The third annual KnowledgeWorks Experience Conference kicked off today. Virgel Hammonds, Chief Learning Officer for KnowledgeWorks, challenged attendees to try and answer three questions throughout the conference:
- How can you personalize learning for each student?
- How can you prepare for the future of learning?
- How can you ensure your students have the tools they need to accomplish their dreams?
Sitting in a city very much entrenched in the lore of Walt Disney, focusing on dreams seems only fitting.
— Robin Kanaan (@RobinKanaan) February 27, 2017
Dr. James Johnson, Jr. started a morning of conversation looking at the future of work. The workforce and jobs are changing and that means change for education. It’s up to all of us to decide what that looks like.
— KnowledgeWorks (@knowledgeworks) February 27, 2017
While Dr. Johnson might have introduced a little uncertainty to the conversation, he was also inviting everyone in attendance to be involved in planning for the future of education. Susan Patrick, President and CEO of iNACOL, helped ground everyone with an international look at education and how we define student success. She talked about the past and current state of education policy and the role we all need to play in moving education forward.
— Mary Kenkel (@mary_kenkel) February 27, 2017
The afternoon was spent with deep dives into early college, personalized learning and competency-based education. Often, sessions would end and people would linger in the room long past presentations, sharing questions, ideas and contact information.
— Jason Yemma (@YemmaNation) February 27, 2017
There’s still one day left of the KnowledgeWorks Experience Conference and, based on late night tweets from people practicing for tomorrow’s presentations, it will be a good one that continues the conversation about making student dreams come true.
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Making sense of the future can be challenging, but the rewards are great. “Shaping the Future of Learning: K-12 School-Based Education Workbook” highlights suggested strategies for taking action toward the future today. It also includes stories of current innovators along with questions for reflection and discussion.
As you consider what you want learning to look like in ten years and how you might pursue that vision today, the tips below can help you work with others and avoid potential pitfalls.
1. Balance Future Perspective with Current Demands
Spending time thinking about the future might not feel like the best use of time when today’s goals and challenges are so pressing. However, grappling with long-term possibilities can help clarify current priorities and unearth new opportunities, ensuring that your organization’s current approaches remain relevant and keeping you and your colleagues from being blindsided by unexpected change.
2. Create a Safe Space
Exploring future possibilities can trigger a variety of emotions: fear, excitement, grief, hope. People need time to process their feelings before they can begin making connections to their own work. Give yourself and others time to process emotional responses. You might even consider positioning the future as a safe space of exploration in which people can unfetter their thinking and explore multiple possibilities.
3. Look at All Sides
It can be easy to get bogged down in gloomy scenarios or to place undue emphasis on promising ones. In particular, people tend extrapolate from the present, projecting frustrations with things that are not working well today as fears about the future or thinking that positive aspects of the present will continue. Encourage people to examine both positive and negative implications and to acknowledge that not everyone views any given change the same way. Sometimes, the same change can have both positive and negative implications from different vantage points.
4. Keep Your Eyes on the Horizon
Because future forecasts typically look further out than most strategic plans do, it can be challenging to imagine just how different things could be in ten years as compared to three or five. While considering future possibilities can inform vision and strategic planning, a great deal of exploration and interpretation needs to come between reading about future possibilities and applying them to any given setting. Using foresight to inform strategy can be fruitful, but mistaking foresight for strategy or expecting future possibilities to make sense within today’s reality can lead to frustration.
5. Be Bold
It is important to encourage activity participants to be open to possibility and to probe the unknown. Sometimes ideas that seem impractical or implausible in the short term (for example, because they seem difficult to scale or inaccessible to learners with relatively few resources and supports) might represent important considerations for the long term. Resist the urge to limit your thinking to what seems possible today.
We can all be leaders in shaping the future of learning. These tips can help you and others set an informed but aspirational course and find pathways forward when obstacles or new opportunities arise.
For more ideas about leading change in education, see my blog post, “Leading Change in Education.”
At the start of the school year, all of the teachers at Navin Elementary, in Marysville, Ohio, conducted surveys and distributed questionnaires to begin building personal learning profiles for each of their students. In the spirit of continuous improvement, teachers have recently revisited the process, considering what worked, what didn’t, and what they could do differently.
Heather MacLaughlin, Staff Development Coach with Marysville School District, celebrates not only educator commitment to the process, but also students, who may never have engaged in activities like this one before.
“Our kids don’t really know themselves, their learning styles or preferences, in the way we’d hoped they would,” says MacLaughlin, who notes that some of the feedback received from teachers was around student’s not really being sure how to answer the questions, or not answering them in a way that was helping them to get where they needed to be in terms of personalizing experiences. “We were asking our kids to do something that they didn’t have the foundational skills to do. If we want our kids to make informed decisions about their preferences, we have to cultivate an awareness of those preferences first.”
Some educators have moved away from the survey toward reflection journals, asking their students at the end of each week to reflect on what they’ve worked on, and how they’ve worked. Did they work alone? In groups? What challenges did they encounter? How did they get help?
“With these reflection logs, we’re giving kids the opportunity to get some baseline data on themselves,” MacLaughlin says. Teachers can then use these logs to begin shaping their instruction, and to open up lines of communication with the student about what’s working and what’s not working for them in the classroom, and in their approach to their learning.
With younger students, MacLaughlin notes another challenge: kindergarten and first graders are even less ready than their older peers to do this kind of self-reflection, and their teachers are putting their heads together to design experiences – such as modeling voice and choice – that will build the skills students will need in later years to be able to reflect critically on their own learning.
Interested in learning more about how Marysville is scaling personalized learning district-wide? Download the case study.
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Cultural competence is one of those phrases which is thrown around a lot, but which isn’t always clearly defined. If you google it, over three million responses are returned. I use Cultural Proficiency, a Manual for School Leaders to create a basis for working towards cultural competence in schools that work with KnowledgeWorks.
The definition of cultural competency I like states that proficiency has to be present both at the individual (teacher) level as well as the organizational level (school or district.) The skills that are needed include both value-based ones (respect, tolerance and acceptance of difference) as well as behavioral ones (listening, problem solving, appropriate communication.) It’s also a proactive and dynamic proposition:
You never fully achieve cultural competence as you are constantly adapting to changes in your environment as well as changes in your own perspectives.
At the 2017 KnowledgeWorks Experience Conference: Making Dreams Come True, I’ll be leading a session that focuses on several aspects of achieving cultural competence, including:
- Barriers – privilege and entitlement, the role of systemic and environmental oppression, the impact of trauma on students and a general unawareness of the need to adapt to others
- Guiding Principles – these are essentially the core values that are necessary for true acceptance and adaptation to the variety of ways that culture is expressed by others
- Continuum – the typical path that people take from a lack of understanding of cultural values to a proficiency with them
- Essential elements – a model for moving along the continuum
Achieving cultural competency is not a one-step, one-stop activity and it certainly won’t happen in a one-hour break out session. But my hope is that a general exposure to the concepts in this publication – along with some examples of the essential elements which in my mind form the road map to proficiency – will help participants begin that journey.
Can’t attend the 2017 Experience Conference? Here are some other resources you can use to deepen your understanding of cultural competency:
- National Center for Cultural Competence
- National Education Association – Why Cultural Competence
- Cultural Competency Training and Resources
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For the third consecutive year, KnowledgeWorks will host the KnowledgeWorks Experience Conference, which focuses on networking and learning. Our event offers wonderful occasions for participants to interact with experts and peers from the fields of competency-based education, early college high school and personalized learning.
The scope and content of the learning sessions are designed to provide networking opportunities and strategies for implementing successful and productive early colleges or competency-based programs.
For our attendees, here are three thoughts to keep in mind to ensure the optimal experience while in Orlando:
- Divide and conquer. Review the conference program and divide sessions among team members. If you take advantage of the “divide and conquer” method, you will be afforded a solid foundation to create and implement active train-the-trainer sessions back in your school.
- Connect and network. It is our goal to create an atmosphere of support and sharing that will greatly enhance the work of educating all students in ways that work for them. So be sure to take advantage of the opportunities to meet new friends and develop support networks from other states or even other cities in your state.
- Be engaged. Sharing with colleagues how you are “making dreams come true” for your students in advance of your attendance will help you locate other participants like you.
We look forward to seeing conference participants in Orlando. If you can’t attend, you can still join the conversation on Twitter by following #KnowledgeWorks.
Whether we’re helping a student become the first in their family to attain higher education, make connections between classroom topics and real life or proceed through course material at a pace that is right for them, the goal is the same. We want students to have brighter futures where their dreams become reality. Together, we can continue Making Dreams Come True!
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“This is a critical moment for the state of Indiana,” KnowledgeWorks Vice President of Policy and Advocacy Matt Williams told Indiana’s House Education Committee. “Moving HB 1386 forward would help establish Indiana as a leader in the personalized learning movement.”
I sat in the gallery and listened to testimony for Indiana’s new house bill, which introduces competency-based education pilot opportunities. After Matt wrapped up his comments, district leaders from The Metropolitan School District (MSD) of Warren Township spoke and answered questions about what competency-based learning looks like in their district, schools and classrooms. Here were my favorite takeaways from Warren Township:
- The MSD of Warren Township has a district-wide, working definition of personalized learning. This definition includes giving students what they need and incorporating a variety of voice and choice for students.
- Beyond the working definition, the district established guardrails, which they call the “Core Four.” The four components include: targeted small group discussions, data-driven decisions, student reflection and ownership, and integrated digital content. These “Core Four” must work in harmony for personalized learning to work.
- Educators had specific time to work together to decide how implementation of competency learning would look in their classrooms. Teachers had specific, carved-out collaboration time to build their own implementation models that incorporated the “Core Four.”
- Teachers are more satisfied in the classroom since CBE implementation. According to the testimony, 78 percent of educators say they are enjoying teaching more since implementation. Considering declining teacher retention in Indiana and throughout the country, district leaders were “ecstatic” to learn that teachers are finding greater satisfaction through personalized learning.
- Teachers feel that they are more effective educators through personalized learning. Through end-of-year qualitative surveys, the MSD of Warren Township has also learned that 96 percent of educators reported that they felt they were more effective in the classroom since implementation.
- Students are surveyed, as well. And 86 percent of those surveyed say they feel their teachers know them better since implementing personalized learning.
- The district is exceeding national norms around student achievement and growth. According to the testimony, the district was not exceeding national norms before implementation, as defined by the Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measures of Academic Progress (MAPs).
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The Imagine FutureEd student design competition is open! The contest invites youth aged 13-18 and living in the U.S. to submit written scenarios, or stories, describing possible futures of learning. Participants can also go further by producing accompanying artifacts from the future, or images that illustrate some aspect of their scenarios.
Submissions will be accepted through March 27, 21017. Three winners will be selected in each category. Each scenario winner will receive an iPad Air 2 (32GB), and each artifact from the future will receive a $150 VISA gift card. For each winning entry, one adult facilitator identified at the time of submission will receive a $100 VISA gift card.
Youth can work on their own or with the support of an adult facilitator such as a teacher, a parent, an after-school provider, or a museum educator. A handbook guides people through activities designed to encourage rigorous and creative exploration of the future of learning. Student handouts, facilitator PowerPoints, and how-to videos are also available.
The Imagine FutureEd student design competition is open! Students can weigh in on #FutureEd.
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Most submissions will be published in a back-to-school look book in the fall of 2017 so that we can all learn from students’ perspectives on the future. We’re excited to see what youth create!
In the meantime, here are a couple of future concepts shared by students who participated in workshop that KnowledgeWorks and Teach the Future facilitated with Youth Leading Change and the Remake Learning Network:
- “I think the future of learning is there’s going to be an option on whether you go to school or not, and every person in the world has the same opportunity of learning so it’s not one above the other.” – Taylor
- “I think the future of learning will be kind of like headset programming, where they have you wear headsets and where you’re getting the learning experience that way instead of leaving the house and going here and there to get it. You can actually just wear the headgear and program what stuff actually you want to learn to pursue the type of career you want. – David
We hope to see many scenarios and artifacts from the future surfacing a wide range of possibilities!
KnowledgeWorks Launches Interactive Resource on Statewide Strategies to Advance Personalized Learning Under ESSA
KnowledgeWorks is excited to announce the launch of a new, interactive, online resource, A Nationwide Look at State Strategies to Advance Personalized Learning. This tool provides a comprehensive look at the ideas states are considering as they strive to advance personalized learning in their plans for implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Our goals for the resource are three-fold.
- We aim to highlight states’ leadership in creating high quality education systems that provide innovative and flexible learning opportunities.
- We hope to help stakeholders identify and better understand the benefits of diverse approaches to personalized learning.
- We aim to help states solve for potential unintended consequences of these ideas by opening the door to robust conversation among stakeholders and states.
ESSA provides states with substantial flexibility to design education systems that provide all students with access to a personalized learning experience. Since the law’s enactment, state departments of education have explored these opportunities in depth, engaging in meaningful consultation with educators, advocates, and community stakeholders. States are now developing draft plans to submit to the United States Department of Education (USED) either on April 3, 2017, or September 18, 2017 in anticipation of implementing the new law in the 2017-2018 school year. Many states have already begun to release drafts of their state plan for public review, soliciting feedback that they plan to incorporate into their submission.
To date, roughly one-third of states have released a draft plan. KnowledgeWorks has read through these public drafts, pulling out ideas that align with a shift to a personalized approach to education. Our information is organized into sections similar to those in the plans themselves, including long-term goals, assessments, accountability, school improvement, supporting excellent educators, and supporting all students.View the interactive map.
KnowledgeWorks’ interactive site includes a map of the United States with a pop-up information box for each state that includes relevant areas of their plan, as well as information on what stage of the process the plan is currently in. Each state links to a PDF with a detailed description of all relevant personalized learning ideas incorporated into their draft. While not all states have released draft plans yet, here are some examples of what states are considering as they attempt to build a more personalized education system.Accountability and Assessments, Including Long-Term Goals
Many states are interested in shifting away from a system focused only on proficiency to one that emphasizes continuous improvement for all students and schools. For some, this means awarding weighted credit based on where a student is along a learning continuum. For others, it means incorporating academic growth in a meaningful way that incentivizes large academic gains for students who are farthest behind academically.
Some states will pursue accountability indicators that emphasize multiple pathway options for all students, including accelerated coursework. These accelerated opportunities include early college options, career technical education (CTE), and dual enrollment, and emphasize successful completion instead of just access. Many states also recognize the need to look beyond a simple 4-year graduation rate and have included long-term goals that ensure all students graduate even if that requires a little extra time. Some states are even considering accountability indicators that emphasize social and emotional learning, showing a commitment to students’ full development.School Improvement
As a way to underscore their commitment to an overall culture of continuous improvement, some states have created systems of support that include all of their schools, including those outside the threshold for those required to receive Comprehensive or Targeted support. In order to best assist schools in the lowest performing categories that require additional support under ESSA, many states have proposed online management systems that enable local school districts to personalize their school improvement plans. A handful of states even focus attention on advancing evidence-based personalized learning practices as interventions for improvement.Supporting Excellent Educators
States are required under ESSA to develop strategies that support the continued development of excellent educators, both in their initial training and through professional development opportunities throughout their career. Many states are pursuing options that provide educators with customized support to ensure they develop the necessary skills to advance in their profession. Some states are considering incentives for districts that incorporate personalized professional development for their teachers, while others have decided to provide digital, self-paced professional development opportunities. Additionally, some states are emphasizing supports for teachers that help them best address the social and emotional, as well as developmental needs of their most vulnerable students.Supporting All Students
Many states are considering strategies and programs that provide multiple pathway options for all students, especially at the high school level. These options include dual enrollment, early college high school options, CTE, and other college- and workforce-readiness pathways. Some states are considering competency-based education pilot programs, as well as other locally-driven approaches to innovative learning as a way to personalize education.
Additionally, some states have emphasized social and emotional programming as a way to ensure a well-rounded education for all students. This an emphasis on the social and emotional competencies critical to student success such as empathy, perseverance, critical thinking, and work ethic. Other states are emphasizing a well-rounded curriculum for all students that includes flexible ways to demonstrate mastery of the standards in subjects like the arts, physical education, and civics.
We are thrilled that states are taking a leadership role in efforts to ensure educational opportunities and interventions that are relevant and personalized for each student in each school. Although the hardest part is always implementation, we are encouraged to see such an incredible commitment in the planning stage to leverage the flexibilities in ESSA to expand personalized learning opportunities for all students.
Just because election season is behind us doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways for you to be engaged and involved in local and national politics.
Just because the election is over doesn’t mean there aren’t still ways for you to be involved.
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Whether helping an individual student, getting involved with your local district or contacting your federal lawmakers, you can make a difference for education in your community. Here are some ideas of how you can better support personalized learning:
- Explore educational efforts in your community. Is your district considering or working toward personalized learning opportunities? Learn more about your district’s vision and mission statement and consider how you can support learning opportunities for students.
- Reach out to your superintendent or school board. Let them know you stand by them. Attend school board meetings to learn more about personalized learning efforts throughout your district.
- Contact your legislators. Tell them about your education concerns. Inform them about amazing work in states like Indiana and North Dakota. Ask them to advocate for your local schools at a state and national level.
- Think local. Get involved in the PTO or support a local education nonprofit. Your local community can always use support through volunteering and financial support.
- Consider supporting a project on org, a website that allows educators to ask for donations to fund specific classroom projects. A teacher in Chicago is asking for support to build long-lasting teacher-parent relationships. Another educator in Michigan is requesting funding for computers that will help her ELL students learn English. You can search for local projects or support a teacher across the country.
- Become a mentor or tutor. Students throughout every community can benefit from a mentor or tutor. Contact a local school or district, or see if there is a Big Brothers Big Sisters of America in your community.
- Learn more about personalized learning and how it can help support and prepare all students for success. And for that, we definitely have you covered:
- Watch this video on competency-based education.
- Read about personalized learning in Marysville, Ohio.
- Listen to this podcast.
- Learn about what personalized learning looks like, according to teachers.
Together, we can build and support personalized learning to help every student succeed.
Together, we can build and support #PersonalizedLearning to help every student succeed.
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Preparing for the future while operating in today’s environment is tricky business. Participants in a deep dive session on the implications of global trends at the Association for the Advancement of International Education’s (AAIE’s) annual conference seemed acutely aware of that tension. How to balance international schools’ relative freedom and agility against constraints such as resources, parents’ expectations, the goal of getting students into US or UK universities, and the demands of today’s curricula?
As we explored implications of The Future of Learning: Education in the Era of Partners in Code for international schools, customizing learning to a greater extent than is common today and supporting more personalized academic and vocational learning pathways arose as one key area of opportunity. The prototype below reflects the potential for customized learning pathways rooted in a common foundation to open space for curricular innovation as the changing world of work creates shifting content and skills targets.
The conversation also highlighted the opportunity to increase international schools’ ability to support whole-person development through intentional education road maps and aligned measures of achievement. A prototype solution involved building schools’ capacity in the areas of social-emotional learning, leadership development, and brain research. In this solution, a director or head of school would hold the school’s values and foster the desired culture while also building and maintaining board support and capacity. The school would recruit educators with expertise in one of the three competency areas and would develop all educators’ competencies in them. (That prototype involved a Venn diagram created out of tape and was more ephemeral….)
These initial ideas illustrate how engaging with future possibilities can help illuminate ways of connecting big global trends with a specific context. Supporting curricular innovation in response to changing needs and building schools’ capacity to support whole-person development represent just two of the many opportunities on the horizon for international schools. While the form might vary in other contexts, these opportunities also seem relevant to many schools. For more strategies related to renegotiating definitions of success and educating the whole person, as well as other opportunities to lead toward the future of learning, see KnowledgeWorks’ “Shaping the Future of Learning: A Strategy Guide” and the accompanying workbook, “Shaping the Future of Learning: K-12 School-Based Education Strategy Workbook.”
If you want to dig into these strategies with a group or whet your appetite for considering innovation in your context, you might consider warming up with a few prompts designed to surface you and your colleagues’ orientation to the future. These prompts are an adaptation of an exercise created by the Institute for the Future:
- Generally speaking, international schools (or your type of school) are very prepared / not at all prepared for the future.
- I tend to be deeply fearful / deeply excited about the future.
- In my current position, I feel quite empowered / disempowered about helping my school or organization move toward a positive future.
Placing yourself on these scales or asking a group of people to line up according to their answers, and then reflecting on or talking about the responses, can help illuminate the many factors influencing people’s sense of agency in shaping the future and the many considerations involved in balancing innovation and tradition, whatever your context.
Navin Elementary principal Lynette Lewis has five rules for her staff:
- Love your kids.
- Love them even more when they are difficult.
- Love them the most when they push you away.
- Every child that walks through our doors belongs to everyone.
- Every child deserves your very best, every day.
“I believe kids work better for people that they care about,” insists Lewis, who has served as the principal of Navin Elementary in Marysville, Ohio for eight years. “When they’re here, students need to feel safe, protected and loved. That relationship is what helps them feel confident to do their very best work at school.”
Lewis includes her five rules in every memo that she sends to her staff, and encourages them to regard every child in the school as “their” child, whether “they’re in your class, in your lunch duty period, or you’re helping them get on the bus at the end of the school day.” Every teacher is empowered to work with a child to help them manage behaviors, and to provide positive reinforcement, from the classroom to the lunchroom to the playground and everywhere in between.
And the five rules are essential for Marysville School District’s recent shift to personalized learning through competency-based education. Taking the time to get to know each and every child and providing them the resources and opportunities they need to succeed, really focusing on building relationships, is critical.
According to Lewis, “when you’re personalizing learning and creating student-centered classrooms, that’s what puts them at the center: loving them and helping them to grow.”
Interested in learning more about how Marysville is scaling personalized learning district-wide? Download the case study.
In some ways, international schools have relative flexibility and autonomy to innovate toward the future of learning. Yet they also face high expectations from parents and governing boards to deliver the traditional outcome of preparing students for college and, often, to adhere to established curricula.
Fostering innovation amid this tension, then, represents both a significant opportunity and a significant challenge.
To help international school educators develop their practice around innovation, Jason Swanson, KnowledgeWorks’ Director of Strategic Foresight, developed a session for the Association for the Advancement of International Education’s (AAIE’s) annual conference called “Innovation @ the Bleeding Edge.” The session coached participants on scanning for signals– or early indicators – of change across a wide net of social, technological, economic, environmental, and political (STEEP) developments, assessing a signals’ impact and directionality, and exploring how a school might use a signal of change to inspire innovation. After identifying several signals of interest, participants selected the intentional use of time for further examination.
We explored people’s developing sense of needing to take back our time and attention from our devices and other distractions and to allow children the space to stare at the clouds passing by, to be bored, to play – and from that space, to create something they could not otherwise have found. As we did so, we toggled among future possibilities, potential pushback, and present-day strategies. It was hard to occupy just one time horizon or one perspective. But as we explored, we coalesced around a vision for opening twenty percent of a school’s time to student-directed learning and exploration. To make space for both students and teachers to go off script and see what might be found backstage.
That sounded pretty exciting to me, but the big question, as always, was how to get to that vision from today’s reality, in this case, a the reality of forty-five-minute block scheduling. To help participants explore possible ways forward, we used storyboarding as a technique for backcasting, or designing backward from a desired future. Using an approach to storyboarding adapted from The Open University’s Creativity, Innovation, and Change Technique Library (2000), we asked participants to draw their ideal future state, to draw current reality, and then to draw four steps for moving from today’s reality toward the future vision. Here’s what it looked like:
The choice of the Eiffel Tower to represent the ideal future was inspired by France’s thirty-five hour work week. The progression of steps included identifying areas where time might be wasted or underused today, beginning to use a small amount of that time in more student-directed ways, telling stories about that experience, and then gradually spreading student-directed learning (while supporting staff) until twenty percent of school time had been reclaimed for intentional, self-directed use. This trajectory acknowledged that international schools would still need to deliver on their value propositions of preparing students for college and providing consistent education for internationally mobile students but aimed also to prepare them to navigate an ambiguous future.
This example reflects how working with signals of change can help educators examine their potential impacts, explore related innovations, and ideate about how to pursue them. Such tools can help schools develop capacity around innovation, enabling them to monitor developments of particular note to their context and approach and to examine how they might use notable developments to inform future aspirations and identify strategies for bringing those aspirations to life.
We are fond of saying that we call all be leaders in shaping the future of learning. Such techniques can help people develop the capacity to realize that potential.
We call all be leaders in shaping the future of learning. #FutureEd
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Testimony to the Indiana House Education Committee: Recommendations for state policies that support successful implementations of competency-based education
Last week I testified before the Indiana House Education Committee. I was asked by Chairman Behning to lead off the proceedings to give an overview of what competency education is, how other states are implementing the approach, and why HB 1306 is a solid step forward for the state. I want to applaud Chairman Behning and Vice Chairman Cook for their commitment to innovation, foresight, and leadership.
It goes almost without saying that KnowledgeWorks believes that competency-based education provides a significant opportunity for our nation’s children. Indiana’s ability to compete as a state—and for communities to attract growth industries and create jobs—demands a fresh approach to public education. The one-size-fits all philosophy of our past and too much of our present doesn’t ensure our future economic and democratic success. Personalized, student-centered approaches to teaching and learning are on the rise in schools across Indiana. I encourage policymakers in Indiana to advance competency-based practices, through HB 1306, as it gives all students the opportunity and intensive supports to master the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and career.
Here are a few of points I highlighted during my testimony:
- The pilots, proposed in HB 1306, would breathe greater life into Indiana’s personalized learning and education innovation investments by offering new opportunities to school corporations, schools, and, most importantly, students.
- Moving HB 1306 forward would help to establish Indiana as a leader in this space. We are seeing more and more states moving towards competency-based education. This is an important development for each state in isolation but collectively it is an important step forward for our country’s education system. An essential step, I believe.
- Definitional language is essential. Simply put strong definitional language leads to quality implementation which leads to sustainability and scalability. I applaud the inclusion of definitional language into statute.
My recommendations for both the state and local school corporations in Indiana as they implement competency-based learning fall under two main categories.
These pilot program should ensure school corporations address the following elements in their respective plans:
- Focus on high quality implementation of competency-based approaches that emphasize mastery while closing achievement gaps between subpopulations of students.
- Administer a balanced system of summative, interim, performance, and formative assessments that measure student mastery of academic knowledge and social and emotional competencies.
- Build capacity of the state and school corporations to continuously improve competency-based approaches, identifying what works and refining strategies to maximize success.
- Implement a personalized and adaptive system of learning and supports to close achievement gaps and ensure all students remain on pace to graduation.
Furthermore, to ensure that the investment is both systemic and sustainable, I recommended the following:
- The state should network the schools and school corporations together into a professional learning community. This will allow for the implementers to gain the supports that they need, provide opportunities for collaborative learning and sharing, and a focus on refining the program as its being implemented. These learnings are critically important.
- Continuous improvement is a critical component at the school corporation and the state levels. There should be a commitment to implementing a continuous improvement process in order to prevent repeat failures and capitalize on accomplishments. The design of this system should allow for the ability to translate continuous data feedback into results for students by ensuring students are receiving the instruction and supports they need, when they need them.
- There needs to be a mechanism to obtain additional flexibility as they are identified. Oftentimes, it is difficult to identify the need for policy flexibility prior to program implementation. The state should provide a mechanism for districts to obtain additional flexibility as needed.
- For a truly systemic and sustainable implementation and scaling of competency-based learning there needs to be close alignment to the state’s plan around the Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA). This could mean that previously held assumptions around accountability or assessment, including the Innovative Assessment and Accountability Demonstration Authority, might be challenged and funding (think Title I, II, and IV) might need to be used differently and with more local flexibility.
- Which leads me that as we are empowering students and educators through competency-based education we should also empower our local school corporation leaders. They understand their students, educators, and communities the best. They should be key leaders for the whole state.
This is a critical moment for the state of Indiana. The pilots, in House Bill 1306, help to build a system that can transform the way we educate our students. A competency-based pilot is the next step in this transformation – one that will help districts identify high-quality strategies while empowering policymakers to build a policy framework that will work in Indiana to maximize student success.
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With KnowledgeWorks’ focus on competency-based education, we often discuss competencies that include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students. But competencies are applicable outside of the classroom as well. They can be applied in the recruitment and evaluation of staff and provide a framework for building the right team.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is looking for a successor to Superintendent Mary Ronan. As the District looks at potential applicants, what skills are necessary? What competencies are necessary for a good school superintendent?
The staff at StrivePartnership, a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks, recently considered the matter. StrivePartnership is a collective impact organization devoted to the educational success of every child in Greater Cincinnati, from cradle to career. We do this by galvanizing the region’s education ecosystem of institutions, funders, businesses and neighborhood organizations through technical and resource support.
In this role, StrivePartnership has been a long-time partner of CPS. From this distinct vantage point we have identified seven competencies that we believe are critical for the new superintendent to possess:
- Collaborative leadership. CPS alone cannot successfully meet the educational needs of all its students. That requires collective work on the part of institutions, organizations and families. As more partnerships emerge to support education as a vehicle for advancing equity in our community, it is imperative the superintendent direct the school district to be actively engaged in these efforts.
- Transparent communications. More than ever, it is important that the school district consistently share comprehensive information and data relevant to the school district to multiple stakeholders. We realize such information is not always flattering or easy to communicate. The superintendent should have a bias toward full transparency in order to continue to build credibility and trust with the public.
- Inclusive decision-making. Increasingly, StrivePartnership is recognizing that solutions to educational challenges do not come from institutions alone. They also emerge from the expertise and experiences of those who are most directly impacted, most notably parents and caregivers, and students. The next superintendent should aggressively enlist local residents as problems-solvers and co-producers of strategies and interventions.
- Boldness to embrace challenges. There are many challenges ahead of the school district. The superintendent should be willing to unabashedly identify these challenges, own them, and address them directly.
- Readiness to adopt innovation – from without and within. The district must continue to adopt new approaches to education, such as personalized learning. However, sometimes the solutions to the biggest problems already exist – quietly and off the radar screen. A superintendent who is adept at spotting best practices from within the district as well as from outside of it, nurturing them, and expanding them will be able to accelerate progress.
- Constructive relations with the Board of Education. A superintendent who can facilitate constructive, working relations with the Board in a manner that is visible to the public and that produces tangible results will go a long way toward solidifying community trust in the district.
- Systems-thinking orientation. Large bureaucracies whose functions operate more like interdependent networks rather than isolated silos have greater success. A superintendent who has experience thinking and leading in ways that require administrators and staffs to cross boundaries and work in teams will help propel the district’s progress toward achieving transformational goals.
When you look at your own district, what competencies would you add? What would you change about this list?
If community members came together with educators to design curriculum, what might that look like?
In our Shaping the Future of Learning: K – 12 School-Based Education Strategy Workbook, one of the opportunities outlined for educators is to seize the possibilities that are made possible by personalized learning – not only for students, but for the community. Educators and civic leaders in Marion, Ohio are engaging in this work today in an effort to make Marion, Ohio the nation’s work force development capitol.
And they’re well on their way.
Beginning last year, KnowledgeWorks joined Marion City Schools in leading a design team, comprised of community and business leaders and educators, to address the concerns around workforce development in Marion. 60 percent of graduating seniors were not going to college, or entering into a career or the military – while 10,000 jobs were going unfilled in the region. The goal of the design team was, according to Amy Wood, Director of Educational Programs with Marion City Schools, to design curriculum that would be more responsive not only to student needs, but also to local business and industry needs.
Wood insists the open lines of communication have been what’s made Marion’s transformation possible. In addition to inviting the community into their decision-making conversations, administrators and educators from Marion City Schools make an effort to be active in the community, as well.
“We hold a seat on every board in the Marion community,” says Wood. “We serve other people’s missions and visions, as well as our own, and work to align others with our programs by maintaining an ongoing informal contract with our community.”
When students at a Marion elementary made a video asking the design team to think about what they were doing for their future, Marion rose to the challenge.
“We made a promise that we were going to work together to be sure we had the right opportunities in place,” says Wood. “We wanted to make sure our students fit the portrait of the graduate we painted, that they had the right skills, knowledge and disposition to succeed.”
Today, the design team has transformed into an advisory council that has, among other things, developed three distinct interest clusters for students at their early college high school, and provides opportunities for teachers and community and business leaders to share knowledge and build curriculum together. In just one year, they doubled the amount of applicants to their early college high school, and both Jiran and Wood are excited for what the future holds.
“Collaborating with your community can’t be an afterthought,” says Nichole Jiran, Director of Teaching and Learning with Marion City Schools. “It’s built into what we do here, what we believe.”
Interested in more actionable ways educators can shape learning with the community – and how your students can benefit? Download Shaping the Future of Learning: K-12 School-Based Education Strategy Workbook.
When delivering the opening keynote at the Association for the Advancement of International Education’s (AAIE’s) annual conference Monday, Jason Swanson and I asked audience members to describe the future of international schools in one word. Their responses appear below.
“Collaborative” received most frequent mention, with “innovative” and “creative” close behind. “Adaptive” followed, along with “critical” and “essential” and both “interconnected” and “interconnectedness.” These words reflect a generative mindset, a sense of partnership and interdependency, and a determination to serve students in an increasingly global world.
Among the words that received less frequent mention, there is a sense of shift: “fluid,” “transitioning,” “accelerating,” “changing,” “growing,” “stretching,” “organic.” There is also a sense of threat: “imperiled,” “threatened,” “challenging.”
Because we live in rapidly changing times, what we describe in The Future of Learning: Education in the Era of Partners in Code as an era shift, it is not surprising to see this sense of churn – both positive and negative. In face of that churn, I find it inspiring how much energy and commitment many of the words reflect, echoing KnowledgeWorks’ deep belief that we can all shape the future of learning.
During the keynote, Jason and I featured three opportunities for education stakeholders to do just that:
- 360 Degree Learners: How can we educate the whole person and enable lifelong learning that supports academic and social-emotional growth?
- The Whole and the Sum of Its Parts: How can we personalize learning in community, reorienting education around learners while strengthening society?
- The New A+: How can we renegotiate definitions of success, examining what education systems aim to achieve and who gets to say?
When we asked audience members to vote on which of these leadership opportunities seemed most relevant to their schools or organizations, they weighed in as shown below.
Renegotiating definitions of success and educating the whole person all but tied (testing my commentary abilities in the moment), with personalizing learning in community standing out for some people. These responses highlight how different opportunities will resonate in different locations and contexts.
Each school or organization will respond to the shifting landscapes of the future in particular ways while also collaborating with partners and fostering interconnections across a broader web of relationships and resources. For more ideas to consider, see “Shaping the Future of Learning: A Strategy Guide” and the accompanying workbook, “Shaping the Future of Learning: K-12 School-Based Education Strategy Workbook.”
In a workshop last fall, an international school educator reflected, “There is a driving force to do things differently in education. We just need the courage to make it happen!” My sense from these AAIE responses is that sector has that courage, along with a great deal of commitment and creativity.
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North Dakota and Indiana Move Pilot Legislation to Expand Personalized and Competency-Based Learning
North Dakota and Indiana join a growing list of states that recognize the importance of thoughtful growth in personalized and competency-based learning.
Legislators in both states have filed bills this session to create pilot programs that advance innovative learning. North Dakota’s pilot bill codifies allowances for broad sweeping innovations in personalized learning. Indiana’s proposal focuses directly on competency-based education grants as a way to improve student outcomes.
Though the proposed pilots look somewhat different from one another, both reflect a commitment to growing innovative learning strategically and with focus on sustainability and success. With the passage of ESSA in December 2015, states entered a new era, one where they are urged to think boldly about how to transform their education systems. State legislators have the opportunity to help lead the effort to think boldly alongside departments of education by releasing policy barriers to district and school-level innovation.
As Matt Williams, KnowledgeWorks’ Vice President for Policy and Advocacy, wrote recently, the new Presidential Administration’s anticipated hands-off approach to education means states have an unprecedented opportunity to “strike out to change the system of education in this country.” The pilots in North Dakota and Indiana show commitment by state officials to thoughtfully strike out to drive innovative learning opportunities at the district level, beginning a transformative process to ensure each and every one of their students are set up for success.
We applaud legislators in these states for carrying this legislation.
About Indiana House Bill 1386
The proposed law in Indiana provides an excellent opportunity for Indiana to explore the benefits of competency-based education through a competency education pilot grant program. The bill as filed creates an application process for grants to public schools and/or school corporations (called school districts in other states) to fund the design and implementation of competency education models.
The bill requires that:
- Students in participating schools advance upon mastery of a subject.
- Competencies students adhere to are clear and measurable, empowering students in their learning.
- Assessments of student learning—including exams or other equivalent work such as portfolios or projects—are meaningful and contribute to a positive learning experience for students.
- Students receive individualized, timely support based on their learning needs.
- Learning outcomes focus on knowledge and relevant work-related skills.
- Participating schools and school corporations partner with post-secondary institutions and relevant community industry members.
- Participating schools or school corporations are held to the same accountability requirements required by state and federal law.
HB 1386 was filed by Representative Robert Behning, a Republican Representative from Indianapolis. He has served in the Indiana House of Representatives since 1992, and currently serves as the Chair of the House Committee on Education. Representative Behning has been a long-time advocate of education reform in Indiana, including a move to next generation assessments and a focus on student growth.
About North Dakota Senate Bill 2186
North Dakota’s bill creates an innovative learning pilot program. As filed, this bill allows public and nonpublic schools to apply for a pilot program to allow for more local control and flexibility than they have under current state law. After an initial one-year period, the school may choose to submit a comprehensive implementation plan to the state superintendent. The state superintendent shall assist the school in creating a long-term sustainability plan and may approve the plan to continue the program up to five years.
Methods of innovation allowed in the bill include:
- Awarding credit for learning that takes place outside normal school hours
- Awarding credit for learning that takes place away from school premises
- Allowing flexibility regarding instructional hours, school days, and school years
- Allowing any other appropriate flexibility necessary to implement the pilot program effectively
SB 2186 was filed by Senator Nicole Poolman, a Republican Senator from Bismarck. Senator Poolman is an English teacher at Century High School, and has been involved with the national organization the Education Commission of the States. She has served in the North Dakota Senate since 2013. Senator Poolamn has convened a bipartisan group of bill sponsors in both the House and the Senate.
 Competency-based pilot program grants are added to the list of possible uses for the state’s existing innovation network school grant fund.
Thinking toward the future can seem like a daunting task. There are many unknowns and it may seem uncertain. But by thinking forward, we can be empowered to impact the future through our work today.
The two of them work throughout the world to help individuals critically examine current trends and future possibilities, empowering people to impact the future of learning. This week is no different, as Katherine and Jason present during the Association for the Advancement of International Education Annual Leadership Conference and Expo.
Throughout the conference, they will give a keynote presentation, a concurrent session and a deep dive session. Audience members and participants will consider implications of global trends and signals of change, as well as receive tools to explore the future of learning in their own contexts.
To learn more about their presentations, I asked Jason Swanson about one of their sessions, “Innovation @ the Bleeding Edge,” in which participants will use foresight methodology to consider what the future could look like in their international school communities.
What will “Innovation @ the Bleeding Edge” explore?
The session will explore the application of foresight methodology to spot and harness signals of change in service of innovation. Participants will learn the process of horizon scanning, which is an organized process for surfacing novel, value added information, then thinking through what might the potential impacts of that information be and how they might leverage such information in service of innovation in their schools.
Why is this important to consider?
For a variety of reasons. Not only can this process help schools be more innovative, but it might surface changes on the horizon that the school had not considered. I think there is a strong desire for schools to be innovative, and putting processes like horizon scanning in place can really help with that.
Who will this exploration benefit?
Anyone! None of us are immune from change. This session will benefit anyone from administration to teachers in the class room. Change impacts everyone at different levels, so having a methodology in place to spot changes and emerging issues, then moving to harness those changes or issues, is really a good thing for everyone.
Why is this important from an international perspective?
As we transition into a new era, the value proposition for existing organizations and structures will be increasingly challenged, international schools included. By staying abreast of changes and acting to leverage those changes, international schools can ensure that they are providing their students with the most innovative and relevant education. Given the areas that international schools serve, I feel it is important for these schools to take methodologies like we will explore and make them their own. Each school is dealing with its own local resources, so it is especially important for international schools to have their own homegrown innovation practices, as notions of scale might not always work for them.
How can our readers start to explore these topics if they didn’t attend the conference?
All of our forecasting material contains signals of change and elements of horizon scanning, so I would recommend starting there. As scanning sources, I recommend:
- Shaping Tomorrow
- Center for the Future of Museums
- The Future of Learning
- Following #futureed on Twitter
In terms of developing internal capacity, I recommend The University of Houston’s Certificate in Foresight program.
If you are interested in exploring the future of learning in your community, learn more about how KnowledgeWorks can help and watch the following video about Pittsburgh’s exploration.
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Proposed Change in Kentucky Education Policy Moves Us Away from Statewide Transformation and Towards Islands of Excellence
State legislatures across the country are deep into the work of building budgets and examining new bills. We’ve seen some really positive developments in North Dakota with the introduction of SB2186 that will create an opportunity for districts to pilot personalized learning. Also, the state of Indiana through HB1386 would allow districts to apply to the Indiana Department of Education to be part of a competency-based pilot program.
These are great developments for personalized learning; however, in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, there are developments that move the state away from their progress to advance personalized learning. The introduction of HB103 does many things, it introduces charter schools into Kentucky and it eliminates the Districts of Innovation Program. I’m supportive of high quality, publicly accountable charter schools. That said, they are not a silver bullet but part of a portfolio of options for both school improvement and education innovation. My bigger issue with the bill is the elimination of the Districts of Innovation.
Kentucky bill HB103 offers the following:
“Beginning on the effective date of this Act, no new districts of innovation shall be approved by the board of education. A district currently approved as a district of innovation shall remain a district of innovation until the approval period expires.”
The District of Innovation program was created in HB37 enacted 2012. It provides Kentucky public school districts the opportunity to apply to the Kentucky Board of Education to be exempt from certain administrative regulations and statutory provisions in an effort to improve student learning through innovative practices including competency-based and personalized learning. By offering districts the chance to “re-think” what a school might look like, they can redesign student learning in an effort to engage and motivate more students and increase the numbers of those who are college- and career-ready. Districts of Innovation helped to usher in innovation into Kentucky’s school system. It also became a beacon for other states to follow as they too tried to provide flexibility to help spur education innovation in their states.
By eliminating the Districts of Innovation, Kentucky will take a giant step backwards.
Now some might say, wait, HB103 creates a new program called Opportunity Schools. That much is true. Opportunity Schools are defined in the following way:
“’Opportunity school’ means a school that has developed a plan of innovation in compliance with this section and has been approved by the Kentucky Board of Education to be exempted from certain administrative regulations and statutory provisions to improve the educational performance of students within the district.”
Sound familiar? Essentially the bill moves the Districts of Innovation down to the school level. The issue is, that is the wrong locus of control for innovation.
An innovative school is great but it is far too often an isolated island of excellence. To transform our education system, we need to transform school districts. We need to connect practice and policy at the district level to drive scale within our full system of education. We have for far too long settled for disconnected innovation rather than focused, strategic, connected transformation. Districts of Innovation helped to drive some concentrated innovation in Kentucky and it would be a shame to see the state eliminate it in this legislative session.
“To transform our education system, we need to transform school districts.” @MattAWilliams
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Guest post by Katie King
When I was in the classroom, the best days were when a unit both sparked my students’ interest and helped them see the world or themselves in a new way. The first time I taught a future-focused unit, I found a perfect mix of both.
They read future oriented-novels, compared them with articles about change happening today, and envisioned their own future worlds. My students were intrigued by the promise of new technologies but were also attuned to possible unintended consequences. Their concern about some of the dystopian futures they imagined was matched only by their insistence that we all must be involved in influencing the future. In the end, they developed mostly hopeful and optimistic future images, but their weeks of discussion, reading, and thinking made them understand that we all have a role in shaping what’s to come and that our preferred futures are unlikely to occur without focused action.
Many students do not get a chance to explore the future in a rigorous and creative way. To help bring futures thinking to more students and surface their views of the future of learning, KnowledgeWorks and Teach the Future are hosting a student design competition, Imagine FutureEd. That competition invites students to submit scenarios (stories about the future) and artifacts (images of the future).
I hope that all educators and young people who participate in the Imagine FutureEd competition have a fun and mind-opening experience like my students did. To provide guidance for young people as they create their submissions, Teach the Future and KnowledgeWorks are creating activities to spark both creative and critical thinking. These activities are based on the work of experienced foresight educators and on workshops that we have done with students in the San Francisco Bay Area, Houston, and Pittsburgh. The four core activities that we are developing focus on the following topics:
- Exploring Your Future Outlook: How do you think about the future? How do others think about it?
- Exploring Possibilities for the Future: What changes are happening in education already? What might happen next?
- Telling Stories from the Future: What might the future of learning look like given different trends and possibilities?
- Reflecting on the Future: Why is thinking about the future valuable? What should leaders be doing today to prepare for it?
An extension activity also guides young people through illustrating their stories by creating and submitting artifacts from the future.
There are so many reasons to participate in the Imagine FutureEd competition. In general, teaching young people to think about the future empowers them to ask challenging questions and imagine a range of possibilities. I have always found that to be an enlightening experience for everyone involved, educators included. In particular, the Imagine FutureEd competition gives adult facilitators the chance to develop their toolbox for engaging students around the future and offers the option of receiving some extra help from our team. We are also lining up some exciting prizes! But the most important reason to participate in Imagine FutureEd is that, by giving young people the time and support to think about what, why, and how people could learn in the future, you are telling them that their ideas, voices, and leadership on this important topic matter and deserve to be heard.
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