Social-Emotional Skills: The Core of Future Readiness

Posts from WOL - Thu, 06/29/2017 - 12:17pm

Sometimes my five-year-old daughter Chloe melts down at bath time. Her behavior is pretty typical of a tired child: running away, seeing how close she can get to hitting me, attempting to engage in extended dance routines instead of getting in the tub. I have my ways of intervening, trying to calm her down and corral her toward the waiting water. But of course, they don’t always work. Sometimes, things escalate. We both get angry.

One of Chloe’s ways of handling these intense moments is to retreat into her turtle shell. She curls up into a ball on the floor, puts her hands over her head, and takes some time to re-center herself. She’ll even exclaim, “I’m going into my turtle!”

Chloe learned this technique in a program called The Dinosaur School that her child care center embeds in its preschool and pre-kindergarten classes throughout the core academic year. Using characters who are dinosaurs as guides and examples, the program’s teacher, Ms. Kathy, helps the children learn basic social-emotional skills such as taking turns, speaking kindly to classmates and expressing anger in acceptable ways. There is simple but regular homework that asks students and parents to discuss strategies related to the week’s lesson or invites students to draw responses to prompts.

Using a program called Dinosaur School, Katherine Prince's daughter is learning social-emotional skills that will prepare her for later in life.Upon completing the pre-kindergarten version of the program this spring, Chloe earned her first “diploma.” She understood herself to have graduated from Dinosaur School.

I’m glad that Chloe has had deliberate and regular exposure to social-emotional skills development. Yes, I want her to play nice with others. And I prefer when she does not express her frustration by hitting me. More importantly, she has had early and deliberate coaching in building foundational skills that will support her in navigating future learning experiences and in preparing for her far-off work life and other adult responsibilities.

As highlighted in “Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out,” developing core social-emotional skills will be essential for mastering the new foundation for readiness that we think will help people navigate an uncertain and rapidly changing future of work. We will need to develop our uniquely human capabilities in order to distinguish ourselves from and work effectively alongside smart machines partners, navigate changing employment structures and reskill and upskill frequently.

Babies born today will be graduating from college in the year 2040. This new foundation for readiness applies to them, as well as to all of us who will still be working and supporting learners then.Download a larger .pdf of A New Foundation for Readiness, an illustration from “The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out.”

To take a closer look at the core social-emotional skills:

  • Deep self-knowledge will help people develop visions for our lives and continue to discover their own personal and professional strengths, weaknesses, passions, and emotional patterns.
  • Individual awareness will help people recognize and regulate our emotions; understand the triggers that spark them; and shift to more desired, productive emotional states when needed.
  • Social awareness will help people recognize others’ emotions and perspectives, enabling us to build relationships in support of learning, collaboration, and innovation and foster inclusive work environments.

These skills promise to support today’s young people in navigating successfully different possible futures of work and different degrees of support for adapting to changing circumstances.

K-12 educators can begin fostering this new foundation for readiness by finding more ways to teach and integrate skills-based social-emotional curricula, guiding the development of emotion-based skills and practices over time. Postsecondary educators can also integrate support for deep personal development, preparing students to become more resilient and adaptable and enabling them to push through discomfort, navigate change, and identify aspirational goals.

Organizations currently working in this space can be resources in formulating new strategies around social-emotional skill development:

Schools, districts and state departments of education need to begin considering how to move past the historic focus on mastering content and the more recent focus on thinking and doing to establish a new focus on feeling and relating. This new focus will enable students to develop the skills and practices necessary to meet the emerging realities of work with adaptability and resilience.

For more on what the changing nature of work could mean for the future of readiness, download “Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out.”

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Personalized Learning to Make it Relevant, Challenging and Appropriate in an Urban Setting

Posts from WOL - Wed, 06/28/2017 - 8:00am

When I started teaching, I felt in over my head, as I think many new teachers do. I reacted the best I could, worked hard and, without knowing it, personalized learning for my students in a way that made learning relevant to them.

For the past two years I taught ninth grade Modern World History in Cincinnati, Ohio. My entire school qualified for free and reduced lunch, we had a large population of immigrant students, and just about 97% of my students were Black. My students were intelligent, charismatic, and full of personality. Being their teacher for the past two years has been one of the most important experiences in my life, and I am forever grateful for all they taught me. We weren’t without our challenges, although. Despite the beauty in my students, some of them faced really harsh realities.

I knew I was taking the time to get to know my students and their needs, I knew that I wanted them to succeed. I also knew simply teaching from the book and handing out a worksheet wasn’t going to cut it. So instead I used technology and videos, had socratic seminars to debate topics and used stations activities to increase student interaction. I didn’t know that the strategies I had employed to foster engagement in my classroom were techniques that aligned with personalized learning. But now, through my fellowship at KnowledgeWorks, I’m learning that it was. And quite frankly, I think many teachers already personalize learning without realizing it.

Here are three ways I “fell” into personalized learning and made learning relevant, challenging and appropriate for my students in an urban setting.

Culturally-relevant lessons

My students didn’t look like the people we studied in our world history class and, for the most part, they didn’t come from the places we studied. The material, as outlined by the required district pacing guide, wasn’t culturally relevant to them. They would constantly ask me “When are we going to learn some Black history?” My students were telling me exactly what they needed to stay in engaged in their learning; they needed to learn about their own culture and history.

When we studied World War II, I made sure to explicitly add in a study of Black history. We learned about the Double V Campaign and the ways in which Black soldiers fought for our country abroad and for their freedoms back home. We still followed the pacing guide, because it was required, but students learned through the lens of their own identities.

In another history class, students studied gentrification in downtown Cincinnati, a neighborhood in which many students were born and raised. Students then compared the displacement of long-time residents in downtown Cincinnati to the displacement of native peoples in North America. The projects were amazing, and the insight the students had about the causes and effects of the displacement were so profound. It reminded me of just how brilliant my students can be when they’re really engaged in what they’re learning.

Multiple ways to demonstrate mastery

For a lot of my students, it didn’t feel fair fair that the only way to show mastery of a standard was to pass one test at the end of the unit. As someone who experienced testing anxiety as a student, I knew I needed to offer other options for my students. Luckily, I love projects and think they fit so well with history content.

Moving to a student-centered approach of demonstrating mastery through projects got my students moving in the classroom and engaged with their  learning. I would pose a question, the “essential question,” to the class, give some guidance and then ask my students to create either an essay, video, gallery or other creative production to show mastery. This increased rigor in the classroom and kept my kids engaged. It wasn’t always easy, and it took a lot of work on the front end, but the kids and I enjoyed our content more this way. We did projects in almost every unit, and in most units, the final project also served as the summative assessment.

Providing students an opportunity to demonstrate what they learned in multiple ways created a more well-rounded learning experience.

Supportive classroom culture for students and families

My own learning experience was very different from my students. I needed to find ways to bridge that cultural divide and create a classroom culture that was supportive of my students. If I had tried to apply the same teaching tactics that I experienced as a student while teaching myself, things would have been disastrous. Our environments just weren’t the same.

For example, when I was in high school, the rule was no food in class – not even chewing gum. If I didn’t allow food in my classroom, many of my students wouldn’t be able to focus. Many of my students came to school to eat. This was where they had a guaranteed breakfast and lunch.

Another adjustment I had to make was related to the way that I communicated with parents. Many of my parents weren’t able to come to parent teacher conferences; the time didn’t coordinate with their work schedules. Conferences were typically from 3 to 6 pm, prime hours for people to be at work. A lot of parents didn’t show up, but not because they didn’t want to but because they couldn’t. I knew that I needed to update my parents about their child’s progress, so we started texting back and forth. I would text them to either set up another date and time, or I would do the conference over text. I had to step out of my own comfort zone, but in the end, it was all for the benefit of my students.

Creating an equitable learning environment with personalized learning

It’s funny to me now because in many ways these three things sound like good teaching tactics, and in a sense, they are. Assessing the needs of your students and ensuring that they have access to great learning, no matter what, is good teaching. Creating an environment that celebrates student identity everyday is good teaching. Finding creative ways to incorporate families into the classroom culture is good teaching.

I’m proud that I was able to personalize learning for my students and make learning exciting. But that was to some extent a happy accident. How many students don’t get to have the same experiences? How many teachers don’t develop teaching tactics like I did? What about all of the things that, had I known better, I could have done better? I would love to see some sort of platform through which teachers are learning from each other and from their students about how to personalize learning even more.

My questions for other teachers: How have you “fallen” into personalized learning? What strategies have you used to engage your students in a personalized way?

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An Essential Element in Making the Transition to Personalized Learning: Community

Posts from WOL - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 8:00am

If there’s one thing Steve Schultz emphasizes about his school district’s journey to personalized learning, it’s the community.

From a visit to Lindsey Unified in California that included various people from Mesa County Valley School District 51 (D51), to local conversations about vision, the community has been involved every step of the way. In fact, in almost every story the now-retired D51 superintendent shares about his district’s transformation, some aspect of community engagement and collaboration is involved.

And that community involvement has been paying off..

“At this point, I truly can’t identify any pushback so far,” Schultz said. “We have answered questions that come up, but we’ve just tried to be very transparent about what we’re doing. We try to communicate on a regular basis. We’re still in the early stages, but we’ve come a long way. The reason we have is because we’ve involved so many people.”

And community engagement requires transparency, according to Rebecca Midles, director of performance-based learning at D51.

“If this is going to survive, there’s definitely a burning platform for the community to play a larger role,” she said. “People know that we are being transparent. They know that we are giving them opportunities to engage in the work and be a part of the solution, and that in itself is the truest form of transparency.”

Here are three lessons from D51 about engaging community in the personalized learning journey.

  1. You can learn from other districts, but remember that your district’s implementation will be unique. D51 took a group of stakeholders to Lindsey Unified – a district with years of experience with competency education. While it was a good learning experience, they knew it wouldn’t be a cookie-cutter approach.“You don’t go to Lindsey and come back here to implement the Lindsey model,” Schultz said. “It really has to fit the needs and character of your own space. You have to have connections and partnerships to do this, because the problems in each community are different.”

    “You can learn from other districts, but your district’s implementation will be unique.”
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  2. Remember that change – in any sense – is hard work. Be understanding if your community members need time to adjust.“You’re dealing with a system that is top-down and filled with programmatic decisions,” Schultz said. “It can be a tough transition if you’re really trying to build a learning system and meet people where they are. We have to allow for some flexibility for folks who need more time to get on board.”

    “Remember that change – in any sense – is hard work.” #EdChat #PersonalizedLearning”
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  3. Collaborate by bringing diverse stakeholders to the table. Knowing they needed to create specific rubrics and frameworks for teaching and learning, D51 asked kids, teachers, parents and community members for input.“We’ve made the most progress when it’s not done in a vacuum,” Schultz said. “It’s been truly collaborative.”

“Collaborate by bringing diverse stakeholders to the table.” @District51 #PersonalizedLearning
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Read these tips for engaging your community in the visioning process.

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Using Data Walls to Increase Transparency in Competency Environments

Posts from WOL - Mon, 06/26/2017 - 8:00am

Transparency is one key piece to building a successful competency-based learning environment.

This is why the Early Childhood Center of Kenowa Hills has focused on increasing transparency with both students and parents throughout this school year.

With this goal in mind, hallways have been transformed into a public data wall to correspond with each learning standard. When students demonstrate the standard, they post their accomplishment – in the form of a key to “unlock their future” – for all to see.

Because of the transparent environment, parents, teachers and other stakeholders can celebrate the students’ accomplishments.

What makes this use of public data walls effective?

  1. Safe Culture: At the foundational level of a competency-based education system, there must be a thriving school culture where everyone supports one another. With a supportive environment, this data wall can help build a positive school culture.
  2. Celebration of Learning: The data wall, which is driven by clear and transparent standards, celebrates learning rather than task completion. Students aren’t compared against one another, but encouraged to celebrate their classmates’ accomplishments.
  3. Consistency: The Early Childhood Center of Kenowa Hills updates the data wall over the course of the year to show progress. This also helps support and invite families in for building their own understanding of what personalized learning means for the students.


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Innovating in Hutchinson, Minnesota, to Prepare Students for the Future

Posts from WOL - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 8:00am

Guest post by Patrick Walsh, Principal of Hutchinson High School in Hutchinson, Minnesota

In Hutchinson, Minnesota, our roots are in agriculture and manufacturing, but as we prepare our students for the future we need to look not only to our past, but also to the future. We have identified personalized learning as the best method to ensure students are graduating from our school district both college- and career-ready.

This decision to transform our district via personalizing learning was reinforced by reading insights from KnowledgeWorks’ workshops with other K-12 leaders about opportunities to act now to shape the future of learning. In response to the survey, we recently joined the national Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) network. We feel this affiliation will pair us better with like-minded schools to solidify our commitment to create dynamic Capstone experiences that couple coursework, teachers, students, workforce and community mentors.

We have spent the past five years developing a school vision that will help us on our personalized learning journey. We recently gathered members of our school team to take the Personalized Learning Self-Assessment from KnowledgeWorks as a method to gauge our readiness for radical change.  While each person’s results might have varied slightly, the trend was the same. We’re having the right kinds of conversations and moving in the right direction with personalized learning; the right direction for the success of all of our students.

Doubling down on personalized learning in Hutchinson, Minnesota, with a unified vision

TigerPath Academies, interest-based academies embedded within Hutchinson High School, are preparing students for the future of learning and work, and personalizing learning in a very different way. Hutchinson High School is where we educate our students, TigerPath is how we educate our students. As part of this change, we are currently building a state-of-the-art high school that doubles down on the idea of personalized education for all students in all industries. To do this, we are focused on ensure our students’ education meets what we call the 4 P’s: Personalized, Purposeful, Portable and Potent.

Personalized Education: We are unique in believing that all subjects are important, not just core subjects. We believe that our best approaches will truly personalize coursework and pathways to address student motivation. We believe that each staff member, and each community member with a skill and a commitment to share it, are assets that have been severely underutilized in providing the most engaging environment for students.

We begin this process by creating individual 4-Year Plans at the 8th grade level, fostering it through Careers classes in 9th grade, and continue on with this plan by having a daily 29-minute Ramp Up for Readiness advisory for each student in Grades 10-12. All of this coursework are part of our Graduation requirements.

“TigerPath aims to enhance relevance to what students are learning like never before by more explicitly tying courses to post-secondary options and by providing students real-world, hands-on, minds-on experiences,” states Michael Scott, Assistant Principal.

Purposeful Education: The impetus for this program is a sharply changing employment outlook for all individuals in the workforce. For us to have continued success as an educational institution and as a community, we need to ensure that our students are well-prepared and well-connected through a purposeful education. The ultimate goal is to train and retain our future workforce by creating a superpower high school that has different aims from our traditional past.

“Our prosperity as a community is directly tied to our ability to sustain our trained workforce edge in the manufacturing sector,” states Miles Seppelt, Economic Development Authority (EDA) in Hutchinson. By articulating these aims, our manufacturers have committed over $1.2 M towards equipping our new high school with cutting-edge equipment that will help us to sustain this initiative.

Portable Education: Our vision for TigerPath Academies involves concepts such as developing real skills early in the high school over a predominance of abstract concepts; the community involved with learning in the high school and the high school learning in the community; portable college credit in all pathways; adherence to a “5th Core” ideal that puts electives on par with required subjects; and a high school model that puts high value on career internship and mentorship. This model has as much to offer our students and staff as it has to offer our community, which employs nearly 35% of its population in the manufacturing sector.

Potent Education: We believe that learning outside of the classroom is at least as important as those experiences in a classroom. We want students to develop a wide set of potent skills that allows them to be a vital member of a dynamic, changing workforce for years to come. To demonstrate the depth of our student commitment to early skills-based courses, we had over 100 elective enrollments in first-year CADD, welding, woodworking, first aid and anatomy/physiology.  We see traditional educational approaches are on their way out. We aim to give our students the best future by working diligently to re-image what has been done for the last one hundred years.

 Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out.How is your district acting now to ensure students readiness for the future? Learn more about what communities can do now to prepare students for tomorrow in The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out.

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Learning is a Community-Wide Endeavor

Posts from WOL - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 8:00am

It is important that learning communities include community partners in the visioning and planning process. Among the many benefits of strong school – community partnerships is that students get access to new learning opportunities, like these:

At Marysville Early College High School, community partnerships have led to expanded learning opportunities for students. Marysville Exempted Village School District has established partnerships with Columbus State Community College, Honda Manufacturing of Ohio, Ohio Hi Point Career Center and the Union County Chamber of Commerce. Through internships, mentorships and capstone projects that include these partner organizations, Marysville students have the chance to extend the learning beyond school walls.

To broaden opportunities for student to succeed, Providence After School Alliance in Providence, Rhode Island, is working with the Providence Public School District, teachers, community educators, youth and other partners to link in-school and after-school learning. This is part of a citywide expanded learning initiative to help create a new day for learning. Learn more in this video highlighting work being done in that community:

Hamilton City Schools in Hamilton, Ohio, has a partnership with Grace United Methodist Church to offer the Graceful Steps literacy program. Graceful Steps offers learners the chance to build on literacy skills in a fun, low-risk environment during learners’ summer vacation. This community partnership helps prevent summer slide and, for my own children who are participating in the program, is helping encouraging children to sometimes reach for a book instead of an iPad or video game.

School community partnerships come in all shapes and sizes. The common denominator? They all work to serve students’ needs in a way that is simply not possible without community partners committing to the endeavor of learning.

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Redefining Readiness for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Posts from WOL - Wed, 06/21/2017 - 8:00am

An artificial intelligence recently scored a million points in the classic Atari game Ms. Pac-Man using a technique called reinforcement learning. An artificial intelligence has completed a painting considered to be the equivalent of an original Rembrandt. Robotic surgeons such as the Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot have been shown to outperform human surgeons.

These examples might seem like a litany not all that relevant to learning. But they are emblematic of some of the most urgent questions on the horizon for learning: how will people distinguish ourselves in the workplace from and work alongside increasingly smart machines? How might we need to redefine readiness to ensure that all children have a strong foundation for a world of work that we can barely imagine today?

KnowledgeWorks’ latest strategic foresight paper, “The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out,” looks to the year 2040 to explore what the changing world of work could mean for how K-12 and postsecondary educators see and cultivate readiness for further learning, work and life.

As artificial intelligence and machine learning become increasingly capable of performing tasks that we once thought were the exclusive purview of people – including many tasks associated with knowledge work – we are going to need to reexamine, if not redefine entirely, the role of people in the workplace. Even as the nature of our contributions is changing and the need to reskill and upskill to stay on the emotive edge becomes increasingly prevalent, the decline of full-time employment will also contribute to new and potentially destabilizing employment structures.

Bolstered by societal supports such as universal basic income, automation efficiency taxes and other mechanisms, many people could by 2040 be electing to pursue work or other productive contributions to their communities that they find meaningful, some of which are paid and some of which are not. Alternatively, we could be working platforms to piece together incomes in a highly taskified economy in which only the highly skilled have stable full-time employment but the need for constant hustle encourages entrepreneurship and pockets of innovation.

These two scenarios from “The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out” both reflect employment landscapes in which the rise of smart machines and the decline of full-time employment have displaced many human workers. But in them the societal response differs: the first reflects a coordinated societal response to the changing nature of work, whereas the second reflects a more market-driven or laissez-faire approach. The paper also explore scenarios in which low technological displacement occurs, with new job creation and job reconfiguration outpacing job loss.

Any of these futures could come to pass. In face of such uncertainties, cultivating a new foundation for readiness that focuses on core social-emotional skills along with foundational cognitive and metacognitve practices such as solving problems, thriving in ambiguity and uncertainty and cultivating inclusive communities promises to help learners develop their uniquely human attributes and thereby prepare to thrive no matter what the world of work looks like by 2040.

Babies born today will be graduating from college in the year 2040. This new foundation for readiness applies to them, as well as to all of us who will still be working and supporting learners then.Download a larger .pdf of A New Foundation for Readiness, an illustration from “The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out.”

Babies born today will be graduating from college in the year 2040. This new foundation for readiness applies to them, as well as to all of us who will still be working and supporting learners then.

What will it mean to be career ready in 2040? #RedefineReady #FutureEd
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K-12 educators can help cultivate future readiness by integrating skills-based social-emotional curricula across those grades and by supporting students in developing aspirational visions for their lives. Postsecondary educators can help cultivate the new foundation for readiness by integrating support for deep personal development into interdisciplinary programs. They can also develop flexible and diverse pathways and programs that help students develop timely skills along with persistent readiness attributes.

These strategies represent just some opportunities to create a future of readiness in which all students have the opportunity to develop the uniquely human qualities that will distinguish them from and help them work alongside the smart machines that they will meet in future workplaces.

 Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out,” looks to the year 2040 to explore what the changing world of work could mean for how K-12 and postsecondary educators see and cultivate readiness for further learning, work and life.To explore the future of readiness further, download “The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out” and join the conversation about future readiness at #RedefineReady.

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The Current State of Education Media: An Interview with Charles Sosnik of the MindRocket Media Group

Posts from WOL - Tue, 06/20/2017 - 8:00am

Education is full of trends and fads that come and go. But there are some trends that rise above the others, that prove to be successful and have research to show that they are more than a fad. I wanted to learn more about the current state of education and who better to ask for than someone who talks with educators every day, writes articles about current learning movements and bases his current career on covering the education system?

When I started at KnowledgeWorks, Charles Sosnik was heading up SEEN Magazine, where some of my coworkers had published insight into education policy, teaching and learning strategy, and the future of education. I’ve been grateful to get to know Charles and learn from his expertise – expertise gained from almost 10 years in the education media space and nearly 30 years in the media world.

Today, Charles serves as editor in chief for MindRocket Media Group, helping to connect the stories and voices in education that are changing the world. If you haven’t checked out edCircuit yet, you really should.

We recently had a conversation about his thoughts on the education world, current “trends,” personalized education and the future of learning. Here’s what he had to say:

How long have you been working in the education media space?

I’ve been working in media since 1981, but have only been in the education media space since 2008. My media background is varied, working as an editor, publisher or producer for business publications, city magazines, trade publications and regional television.

What drew you to education?

I entered the education media space quite by accident. I had divested myself of a media company and at age 48, I started looking for something to else to do. I was introduced to RB Knight, who published a group of specialty publications, one of which was an education magazine called the Southeast Education Network (SEEN). RB needed an editor, and agreed to let me have a go at it even though I had zero experience in the education biz.

My initial take was that the education market seemed interesting, but I was completely unprepared for the effect that it would have on me. As I began having conversations with educators and education experts in the business, I was overwhelmed by the passion that these individuals had. Through talking to them, I began to understand the importance of what they were doing. I had spent my entire career in media making money, but this was the first time that I really felt like I was contributing, that I was giving something back. I routinely spend 12 or more hours a day working – sometimes upwards of 18 hours. I have the opportunity to talk to superintendents, principals, teachers, technologists and education entrepreneurs. To a person, they have a unique passion for education and a sincere desire to help learners. I have made fast friends, and am constantly inspired by the people I talk to.

As someone in the education media, you see a lot of trends come and go… sometimes quite quickly. What are the biggest trends you see in education right now that you think are here to stay?

I would hesitate to use the word trend, because that implies a rising line on a graph that will easily decline when the next trend arrives. The two biggest movements I see are the move towards student-directed learning, and the move towards a globalization in learning. Both, I believe are necessary and inevitable. Education must and will change with the world around it. A closed ecosystem with teachers as the repositories of knowledge is no longer practical or appropriate for learners.

What do you think about the moves toward personalized learning and competency-based education?

I think the speed at which we personalize learning and integrate a system that insists on competencies will determine our success in the next 25 years – as a nation and as the people who are responsible for preparing our children for success in the world. Education, for all its successes and all its heroes, is a terribly antiquated system. When you compare the world of 100 years ago to the world of today, the only thing that looks remotely the same is our education system. How can we expect an education system like ours to prepare our children for a world like theirs?

KnowledgeWorks, our strategic foresight team looks at the future of learning. What do you think the future of learning looks like?

That is truly the $64 question. I was putting together a special issue of SEEN Magazine a couple years ago with a Future of EdTech theme. I asked a friend of mine, a leading futurist named David Houle, what EdTech would look like in 25 years. David laughed at me and said, “Anything past five or ten years is just locker-room talk.” The only way you can predict the future, and the way that most futurists do it, is to follow trends to their logical conclusions. I would look at the way the world has changed and is changing, taking into account technology and the likely job market 25 – 50 years from now. I would ask “What will our children need to be successful in their lives 25 – 50 years from now,” and then hope like hell we are smart enough to create the environment to help them. There are some very fundamental questions we should be asking now if we are to get it right 25 years into the future. We need to focus more on the needs of our learners than on our own needs. Right now, the primary focus of the institution of education is to protect the needs of the institution itself. That may sound a little cynical or snarky but it doesn’t make it less true.

Interested in more insight from Charles Sosnik? Read his district communication advice.

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Personalized Learning is Possible No Matter What Age

Posts from WOL - Mon, 06/19/2017 - 8:00am

When students are invited into personalized learning, they show up. No matter what their age.

This is the reality at The Early Childhood Center of Kenowa Hills Public School District. And while I’ve seen young students collaborate and show student agency, I am constantly amazed at the work throughout the building.

The Early Childhood Center has been focusing on specific goals to enhance personalized learning in their building. One focus of the year has been around collaborative learning, which is a step towards implementing the gradual release of responsibility instructional framework.

I recently visited Cindy Woodworth and Janet Sitar’s classrooms, where they have been working with students on collaborative discussions. Although I’ve seen personalized learning with young students, I must admit: I found myself doubting what was possible with student agency at this early level. I was eager to see students in action, but realized my mind questioned the possibility.

Of course, my doubt quickly subsided when I walked into the classrooms.

Through personalized learning, we can hold our students to high standards and successfully engage them in learning. No matter what their age.To work on collaborative learning, students draw a topic out of a basket and have a discussion with one another. From there, the students use visuals for support and guidance while practicing and improving their collaborative learning skills. Every student had the opportunity to get in front of the rest of the class, choose a classmate to join them, and then the pair demonstrates their skills by asking each other questions like, ‘how are you?’ They then ask a question about the specific topic, and repeat what they heard their classmate say about the topic. The process continues until each student has had a turn in front of the class.

Every student, in their own way and ability, demonstrated collaborative learning with their classmates.

Many people question how personalized learning can become a reality across the country, but this doubt rests in our own limits as adults. Our students are capable of so much more than the opportunities provided to them within the current education system. Through personalized learning, we can hold our students to high standards and successfully engage them in learning. We can help them develop these lifelong skills, no matter what age. We simply have to invite them to the table.

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Marysville Exempted Village School District Continuing to Innovate With New TRI Academy

Posts from WOL - Fri, 06/16/2017 - 10:58am

Marysville Exempted Village School District is not new to innovation. When the district received a Straight A grant from the state of Ohio in 2014, the dollars were leveraged to kick-start the district’s strategic plan, which included the renovation of an unused school building into Marysville Early College High School and an Innovation Design Center for the county. With a heavy focus on STEM practices, problem-based learning and habits of mind, the early college high school school provides students and families a school choice at the high school level.

Building on their mission and core belief to meet the needs of each learner, the Marysville school district has thoughtfully explored policies, structures and strategies. To that end, Superintendent Diane Mankins has committed to personalized learning as the  district’s next lift, giving students the opportunity to own their learning, progress at their own pace and graduate from high school ready to succeed in both college and career.

The district’s current strategy, designed to put learners at the center, has inspired the launch of TRI Academy. This new school will be led by the district’s current Personalized Learning Coordinator, Ashley Thompson. With this new school, both the Marysville school district and Thompson are furthering their commitment to tailored, relevant instruction for students who are struggling to earn credits toward graduation and who might need more individualized attention.

Read more about the Tri Academy in Marysville in this article from ThisWeek Community News.

Learn more about Ashley Thompson and watch this video of her sharing some of her experiences with a district transformation to personalized learning:

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College in High School Alliance to Promote Opportunities for Students to Earn College Credit in High School

Posts from WOL - Thu, 06/15/2017 - 8:00am

KnowledgeWorks has been partnering with early college high schools for more than ten years and we have seen the power they have to transform not only students’ lives, but also those of their families and communities. That’s part of the reason we’re proud to be participating in the College in High School Alliance (CHSA), a collaborative effort by more than three dozen organizations to better leverage federal and state policies to support early college high school and dual and concurrent enrollment.

In a recent article for edCircuit, KnowledgeWorks Senior Director of National Policy Lillian Pace shares focus areas for CHSA:

  • Leveraging current policy opportunities to advance early college high school and dual and concurrent enrollment, such as through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
  • Elevating opportunities in ESSA “to expand and scale dual and concurrent enrollment and early college high school programs”
  • Engaging in advocacy with the new presidential administration and Congress to support the evaluation of U.S. Department of Education (ED) Pell Experimental Site as well as expansion to additional sites
  • Developing recommendations for advancement of dual and concurrent enrollment and early college high school programs in the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act
  • Drafting recommendations for advancing these programs through the Higher Education Act

Read Pace’s full article for more information about the work of the College in High School Alliance.

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There’s No One Way to Teach – or Learn – Math

Posts from WOL - Wed, 06/14/2017 - 8:00am

Though I’m careful never to admit it in front of my daughters, I never enjoyed math in school. But hearing Erin Morrison, a third grade teacher at Navin Elementary School in Marysville, Ohio, discuss how her students demonstrate mastery in different ways during math workshop makes me think that if I’d had the opportunity to learn a little bit differently, maybe I would have found something about math to love.

Morrison describes the six stations in her classroom, where students have the flexibility to choose one “must do” each week, as well as three “may dos.” She explains that this more open-ended approach allows students to play to their strengths – choosing the stations that are most comfortable for them, such as writing or hands-on – while also encouraging them to stretch themselves a little bit and try out new things. They also have the opportunity to work with a group, or alone, and while it’s clear they’re enjoying the freedom to go their own way now, it was an adjustment.

“The students were very used to being told specifically what to do,” Morrison said, echoing the math lessons that I, and probably you, too, remember. But in a competency education classroom, educators like Morrison deliver academic content as well as help students learn how they learn through coaching and facilitation.

Making – don’t tell my girls! – even math fun.

Learn more about how competency-based education encourages student agency:

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The Power of Storytelling to Deliver Your Message Across Audiences

Posts from WOL - Tue, 06/13/2017 - 8:00am

Every community has various audiences with diverse perspective. Involved parents with kids in the school district. Business owners looking for skilled employees. Elected officials hoping to strengthen the local economy. Elderly neighbors whose kids graduated from the local high school years ago.

It can be challenging to communicate effectively with each of those community members. That’s where storytelling can play a role. Stories can speak across audiences, from the parent to the elected official to neighbor. Stories have power.

With interesting students, inspiring teachers and exciting events, school districts have never-ending stories to share with the community. But in today’s media age, local reporters are often spread thin and may not have time to dig for compelling stories while also covering contested school board meetings and elections. That doesn’t mean they don’t care about the positive stories. It means school district communication staff may need to share the story directly with the local media.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Charles Sosnik from edCircuit about the power of storytelling. With almost 30 years in the media world, Charles serves as editor in chief for MindRocket Media Group, helping to connect the stories and voices in education that are changing the world.

“School districts often have a great story to tell and no clue how to get their message out,” he said. “The local media, for the most part, doesn’t cover the wonderful success stories from within a district. For that reason, stakeholders often seem removed from the inner workings and rarely hear the positive side of education. We only hear the politics of it, and that story is rarely pretty.”

Learn three tips for developing an effective school district communication strategy, from Charles Sosnik:

  1. Create budget for communication. Districts should budget for media relations and publicity at the same rate that businesses do. While we don’t always view it as such, education is a business and can follow some well-defined rules that have successfully worked for businesses for many years. Like a business, districts manage budgets. A large district like Miami Dade or Wake County or L.A. Unified is a billion-dollar enterprise, and its success depends on the ability to be funded by its local and state governments, and by voters who approve or deny bond referendums. Even a mid-sized district operates on a $100 million plus budget.
  2. Hire a communication professional. Districts should establish a budget and hire media professionals who have the chops to successfully extend a message. Media is a very skilled profession; a superintendent or principal could no more run a public relations campaign than a media professional could run a district or school. They are very different skill sets, and it is short-sighted for a district not to take advantage of the professional help that is available.
  3. Be intentional and strategic about communication. Districts should take the time to decide on messaging. The only thing more expensive than crafting and executing a media plan is to not craft and execute a media plan.

Interested in district communication? Learn how this district used community surveys to develop their messaging strategy.

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Kenowa Hills Public School District: Providing Student Choice for Flexible Learning Spaces to Impact Learning

Posts from WOL - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 8:00am

How might we nurture an environment where everyone has the space to thrive with learning? What does that suggest for what we expect from our students, colleagues, and leaders?

Authentic learning requires vulnerability, and we need to provide environments that allow for it. We need to think critically and creatively about what space provides the best opportunity for learning. This means space for group activities. Space for giving each other grounding moments. Space for elbow room. Space that opens more possibilities to better understand ourselves and the world.

This flexibility in working space can be seen throughout Kenowa Hills Public School District, from their youngest students to their older classrooms. The flexibility empowers students of all ages.This flexibility in working space can be seen throughout Kenowa Hills Public School District, from their youngest students to their older classrooms. The flexibility empowers students of all ages.

This is what Rebecca Perry, a kindergarten teacher at Kenowa Hills Zinser Elementary School, creates in her classroom. Kindergartners sit side-by-side, working as writing partners. They work throughout the room with flexible space and seating options. Some sit in scoop bucket seats, while others lay on the floor. Some sit at round tables in a play kitchen area, while others sit at their desks.

No matter where they choose to sit, they are engaged in their learning. Research shows that providing student choice within the three categories of environment, social, and learning increases intrinsic motivation. Teachers can impact students self-efficacy right from the start, simply by letting them choose their learning spaces

Research shows that providing student choice within the three categories of environment, social, and learning increases intrinsic motivation.Lisa White, a sixth grade teacher in Kenowa Hills, has looked for creative ways to give her students flexible learning spaces, including Adopt-a-Classroom programs for supplies or sourcing alternative seating from Craiglist. “I find that the students are excited to work at their collaborative settings,” she said.

Lisa’s students agree. One told me that the flexible spaces support keeping focus on work and learning and another was excited for the collaborative options.

A creative, flexible classroom environment directly correlates to effective learning.A creative, flexible classroom environment directly correlates to effective learning. It provides momentum and support for energizing school culture and student collaboration. An added bonus is that it doesn’t require a lot of money; it’s an area where we can achieve equity in simple ways.

“I feel that my students enjoy the writing experience more when they can choose a seat that is comfortable for them,” Rebecca said. “It also allows the students to be spread out more and less distracted by other students or other partnerships. My hope for flexible seating is to let all students be successful in their learning. If they need to choose a space that works for them to be successful, then I need to be supportive of that.”

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What is the difference between traditional learning environments and competency-based education?

Posts from WOL - Fri, 06/09/2017 - 7:50am

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) opens up new opportunities for states to offer personalized learning options for students. This policy shift is important because states now have the opportunity to align state accountability, assessment, and student systems of support with a vision for personalized learning. This opportunity will empower district innovators who have pioneered personalized learning approaches while also conforming to federal requirements that align to more traditional education systems.

As states and district leaders ponder the possibility of this paradigm shift, it’s important to understand how this approach differs from the traditional education system.

The chart below illustrates the differences between a personalized, competency-based approach and a more traditional approach to education. Can you imagine how the differences in these core teaching and learning elements empower educators and students?

What is the difference between traditional learning environments and competency-based education?Download a printable copy of this chart, which explains the difference between traditional learning environments and competency-based education.

Learn more about KnowledgeWorks’ approach to competency-based education.

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Overcoming Challenges at Schenectady Smart Scholars Early College High School

Posts from WOL - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 8:00am

When I interviewed Keylynn Belrose Westfall last year, then a sophomore at Schenectady Smart Scholars Early College High School in Schenectady, New York, she told me that her “future is a priority.” She was on track to graduate early, in her junior year, and that’s just what’s happening for her this month.

She’s been accepted to Hobart and William Smith Colleges in upstate New York, and will also benefit from the support of New York’s Higher Education Opportunity Program, a highly competitive financial and social support program for traditionally underserved New York state students.

While speaking about what’s ahead for her, Westfall reflected on how she got to where she is today, and how grateful she is for the opportunity to attend a Smart Scholars early college high school.

“In seventh grade, I was frustrated in my math class because I felt like I was the only one participating. It was only second quarter, but if I wanted to take advanced math I had to complete everything that my teacher was going to cover for the rest of the year. She gave me a packet that covered everything, and I finished it in a weekend,” said Westfall, who went on to take ninth grade math classes a year early. “I didn’t realize the opportunity they were giving me back then, but they saw the potential in me.”

The early college provided the same level of challenge and support.

“Teachers at the early college aren’t just there to help you decide what class to take. They know you, and what’s going on with you,” Westfall said. Because of her experiences at the early college, she wants to pursue psychology and child social/emotional development to provide the same kind of support she received to others. “I’ve had a strong support system, and I want to help children that have gone through similar experiences, children that are struggling.”

 Schenectady Smart Scholars Early College High School.To learn more about how Schenectady Smart Scholars Early College High School is helping students like Keylynn unlock their potential, download our case study.


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Getting to the Root of the “Why” with a Profile of a Graduate

Posts from WOL - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 8:00am

Recently our partner, EdLeader 21 launched an initiative focused on districts creating a profile of a graduate. Their goal is to have 1000 districts develop and ratify their district’s profile of a graduate by June 2019. This is a big goal. The campaign will specifically focus on the following:

The EdLeader21 Profile of a Graduate campaign seeks to energize communities of educators, students and parents around a 21st century definition of student success. The campaign’s intent is to establish deep and broad support in at least 1,000 communities for teaching and learning practices that support student mastery of the 4Cs [critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity]. More specifically, we aim to:

  • Inform the education field about why it is important for schools and districts to adopt a profile of a graduate.
  • Provide tools and resources that support schools and districts in this process.
  • Generate grassroots support for the development of profiles of graduates from a broad range of stakeholders including students, parents, teachers, community members, etc.
  • Give high-profile visibility to schools and districts that have already adopted a profile of a graduate.
  • Make an important contribution to the field of education.
  • Improve collaboration among educators and supportive organizations and leaders in the field of 21st century education.

The campaign is spot on, important and is bold in its reach and goals. Beyond that, I see it being a catalyst and codifier on the policy front as well.

Many states are moving towards more personalized and competency-based systems. States such as New Hampshire and Maine are further along in those endeavors as they are moving statewide pilots towards a state mandated proficiency-based graduation requirement. Other states are focused on implementing pilots like North Dakota, Utah, Ohio or Idaho. Other states, like Maryland and Tennessee, are looking to begin their implementation using their state ESSA plan as the catalyst.

I believe that the profile of a graduate could play a codifying role for both states and districts. If I were a state chief, I’d require that a district that was applying to pilot a personalized or competency-based approach has a profile of a graduate. A profile of a graduate helps the community, district, school and teacher get to the root of the “why.” Why are we shifting our approach to teaching and learning? Why are we shifting our expectations of our students? Why are we creating new and differentiated opportunities for all students?

It’s because we want our children to be prepared for an ever-changing, complex and interconnected world. The world today demands an innovative approach to education that must be undergirded by what we want to see in our future graduates. We must deeply understand and internalize the “why” behind the “what” and the “how” of personalizing education. A profile of a graduate is that “why,” it is the foundation for transforming the education system. I applaud EdLeader21 for leading the charge and I’m proud to call them friends and partners.

Check out all the tools and resources at  profileofagraduate.org.

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How One Graduate Helped Shape Her Education

Posts from WOL - Tue, 06/06/2017 - 8:00am

It’s graduation season, and one of the most rewarding experiences is hearing about the successes of learners I’ve had the privilege of working with in the past. Dulce Diaz is one of those students.

Dulce graduated in 2011 from Lindsay Unified School District in Lindsay, California, and was someone that was involved in every activity and was exceptionally supportive of her peers and her friends. She was in her junior year when we implemented competency-based education, and I could always go to her for honest feedback about what was working in her classes and what needed to be refined. She was also someone that the staff and the others learners really trusted, too, someone that they looked up to. No matter what challenges she or her family or the community were experiencing, she always had a sunny disposition.

The fact that she’s studying education policy now just fits. She helped us reform that initial implementation of competency-based education in Lindsay, and I love that she’s pursuing as an adult something she did so well for us a student.

 Personalized Learning Is What Every Student Deserves.To read more about how Dulce’s experiences in a competency-based education environment helped prepare her for college and career, download her profile.

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Don’t Build a Glass House, Cultivate a Learning Community

Posts from WOL - Mon, 06/05/2017 - 8:00am

At KnowledgeWorks, when you hear us talk about those we serve, you will rarely hear us mention a school district. To us, a school district is a collection of buildings. We don’t serve buildings. We serve learners. And teachers. And leaders. And community members. And business partners. And institutions of higher education. In short, we serve learning communities. And learning communities extend further than the reaches of a school district.

As KnowledgeWorks’ District Conditions for Scaling Personalized Learning tells us, community partnerships for the basis of any learning community:

Each district should cultivate partnerships with business, community, and higher education constituents in their communities (including local and county government, recreation, juvenile justice, faith-based, etc.). These entities should be involved in creating a district vision and strategic plan that is aligned with a broader economic and workforce development plan for the community. All aspects of teaching and learning within the district (curriculum, instruction, assessment, professional development, etc.) should be aligned to this vision. In addition, these partners should assist with creating various learning opportunities (internships, mentor programs, work-based experiences, service learning, etc.) and publish a list of these opportunities for all learners.

By bringing these partners in on the front end of a learning community’s planning processes, you can create a much more robust plan for supporting learners’ needs while also supporting the needs of the community partners you’re working with.

The added benefit of including community partners in the initial stages of visioning is that it becomes harder for community members to throw stones at a glass house they helped build. Further, as one of our board members reminded me in a recent conversation, “Maybe, just maybe, if you’re bringing community members in to help with planning, you won’t be building a glass house in the first place.”

Another advantage of cultivating an inclusive learning community is that, often, you can leverage the assets that community partners bring to the table. Whether it’s hosting a literacy workshop in a church’s basement, a local community college ensuring the newly designed K-12 competencies align with their admission standards or a business leader offering extended learning opportunities to students, partners bring an array of resources than can do nothing but benefit the learning community.

Read about four learning communities demonstrating strong school-community partnerships.

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Personalizing Learning and Doing What’s Best for Kids

Posts from WOL - Fri, 06/02/2017 - 8:00am

Personalized learning is integral to the learning community at Navin Elementary School, and the rest of the Marysville Exempted Village School District. For Lynette Lewis, the school’s principal, making sure her teachers are on board with this learning style is important.

“It’s important for our staff to understand that we’re following personalized learning and competency-based education,” Lewis said. She and her peers have seen education fads come and go and she wants her team to know that personalized learning is not as fad.

“This personalized learning, this growth mindset, this competency-based education is really grounded in science,” Lewis said.

Have that back-up of science and formal research is important for Lewis in shifting teachers’ beliefs and rallying the community around personalized learning because it is “what’s best for kids.”

Watch a video of Lynette Lewis talking about personalized learning and competency-based education at Navin Elementary School:

Are you looking to bring personalized learning to your district?

Learn more about KnowledgeWorks’ approach to personalized learning. Then take the self-assessment to find out where your district should take action to get ready for personalized learning.

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