Mastery Learning: Saying goodbye to traditional grading

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2015-11-25 08:00

Guest post by Jodi Robertson, Founding Humanities Teacher, Marysville Early College High School. Marysville STEM Early College High School is a collaboration between Marysville Schools, Ohio Hi-Point Career Center, Columbus State Community College, Honda of America Manufacturing, the Union County Chamber of Commerce and EDWorks.

When I started teaching at Marysville Early College High School, it meant moving from a traditional teaching and learning environment to one based on mastery. Mastery learning truly changes things for me as a teacher as much as for the students. There was something that ended for me, though: the struggle I felt when reaching the “end” of a lesson only to feel like I needed to start over again after seeing the students’ products.

“Mastery learning truly changes things for me as a teacher as much as for the students.”
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A mastery and standards-based style of grading has changed not only my end result, but my overall pedagogy in unexpected ways. This was a personal journey of frustration and failure on my part. My first foray into mastery learning focused primarily on not accepting work below the standards set. Students were expected to go back into their work and redo, edit, resubmit, etc. before I would mark them as having “Mastered” any given standard. The results were never ending units and a backlog of “Not Yets” for many students.

My “aha” moment came during the second half of the year as my ELA co-teacher, Jen Hinderer, and I workshopped with students over a recently written essay. She and I finished the day talking about how profound workshopping is with small groups of students. The days always feel meaningful and full of growth. However, it is overwhelming and time intensive to give feedback over an entire essay. It would be better to conference and workshop at various points along the way. This conversation became the impetus for a shift in the entire pedagogy of the class.

When Jen and I sit down to plan, we still start with the end in mind in terms of what we want students to know or be able to do, but we no longer place the summative assessment on the last day and start filling the gaps in between. We break down the learning and larger performance task into smaller chunks with embedded workshopping and assessment along the way. At the end of the unit when students turn in or present their final product of learning, we have already assessed the vast majority, if not all, of the intended learning. Jen and I are much happier with our outcomes and the students are as well. They not only have more opportunities to access the learning, but they learn valuable skills of resilience, pride, and goal setting.

“We no longer place the summative assessment on the last day and start filling the gaps in between.”
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While I would never make the choice to go back to a traditional style of grading, I do think I could replicate many of my favorite pieces of mastery-based learning in a traditional system.

  • Create opportunities for students to demonstrate mastery more than once. This doesn’t just mean students retake a test. Instead, offer embedded remediation and support alongside legitimate alternative ways for students to show learning.
  • Plan units with assessment and feedback along the way, saving very little for the last day of the unit.
  • Embrace the fundamental belief that all students can learn and be flexible about what the finish line looks like.


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Looking Back at the Future: Part Five

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2015-11-24 12:49

Hello and welcome to Looking Back at the Future!  For those of you who are just joining us, Looking Back at the Future is a blog series revisiting KnowledgeWorks’ first forecast on the future of education, the 2006-2016 Map of Future Forces Affecting Education.  This post marks the 5th installment in the series. For this installment I will be looking at the key area of “Educators & Learning” considering where KnowledgeWorks might have landed in terms of images of the future as we approach the forecast’s time horizon of 2016. Each scenario or future image will be reviewed using 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

For more information on this series and the forecast, please visit here, and for more information on the scoring metrics, please visit here.

Let’s dive in and see how we imagined the future way back in 2006…

knowledge-innovationKnowledge collectives catalyze innovation

Look to new forms of innovation networks that support open aggregation and remixing of knowledge – idea markets like Innocentive that match problem solvers with solution seekers or design collectives like ThinkCycle that match the needs of NGOs with design schools around the world. Creative Commons’ licenses offer flexible means of managing copyrights that protect creators but extend unfettered use of innovations. Government agencies can focus on removing barriers and encouraging innovation networks to form.  Educational innovation zones will emerge that spark regional trade and pedagogical specialties.

Already happening:  We are currently seeing the emergence of innovation zones for public education, with examples such as the iZone in New York City, CCSSO’s Innovation Lab Network, and even statewide innovation zones in places such as West Virginia, Hawaii, and Kentucky. These innovation zones are autonomous in nature and are designed in hopes of creating new ways of teaching and learning.

education-career-pathEducational careers forge new paths

As education is unbundled into a constellation of functions and roles to meet the needs of the emerging learning economy, the teaching profession will experience a creative breakout. New administrative, classroom, and community roles will differentiate educational careers, attracting new entrants and providing new avenues for experienced educators to branch out as content experts, learning coaches, network navigators, cognitive specialists, resource managers, or community liaisons. Interactive media will link diverse groups of educators and students in ad hoc groups to perform new kinds of collective assessment and evaluation of both students and educators.

Needs a boost: While not on target for the 2016 timeline, educational careers are beginning to experience diversification, albeit slowly. Current signals of change can be seen in Danville Independent Schools’ proposal to repurpose teaching and guidance counselor funding toward new roles such as a success coach, interdisciplinary learning designer, and teaching assistant; as well as in the Center for Teaching Quality’s exploration of teacherprenuers, expert teachers whose work weeks are divided between teaching students and designing system-level solutions for education.

personalized-learning-teachingPersonalized learning focuses on the craft of teaching

Personalized learning plans will leverage new media, brain research, and school structures to create differentiated learning experiences based on individual needs. Interactive and collaborative digital spaces, such as wikis, will provide shared learning portfolios where students, educators, parents, and other learning stakeholders can perform assessments and real-time interventions. New classroom approaches will be controversial for many teachers because they will require “unlearning” many basic assumptions about the nature of teaching. Unions may resist the diversification of educator roles or embrace it as an opportunity to be real leaders of change.

Needs a boost: This was another instance where I am a bit torn on where the forecast landed; for me this is a tossup between “needs a boost” and “no longer tracking.” Personalized learning plans and playlists are gaining sway, and they do indeed provide opportunity to focus on the craft of teaching. However, the current trajectory of teaching feels as if it is more on a path towards teaching being more of a “facilitators type” role due to the fact that knowledge is widely available, thus moving the teacher’s role away from the craft of teaching and more towards simply steering learners through the oceans of information available to them.  Another factor undermining this scenario is the focus on demonstrating teacher value-add or otherwise evaluating teacher performance against student outputs or achievement, at times as a point of controversy, rather than  exploring new classroom approaches or role diversification. Both of these factors are creating uncertainty that might shift this forecast element towards  “no longer tracking” depending on which direction it might take.

urban-survival-skillsYouth pioneer new urban survival skills

In VUCA communities, youth will become the mentors for older community members in new methods of urban survival, including urban computing, urban agriculture, and new literacies for building cooperative strategies. Combined with a growing youth media culture, youth may develop a public voice at younger ages, even becoming influential in political or religious movements.

Needs a boost: This forecast element straddles the line between “already happening” and “needs a boost.” Youth media culture has developed a public voice, being instrumental in the election and reelection of President Obama, as well as playing a key role in the Egyptian uprising during the Arab Spring. What remains less clear is how youth might be impacting VUCA (volatile, complex, uncertain, and ambiguous) communities in other ways. Urban agriculture has the potential to reshape many cities but such potential has yet to be fully realized, and, there is little evidence that it is a youth-led movement. Likewise, there is scant evidence to support youth mentoring older members of the community. However, there is evidence for building cooperative strategies, with the emergence of the sharing economy, an economic system based on sharing underused assets or services for free or for a fee.

public-personal-spacePublic places become personal spaces

This decade will become the decade of information in place – geocoded data will be linked through the Internet and accessible through a variety of mobile tools from cell phones to PDAs to augmented-reality devices (like eyeglasses). The result will be an increasingly first-person view of places where rich streams of personalized media “redraw” streets, storefronts, schools, and community locations. Educational content and curriculum will become context-specific, aligning personal learning needs with places.

Needs a boost: Despite augmented-reality devices not being as fully developed as once seemed possible in 2006, there are signals that the technology is coming along nicely, such as HoloLens and Magic Leap. In addition, applications that use geocoded data are prevalent today, as with apps such as Around Me that point out business and services around the user, activities such as geocaching that rely on geocoded data, and even dating apps such as Tinder that rely on GPS. This is not to say augmented-reality is not being used in education.  Museums are utilizing augmented-reality technology to bring their displays to life, and smartphone app Photomath makes use of augmented-reality to help solve math problems. While these are encouraging signals, augmented-reality still has further to develop before it is utilized as our forecast imagined it in 2006.

physical-learningLearning gets physical

Digital-physical fusion enables the community to truly become the classroom. Learning has always had physical and emotional components that have been minimized as computers isolate students from each other, teachers, and the real world. Now technology enables mediated immersive learning. Students learn while moving through real environments with this mobile technology; so their cognitive apprenticeship involves not only their brains, but also their bodies, in informal learning environments.

Already happening: As our notions of school continue to expand and increasingly include learning in informal environments, both digital and mobile technologies have been essential components of that expansion. Examples include Cities of Learning, which uses a system of digital badges to link learning in both formal and informal environments, experience API systems (xAPI), which hold promise for tracking both formal and informal learning, as well as teachers using mobile technologies for activities such as educational geocaching, which uses GPS-enabled devices to help students in location-based treasure hunts.


Looking across the key of “Educators & Learning,” I was surprised to see that four out of the six scenarios landed in the “needs a boost” category.  Recognizing that one of the reasons very well could be my personal bias, there did seem to be a consistent theme in this area of overestimating the progress and impact of technology and collaborative models or networks. While I was surprised that four of the six scenarios did need a boost, I am happy that all six scenarios are on track to come to fruition or are already happening!

In reading through the scenarios for the key area of “Educators & Learning,” what do you feel we may have missed? What issues or developments might be emerging now that might make the forecast elements above that have not yet occurred more or less plausible?

Please join me for the final installment of Looking Back at the Future where we will examine the key area of “Tools & Practices.”

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Why KnowledgeWorks? Why Now?

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2015-11-19 11:17

In honor of American Education Week, I reached out with some big questions to two individuals who are working tirelessly to realize a future of personalized, competency-based learning for every child: Mirjam Dekker, Project Manager of our competency education initiative, and Virgel Hammonds, Chief Learning Officer.

Why KnowledgeWorks?

MD: My wife and I both work for nonprofits that see the importance between the alignment of Pre-K and workforce development. We believe it can make the country as a whole stronger. We drink the Kool-Aid. Between the two of us, we’re serving it.

As for KnowledgeWorks, everybody has a different background. We’re coming at this work from different angles. Together, we’re a force to be reckoned with. We can do crazy good things.

VH: Before KnowledgeWorks, I was in a great place: personally and professionally satisfied, working in a school district that was doing innovative things to ensure positive outcomes for children. Why would I leave that? Because KnowledgeWorks has the tools and the people to support educators and communities across the country. Nobody else does what we do, the way that we do it. From the person that matters the most – the child – to the teacher, the district, the community, the business leader, to higher education, KnowledgeWorks has complete alignment.

What is it about this work that inspires you?

VH: We’re doing it all, and it’s amazing. When I look at the collective impact outcomes Strive Together at the national level and Strive Partnership, locally in Cincinnati, are able to achieve with atypical community supports; that’s something to hold high and celebrate.

We’re providing technical assistance at the state and local level for competency-based education and our policy team is highly engaged in putting kids first at the state and national level, what we can do to begin personalizing learning for all children. And the expectation in the communities where EDWorks focuses their efforts, that these kids will never go to college, never thrive – the data coming out of those communities is unreal. They provide hope where there wasn’t any just by presenting the path and providing the supports communities and districts need to follow it.

MD: People talk about leaving a legacy, what you want to leave behind – and for me, I want to see people thrive, to see their passions realized and be a part of removing barriers that allow them to achieve what they want; that’s what I want to do.

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Automation and the Uncertainty of Work

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2015-11-19 07:30

Several years ago as a student at the University of Houston’s foresight program, I had the opportunity to work on Student Needs 2025+ for the Lumina Foundation. The project sought to forecast the future of higher education through the viewpoint of the student rather than the institution, asking what student needs might be in the future.

In order to look at for emerging student needs, the project explored different aspects of student life. Student life was divided into six categories, each with a research team who focused on that category specifically. The six categories were:

  1. Living
  2. Learning
  3. Working
  4. Playing
  5. Connecting
  6. Participating

I had the pleasure of being part of the “working” team for this project. One of the things I find interesting looking back at the Student Needs 2025+ paper, while preparing to release KnowledgeWorks’ forthcoming Forecast 4.0, is how uncertainty around working is affecting the future of both higher education and the K-12 system.

For the Student automation-future-workNeeds 2025+ paper, the research teams developed two scenarios for each of the categories listed above. As part of the working team, we developed a baseline or expected future called, “The Super Skilled, The Messy Middle, and Warm Bodies.” This scenario describes a future where middle-class occupations are hollowed out, with growth in the employment market only happening at either the top or the bottom of the wage scale. The drivers for this scenario included :

  • Increasing productivity of capital and reduced need for labor
  • More automation at work, resulting in severe competition for “middle class” jobs that require routine or algorithmic performance
  • Continued competition from foreign workers and machines resulting in less wage growth,
  • The move to a network model of employment leading to fewer traditional , full-time jobs and more temporary, contingent, part-time work
  • A lack of sufficient job training in formal educational institutions.

Our second scenario or alternative futures scenario, “Welcome to the Jungle,” made use of many of the drivers used in our baseline scenario while questioning our assumptions around the rate of advacenment and adoption of automation, exploring what might happen if the adoption of automation were to speed up, making deep inroads into the economy The jobs market in this future is even more competitive than in the baseline due to the faster spread of artificial intelligence and automation.

The report frames the implications of these scenarios, along with the scenarios generated for the other five categories, as a list of student needs.  Those needs are:

  1. Re-skilling: Students need to know what skills they will need and how to master them.
  2. Mentoring: Students need personalized guidance on what to do next and on other life lessons.
  3. Continuous and real-time feedback: Students need to know how they are doing so they can continuously improve in order to “keep up” and move forward.
  4. Frameworks (for navigating new uncertainties): Students need to know what to do in various situations, particularly novel ones/
  5. Credentials: Students need to document knowledge, skills and experiences acquired.
  6. Experiences: Students need contact with people and the world that teach by doing.
  7. Personalized instruction: Students need the means to acquire relevant knowledge and skills customized to their individual style.
  8. Spaces, tools, and templates: Students need physical and virtual supportive environments and tools for pursuing and acquiring knowledge and skills
  9. Differentiation: Students need to find and communicate their personal value proposition that distinguishes “who they are”.

Reading through the list of needs, you can get a since of what a strong driver work and workplace readiness is when thinking about the future of education.

The changing nature of work is also an important driver in KnowledgeWorks’ forthcoming forecast on the future of learning, The Future of Learning: Education in the Era of Partners in Code.  Uncertainty about work, specifically the potential need to redefine the role of wage labor in our lives due to advances in automation, has real potential to change not only how we educate, but also the very context for which we educate. Much like the two working scenarios from the Student Needs 2025+, our new forecast highlights the need to reskill and upskill as the competition for gainful employment increases. It also asks whether society might need to redefine readiness completely, going so far as to question what the purpose of education might be in a world where working may no longer be a requirement or a choice for the majority of people.

What do you think the implications might be for education as work changes?

If you would like to be one of the first to receive KnowledgeWorks’ new forecast, you can sign up here. In the meantime, you can check out the trailer for our forecast below.

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Mastery Learning: Shifting to learner-centered teaching!

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2015-11-18 08:00

Guest post by Jodi Robertson, Founding Humanities Teacher, Marysville Early College High School. Marysville STEM Early College High School is a collaboration between Marysville Schools, Ohio Hi-Point Career Center, Columbus State Community College, Honda of America Manufacturing, the Union County Chamber of Commerce and EDWorks.

Prior to taking the position at Marysville Early College High School, I taught at a middle school. While they had adopted some more progressive middle level techniques in terms of teaming and culture building, they still used a traditional grading model. I moved toward standards-based grading in my third year of teaching, but still found myself frustrated by what the grade truly represented, how to clearly define my expectations for students, and what to do when students “failed.” I was fortunate to work with a department that was open to experimenting with a variety of grading techniques and summative assessment ideas. However, I routinely found myself discovering at the end of a unit that many students did not meet the standards set forth. I was compelled to move on, but frustrated that some students had to settle for less than their best performance.

I was part of inaugural staff of Marysville Early College High School, which opened its doors to students in 2014. As we embarked on establishing a preliminary vision for our new school, mastery grading was already at the forefront of our brainstorming. We didn’t know a lot about it, but hoped it would address some the frustrations we all felt. Because we are a group that loves to experiment with new, promising philosophies, we were all independently working with standards-based grading already. The mindset shift required by mastery grading was what most appealed to me. Rather than thinking about learning as a linear path to an end, where students either get there or don’t, mastery instead offered a philosophy that all students could have an individually tailored end and their own, sometimes circuitous, route to get there.

By far the biggest challenge to implementation has been the limitations of technology. Finding the best method for tracking progress, especially given the variance between content and skill-based courses, has been elusive. A lack of dedication or willingness to put in the necessary hours does not exist in the lexicon of any of the teachers I work with. They are ready and willing. However, mastery grading has presented a strain on the resources of time and cognitive functioning that I have not previously experienced.

The tipping point of frustration is that the technology for tracking student success seamlessly and painlessly does exist, but we don’t have the access. As with any challenge, when presented with constraints, we have worked around the problems to create the best version of what we want. It continues to be a work in progress and I imagine that the “development stage” will never end.

That is the heart of mastery learning for both students and teachers: it never ends. The process, the development, and the growth are what matters, not “finishing.”

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Designing for Education — Tentouch

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2015-11-17 14:57

Interviews with those responsible for driving mobile learning innovation forward.

Technology is changing the options available to teachers and students and challenging our perceptions of education. In this series of interviews, I talk to digital designers in the education space about what they foresee for the future of education technology.

The first interview is with Vasil Enchev, Product Designer at Tentouch. Tentouch is responsible for several learning and productivity apps, namely Grafio and Vidra.

Read the full interview to find out his thoughts on the future of learning, product development in the education space and the company’s roadmap.

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Looking Back at the Future: Part Four

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2015-11-17 07:30

Welcome to the fourth installment of Looking Back at the Future!  If you are just joining us, Looking Back at the Future is a blog series revisiting KnowledgeWorks’ first forecast on the future of education, the 2006-2016 Map of Future Forces Affecting Education. For this installment, I will be looking at the key area of “Institutions” and considering where our first forecast might have landed in terms of images of the future as we approach the forecast’s time horizon of 2016. Each scenario or future image will be reviewed using 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

For more information on this series and the forecast, please visit here, and for more information on the scoring metrics, please visit here.

And now, let’s see how we imagined the future back in 2006…

Communities create common-pool resources

pooled-resourcesCommon-pool resources (e.g., grazing land and fisheries), are non-excludable and sub-tractable – that means everyone has access to them, and individual users can deplete or damage the resources if they are not managed properly. Elinor Ostrom’s pioneering work shows there are principles for creating institutions for collective action that maintain and nurture successful commons. Innovative communities, like the eLearning city in Espoo, Finland, treat their educational resources as a commons – a resource maintained by the community that sustains the community’s innovative drive. How would public educational and learning resources (teachers, facilitators, students, funding) change if they were treated as common-pool resources?

Needs a boost: There is movement in terms of open educational resources, such as Khan Academy and Gooru, that act as common-pool resources in regards to content. However, other learning resources such as funding, teachers, and even students themselves remain siloed from learning opportunities in the formal education space. Funding continues to be a hot-button issue, and despite calls for reform has largely remained unaltered. Teachers are typically tied to their place of employment, and many students find their learning journeys constrained to whatever formal learning environment they are in.  This is often based on geographic assignment rather than the learner and their family being able to exercise choice about which learning environment might be ideal based on the learner’s needs, interests, and goals. Despite many of these resources being far from common-pool, the trend towards more personalized learning, along with a decline in state spending on educational funding, may point towards a plausible future where educational resources might be treated as common-pool due to an education system that is both increasingly personalized and is dealing with resource constraints. However, this remains extremely unlikely to happen by 2016.

Unbundled education supports personalized learning

unbundled-educationThe convergence of networks, emergent self-organization, and co-operative strategies sets the stage for a host of new business models that function as platforms for value creation among distributed knowledge workers, innovative users, and customers. EBay doesn’t sell anything, but it provides a platform for buyers and sellers to meet, for individuals to develop careers as Power Sellers, and for third-party business, like Picture It Sold, to prosper. Schools and districts that become open platforms for development of innovative and diverse models will have a distinct advantage.

Already happening:  Schools and districts have not yet become open platforms. However, they are beginning to take advantage of the open platforms that are developing  such as OER Commons which offers teaching and learning materials at no cost which can be downloaded, edited, and reuploaded for others to use; and different classroom formats, such as the Genius Hour, which provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period.  Schools and districts may not be open platforms, but they are leveraging them to make learning more personalized.

Urban frontiers as innovation zones

innovation-zonesAn open economy empowers innovation at the periphery – it allows individuals with local, tacit expertise to affect change on the whole system through locally appropriate solutions. MIT’s FabLab does this by bringing personal fabrication tools to rural India or remote Norway and helping residents innovate in ways that fit their distinct needs. Lightweight infrastructure will provide modular, flexible systems for urban social entrepreneurs, cutting-edge thinkers, and expert users to customize meaningful local solutions that could become sources of innovation for school districts.

Needs a boost: Meaningful local solutions are benefiting many places. For example, Code for America builds open source applications to create solutions for local governments; however, these solutions have been slow to become sources of innovation for school districts. Despite the lag, there are some promising signals of change. Ideas such as using school buses as a power source for schools; and the Ever Forward Club, a community-based club that helps young men, (particularly underserved or at-risk young men of color) develop emotional maturity so that they can better handle the challenges of school and life. These are examples of shared solutions in which meaningful local solutions help to provide a source of innovation for school districts.

Everyone is a donor or lender

donor-lenderNew bottom-up financial infrastructures will leverage social accounting tools, reputation systems, and peer-to-peer connectivity, creating access to credit, savings, and insurance for urban residents cut off from traditional institutions. Developing alternative funding strategies will become more important as education competes with health and disaster response for funds. Microfinance experiments will utilize social networks to secure loans in communities where traditional lending practices may not succeed, like those pioneered in developing countries by the Grameen Bank. Prosper Market models itself on eBay, matching prospective lenders with borrowers. Aggregation of microtransactions, such as those initiated with eScrip and School Pop, will become more sophisticated and targeted. Web-based fundraising taps the social networks of potential donors, such as Omidyar Network’s DonorChoose that allows individuals to donate in-kind to schools.

Already happening: Platforms, such as Kiva and Indiegogo, enable anyone to become a lender or a donor. Schools have also benefited from these new transactional models, with platforms such as Rockethub and Piggybackr that help them to fundraise via micro-transactions and crowdfunding. Expect these platforms to become even more widely used as issues regarding school finding persist.

The built environment becomes instrumented and responsive

responsive-techSensor-based technologies that currently track resources and manage logistics will also be used to monitor and manage the complex, interacting environments of daily life, including homes, workplaces, and schools. With ubiquitous wireless Internet access, location-based information, and displays everywhere, schools become adaptive learning environments that respond to the changing needs of administrators, students, and their families. Facilities management becomes a strategic function, working collaboratively with those involved in curriculum development, technology integration, and pedagogical objectives.

Needs a boost: Classrooms are just now becoming adaptive environments thanks to educational apps such as Socrative, which helps teachers monitor students’ understanding in real time.  While the classroom is becoming a more adaptive environment, schools themselves have yet to become adaptive or responsive environments, though the emergence of the “Internet of things” might signal that the responsive school might not be far off.


In reviewing the images of the future for the key area of “Institutions,” I was pleased to see that most of the images presented are already happening or falling in the “needs a boost” area. I say pleased not due to the images being accurate, but because these images are in my mind positive images, with both the communities and the education system becoming more resilient in an increasingly uncertain world. Our education system will have to be increasingly adaptable and open to change as the pace of change all around us, not just in education, accelerates. These images of the future show that education can adapt.

As you read through the above future images, what stood out to you? How do you think the key area of “Institutions” is faring now?

I hope you will join me for the next installment of Looking Back at the Future where we will examine the key area of “Educators & Learning!”

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Talking Competency Education and Personalized Learning on EduTalk Radio

Posts from WOL - Mon, 2015-11-16 12:28

“Competency based education is really that equity lever that ensures that all of our children are receiving those skills and dispositions and knowledge that prepare them for whatever goals they aspire to accomplish upon graduation,” said Virgel Hammonds, Chief Learning Officer at KnowledgeWorks, on a recent episode of EduTalk Radio.

During his interview host Larry Jacobs, Hammonds discussed everything from what is competency education, why is competency education worth pursuing and what competency education means for personalized learning.

“With competency education, not only are we teaching to standards, and assessing to those learning outcomes, but we’re ensuring that we’re meeting the needs of every child to guarantee they have that necessary knowledge to advance from one level to the next within our schools,” said Hammonds about the KnowledgeWorks approach to competency education. “When you clearly define those standards, those competencies, and you highly personalize it for every child, it actually accelerates the learning process.”

Listen to the complete interview online or check out some of the tweets sent out during the broadcast:

#Competencyed is the equity lever that ensures all kids receive the skills & knowledge to achieve their goals @VirgelHammonds #edequity

— Emily Smith (@emily_a_smith) November 12, 2015

For successful #CompetencyEd, we need entire community to be involved in learning. @VirgelHammonds https://t.co/QM6ehVWPkR @StriveTogether

— KnowledgeWorks (@knowledgeworks) November 12, 2015

“We are not highly customizing learning for our kids because our system doesn’t allow it.” How can we break down barriers? @VirgelHammonds

— KnowledgeWorks (@knowledgeworks) November 12, 2015

“In #CompEd, teachers’ instructional practices are more important that ever before.” @VirgelHammonds on @edutalkradio

— Harold Brown (@hdb1030) November 12, 2015

. @VirgelHammonds is encouraged about #futureed because he’s seeing people ready to think and work differently. #CompEd @edutalkradio

— EDWorks Partners (@edworkspartners) November 12, 2015

With #CompEd, no longer are we hoping kids are preparing for #highered. We’re guaranteeing they are. @VirgelHammonds on @edutalkradio

— Harold Brown (@hdb1030) November 12, 2015

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Web 2.0 tech tools for ALL students!

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2015-11-12 08:00

At iNACOL’s annual symposium in Orlando, Florida this week, folks from around the world, 3,100 strong, came together on “Connecting Powerful Innovators.” One of the sessions that grabbed my attention in the program was Mind Blowing Crazy Awesome Tech Tools from a 12 Year Old. Always looking for tools to put in the hands of our learners – principals, teachers, students, parents – the session did not disappoint! Have fun exploring a dozen tech tools that caught my eye, as showcased by 7th grader Brooke Berry and her father Buddy, superintendent of Eminence Independent Schools in Kentucky.

  • Plickers: A formative assessment app where students are given response cards and the teacher’s iPhone capture the data.
  • formative: This tool is perfect for mathematics instruction.
  • Scratch: Students create video games using this website.
  • TINKERCAD: With this tool, 3-D computer design is so easy, 5- and 6-year-olds can experience success and learning.
  • Dipity: With this timeline generator, you can create graphic organizers and students can input information.
  • Blabberize: Make the animals talk! Add humorous pieces to presentations.
  • PowToon: Easily create a web-based animation.
  • Bitstrips: Students can create comic strips to illustrate big ideas and concepts from their learning.
  • Rewordify: This site takes complex text and reproduces it in levels for easier access. It’s a fabulous literacy tool!
  • Poll Everywhere: This open answer, multiple choice tool is great for formative assessments and checking for understanding.
  • Tackk: Allow students to easily create a one-page websites.
  • Kidblog: Provide a space for student writers.

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Looking Back at the Future: Part Three

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2015-11-11 11:33

Welcome to Looking Back at the Future! Looking Back at the Future is a blog series revisiting KnowledgeWorks’ first forecast on the future of education, the 2006-2016 Map of Future Forces Affecting Education. For this installment, I will be looking at the key area of “Markets,” considering where our forecast might have landed in terms of images of the future as we approach the forecast’s time horizon of 2016. Each scenario or future image will be reviewed using 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

For more information on this series and the forecast, please read our first blog, and for more information on the scoring metrics, please visit the second part.

Without further ado, let’s take a look back at the future as envisioned in 2006.

The market values learning

Learning becomes a key cmarket-values-learningustomer filter that shapes decisions in the market across income categories expanding markets adjacent to public education. Leveraging networking tools, open knowledge repositories, and peer-to-peer production methods (rather than hierarchical production systems), allows learners and educators to increasingly experiment with sharing and exchanging learning resources across market boundaries growing a more integrated learning economy. Models for organizing learning experiences over time will diversify and extend beyond those found today in private, parochial, home schooling, and charter schools.

Already happening:  The expansion and diversification of the learning economy, or what we now describe as the learning ecosystem, has been and continues to be a consistent through-line of change in all of KnowledgeWorks’ future of learning forecasts and shows little evidence of stopping. Current examples of this expansion include tools such OER Commons which allow for the creation, sharing, and discovery of educational resources, all of which are peer produced, as well as growing diversity of models for organizing learning experiences, with examples such as Cities of Learning and Hive Learning Networks, both of which seek to create learning opportunities outside of what is considered formal learning territory.

Public schools become hubs in value networks

schools-value-networksLower network-coordination costs make it cost-effective to meet the needs and desires of “long-tail” niche markets in industries as diverse as music, health, and education. Numerous and diverse niche markets of learners become targets for all sorts of providers of learning experiences in the expanding learning economy (public, private, parochial, charter, home and other informal school, and commercially based providers). Value network mapping becomes an important tool for tracking the exchange of tangible and intangible learning assets that flow between public schools and the rest of the learning economy. These exchanges create richer relationships between public schools and the community.

Needs a boost: The learning economy, or learning ecosystem as we currently describe it, is expanding and serving niche markets. For example, charter school enrollment has increased from 0.3 million in the 1999-2000 school year to 2.3 million in the 2012-2013 school year; while private school AltSchool recently secured $100 million dollars in funding. However, the value mapping portion of this scenario still needs a boost.  While certain organizations are doing great work in this area, such as Pittsburgh’s Remake Learning, such value mapping is still rather novel and is in need of a boost.

People make their own worlds

people-own-worldsExtending the trend toward choice and customization in everything from media and appliances to food, health, and education, people are becoming more active participants in creating their own worlds; whether it means do-it-yourself home projects, peer-to-peer media exchanges or open-sourced collaboration. The result: a much more personalized world.

Already happening: The trend towards choice and customization continues, with a sense that nearly everything we touch can be customized or personalized in some way. This includes personally curated entertainment (Netflix, On Demand), personalized healthcare providers such as Roche, to smart appliances like Nest which adjusts your home’s temperature based on your schedule and preferences. DIY home projects are commonplace, with resources like Pinterest and the DIY Network providing information for the budding handyperson.  Education is also becoming increasingly personalized as platforms such as Knewton and Brightspace are using analytics to personalize content for students; Gibbon, which allows for the curation of content into learning playlists; and OER Commons, an open education repository that allows for the sharing and remixing of learning content. The world is increasingly a more personalized place, and the trend toward personalization shows little sign of slowing down as people increasingly create their own worlds.

Education becomes a health issue

education-health-issueMajor impediments continue to plague the traditional U.S. health care system, from uninsurance to shortages of health workers and administrative waste. While an aging population redefines consumer markets in terms of health benefits, children’s health status and needs redefine and reprioritize educational agendas, including school lunch programs, nutrition curriculum, physical education, school health staff, and onsite health services. Children’s health issues create an opportunity for radical change in public schools.

Needs a boost: While the shortages of health workers and problems of administrative waste are still prevalent, the number of uninsured people in the USA is falling due to the Affordable Care Act. Children’s healthcare issues have long been a topic of discussion; however, they have not served to reprioritize educational agendas at a systemic level. There are bright spots, however, with signals of change pointing towards a potential shift where the education system concerns itself with the health of the whole student.  For example,  the Seattle School District serves its learners nutritious whole foods, and the New Haven Academy is teaching mindfulness training to their students.  Student health issues have the potential to create radical change in public schools, and schools are beginning to respond, albeit slowly.

Infrastructures are flexible and localized

local-infrastructureIn a world of rapid urban growth, constrained urban resources, and increased mobility, building and maintaining basic infrastructure will be an ongoing challenge. The concept of permanent, large-scale infrastructure will likely give way to more temporary, localized, and ad hoc solutions – in effect creating temporary structures for bounded purposes or lightweight, portable, and personalized infrastructures. This is true for infrastructures like telecommunications and energy, but will be increasingly true for social, economic, and political structures as well as micro-finance and micro-insurance, home-based healthcare, small schools, and even micro-learning structures. Technologies and structures that were once intended to provide independence for rural areas could well become tomorrow’s urban solutions.

Needs a boost: This one is admittedly a tossup between “needs a boost” and “already happening.” We continue to grapple with infrastructure issues, and many localized solutions are beginning to surface, such as the rise of solar power in the USA, the emergence of personal telecommunications networks such as mobile mesh networking, and micro-finance platforms such as Kiva.  Despite these new forms of infrastructure, the concept of permanent, large- scale infrastructure has not given way to the kind of flexible, localized solutions that are described in the scenario, rather these types of infrastructure exist concurrently, so I am going with “needs a boost.”

New norms create new expectations for childhood

new-childhood-normsHyper-parenting will continue to spread and intensify as genetic report cards and body modification with technologies that build the capacity of children become mainstream. These enhancements will create new ideals for “the normal child” with new kinds of cognitive divides. For example, kids with access to digital appliances, pharmaceuticals and nutritional supplements, and even surgeries and implants may think differently than kids without access.

Needs a boost: While there are issues surrounding access to digital devices and the internet, the more extreme examples of what might constitute a “normal child” and the cognitive divide have yet to surface as we approach the time horizon of the forecast. Genetic testing, or the idea of the genetic report card, has become increasingly affordable, and gene editing systems like CRISPR have moved from niche technologies to mainstream methods of research. While these signals are increasingly moving into public consciousness, they have not shifted ideas as to what constitutes a “normal” child. However ,as these technologies become more affordable and increasingly accurate, we can expect to debate both the equity issues inherent to such enhancements and the definition of “normal” in the future, putting this scenario in the “needs a boost” category.


Reflecting on these scenarios, it is interesting to consider how the idea of the Affordable Care Act being passed back in 2006 might have seemed like a lofty idea yet in 2015 is now part of our current reality. Similarly, I am pleased to see how the learning economy or learning ecosystem continues to expand and diversify with little sign of slowing down.

In looking at the key area of “Markets,” what did you find surprising in terms of the vision of the future that KnowledgeWorks had laid out? What do you feel are still pressing issues today when it comes to the key area of “Markets”?

Please join me for the next installment of Looking Back at the Future where we will examine the key area of “Institutions!”

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The Future is Bright

Posts from WOL - Fri, 2015-11-06 09:37

The future's so bright, we're going to be wearing VR shades.I just had my first look at The Future of Learning: Education in the Era of Partners in Code, and “look” isn’t a strong enough verb. I’m gawking.

As a mother, I wonder how I’m going to relate to the 21st century challenges my daughters will face. As a former educator, I’m overwhelmed by the possibilities to make learning relevant, revolutionary, and fun. And as an outsider-turned-insider in my new communications role at KnowledgeWorks, I’m thrilled at the opportunity to speak to people like me, to parents and educators, administrators and policymakers, about how we can make the future of learning a learning reality.

Much like any good time travel story, the forecast explores a “possible” future, a future imagined from contemporary observations of “present-day signals of change,” like the desire, for example, for some to seek out a personalized learning experience or forego the formal education system altogether, to embrace wearable technology, or to increasingly place their trust in machines to do the work that previously only humans could have done. Because our world is changing at an exponential rate and our possibilities with it, the forecast urges a thoughtful, purposeful approach to ensure that the “possible” future it explores is the one we really want to live in. We have the technology, or we’ll have it very soon; we only have to decide how we’re going to use it to make for better learners and learning experiences.

Sign up now to read the forecast when it launches. Because all I can say is that I’ve seen the future, and it’s so bright my girls and their peers are going to be wearing VR shades.

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Shaping the Future of Grantmaking

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2015-11-04 10:08


At Grantmakers for Education 2015 conference, Education without Limits, I had the pleasure and privilege of sharing highlights from KnowledgeWorks’ forthcoming Forecast 4.0 and hearing a distinguished panel respond to the future possibilities that it explores. There are many issues on the horizon for education, some exciting and some downright terrifying. Here are some of the considerations that emerged during the conversation.

As we highlight in the forecast, equity is not a given and will be a major design challenge for future learning ecosystems. While emerging trends offer intriguing opportunities to address this challenge, we will need to work over the next 10 years to bridge divides and to prevent new ones from emerging.

We need strong future-oriented visions.  But, because most education stakeholders cannot start completely over, we need to find constructive and equitable ways forward from today’s realities. That journey will involve stewarding current systems while also working toward transformation. Always, we need to remember to consider future possibilities for and with the country’s most challenged communities and most vulnerable learners – not just for places and people with means.

Customization seems likely to proliferate over the coming decade. But it needs to be based truly on learners’ needs and not on preconceived notions about learners’ capabilities. It needs to take place in the context of and for our communities.

Grantmakers can play a catalytic role in encouraging and incenting transformative approaches to education. By focusing grantmaking decisions, they can help learning ecosystems bridge gaps and can bring people together toward solutions that fit both learners’ needs and an emerging future in which work is changing rapidly, landscapes could shift unexpectedly due to volatile economic and environmental conditions, and people increasingly seek experiences that align with their personal value sets.

If we do not anticipate future developments and consider what role each of wants to play in shaping the future of learning, the rapid pace of change could overtake us, leaving education systems scrambling to catch up or finding themselves out of sync with learners’ realities and with the contexts surrounding education. Indeed, the purpose of education could shift considerably given in face of new value propositions and socio-economic realities.

Exponential innovations in digital technologies are changing our world at an unprecedented pace. Given their central role in shaping the emerging era of partners in code, the key challenge of the next decade will be to define how people relate to and use increasingly intelligent machines to elevate humanity’s unique contributions.

We need to navigate this critical window of choice thoughtfully.  As we consider the possible impacts of new technologies on learning, we need to use them not simply because we can but because they support what we want to create for education and for society as a whole.  We also need to consider how new supporting structures and safeguards can help learning ecosystems expand and diversify while keeping human development and relationships at the center.  Lastly, we need to consider new perspectives on growing what works, with an emphasis on spreading core design principles in flexible and locally responsive ways.

To learn more, watch the trailer below and sign up to receive your copy of the forecast when it launches in mid-November.

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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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