Looking Back at the Future: Part Two

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2015-11-03 11:20

In this second installment of “Looking Back at the Future,” I will begin diving into the details of KnowledgeWorks’ first forecast on the future of education, the 2006-2016 Map of Future Forces Affecting Education. As KnowledgeWorks prepares to release our fourth  major forecast on the future of learning and as we approach the 2016 time horizon from our first forecast, I thought it would be interesting to take a look and see where our original forecast landed. What has already come to pass? What is on track? What might have been off?

Using a metric adapted from one developed by Dr. Andy Hines for evaluating forecasts, we will review each of the elements from our first forecast. Rather than the five-point metric used by Dr. Hines, I use the following scale:

1) Already happening: scenario is currently taking place

2) Needs a boost: not currently tracking but still plausible

3) No longer tracking: no longer plausible

With that in mind, let’s begin by exploring the forecast elements in the area of “Family and Community.”

Local value grows

local-valueEconomies of group connectivity combined with fears of globalism, political gridlock, and concern over the dominance of big business will create a revival of localism.

Already happening:  Localism is currently enjoying a revival with growing markets for items such as local handmade goods, locally grown produce, and farm to table restaurants.  While fears of globalism, political gridlock, and concern over big business are driving forces, the emergence and proliferation of platforms to sell local handmade goods, such as Etsy, and places to create these products, such as TechShop, have also contributed  to the rise of local and handmade goods.

Youth media defines community networking

social-mediaMillennial (Gen Y and Z) smart networkers will push the organizational edge for employers and community leaders. Their experiences with shared presence through instant messaging and video chat, and gaming as a structure for thinking and interacting, as well as multiple digital and physical worlds will create new modes of work, socializing, and community learning that stress cooperative strategies, experimentation, and parallel development.

Already happening: Youth media has redefined not just community networking, but also the idea of community. Millennials have extended the definition of community to include the digital environment, leveraging social networking platforms and other digital tools to connect with others. They are also leveraging these tools to create new modes of work, for example on-demand style employment offered by ride-sharing service Uber, new ways of socializing such as the dating site Tinder, and new forms of community learning such as Skillshare.

Families become deeply diverse

diverse-familiesCommunities will need to learn how to negotiate more complex and layered identities as citizens develop a range of affinities based on attributes in addition to race, ethnicity, education, and income.  Genetic history, mixed families, household diversification (multi-raced, multi-generational, same-sex, adoptive), and religious personalization create multiple layers of identity that define a complex topology of ideas and values. Developing forums for building bridges across extreme, often polarizing, ideological perspectives will be a major challenge for community institutions.

Needs a boost: While families have become deeply diverse, with the Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage a right and a growing conversation about gender roles and sexual identity, we seem to be falling short in terms of bridge-building, with more and more people retreating into entrenched corners of belief. Research conducted by the Pew Research Center cites that, “Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines – and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive – than at any point in the last two decades.“

It’s harder to be healthy

healthyIt will be increasingly difficult and expensive for people to achieve good health. Developed economies are beset by chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Poor urban residents in the United States with marginal access to fresh foods, green spaces, and pollution-free environments will suffer disproportionately. More children will need access to ongoing medical care but in ways that don’t impact their ability to participate in school.

Already happening: According to the CDC, roughly half of all adults in the US suffer from some form of chronic illness; in terms of obesity, during 2009-2010 more than one-third of adults in the US were considered obese, and one out of five youth (age 2-19) were considered obese. Poor urban residents are experiencing issues with access to fresh foods, with poor urban neighborhoods often being labeled “food deserts.” Poor urban residents are also suffering disproportionately from pollution.

Humans become an urban species

urban-speciesDuring the next decade, more than half of the world’s population will live in cities. The shift to cities will be the greatest in developing countries, yet small cities with populations less than 50,000 will be among the fastest growing in both the developed and developing worlds. The emerging megacities will constitute an urban wilderness presenting extreme conditions that will require existing institutions to provide new infrastructures (physical and social) and develop new adaptive strategies.

Already happening: The megatrend towards urbanization continues, hitting the time horizon of the forecast as 54 percent of the world’s population now live in urban areas. As urban centers expand, creative solutions to infrastructure needs are often being found by existing instructions, for example, identifying green energy solutions to address problems with energy infrastructure. Also, organizations are finding solutions on a smaller scale, for instance, local libraries engaging in activities such as loaning out tools.

Urban environments become VUCA focal points

vuca-citiesThe VUCA environment – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous – touches all institutions and community members, including schools. In extreme urban areas decimated by poverty, pollution, and economic instability, public schools become zones of health and security – physical, intellectual, and emotional. Schools will be expected to play a leadership role in addressing the interrelated issues of learning, health, and civic intelligence.

Needs a boost: The VUCA environment  has extended beyond urban environments as focal points to the extent that VUCA is often referred to as the “new normal.” While the VUCA  aspect of this scenario is already happening, public schools  are only recently enacting programs that address the overall  health of a student beyond just physical health; for example, Master charter school implementing a trauma-informed approach to handling classroom disruptions and the growing interest in bringing mindfulness training to schools. These examples are signals pointing towards schools becoming zones of health and security. However there is still a ways to go before the majority of schools have such programs in place.

The community becomes the classroom

community-classroomUbiquitous computing and wireless connectivity, embedded in physical environments, will turn physical places into aware contexts – environments that recognize people, information, and activities, and then respond appropriately. As place-based information becomes more accessible, educational services will be customized to place, making learning increasingly visible in the community.

Already happening: Physical spaces are becoming increasingly context-aware through developments such as contextual marketing in retail spaces and the use of augmented reality in museums. Additionally, organizations such as the Hive Learning Networks are working to weave learning throughout communities.


Looking across the key area of “Family and Community,” where do you feel we landed in terms of these developments? What issues do you feel might still be salient today? What issues are emerging in this area?

In next week’s installment of “Looking Back at the Future,” we will examine the key area of “Markets.”

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Imagining the future with GFE

Posts from WOL - Mon, 2015-11-02 14:12


What could learning look like in 2025 if we stared it directly in the face? No fear. No hesitation. Just facing the future and all its possibilities.

That’s exactly what attendees experienced last week at the annual Grantmakers for Education (GFE) conference, as Katherine Prince presented the soon-to-be-launched Forecast 4.0, “Partners in Code” (pick up your copy here).

After Katherine’s presentation, GFE hosted an insightful panel featuring (in above photo, from left to right): Sanjiv Rao, Program Officer at Ford Foundation; Kent McGuire, President and CEO of Southern Education Foundation; Katherine Prince (who didn’t participate in the panel, but provided insight before and after); Sara Allen, Deputy Director of Strategy, Research and Data for the College Ready Team at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Paula Kerger, President and CEO of PBS; and Linda Darling Hammond, President and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute.

While the concepts behind “Partners in Code” can be exciting and intimidating, the panel gave incredible insight while exploring the future of learning. Here are eight takeaways from their discussion:

  1. Considering the future of education takes some serious guts. Looking back five or 10 years, many integral parts of our lives did not exist. Thinking 10 years out takes courage to really stare the future possibilities in the face.
  2. The idea of exponential growth is stunning when considering how it affects education. Researchers discovered that, right around 1999, we headed into the exponential curve, which meant that throughout the following three years, there was more knowledge created in the world that in the history of the world preceding. Considering this, we need to think critically about the way we conceptualize curriculum and assessment if we will have any chance of coping with these exponential changes in the future.
  3. We’ve spent the last century figuring out and deciding which facts students should know. We’ve divided those facts into 12 years of schooling, have fed kids those facts and asked them to spit them back to prove that they are ready to graduate. But in the future, our young people will need to work with knowledge that is not yet discovered or technology that is not yet invented.
  4. We can’t use technology for technology’s sake. Instead, we need to consider how technology can empower students.
  5. It will take tremendous investment to build a strong, equitable future of education. Where is that investment going to come from? How do we ensure that it’s not hyper-individualized and is actually used for the common good?
  6. Resilient learning ecosystems can help in the future. It helps to think about schools, school systems and learning as nested in a bigger and much more complicated ecology. We should embrace that.
  7. Equity will be a big challenge in the future of education. If we aren’t careful, we run a significant risk of leaving part of the population behind.
  8. We need to bridge the equity divide. Only through deliberate intervention can we begin to create a one world for all students, rather than a place with two dramatically different horizons depending on zip code and family economic status.

Sign up here to receive your copy of Forecast 4.0 when it’s released.

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Easier said than done: Putting aside political differences for kids

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2015-10-29 10:50

When it comes to education, we should be able to forget about politics and party partisanship. Adults should be adults and put aside their differences to support the needs of all students.

But that’s easier said than done.

“In the 21st century, greatness will come from the mobilization of human potential.” – via @CondoleezzaRice #EIE15 #education

— Jesse Moyer (@jessemoyer) October 22, 2015

Last week, I was in Denver for the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s 2015 National Summit on Education Reform.  Aside from being in Denver – everybody tells me I should love that city but I still can’t find the appeal – I was really looking forward to the summit.  For starters, the lineup of speaks was simply outstanding.  The event kicked off as Former Secretary of State and FEE board chairperson Dr. Condoleezza Rice spoke about the importance of opportunity for all students and the importance of human capital in the 21st century.  Nicholas Negroponte and Dr. Sugata Mitra filled the afternoon with the importance of technology in today’s education.  Arthur Brooks, President of AIE and the dinner speaker, spoke about free enterprise’s impact of lifting millions out of poverty. 

Finally, Campbell Brown led a panel of students, parents, and edu-advocates on the importance of school choice.  In between the speakers “strategy sessions,” think breakout sessions, on everything from student privacy to standards to competency-based education.  On top of the speakers and strategy sessions, the FEE staff who organized the conference was outstanding.

Overall, the conference was full of smart, well intentioned, and passionate people gathered to talk about the ways education can serve every student and become the path to college and career success we all want it to be.  While I didn’t agree with all of the sentiments shared in Denver, I certainly respected the passion and commitment of the people sharing them.  

Not sure I totally agree with everything @arthurbrooks said tonight but, man, he makes some really good points. Time very well spent. #EIE15

— Jesse Moyer (@jessemoyer) October 23, 2015

But, while we heard time and time again that education should be not be a partisan issue, many workshops and deep-dive sessions were filled with slanted rhetoric about teachers unions, the liberal media, school choice, and, at times, education as a whole.

It’s one thing to talk about bipartisanship and an edu-world where we all work together for the betterment of students. If that’s truly what we strive for, then we need to practice what we preach and work together across the political aisle.

Only then will we be able to build an education system that helps all children succeed in school and life.

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Meet Anne Olson: Director of State Policy

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2015-10-29 10:13

Our Policy and Strategic Foresight team is growing… all the way to Denver! Anne Olson joins the team to work as director of state policy to help us advance policy supports for personalized learning.

Some fun facts about Anne: In her free time, she is a freelance floral designer. She is a Texan-turned-Coloradan who enjoys cycling, camping and hiking throughout the great Colorado outdoors. And she almost always has a song stuck in her head.

Check out a short Q&A below to learn more about Anne and what brought her to KnowledgeWorks. Oh, and follow her on Twitter: @annekolson.

Q: What will you be working on at KnowledgeWorks?

A: As the Director of State Advocacy, I’ll be working closely with our partner states, finding ways to support the expansion of personalized learning. I really see this role as one of partnership and connection. Partnerships are incredibly important in advocacy work, and I look forward to working with states and state partners across the country to transform our learning ecosystem.

Q: Where have you worked in the past?

A: My first job out of college was as an account executive for a corporate communications firm. It was fascinating, fast-paced work. However, I was drawn to the non-profit realm, and completely switched gears and moved into hunger and human trafficking advocacy work in Texas. Although I stepped away briefly from policy advocacy in my Masters of Social Work program at the University of Denver, I knew I ultimately wanted to come back to policy. It has always been important for me to continue working at a systems level. It amazes me that the work of an advocate affects lives of entire communities.

Q: Why education? Why have you chosen to focus on education?

A: I would argue it was inevitable for me to work in public education policy, and I have my parents to thank for a big part of that. More often than not, dinnertime conversation growing up revolved around the infrastructure of the education system and the realities of education inequity. (I come from a very civically engaged family.) I’m a product of an urban public school setting myself, which has undoubtedly shaped the way I view the world.

In graduate school11675O5W2IWDI4E, I focused primarily on poverty issues. No matter the debate or social problem, public education was part of the conversation. It infiltrated every aspect of my studies– as it should. It’s one of the vastest systems in the country, one that touches literally every community. My choice to start working in public education policy, specifically with the KnowledgeWorks team, is based on the philosophy that, in order to address other complex social issues, we must value every child’s education, regardless of their demographics. KnowledgeWorks’ focus on educational transformation provides a unique opportunity to do just that.


Welcome to the team, Anne! We’re happy to have you.

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Looking Back at the Future: 9 Years of Forecasting

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2015-10-27 13:42

Since 2006, KnowledgeWorks has been forecasting the future of learning.

Throughout the past nine years, we have published three major forecasts with accompanying forecast updates; explored the future of teaching and the future of credentials; developed a guide to help stakeholders move from vision to action; and most recently, released a publication which considers strategies for cultivating vibrant learning ecosystems; and a paper exploring how educators’ roles may diversify in the future. In addition to those papers, we are also gearing to release our fourth major forecast exploring the future of learning.

KnowledgeWorks’ first forecast on the future of learning, 2006-2016 Map of Future Forces Affecting Education, was published in 2006 in conjunction with the Institute for the Future. As we approach the 2016 time horizon and begin researching our next major forecast, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at this first publication and see where we landed in terms of the images of the future as written in 2006.

As we look back at our first forecast, it should be noted that none of our forecast publications are intended to be predictions. A prediction is an affirmation or specific statement as to whether something will or will not happen at a specific date, and by definition is either right or wrong. The goal of our strategic foresight work is to help build understanding and generate insights about the wide range of possibilities for what  might happen in the future and to help education stakeholders to use those ideas to foster systemic and transformational change.

Drivers of Change

As we begin our look back at the future, let’s introduce the drivers of change that were identified in KnowledgeWorks’ first forecast. A driver can be thought of as a force that is causing change, something that is affecting or shaping the future. The 2006-2016 Map of Future Forces Affecting Education highlighted six drivers of change affecting the future of education:

Grassroots Economics: From economies of scale to economies of groups

Grassroots economics is an emerging set of rules for creating value from collaboration more than negotiation, from bottom-up rather than top-down processes, and from shared resources rather than private property.

Smart Networking: From informed citizens to engaged networkers

At the intersection of traditional social-networking and connective technologies is an emerging skill set of engaged networking — the ability to form ad hoc groups and catalyze communications of action using personal interactive media.

Strong Opinions, Strongly Held: From global media culture to a splintered fundamentalism

As media channels fragment and subcultures form around common interests, strong opinions will be reinforced by strong social networks — with a tendency toward more fundamentalist views of complex problems.

Sick Herd: From steadily improving quality of life to increasing signs of distress

With population density increasing dramatically, environmental crises looming, and a more interconnected global society that buffers population less, there are increasing signs that the human herd is not healthy.

Urban Wilderness: From predominantly rural to predominantly urban spaces

This decade, as the urban population surpasses the 50 percent threshold worldwide, megacities and rapidly growing smaller cities will face unprecedented challenges in managing wealth, health, infrastructure, and social discontent.

The End of Cyberspace: From physical versus digital to seamlessly physical and digital

Places and objects are becoming increasingly embedded with digital information and linked through connective media into social networks. The result is the end of the distinction between cyberspace and real space.

The forecast applied these drivers of change across five key areas:

  • Family and community
  • Markets
  • Institutions
  • Educators and learning
  • Tools and practices

The images of the future that the drivers produced when applied to the five key areas became KnowledgeWorks’ first forecast on the future of learning.

Over the course of this blog series I will be exploring the details of our first forecast and exploring how the images of the future we imagined in 2006 may or may not have developed as we approach 2016. In the meantime, what drivers of change from our 2006 forecast do you feel are still relevant today?

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Moving Beyond the Status Quo

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2015-10-22 08:00

Mike Tobin graduated from Marysville High School and now he’s teaching 9th grade social studies at another school in that district, Marysville Early College High School, where students practice mastery learning. “The mastery learning and the culture of challenge is so huge because average isn’t acceptable anymore, Tobin said. “In Marysville, in this building, we’re pushing beyond that.”

Mastery learning is a method of instruction where students master a subject area before moving on to the next one. At Marysville Early College High School, grades reflect mastery of skills and standards. Students have multiple opportunities to demonstrate mastery of required coursework and must have an 80% to earn a course credit.

When Jen Hinderer thought about her students, she observed, “they’re not afraid to fail. They’re not settling for average. They like that they can keep tackling a project until they get it.”

This teaching and learning style has helped to level the playing field for students throughout the school. Although an academically rigorous, STEM-focused school, Marysville Early College High School accepts all students who apply, regardless of academic skill level. Adapting curriculum to mastery learning has meant offering personalized learning on a bigger scale than you might see at more transitional schools and ensuring supports are in place to help struggling students.

Jena Leber is an intervention specialist at Marysville Early College High School and part of her role is to connect students with the support they need. “In the past my struggling students would stop trying,” said Leber. “With mastery, they’re willing to keep trying. This changes the self-fulfilling prophecy that you fail. It’s a major shift in students.”

What does mastery learning mean for a teacher in the classroom?

Brooke Young is in her second year teaching math at Marysville Early College High School. When she started, her biggest hurdle was just getting over the ambiguity of what mastery means. Over the past two years, she’s refined her definition.

“Mastery in math means mastering the process (answering the problem) and the context (how it’s used and why).”

To help teach both the process and the context of her subject area, Young partners with teachers of other subject areas so students can see math at play in real life. She loves being able to experiment with alternative ways to help students master math.

“At a traditional school you don’t have the freedom to try new things,” Young said.

Marysville Early College High School Principal Kathy McKinniss is giving her teachers the leeway they need to find out what works. “I think it’s important that we acknowledge that we will reinvent ourselves every year so we keep doing the best for our students,” she said.

McKinniss has created a place where people are comfortable with ambiguity, where adults question things and model that behavior for kids. She’s also supporting her teachers and their work, communicating frequently with student families and promoting personalized learning through classroom instruction and the use of tools like Schoology.

“Last year was very hard, trying to get this mastery stuff down,” said Jason Wirth, a science teacher at Marysville Early College High School. “You have to do mastery learning at this level and still have to meet academic standards. This year is way better. I’ve made biology classes all hands-on with labs, design projects and project-based learning.”

Talking to teachers throughout the school, it’s clear that transitioning to mastery learning has been a challenging process, but a rewarding one.

“In the past, I felt very hemmed in,” said social studies teacher Jodie Robertson. “In this building, I’m around an entire staff of risk-takers. We’ve never happy with what’s the status quo.”

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Looking Back at the Future

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2015-10-21 16:27

Oct. 21, 2015. The day Doc and Marty McFly visited in “Back to the Future 2.”

America has been waiting for this day for almost 30 years.  And while we may be disappointed not to see hoverboards and flying cars, there are some trends the movie predicted correctly.

Wearable technology

wearable-technologySome of today’s wearable tech is part of our day-to-day lives, such as Fitbit. Other types, like Google Glass, are growing in popularity.




Video calls

video-callThis one is obvious. Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangout… the list goes on.





hologram-future-forecastHolograms may not be a daily thing, but they have found their place in the spotlight. Specifically: Tupac’s Coachella appearance.





A Cubs’ World Series Championship


Ok, so this may not be true (yet). But a Chicago fan can hope.





In celebration of Back to the Future Day, we’re looking back at our own future. KnowledgeWorks has been forecasting the future of education for almost 10 years, with our first forecast launched in 2006. Throughout the next couple weeks, KnowledgeWorks Director of Strategic Foresight Jason Swanson will be looking at the current education landscape, through the lens of our very first forecast.

In celebration of Back to the Future day, look back at the future with us.

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An Interview with Becca Nachtrab About The Future of Learning

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2015-10-20 08:00

I am truly excited to see the positive things that come with technological advances and how they affect learning.

As part of my ongoing series of interviews with students about the future of learning, I sat down Becca Nachtrab. Becca is in her third year at the University of Cincinnati, where she is studying graphic design in the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. Becca is currently a graphic design co-op with the Communications Team at KnowledgeWorks.

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

I am excited to see how advances in technology make learning more engaging and exciting.

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

As learning becomes more personalized and driven by advances in technology, I am worried certain crucial aspects of a traditional classroom setting will be lost. I think being surrounded by and learning with other people is vital to the development of one’s social skills. That being said, I think the personalization of learning and the advances in technology have the power to completely change education for the better, the trick will be knowing how far to take it.

3. What do you feel is the biggest uncertainty to the future of learning?

I think the biggest uncertainty to the future of learning is being able to provide an equal education to everyone. If schools do begin relying heavily on advanced technology, it will become a matter or who can afford it. Schools in wealthier areas will have even more of an advantage.

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

I think the use of artificial intelligence will completely change education, not necessarily for the better. The entire classroom/teacher setting could completely change, maybe even become obsolete. A wearable device to me sounds like a wearable version of Google. If a person always has access to Google, are they even learning?

5. There is a lot of talk happening right now around the future of work, with many people worried about technological unemployment. Work is a really important organizing principle for education. What do you think would happen to our education system as the concept of work is redefined?

I don’t think our education system would change too drastically. I think technological unemployment has happened throughout history and at the same time new jobs were being created. So yes, there will be technological unemployment, but I don’t think that is something to worry about. I have been told many times that the job I have in the future, probably does not exist today. This makes me excited!

6. What does “personalized learning” mean to you?

I think personalized learning is an education system based solely around a specific child. What is being taught, when it is being taught and how it is being taught would be unique to every child. A child learns at his or her own pace and only advances when they are ready.

7. What will personalized learning be like in the future?

I think personalized learning will rely heavily on technology. This is not only due to the rapid advances in technology but because with personalized learning there is no way a traditional classroom setting with 20 kids and one teacher can exist. Although my education has almost entirely been in a traditional setting, I have experienced what could be referred to as personalized learning. My earliest memory is from my fifth grade typing class. We each sat our own computer with headphones and played a CD game. Our lessons were based on our skill level and we advanced at our own pace. At any given time, everyone in the class could have been learning something else. This is what I picture when I think about personalized learning in the future, a lot of kids with their own computer, or whatever piece of technology it might be, learning their own lessons by themselves.

8. What is your own vision for the future of learning?

I am truly excited to see the positive things that come with technological advances and how they affect learning. As I stated before, I think technology, if used correctly, can make learning engaging. I imagine the use of virtual realities. Glasses than can transport the user anywhere in the universe and anywhere in time. What a person is looking at while wearing the glasses changes as the move. When they look up they see the sky, when they look down they see the ground. Better yet, imagine a whole room that changes appearance. These technologies exist. They are currently being used for making documentaries and video games but I believe using them for education is not too far away.

As an example of the types of virtual experiences I am talking about, watch Clouds Over Sidra. This short documentary of a young Syrian girl named Sidra was filmed to be viewed while wearing the virtual reality glasses. When watching, be sure to click and drag your screen so that you can see the video from every angle. Imagine while you are watching the video that you are wearing the virtual reality glasses that would help make it feel like you are there with Sidra.


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Helping Dreams Come True: #BetterMakeRoom

Posts from WOL - Mon, 2015-10-19 12:23

“We have to make sure kids have every chance to be who and what they want to be,” said First Lady Michelle Obama during her kick-off of her new Better Make Room campaign earlier today.

“We have to make sure kids have every chance to be who and what they want to be,” said First Lady Michelle Obama during her kick-off of her new Better Make Room campaign earlier today.

The new campaign is geared towards helping students access higher education and doing it by connecting with them using technology. Joining the White House on this initiative are social media and pop culture celebrities like KingBach, Jérôme Jarre, Ciara, Angela Simmons and Lebron James. Rather than having a conversation where students are looking up to pop culture, celebrities will be honoring kids who are working hard on their education.

This is a chance to put the spotlight on students like Jordan S.R. Brown, a graduate of Lorain County Early College High School and first generation college goer who is now in medical school at Ohio University. People will be able to applaud students like Tori Ball, a first generation college goer from Akron, Ohio, who saved more than $40,000 on her college tuition by taking advantage of early college opportunities.

“Generation Z interacts with the world in fundamentally different ways than people before them,” said First Lady Obama. “They’re more independent but more connected than ever before. They want content that is authentic and raw. If we truly want to engage this generation in a conversation about higher education, we need to create a space for people to create the conversation for themselves.”

Students can participating in this conversation now using #BetterMakeRoom. They’ll see their words shared by the White House, by celebrities and by their peers. But that’s just the first step.

“Once young people have shared their stories and declared their ambitions, we’re going to give them the tools to achieve those ambitions,” said First Lady Obama.

These tools will include reminders, prompts and directions for how students can take advantage of resources available to them.

Learn more about Better Make Room.


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Exploring #FutureEd: Seven Potential Educator Roles

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2015-10-14 10:13

learning agentsAs education changes, so will educator roles. What if in the future, instead of “teacher,” “principal,” or “after-school tutor,” we have “learning pathway designer,” “social innovation portfolio director,” and “pop-up reality producer”?

Exploring the Future Education Workforce: New Roles for an Expanding Learning Ecosystem looks at the following seven roles that might exist in the future and how they each might contribute to a more flexible and rigorous learning environment.

  1. Learning Pathway Designer – Works with students, parents, and learning journey mentors to set learning goals, track students’ progress and pacing, and model potential sequences of activities that support learning experiences aligned with competencies.
  2. Competency Tracker – Tags and maps community-based learning opportunities by the competencies they address in order to support the development of reconfigurable personalized learning pathways and school formats.
  3. Pop-Up Reality Producer – Works with educators, subject matter experts, story developers, and game designers to produce pervasive learning extravaganzas that engage learners in flow states and help them develop relevant skills, academic competencies, and know-how.
  4. Social Innovation Portfolio Director – Builds networks in support of meaningful service-based learning and community impact by linking student action-learning groups seeking to develop core skills and knowledge with organizations seeking creative solutions.
  5. Learning Naturalist – Designs and deploys assessment protocols that capture evidence of learning in students’ diverse learning environments and contexts.
  6. Micro-Credential Analyst – Provides trusted, research-based evaluations and audits of micro-credential options and digital portfolio platforms in order to provide learners and institutions with comparative quality assurance metrics.
  7. Data Steward – Acts as a third-party information trustee to ensure responsible and ethical use of personal data and to maintain broader education data system integrity and effective application through purposeful analytics.

For explore potential educator roles in the future, join us for a Twitter chat with authors Katherine Prince and Jason Swanson on Oct. 14 at 3:30 pm EST.  To learn more about the seven potential roles, download Exploring the Future Education Workforce: New Roles for an Expanding Learning Ecosystem


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Hessian Education Policy

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2015-10-06 09:53

As Rick Hess would say, “Policy is a blunt tool that can make people do things, it just can’t make them do it well.”  While I agree with the blunt tool part, I believe policy can make people do things well.  The key?  Making sure good policy is grounded in good practice.


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What’s your dream job?

Posts from WOL - Mon, 2015-10-05 09:07

future-ed-jobsWhat job would you dream up for yourself? This is pretty hard question for me as I’ve always had a lot of different interests. Trying to narrow my focus while and thinking “why do I have to choose?” can make job searching tricky. Reading KnowledgWorks’ most recent publication, Exploring the Future Education Workforce: New Roles for an Expanding Learning Ecosystemprompted me to spend some time thinking about what my dream job of the future would be.

Since this is a huge topic, I used the seven roles already presented in the paper to set some parameters. Of course I also wanted to incorporate the qualities of a healthy learning ecosystem, “learner-centered, equitable, modular and interoperable, and resilient.” Ok, so where do I fit in? I enjoy connecting people with ideas, teaching, and most of all, using all the resources of museums to serve the public. After some reflection, I came up with a future role that I am calling a “Museum Learning Manager.” This position would be sort of a floating manager within the museum of all things ecosystem related.

My first priority would be to collaborate with students who have curriculum goals that the museum can meet. Interested in history? Let’s work in the archives. Love building stuff? Exhibition design is for you. A lover of language and writing? How about working on text labels, press releases, exhibition catalogues and social media? Independent with attention to detail? Collections care is for you. Enthusiastic people person? You belong in the development office.

I wouldn’t just find a place for them though; I would also fill a sort of supervisor/mentor role. I would meet with them often as they work on their projects, complete assignments, and achieve their goals. Benchmarks could be set with the students, their parents, and learning pathway designer. I would work with the competency tracker and learning naturalist to ensure they are getting the most out of their time at the museum. I would also serve as the liaison between the museum and the pop-up reality producer. Providing access to resources, space, content specialists, etc. as they create their next learning experience.

I love all of this personally, but it would also be great for museums and schools. What better way to train young people who might go on to pursue a career in museums? What a great opportunity to allow access to resources schools might not have, such as object collections and exhibit space. Many people don’t realize all the different types of jobs there are in museums until they are well on their way to some other career. With a system like this one, students can find areas they are passionate about and want to keep pursuing as adults. Another benefit of this system is that it breaks down the perception that museums are elitist. By being a small part of a larger learning ecosystem, museums can know and be known by their communities and stakeholders.

What’s most exciting is that some of the activities above are already happening. The National Association of Museum Schools is working toward engaging, experiential learning for students through partnerships between museums and schools. I recommend reading Laney Tillner’s two posts on the Center for the Future of Museums for a bite-sized look into the world of museum schools. It is so exciting to read about students working in museums to meet their educational goals!

This is what excites me about the future of education. What about you?



Adrienne Turnbull-Reilly is a museum educator living and working in Dorchester, MA. She got her Masters in Anthropology and Museum Studies from the University of Denver. She sits on the Greater Boston Museum Educator Roundtable planning committee, as well as serving as the Emerging Museum Professionals chair. She is interested in museum education, museums as agents of change, and quality education for all. Read her blog at cabinetsandcuriosity.squarespace.com.


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From Family- and Patient-Centered Healthcare to Student-Centered Learning

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2015-10-01 08:00

At KnowledgeWorks, our approach to education is based on a philosophy of student- or learner-centered learning.

I came to education by way of pediatric healthcare. When I started working at the medical center out of college, it was in the midst of a movement towards family-centered care (for the very young patients) and patient-centered care (for the adolescent and teen patients). Watching the medical providers around me transform the way they delivered care was enlightening. No longer was it assumed that a doctor knows best. Instead, patients and their families were driving decisions in their own medical care.

As a healthcare consumer, its changed how I approach my own care. I assume my own leadership in each interaction and change providers when that leadership isn’t welcome.

Why should that apply in education and learning as well? It can.

Student-Centered Learning

At KnowledgeWorks, our approach to education is based on a philosophy of student- or learner-centered learning.


We live in a customized world, except in school.We live in a customized world, except in school. At the schools we partner with, We honor that each learner is an individual with a unique learning style. In competency education and early college high schools, learners have learning experiences that are truly meaningful to them. We personalize the education experience.


School as we traditionally know it is built around the agrarian calendar for rural communities and climate in urban communities. There is no need for those factors to dictate when and were learning occurs. Competency-based education is founded on the idea that learning can occur anytime, anywhere and for people of all ages. Learning is now inclusive of the entire community, making opportunities for engaged learning within our schools and throughout our learning ecosystems.


When education isn’t equitable, it creates barriers for entry to learners of lower socioeconomic status to advance in quality of life and contribute to economic development. In competency-based education, there are not the physical constraints that come with traditional schools. Learning is not place-based and it is not something that happens to the child. Learning is something children actively pursue. In early college high schools, we serve first-generation college goers and make the dream of college a reality.


The role of a teacher is evolving to more of a coaching role or a facilitator of learning. We live in a time when a teacher as “sage on the stage” is no longer the only acceptable instructional practice. The role of a teacher is evolving to more of a coaching role or a facilitator of learning. Teachers can help coach learners to manage time and learning opportunities. They can help learners to take advantage of expertise throughout the community at local businesses, museums and libraries; all known as active members of the learning community.

Business and community leaders have the opportunity to take an active role in helping to improve workforce readiness and create economic development that benefits their community directly. They can do this by creating learning opportunities for students in the form of internships, co-ops and mentoring as well as partnering with schools and teachers to develop curriculum that delivers hands-on, real-world-relevant learning opportunities throughout the learning community.

Students in Birmingham are working alongside the staff of Jones Valley Teaching Farm in vegetable gardens and at farmer’s markets. Students at Marysville Early College High School are benefiting from a curriculum that was co-created with area employers to ensure that school curriculum aligns with local economic needs.

Learn more about KnowledgeWorks and our work in schools.


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Oh Snap.

Posts from WOL - Mon, 2015-09-28 12:24

 Is it getting in the way of learning or a tool that can enhance learning?

Another school system banned Snapchat, a popular photo-sharing app, from the school’s Wi-Fi networks. That decision lit-up twitter as students complained, whined and begged for the decision to be reversed. They even started an online petition.

Not quite sure what Snapchat is?

Some schools and teachers characterize the app as a distraction – a teacher’s worst nightmare. And a majority of parents tend to agree, with school district administrators adding that it has no instructional value.

A mobile app that started in 2011 as a photo messaging service, Snapchat enabled teens to trade spontaneous selfies of their everyday lives. The messaging app then evolved into a social network once they launched a feature called My Story, which lets users post photos and videos for large groups of friends to see for up to 24 hours. Even news outlets are using the Snapchat Discover feature, which lets publishers reach new younger audiences with well-produced stories that are made specifically for that platform. And now, with their newest feature, Live Story has become a broadcast platform, crowd-sourcing real-time content – in September, for example, Snap users could see others’ experiences shared over Snapchat of the Pope’s visit to the U.S. and even travel across the world to discover curated shared stories of Namibia.

Admittedly, when I first downloaded Snapchat two years ago, I didn’t get it. My teenage girls snapped all the time. It was a constant struggle to have dinners, a conversation, or even a walk around the neighborhood without a selfie being snapped.

And then a light bulb went on. It was all about engagement. Meeting them at a place where they felt comfortable and connected.

GlobalWebIndex, a marketing research firm, said that Snapchat is particularly popular with teens, with 84 percent of the app’s estimated 200 million users younger than 35.

Couldn’t this be more of an opportunity to engage students in learning? Through storytelling. Tapping their creativity. Building competencies like communication skills, decision-making and good judgment. What a powerful medium to reach learners.

I attended a school-to-career meeting that convened educators, business leaders, community volunteers and student representatives – ideas were being tossed around by the adults, suggesting ways to engage students. I sat next to a student who twisted uncomfortably in her chair, ringing her hands, awaiting her turn. She finally burst out:

“I think you’re all thinking about it the wrong way. We should share information over Snapchat and Twitter. That’s how we connect and share information.”

Most of the adults scoffed and the conversation continued.

Later I talked with her and other students.

Junior: “Ok yeah. Snapchat is fun. But it’s also a way that we can share information. At lunchtime and during passing period, kids are always on their phone. Sharing information, and ok yeah, selfies. But we also chat about school. Homework assignments, project work.”

Freshman: “Yeah. Like over Live Story. We could like create a School Story and share announcements out or like that SAT word of the day thingy.”

Senior: “We use Snap in my Spanish class to help with vocabulary and pronunciation. It’s kinda cool to be able to snap a video of me talking in Spanish and then the person I’m paired with has to chat back how it’s spelled. But now that’s done. They banned Snapchat.”

Opponents say Snapchat has no instructional value or can’t serve as a learning aid. Didn’t they once say that about computers in the classroom, YouTube (think Flipped Classrooms), and Twitter – which btw, @wcpss and many schools successfully engage with tens of thousands of followers daily through this social media app.

I read on one of the comments by parents reacting to the school system’s decision to ban Snapchat:

“Kids need to be learning. Not distracted by technology, social media and other devices. We need to prepare them for the 21st century.”

We are in the 21st century. Preparing our students for the future also means allowing them to be innovative and help shape the way technology better connects and engages them and others to learn.

As KnowledgeWorks prepares to release our Future of Learning Forecast 4.0, this exchange with students about Snapchat and other new technologies really made me reflect. With the exponential advancement in information and technology, we are ushering a new era of learning and living. Snapchat is just one example of a technology that is reshaping the social realities that influence learning.

Perhaps we all can be more open to learning how new technologies may do more to engage than to distract.


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Missed our Personalized Learning webinar? Check this out.

Posts from WOL - Fri, 2015-09-25 10:21

photoThroughout the past two years, KnowledgeWorks has interviewed and visited more than 30 school districts, organizations and state education agencies throughout the country. In talking to educators, administrators and state leaders, our policy team noticed that they all pretty much said the same thing:

Personalized learning is the best way to educate students.

Most of KnowledgeWorks’ policy focus throughout the past year has focused on that very concept. From our District Conditions for Scaling Personalized Learning to our first-ever e-book about competency education to our ESEA recommendations to meetings with state and federal policymakers, our team works to shape policy environments that break down barriers to personalizing learning for all students.

In September, KnowledgeWorks Vice President of Policy and Advocacy Matt Williams hosted a webinar that focused on how state education agencies and local districts can work together to scale personalized learning. Based off our most recent policy framework, the webinar explored the topic with: Virgel Hammonds, KnowledgeWorks Chief Learning Officer and former superintendent of RSU2 District in Maine; and Gretchen Morgan, Executive Director of the Choice and Innovation Unit for the Colorado Department of Education.

While we highly recommend the webinar as a resource, we fully realize you may not have an hour to spare. So here are five takeaways to fill you in:

  1. Our current school structure doesn’t match the world around us. “We live in such a customized world,” Virgel said. “That’s all our kids know. That’s the world they’ve grown up in. But when you look at our learning environments and schools, we’re very reluctant to customize anything when it comes to learning structures.
  2. It’s crucial to ground policy in practice. By focusing on this, it’s easier to get a notion of what on-the-ground expertise is important, and also to see what is working. “The logic just doesn’t hold up for us to act any other way,” Gretchen said “If you are really in it for some kind of sustainable change, then you have to figure out how to work at this in a systems way. There has to be some very close connection between what is happening on the ground and what is going on across the system. Trying to pull levers in one or another place isn’t going to make it happen.”
  3. State education agencies should be interested in developing ‘agency’ in students. Our current school system was original build for the manufacturing world. Today, leaders in those industries are talking about needing employees who identify and solve problems, while looking for ways to continuously improve. “We need to be producing kids who are both competent and have a sense of agency,” Gretchen said. “That’s where our interest in personalized learning comes from; kids are only going to develop that agency if they get a chance to practice that at school.”
  4. Schools and districts sometimes have to work around barriers. As former superintendent of a district that made the move to competency education, Virgel had to move some barriers out of the way to create flexibility for the vision of competency-based education, a form of personalized learning, to become a reality. “Otherwise,” he said, “we’re trying to work within the old structure. Being able to be strategic and systemic in policy gave teachers, students and community a green light to move forward in our vision.”
  5. States should allow for flexibility, but still figure out how to hold schools and districts accountable. “We’re trying to figure out ways to look really differently at accountability and assessment, without forgetting that there were good reasons that we built the system that we have,” Gretchen said. “For example, this is a huge public investment, and there should be accountability for large public endeavors like this. And, we had an equity issue in our state that there was, and still are, significant achievement gaps. When sitting in a state role and trying to find out about the flexibilities that matter, it’s important that we all think about the reasons why this inflexible thing was created, and if we still value that.”

For more on these five takeaways and more personalized learning insight, view the webinar in its entirety.


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Watch a Preview of Our Next Forecast!

Posts from WOL - Fri, 2015-09-18 14:09

In November, KnowledgeWorks will be releasing our fourth full forecast on the future of learning, “Education in the Era of Partners in Code.” Many long conversations and rounds of editing go into getting the content just right, and we’re nearly there. In the meantime, we’ve created our first video trailer previewing the changes that we see shaping learning over the next decade.

The new forecast will raise big questions about how we might all be living, working, and learning in ten years’ time. We hope that the trailer will whet your appetite for exploring it with us!

So have a look at the changes on the horizon for learning.  You can also sign up to receive a copy of the forecast when it comes out.


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Communication Tips: Six ways to increase partnership engagement

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2015-09-17 11:20

communication-engagement‘Well done’ is better than ‘well said.’

How many of you have read or heard this before?

Through increased communications networks, parent involvement, family engagement initiatives, and strategic community partnerships, [organization/school district] will build strong family and community relationships to increase expertise, trust, and shared responsibility for student success.

Great sentiment. But it takes a commitment to act and dedicate resources and time to cultivate those partnerships and advocates.  Here are six ways you can increase engagement:

  1. Share their stuff. Subscribe to their newsletters, social media and blogs. When they publish something or speak at an event that’s aligned with your organization’s mission, help them to promote it. Push it out to your subscribers/audiences with a mention.
  2. Give them a shout out. Mention partners in your own blogs – not only do individuals and organizations like to be recognized, but then your readers see what ‘good/reputable’ organizations or individuals are in support of you.
  3. Tap their expertise. Ask them to join a panel discussion or write a guest blog (hint: interview/Q&A styles work best for busy folks).
  4. Create a regular dialog with them. Start with a periodic call/email asking their thoughts, what are they hearing in the field/ who they influence… share insight and get their insight. This helps build relationships and dialogue to have them continue to feel like a valued partner and will encourage/incent them to want to continue to talk about your organization.
  5. Treat them like VIPs. Extend pre-information on news releases; provide sneak peeks of resources or papers. If there happens to be an event in their local community, invite them to meet up or join.
  6. Keep an advocate database. Ok, that should have been the first tip. The basics, social media aliases, special skills or connections, and if you’re really good, track the events and meetings of yours they attend – a great way to measure their engagement.

Strive for ‘well said’ and ‘well done.’


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Steel City Credentials: Building the future of credentials in Pittsburgh

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2015-09-15 17:28

epittsburgh-credentialsSchool News recently reported on the new digital badging initiative that launched in the city of Pittsburgh. The initiative comes to the area courtesy of Pittsburgh City of Learning, and consists of three programs; county-run program called “Learn and Earn” which focuses on youth employment, a mixed academic and digital literacy program called the “Summer Dreamers Academy” being led by Pittsburgh Public School, and a summer reading program for middle and high school students organized by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

While digital badges are no longer a new concept, they are a signal of change and point towards quite a few possibilities for the future of credentials. In my paper focusing on the future of credentials, I explored four scenarios of how credentials might appear in the year 2025. Those scenarios are:

  • “All Roads Lead to Rome” imagines a future in which degrees awarded by the K-12 and post-secondary sectors still serve as the dominant form of credentials, but there are many roads toward gaining those credentials, such as diverse forms of school and educational assessments.
  • “The Dam Breaks” explores a future in which the employment sector accepts new forms of credentials, such as micro-credentials, on a standalone basis, leading to major shifts in both the K-12 and post-secondary sectors and new relationships between the academic and working worlds.
  • “Every Experience a Credential” considers what credentials might look like if new technologies enabled every experience to be tracked and cataloged as a form of credential for both students and employees.
  • “My Mind Mapped” imagines a future in which breakthroughs in both the mapping and tracking of brain functions have created a new type of credential reflecting students’ cognitive abilities and social and emotional skills.

Pittsburgh City of Learning’s digital badge initiative is an excellent signal of change for the future of credentials and serves as a signpost for two scenarios that the paper explored; “All Roads Lead to Rome” and “The Dam Breaks.” The question as to which future this initiative might be a signpost towards centers around the critical uncertainty as to whether new kinds of credentials, in this case, digital badges, will be accepted on a standalone basis, thus steering credentials into the future outlined in “The Dam Breaks.” Or, will there be hesitancy to acceptance of new types of credentials as replacements to the long dominate traditional diploma, in effect pushing digital badges into territory where they are used to augment existing degrees as described in “All Roads Lead to Rome?”

I will be keeping my eye on this initiative to see how the Steel City embraces digital badges. With their focuses on areas such as workplace readiness, summer reading, and digital literacy, as well as their cultivation of such a wide variety of partners ranging from the county, informal learning spaces, to city’s public schools, Pittsburgh City of Learning digital badging initiative is actively shaping the future of credentials and the future of learning.


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I was lucky

Posts from WOL - Fri, 2015-09-11 10:39

i-was-luckyTwenty years ago, I got lucky.

I was a pretty typical student at my public high school in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio. I did my homework, studied when I needed to for tests and had a solid GPA. My social life was the most important thing on my mind; school didn’t really challenge me, and I didn’t challenge myself.

One day, my sophomore English teacher told me she thought I had a skill. She held up a paper I had written and told the class it was a great example of strong writing. She recommended me for AP English and when junior year rolled around and I had to start thinking about life after high school, finding a way to use these skills was the natural next step for me. My mom told me about potential degrees and careers where I could use my writing skills. And by the start of my senior year, I had a plan.

There was never a question in my mind that I would go to college and stick with it. My mom and dad set a powerful example, spending years working toward their bachelor’s degrees while working and raising two girls. My mom even went on to finish her Master’s degree when I was 12, then her doctorate when I was 25.

Twenty years ago, I was lucky. I had a teacher who helped me uncover a skill. And I had parents who showed me the importance of a college education, and knew how to help me find a career path and degree program. I completed my journalism degree and built a successful career in marketing communications

But not every student is as lucky.Emily Grad NKU 1 1 (1)

This week, I traveled to a rural community with some of my KnowledgeWorks and EDWorks colleagues. We met with local leaders working hard to improve the local economy, create jobs, increase wellness and help local students succeed.

For decades, the majority of students in this community have not had the same support that I did. While 91 percent of students graduate high school, most do not have the skills needed to succeed in college or careers. Local parents want to help their kids succeed, but don’t necessarily know how. Only 20 percent of residents have a college degree, the majority of students who succeed in college are not returning to the community to work, and new businesses coming into the region are not finding the talent they need locally.

Education results and workforce needs are out of sync. And this challenge is common in rural communities across the country.

To overcome this challenge, the K-12 education system, higher education, business and local economic development efforts have to come together. And the community leaders I met this week are working hard to make this happen. They’re looking at early college high school models to help students start their college journey as early as in the 9th grade. They’re focusing on STEM and career-focused curriculum and experiences to help give kids the skills they need to fill the jobs local businesses are creating today and in the future. And, they’re investigating competency education approaches to ensure that students master the skills they need to succeed.

Until just recently, I didn’t realize how fortunate I really was to find my path 20 years ago, and to have the support I needed to get to college, finish and be successful. Today, as I worry about my son’s path and how to make sure he has the education and support he needs, I’m inspired and encouraged by the leaders I met yesterday and others across the country that are working to change the system to ensure every child can succeed.


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Policy Research from the Ground Up

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2015-09-10 12:20

echo chamberLike most people, I like to talk about what I like. It’s the most fun when I can talk about things I like with other people who understand and like what I like.

When it comes to education policy, that can be a blessing or a curse. The blessing is the education policy space is full of people constantly releasing papers, blogs, articles, and reports exist, creating infinite possibilities for thought-provoking conversations. The curse is that spending all my time exchanging ideas within the policy world makes me pretty unrelatable.

We hit major bumps in education policy when we think that our echo chamber alone will create the transformation needed in the education system. While our research, knowledge, and skills are important and can’t be disregarded, neither can the individuals who make up the system—principals, superintendents, students, teachers, and entire school communities. On the Policy and Strategic Foresight team, we often talk about the idea that policy can’t be transformative without a grounding in practice. This created the foundation for our recent state policy framework.

My first year at KnowledgeWorks centered on our district conditions project. A few months into that year, our team released the first paper of the project: District Conditions for Scale: A Practical Guide to Scaling Personalized Learning (you can learn more about the research behind that paper here).

Even after publication, we continued conversations with district leaders to learn about their particular successes and challenges in the shift to personalized learning. Based on those interviews, we started to form our priorities for how we could be a support to the work that is happening on the ground in districts. A theme that was continually repeated in interviews was that there are many barriers in states that create significant challenges to the implementation and scaling of personalized learning. As a result, we were able to start shaping a policy framework for states to allow the flexibility for districts to pursue transformation.

My colleague, Jesse Moyer, created a draft of a state policy framework that would give districts flexibility to scale personalized learning. Because we prioritize creating resources that are useful and resonate with the education field, we brought together a group of district leaders, state education leaders, and policy experts to analyze our work and give us feedback. Thanks to their insight, we were able to craft A State Policy Framework for Scaling Personalized Learning.

As we move forward in our desire to support practitioners towards the future of education, we will continue to take the same approach that we did with our research throughout our district conditions project. By listening to the needs of individual districts in the states we will work with, we can identify how our knowledge and expertise support the practitioners, making sure that we step outside the echo chamber to act on the real and immediate needs of educators across the country.


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