovate, Collaborate and Inspire at Second Annual Elevate Summit

Posts from WOL - Tue, 08/22/2017 - 8:00am

It takes strong leadership to drive change. That’s what Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze establish in their book Walk Out Walk On. It profiles communities all over the world that have tapped into their own resources and resiliency to create and live their desired future now. Powerfully described, at the root, it is about leadership. The authors point to patterns and trends that daring leaders have across all the communities they examined.

 engage, equip, empower.

I couldn’t help but hear Wheatley whispering in my ear while attending Mesa County Valley District 511’s Elevate Summit this summer. The patterns were very present in this learning community of over 500 educators. On the surface, it was like any other educator conference, but at every turn, I felt the energy of a learning community coming together, dedicated to their vision for the future: engage, equip, empower. In the back of my mind, I knew that Wheatley would have commended the learning atmosphere; she would have noticed the patterns coming alive.

Excited and ready to learn, share, & collaborate @district51 Elevate! It’s going to be a powerful two days to grow for Ss. #d51elevate pic.twitter.com/SLfLznBiVm

— Laura Hilger (@hilgerl) July 31, 2017

Pattern #1: We turn to one another

“Whatever the problem, community is the answer. There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” – Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze

At the Elevate Summit, educators spent time together sitting in circles, having rigorous conversations around their fears and planning next steps for the start of the school year.

I witnessed teams spending time together sitting in circles, having rigorous conversations around their fears and planning next steps for the start of the school year. I heard educators asking one another for input and feedback over and over. A key to sustaining change is turning to each other, knowing that the wisdom is present in the community.

Pattern #2: We make our path by walking it

“If the road looks familiar, if we’ve walked it before, if we feel comfortable knowing where we’re going, then we aren’t walking on, we aren’t pioneering something new.” – Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze

Elevate brought educators together around the common theme of performance-based learning, the vision for District 51. How District 51 rolls out their vision is a work in progress, and this conference showed commitment from staff district-wide. There were many questions and uncomfortable moments, but we aren’t learning if that’s not taking place. Knowing how it all is going to go step by step is not the description for authentic learning. When we have really learned something, rarely is the line straight; we create the path by venturing through the unknown together. With that in mind, we always want to build our clarity and transparency together, even if that means we aren’t always sure.

Digging into to standards w @district51 educators #d51elevate pic.twitter.com/ZInkIg3jlt

— Laura Hilger (@hilgerl) July 31, 2017

Pattern #3: The leaders we need are already here

“They don’t declare themselves “a leader”; they just start acting to change things.” – Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze

Building teacher capacity is an essential leverage action for sustaining change and increasing student achievement. While those statements are proven facts in the world of education, teachers don’t go far in isolation. They go far when they are given opportunities to collaborate, and discuss their professional practice and data. They go far when they are given time to build their own clarity, whatever that means for them. Just like we ask teachers to do for our students, our teachers deserve the space to act on the change.

Download KnowledgeWorks' Back-to-School Toolkit to uncover insights from other district and school leaders.Looking for inspiration to advance the vision of your learning community? Download our Get Ready: Back-to-School Culture Toolkit to uncover insights from other district and school leaders.

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Neuroscience + Technology + Education = The Perfect SXSWedu Panelist

Posts from WOL - Mon, 08/21/2017 - 11:00am

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

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

Neuroscience meets education meets technology. How cool is that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do you think people should vote for this session?

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

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

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

The post Neuroscience + Technology + Education = The Perfect SXSWedu Panelist appeared first on World of Learning.

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5 Ways to a More Student-Centered Classroom

Posts from WOL - Mon, 08/21/2017 - 8:00am

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Consider using flexible seating.

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

4. Let learners be the experts.

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

5. Foster a growth mindset.

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. District Website:

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

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

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

2. Classic School Building and Classroom Signs:

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

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

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

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

3. School and District Twitter Accounts:

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

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

4. eNewsletters:

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

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

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

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

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

5. Events:

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

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

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

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

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

— Virgel Hammonds (@VirgelHammonds) August 1, 2017

Learn more about the Elevate Summit:

See more school stories by following @EdPersonalized.

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Charlottesville and Talking to Students about Traumatic Events

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

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


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

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

Resources for talking about Charlottesville:

Example district responses to Charlottesville:

Educator perspectives on talking about Charlottesville:

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

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

— NPR (@NPR) August 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Rhode Island: Providing Principles and Strategies that Prioritize Community Involvement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the complete Rhode Island state’s plan.

Tennessee: Empowerment, Innovation and Data Collection

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

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

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

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

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

Read the complete Tennessee state’s plan.

New York: Establishing A Participatory Budgeting Process for Parents

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

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

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

Read the complete New York state ’s plan.

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

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

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Savannah VanGotum: CPI NAN

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

Reflections from Imagine FutureEd

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

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

Describe how you came up with your ideas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Why is this an important conversation right now?

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

Q: Why should people register for the webinar?

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

Register now to learn more from Lillian Pace and NCSL.

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A Bell Schedule without Bells: Redesigning the High School Infrastructure

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

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

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

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

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

These are exciting times folks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starting from scratch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asynchronous Schedule

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

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

Asynchronous Schedule Example:

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

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


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






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