The Sum of McLeod’s Seven Key Components

McLeod finishes his post by asking “What did I miss here? What would you revise or add to this list? Most importantly, how well is your school organization doing at paying attention to these 7 key components of future learning environments?”


Dr. McLeod’s question rings many bells for this researcher.

1. To what extent are school organizations aware of these components as vital to a futures-based school?

Have school leadership recognized the value of these components? Have they been made aware of their link with the needs of a new educational system?

2. To what extent are school organizations consciously practicing implementing these components?

How can we gauge the extent to which these components are in play? Where? Why?

3. Which is the most practiced component?

Why is this component more likely to be operable?

4. Which is the least practiced component?

Why is this component least likely to be operable?

5. Is there a correlation among these components and recognized exemplary futures based schools?

Perhaps some of these components combine more strongly to contribute to exemplary futures-based schools?

6. What are the factors that encourage school organizations to put these components in place?

Perhaps there are other conditions of leadership and systems thinking at play that must be in place to make these components flourish?

7. What are the factors that discourage school organizations from putting these components in place?

Perhaps there are other conditions of leadership and systems thinking at play that obstruct putting these components in place?

Who would like to contribute to constructing such a study?

An Eighth Pillar to Scott McLeod’s Seven Pillars of a Future School

Having done my best to comment to Dr. McLeod’s seven pillars of a future school (MFS), I’d like to add one more:

Simulations and problem-based learning experiences that foster students’ ability to engage in authentic, real-world work. (hat tip: Trent Grundmeyer)

I spend much time speaking to the values of simulations and experiential learning in another blog; and refer you to that.

However it’s also likely that the premise of experiential learning is woven into most if not all, in one way or the other, of Dr. McLeod’s principles.

Here, I will make the case to emphasize this approach as a particularly vital cornerstone of what FMS should look like.

Perhaps Renzulli’s Triad best complements what I am talking about. Renzulli divides instructional components into three parts; content and basic skills, process thinking, and real world experiential learning.

Ideally the last segment, real world learning involves students in project based approaches that are translated and applied to real world – out-of-school needs, like ecology, social, and political issues.

Simulations, including single computer based, internet based, and classroom based are the ideal bases for the third leg of Renzulli’s triad, especially in those many instances when it is not practical to actually engage students in out of school problems.

An emphasis on using these strategies as a centerpiece of the instructional arsenal of a school would have systemic ripples across all targeted learning goals for students lucky enough to be in MFS.

It’s interesting to me that Renzulli’s triad has been a model for so called gifted programs around the country for a long time. It’s pleasing to me that his fundamental components are finally being recognized for their value for all students.

My last post about MFS will try to capture and synthesize all of what MFS can and should mean to students yet unborn.

Scott Mc Leod’s Seventh Pillar – Changing How We Credential Teachers

“Alternative credentialing mechanisms that enable individuals to quickly deskill for and adapt to rapidly-evolving workforce needs and economic trends.”

There’s an Italian saying that goes something like this,,,,, “dietro logia”. It means “the message behind the music.” In Italy I’m told it is a kind of art form. An example might be that someone comes up to you and says, “I see you washed your hair today.” Hmm, what is the message behind the music? Does she mean that she is glad I washed my hair today because I don’t wash it often enough?!

I had to apply a little dietro logia behind Dr. McLeod’s seventh, and on his list, his last pillar for MFS. What did he mean by this? I’ve taken it to mean that he believes that credentialing systems we currently have in place are too slow, not proactive enough, to create ways to license or better put, re-license teachers in new and perhaps more relevant content and skills areas as workforce needs and economic trends may dictate.

Another complementary possibility might be that we say once and for all that the bulk of our schooling-expectations are about our citizenry’s ability to compete economically and quite frankly, earn a living. We’ve dealt with how or what we want our schooling to be in previous posts, ( see What Does the EduFuture Want? What Does it Demand?) so you can review that and others to ground where you may be.

Other issues can be inferred from Dr. McLeod’s seventh pillar. Does it follow that his advocacy for teachers’ re-credentialing to more nearly and more quickly aligning with newer job demands as future may dictate, suggest that we need to restructure our schooling system, perhaps akin to European systems like Germany. There are other examples internationally too, but basically most European systems have mechanisms in place that slot students into technical, (the old word was vocational), or academic paths.

For the most part we don’t do this in the United States. Academic graduation requirements are essentially cookie cutter for students of all abilities and all strengths. It is noteworthy though that Career and Technical Education programs are being funded and supported in many regional education agencies across the country. Where I live, Eastern Suffolk BOCES is a good example ( And they are actively collaborating with my university (St. John’s),to support doctoral research in this regard.

In any case, McLeod’s seventh pillar makes complete sense. Its implementation suggests a fluidity of thinking and a proactive mindset that any MFS would absolutely need.

Scott McLeod’s Sixth Pillar – Individualization of Learning Content and Pace

“Adaptive software systems that enable individualization of learning content and pacing.”

I really wish I had thought of calling the school of the future that incorporates Dr. McLeod’s seven pillars MFS (McLeod Future School) right from the beginning of this blog series!🙂

The sum of the strands of his futures thinking continues with a sophisticated thread. The thread appears to be to use technology to refine what good schools should be doing in the first place.

Among these are;

– elevate curricula and the instructional strategies that deliver them

– create and expect collaborative communities

– truly adjust to the needs of the individual learner

McLeod’s sixth pilar, individualization of learning content and pace clearly fits with the third point above.

A question, probably an age-old one might be, “Why hasn’t this already happened?” I’d offer that we educators have talked this talk since Fred Flintstone but have never really walked it.

The truth is that it is very hard to individualize content, skills’ levels, and pacing in classes and this is obviously compounded by the number of students in a teacher’s class. Efforts like packets of learning, learning contracts, computerized instruction. homogenous grouping, even a special education youngster’s individualized educational plan, generally in my experience anyway, fail to sustain themselves. And what we usually see, even when students are somehow ability grouped, is that the teacher aims his shotgun – instructional techniques at the middle of the class and hopes that the teaching pellets spray out wide enough to somehow “nick” everybody, at least most of the time.

While I’ve not the answer here, I certainly endorse Dr. McLeod’s sixth pillar. It just seems that we can do this in MFS. Maybe it will be a consequence of the other pillars he has offered and that we have parsed thus far. I suspect strongly, that technology will perhaps provide the future highly trained and skilled teacher to use data about children differently than how we now haphazardly use them. I also strongly hope that MFS will have leadership, both at the principal level and collectively, that will create new kinds of organizational structures, to drive a culture of expectation and of mutual accountability among educators to actually individualize and pace skills and content effectively and longitudinally.

Broken record that I am,( hmm, am I dating myself? There were things like records once that, when broken would continuously play back the same message🙂 ,having said this several times already, MFS might be responsible for implementing the technological structure and capacity to do what we talk to above. It would even have responsibility for maintaining a culture of expectation for individualization of content and skills pacing. It would even have a responsibility for providing continuous professional development to MFS’ crack staff.

However, thinking systemically, the real responsibility for making sure that staff has the requisite skills and dispositions to manage this into their teaching should clearly fall to the schools of education who produce future’s teachers. Just recently Larry Cuban wondered aloud about the quality of schools of education, notwithstanding national collegiate accreditation agencies of schools of education’s prodigious efforts to produce excellent teachers.

The effective and systems – pervading practices for school district’s and higher education’s collaboration to do this have been more a matter of talking that walk than walking it.

Scott McLeod’s Fifth Pillar of a School of the Future – Online Communities

Dr. McLeod offers;

“Online communities of interest that supplement and augment more-traditional learning communities that are limited by geography and time.”

Such opportunities! Have we finally evolved to recognize that a thoughtful systemic plan to not only provide for but expect that teachers and learners would, can, and should catalyze each other to

– exchange and critically examine points of view

– invite and parse varieties of information sources for true inquiry

– create “critical masses” of valid and useful conclusions and actions

by using online communities sources.

At this writing what is below, one way or the other, and woven in any number of threads and strands can have a productive place in McLeod’s Future School. MFS🙂

These would be; wikis, blogs, hangouts, Face Time and Skype technologies,podcasts, and what is coming to be called social media, although in another blog post I will call it by what I prefer to call it, Web 3.0. N.B. I didn’t forget 2.0, we will talk about this too!

As with the other pillars we have thus far commented about, McLeod Future School’s  (MFS!)  co-planners will run afoul and fail unless they provide a systems infrastructure that will include curricula for self – management skills; visual literacy skills, and for inquiry / analytical dialoguing skills.

This will require extensive and ongoing teacher training that would help the teachers lucky enough to work in MFS to be masters at incorporating creative classroom management strategies, higher order expectations, real-world grounded projects; and a sophisticated set of formative self guided assessment structures so that the students, individually, and in groups, can monitor their own mastery of twenty first century skills and content.

Can’t wait!

Scott McLeod’s Fourth Pillar of a Future School

Continuing Dr. Mc Leod’s conversation about the seven pillars of the future school, let’s examine his fourth assertion, “The expansion of digital and online (and often open access) information resources that increase the availability of higher and deeper learning opportunities.”, will be an essential component.

I take his point to mean that he foresees that the flow of information sources, often structured into courses of learning (aka MOOCs) will not only need to be recognized and properly channeled into any future learning system, but also need to be a springboard for different expectations for learning than we currently have.

Notwithstanding some of the disillusionment that the present wave of MOOCs have recently sparked, they will not go “away”. They will be improved, restructured and become a fixture in our education system in any of a combination of several ways:

Higher Education: Online, hybrid courses have increasingly become popular in lieu of or in addition to traditional college degree course offerings. Research about these courses’ viability is generally favorable not withstanding the birthing pains many appear to be experiencing right now.

Adult (lifelong?) Education: Individuals who already have degrees or who have new interests can now readily access sources like Coursera and ITunes U to learn new languages, new skills, sharpen old ones, and perhaps transfer these to the marketplace and / or to their employment options.

– Professional Development: School districts’ obligation to support their teachers’ development, especially in light of the kinds of expectations teachers have,  often requires that districts use a variety of ways to deliver both individualized and small group instruction. The increased availability of online and open source learning will require fine tuning for continuous sustainability.

– Become an additional venue by which students will learn: Creative educational systems sometimes of necessity, other times out of a drive for innovative program design,  have used distance learning approaches for some time. The opportunities to expand this are clear.

How would teacher preparation be different? Would students be expected to master a new set of critical thinking competencies that would help them filter inaccurate, untrustworthy, even malicious content?  How would we assess students’ ability to master futures – based literacies? Would the school look physically different? Would parents and would faculty have a “schooled” voice in how the school’s curricula would be spiraled? Where would real-world student projects and products fit?

So what would a School of the Future look like if it didn’t make systemic provision for open online learning sources in its instructional delivery and learning expectations?

So what would a School of the Future look like if it did make systemic provision for open online learning sources in its instructional delivery and learning expectations?

One to One Computing as the Third Pillar of Future Schools

The joy and perhaps the bane of implementing technology embedded instruction is that the moment the shovel  goes into the ground the hardware and technology used are likely obsolete before too long. The latter is clearly the “bane” in that the planners and spenders really can’t keep up with the advances and improvements of technology that tumble over each other.

But the joy is the discovery that there is a NEW technology, a NEW capacity that when properly used and properly put in place can unleash and perhaps accelerate learning, at minimum motivate and drive learners, at best, be more effective than the old manners of teaching.

Dr. McLeod’s advocacy for one to one computing’s system wide implementation in our schools of the future has incredible promise for tomorrow’s students. The range of possibilities one to one computing has for students, to both propel and impel their learning curiosities, to help them create new learning is clear to those who have seen it in action.

Maslow spoke to the hierarchy of needs through which all people might pass. It starts with meeting a person’s individual, most basic needs like being fed, and being kept warm. I sometimes think of technological innovations’ implementation as Maslow’ first level. In other words, if a new technological approach is to take place all the basic needs, starting with proper planning for the infrastructure’s implementation and ending with a sustainable, infused, highly personalized professional development plan must be accounted for.

We in education have all been victims of the innovation du jour, you know, whatever new change that may have come down the pike and now is hailed as the Holy Grail of educational practice. And we have all been victims when the innovation has fallen flat on its face, not necessarily on the change’s merit or lack thereof, so much as the poor planning and leadership that was not invested to ensure that the change might actually have had a chance to succeed.

So yes, Dr. McLeod’s third feature of a school of the future, one to one computing, is a vital variable in this school’s effectiveness. And yes, even while we speak of the future, we are obligated to remember history by hearkening to Santayana’s assertion that          “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”,