Six Tips for Engaging Your Community in the Visioning Process

Posts from WOL - Wed, 05/03/2017 - 8:00am

When creating a district vision for personalized learning, community voice is key. By requesting feedback and insight from local neighbors, business owners, community developers, higher education partners, elected officials and parents, a district can build buy-in that extends beyond the school walls.

Virgel Hammonds and Bill Zima, former and current superintendents of RSU2 district in Maine, have witnessed this firsthand. The district went through its original visioning process when Virgel was superintendent, and Bill and his team continue using and building upon that vision statement today.

“Sometimes it’s nice to remind yourself of a bigger purpose,” Bill said. “A vision gives you the ability to come up, catch your breath and then dive back into the work.”

So often, though, district transformation lives within the school walls. For true systems-change and long-term success, a vision must be created by and live throughout a community.

“It can’t rest only on the shoulders of our teachers and schools,” Virgel shared. “Instead, the entire community needs to lift up learning, support teachers, and encourage students to learn both in and outside school.”

Visioning sessions and community conversations help build support and strengthen a district’s vision with wider input. When planning a visioning session with community members, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Invite everyone, from district and school staff to parents to kids to business and community leaders. As Bill explained, “Invite anybody who has a vested interest in the school, and that would be just about anyone. That ability to have it open to all those stakeholders is important.” Plus, if everyone is invited, then no one is left out.
  2. Meet community members where they are. Organize meetings in familiar gathering places for higher participant turnout. “We attended our fair share of meetings in schools, homes, churches, town halls, farms, theaters, and any other location where people congregated within the community,” Virgel shared.
  3. Don’t ask the community for input unless you intend to use it. Don’t start with the intent of crafting your own vision. Instead, take feedback to heart and use it intentionally in the visioning process. “You don’t have to take every single idea or piece of feedback,” Bill said. “But use their words to help the process.”
  4. Use a visioning session to have an honest conversation. Ask participants what their hopes are for local graduates and how the district can help prepare students for this future. Through these conversations, RSU2’s leadership learned that everyone wanted the same thing for learners: a world-class learning environment to prepare students not only to be successful for college and career, but also to be future local leaders.
  5. Share the final vision with the community. Celebrate the accomplishment and consider how to move forward with that vision in mind. “That ability to have it open to all those stakeholders is important,” Bill said.
  6. Live the vision in and outside the classroom. Bill explained it best: “A vision isn’t something you put up on a plaque. It really needs to be revisited and thought about and talked about.

Read about how another school district used community conversations to set a vision.

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In Marysville, They’re Bringing Personalized Learning to Students and School Staff

Posts from WOL - Tue, 05/02/2017 - 8:00am

“Personalized learning is a philosophy or pedagogical change that facilitates learning rather than a one-size-fits-all sit-and-get,” said Ashley Thompson, a Special Education Coordinator and Personalized Learning Coordinator in the Marysville Exempted Village School District of Marysville, Ohio.

When you’re looking to transform a school district from traditional education to personalized learning, that change does apply only to students. Teaching staff has to be included in the evolution as well.

In Marysville, KnowledgeWorks coaches worked alongside district staff to provide specialized professional development and help guide the journey.

“We try to build learning-centered practices with our staff and teachers to help students move along the continuum of an expert learner,” said Ashley.

Learn more: Watch a video of Ashley Thompson sharing some of her experiences with a district transformation to personalized learning.

Are you looking to bring personalized learning to your district?

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

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Creating Personalized, Community-Oriented Learning Pathways

Posts from WOL - Mon, 05/01/2017 - 8:00am

At KnowledgeWorks, we work to foster meaningful personalized learning for all young people to help them prepare for college, career, and life. As we and others work to shape the future of learning, we need to make sure that our efforts to reorient education around learners also strengthen society.

I hear this tension discussed frequently: many education leaders and innovators think that learners’ interests and needs should play a larger role in what is taught and how learning is organized than is common today. But they also caution that placing increasing emphasis on personalized learning could reduce civic responsibility, undermine social connections, and further marginalize certain learners and communities.

Exploring personalized, yet community-oriented, learning pathways can help strike a balance between the opportunity and the challenge. Two strategies can help educators working in K-12 schools activate such learning pathways:

  • Connect personal and community interests by linking learners’ individual needs, interests, and goals with larger community needs and exposing learners to challenging ideas beyond what they already know.
  • Recognize learner impact by creating incentives and opportunities for students to participate in authentic and meaningful work beyond school walls and by measuring the impact of their contributions.

Some such efforts exist today, providing reference points for others to consider in exploring these strategies. Among them:

  • Ashoka Changemaker Schools organizes curriculum in ways that foster empathy, teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving, helping students develop as ChangeMakers who find their voices and make a positive impact on the world.
  • Getting Smart’s place-based education campaign seeks to encourage the creation of authentic, meaningful, and engaging personalized learning experiences that “[connect] learning and communities with the primary goals of increasing student engagement, boosting academic outcomes, impacting communities and promoting understanding of the world around us.”
  • Middlebury College’s Center for Social Entrepreneurship encourages students to apply their learning beyond the classroom by providing opportunities for them to identify and address real-world problems through ventures created with the help of staff, mentors, and community partners.

Looking ahead ten years, we could seek increasing uptake of purpose-driven learning that links classroom experiences to real-world challenges. Engaging with authentic challenges for real organizations could elevate students’ and educators’ role and status in communities, helping students learn to evaluate their potential for unique contribution to a complex economy. Such experiences could also help students develop critical skills as innovators and problem solvers who shape their lives and their communities in constructive ways.

To make these possibilities more concrete, let’s imagine what these shifts might look like. What if:

  • Individuals and student teams earned personal impact scores for working to address real-world problems?
  • Contribution portfolios demonstrating evidence of learners’ development and passions became the primary assessment of learning?
  • School social impact scores served as critical metrics for attracting funding, partnerships, and community engagement?

Regardless of what you think personalized, community-oriented learning pathways should look like in your context, enabling them can give learners a greater sense of responsibility for the world around them and help them interweave their personalized learning journeys with their environments. As you consider how your school or schools with which you work might move in this direction, remember that cultivating intentional partnerships rooted in common values can help you create coherent and meaningful opportunities for learners to develop to their fullest in deep community contexts.

Even if it’s hard to imagine enabling personalized, community-oriented learning pathways at scale, remember too that every big change begins with a single step. Where might you support even one project that gives students a real opportunity to contribute locally?

Download this strategy guide to find out how the community-based learning sector can provide leadership that can also benefit K-12 school-based education.For more ways of linking your current practice to future opportunities, see Shaping the Future of Learning: A Strategy Guide.” For leaders and innovators in K-12 school-based education, check out  “Shaping the Future of Learning: K-12 School-Based Education Strategy Workbook.”

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Take Your Son or Daughter(s) to Work Day

Posts from WOL - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 3:02pm

When I was growing up, my dad was an electrician primarily on commercial sites, and my mom worked nights as a waitress or bartender. Neither of these was ideal for participating in Take Your Son or Daughter to Work Day, and maybe that’s part of the reason why they were always so adamant that I go to college.

My education has allowed me to pursue my passions and make a living, and, like my parents, I hope the same thing for my girls. But what I also want to be sure they know is that though we all work for what we have, we don’t all start in the same place. Because of the sacrifices that my parents made, their grandchildren will likely grow up assuming that a college education and a middle-class lifestyle is the status quo. Because of the sacrifices that my parents made, I’ve chosen to work for an organization that aims to give the level of readiness and anticipation of success in school and life to all learners.

When I asked my oldest what she was most excited to see about where I worked, she said toys. Given her work in preschool is to play, this is a logical, if flawed, conclusion. Her little sister, not surprisingly, wanted to see the kitchen.

They both had the opportunity to color their way through a meeting where we discussed a recent assessment tool we’ve created to provide districts a clearer picture of how ready they are to begin personalizing learning for all students. KnowledgeWorks is committed to scaling personalized learning so that every student has the opportunity to take ownership of their education, to make connections with the things that they find meaningful, and to develop the skills, knowledge, and disposition to succeed in school and life. Because while my girls currently find meaning exclusively in their Duplo creations and which of the many breakfast foods they prefer, when they go to school, I want their passions and creativity to be honored. That’s what we all want out of school for all children, right?

So I can share my experiences from childhood with my girls, and how my childhood love of school has transformed into a love of mission-drive work in the field of education. They don’t have to grow up to do what I do, but I hope they’ll understand why I do it.

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An Interview with a Cincinnati Student About the Future of Learning

Posts from WOL - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 8:00am

As part of my ongoing series of interviews with students about the future of learning, I talked with Ryan Johnson. Ryan is in high school at DePaul Cristo Rey High School and working at StrivePartnership as part of her school’s Corporate Work Study Program.

Thinking back on your own journey in education, how has school changed over time?

Overtime, school has changed in a variety of different ways, socially and educationally. From kindergarten all the way to sixth grade, I went to a strict catholic private school that mainly focused on literacy. The curriculum was tough, using words that were too advanced for my age along with the pressure of being perfect in every class. But it really shaped me as the student that I am today. To some, that would be just what they need, teachers who make sure you’re focusing on nothing but education, but for me, I needed a change in scenery and the way I learned. Instead of being spoken to and not grasping the concept, I needed more hands-on engagement.

When I began high school that changed for me. I went from feeling pressured to feeling challenged in a good way. Something I realized when I entered high school was the social aspect that came with my education. In middle school, we had cliques and popular groups but the second I stepped into high school, it was the exact opposite from the movies. Being that my school is pretty small, our classes of about 26 are mixed with all different types of people from different backgrounds and there is no such thing as the outcast or the preps, we’re all just people trying to get through high school together.

Why do you think these changes occurred?

I think these changes occurred with age and maturity. Maybe at the time I needed to be sat down and taught, just listening to what my teachers were saying but it wasn’t fun for me like it is in high school. At the time, I didn’t need all that pressure to be perfect. What I needed was hands-on learning, being taught in a way where I wasn’t just spoken to, I could see how things work or figure it out for myself.

Socially, I think everyone has matured a little bit since junior high. Nobody likes feeling left out and that’s kind of why I love my school because everyone has a place and we’re all just trying to learn before we get sent off to college. I know some people aren’t as fortunate to experience high school this way but I am glad to be a part of my school’s community.

In Forecast 4.0, we talk about trends and drivers of change shaping the future of education. Those drivers are:

  • Optimized Selves: This driver is about discovering new human horizons and looks at trends and developments in neuro and motion science, wearable technologies and sensors, to help us have a deeper understanding of who we are.
  • Labor Relations 2.0: Focuses on humans and the workplace as artificial intelligence and automation reshape work.
  • Alternate Economies: Explores where we might fit in as we have more and more choice, and looks at trends in people’s value sets and the different types of economies that have emerged (maker, creative, sharing, etc).
  • Shifting Landscapes: Considers how we will have to innovate in volatile conditions as the world contends with climate change, the changing nature of work, and increased volatility.
  • Smart Transactional Models: Explores how new models for governance and authority might emerge through a desire for more transparency and technologies such as the blockchain.

What driver do you feel will have the most impact on learning in the next 10 years?

I think that the Shifting Landscapes driver will have the most impact in the next ten years because the world is always changing and education should revolve around the constant changes in our society. For example, if new technologies arise and open up a new field of work, the only way anyone to actually be able to be qualified for that line of work would be if they had a degree in that area.

What will education look like / how will education be different in 10 years because of that driver?

In ten years, hopefully education will look more structured and one’s learning is more personalized and caters to that person’s specific needs. At the moment, we are sticking to old ways. At my school we are constantly thriving technology wise and learning how to use programs such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel formally, so in the future we already have those skills down.

What is your own vision for the future of education?

My vision for the future of education is to have everyone be able to access what sources they need in order to succeed career wise. A lot of people struggle economically and miss out on amazing educational opportunities that could be given to them if they had the money. Hopefully, as time goes on and learning becomes more and more valuable, educators will open their eyes and see that it is the prime time to teach and even more of a prime time to learn. We are constantly revolutionizing and it’s very important to always be keeping up with the times.

Are you interested in discussing your thoughts about the future of education? Let us know! Jason is always looking for students to talk to about #FutureEd.

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How One Teacher Gives Students Voice and Choice in a Math Classroom

Posts from WOL - Wed, 04/26/2017 - 8:00am

Giving students voice and choice is just one part of personalized learning, but it lays the groundwork for bigger life lessons. When a student is in charge of their own learning, it forces them to find out what works best for them and gives them opportunities to share their learning in ways that are meaningful.

In the Marysville Expected Village School District in Marysville, Ohio, students get voice and choice in various ways. They can select topics to explore in Genius Hour, they can find the workspace that’s most conducive to learning and they help co-create Standard Operating Procedures for their classrooms.

But how do you take those same concepts of voice and choice and apply them in a math classroom?

Brooke Young teaches ninth grade math at Marysville Early College High School and worked with students to turn learning about quadratic equations into video projects. This helped combine math and technology, which helped build on the Information technology career pathway within the school.

Learn More: Watch a short video of Brooke Young sharing how she gave students voice and choice in her approach to teaching quadratic equations.

Are you looking to bring personalized learning to your district?

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

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Three Reasons Non-Traditional Grading Won’t Negatively Affect College Acceptance

Posts from WOL - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 8:00am

Guest post by Matthew Shea, Coordinator of Student Achievement at RSU2 in Maine, and co-host of Personalized Learning with Matt and Courtney, a new and noteworthy iTunes podcast

As districts shift to competency-based learning, one issue that always concerns parents is college acceptance. How will colleges know what my child has learned if there aren’t any 0-100 grades or A-F grades?

A recent article from Maine Public Radio highlighted these concerns, and deservedly so. Ensuring students are college-ready is an important part of their K-12 experience. However, parents shouldn’t panic.

Three reasons a transcript from a competency-based school will work just fine for the college admissions process:

  1. Preparedness for the rigors of college: In a competency-based school, the learners will actually be better prepared for their future. One of the reasons schools turn to a competency-based system in the first place is because learners are providing evidence towards learning goals on an ongoing basis, only moving to the next target/competency when they have provided enough Gone are the days when students could get a 72 and slide by. In a competency-based system, they have to actually learn what they are supposed to learn!
  2. Complete student learning record: Colleges will have a better overall picture of the learner at the competency-based school as the grades will reflect their academic record. They will also have an idea of their other skills (in Maine, we call them Guiding Principles). The transcript can provide these very important facets of a learner that have previously been ignored in traditional academic grades.
  3. Communication between K-12 and higher education: Districts will need to let colleges know that whatever their transcript looks like, there is a good explanation of what it means. This is usually attached to the school profile that goes along with the transcripts, but in the beginning of a school’s transition to a competency-based system, schools should be getting in touch with every school to which a student applies to let them know they have a different system, and explain it to them. When my district started the transition a number of years ago, this is exactly what we did. In addition, showing that profile to parents can alleviate some concerns they may have, and parents can learn how to advocate for themselves and their children.

I always come back to something the admissions directors of a university in New England told me around eight years ago. They told me they get hundreds of different looking transcripts from around the world, including ones with smiley faces and frowny faces. It is the colleges’ job to attract the students that will be representing their school, and a competency-based transcript won’t hold them back from finding those students. I tell that story every time parents question the transcript process, and including those parents in the process is never a bad thing.

Competency-based schools and non-traditional grading systems aren’t unique; however, they do require some explaining for people who are not familiar with the process. My advice to schools: you can never communicate too much with people about your system, be it students, parents, colleges, or the community. Bring them in as much as you can. You won’t regret it.

Learn more about competency-based education and how it flips the traditional school model to put students at the center.

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Afterschool Programs Help Foster Future Readiness

Posts from WOL - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 8:00am

Discussions of college and career readiness and personalized learning often focus primarily on the learning that happens in school. While critical, that school-based learning represents just part of a young person’s broader learning ecosystem. Colleges acknowledge this wider world of learning, and it is part of the reason they consider volunteering and extracurricular activities as part of the admissions process. However, many K-12 education reform conversations emphasize academic achievement over that broader range of experience.

Today, afterschool programs and other extended learning opportunities support children and youth in developing essential social-emotional skills that may not be addressed directly during the school day. They also help young people expand their horizons by practicing skills and trying out interests in active, collaborative, and meaningful ways. Afterschool programs can help address safety concerns and equity gaps.

While important today, such contributions will be foundational to future readiness. As the rise of smart machines and decline of full-time employment drive potentially far-reaching changes to work, developing core social-emotional skills will provide people with the foundation necessary to thrive in ambiguity and uncertainty, collaborate with both people and machines, and engage in constant learning. Job-specific skills are likely to change so quickly that these kinds of enduring skills and practices will become a necessary focus of readiness.

Afterschool programs have been shown to help students develop social-emotional skills and to reinforce academic outcomes by encouraging attendance and engagement as well as by supporting the development of specific competencies. A 2016 Riley Institute survey of statewide afterschool network leaders identified self-confidence, communication, problem solving, teamwork, and critical thinking as the top skills that afterschool programs help develop. In addition, an American Institutes for Research brief, “Beyond the Bell: Research to Action in the Afterschool and Expanded Learning Field,” highlights how social-emotional learning programs and practices support the development of workplace skills. It also explores the potential for afterschool and expanded learning programs to play a greater role in fostering workplace readiness by strengthening linkages between social-emotional learning and employability and by clearly explaining those connections.

Opportunities and strategies for communities and states to increase personalization through afterschool and out-of-school activities

afterschoolSome communities such as Providence, Rhode Island, and states such as Vermont and New Hampshire are working to integrate extended learning opportunities into learners’ personalized learning playlists or at least to establish coherent connections between school-based learning and afterschool or other extended learning experiences. These efforts provide useful reference points for others looking to help integrate in-school and out-of-school-time learning.

When presenting at the 2017 National Network Meeting, I highlighted opportunities for afterschool providers to help shape the future of learning by connecting with the movement to spread personalized, competency-based, and student-centered learning. Potential strategies include:

  • Continue to foster social-emotional development
  • Curate learning challenges and pathways (see, for example, the Remake Learning Network’s badge-enabled pathways and playlists)
  • Expand credentialing to reflect learning across locations (see Boston After School and Beyond)
  • Collaborate with others to foster community-wide learning ecosystems (see SURGE Columbus and the STEM Ecosystems initiative)
  • Build or strengthen networks and use matchmaking platforms such as LRNG to help connect learners with relevant experiences
  • Continue to broaden the focus of personalized learning to reflect learning beyond school
  • Advocate to preserve existing funding such as that for 21st Century Community Learning Centers and to establish new funding streams and evaluation metrics that align with desired practices
  • Practice inclusive design that engages learners, families, and community members (for example, Nebraska’s Expanded Learning Opportunity Design Challenge aims to engage a wide range of stakeholders in designing and testing new extended learning models that align with the state’s career readiness standards).

These strategies promise to help afterschool and extended learning providers build from today’s successes to help foster future readiness during a time when social-emotional skills will become increasingly foundational to developing our uniquely human contributions to work.

Download this strategy guide to find out how the community-based learning sector can provide leadership that can also benefit K-12 school-based education.One section of the “Shaping the Future of Learning: A Strategy Guide” is dedicated to opportunities for communities to develop strategies now for the future of learning. Download this strategy guide to find out how the community-based learning sector can provide leadership that can also benefit K-12 school-based education.

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Teacher Collaboration in a Competency-Based Learning Environment

Posts from WOL - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 1:48pm

Teacher collaboration is not new. Teacher have long partnered within disciplines or collaborated in interdisciplinary teaching efforts. In a competency-based learning environment, cross-disciplinary collaboration is taken to the next level.

“Our staff collaboration room is constantly abuzz with attempts to breakdown learning and solve the problems we confront” said Jodi Robertson, a ninth grade teacher at Marysville Early College High School in Marysville, Ohio.

The entire Marysville Exempted Village School District uses competency-based education to help students achieve mastery. “This forces a type of conversation I have not found consistently present in past positions,” said Jodi. “Point to an assessment question or rubric, and any one of us can tell you why we put it there and what we hope to learn from it.”

Learn More: Watch a short video of Jodi Robertson discussing teacher collaboration at Marysville Early College High School.

Are you looking to bring personalized learning to your district?

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

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Better Learning Through Chemistry? Current Efforts to Expand Human Horizons

Posts from WOL - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 8:00am

Optimized Selves, one of the major drivers of change explored in our most recent comprehensive ten-year forecast, The Future of Learning: Education in the Era of Partners in Code, explored trends and developments around increasing the performance of our bodies and minds. We defined that driver as follows:

Scientists are unlocking new insights into our brains, emotions, and biological systems even as wearable devices, sensors, and complex computation tools are enabling people to understand themselves in new ways. In tracking and analyzing behaviors such as sleep, exercise, nutrition, work, and social interactions and in using cognitive and affective tools to optimize performance and overcome biological limitations, we will deepen our self-knowledge and expand possibilities for human accomplishment and purpose. What follows is an expansion of individual and collective human identity, with broader awareness of how we construct and manage our digital, gendered, emotive, and biological selves. Expanding human horizons will usher in the potential for greater focus on individual development in education.

While the Optimized Selves driver of change explored the implications that an expansion of human horizons could have over the next decade, there are many people who are today seeking to enhance their cognitive abilities through a variety of methods. A quick survey of some of those methods includes:

  • Nootropics: Also known as “smart drugs” or cognitive enhancers, nootropics are supplements that claim to improve cognitive function. We first explored the implications of nootropics in our 2020 Forecast, and it seems as if the wave of interest in nootropics seems to have died down in recent years. However, Onnit’s Alpha Brain is still quite popular and was the subject of two double-blind placebo tests from the Boston Center for Memory in which it showed solid efficacy.[i] The prescription drug Modafinil is also a leading nootropic that has been shown to increase cognitive function.[ii] It should be noted that the long-term effects of these drugs are unknown and that they should only be used under the supervision of a physician.
  • Coffee: Coffee, or more specifically the caffeine in coffee, is considered a brain stimulant, helping to enhance overall mental function and improve attention.[iii] In recent years “bullet proof coffee,” also referred to as butter coffee, has also been shown to be effective. Bullet proof coffee is coffee that has had a fat source added it,, specifically those derived from medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil (). The MCT oil helps with the caffeine delivery in the body and has also been shown to boost cognitive function.[iv]
  • Diet: Beyond the brain boost that a cup of coffee provides, diet can make a difference in cognitive function. Over the past few years, there has been research showing the link between the flora inside our bodies, known as the microbiome, and our overall health. The microbiome has been shown to affect neuroplasticity, cognitive function, and behavior.[v] Diet is a great way to help cultivate a healthy microbiome, giving new meaning to the phrase, “You are what you eat.”
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation: Transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS) is a method where a small electric current is applied to the head, stimulating the brain to give a boost in cognitive performance, with the  strength and duration of the boost varying depending on the frequency that a person engages in TDCS and the desired effect of the treatment.[vi] The military is very interested in TDCS,[vii] and companies such as Thync offer the benefits of TDCS through consumer-level products.[viii]
  • Mindfulness: The practice of mindfulness has enjoyed a resurgence as of late, due in part to its widespread embrace by Silicon Valley executives. Mindfulness mediation has been shown to improve cognition and regulate emotion. Mindfulness has also been seeing an uptake by schools in recent years, with educators seeing improvements in student performance, engagement, emotional regulation, and compassion.[ix]

While the prospect of using these or other methods to enhance our intellect and ability to learn may feel exciting, it is important to remember that the science around the positives and the negatives of cognitive enhancement is still emerging. Beyond safety concerns, educators will have to decide whether cognitive enhancement might be a boon for learners, potentially helping them to learn at accelerated rates, and whether some of these methods for boosting mental performance might be considered performance-enhancing drugs that constitute cheating. Lastly, the equity considerations are profound. Might methods to enhance cognitive abilities widen achievement gaps due to access to substances such as nootropics? Are we already seeing an achievement gap in part due to differential access to healthy foods?

Efforts to expand human horizons and optimize performance will not stop. Education stakeholders should have an awareness of what methods learners have access to and what the implications of cognitive enhancement might be for learning.

 Education in the Era of Partners in Code."Read more about Optimized Selves and the other drivers of change explored in our most recent comprehensive ten-year forecast, “The Future of Learning: Education in the Era of Partners in Code.”


[i] Clinical Studies | Onnit. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.onnit.com/clinical-studies/

[ii] Urban, K. R., & Gao, W.-J. (2014). Performance enhancement at the cost of potential brain plasticity: neural ramifications of nootropic drugs in the healthy developing brain. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience8, 38. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnsys.2014.00038

[iii] Caffeine and a healthy diet may boost memory, thinking skills; alcohol’s effect uncertain – Harvard Health Blog – Harvard Health Publications. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/caffeine-healthy-diet-may-boost-memory-thinking-skills-alcohols-effect-uncertain-201406187219

[iv] Medium Chain Triglycerides | GreenMedInfo | Substance | Natural. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.greenmedinfo.com/substance/medium-chain-triglycerides

[v] Leung, K., & Thuret, S. (2015). Gut Microbiota: A Modulator of Brain Plasticity and Cognitive Function in Ageing. Healthcare3(4), 898-916. doi:10.3390/healthcare3040898

[vi] Bennabi, D., Pedron, S., Haffen, E., Monnin, J., Peterschmitt, Y., & Van Waes, V. (2014). Transcranial direct current stimulation for memory enhancement: from clinical research to animal models. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience8, 159. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnsys.2014.00159

[vii] 9-Volt Nirvana – Radiolab. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.radiolab.org/story/9-volt-nirvana/

[viii] Science. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.thync.com/science

[ix] Research on Mindfulness in Education | Mindful Schools. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.mindfulschools.org/about-mindfulness/research/

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How do we move to learning systems with personalized learning at their core?

Posts from WOL - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 8:00am

Personalized learning is stuck in the school pilot phase. There are countless examples of personalized learning environments and schools from coast to coast. We have all seen that great school and the world of possibilities it offers for the students that attend the school. But how do we move from the isolated examples to whole systems designed around providing personalized learning options for all students? How do we build a school system, a learning system, with personalized learning at the core?

One important step in this work is to identify the conditions of scale that exist at a district level. KnowledgeWorks released “District Conditions for Scale: A Practical Guide to Scaling Personalized Learning.” The report focuses on the conditions that a K-12 school district should put in place to support the scaling of personalized learning. The conditions that we put forth and examine are based on interviews with district leaders from across the country that are leading system level change around personalized learning.

Why focus on scaling personalized learning at the district level? First, the district level is closest to the schools and thus the students as well as to the educators. Moreover, the district level has the most control over system vision, curriculum, and instruction, as well as formative assessment and student supports. Secondly, by solving for scale at the district level we gain a clearer vision for what supportive and catalytic policy can look like at both the state and federal level creating a better aligned, more supportive education system that is oriented towards putting the student at the center of the system.

The conditions themselves aren’t unfamiliar ranging from curriculum to instruction, from student supports to professional development, from learning environments to leadership development. What gives the conditions their power is a predisposed drive towards personalized learning as well as cross cutting meta-themes. Several meta-themes emerged as the interviewees discussed their experiences:


Included in all comments from district leaders, directly or indirectly, was the idea of an aligned vision. All parts of a district should be aligned to the vision, including professional development, the selection of curriculum and instructional practices, and the process of innovation. While it was assumed that the vision would include student achievement, district leaders focused on the general idea of having a vision rather than the specifics of their districts’ visions.


The shared vision of a district clearly informs the system culture that a district will establish. For many of the district leaders, a key element of culture is expectations around innovation. Many of the districts were forced to make changes with no additional, or in some cases decreased, resources and money. Thus, innovative thinking is an expectation at all levels, including in partnerships, and especially encouraged at the school level. District leaders emphasized the importance of continuous improvement and fixing problems immediately.


Resulting from the notion that members of the education community must feel safe to make mistakes, transparency was another overarching theme of interviews with district leaders. Districts need to be transparent to the board, unions, parents, partners, and the public.

The District Conditions were constructed upon the hard-won lessons of district level trailblazers from across the country. These district leaders piloted, assessed, recalibrated, and scaled without an instruction manual. It is our hope that these conditions begin to help districts from across the country implement a more aligned, supportive education system that is oriented towards putting the student at the center of the system through an expressed focus on personalized learning.

Find out how KnowledgeWorks is partnering with state and federal policymakers to open doors for personalized learning.

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Preparing Students for Global Success

Posts from WOL - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 8:00am

Preparing Students for Success in an Internationally Connected World

We sat a neighborhood restaurant, catching up over an oh-so-American meal: cheeseburgers, fries and a local beer. Kristin was in town only for a few days, visiting a local college to explore the possibility of starting a student exchange program with the university in her hometown – Trondheim, Norway.

Kristin has a part of our family for as long as I can remember; she and my mom have been best friends since they met in ‘Up With People.’ After a Scandinavian summer with Kristin and her husband, along with my sister, I consider Kristin my Norwegian mom.

In an increasingly connected world, Kristin and her family feel closer than ever before. We used Facebook Messenger to plan a surprise party for my mom; she frequently shares photos of her adorable son as he grows; and during holiday get-togethers, my American family spends quality time on Skype with our Norwegian friends.

Our cross-continental relationship is steadily becoming the norm. In an increasingly globalized society, students are growing up in a culture that is more connected than ever before. We should help them succeed in this reality. We should teach them how to work well across cultures, nationalities and languages to be successful throughout the world. We should encourage them to think about the impact they can have as global citizens.

It’s an important time globally and in the US in terms of how we want to design our school systems. Act. @susandpatrick #knowledgeworks

— KnowledgeWorks (@knowledgeworks) February 27, 2017

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Susan Patrick from iNACOL provide a global perspective on education innovation. She also touched on redefining student success in a global society. “The world is changing,” she said. “It calls for new forms of education that societies and economies need.”

“The world is changing. It calls for new forms of education.” – @SusanDPatrick #EdPolicy
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We have a unique opportunity in U.S. education policy because of the Every Student Succeeds Act, Susan explained. ESSA gives states and districts the opportunity to reconsider how they can best meet the needs of each learner. This is increasingly important as more countries surpass the U.S. in educational attainment. Most developed countries that are outperforming us are re-thinking content and moving toward competency-based learning. These competencies these learning systems are focusing on not only include traditional academic subjects, like math and science, but also ‘soft skills’ like cultural responsiveness and inclusivity. As we reflect on what education could and should be, here are some key questions we must consider:

How can education serve global goals?

. @susandpatrick asks what is the purpose of #education and how should it be organized to serve global goals? #knowledgeworks @nacol — Jesse Moyer (@jessemoyer) February 27, 2017

How can we ensure an education from the U.S. is as relevant as other countries?

If most of the world is moving away from course/grade constructs, how relevant/effective is US education today? #knowledgeworks

— Cris Charbonneau (@crischarb) February 27, 2017

In what ways can we effectively measure student growth to help them succeed?

Other countries share student achievement records. We have course grades. Let’s examine the difference. @susandpatrick #knowledgeworks

— KnowledgeWorks (@knowledgeworks) February 27, 2017

How can we help our educators succeed in a global environment?

“If we don’t build educator capacity, we’ll never transform the system.” – @susandpatrick @nacol #edchat #KnowledgeWorks — Jillian Kuhlmann (@jtotheill) February 27, 2017

How can we ensure equitable learning for all students?

“It’s not enough to innovate unless we are innovating for equity.” @susandpatrick #knowledgeworks — Laura Hilger (@hilgerl) February 27, 2017

It’s our responsibility to prepare students to succeed, not only as professionals in a workforce, but as compassionate humans in a global society. Someday, they might work overseas, manage international employees or create a global network of friends and colleagues.

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Designing New Educator Roles in a Re-bundled System: Digital Media Mentor

Posts from WOL - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 8:00am

The learning ecosystem is expanding, and as it expands our system of education is being rebundled.  School walls are becoming increasingly porous, informal learning is becoming increasingly vital, and learners are seeking out learning and supports in ever-changing ways.

This expansion and rebundling are creating a need for educators and other adults working with children and youth to develop new skill sets and for educator roles to expand and diversify to include positions and functions beyond traditional roles. We can think of this shift as one from traditional teacher, administrative, and support roles to a wider range of learning agent roles reflecting the contributions of many adults who might contribute to a learner’s learning journey in a rebundled education system.

At the KnowledgeWorks Experience Conference, I had the pleasure of exploring the potential for future educator roles with educators during my session, “Exploring and Surfacing New Roles in a Rebundled System.” During the session, we worked together to prototype a new educator role that leveraged several trends affecting the future of learning and responded to needs that participants’ identified in their schools and districts. We called this role a Digital Media Mentor.

Wanted: Digital Media Mentor

The Digital Media Mentor position responds to technology acceleration; an increase in the number of students and staff who are bringing their own digital devices into the classroom; and the emergence of phenomena, such as fake news, which are calling into question current digital literacy strategies and responding to the increased role of digital devices both in education and our daily lives. The Digital Media Mentor role also addresses needs highlighted by participants, including the need to stay abreast of the latest technologies and the need for ongoing coaching in technology use for students and staff.

As session participants conceived of it, the Digital Media Mentor would be a full-time position. It would focus on coaching both students and staff members on best practices for using technology for learning and on educating learners and staff on digital literacy strategies. When not working with learners and staff, the Digital Media Mentor would research emerging technologies and consider ways they might be utilized for learning.

Depending on school size, the Digital Media Mentor might work with just one school or might move from school to school within a district. Participants thought that the ideal background for the role would be a strong background in technology, including experience across a wide variety of technology platforms; and a teacher’s license, with a sociology background preferred. The ideal candidate would have also have spent formal time in a classroom.

I found it interesting to design a new learning agent role alongside educators currently working in the field. When I asked about the difference between this role and the role of a typical IT person, one audience member remarked that this role was a sort of “integrator.” The Digital Media Mentor would seek out new technologies to introduce to the classroom and would develop strategies to integrate them; while IT staff might do the same, they are also tasked with keeping the school or district’s IT infrastructure running.

What’s Your Role?

What type of new roles do you think a rebundled education system might need? Perhaps it is something like the Digital Media Mentor, or maybe it is something else entirely? If you are interested in what types of new roles might be possible in the future, or how existing roles might diversify, I invite you to check out VibrantEd.org to view just a few possibilities for future educator roles. While you are there, make sure to take the career quiz to see what your future role might be.

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Teacher-Centered Versus Learner-Centered Learning

Posts from WOL - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 8:00am

What makes an effective learning experience for you? What empowers you to learn? Flexibility, interest in the topic, understanding the purpose or relevance. The answer to these questions could be any number of things depending on the preferences of the person. Then, the next question: Do you think your students share your experience?

These might be some of the first questions KnowledgeWorks coaches would ask to get educators to start envisioning what a learner-centered classroom might look like and why it is needed in personalized learning.

Although a foundational shift from a traditional classroom, a learner-centered approach does not eliminate the teacher. A learner-centered environment facilitates a more collaborative way for students to learn. The teacher models instructions and acts as a facilitator, providing feedback and answering questions when needed. It’s the student that chooses how they want to learn, why they want to learn that way and with who. Students answer each others’ questions and give each other feedback, using the instructor as a resource when needed.

This process is designed so that students can learn how they learn best. Taking into consideration what works for one may not work for another and at the end of the day it’s not about what was taught but what was learned.

A Look at the Differences Between Teacher-Centered and Learner-Centered Learning

Teacher-Centered Learner-Centered Focus is on instructor Focus is on both students and instructor Focus is on language forms and structures (what the instructor knows about the language) Focus is on language use in typical situations (how students will use the language) Instructor talks; students listen Instructor models; students interact with instructor and one another Students work alone Students work in pairs, in groups, or alone depending on the purpose of the activity Instructor monitors and corrects every student utterance Students talk without constant instructor monitoring; instructor provides feedback/correction when questions arise Instructor answers students’ questions about language Students answer each other’s questions, using instructor as an information resource Instructor chooses topics Students have some choice of topics Instructor evaluates student learning Students evaluate their own learning; instructor also evaluates Classroom is quiet Classroom is often noisy and busy

Source: The National Capitol Language Resource Center (a project of the George Washington University)

case-study-marysville-districtThe Marysville Exempted Village School District is scaling personalized learning district-wide and focusing on student-centered learning. Learn more in this case study.

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Giving Ohio Students on the Fast Track to College: Early College High School Versus College Credit Plus

Posts from WOL - Thu, 04/13/2017 - 8:00am

There are multiple pathways through which Ohio high school students can get college experience, but not all are created equal. The most common options are:

  • Early college high school
  • College Credit Plus
  • Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) classes
  • Dual enrollment

There is a lot of discussion comparing early college high school and College Credit Plus. In an editorial for The Morning Journal, Cathleen Phillips of Lorain County Early College High School program, explained the difference succinctly: “College Credit Plus is a way to earn college credits early. Early college students are attending college early.”

Learn more about the difference between early college high school and College Credit Plus:

Learn more about the differences between early college high school and College Credit Plus with this infographic.View a larger image of this infographic detailing the differences between early college high school and College Credit Plus.

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Can teachers really personalize learning for every student?

Posts from WOL - Wed, 04/12/2017 - 8:00am

A few months ago, I had an interesting conversation with one of my husband’s high school teachers. Now retired from teaching, she showed up to his 20-year high school reunion to catch up with some of her former students. When she asked me about my career, I started talking to her about personalized learning, competency-based education and my role at KnowledgeWorks. While she said she had tried some non-traditional approaches in her classrooms, she seemed a bit skeptical about how realistic it would be for teachers to provide individual instruction for each student. She asked, “How can teachers really provide personalized approaches for every student?”

As a non-educator who still has a lot to learn about how personalized learning really works in a classroom, I admit that I struggled to answer her question. Even though I attended school in a different district than my husband, our education experiences were similar from elementary through high school. Most of our teachers guided our whole class through the same lesson plan, we took tests at the end of each unit, then we all moved on to the next lesson.

In my attempt to answer her question, I gave a couple of examples from what I had seen in a personalized, competency-based kindergarten classroom that I visited in Maine. I don’t think I was successful in convincing her in that moment.

Since then, I continue to listen and learn from the schools that we work with, from the learning experiences my own child has in his Montessori classroom, and from my colleagues like Robin Kannan, Lori Phillips and Laura Hilger. These former educators, and our broader team of teaching and learning coaches, are now working with educators and district administrators across the country to help them transition to a personalized learning approach, and answer the very question that my husband’s teacher asked me: How am I supposed to personalize learning for every student?

During a recent workshop lead by Robin, Lori and Laura on the fundamentals of competency-based education and personalized learning, Robin answered this common question. She said: “You’re not. You, as teachers, arm the kids to take ownership of their own learning.”

But what does this really mean for students and educators? According to our teaching and learning team, it means implementing student-centered approaches to ensure that:

  • Learning is personalized, recognizing that students engage in different ways and in different places. Students benefit from individually-paced, targeted learning tasks that start from where the student is, formatively assess existing skills and knowledge and address the student’s needs and interests.
  • Learning is competency-based, with students moving ahead when they have demonstrated mastery of content, not when they’ve reached a certain birthday or endured the required hours in a classroom.
  • Students can learn anytime and anywhere, beyond the school day and even the school year. Learning is not restricted to the classroom.
  • Students take ownership over their learning, by engaging in their own success and incorporating their interests and skills. Students support each other’s progress and celebrate successes.

Even as a non-educator, I can see how challenging of a task creating this kind of culture and practice in a classroom, school and especially district-wide. But as a parent, I have a deep understanding of why we should keep trying to make this a reality for every child.

During a visit to Marysville Early College High School, part of a district implementing personalized learning district-wide, one student told Robin, “Other schools I have attended have been in black and white. Coming here, this school’s in color.”

All students should have access to that kind of learning experience.

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Thinking toward 2042 to shape learning today

Posts from WOL - Tue, 04/11/2017 - 8:00am

Imagining the future can be difficult when considering what life could be like in a couple months, year or five years.

What could life possibly look like in 2042?

KnowledgeWorks Senior Director of Strategic Foresight Katherine Prince explored possibilities for the education landscape in 2042 in a recent issue of SEEN Magazine. In the article, she discusses some signals of change and four possibilities for how big economic and social questions could impact the classroom.

While the future seems far away, we can start to shape what learning will look like with these starting points:

  1. Re-tooling schedules and responsibilities to enable educators to focus more fully on educating the whole person.“Focusing on social-emotional learning and metacognition promises to provide people with foundational skills for lifelong, on-demand learning and more specific skill acquisition.”
  2. Giving learners opportunities to practice academic and non-academic skills in real contexts.“By 2042, school formats could be more fluid, relying less on fixed administrative structures and more on network- and relationship-based structures that reflect learners’ needs, interests and goals.”
  3. Finding ways to connect learners’ individual needs, interests and goals with community needs“Education could support learners in developing innovators and problem solvers who actively shape the world around them during their studies.”
  4. Creating incentives and opportunities for learners to participate in authentic and meaningful work beyond school walls – and finding ways to measure its impact.“What if school social impact scores became critical metrics for attracting funding, partnerships and community engagement?”
  5. Designing for equity, with a focus on considering how well those changes might work for traditionally underserved learners, including those learners in decision making, and genuinely engaging diverse stakeholders.“Algorithms; artificial intelligence; and augmented, virtual and mixed realities could help tailor school structures and match learners with educators and learning experiences that best support their learning.”
  6. Looking beyond graduation day to help broaden definitions of success and prepare learners for the future.“The changes on the horizon for work will require us to redefine our current notions of college and career readiness.”

What signals of change might impact lives for students and educators? Check out the full article for more insight.

 A Strategy Guide to explore the five foundational issues facing education and review suggested strategies for responding to them, with spotlights on K-12 school-based education, informal and community-based learning, and higher education.Download Shaping the Future of Learning: A Strategy Guide to explore the five foundational issues facing education and review suggested strategies for responding to them, with spotlights on K-12 school-based education, informal and community-based learning, and higher education.

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Six Ways to Maximize Your School Partnerships

Posts from WOL - Mon, 04/10/2017 - 8:00am

Strong learning communities are made up of more than just a school, it’s staff and students. Rather, they pull from throughout the community, creating a thriving network centered on creating the best learning opportunities for students. Creating school partnerships is only the first step, though. It’s essential to make your school partnerships effectively benefit the learning community.

Here are six ways to maximize your school partnerships and create a thriving learning community[i]:

  1. Effective partnerships invest in the professional development of their personnel. Community and business partnerships with your school expand learning opportunities for both students and staff. Take advantage of professional development opportunities that exist as a result of the partnership.
  2. Partner institutions learn and change. Just as your community will continue to evolve and change, so will your learning community. Regularly assess the makeup of your school partnerships and make sure they are meeting the needs of your current and future goals.
  3. Evaluation and documentation helps achieve partnership goals. Every business has its own culture and key to a successful partnership is bridging the cultural divide. One way to achieve this is consistent documentation and evaluation of progress towards goals. This helps keep the lines of communication open.
  4. Sustained partnerships create an infrastructure that supports community / school learning relations. An important benefit of creating partnerships between community businesses with school is that the communication between the community and the school becomes more meaningful and relevant to all parties. Make sure processes are in place to help this communication happen.
  5. Effective partnerships attract sustained funding. Different types of business have access to different types of funding. It may sound elementary, but by combining forces, school and community partners grow their funding sources exponentially.
  6. Distributive leadership exists throughout strong partnerships. When you create a strong community of partners in your learning community, you are also expanding your opportunities for distributed leadership. So how can you possibly do more in your school? By recognizing the power of your staff and partners, you can use their strengths along with yours to become a high performing school.

Read about examples of school partnerships happening in four different school districts.

[i] This list adapted from “Intersections : community arts and education collaborations” by Craig Dreeszen

 Partnering for Success and get six tips for getting started on your partnership.Read about examples of school partnerships happening in four different school districts.

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We’re Dream Encouragers

Posts from WOL - Fri, 04/07/2017 - 8:00am

Educators do so much more than teach. They befriend. They collaborate. They empower, enrich, and enlighten. They make dreams come true.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Take theirs.

Students at Roosevelt High School in Yonkers, New York are “a part of a family,” says principal Matel Hasan. They’re safe, comfortable, and actively engaged in their learning.

And for Matt Shea, Coordinator of Student Achievement for RSU2 in Maine, students are following their passions, pursuing their learning in a way that lets them “find out what they want to know, not what we want to tell them.”

But really, it’s about the students, and the critical relationships forged with teachers that empower them to take an active role in what they’re learning.

“We’re here to help [students] determine and define their own dreams,” says DeeDee Barnes Bruns of Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Alabama . “We’re dream encouragers.”

What dreams have you encouraged lately?

Scroll through our collection of video interviews about making dreams come true:

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Higher Education and Early College: 6 tips to partnering for success

Posts from WOL - Thu, 04/06/2017 - 8:00am

A high school and higher education partnership is essential for a successful early college high school. Here are 6 tips for getting starting on forming that relationship:

  1. First and foremost, you need to believe, really believe, that first generation students – high school students – can be successful in the types of learning experiences your institution offers, given the right conditions and support.
  2. Think local. When it comes to growing your own student body, look no further than your own backyard. How much do you invest traveling the nation or the globe seeking new students only to have them graduate and return home? Would your organization and your community actually see a greater benefit if you began to attract and retain local students? What can you do to expand your base of students by opening the doors to those young people in the neighborhood surrounding your campus whose families may not have higher
    education in their past experience?
  3. Reach out to your local school districts. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Engage them in deep, rich conversations that will uncover common goals, challenges, resources and strategies. Don’t just partner on traditional or legislated programs. Brainstorm solutions that benefit the young people at both of your organizations.
  4. Take stock of your resources – all of your resources across all of the schools and departments within your institution. What is one part of your institution doing to support its struggling students? Could those resources / strategies be used to support early college students? What grants or special programs already exist in different parts of your campus? Chances are you’ll find a wealth of existing, no-added-cost strategies to ensure early college students are successful in and complete college at your institution.
  5. Commit to creating a personalized experience for every student from the moment they step onto your campus. The most successful early colleges realize each student begins the journey from a different location and will travel a unique path to degree completion.
  6. Engage champions in every corner of your higher education community. It takes faculty, support services, college students and more to operate a successful early college. Make planned and purposeful connections between high school, higher education, business and community leaders. The work is not easy, but the rewards are real.

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