Moving Beyond the Status Quo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Looking Back at the Future

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

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

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

Wearable technology

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




Video calls

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





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





A Cubs’ World Series Championship


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





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

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

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An Interview with Becca Nachtrab About The Future of Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Helping Dreams Come True: #BetterMakeRoom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more about Better Make Room.


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Exploring #FutureEd: Seven Potential Educator Roles

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

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

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

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

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


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Hessian Education Policy

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

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


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What’s your dream job?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Student-Centered Learning

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

Learn more about KnowledgeWorks and our work in schools.


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Oh Snap.

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

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

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

Not quite sure what Snapchat is?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Most of the adults scoffed and the conversation continued.

Later I talked with her and other students.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Missed our Personalized Learning webinar? Check this out.

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

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

Personalized learning is the best way to educate students.

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

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

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

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

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


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Watch a Preview of Our Next Forecast!

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

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

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

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


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Communication Tips: Six ways to increase partnership engagement

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

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

How many of you have read or heard this before?

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

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

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

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


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Steel City Credentials: Building the future of credentials in Pittsburgh

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

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

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

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

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

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


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I was lucky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Policy Research from the Ground Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Football and the Mississippi River

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2015-09-09 14:09

This week, I talk about the importance of student voice and choice in quality competency education implementation. While there are other important aspects of competency-based education (CBE), I think I could make the argument that none are more important to the students themselves. Listen in as I talk about football, the Mississippi River, and student voice and choice.


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Engaged vs. Over-engaged: Is classroom technology enabling helicopter parenting?

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2015-09-08 08:00

Am I just an engaged parent or have I become the dreaded helicopter mom?

When I was working in college admissions back in the early 2000s, we were just starting to talk about a phenomenon we were seeing more and more called “helicopter parenting.”

I can distinctly remember sitting down with a family for an information session in which the prospective student, we’ll call her Emily, sat quietly between her parents as they talked incessantly about how Emily would be applying to the honors program, majoring in Biology, that she wanted to become a doctor, and would study abroad in her junior year, etc. I found myself wondering, can Emily speak? What does Emily want to do?

I tried to engage Emily in the conversation and she timidly asked about requirements for the Interior Design program, to which her mom quickly chided her that art was just a hobby and that she would need to focus on her honors biology studies in order to get Early Admission to Medical School. I walked away from that conversation with great disgust for Emily’s parents and feeling very sorry and a bit worried for Emily. How would she survive college? How would she adjust to the freedom? Would she make her own choices or would her parents continue to control her from afar?

In that moment I vowed to myself that if I ever had children I would never become the type of overbearing, helicopter parent that I encountered so often through the college admissions process.

Using the app ClassDojo on my smartphone, I can monitor how my child is doing in class during the day.

Using the app ClassDojo on my smartphone, I can monitor how my child is doing in class during the day.

Fast forward 15 years later and I’m a parent of three. I went to my second grader’s curriculum night and the teacher gave us information about an app we could download on our smartphone called ClassDojo, which allows me to monitor how my child is doing in class during the day. So here I find myself, at work, and completely distracted by this app, watching my daughter Audrey earn points in real time for being “on task” and a bit worried about how I’ll feel or what I’ll do if I learn she’s off task.

As I hover over my child like this I wonder… Am I just an engaged parent or have I become the dreaded helicopter mom?

On one hand I love that there are so many incredible technology tools that enable us as parents to engage with our children’s teachers and see what’s happening in the classroom. For example, beyond ClassDojo, I also have Remind, an app that enables me to communicate with Audrey’s teacher via text. There is an abundance of research that shows how important parental engagement is to student success and it would seem that making this engagement easier through the use of technology could actually help address some of the income disparities when it comes to parental engagement. But on the other hand, I worry about how tools like these can cause parents to become too involved and invested in their children’s lives.

There’s an abundance of research on the importance of children building character traits of resiliency or grit. An overprotective or overinvolved parent can prevent a child from experiencing the pitfalls and setbacks that happen in life. There’s additional research that shows the negative impact of showering too much praise for showing up or being smart. To build grit in our children we should praise them for demonstrating a hard effort or persevering when times are tough.

In the time I’ve spent writing this, I’ve looked at Audrey’s ClassDojo and I see she has received another point for being “on task.” I could praise her for this at the end of the day but what does that really show her? That her mom has been hovering around all day watching her and that I’m proud that she was “on task” at 9:48 a.m.?

There truly is a fine line between being engaged vs. over-engaged. I’m not sure I know the answer to how much engagement is too much. As a parent with the resources to do so, I want to be engaged in my child’s education. I want to know how I can help her succeed. I also know that part of that success includes her getting “off task” and then getting back on, failing and learning from her mistakes, experiencing things without me hovering when I don’t need to, which is why I’ll promptly be deleting the ClassDojo app from my phone.


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Learning From the Fingerprints of Our Children

Posts from WOL - Fri, 2015-09-04 09:23

 What do you love most about school? | Maya: I love going to specials like gym, art, math and music because you get to learn in fun ways.

For the last month, my six year old daughter Maya has been counting down the days to the start of school. Each morning I was reminded “22 days ‘til school, daddy.” This response was followed by 21, 20, 19 and so on until yesterday I heard an excited “time to go to school!” She jittered in her seat, swinging her feet under her chair continuously as she waited for the time to catch the bus. She constantly glanced at the microwave clock in between nibbles of her muffin. Her enthusiasm was beyond control.

As a former teacher, principal and superintendent I saw a great deal of this excited energy in children. It is this joy that makes the education profession so enjoyable. So what is it about school that made life so great? How can I capture this zeal and share it with the education world? Sure, she’s only six, but I knew her insights would be great fingerprints for our work at KnowledgeWorks; so I asked:

Maya getting on the schoolbus.Me: What do you love most about school?

Maya: I love going to specials like gym, art, math and music because you get to learn in fun ways.

Me: Learning in fun ways certainly sounds great to me. Do you find anything challenging about school?

Maya: Yeah, writing because it’s tough to practice spelling my words while thinking about my stories.

Me: Yes, I could see how that would be difficult. If you could change school in one way, what would it be?

Maya: I wish I could do school anywhere. Like, I wish I could go to school here, and over there (pointing out my office window), and there, and at the lake. Yeah, the lake, that would be cool.

Me: If you could share one thing from your school with the children around the world, what would it be?

Maya: Probably my teachers. (She tilts her head, thinking…) But they’re my teachers and I don’t know if I want to share.

In between thoughts of pride and love for my daughter, these tiny insights lead to wonderings. What would it take for children to consider all areas of academia as “specials” that are fun and engaging? Is it so outside the box for us educators to not consider learning opportunities in any environment? And, what if we could share our amazing educators with the world? Is this all too hard to do? At KnowledgeWorks, these are exactly the ideas, processes and learnings we discuss with learning communities each day. Perhaps Maya will become the first teaching and learning coach in the Hammonds family.

In my travels, I have had the luxury to experience Maya’s insights in numerous learning communities. I see learning communities make magic happen every day. It is these fingerprints and insights on learning that will help us support all children, educators, and learning communities throughout the globe as we consider…

“Come on daddy, it’s time to wait for the bus outside.” Sorry, I have to go. It’s time to collect more fingerprints.


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Encouraging independence, self-reliance and grit

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2015-09-03 11:07

We parents get to serve as coach, math tutor, rule setter, medic, stylist, driver, proofreader, and, perhaps most importantly, biggest fan. And then, just like that, we let go.

At work here at KnowledgeWorks, we talk a lot about college access. We talk about subject mastery, including the soft skills students need to succeed beyond the academics. We talk about the importance of the learning that occurs outside the classroom. We parents get to serve as coach, math tutor, rule setter, medic, stylist, driver, proofreader, and, perhaps most importantly, biggest fan. And then, just like that, we let go.

For me, sometimes I feel like I was harder on mine than I should have been. Study like it’s your job. Not that I’m a tiger mom, mind you. We just put a lot of stock in developing those “agency” skills: independence, self-reliance, and the all-important grit.

So, when she was in grade school, I wouldn’t drive her to the bus stop when it rained. I’d hand her an umbrella and make sure her jacket was buttoned up. When she had strep throat, I’d stay home and make homemade soup; when she had a cold, she went to school, and I went to work.

Mistakes were made along the way, judgment calls were sometimes wrong (“Hon, I really don’t think your arm is broken”), and lessons were learned by both of us.

This is Erin on her first day of college in her dorm room.

This is Erin on her first day of college in her dorm room.

Aside from a nudge or two to finish what was started, she made her own decisions. Marching band, Science National Honor Society, and snowboarding stayed; fencing, tennis, and the INTERalliance business club were out. Life skills were learned: eating with chopsticks; making the family’s chief culinary indulgence, fettuccine alfredo; taking care of your laundry and your money; making and keeping your own dentist appointments. The learnings that occurred outside the classroom – in the community, the home, the surrounding city – turned out to be some of the most critical, life-shaping forces that influenced her.

Learning when to lean on others is important, too, like the time when she couldn’t get out of bed for a week after a tonsillectomy (at which point said homemade soup was put in a blender), requiring round-the-clock care. I’d never thought of cutting up a Popsicle in a bowl, but days 1-3 demanded it. Family, and community.

She’s become an intriguing and engaging person. She has different views than I do, and makes a convincing enough case to change one’s mind now and again. She’s got a silly sense of humor and has developed a fondness for green tea. And she’s got self-determination to spare, which I guess you would need if you want to be a trauma surgeon. Agency skills come into play yet again.

At freshman orientation, one of the session leaders talked about independence. He said a good exercise for the students over the summer would be to practice ordering pizza over the phone. This, he said, would start preparing them to make a doctor’s appointment by themselves.

As we unpacked her things in her dorm room this weekend, and I watched her little sister put away green tea and Star Wars Easy Mac while her boyfriend helped hang up clothes, I made her bed for her and tried not to think about what was coming after we all went to dinner.

In the end, after the hugs (did I squeeze too tight? did I hold her soft, curly hair too hard?), she disappeared happily into the campus night, her boyfriend’s arm around her waist and a leftover pizza box in her hand. And she was gone.


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Competency Education, Innovation and 10 Links

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2015-09-01 08:00

This pictures was taken at the July 1 lighting of the Carew Tower for the 2015 All Star Game

This photo was taken at the July 1 lighting of the Carew Tower for the 2015 All Star Game.

As schools get back into session and summer winds to an end, it’s a chance to reflect on the past several months. How did you spend summer? I connected with efforts to educate more than 50 million kids in K-12 education in the United States through a Summer Graduate School Fellowship with Education Pioneers and KnowledgeWorks.

My summer was an adventure. This was my first extended stay in Cincinnati. The journey between Chicago and Cincinnati via Megabus went without hitch. In my free time I explored the city – from live music at Fountain Square to the Art Museum in Eden Park, Cincinnati is a fascinating and gracious city!

At work, efforts to bring early college education to high school through EDWorks, a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks, were new to me, as were endeavors to organize communities through StriveTogether. Thankfully, colleagues were helpful and kind. My previous work experience and training were put to good use as we reviewed contracts and launched a competency-based education practice.

Because competency-based education was new to me, I spent time learning. If you are also new to this education approach, take advantage of my research! It is not possible to share all resources in a brief blog post, but I can offer 10 sites for your further consideration. Happy surfing!

The fountain at Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio.Ten Resources For Learning About Competency Education

  1. EDSurge shares great, easy to understand stories for people interested in education technology.
  2. iNACOL (International Association for K-12 Online Learning) began in year 2000 with a growing interest in online education. They work with online learning, blended learning, competency education, and personalized education.
  3. CompetencyWorks offers regular posts with many interesting links from a variety of people.
  4. Nellie Mae Education Foundation provides many reports that can be downloaded.
  5. CCSSO’s (Council of Chief State School Officers) Innovation Lab Network (ILN) addresses college and career readiness.
  6. From policy to practice: How competency-based education is evolving in New Hampshire, a paper by Julia Freeland and the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, offers an interesting perspective on recent competency education efforts.
  7. The New Hampshire Department of Education provides competencies approved by the State Board of Education for statewide use.
  8. RSU 2 (Regional School Unit) in Maine – Learner Centered News illustrates the efforts at a specific school district.
  9. Getting Smart explores and reimagines the future of learning.
  10. KnowledgeWorks hosted me this summer and is also preparing students for college and career through competency education.

nathan-kaufmanNathan Kaufman, a Fellow at KnowledgeWorks through Education Pioneers, wrote this post about his adventure this summer. Using a business background and interest in education, Nathan analyzed data at KnowledgeWorks and provided key findings for financial operations, risk management, growth and social impact.Nathan Kaufman, a Fellow at KnowledgeWorks through Education Pioneers, wrote this post about his adventure this summer. Using a business background and interest in education, Nathan analyzed data at KnowledgeWorks and provided key findings for financial operations, risk management, growth and social impact.


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