Jarrell Jordan, a 2015 graduate of Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Alabama, is joining 72 other people from across the United States to serve as a liaison between Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), the White House and the Department of Education. These ambassadors for HBCUs will be included on discussions about funding, business partnerships and more.
Jordan, who is currently a sophomore at Morehouse University, “was recently asked to participate with the FBI’s Citizen’s Academy and to work with the Department of Justice and Homeland Security to make sure HBCU students have access to government jobs after graduating,” reported The Birmingham Times.
In that story, Jordan told the newspaper that he was interested in helping foster business partnerships and expand future job opportunities for graduates of HBCUs.
When he was in high school, Jordan attended the Business and Fine Arts Academy at Woodlawn High School during the first year students were able to attend early college.
“Jarrell’s senior year of high school was the first year we implemented early college at Woodlawn High School,” said Roslyn Valentine, KnowledgeWorks Technical Assistance Coach. “He attended the Academy of Business and Finance and was in the first class of students who earned college credit at Lawson State Community College while still in high school.”
In 2015, Jordan was one of two Birmingham students to be awarded the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarships, which are paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and administered by the United Negro College Fund
Trey Hawkins & Jarrell Jordan, our 2 Gates Millennium Scholars, are No. 1 & No. 5 at Woodlawn High. pic.twitter.com/6DAIRSGZ8d
— BhamCitySchools (@BhamCitySchools) April 20, 2015
“He was a shining star,” said Robin Kanaan, Director of Teaching and Learning for KnowledgeWorks. “We were fortunate to have him speak at a Summer Institute for Birmingham City Schools teachers and watched him be an ambassador for the Academy of Business and Finance. I’m excited to see what’s next for him as he acts for an ambassador for a new, equally deserving organization.”
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To learn more about how the district conditions for scaling personalized learning impacts teachers’ practice, KnowledgeWorks interviewed teachers from across the country as they talked about their experiences. This research culminated in “The Shifting Paradigm of Teaching: Personalized Learning According to Teachers.”
One of those conditions, partnerships, is defined as:
Districts should cultivate partnerships with business, community, and higher education constituents in their communities (including local and county government, recreation, juvenile justice, faith-based, etc.). These entities should be involved in creating a district vision and strategic plan that is aligned with a broader economic and workforce development plan for the community. All aspects of teaching and learning within the district (curriculum, instruction, assessment, professional development, etc.) should be aligned to this vision. In addition, these partners should assist with creating various learning opportunities (internships, mentor programs, work-based experiences, service learning, etc.) and publish a list of these opportunities for all learners.
Connecting learning that happens in the classroom with learning that happens in the community can be a powerful tool to scaling personalized learning. In addition to increasing engagement of learners and others in the learning community, partnerships can drive life-long learning for all students. Effective partnerships are based on students’ interests and, when leveraged fully, can narrow the divide between schools and the community while promoting transparency and strong communication with all stakeholders. As districts begin to build partnerships with the community, the district’s vision should be top of mind. Specifically, partners should be involved in creating, measuring progress towards, and refining the vision.
As one practitioner told us, “We’re seeing folks from around the world who come and have great things to say. It’s great to have the recognition and feedback, and it’s a good way to look at learning differently. On the flip side, we still haven’t arrived. We visit other sites quite often.”
For more on partnerships in a personalized learning environment, including interview excerpts and school and district examples, read ‘The Shifting Paradigm of Teaching: Personalized Learning According to Teachers.“
As a team we have been diving into our transition memo, Embracing the Opportunity: Recommendations for Scaling Personalized Learning Under a New Presidential Administration, to explore our four sets of recommendations designed to outline the federal role in scaling personalized learning. When examining personalized learning policy three major themes emerge.
- More times than not it is about less policy rather than more policy.
- Flexibility is a key component in advancing personalized learning and that flexibility should be pushed down to the level closest to the students and teachers (e.g. to the district and school level).
- Some of the new policy is really about modernizing old policies.
The incoming Administration should modernize the federal financial aid system to reflect the realities of today’s postsecondary learner. The current system distributes aid to students based on the number of hours they attend class or the number of credit hours in which they are enrolled. Traditional 12 credit-a-semester, full-time enrollment in postsecondary education is no longer the norm as individuals increasingly seek access to postsecondary opportunities as early as middle or high school, while working and raising a family, or later in life as part of a career change. We recommend an overhaul of the Federal financial aid system to ensure it is more flexible, better able to address changing career requirements (for an emerging and incumbent workforce), and reflective of the nation’s increasing interest in personalized education.
A federal strategy to modernize the federal financial aid system should begin with an effort to scale the following concepts through implementation of the Higher Education Act. The new Administration will need to identify the right policy approach for bringing these to scale to ensure that students, institutions, and providers get the best result from the federal investment.
- Dual Enrollment—Low-income high school students enrolled in postsecondary coursework through a dual enrollment or early college high school program should be able to earn Federal Pell Grants upon completion of postsecondary credit.
- Competency Education—Students should be able to access Title IV financial aid for enrollment in IHEs with a self-paced competency education
- Innovative Education Model—Students should be able to access Title IV financial aid for enrollment in postsecondary institutions that are partnering with non-traditional providers to deliver an innovative educational program.
KnowledgeWorks would like to partner with the incoming Trump Administration to identify strategies that will make the federal financial aid system more flexible while ensuring necessary protections against mismanagement and abuse. As we innovate our K-12 educational system, we must also examine the transition spaces into higher education and how the system supports all learners by personalizing supports and options. This isn’t just an educational recommendation because making the financial aid system nimbler directly impacts the viability of our workforce and our economy.
In our transition memo to the new Presidential Administration, Embracing the Opportunity: Recommendations for Scaling Personalized Learning Under a New Presidential Administration, we offer a set of recommendations for leveraging national momentum to create a flexible, customized education system where every learner succeeds. Read the complete memo to learn more.
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The future of learning can seem big and far away from schools’ day-to-day realities. Yet we at KnowledgeWorks firmly believe in the power and the responsibility of people working in and with K-12 schools to shape the future of learning.
To help educators consider what opportunities on the horizon for learning might mean for them and their students, a new workbook provides an interactive way of considering how small adjustments and bold choices could lead the way toward a future of learning that serves all learners and society well.
“Shaping the Future of Learning: A K-12 School-Based Education Strategy Workbook” invites you to explore:
- Five present-day opportunity areas that could positively impact the future of learning in ten years
- Strategies for taking action in response to those opportunities
- Examples of work being done by education innovators today
- Key questions to help you reflect on your current practice and work with others to consider what you might do differently in the future.
In some of the present-day innovations highlighted in the workbook:
- Amy Anderson of ReSchool Colorado describes that new education system’s approach to emergent learner-centered design
- Jean Garrity speaks to the Institute for Personalized Learning at CESA #1’s focus on helping educators and learners develop agency
- Russ Altenburg of ReFrame Labs underscores the importance of grounding systems change in equity by building schools within communities rather than for them.
Their stories emphasize the power of bold visions to improve learning for today’s students while transforming education systems to meet future needs. This complex work takes all of us. We see every educator as a leader who can collaborate with others to shape the future of learning.
As one K-12 leader observed during a workshop that contributed to the development of the strategies featured in the workbook, “There is great hope and opportunity in reinventing schools.” That hard and rewarding work can start with you.
To consider the future of learning in your community, download our latest resource, Shaping the Future of Learning: K-12 School-Based Education Strategy Workbook.
The post Explore How K-12 Schools Can Shape the Future of Learning appeared first on World of Learning.
As my colleague Lillian Pace wrote in a previous post, “the new Administration has an incredible opportunity to leverage as it considers a strategy for transforming the nation’s K-12 and higher education systems.”
One of the key challenges in transforming the nation’s education system is scaling best practices. As we noted in our State Policy Framework for Scaling Personalized Learning, innovative learning environments, broadly speaking, are stuck in pilot phase, providing great learning opportunities for “those students” in “that classroom” with “that teacher.” In order to truly transform our system, we must move student-centered learning beyond the pilot phase. The Trump Administration can facilitate this by offering state and local education systems the flexibility to innovate and the resources to pursue their vision of personalized learning while providing the national leadership to help them replicate effective strategies at scale.
Any federal strategy for scaling personalized learning should include the following components: assessment, accountability, school improvement, the educator workforce, extended learning opportunities, and research and development. As states begin to development their plans to implement the new Every Student Succeeds Act, the new Administration should help states leverage the significant flexibility across the law to pursue their vision of personalized learning for every student. Specifically, the Administration should issue non-regulatory guidance on the following topics:
- Cross-cutting Guidance on Building Personalized Learning Systems. States and districts can benefit from guidance on how to leverage flexibility in ESSA around accountability, assessment, teacher credentials, and title funding to build personalized learning systems.
- Strategies for Leveraging the Direct Student Services Opportunity to Support At-Risk Students. States can benefit from guidance on how to use the optional direct student services reservation to expand access to rigorous, personalized learning experiences for at-risk students.
- Guidance on Early College High School and Dual and Concurrent Enrollment Provisions. States and districts can benefit from guidance on how to leverage flexibility across ESSA to increase student access to high quality early college high school and dual and concurrent enrollment programs including through accountability and reporting, access to federal funding, and professional development.
KnowledgeWorks stands ready to work with the new Administration to assist states and districts working towards their vision of high quality, personalized learning experiences that result in every student thriving in college, career, and civic life.
Read more about KnowledgeWorks’ recommendations for the incoming Administration, you can find our entire transition memo, Embracing the Opportunity: Recommendations for Scaling Personalized Learning Under a New Presidential Administration.
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Whether you make a New Year’s resolution this year or not, your actions in the coming year have the potential to change the shape of the future of learning. Educators, administrators, and students are increasingly driven to personalize learning, and the desire to make meaningful connections between what we’re teaching and learning to what matters most to us is only going to grow in 2017.
In our latest resource, Shaping the Future of Learning: K-12 School-Based Education Strategy Workbook, we invite you to consider how even the smallest steps you may take could make a big impact. We outline future needs, and provide the space for reflection on what you’re doing today, and what you might do differently in the immediate future.
How do you know what’s working for students today? How might your district better capture student voice?
What opportunities do students have to take their learning into the community? How could you recognize student contribution outside the classroom?
What organizational changes do you wish you could try if you had the time and permission?
How does your school or district currently involve multiple perspectives in decision making?
When you consider what you want for your school, for your students, your vision for an ideal graduate in your community, don’t underestimate your own influence. What could you resolve to do in 2017 to change the outcome for learning in 2025?
To consider these questions and more, download our latest resource, Shaping the Future of Learning: K-12 School-Based Education Strategy Workbook.
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Strands of multi-colored lights cover Marysville Early College High School, illuminating the night. Over 6,000 lights dance to “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid, choreographed by students during a semester-long project.
“Our Christmas light show project has really taught me how to work with certain software, IP locations and networks, because we’re programming all these lights to work together,” said Robert Moots, a junior at Marysville Early College High School. “I have learned so much about coding and I think this entire experience has made me smarter and able to handle large tasks.”
Moots and six classmates worked on the project as part of a new Winter Magic capstone project with their teacher, Justin Rigsby. The project was a natural fit for these IT students, who learned the basics of circuit boards and coding in earlier classes.
The project also meets all learning standards from the Ohio Department of Education.
“It’s touching all the ODE standards, maybe not in a conventional way, but in a very fun, practical way,” Rigsby said. “You always get kids asking, ‘why are we doing this’ or ‘is this something I’ll ever use?’ Now these students get to see the skills they learned in other classes and put them to use.”
Most importantly, the Winter Magic project has been completely student-driven, allowing space for teamwork, creativity and learner agency.
“At its core, this is a student project,” Rigsby said. “From day one, they’ve planned it. I told them right from the start that we need to come together to teach each other what we learn. They had to figure out how it worked as a team. This was wholeheartedly their project from start to finish.”
The show will be automated from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. throughout the holiday.
Looking back at our blog posts from 2016, there are some common threads to the posts you liked best. Personalized learning. Getting ready for the future of learning. Making sure that all people involved in learning have a voice, from school leaders to teachers to students.
Here are your favorite blog posts from 2016:
- Leading the Charge for Personalized Learning: Nine Teachers to Watch
- 2016: The Year of Virtual Reality
- Beanbags, Baskets, Balls and Books: Opening up decision-making to include student voice
- Meeting Students Where They Are
- Advice for Superintendents Getting Started with Personalized Learning
- To Shape the Future of Learning, Tackle These Five Issues
- 5 Necessities for an Ideal High School, According to College Freshmen
- What does competency-based instruction look like, anyway?
- 5 Things I Learned Visiting Cunningham Elementary School
- Empathy Lessons from Three High School Sophomores
To learn more about how the work of scaling personalized learning impacts teachers’ practice, KnowledgeWorks listened to teachers from across the country as they talked about their experiences. This research culminated in “The Shifting Paradigm of Teaching: Personalized Learning According to Teachers.”
One of those conditions, leadership development, is defined as:
A district should have a leadership development program that identifies and trains leaders at the classroom, school, and district level. This includes involving educators and other staff members in the visioning process, strategic planning, partnership cultivation, and curriculum review.
At its core, leadership development in a personalized learning system is about creating a pipeline of sustainable leaders capable of sustaining the transformation to a personalized learning system. The first step in any development program is identifying those worthy of the time, resources, and money required to cultivate emerging leaders. Many of those who spoke to us put emphasis on developing leaders at the school, rather than district, level in order to ensure that they are familiar and compatible with the schools and learning environments where they will work. Strong leadership programs provide an array of development opportunities including within the classroom, across teams, and even as school leaders or upper-level district administration.
As one practitioner told us, “Another big piece has been to flatten leadership. We’re in this together and building leadership for every teacher.”
For more on supporting emerging leaders in a personalized learning environment, including interview excerpts and school and district examples, read ‘The Shifting Paradigm of Teaching: Personalized Learning According to Teachers.“
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Kenowa Hills Public Schools’ vision towards personal mastery and competency-based education is amplified through their STEM Academy. The Knights STEM Academy approach provides real-world experiences that link academic achievement and future success.
Watch how Kenowa Hills is personalizing learning through their STEM Academy:
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As we enter the emerging era of partners in code described in KnowledgeWorks’ fourth comprehensive forecast on the future of learning, we are just beginning to develop new uses for and new relationships with machines that are increasingly wearable, connected, and smart. If you use a Fitbit to monitor your health or use your car’s smart safety system to help avert accidents, you’ll have a flavor of what these new partnerships mean today.
Looking ahead ten years, education faces some critical questions:
- How might education help people prepare for an increasingly automated and taskified world of work – and prepare over and over again over their lifetimes?
- How might educational structures diversify to help achieve resilience and provide more learner-centered education?
- Might we use new tools and understandings of human performance to create greater focus on individual development in education?
- How might education support individuals and communities in responding to volatile conditions in positive ways?
The graphic recording below illustrates these and other possibilities for the future of education raised during a conversation that Tom Vander Ark and I led at the National Council of State Legislators’ September gathering of education committee chairs, “Innovation in an ESSA Era.”View a larger version of the image.
Key among them, the conversation highlighted five attributes for the future of learning. It needs to be:
- Project- and place-based
- Focused on both soft skills and work-specific skills
- Oriented around whole person development across a lifetime
In creating approaches to education that are both flexible and grounded and which incorporate these attributes, the conversation emphasized, we need to be guided by clear visions. Otherwise, we won’t know what success looks like at an individual, school, or systems level, and we risk letting ourselves be so buffeted by change that we end up somewhere other than we intended.
What do you want the future of education to look like? Do these attributes resonate? Would you add to this list or take anything away?
For more on the convening, see Tom Vander Ark’s recap, “Leading Personalized Learning: State Policy Advice & Successes.”
Every fall for the past few years, the K-12 education community has celebrated an exciting accomplishment: growing national graduation rates. In fact, data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that from the 2010-2011 school year to the 2013-2014 school year, graduation rates have increased across all subgroups, and both the black-white and Hispanic-white achievement gaps have decreased. While a significant accomplishment that is undoubtedly worth of celebration, the nation’s education community must look at data beyond high school graduation rates to understand the full picture of college and career readiness.
Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) studies projections of workforce needs over the next few years, including required education levels. In 2020, CEW predicts that 65% of all jobs in the United States will require some amount of postsecondary education, up from 59% in 2010. We can celebrate high school graduation rates as an indicator of better prepared students, but this data suggests that postsecondary attainment must be considered alongside high school graduation rates to determine true preparedness for next steps.
Unfortunately, the celebrated increased high school graduation rates does not take into account the reality of students enrolling in remedial courses or student attrition in higher education. When students arrive at their postsecondary institution without the needed knowledge and skills to enroll in college-level classes, they are placed in remedial classes. While they cost the same as other credits, remedial credits do not count towards graduation requirements. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), low-income, Hispanic, and African-American students are more likely to need remediation than white students, placing a heavier financial burden on groups that traditionally must overcome greater challenges in progressing through the education system. Additionally, enrolling in remediation courses increases a student’s likelihood of dropping out of college, with debt and few credits counting towards a degree.
Remediation poses an obvious risk to a student’s ability to progress through postsecondary education in pursuit of joining the workforce. Just how serious is this risk? Using Colorado as an example, in 2005, remediation rates ranged from 22.2% for students in four-year institutions to 60.1% for students in two-year institutions. The exact percentages vary across states, but Colorado’s rates are not out of the ordinary. There is an urgent need to create better linkages between secondary and postsecondary education to resolve this remediation crisis. High school graduation rates are only one step towards college and career and must be accompanied supports and structures that will allow for students to make the transition to higher education without needing to face the threats that come with remediation.
Remediation rates are not the only byproduct of disconnected secondary and postsecondary education systems. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), for first-time, full-time students enrolling in college in fall 2008 and seeking a bachelor’s degree, six-year graduation rates ranged from 36% at the least selective schools to 89% at the most selective schools. While this particular report from NCES did not disaggregate the data to understand differences based on race, family income, or first-generation status, trends across other data sets make it reasonable to draw the conclusion that these percentages are even lower for low-income students and students of color. Improving the connections between secondary and postsecondary education is not just about preparing students for the workforce, it is also critical to increasing equity in higher education and, eventually, the workforce.
By looking at our future workforce needs alongside the implications of high remediation rates and low six-year college graduation rates, a significant amount of work needs to be done before high school graduation rates can be an indicator for future success. In addition to programs that support first-generation college students find success in higher education, systemic and structural work needs to be done to create better alignment between high school and postsecondary education. To prepare students for future workforce needs, K-12 and postsecondary education must seek systemic alignment that creates clear pathways for students to find success in their education in pursuit of their career goals.
In our transition memo to the new Presidential Administration, Embracing the Opportunity: Recommendations for Scaling Personalized Learning Under a New Presidential Administration, we offer a set of recommendations for leveraging national momentum to create a flexible, customized education system where every learner succeeds. One of those recommendations is: “Incentivize effective transitions between K–12 and higher education to increase college enrollment and persistence.” Read the complete memo to learn more.
 United States Department of Education. 2015. U.S. Graduation Rate Hits New Record High. http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-high-school-graduation-rate-hits-new-record-high-0
 Carnevale, Anthony P., Nicole Smith, and Jeff Strohl. 2013. Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020. Georgetown University, Center on Education and the Workforce. https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Recovery2020.FR_.Web_.pdf
 National Conference of State Legislatures. Hot Topics in Higher Education: Reforming Remedial Education. Accessed December 5, 2016. http://www.ncsl.org/research/education/improving-college-completion-reforming-remedial.aspx
 Colorado Department of Higher Education. 2016. 2015 Legislative Report on Remedial Education.
 U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. 2016. The Condition of Education 2016.
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For a wide variety of reasons, all too many young people fall behind or drop out of school well before completing the requirements for graduation, not to mention lacking the readiness for a meaningful job, career, or postsecondary training. As “America’s Public Schools Should be More Focused on Achievement, not Prison” vividly demonstrates, these young people are far more likely than their peers to end up in the criminal justice system. But that doesn’t have to be the end of the story.
Great schools such as the Boston Day & Evening Academy are deeply committed to insuring successful outcomes for students who have not succeeded in traditional school environments. The formula is not overly complicated — it’s simply good, student-centered educational practices implemented deeply by caring, skilled adults.
In Ohio, KnowledgeWorks is supporting and partnering with five school districts who are committed to fundamentally transforming and dramatically improving the educational experiences and outcomes of their “alternative” schools and programs. Core strategies include:
- Comprehensive intake and assessment process that takes into account all of the student’s needs and leads to the creation of a personalized road map to completion and readiness for life after high school
- Robust and targeted student supports and interventions to address students’ non-academic issues that impede attendance and learning
- Competency-based learning framework that rewards and promotes students for mastery while accommodating varying learning styles and paces
- Clear, relevant pathways to career and/or postsecondary pursuits
These strategies combined with talented, caring educators and leaders combine to create the kind of culture needed to ensure that every student succeeds, regardless of his/her past failures. The goal is high school completion with academic and social readiness that will catapult these young people into their chosen future goals. Anything less is unacceptable.
Navigating the future is hard work. Charting a course forward is like aiming for a blurry horizon that shifts constantly as forces of change swirl together in different ways and people’s decisions and actions change the landscape along the way.
KnowledgeWorks’ recent “Shaping the Future of Learning: A Strategy Guide” serves as a navigation map for traveling between today’s current reality and strong future-facing visions for learning. While it details key opportunities and strategies to shape the future of learning, it also highlights broader change management principles for education. These change management principles apply whether you are in K-12 school-based education, informal and community-based learning, or higher education.
Forming partnerships can create new possibilities. Every education sector has opportunities to reshape learning by building intentional partnerships rooted in common values – not necessarily in convenience – with other organizations and with communities and learners. Working across sectors can also create more coherent and meaningful opportunities for learners.
Coordination and matching services can help meet learners’ needs. Education stakeholders can leverage new forms of coordination and new platforms for connection to help match learners with personalized learning experiences and supports.
Emerging technologies can enable new solutions. Considering technological advancements with an open mind and critical thinking can help education stakeholders identify how to use them to catalyze change effectively and equitably. Cautions include focusing on flash over substance, using new technologies in old ways, and placing technology above relationships.
Taking a systemic perspective can maximize impact. Not every problem can be solved with a new program or tool. Considering the larger systems at work when evaluating solutions can enable leaders to intervene at the right level. Working across sectors can also help foster sustainable systems change.
Examining gridlock can identify leverage points. In education, the pace of change is slow and the forces of inertia are strong. Instead of accepting the intractability of current systems and organizational structures, leaders and innovators can investigate the causes of gridlock for leverage points to influence.
Every big change begins with a single step. Though large-scale change is incredibly difficult, every big idea has a smaller first step. Leaders at every level and in every sector can take action today to begin defining their role in shaping the future of learning.
Every big change begins with a single step. #FutureEd
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For more specific strategies for shaping the future of learning in light of these change management principles, see “Shaping the Future of Learning: A Strategy Guide.” In addition, we would love to know what you would add to this list.
Have you ever met someone who thinks about the world in a different way? I don’t mean someone with different opinions—I mean someone who helps open your mind to new ideas by reframing something simple. Someone whose lens on life helps you understand and engage with the world in new ways. Someone who you really, really, really want to learn from.
I was surrounded by about 500 of those “someones” a few weeks ago. These folks, practitioners and learners who are advancing personalized learning in Wisconsin and 13 other states, came together to share, learn, and engage with one another at Wisconsin’s CESA #1 Institute for Personalized Learning. The convening hit at a time when my mind was already swimming with thoughts of equity, supports, and policy related to personalized learning, and I was thankful to be in a space where those thoughts were met with creative, student-centered ideas— the kind that allows schools to be “bastions of creativity and wonder,” to quote one of the convening’s keynote speakers.
This same keynote speaker, John Spencer, joked about how he was born “in the Ice Age,” but not the Ice Age we usually think about. This was indeed not the canned joke about how he’s “old as an iceberg.” He switched it up. It was the era of Vanilla Ice, Ice T, and Ice Cube, he said. A genius hook, that led to a lot of age-based laughter for those of us born in the same generation. There was more to his joke than just age-related humor, though. With this joke, he immediately framed things differently for us. Precisely because he didn’t use Ice Age to mean what we usually think– boring, old, and tired– he set an expectation for us to think outside the box during the conference.
Voice and choice, making room for new perspectives
“Your voice matters. When you don’t share it with the world, you rob the world of your creativity.”
Based on a fishbowl activity I attended, sometimes that voice means a passion project on potato chips. I participated in one student’s presentation from FLIGHT Academy based on an entire quarter of research on potato chips. He used multiplication to determine how many chips the United States consumes each year, memorized and narrated a YouTube video about the technology of making potato chips, and fed us his homemade version of potato chips having experimented with them at home, where he discovered vinegar is the key ingredient to making them crispy. And you know what? I learned a lot from it. In that moment, I was the student and he was the teacher. This young man helped me think differently about what’s worth studying, and from that I pondered what I might study if I were to do my own passion project.
The term often used for the kind of academic and creative opportunity that allows for passion projects to exist is “student voice and choice.” I learned that voice and choice can exist in many different contexts outside of passion projects. Another breakout session I attended featured students in a high school AP physics course, not exactly something one would expect to have much “voice and choice.” But as it turned out, voice and choice were just as important in their class, it just looked a little different. Each student introduced themselves to us the way they introduce themselves in the class at the beginning of the year. Here’s what we learned about each student:
- Their name
- How they like to access information
- How they like to engage in learning
- How they best express what they have learned
- Their outside interests
- Their aspirations
In the classroom, this meant that Mr. Mo and the other students had a clear understanding of each other from the first day of school. Mr. Mo knew that there were some students who prefer to access information through his lectures, while others had already watched videos online about the topic and were ready to dig in to a project. He knew that they had varying aspirations from medical school to changing the world, and that they expressed what they learned along the way completely differently from their classmates. As a result, he could tailor—reframe, if you will—the experiences of each student in the class so that they truly learned and engaged with the material.
Respecting each other so we can collaborate, so we can learn
In so many ways, the personalized, student-centered learning is about collaboration. Stephan Turnipseed, the second day’s keynote speaker, said this about collaboration: “The heart of collaboration is respect. The mind of collaboration is sharing. If we don’t respect each other, we’ll never learn to share with each other.”
“If we don’t respect each other, we’ll never learn to share with each other.” – Stephan…
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The Institute for Personalized Learning has created a truly collaborative space for professionals. As I think about scaling the work of personalized learning across the country, I think about how important it will be to help policymakers understand the myriad ways creative approaches to education are being implemented in the field.
How can we, as advocates for personalized, student-centered learning…
- Create an environment where policymakers feel empowered to take bold chances on policies that will benefit students by engaging them in ways they have not been allowed to be engaged before?
- Educate policymakers and leaders in all the diverse experiences and aspirations and relationships to learning that each student has?
- Continue to highlight all the “someones” who are helping reframe education for their students?
It starts with collaboration. With respect. With sharing.
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“We haven’t realized that opportunity yet.” What a positive way to approach a future fraught with big uncertainties such as the extent to which today’s workers might be displaced by the automation of cognitive tasks and whether the drive toward customization could undermine our sense of collective connection.
That was the tenor of the conversation about the future of learning at The Education Alliance’s West Virginia Education Summit, Excellence in Education: It’s Everyone’s Business, in October. During my keynote, I described five major areas of change:
- Work and Readiness Redefined – We are going to need to redefine the role of people in the workplace as artificial intelligence and machine learning displace or change jobs, even those involving complex cognitive tasks that we once thought could not be automated.
- Customization and Contribution – In many areas of life, people increasingly expect to engage in authentic and relevant experiences that align with their personal value sets. At the same time, they will need to find the right niche in a complex economic landscape.
- Elastic Structures – Digital tools are combining with a cultural shift toward distributed authority and greater transparency to create new approaches to learning and coordination, including the potential for new educator roles.
- Optimization of Self and Experience – Deepening insight into how the brain works, increasing awareness of social-emotional development, and the proliferation of new tools such as augmented reality, virtual reality, wearables, and sensors will enable us to optimize our performance and deepen our self-knowledge.
- Navigating Change – As work transitions, local economies get disrupted, environmental volatility increases, and people face other challenges, individuals and communities are going to need to develop resilience to respond to rapid change and navigate turbulence.
Not surprisingly, work and readiness redefined stood out as the area most likely to impact learning in West Virginia, with customization and contribution and navigating change tying for second place.These are results of a live poll taken during my session at the Education Summit.
Although the social response to the changes on the horizon was highlighted as a huge and essential question, participants saw many areas of opportunity, among them:
- Build learners’ confidence and skills by using simulations and by connecting with community resources and businesses to create real opportunities for contribution
- Create lifelong learning retooling centers that people can enter and leave as needed
- Draw upon the assets of rural communities when pursuing project- and place-based learning
- Use the move toward customization to support people with disabilities and other challenges more effectively and responsively
- Improve supports for people in poverty, including legislation, advocacy, and education
- Increase diversity and inclusion as work changes
- Enable greater policy flexibility around migrations between physical and online schools
- Orient policy around education over jurisdiction, enabling people to move across school district boundaries to meet educational needs
- Build upon existing programs to spread education innovation.
As one adult participant insisted, “We’ve got to move to a new concept of education” to meet the demands of the emerging era. Perhaps even more powerfully, one of the students present underscored the responsibility of learners to know themselves and find their own ways forward.
What might it mean to make helping learners develop that capacity a key outcome of education?
Guest post by James Murray, the Principal of Waukesha STEM Academy in Waukesha, Wisconsin. James also works in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Educational Doctoral Program in their Personalized-Learning research project [PIP], to align research with application.
At Waukesha STEM Academy, we’re taking the traditional model for a parent-teacher conference and flipping it on its head.
Traditionally, parents-teacher conferences have a parent sitting across the table from a teacher being told what their child is doing well or needs help with. With this model for information sharing, the student is removed from the process. They are not owners of their learning.
At Waukesha STEM Academy, we want students to be able to articulate:
- What it is that they have learned
- Why they have learned it
- How they know they have learned it
- How they have applied this learning in a real-life scenario that will help them down the road to become successful in life and beyond the four walls of a classroom
To help foster our learner-driven environment and maintain the transparency essential to personalized learning, we created our STEM Student Showcases, or S-3 model.
Our goal was for our students to own their learning and demonstrate this ownership by sharing out what they were passionate about, as far as their best work samples and proudest moments. STEMfolios, or digital portfolios, are like a scrapbook of a student’s learning highlights. With carefully crafted, reflective conversations, our advisors and content-team teachers spend time with each student to help facilitate this process.
When we have S-3 evenings, what would traditionally be parent-teacher nights, parents come in and students share their STEMfolios. Our advisors help build context, guide conversations and support and steer feedback sessions. Students able to share why they have chosen certain samples of work, articulate what they have learned and go through next steps. The process and reflective questions are what make S-3 evenings impactful.
In an effort to honor the Learning Independence Continuum, we have also worked to strike a balance between our progressive S-3 model, as well as more traditional models where parents and/or guardians visit our campus and meet one-on-one with content-specific teachers. We know that while many students are able to clearly articulate their successes and areas in need of growth, not all students may be there yet… and that is okay. As students move through the Learning Independence Continuum, we know that they will reach that level of articulation.
As we continue to build learner independence, S-3 evenings are becoming milestone events integrated into the learning experience where connections, communication and growth are a constant
KnowledgeWorks and the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future hosted a webinar, “The Shifting Paradigm of Teaching: How Lessons from the Classroom Inform System Design.” James Murray joined a teacher and district leader to discuss personalized learning. Access the webinar.
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Even if you get excited about the changes on the horizon for learning, it can be hard to make the leap between future vision and current action. Some things that we would like to see for the future can seem daunting or impossible from today’s perspective. Other possibilities for the future can seem so huge that it can be hard to see where to start. Yet today’s systems, institutions, and organizations need to consider how best to respond to a rapidly changing and increasingly complex external environment that will impact operations, give rise to new organizational structures and business models, and shift learners’ expectations.
Shaping the future of learning – especially while managing education today – is hard but necessary work. As one K-12 leader who participated in a recent workshop emphasized, “Ignoring trends shaping the future of education will not stop change from happening. It’s important to have a voice in shaping it.”
To help education stakeholders own their voices in shaping the future of learning, KnowledgeWorks recently released “Shaping the Future of Learning: A Strategy Guide.” Reflecting the insights of over sixty leaders and innovators from K-12 school-based education, informal and community-based learning, and higher education, this strategy guide aims to help people in those education sectors grapple with five foundational issues on the horizon and consider specific strategies for responding to them.
These foundational issues, which present rich opportunities to lead the future of learning in light of KnowledgeWorks’ latest comprehensive future forecast, are depicted below.View a larger version of the Leading the Future of Learning Infographic.
Big picture, each of the education sectors featured in the strategy guide has particular opportunities to address these issues.
- K-12 School-Based Education faces unique challenges relating to student needs, equity, regulatory requirements, and funding but is in a strong position to build upon its current leadership in personalized learning in creating more equitable and learner-centered ecosystems.
- Informal and Community-Based Learning can draw upon its unique offerings of free-choice learning experiences and its relative freedom to help lead the way for more personalized and relevant learning for people of all ages. Despite capacity constraints, this sector can help lead the way toward more interconnected learning ecosystems.
- Higher Education can broaden and diversify learning experiences and supports while incentivizing new practices and innovation amid cultures and structures that tend to well established and slow to change. Clarifying or redefining purpose and outcomes could help both current institutions and new entrants strengthen market niches and meet learners’ needs.
The strategies presented in the guide provide starting points for identifying how your sector and organization might leverage the key opportunities on the horizon. We invite you to explore which ones seem most accessible or most impactful and what tactics might enable you to bring these strategies to life in your context.
As a higher education leader asserted, “We can make the future happen now.” It’s not just that we can; it’s that we must. In the words of one community-based learning leader, “We must stop talking about changing education and start doing it. The world is different – just look around.”
Presidential transitions can be a time of uncertainty and a time of opportunity. At KnowledgeWorks, we believe the new Administration has an incredible opportunity to leverage as it considers a strategy for transforming the nation’s K-12 and higher education systems. Local innovators are eager to advance new ideas for education reform but they need a partner in the federal government willing to empower their visions for reform. In our transition memo, Embracing the Opportunity: Recommendations for Scaling Personalized Learning Under a New Presidential Administration, we offer a set of recommendations for leveraging national momentum to create a flexible, customized education system where every learner succeeds.
We strongly encourage the incoming Trump Administration to prioritize the following ideas in its education agenda. Make sure to view our full transition memo for specific strategies on how to advance each of these ideas.
- Incentivize effective transitions between K–12 and higher education to increase college enrollment and persistence. With only 40% of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolling in college, and one-third of those learners placing into remedial coursework, the new Administration must improve the transition between the nation’s K–12 and higher education systems. A federal strategy must remove barriers to college access and create seamless pathways to attainment of a postsecondary credential and meaningful employment.
- Help states and districts scale K–12 personalized learning systems. The new Administration should partner with the increasing number of State and district leaders who have adopted a vision for personalized learning and have begun the hard work to build student-centered education systems. These leaders can benefit from the flexibility to innovate, the resources to build something new, and national leadership to help them replicate effective strategies at scale.
- Support personalized learning pathways toward a postsecondary credential by making the federal financial aid system more flexible. A new Administration should modernize the federal financial aid system to reflect the realities of today’s postsecondary learner. Traditional 12 credit-a-semester, full-time enrollment in postsecondary education is no longer the norm as individuals increasingly seek access to postsecondary opportunities as early as middle or high school, while working and raising a family, or later in life as part of a career change. We recommend an overhaul of the Federal financial aid system to ensure it is more flexible, better able to address changing career requirements, and reflective of the nation’s increasing interest in personalized education.
- Establish a cross-cutting priority for federal grants focused on personalized learning. A new Administration can help states, districts, and other education stakeholders invest in and expand high-quality personalized learning initiatives by establishing a priority for discretionary grant programs focused on personalized learning. An emphasis on personalized learning will ensure federal resources support high-impact strategies with the potential to close achievement gaps and ensure all students succeed.
We look forward to working with the new Administration to create a policy platform that makes it easier for learners to access high-quality, customized pathways to college and career success. In a time of uncertainty, there is no better strategy than to build on our strengths. By empowering our local innovators, we can turn their energy and dedication into a system that works for all.
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What does it mean to truly succeed in school?
When I was growing up, it was all about the grades. I wanted them, and I wanted them all to be As. I felt that a good report card meant accolades at graduation, a scholarship to college, and a promising future.
But as an adult, what I want for my children, and all learners, is so much more than that. It’s not just about traditional success in school – it’s about acquiring the skills and the behaviors that will translate to success in life. It’s about preparing for jobs that don’t even exist yet. It’s about recognizing that learning doesn’t happen in a bubble, sitting at a desk in a classroom for 12 years, but is a life-long, community-wide experience. But how to begin this work?
That’s why we are providing the opportunity for educators to really consider the near horizon of learning with our latest resource, Shaping the Future of Learning: K-12 School-Based Education Strategy Workbook. Developed from conversations with a handful of the more than 60 educators who participated in workshops that provided the foundation for the strategy guide, this workbook offers real-world examples of work that is being done by educators today to prepare for the future of learning and spaces for educators to reflect on their own practices and aspirations.
In ten years, my oldest daughter will be fourteen years old, and I want her education to reflect and encourage her passions, her curiosity, and her spirit as much as her experiences in preschool do today. I want her to be excited to learn, her teachers to be excited to teach, and her community to play an active and critical role in how, where, and when she learns.
So, what do you think it means to succeed in school? How might your district more broadly capture student voice? What role does the community play in learning?
To consider these questions and more, download our latest resource, Shaping the Future of Learning: K-12 School-Based Education Strategy Workbook.
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