Trusting a flawed system

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2016-05-10 08:00

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where people place their trust. As a more or less aware and engaged citizen, I think about trust when I hear the latest sound bite from the outstanding personalities we call our presidential candidates (or their supporters). As someone with a deep interest in education, I think about trust when I hear the fierce defense and protection of schools and systems that, according to data, are failing their students.

One of my favorite websites during election season is the Politifact Truth-O-Meter. I’ve somehow convinced myself that if enough people would just check the Truth-O-Meter, politicians would have to be honest because citizens wouldn’t give their support to the ones whose pants are on fire. Surely the fact that dishonest politicians and schools that don’t actually teach kids manage to hold onto supporters is due to just not knowing the facts, right?

Well not so much, according to this article from Fast Company: Why We Trust People Who Are Clearly Untrustworthy. It turns out that trusting corrupt politicians, or anything untrustworthy, has more to do with hard-wired instincts than with lacking the right data. Essentially, if takes a lot more effort to look at evidence of untrustworthiness and act on that effort than it takes to just go with the flow. Also, if the thing we trust is more or less likeable, then why stop trusting it?

When it comes to the connection between trust, data, and action, the education system looks eerily similar to the presidential campaign. While most people disagree that there are likeable things about the candidate they love to hate, most people can find the likeable things in schools, even the so-called dropout factories and those with appalling academic outcomes. In fact, start making a case against a struggling school, and many people will flip out. An Edufact Truth-O-Meter will not create any kind of collective will to rally for better schools.

It’s discouraging to see systems that perpetuate, even increase, inequity continue to receive trust because nostalgia tells us a story that tradition is better than empowering children. However, considering the top-down nature of education policy in recent history, it is not a surprise that many are more comfortable defending the familiar in face of frequently-shifting priorities.

As the movement to break free from the status quo in order to provide high quality, personalized learning for students advances, building trust has to be a priority in a way that it hasn’t previously been in education policy. As campaign seasons show us year after year, the one who shouts the loudest isn’t necessarily increasing trust, so it’s fair to say that approach probably won’t work in education either. It remains to be seen whether supporters of personalized learning will be able to create change through trust rather than an iron fist, but my hope is for a transformed system based on the collective needs and goals of the communities whose children are a part of the education system.

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Teachers Help Kids Envision a Path to Their Future. Five Qualities that Influence and Inspire.

Posts from WOL - Mon, 2016-05-09 08:00

I saw this on Facebook. Incredible.

The graduating seniors at Van High School walked through the elementary, intermediate and middle school campuses, adorned in their cap and gown for their first ever Senior Walk.

The graduating seniors at Van High School walked through the elementary, intermediate and middle school campuses, adorned in their cap and gown for their first ever Senior Walk.Source: Courtesy of the Van ISD Journalism Department

“I never knew how much of an influence we had on the younger kids, but seeing their faces light up as we walked through their halls and high-fived them, it really put it in perspective for me. It’s something I’ll never forget,” senior Ashley Mosley told the school.

I loved this comment.

Role models can come into kid’s lives in many ways. They are educators, civic leaders, mothers, fathers, and in the Van ISD community, these graduating seniors.

Last night, I shared these pictures with my kids. A junior and freshman in high school, and a first grader and soon to be graduate of pre-school. I asked, who are your role models and why?

Here are the top 5 qualities they shared:

  1. Passion and ability to inspire | “My teacher. She doesn’t get paid very much. She buys cool stuff for our classroom. She helps me all the time. And makes it fun. She loves being my teacher.”
  2. Clear set of values | “Our YMCA leaders. They give back to our community, volunteering, helping kids be better leaders, making sure families and kids that don’t have very much still have opportunities. Like leading our ‘Stop Hunger Now’ and the ‘We Build People’ campaigns.”
  3. Commitment to community | “You Mama! You teach kids in the classroom sometimes. And you used to coach our sister’s cheerleading team. And in your job you make sure all kids have an education. And daddy makes sure everybody is safe during a snowstorm and that our roads and bridges are built too so people can go to work and to Disneyworld.”
  4. Selflessness and acceptance of others | And they shared with me the characteristics they didn’t like: “Role models don’t bully.” “Role models help people that don’t have money. They give them money or food when they are homeless.”
  5. Ability to overcome obstacles | “Grandma. She had cancer, and still worked to help all her patients who didn’t have families nearby to take care of them.”

Our kids develop as the result of many experiences and relationships. Like the graduating seniors, and the characteristics of those described by my kids, role models play an important role in inspiring kids to learn, overcome obstacles, and understand that positive values can be lived each day.

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Empowered, Trusted, Encouraged: The benefits of personalized learning

Posts from WOL - Fri, 2016-05-06 08:00

Today is Teacher Appreciation Day. In honor of this holiday, one which can be celebrated today and also year-round, we’re sharing stories about some of our favorite teachers.

I benefited from a personalized learning approach before I even knew what it was.

In my senior year of high school, I had the option to take a social studies class whose curriculum was so fluid I could find a way to connect our learning objectives to anything I had a real interest in. Each term we were responsible for researching and writing a paper that explored some social or cultural aspect of whatever time period our instructor had chosen – she would assign some initial readings and provided whatever degree of support we needed in selecting a topic, but beyond that, it was our responsibility to read books, conduct research, watch historical films or documentaries, and take full advantage of the entire school day we spent each term at the largest branch of our county’s library system in downtown Cincinnati.

The teacher, Mrs. Hennessey, was also the school’s librarian, and her approach was as unique as the many pairs of embellished flats she wore with matching cardigans or seasonal denim dresses. What made her methods, and her class, so special?

  • She empowered us to do the work. It was a small class, and we all knew what was expected of us and what resources were available. We worked collaboratively when it made sense to, and frequently independently, which I’d had almost zero experience with. I was used to lecture-style classes where I’d sneak my own writing in when the teacher wasn’t looking. In this class, I worked and read at my own pace, and when I needed help, I asked for it.
  • She trusted us to do the work. Every paper we wrote for the class had not only to be supported through meticulous research, but also completed on our own time, without her hounding us for progress. She collected drafts, but we were more responsible for setting our own personal deadlines than I had ever been before. I learned how to manage my time and self-regulate well before being cut loose at college, which I consider to be one of the principal things that led to my success as a college student.
  • She encouraged us to make the work meaningful. During the last term, she allowed me to use my research to write a piece of historical fiction rather than a fourth and final research paper, as many of my classmates were doing. I’d already demonstrated that I knew how to conduct academic research and appropriately cite my sources, two of the course’s objectives, and giving me the chance to take my research in a very personal direction felt like a real gift. I dropped 40 pages of a timeline crossing mess in need of much editing on her desk at the end of the school year, so I’m not sure if it felt like a gift to her.

Mrs. Hennessey found a way to give our small class the opportunity to practice skills we would need desperately in college – time management, managing expectations, critical thinking, working independently – while also honoring where we were as learners, and what we wanted out of the experience. I was proud of the work that I did, and entered college ready to do more.

So, my sincerest thanks, Mrs. Hennessey.

And my apologies for a piece of fiction crafted well before I’d learned that one adjective is really enough, and that semi-colons are not to be thrown around like confetti.

Learn more about KnowledgeWorks’ portfolio of innovative education approaches designed to help schools create environments that allow each student to thrive.

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How One Teacher Helped Students Reap the Rewards of Mastering Content #ThankATeacher

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2016-05-05 08:00

I ate lunch most days my freshman year of high school across from Mrs. Robinson’s chemistry classroom, with my best friend Sydney. We ate microwaved Hotpockets and chatted over apples and peanut butter in Mrs. Speegle’s math room because she was witty and entertaining, and the cafeteria smelled gross.

I’d often take my apple over to wash it in Mrs. Robinson’s science lab sink, inevitably wondering on my way back if I’d die a dramatic death from some toxic chemical in the air that may have attached itself to my now-clean piece of fruit. I almost always snapped out of these thoughts of my impending doom, though, as I walked back by Mrs. Robinson’s desk. On any given day there were a dozen or so students in her classroom during lunch, all coming in with questions and comments about their “Quizzypoos.”

I couldn’t quite figure out what they were talking about. But sophomore year was chemistry year, so I knew that I’d have a chance to get to know Quizzypoos very well. Lo and behold, I did.

Quizzypoos were like quizzes, only you could take them up to three times to get the grade you wanted… which (sneaky, Mrs. Robinson!) meant we retook them and actually mastered the content. Chemistry was hard, and Mrs. Robinson knew that. But she expected us to learn the material. She also knew how rewarding it could be to master, and she didn’t want us to get discouraged. And so she created opportunities for us to demonstrate our knowledge in ways that would allow the time we needed to truly understand what we were learning.

Mrs. Robinson was in her classroom 30 minutes before school, during lunch, and for at least an hour after school every day except Thursdays. Students could come in to tutor with her, study with each other, retake Quizzypoos, or study for upcoming tests by looking back at previous Quizzypoo materials. I learned more from Mrs. Robinson’s class than I ever imagined possible—my brain leans more towards the social sciences than the hard sciences—and I credit that to her personalized approach to teaching.

Mrs. Robinson believed we should be empowered in our learning. If I didn’t want to retake a Quizzypoo, I had the agency to make that choice– although I will say Mrs. Robinson was insistent that we not settle for something less than she knew we deserved. I grew as a collaborator and a curious learner thanks to the ways in which Mrs. Robinson made chemistry relevant and engaging.

More and more, I think teachers and administrators recognize the importance of teaching like Mrs. Robinson did, with the student in the center. That priority is reflected in the new reauthorization of the federal ESEA, and it’s reflected in so many conversations I have across the country with education professionals.

That is why, during this Teacher Appreciation Week, I salute Mrs. Robinson and all the great work she did to help me remember why it’s important to know that Mole Day is October 23. Oxygen is O. Helium is He. Lead is Pb. Iron is Fe……..

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Train Your Brain to Think About the Future

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2016-05-04 08:00

What fraction of your time is spent thinking about the future, and how far out do you think?

Last month, this question kicked off a lively two-day workshop with K-12 leaders about our newest forecast, The Future of Learning: Education in an Era of Partners in Code. This summer, we will publish an action guide based on the session that will help other educators use foresight in their own work.

In the meantime, the discussion that arose from that question stuck with me. Most of our participants said they think no longer than 1-5 years ahead, and most spend less than half of their time thinking beyond the present. There’s nothing wrong with that; nothing would get done if we all sat around thinking about what might happen in 25 years. That said, those of us who care about education aim to prepare students for the future, so we should know how to think about it and do so with some regularity.

Where to start?

Look ahead at the impacts of today’s decisions. Our workshop participants looked at one possible change and thought about its second, third, fourth order effects. What might be the impact five years from now? Ten? What might be consequences that I hope to see? What might be consequences that I don’t hope to see? We can’t know exactly how our decisions will turn out, but we are often so focused on the short-term benefits that we fail to consider how things might unfold longer-term.

Look back from your preferred future. We all know what we hope the future of learning will look like, and we know what learning looks like today. If I hope my preferred future is realized in 10 years, what would eight years from now need to look like? What would we have to be doing five years from now? And how about next year? Many of our workshop participants found that the future becomes much less daunting if we can break it up into steps.

Look around at changes you notice. Our own choices and preferences are only part of the equation that creates the future. All around us changes are happening that could be meaningful. I’ve noticed more of my friends are doing side jobs like selling beauty products through social media. What might that trend mean for the future of work if it continues? How might a major earthquake in California affect the technology infrastructure we rely on so heavily? Instead of worrying about change or trying to solve tomorrow’s problems immediately, we can simply notice it and ask, “What if?”

Thinking about the future is like taking a jog: we can always find something more pressing to do instead, but we will be better off later if we just take the time to do it. And just like taking a jog will train you to run longer distances, thinking about the future regularly will train you to notice change and work with it to accomplish your goals for education. Thinking about the future shouldn’t be a full-time job for those of you working to make learning better for students today, but we owe it to them to consider the future and make it the best we can.

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Early Readers = Readers for Life

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2016-05-03 10:00

Every week at my house feels like children’s book week, but right now it’s official: May 2 – 8 is the 97th Annual Children’s Book Week. And because I’ve already shared five of her big sister’s favorite reads, I thought I’d give my younger daughter the opportunity to turn some pages. Her bedtime routine has gotten pretty adorable in recent months, tottering over to her book shelf to choose a few board books to read before lights out. Here’s what she’s bringing me most often:

  • I am a Bunny is a sweet, simple story with really lovely illustrations by Richard Scarry. Smells like childhood.
  • Pajama Time! by Sandra Boynton is one of many beloved Boynton books in our house. The best part about this one, of course, is that you have to sing it.
  • Baby Animals by Gyo Fujikawa is a book I’m guilty of wanting her to fall in love with – Fujikawa’s illustrations are incredibly charming, and mimicking animal sounds is a toddler rite of passage.
  • Global Baby Girls by the Global Fund for Children weds a good cause with one of baby’s favorite things: other babies.
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown is strange but whimsical, one of those books you’re sure your youngest won’t have the attention span for until, suddenly, they do.

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Remaking Learning in Pittsburgh: Next Steps

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2016-05-03 08:00

We’ve been fortunate to work with Pittsburgh’s Remake Learning Network to adapt our recent forecast, The Future of Learning: Education in the Era of Partners in Code, for the region. Already a leader in supporting educators both in- and out-of-school in adapting learning for a changing landscape, the Remake Learning Network continues to catalyze innovation by encouraging people to consider what learning could look like, what they want from it, and how to foster educational and economic success in a rapidly changing world.

The Pittsburgh forecast, “The Future of Learning in the Pittsburgh Region,” was released as an insert in the Business Courier on April 22 and will be available on our website soon. In working with the Remake Learning Council to explore its implications during a recent sneak peak, Jason Swanson and I invited members to consider how the six future provocations that it highlights could lead to breakthrough change in learning for the region. Among the insights:

  • Regional stakeholders need to consider a wide range of learning environments, whether technologically mediated or deeply embedded in place.
  • Focusing on core values and leveraging existing learning environments can serve as the starting point for fostering responsive learning environments that foster effective group learning cultures and tailor learning for individuals and groups.
  • Leveraging existing pop up experiences and the region’s current infrastructure can be an early step in creating immersive learning experiences that meet all learners where they are.
  • Broadening the conversation from families to households can better reflect the realities of learners’ lives and increase relevance.
  • Continuous improvement loops involving both households and other education stakeholders can help guide the evolution of the region’s learning ecosystem.
  • Learning layers should be centered on learners instead of institutions; a first step to achieving that shift could be to orient funding around the learner within current school districts.
  • Early childhood education provides a rich opportunity to connect up all the people who support a young person – including community-based organizations – through holistic data.
  • Since traditional funding streams are likely to remain, at least in the short term, regional stakeholders need to collaborate in influencing policies that enable new visions for and approaches to learning.
  • Going further, policymakers need to be included in exploring future possibilities since policy shifts are so fundamental to enabling – or inhibiting – an ecosystem view of learning and seemingly unconnected or minor policies can sometimes have unanticipated impacts.
  • The Remake Learning Network needs to continue to lift up bright spots while publicizing them more widely and building a frame that helps connect them in the context of a broader vision.
  • Different generations tend to view change processes from different vantage points, with Baby Boomers leaning toward policy and funding changes and Millennials tending simply to sidestep established systems.
  • Pursuing multiple change strategies concurrently promises to leverage diverse opportunities and maximize impact.

These strategies could also other cities’ and areas’ efforts to foster education innovation and create vibrant learning ecosystems for all young people.

For more on what remaking learning in the Pittsburgh region looks like today, join one of the many events taking place May 9-15 during Remake Learning Days or follow the activity through #RemakeDays. On May 10, Jason and I will be collaborating with Youth Leading Change and Teach the Future to engage students in imagining possibilities for the future of education. I’m looking forward to learning from their insights and experience!

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To Teachers Everywhere: Thank you! #thankateacher

Posts from WOL - Mon, 2016-05-02 08:00

My kindergarten teacher taught me to tie my shoes. My fourth grade teacher taught me to stand up for myself on the playground. My high school German teacher taught me to love traveling. I rely on these skills all the time! Especially that one about tying my shoes…

The impact of a teacher extends well beyond the classroom. They help mold each of us into the people we become. They ensure we can succeed in and outside of the classroom. They help us master the skills that are the baseline to … everything.

Too often, teachers do all of this work without thanks! This week is Teacher Appreciation Week and KnowledgeWorks staff will be sharing thanks to teachers all week on Twitter using #thankateacher.

Join us and thank a teacher that played a special role in your life!

Here are some Twitter prompts to get you started:

  • Thank you ________ for ________. #thankateacher
  • The teachers at ________ taught me ________. #thankateacher
  • To teachers everywhere: ________. #thankateacher
  • ________, thanks to you, I ________. #thankateacher

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“Generation Transition:” What Young People Believe About Learning

Posts from WOL - Fri, 2016-04-29 14:27

I walked through fire, met a quantum worker of 2026, and learned how to predict the past and remember the future. I’m still processing the discussions, insights and experiences from the Institute for the Future’s 10-Year Forecast retreat, but what’s stuck with me the most came from the young people whom Institute for the Future (IFTF) interviewed as part of their research.

The event was all about “Generation Transition,” the cohort coming behind Millennials. IFTF team kicked off the three-day session by sharing primary research about that generation’s beliefs, mindsets, experiences and priorities. The findings that I keep coming back to are captured in slides included in these tweets:

Fascinating…. #TYF2016 pic.twitter.com/pRMew7Ial2

— Christina Gordon (@ChristinaGinDC) April 20, 2016

Big difference in how generations see importance and role of formal education #TYF2016 #iftf pic.twitter.com/PpSBRRmxNU

— Gil Friend (@gfriend) April 20, 2016

What these images show is 14-18-year-olds simultaneously believing:

  • That a college degree is necessary to their success more than older respondents think it is


  • That personal connections will be the largest factors for future success, beating out formal education and professional skills, which were seen by older generations as being more important/:P

As I’ve considered these seemingly contradictory statements, I am left with two major insights:

  1. Young people are listening to us. They’ve heard how important college is, and they believe it. But they also believe that it’s not enough. These findings tell me that young people see the college degree as the bare minimum, a prerequisite to the type of life they want, but in no way a guarantee on its own. How troubling, then, that the college degree remains so inaccessible to so many. We’ve persuaded them to become college-ready, but we haven’t done the necessary work to make the system ready for all learners.
  2. If college is the first stop, then relationships are the ticket to the life young people really want. Whether that’s actually true is beside the point in my mind; that’s what many of them believe, so that’s how they will prioritize their time and spend their energy. Instead of trying to change their minds and make them believe that school is the only silver bullet for a good future, can we bring more relationships into learning and more learning into relationships? We had the opportunity to talk with young people at the event, and many of them are members of informal communities and friend groups that explore and create, learning all the while. How can we translate that approach to school?

Today’s students need our guidance as they navigate their way toward their futures. We also need their guidance on how to make learning relevant and meaningful today.

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New Approaches to Personalized Learning Raise New Questions

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2016-04-28 08:00

KnowledgeWorks’ strategic foresight team was honored to be voted a finalist in The Mind Trust’s inaugural School Design Competition. We pitched an idea for a new school design, Ubique Academy, that would draw upon trends we’ve been tracking to create meaningful passion-based learning beyond the walls of a traditional school building.

While the school would have hubs and would also make use of digital resources when appropriate, its customized learning pathways would also take learners across Indianapolis. As appropriate to an individual’s needs, interests, and goals, those learning journeys would knit together the city’s resources – such as cultural institutions, businesses, local experts, and community leaders – to support deep engagement in place and community. Learning pathway designers would help students craft and refine their learning journeys, and other kinds of staff informed by our exploration of future educator roles would also provide support.

The prospect of opening a school that is everywhere, for everyone elicited excitement. It also raised questions about the feasibility of such a different approach.  The judges asked about:

  • Operations, including the financial feasibility of providing such personalized attention and how to keep infrastructure lightweight while honing the instructional approach
  • Learner agency, given that not all kids feel motivated and that navigating customized learning pathways would require significant self-direction (though it would also offer support)
  • Equity, specifically providing support for students with special needs and in challenging circumstances
  • Rigor, centering around whether such interest-based and integrated learning would be sufficiently standards-based
  • Learner accountability, namely knowing that kids were actually pursuing their learning pathways when out in the park or another community location
  • Understanding, or the need to help people envision this new approach to school by building bridges of understanding by making connections with current developments.

These constructive questions could be answered with further development of the Ubique Academy concept. They also highlight how difficult it can be to conceptualize deeply personalized approaches to school. I’m encouraged that there are existing efforts to foster community-wide learning ecosystems, whether through Pittsburgh’s Remake Learning Network, Columbus’ Surge, or Chattanooga’s Hive. In addition, there are national efforts to broaden where and how learning happens, among them STEM Learning Ecosystems, the Center for the Future of Museums’ vibrant learning effort, and the National Park Service’s recent Learning from the Outside In summit.

I also find it promising that many of the innovative school designs featured at The Mind Trust’s school design competition sought to advance personalized learning, with focus on process over content. For example, in aiming to help future leaders solve the world’s toughest problems, Hack School uses a split staffing model to involve people from industry, who are paid partly by the school and partly by their companies, alongside teachers. In another example, Fontan School from Learning One to One helps students find meaning in their education through personalized learning plans and a staged approach to learner agency.

As we explore new approaches to personalized learning and raise and answer new questions, these and other signals of change can point the way to new possibilities and inspire innovation across the learning spectrum.

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No such thing as one-size-fits-all: Personalizing learning needs to be local

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2016-04-27 09:15

There have typically been two ways education reform efforts have spread, or been scaled, on a local level, from classroom to classroom and district to district.

First, there is the franchise method where models are replicated. One thing is “picked up” from one classroom or school and dropped in another classroom or school.

The second approach to scaling involves committing to a set of principles, or non-negotiables, but leaving the design of everything else up to the context of the classroom or school.  This approach is crucial when thinking about beginning the transition to personalize learning.

Each classroom, school, district, and community has its own needs.  Whether it be differences in student population, the economy that drives the community, or general expectations of what educations should provide to a community, it is absolutely essential that leaders take these things into consideration when designing a personalized system.

Each classroom, school, district and community has its own needs for #PersonalizedEd.
Click To Tweet

Over the last several weeks, I have had the opportunity to talk with students, teachers, school and district leaders, and community partners about the benefits of personalized learning.  These conversations usually begin with how to define personalized learning.  At KnowledgeWorks, here’s how we talk about personalized learning:

  • Instruction is aligned to rigorous college- and career-ready standards and the social and emotional skills students need to be successful in college and career
  • Instruction is customized, allowing each student to design learning experiences aligned to his or her interests
  • The pace of instruction is varied based on individual student needs, allowing students to accelerate or take additional time based on their level of mastery
  • Educators use data from formative assessments and student feedback in real-time to differentiate instruction and provide robust supports and interventions so that every student remains on track to graduation
  • Students and parents have access to clear, transferable learning objectives and assessment results so they understand what is expected for mastery and advancement

Once we have a common understanding about what it is we’re talking about, the conversation shifts to “what does this look like in my classroom, school, district, or community?”  This is where things get interesting.

As part of our recommendations around the new Every Student Succeeds Act, KnowledgeWorks provides some design questions that communities can consider when implementing personalized learning.  Answering these questions could be the difference between raising student outcomes through a personalized system or business as usual.

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Want to shape the future of K-12 education? Tackle these top challenges.

Posts from WOL - Mon, 2016-04-25 08:00

As part of an initiative to help education stakeholders make sense of the future of learning, KnowledgeWorks recently convened K-12 leaders and innovators to explore the implications of our latest forecast, The Future of Learning: Education in an Era of Partners in Code. Top issues and opportunities for education over the next decade included the six areas listed below.

  • Equity – Pursuing equity is complex now. It is likely to get even more complex in ten years’ time, but we need to bring nuance to the conversation. While new divides could emerge, they won’t necessarily be where we first think to look. For example, it’s easy to focus on the potential for today’s digital divide to deepen, but quick adoption cycles could drive down the cost of new technologies faster than we anticipate. Trends such as increasing customization and new forms of digital support could present new solutions. Continuing to do what we’ve always done won’t create the changes we need to see. We may need to look beyond what happens in current classrooms to consider new learning structures.
  • Student Experience – Relationships are central, but how we cultivate them could change. New tools and processes for connecting learners with the right educators and learning experiences could help bring about a focus on personal success skills such as innovation, problem solving, collaboration, and creativity. We need to get better at measuring the skills that are most critical. We also need to find ways of implementing personalized learning that help all learners succeed.
  • Standards and Quality Assurance – There could be new opportunities to consider the whole child and to reward what truly matters, but changes to the system could provoke reactions such as opting out. As we work to balance risk and innovation with research-based best practices, we need to find new forms of accountability.
  • Human Capital – New educator pathways could open opportunities for restructuring schools and reframing school systems. Current educators could contribute to learning in new ways, and people who are not currently active in education might contribute in full-time or in targeted ways. But policies around teacher certification, student credentials, and funding would need to align with new approaches, and there would likely be strong desire to maintain the status quo.
  • Civic Responsibility –As personalization of experience proliferates across many sectors of life, education could have a key role to play in helping people cultivate collective awareness and civic responsibility. Learning experiences could help connect learners with one another and with their communities, but we need to make sure that those experiences are valuable and meaningful.
  • Governance – Governance could get more responsive and timely, with innovative community engagement strategies increasing and improving informal decision making. For example, distributed, team-based leadership could help district educators innovate and respond quickly to client needs, with community engagement around vision helping stakeholders understand the context underlying innovation and day-to-day decisions and gather broader input. But strategies for improving governance will require careful sequencing and communication.

As we look toward the future of education, tackling these top challenges will best prepare both students and educators to navigate the uncertain and increasingly complex landscapes of our world.

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Future Fictions: Anticipating the changing role of museums in education

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2016-04-19 08:00

The Future of Museums’ future fiction competition invited respondents to describe a compelling and inspiring future of the education in which museums play a starring role. As a judge for the competition, I saw several big themes worth considering as we work to shape the future of education and foster vibrant learning ecosystems that help people navigate increasing complexity.

The stories were set in 2040, so look way ahead as you consider these possibilities.

  • “School” could get completely reimagined. Yes, today’s boundary between school- and museum-based educational experiences could erode as more cities cultivate broad-based learning ecosystems to which many kinds of organizations contribute. But there’s also the potential to foster meaningful and fluid lifelong learning landscapes and intergenerational learning.
  • Augmented and virtual reality could play a significant role in helping learners access immersive experiences. These immersive experiences could go way beyond super-fancy virtual field trips to form a central part of people’s learning journeys and foster deep engagement.
  • There could be increasing interest in homeschooling and other alternative forms of education as people increasingly expect the levels of customization that we already experience in so many areas of life to be available in schooling – or in place of what we have typically thought of as school. The perception that public schools may not be well placed to respond to such expectations underscores the urgency of finding innovative ways of making public education highly personalized and meaningful and rethinking diverse educational structures to be viable for all students.
  • While not every learner is going to want or need the same kind of learning experiences, ensuring equity of opportunity is likely to be a continuing challenge. Some of the future fiction stories described experiences that were only available to the “best” students or that were tiered according to levels of privilege or ability. Greater customization and new kinds of learning experiences could bring greater complexity to the challenge of meeting learners where they are and making sure all learners have access to great experiences.
  • As institutional authority shifts and educational settings diversify or support people in new ways, learners could have far more control over what, when, and how they study than a typical learner has today. We need to bring nuance to considerations of learner agency, taking care not to assume that people are ready to self-direct their learning – or that they cannot or do not want to do so.
  • There could be an opportunity for museums to reimagine themselves as facilitators of dialogue that support people in challenging and renegotiating limiting narratives around race, class, gender, and other historic divides.
  • Future technologies could play a variety of roles in education, depending on how people want to use them. Some future fiction stories showed various technologies supporting people in connecting and developing strong relationships around learning, while others depicted people using technologies to go deep in relative isolation. Different learners and educational settings are likely to make different choices about future uses of technology.
  • There was some sense across the stories that we could be approaching a cultural and environmental tipping point in which many people reject a lot of what we consider to be status quo today. Some stories described a great turning point in education, largely influenced by mindset shifts. Others projected disruption that extended far beyond education to include race riots, a post-petroleum economy, and new waves of climate and economic refugees. We don’t know whether any of these disruptions will come to pass, but it does behoove us to consider what might happen if the external environment surrounding education changed dramatically, whether in isolated pockets or on a broader scale.

Looking across these themes, some of the future fiction stories reflected fundamental shifts in learning; others projected smaller trajectories of change. But all of them suggested interesting possibilities for how museums might contribute to shaping the future of education. Collectively, they reminded me how powerful it can be to engage with succinct and compelling stories about the future. Stepping into a future story can help us examine possibilities, consider how we want the future to unfold, and strategize about how we might influence its direction.

To read the future fiction stories for yourself, visit the Center for the Future of Museums’ vibrant learning website.

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It’s Elemental: An #EdTech Roundup

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2016-04-13 09:59

Technology changes all the time. All. The. Time. It’s imperative that we as educators maintain currency with new technology so we can reach our students where they are and in way that interest them. But with so much technology out there, it can be hard to keep up, which I why I love this new resource from Daily Genius: The Periodic Table of Education Technology.

Much like the scientific periodic table is organized into categories (atomic numbers, electron configurations, recurring chemical properties), the Periodic Table of Education Technology organizes resources by type of technology and where it can be used.

So, as you try to stay current on 2016 education technology and utilize technology to blend instructional pedagogies, check out the Periodic Table of Education Technology. Happy learning!

Much like the scientific periodic table is organized into categories, the Periodic Table of Education Technology organizes resources by type of technology and where it can be used.Image Credit and Source: Daily Genius

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Reading isn’t just fundamental. It’s critical.

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2016-04-12 16:19

Today is my favorite childhood author’s 100th birthday. Beverly Clearly.  Oh, how I loved her books. I was a latch-key kid that grew up in the late 70s and early 80s. We didn’t have cable in grade school and the closest cluster of kids my age lived 10 minutes away, driving. So, my friends were Henry Huggins, Beezus, and her spunky sister, Ramona.

My appetite for books was voracious, and going to the library once a week was not enough. I dreaded getting to the last of the books on the shelf written by Beverly Clearly. I didn’t want the stories to end. I wanted to move to Klickitat Street – which in my mind was certainly plausible as I lived in Portland, Oregon. I wanted my own Aunt Bea. I wanted Ramona’s raincoat and boots so that I, too, could stomp in the rain.

Reading Gives Hope

I was lucky. I had access to books. I had a mom who, despite working 60+ hours at the hospital to make ends meet for our young immigrant family, prioritized time to read to me. To take me once a week just before the library closed after her shift so that I could take home the maximum five books only to read them over and over again until I could replace them with new ones. I went to a school with a base of engaged parents that volunteered in the classroom and helped teachers support  struggling readers, which included me, initially.

Other kids aren’t so lucky. In fact, 9 out of 10 high school dropouts were struggling readers in the 3rd grade. Students who can’t read in the 3rd grade don’t typically catch up and fall further and further behind. Those consequences are dire. Those same high school dropouts make up 90 perent of Americans on welfare. 9 out of every 10 teenagers in the juvenile justice system are functionally illiterate. And seven out of every 10 prison inmates can’t read above the 4th grade level.

There has been a lot of debate, including in my own community, about retention and social promotion of students who have not yet acquired the minimum learning targets or competencies expected of that grade.  The staggering outcomes described above are consistent with the themes and results:

  • Retention, which means repeating a grade, has negative effects on student achievement, attitude toward schools, school attendance and student dropout rates.
  • Social promotion has a negative effect on student achievement and reinforces the failure by not making sure that students are prepared.

But could a growing movement toward competency-based education or mastery, which replaces seat time with skills, become the main standard for whether students are promoted? By redesigning the education system around actual student learning, we can more effectively prepare each student for college and career.

To learn more, attend a free webinar where attendees will explore school models and practices, and understand the structural elements of competency education.

Introduction to Competency Education
Wednesday, April 20
3:00 – 4:00pm

>> Register here.

Speakers include: Dr. Kristen Brittingham, Charleston County School District, South Carolina; Sydney Schaef from Building 21 (currently at reDesign); Virgel Hammonds, KnowledgeWorks; Susan Patrick, iNACOL; and, Chris Sturgis, MetisNet.

Until then, let’s celebrate an author who encouraged our vivid imaginations and our love of reading.

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Discussing ESSA and Personalized Learning on EduTalk Radio

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2016-04-12 10:08

During 15 years of No Child Left Behind, education advocates became increasingly frustrated with the level of federal prescription over the vision and design of state education systems.

Now, under ESSA, states and school districts have more ownership to advance innovative visions for teaching and learning. In fact, almost all the federal barriers to personalized learning are lifted, thanks to the new law.

And that’s exactly what Matt Williams and Lillian Pace discussed on the most recent episode of EduTalk Radio.

“It’s an incredibly different climate from where we were before,” Lillian said during the segment. “Now it will be exciting to see what states will do to take advantage of the ability to knit together a compelling vision for learning.”

Listen to the segment below to learn about ESSA, personalized learning, assessment, accountability, teacher prep and more.



Last month, KnowledgeWorks launched two ESSA resources: a side-by-side that compares the new law and NCLB; and recommendations for states and school districts to implement personalized learning.

The side-by-side presents opportunities throughout the 391 pages of the bill to make personalized learning a reality for every student in the country. The recommendations acts as a guide for imagining and implementing a vision of personalized learning that aligns with federal, state and local policies. It also offers guiding questions for stakeholders to think through college and career readiness, equity and continuous improvement.

ESSA’s opportunities will only translate into results for students if stakeholders take advantage of them as they design new systems of teaching and learning. For more information and insight, check out the following blogs:

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Optimized Selves, Optimized Systems

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2016-04-07 09:08


Back in October, The New York Times ran an article highlighting how much more attention issues of identity have received in 2015. Discovery, discussion, and debate on this topic have taken place between friends, on television, in the media, on college campuses, on city streets, and in the Supreme Court. At many points in that discourse, people have examined who they are, held that up to the systems and structures with which we all interact, and found a disconnect. This was not made for me. This year, some who made that realization refused to accept it. Instead of conforming themselves to the systems, they decided the systems needed to change to become what they need and want.

This reexamination occurs at precisely the time in which our technology is advancing to give us access to new kinds of information about ourselves—our genes, our heritage, our habits, our preferences. Though we sometimes use this new information to change ourselves, the digital environments in which we spend ever-increasing amounts of time are adapting to us, which carries with it new potential expectations about how the physical and social worlds could do the same.

Advanced technology can give new information about ourselves. How could this impact #FutureEd?
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In KnowledgeWorks’ new forecast on the future of learning, Optimized Selves is one of five drivers of change we see having a large impact on the way we live and learn. As with many drivers, it is both technological and social. Signals of this change include not only technological developments such as FitBit, 23andMe, and Thync, but also mindset shifts that bring a widening of the gender spectrum, a push for inclusive work and school spaces, and new ideas about a diversifying population into mainstream discussion. Our research shows that we are optimizing ourselves and working to optimize environments for those selves, which could bring us closer to the goal of truly personalized learning.

And yet, an actual emerging reality is always more complex than the idea of one. Though personalized learning is a widely loved concept, adaptive learning technologies are often met with skepticism and fear of “robots replacing teachers.” Though the vision of student-centered environments is espoused by many, when college students protest to make their universities safer and more inclusive of the identities and experiences of students of color and LGBTQ students, they are told that they are coddled. Education has long been an arena of one-size-fits all environments, broad labels, and hierarchical structures, so it’s no wonder that a new world of responsive environments, nuanced and self-defined identity, and democratized platforms is unsettling to some.

Education has long been an arena of one-size-fits all environments, but no more. #FutureEd
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And the unsettled feeling should not be ignored, but faced: the next generation of learners will have even more precise tools to understand themselves and increasing access to environments optimized for them, a future that could have both positive and negative implications. This is why those of us who care about learning must thoughtfully examine possibilities for the future and have an honest conversation about what is on the horizon and what we want to be true about our society and our education systems.

This year has shown us that optimized selves will require optimized systems. How will we respond?

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New VibrantED Roles for 2026

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2016-04-06 21:52

In January of 2016 KnowledgeWorks released VibrantED, a simulation recruiting platform from 2026 that matches job seekers with employment opportunities in the expanding learning ecosystem as a way of bringing the future to life. VibrantED, along with supporting sites Learning Extravaganza and Amoeba Learning, provides an immersive experience designed to help education stakeholders experience the future, examine their assumptions about what the educator workforce looks like, and imagine how educator roles may change and diversify over the next ten years.

As part of the ongoing simulation and like any recruiting platform, VibrantED has just posted 3 openings for new future educator roles:

  • Industrial Arts Educator: SFMakeCenter is hiring a full-time Industrial Arts Educator with experience in high-tech manufacturing to design and run sessions for all ages, help our members and partner schools design projects, and assist when our artisan learners are working independently.
  • Competency Tracker: The Central Basin Association of Governments in Nashville, TN is looking for a qualified individual to help identify learning opportunities that will satisfy competency development and credentialing needs.
  • Director of Social Good: The Museum of Social Movements is seeking a director of social good to help develop partnerships with other learning ecosystem organizations across the world that connect learners with existing or burgeoning social movements as part of their education.

If you have not already done so, please take a moment to immerse yourself in the world envisioned by this simulation and experience the future. You can start by taking this career quiz to see where you might fit into a more diverse educator workforce. As you navigate the future that VibrantED depicts, here are some questions to consider:

  • What excites you about the possibilities this world presents?
  • What about this world do you dislike?
  • Is there a role or roles you feet drawn to?
  • What new roles or skills you think will be needed in the future?
  • How might those roles or skills contribute to a vibrant and equitable learning ecosystem?

When you come back from your trip to the future, I invite you to reflect for a moment about you learned during your time in the year 2026. Ask yourself what actions you might take today to begin shaping the future you desire. That might mean working to leverage trends to create a role you were drawn to or perhaps creating an entirely new role. It might involve incorporating new skill sets into existing educator roles – or something else entirely.

Also, keep an eye on VibrantED. As a recruiting platform, it is sure to feature more fictional job openings in the (near) future. If you have not yet found your niche in the learning ecosystem, perhaps a future job opening might inspire you to think about how education stakeholders might shape the future educator workforce and what skills might be needed as the learning ecosystem continues to expand and diversify.

Whether or not you have found a role that resonates with you, it is vital that we begin to think of new possibilities for human capital in learning.  Making intentional choices about how we develop human capital for personalized learning will be essential for making the future of learning equitable for all learners.

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Learning Beyond the School Walls

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2016-04-05 10:15

What if a school extended across a city instead of being confined to four walls? What if a school helped learners craft customized learning pathways that took full advantage of city-wide resources and reflected students’ needs, interests, and goals?

KnowledgeWorks’ strategic foresight team thinks that this kind of school is possible. For The Mind Trust’s 2016 School Design Competition on April 5, we are presenting a break-the-mold school design called Ubique Academy, a high school that would be everywhere, for everyone.

The vision for Ubique Academy is for students and families from across Indianapolis to find a home and experience learner-led, passion-based, real-world personalized learning that meets students where they are and supports them in every aspect of development. Whether learners came to the school with established passions or simply needed a new learning environment, highly trained and caring educators occupying diverse roles would collaborate to help learners design customized learning pathways made of in-person, online, community- and school-based experiences that were meaningful, challenging, and enriching.

Ubique would operate four hubs serving as home bases for our UA Leaders, and staff would be there or would be available virtually. Every hub would double as community space, with offerings based on community interest and need. Ubique would also draw upon city-wide learning resources such as museums, cultural institutions, art galleries, outdoor spaces, and universities, providing transportation and communications resources to transport kids safely and coordinate learning over a distributed learning ecosystem.

Key features include:

  • Dedicated support from learning journey mentors and other specialized educators inspired by our exploration of new educator roles
  • Customized curriculum making rich use of community-wide assets and enabling learners to make a difference in their communities
  • An app to help keep people connected and unlock access to learning experiences, transportation, and food services
  • Student communities to ground Ubique’s personalized learning in a persistent social context
  • Flexible pathway schedules enabling learners get used to interest-based learning and transition from traditional school or to pursue their passions in deep and meaningful ways.

Sound exciting? We think so too! Wish us luck as we share our vision for Ubique Academy in Indianapolis!

You can follow the @TheMindTrust competition at #INSummit. You can also explore the ideas on which this break-the-mold school design is based by reading our future educator roles paper or exploring the VibrantED simulation site that brings those roles to life through a set of job postings from the year 2025.

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Closing the Equity Gap Through Capstone Projects

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2016-04-05 08:00

We are all concerned about the growing gap in education equity. Sadly, students are experiencing a vast difference in education quality depending on where they live, with many urban core schools lacking the resources available to the wealthy suburbs. Although the root causes stem more from using a school funding model based on real estate taxes and on lack of socioeconomic mobility, the gap is apparent to all. The good news is that there are steps we can take to reduce it, even while working at the macro level to change policy for the long term.

Personalized learning that’s integrated in tightly to the local community is one way we can effect change, and give all kids the same opportunities.

Capstone projects, when required of all seniors to graduate, give all students access to the business and civic community. All kids get a chance to practice the same agency skills, and all kids gain access to engaged, professional adults. Capstones demystify the working world for students, and help them understand what’s possible. It can also open the eyes of the community itself, as professionals engage with real students from a variety of backgrounds, including some unlike their own.

Capstone projects can serve to bring an entire community together. When implemented, such cross-pollination of real people across societal segments builds the fiber of a healthy, vibrant community for the long term.Educators can tend to think about implementing community-education partnerships as their issues to lead and resolve, but looking at the problem from the other way around can help get a new program off the ground. Businesses and trade organizations want to help students, but are largely unaware of the need. Many companies have community engagement goals or even requirements for their employees, and welcome new options to provide for them.

Successful capstone programs ensure that the students are actually in the workplace, whether it’s a construction office, manufacturing site, health care facility or a business office. It’s important to teach agency skills before the project starts: how to network, participate in a meeting, set goals, and communicate through business email. To gain buy-in between business in your community and your school district, engage with the businesses at the top level, then have management communicate the opportunity down through their teams. Businesses can submit project ideas to engage the community even further. Team-based capstones are a good option if such projects are large, and are actually more reflective of a real-world experience.

Take care, though, to continually review the process with an eye towards equity. Schools and students with ready access to family professionals and resources will use them, and those without may have a harder time making the right connections. Actively pairing students with professionals and managing the matching process is one way to guard against this.

Capstone projects can serve to bring an entire community together. When implemented, such cross-pollination of real people across societal segments builds the fiber of a healthy, vibrant community for the long term.

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