Schools Should Worry

I just read an article by EdWeek entitled:  “The Future of Work Is Uncertain:  Schools Should Worry Now”.

Weren’t we already worrying?

The article contains a graph that explains how the future may innovate and delete current jobs in favor of automation.

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What were politicians worrying about when they made many of the changes over the past decade?

I see some major, preventable flaws in the current environment surrounding public education.

  1. Politicians create policies that cripple public education.  Some policies are prohibitive; others do not have to be.
  2. Within that, some local administrators interpret state/federal policies in ways that prohibit innovation and progress and diminish educators.

Solution?  Choose administrators wisely.

  • Some will interpret literally, snuffing out motivation to innovate and preventing progress. They will fail to give permission for their teachers to move into the future. They will use evaluation to create unhealthy competition and punishment.
  • Others will remain minimally compliant, multiplying the talent that surrounds them . They will use evaluation for growth and improvement.  They will give permission for their teachers to do what is best for their kids and the future.
  • Both groups will avoid lawsuits.  Only one will prepare our kids for the future.   

    Let’s stop talking and start doing.

    Delete the fear!









Hacking Simple Systems: The Tale of an Incomplete Soccer Uniform

” This blog post explores the latter: systems redesign as not just a means to innovate but as a means to make due, be resourceful, and get by as a mom.” Being scrappy and making things work within the current context is the only way new initiatives will thrive.

Making Thinking Happen

All dressed up but not quite ready to go. Tatum's daughter showed up for the first day of soccer practice wearing a party dress and sparkly flats. What to do? All dressed up but not quite ready to go: Tatum’s daughter showed up for the first day of soccer practice wearing a party dress and sparkly flats. What to do?

By Tatum Omari, Guest Author

When I used to think about systems redesign, and what would inspire a person to redesign something in the first place, images of super smarties standing next to state of the art tech contraptions immediately came to mind. Now that I’ve had a chance to work with Agency by Design as a member of the Oakland Learning Community, I realize that systems are everywhere. There are high tech systems, such as the parts and pieces that go together to make your car start in the morning, and low tech systems, say the parts and pieces that go together to transform your child into a soccer player. This blog post explores the latter: systems…

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Beyond Niche Learning

Daniel Perkins frames the Future of Learning

Daniel Perkins frames the Future of Learning

Harvard Graduate School of Education hosted the Future of Learning Conference .  While I was not fortunate to attend, I did follow the twitter discussion (#hgsefol and #hgsepzfol).  I discovered a presentation by David Perkins.

Elements of the presentation include a discussion of the future of learning:

The Six Beyonds (above).  

  • Beyond Local
  • Beyond Content
  • Beyond Topics
  • Beyond Prescribed Studies
  • Beyond Discrete Disciplines
  • Beyond the Traditional Disciplines

What kind of learning?

Niche learning:  understanding the process of mitosis

Lifeworthy learning:  Studying communicable disease and how they are spread

Reimagine education with much less niche learning~ David Perkins


Why Do I Need To Learn This?


An article by Audrey Waters, Is Math Education Too Abstract  , on Mindshift discusses the idea that the typical way of teaching math over time is not the most effective.  Water pulls from an op-ed article by Sol Garfunkel and David Mumford:  

“Today,” they write, “American high schools offer a sequence of algebra, geometry, more algebra, pre-calculus and calculus (or a “reform” version in which these topics are interwoven). This has been codified by the Common Core State Standards, recently adopted by more than 40 states. This highly abstract curriculum is simply not the best way to prepare a vast majority of high school students for life.  The authors contend that the “traditional” math curriculum focuses too much on abstract reasoning and abstract skills. “Imagine replacing the sequence of algebra, geometry and calculus with a sequence of finance, data and basic engineering,” they suggest.

Audrey’s central question:

“But does thinking about “applied mathematics” mean necessarily that we have to steer clear of algebra and calculus as their own units in math education? Does putting math in context mean that we cannot teach math in abstract?”

The answer seems clear to me:

we need both the pieces and the whole.

There are many sound reasons for teaching the elements and the contexts in which the elements live.   Addressing BOTH is important; doing so is:

  • relevant
  • comprehensive
  • engaging
  • it takes knowing to understanding
  • it allows one to do something with their personal understanding

If we teach the elements and the whole, and  do it well, we will get many questions.   This  will not be one of them:

Why do I need to learn this?

If the Shoe Fits: Nurturing an Ecology

In a recent post, I highlighted an integrated plan for change that was created by one thoughtful staff at a public elementary school.  While the plan was created by the staff, based on their unique needs, it includes (as a vehicle for change) several “programs”.   Rollout can happen in one of two very different ways:    
  • We can “install” the system as a shiny, dangly “new” initiative
  • We can “build” the system within the current , complex ecology

The subtle, but important,  difference between the two methodologies is important to understand.  People do not embrace change if it is too bulky, too rigid, too boring or laborious.  Change must be graceful, even when it is somewhat disruptive.  

For lasting change, we must build upon the good things that are already happening within the school ecology.

I have written about The Genius of And and the false dichotomies that plague education.  I challenge people to step back and to modify how they view new initiatives.  They must be roomy enough to integrate what already is with what can be.

If the shoes fit, people will wear them.

An Integrated Plan for Change

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A thoughtful plan for improvement from an elementary school in Michigan

I had great fortune to work with a great school principal to discuss how we might support her school with one of its identified needs.   The picture is a visual representation of  the principal’s work with her staff over the past year to identify overarching needs and then engage in collective  inquiry around innovating change for the students.

The principal lead her staff  through a process whereby she built consensus to solve the identified problems.  Collaborative teams were formed and the focus was on learning.  The comprehensive, integrated plan for improvement includes a roll-out schedule for professional learning and implementation of the interventions articulated.  We were very impressed with how everything came together to support the identified needs.  Implementing this in a careful and thorough manner without taking on too much at once will be this school’s challenge.

In her article, Central Office Support for Learning Communities (embedded in Richard DuFour’s article Building a professional Learning Community)  Rebecca DuFour addresses the discouragement that comes from “disconnected, fragmented, competing initiatives generated from numerous central-office departments”.  Dufour makes two recommendations to central office administrators:  

” limit the number of new initiatives and coordinate the array of central office services”

This dedicated  elementary  school is in a position to innovate change effectively because they did the hard work first.   They will be able to refer to their overarching goals at all times to help them stay on track during implementation, monitoring and modeling of the work.

Slide Rules and the Golden Handshake


When Engineers Thought Slide Rules Were Cool

My father was an engineer from the 50’s through late 80’s.  The slide rule and a very fine, black, felt-tipped pen were his tools.

And then technology took the engineering field by the neck and drug it into the future with a fury.  My dad, however, resisted.  I’m quite certain he was clenching the slide rule in the other hand when his company gently urged him out with a golden handshake.

I wish he knew then how much he would have loved the computer.  

Fast forward to 2010.  Meet Dan Brown.  He  dropped out of college and created this video.   Dan believed that time spent in school interfered with his learning.

created by Pogobat

created by Pogobat

“We are in the midst of a very real revolution.  If institutional education refuses to adapt to the landscape of the information age, it WILL die and it SHOULD die.”

I think of this often as a person dedicated to providing quality,  relevant professional learning to special educators.  I am deeply concerned about educators being  leaders in the information age.   If they are leading our children into the future, how can they do this “unplugged”?

 What are the benefits of using technological tools to support learning?  There are many.

First on the list:  Students like it.  They use it.  

Further, it:

  • facilitates making  connections and  reflection
  •  filters and manages information
  • supports collaborative dialogue (globally, with people who don’t look like them)
  • helps students persuade
  • allows students to synthesize, create, display,

But it isn’t the tool itself.   Good lesson design always starts with “WHY”.    We don’t “do” activities.  We TEACH concepts and facilitate the learning.  The tool is a swift facilitator.  It  “comes” engaging.   It isn’t  going away.  Shouldn’t educators LEAD this?

“There’s nothing magical about any tech tool.  The real MAGIC rests in the minds and hearts of the teachers using digital tools to introduce students to new individuals, ideas and opportunities.”  Bill Ferriter, The Gadget Happy Classroom

But the key is:  you have to USE them to know when they will (or will not) support the thinking and learning in your classroom.  Why are many people resistent?  Here is what I’ve heard:  “it’s too much”; “there are too many gadgets to weed through”; “technology isn’t the panacea”;

 As Clay Shirky says:  

“Do you think “information overload” is just another excuse for why folks aren’t getting things done? What kind of filters do you have in place to keep yourself from getting snowed under?”

It seems many people cope with easy access to most all  information by taking themselves out of the game altogether.

That IS a filter failure.  Ultimately, the students will lose.  Will we allow ourselves to opt for the golden handshake, literally (or figuratively)?

Educators must stay ahead of  (or with) the students through professional learning.  Deleting technology is a mistake because it is the tool for the future.  

The students and new teachers know this.  Do you?