Decoding ESSA: A Blog Series that Uncovers Promising State Strategies to Enable Personalized Learning
Across the country, policymakers and communities are working together to develop new, innovative ways to advance personalized learning and rethink college and career readiness, equity and continuous improvement for their schools.
With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December 2015, Congress gave states greater flexibility to design K-12 education systems that align to their vision for student success. Among the flexibilities provided, states were given numerous opportunities to advance personalized learning as ways to increase equitable outcomes for their students.
Over the last six months, KnowledgeWorks has been reviewing each state’s ESSA draft and submitted plans to create an online interactive map and resource that highlights state strategies for leveraging ESSA flexibility to advance personalized learning policies, models, and practices. Now, our policy team – including Matt Williams, Lillian Pace, Tyler Barnett, Sarah Jenkins and myself – are ready to bring our insights to you in a blog series that will run through the rest of summer.
The blog series will feature many of the personalized learning trends that we’ve noticed emerging as each state looks to further its own vision and approach to teaching and learning. This10-part series will highlight trends and feature examples from state plans. The posts will focus on the following areas, consistent with the required ESSA plan template:
- Accountability – How are states designing accountability systems that create diverse learning opportunities for students and emphasize the success of each learner in the state?
- School Improvement – How are states building school improvement systems that value continuous improvement for all schools through personalized supports, student-centered interventions, and broad community and stakeholder ownership for school reform?
- Excellent Educators – How are states aligning their pre-service, certification, professional development and evaluation systems to create a seamless system that enables educators and leaders to advance through a continuum of supports that prepare them for success in personalized learning environments?
- Supporting All Students – What types of initiatives or programs are states creating to ensure students have access to a wide range of rigorous learning experiences that align to their interests and goals and ensure readiness for postsecondary, career, and civic life?
The goal for our series, and for our interactive online resource as a whole, is to elevate states’ leadership in creating high quality education systems that provide innovative and flexible learning opportunities. We hope to help stakeholders identify and better understand the benefits of diverse approaches to personalized learning.
Finally, we aim to help states solve for potential unintended consequences of these ideas by opening the door to robust conversation among stakeholders and states.
Check in weekly for new posts highlighting the promising trends and some of our favorite examples from state plans, or get updates on new posts by following us on Twitter.
Virgel Hammonds knows what it takes to lead through times of innovation and change. As former superintendent of RSU2 in Maine, he led the district and community during their transition to competency-based education.
“We have to create a culture that allows for innovation,” he said on a recent podcast, “Leadership with Latoya.” “We’re so busy as leaders that seldom do we give ourselves or our teams the time to think outside the box. … We must pause to think about how we can become more effective, not only for ourselves but for those we serve.”
Virgel visited with Latoya about lessons in leading for innovation. They discussed the key elements that must be present (like culture and transparency), how innovative leaders differ from leaders in general and what innovative leadership might look like in the future.
“Those who are leading for innovation are giving their team the space to fail,” Virgel said. “That’s something that doesn’t come naturally. As human beings, we inherently want to avoid mistakes. We don’t want to fail. Leaders that help create innovative cultures let their teams know that, if we are going to grow, we have to be able to take some risks.”
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RSU2’s current superintendent, Bill Zima, knows that the transformation to a personalized learning approach like competency education is a community affair, and that it takes time and dedication – from everyone. “It’s going to take steps to get there,” said Zima. “Don’t rush it.”
Three key areas for focus for those looking to make the transition to personalized learning
- Partner with stakeholders to craft a clear vision and set a realistic pathway for change. While each stakeholder in the school or district’s community – students, parents, teachers, local businesses, civic leaders – may not know all of the details of what it means to run a learning system, it’s important to understand their expectations. Find out what a good school looks like to them, and use that feedback to craft a vision that everyone believes in.
- Build a culture of continuous improvement and don’t be afraid to fail. Zima stresses how important it is for a district to have a culture and understanding of continuous improvement, and “that teachers have the opportunity to practice and explore and try things and not worry about failing, so to speak.” Because a lesson that doesn’t turn out as a teacher hoped isn’t really failing, Zima said. It’s an opportunity to get feedback from students and improve the outcome next time.
- Continuously promote the vision and how work fits. Keeping the vision alive and making sure everyone understands how the work you’re doing fits in the vision is the primary role of the superintendent, according to Zima. Because the vision was created in
partnership with your stakeholders, it’s important to keep that central.
“Continuously promote the vision everywhere you go…,” he says. “Whenever I meet with parents. Whenever I meet with stakeholders. When I meet with teachers. When I sent out messages. Everything I do I tie back to our vision.”
Read more about RSU2 journey to personalized learning in, “Student-Centered Learning Begins with Community: How Five Communities in Maine Reimagined Learning Through Competency-Based Education.”
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Critical to every successful expedition throughout history has been a crew of experts. Sir Edmund Hillary was supported by crew of hundreds and reached the peak of Mount Everest accompanied by Tibetan climber Tenzing Norgay. When Ferdinand Magellan attempted to circumnavigate the world, he had the financial backing of the Spanish Monarchy and a team than took up five ships.
The crews supporting the learning at Garfield County School District 16 in Parachute, Colorado, are just as powerful because they include the best experts out there: students.
Through Expeditionary Learning, Garfield 16 and the community have adopted the rallying cry: “Crew…not passengers.” This motto is infused in their culture and it is how students and staff operate day to day. Students are not passive participants in learning; they are active co-creators of experiential learning.
Each day at Garfield 16 starts with either a school-wide culture building meeting or smaller Crew advisory meetings, both of which help foster the culture and build a family atmosphere for each student at school.
“Crew gives students a specific and consistent group of people to belong to,” said technology teacher Scott Carpenter.
CRISP learning targets
Students are introduced to the CRISP habits of a learner through CREW, which are infused into academics throughout the school day. CRISP stands for:
All five of these habits are types of social emotional learning, and ones that are increasingly shown to be beneficial to students in school and beyond. Throughout the school buildings in Garfield 16, you can easily find evidence of Crew and CRISP:
- Students can be heard using CRISP language and holding each other accountable to being a Crew member
- Bulletin boards throughout the school buildings display student recognition of developing CRISP habits
- Positive CRISP tickets, which are called “Panther Paws” at Grand Valley Middle School, are given to students to help reinforce expected behaviors…kids love the tickets and the recognition
- Teachers can also award each other CRISP tickets which are celebrated at staff meetings
- The kindergarten and first grade students have CRISP charms that they collect on bracelets, which are proudly displayed in their classroom
At Bea Underwood Elementary, daily lessons include both an academic learning target and a CRISP learning target. The staff also uses CRISP habits when developing their personal learning community norms.
Garfield 16 teachers own the CRISP habits and infuse them into the school day for their students. Jenna Hemphill, a Kindergarten-First grade teacher said, “CRISP is so important for my students because it helps them understand how to be a contributing citizen in our school, community and in life.”
At Grand Valley Center for Family Learning, staff stated that CREW has helped to:
- Build community
- Develop problem solving skills
- Increase accountability among students
- Drive goal setting
- Build executive function
- Develop growth mindset
- Create common expectations school-wide
“Being a CREW member means you are valued, accepted, supported and an important part of our academic community,” said Chris Ray, a sixth grade teacher at Bea Underwood Elementary School.
Our newest paper, which focuses on a new definition of readiness, highlights the importance of social emotional learning as a critical component of both college and career readiness, Download “Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out” to learn more.
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Excelling in a World That Includes Smart Machine Partners, and a Personal Quest to Reframe Robots as Partners in Progress
My history with robots is informed by pop-culture. Rosie from The Jetsons. Vicki from Small Wonder. All of the Transformers. Dot Matrix from Spaceballs. Johnny 5 from Short Circuit. Despite these mostly cheerful depictions of robots, the idea of robots scares me. I’m not sure where the fear comes from exactly, but I suspect that it’s because I envision little girls with circuit boards on their backs, which is, frankly, horrifying.
While I know that my views on modern technology shouldn’t be based on depictions from the 1980s, the modern pop-culture depictions of robots I’ve seen seem even more frightening. That’s a potential weakness on my part and one I’m trying to overcome.
A few years ago, I was encouraged to have a surgery performed by robotics over one done by my doctor and found myself relieved when that turned out to not be an option. Science, and evidence, is showing that robotics does have a place in the operating room and that, had it been an option for me, I should have seriously considered it. I respond well to evidence.
I also respond well to dramatic examples, of which there are many where robots do great good. The ones that come to mind are how military and police forces are using robots to help diffuse bombs. By making use of technology in this way, you can prevent the loss of human life. That’s hard to argue with, though not immediately relevant to my everyday experiences.
A recent article challenges the way I view robots and, specifically, robots in the workplace. As more and more retail moves online, distribution warehouses are having to ramp up in a big way to keep up. One way these retailers are keeping up with demand is robots. These robots are working alongside human workers.
Reframing robots as partners in progress
In “The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out,” one of the trends outlined is the rise of smart machines. In exploring a future scenario in which automation has eliminated some jobs and changed others and new occupations have emerged, the authors state, “Jobs are designed to leverage artificial intelligence systems and robots so as to allow people to maximize their unique contributions.”
When I initially read that, I imagined Vicki from Small Wonder and shuddered a little. At that first reading, I couldn’t embrace the idea of a robot-companion future because I was letting the past dictate too much. It’s important that I gather my evidence from the present and explore signals of the future so that I can be open to changing reality. What companies like Amazon are doing is partnering robots and humans to fulfill customer orders faster, which means more customers and more human workers.
Partnering with robots like this also means developing new skills. The first step, for me at least, is to update my image of robots. But what else is necessary? “The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out” shares some work characteristics that will allow people to Among them, we’ll need to make friends with people and machines.
How do we make sure that the education we’re providing today’s students equips them with the skills they will need for the world of work and life of tomorrow? Competency-based, personalized learning.
KnowledgeWorks has invested in this approach to education because it’s what works for students. A new research study from RAND Corporation has explored the efficacy of personalized learning and we’re excited about the findings.
“Informing Progress: Insights on Personalized Learning Implementation and Effects” is a study sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to look at US schools implementing personalized learning and to evaluate:
- What does personalized learning look like in various schools?
- How does the approach to personalized learning compare and contrast to a more traditional education?
- What are the obstacles to personalized learning?
- What factors hinder the implementation of personalized learning?
- What is the efficacy of personalized learning on student growth?
While the sample of schools evaluated in “Informing Progress” were all in the Next Generation Learning Challenges Breakthrough School Models program, the resulting data holds lessons that are applicable to all leaders in personalized learning.
Among the recommendations that came out of “Informing Progress” are several that align with the work KnowledgeWorks is doing alongside policymakers and school districts nationwide.
Align education policy and personalized learning
In 2015 we created a policy framework to help guides states and districts in working together to create flexibility to support scaling personalized learning. In this framework, we stress the importance for states to provide districts with the policy flexibility to scale personalized learning environments. The areas of flexibility we outline include many of those stressed in “Informing Progress” such flexible policies related to:
- Course progressions
- Student supports
- Learning environments
A practical guide for scaling personalizing learning across a district
The authors of “Informing Progress” note that early positive indicators about the success of personalized learning have increased enthusiasm about scaling it district-wide. They make data-based recommendations to district and school leaders about effectively implementing personalized learning. These reflect lessons that we have gleaned from our own partnerships in implementing the model and incorporated into our guide for school districts looking to scale personalized learning:
- Leaders must provide clear expectations and parameters for their staff and then give them the space and trust necessary to implement what is best for their students
- Districts should offer job-embedded professional development programs that align with the district’s vision for teaching and learning and to student needs
- Districts need comprehensive data systems consisting of learning management, assessment and student information systems so that teachers can provide the necessary supports for students
Build a culture that is supportive of teachers, continuous improvement and doing what is right for students
Through our work with districts leading the way in personalized learning across the country, we’ve learned that there are a few critical areas districts need to focus on to overcome barriers to district-wide change: vision alignment, community culture and transparent communications practices. When the authors of “Informing Progress” recommend that districts “provide teachers with time and resources to collaborate on developing curriculum and on reviewing and scoring student work,” they are getting to that supportive culture.
Supporting teachers to find out what is best for their students, in partnership with their students, not only helps students own their own learning, but also empowers teachers. In Marysville, Ohio, teachers like Erin Morrison are partnering with students to build standard operating procedures for the classroom and creating unique opportunities for student voice.
The RSU2 school district in Maine has implemented personalized learning district-wide. Their superintendent, Bill Zima, stresses how important it is for a district to have a culture and understanding of continuous improvement, and “that teachers have the opportunity to practice and explore and try things and not worry about failing, so to speak.” That culture has provided the foundation of the district’s success.
Learn more about personalized learning at the policy, district and school level
“Informing Progress” is an important addition to the body of knowledge around personalized learning and provides a starting point for data-based discussions about how to further improve and scale this model so that more students have access to the education they deserve.
Get more information about scaling competency-based, personalized learning:
- “A State Policy Framework for Scaling Personalized Learning,” which was developed with insight and feedback from school districts, state education agencies, policymakers and education organizations that are focused on scaling personalized learning across districts.
- “District Conditions for Scale: A Practical Guide to Scaling Personalized Learning,” which lines the conditions that a K-12 school district should put in place to support the scaling of personalized learning.
Read about school districts implementing personalized learning and hear what teachers have to say about it:
- “Student-Centered Learning Begins with Community: How Five Communities in Maine Reimagined Learning Through Competency-Based Education,” which highlights how culture was an essential element of the personalized learning journey.
- “Personalizing Learning for Students and Teachers in Marysville, Ohio,” which shows how this district’s implementation of competency-based education empowers students and teachers to learn and grow.
- “The Shifting Paradigm of Teaching: Personalized Learning According to Teachers,” which shares teachers’ and school leaders’ perspectives on successfully implementing personalized learning.
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Guest post by Cory Steiner, a Superintendent at Northern Cass School District #97
Located 25 miles northwest of Fargo, North Dakota, everyone at Northern Cass School District #97 is united in a single purpose. “We believe every child can change the world; therefore, we will provide a world class education.” Working from that single missing statement, the “why” behind everything we do, we also developed our Collective Commitments. These commitments embody everything we do at Northern Cass: all offerings, initiatives and conversations focus solely around our commitments.
- We are dedicated and passionate about relationships, teaching and learning, self-reflection, acknowledging greatness and support of the Northern Cass community.
- We are driven towards continuous improvement.
Recently, Northern Cass started moving towards Mass Customized Learning (MCL), which is when instruction is tailored to each student’s needs and interests, for all of our learners. Throughout the 2016-2017 school year, the district studied the concept and participated in a variety of site visits. Each visit provided further evidence of why customized learning is so important for the success of today’s learners.
During the 2017 legislative session in North Dakota, Senate Bill 2186 passed, which made it possible for schools to apply for a pilot program to allow for more local control and flexibility for innovation like personalized learning. I testified multiple times in support of the bill alongside students like Dawson Schefter. After the bill passed, Northern Cass submitted a proposal for innovation related to customized learning.
Moving from proposal to execution
Our journey to personalizing learning for our students has included many milestones and learning opportunities:
- During discussions in leadership development sessions in partnership with North Dakota State University, it became increasingly clear that personalized learning was how we can help move Northern Cass from good to great.
- We were able to visit schools in North Dakota and go to RSU2 in Maine, where personalized learning has been implemented district-wide.
- District and school leaders, as well as teachers, took the personalized learning quiz from KnowledgeWorks to evaluate our readiness to scale personalization and uncover insights to get started.
These events were powerful in helping us gain momentum in implementing MCL. We were able to discuss about customized learning using our individual quiz results as a starting point. The quiz provided us with common language, key things to consider when moving forward and it also guided discussion on potential next steps.
We are now actively making progress towards providing customized learning for each of our students. This move is going to help elevate Northern Cass to a district of excellence that delivers more fully on our promise: “We believe every student can change the world, therefore we must provide a world class education.”
Are you looking to bring personalized learning to your district?
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Changing systems requires people in those systems to transform the way they think and act. That’s at the heart of the theory behind Collective Impact. The whole thing hinges on people acting differently, yet there’s been little talk about how to enable them to change their behaviors. Working with StrivePartnership, I’ve learned a lot over the past several years about the best [and worst] ways to change behavior.
In Cincinnati, we’ve been at this for over a decade. StrivePartnership was created in 2006 by community leaders trying to better align the effort and resources we were putting into education.
Over the course of the last ten years, StrivePartnership has led the way many times in pointing out what we should be doing – digging into data to uncover what programs are working, investigating promising practices that are getting results in other communities, etc. However, knowing what we should do doesn’t get us any closer to making change happen if we aren’t capable of putting that knowledge into action. We’ve realized that an important, but too-often neglected, element of Collective Impact is building the capability of systems leaders to drive change.
I am not aware of anyone who has “achieved collective impact.” What we have done here in Cincinnati is begin to understand the stuff it takes to drive the people that make the change.
Five things that are critical to changing hearts and minds in the pursuit of collective impact:1. Know where you’re going. Have a clear theory of change, and how to measure it.
Often we go into “leadership trainings” without specific goals or a plan for measuring and tracking impact. Many capability building offerings, especially those targeting organizational leaders, deliver well-thought out and intentioned curriculum that provides the leader with frameworks and tools for strategic planning and organizational improvement. However, the program designers rarely answer these questions:
- “What behavior change should occur as a result of this training?”
- “How will we know if we are successful?”
Building a person’s knowledge and skill so that they can do what they do better is a hard thing to measure. People are the product. Here’s the thing though – behavior can be observed, and therefore measured.2. Tell a compelling story. You need to grab their hearts first, and stories are the best way to do that.
If you’re reading this, then you likely have a vested interest in capability building. Maybe you’ve experienced a training that made you better at what you do. Maybe you went all-in on a new approach to your work that seemed promising…but it flopped. Or, perhaps you are just as big of a nerd about improvement as I am. Whatever the case, there is a story. Personal experience is what connects us. When you’re trying to explain why a person should buy into having their brain reprogrammed, give them a compelling “why.”3. The customer always knows best. Include those you serve in the design for capability building.
People who are working in the nonprofit and education world do the work they do because they are driven by an intrinsic motivation to make something better. Despite the widely-accepted belief that we do this work because we care, we don’t include our “customers” in the problem solving or decision making. Traditionally, we have created solutions and new interventions without the input of those that we hope will benefit from it. Irony overload. Can you imagine Amazon rolling out a new service without ever beta testing it with customers? No, that would never happen.
Whoever you serve, include them in the design for capability building. They have the single best vantage point of anyone in your system. Use it!4. It’s all personal. Be flexible and individualized, not prescriptive.
My plea to those of you working in Collective Impact: please, please, please, leave the dogma at the door. Too often we approach capability building with a one-size-fits-all approach. We provide one approach, one set of tools and one way of thinking and assume it will work for everybody.
The most important lesson I’ve learned is that we will never know everything there is to know to solve social problems. The issues [and players] are complex and systemic. The toolbox for solving social problems has to continuously evolve. Do we have a pretty good idea of the things that are helping folks get better results? Yes, but we still need to be open and willing to try out new tools as we learn and discover.
As long as you can clearly articulate your goal, the levers that move the system and the ideas you want to try, you can use any tool you want – it doesn’t have to be my, your tool or their tool. It just needs to be what works. Changing hearts and minds calls for flexibility, humility and, most importantly, grace.5. Friends first. Start with the willing, open-minded influencers and opinion leaders.
We’re followers. We just are. It’s the reason Tom from MySpace is on Facebook. So, build your following with the people who can influence the rest of the herd. Don’t waste your time on the nay-sayers. I don’t think it’s true that “if you build it, they will come.” But, I bet they’ll come if Oprah tells them they should.
Find out what matters to your Oprahs and show them – in their terms – how they could be better at what they do. They will come, and they will start behaving differently.
- Read about human centered design in action – “Giving Students Voice: Making sure students are part of the collective impact movement”
- Find out how asset-based community development can play a role in Collective Impact – Navigating the Power Dynamics Between Institutions and Their Communities
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If you’re anything like me, when you read “human-centered economy” you get a little starry-eyed. As in, space, the final frontier.
In our latest resource, The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out, Katherine Prince, senior director of strategic foresight, and Jason Swanson, director of strategic foresight, outline four possible scenarios for the future of work. One of them, aptly named “Finding New Meaning,” explores a future where, though there has been high technological displacement of jobs, “social systems and supports have helped create a new human-centered economy that derives value from human emotions, affective qualities and creative capabilities.”
Sounds a whole lot like Star Trek, right?
I have always been enamored of the future depicted in the world of the U.S.S. Enterprise, one where individuals pursue a lifetime of activities that bring themselves, and others, joy. When you’ve eliminated disease and war and you have the whole of the universe at your fingertips, it starts to make sense that we would reorganize our lives and our society around the things that make us uniquely human. And when you have the power to create whatever you need, for free, using replicators, including food, clothing, and shelter, money starts to seem a little redundant. How many technologies do we possess today, and can we expect to utilize in the future, that make it easier, faster and cheaper to provide for the basics? If we don’t work to pay the bills, what might we work for?
The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out is even more pragmatic, describing “universal basic income programs… and other mechanisms for funding social supports [that] buffer people against changing family and economic conditions,” all with the goal of “liberating human potential and creating productive opportunities to carry out meaningful work with social purpose.”
This possible future, though a promising one, will still require learners who are flexible, comfortable with ambiguity, and extremely self-aware. The additional three scenarios explored in The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out will also require some pretty unique skill sets. Whatever the future may hold, educators are in a prime position to begin the work of preparing learners for an uncertain future today.
You might even say, to boldly go where no teacher has gone before.
Interested in learning more about what college and career readiness might look like in the future, and how we must begin preparing today? Download “The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out.”
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KnowledgeWorks’ newest strategic foresight paper, “The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out,” explores how changes to the future of work will cause readiness for further learning, life and work, to be redefined and what the implications of such a redefinition might mean for the K-12 and post-secondary education sectors.
One of the major drivers of change shaping the future of work is the rise of smart machines. We define smart machines as artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics and other forms of automation. These technologies are increasingly capable of performing tasks that humans carry out today, including cognitive and manual routine tasks that are well-defined, routine or rules-based. Such tasks are central to many accounting, transportation, construction, repair, monitoring and production-based jobs. Smart machines are also gaining the ability to perform cognitive and manual non-routine tasks, or tasks that are less well defined and that require situational adaptability, persuasion, problem solving and creativity. Such tasks form key parts of many managerial, creative, medical, caring and science-based jobs.
While we know that smart machines are reshaping work, we don’t yet know to what extent they will impact human jobs. Many projections depict high displacement, post-work futures where the vast majority of human workers have been replaced by smart machines. Other scenarios depict worlds where work and tasks have been reconfigured thanks to smart machines, but the concept of working is still the same as it is currently.
Anxiety about the future of work, particularly futures that describe high displacement scenarios, seems to have been occupying a lot of space in the public’s consciousness over the past few years. Indeed, smart machines have already started displacing some workers. In a recent example, Japan’s Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance laid off thirty-four employees and replaced them with artificial intelligence. We are also seeing AI writing new stories, robots performing surgery and even creating art, all jobs that were once considered safe from automation.
In contrast to this evidence of displacement, there are also numerous examples of how smart machines are helping human workers complete tasks. Baxter, a cobot designed to work alongside people on production lines and factory floors, is a great example. Baxter can learn and re-learn tasks with relative ease and affordability. The robot does the tasks that are repetitive and sometimes dangerous for people (for example, loading and unloading, packing and material handling), leaving its human counterparts to complete tasks that require human judgement, greater degrees of dexterity and less repetition. In another example of smart machines’ reconfiguring work, the medical industry is augmenting human intelligence and decision making by using machine learning to help diagnose illnesses.
It remains uncertain whether the rise of smart machines will cause widespread displacement of human workers or whether job creation and reconfiguration will outpace job loss. Historically, technological advances such as the rise of smart machines have typically led to the creation new jobs, reconfiguring current work and making many jobs safer, easier and more interesting. Looking ahead, smart machines’ capacity to carry out both cognitive and manual and both routine and non-routine tasks could cause their impact to be greater. We need to prepare for either possibility, or for a mix of the two.
As smart machines continue to reshape work, educators will need to consider new strategies for cultivating learners’ readiness and will also need to reconsider how readiness is defined. These challenges will be made more acute by the fact that smart machine technologies are maturing at an accelerating rate, making jobs and tasks get reconfigured, created and made obsolete at faster and faster rates.
With the future of work unfolding all around us, how do you see smart machines impacting the future of work, and what will their rise mean for readiness?
For more on what the rise of smart machines might mean for the future of readiness, download “Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out.”
When changes need to be made, I like things to move as quickly as possible. Why make little strides when you can take one giant step forward? However, a recent training in design thinking has me reevaluating my opinion on small changes their impact.
I had the opportunity to hear CareerWise Colorado Chief Learning Officer Gretchen Morgan speak about innovation in state and district education systems. She presented several challenges for attendees to work through. One that stood out to me was finding a way to implement competency-based literacy and math into the school day. All solutions we explored would require schedule changes as well as some flexibility from the district pacing guide.
Issues where two seemingly opposing needs intersect are where small changes and design thinking shine. The focus shifts from thinking of barriers to imagining what is possible. Being empathetic to everyone facing the challenge is key to the process. This solutions-based approach can yield creative resolutions that allow for innovation within large systems.
In the example above, it was theorized that shifting schedules by fifteen minutes could be enough to start implementing a competency-based approach while still addressing the administrative needs or requirements. The hope was that being able to make this small step could provide the data to demonstrate that the curriculum and adjustments can work. This then could open the way for more schools to implement, or even expand, their competency-based curriculum.
Although it often sounds more gratifying, it is not always possible to make big, sweeping changes. That’s why the idea of small changes and a design thinking approach is so valuable. Small improvements can cause a ripple effect, leading to widespread change and opportunities for bigger advancements.
Maybe small changes are not so bad after all.
- See how design thinking can work in the classroom using design challenges
- Learn how small tests of change can help with continuous improvement
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Peoples’ notions of how teachers spend their Summer “vacations” is likely a lot different from how teachers actually spend Summer break. Let me introduce you to Erin Hartill, a science teacher from Richmond High School in RSU 2. On her second day of “summer vacation,” Erin jumped at the chance to attend the district’s Summer Teacher Institute, designed to provide the opportunity for Erin and her colleagues to attend to their own learning.
For the last year, Erin has participated in her learning community’s year-long focus on Applied Learning, which is working to ensure that students are working their way through a well-defined continuum of learning using their passions to create a path and choose how they will demonstrate their understanding of the learning. With that focus in mind, Erin began the Summer Institute with a critical question of inquiry: how could the current 9-12 science course of study be reorganized to support learner-centered experiences in compelling ways?
Using KnowledgeWorks’ previous professional development on design thinking as a problem-solving model, Erin began by reviewing the district’s Learning Continuum. The Continuum is an online organizational curriculum framework where progressions, measurement topics and learning targets for science are grouped into course-specific categories: Physical Science, Biology and Chemistry. Looking for authentic connections and alignment among the learning targets, Erin worked with colleagues to think differently about the order, rigor and scope of the content. After a few hours of immersion with the task at hand, the results were a prototype of a 3-year Integrated Science progression.
Through the ideate, prototype and test stages, Erin is now looking forward to designing Applied Learning opportunities with her students!
So how is Erin spending her summer vacation? She would tell you she is spending it planning deep and meaningful learning experiences for her 2017-18 students. Just another day at the beach!
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.
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.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:
- Ashoka Changemakers’ Start Empathy initiative partners with elementary, middle, and high schools to prioritize empathy, teamwork, leadership and changemaking in students.
- The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) works to make evidence-based social and emotional learning an integral part of education for students in the preK-12 education system.
- By conducting research on the power of emotions and partnering with schools, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence creates educational approaches that teach emotional intelligence to children and adults.
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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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.
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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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.
- 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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- 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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- 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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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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The post Using Data Walls to Increase Transparency in Competency Environments appeared first on World of Learning.
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.
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.
The post Innovating in Hutchinson, Minnesota, to Prepare Students for the Future appeared first on World of Learning.
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.
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.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.
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
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.