Moving on Down the Line

This blog has been dormant for some time and it is no one’s fault but mine. I think perhaps I was discouraged by the overall lack of interest and readership it did not generate. The word “it” is really unfair though since “it”, a blog idea and series of posts, does not write “it”-self. Rather “its” success insofar as how it informs and influences thinking and creates community, rests with the extent to which the author catalyzes like – minded readers to want to read more of what he is offering.

No one will read this post in order to find out the reasons for the blog’s failure and imminent demise. Sloth, distraction and other professional distractions, other chores, and other gods to serve, are certainly culprits, in addition to the discouragement noted above.

But what I want to do may be of interest to those with likeminded concerns and interests that I have discovered in a variety of ways in the past few months. In other words there are other would-be edufuturists out there who are very interested in each other’s thinking and who selflessly seek to magnify each other’s ideas for the sake of the leaders and teachers who shape students’ futures. I have found them through the help of social media and especially through the help of friends and former students who have steered me to these places.

I published a book two months ago: Futures Based Change Leadership: A Formula for Sustained Change Capacity; < that encodes much of my thinking about how to create school organizations grounded in the future and empowered with the skills and dispositions to sustain their successful continuance.

I am going to start a new blog with that book’s title and use the book as the basis for informing and advocating the principles it offers to help edufuturists recognize their preferable futures. More that I am hopeful too that I can use it to create a community who will actively activate each other to add to its principles so that we can co – create something better than we already have.

My only lament in closing this blog down is that there is some pretty good thinking in this present blog that I don’t want to throw out with the bath water. So from time to time I will retrieve a nugget from these entries and weave them back into the futures-based conversations I hope to have.

Thanks to those who read and followed this blog. Please follow me to the new blog! Futures Based Change Leader.

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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?”

http://dangerouslyirrelevant.org/2013/08/7-building-blocks-for-the-future-of-schools.html

 

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?

bernator@stjohns.edu

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; http://seriousgamesdotme.wordpress.com 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 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!

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”,

Seven Components for a School of the Future … Part One

I often use the quote, “None of us is as smart as all of us.” Various people are attributed to the quote. The latest I ran across is that it is an old Japanese proverb. It means what it sounds like, that when everyone contributes and collaborates about something the group is trying to solve, the solution they multi-generate will be better than a solution that was unilaterally developed by one or two people.

As I’ve pointed out in other posts, there should be a corollary to the quote and that is, “except when we are not so smart together.” That translates to the notion that a group may not necessarily be so smart together if they don’t know how to be smart together.

That is why I particularly enjoyed Dr. Scott McLeod’s blog post a few weeks back, http://dangerouslyirrelevant.org/2013/08/7-building-blocks-for-the-future-of-schools.html, where he poses some really intriguing ideas about what educational movements are driving what a school of the future, whether it be built from the ground up, or restructured will look like, and invites others to continue to contribute to the very important conversation he has begun!

And with his permission I am doing that within this blog. Certainly you are invited to respond to what I will pose here and / or to Dr. McLeod’s  very excellent blog.

….

I taught a Planning and Change course to brand new doctoral students at St. John’s University this past weekend. Their capstone assignment is to design a school of the near future ( I said 2020 but who’s counting). After much exchange, a simulation, reviewing trend data, and reading case studies they began their preliminary group work.

They have done a good job thus far and will do a better job after having factored McLeod’s ideas below:

  1. Competency-based education and standards-based grading efforts that shift the focus from seat time to learning mastery.
  2. Project- and inquiry-based learning environments that emphasize greater student agency and active application of more cognitively-complex thinking,communication, and collaboration skills.
  3. 1:1 computing initiatives (and concurrent Internet bandwidth upgrades) that give students powerful digital learning devices and access to the world’s information, individuals, and organizations.
  4. The expansion of digital and online (and often open access) information resources that increase the availability of higher and deeper learning opportunities.
  5.  Online communities of interest that supplement and augment more-traditional learning communities that are limited by geography and time.
  6. Adaptive software and data systems (and accompanying organizational models) that can facilitate greater individualization of learning content and pace.
  7. Alternative credentialing mechanisms that enable individuals to quickly reskill for and adapt to rapidly-evolving workforce needs and economic demands.
  8.  ADDED: Simulations and problem-based learning experiences that foster students’ ability to engage in authentic, real-world work. (hat tip: Trent Grundmeyer)

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?”

Well here are my thoughts:

– Re competency based education:

Many of these suggestions accent the need to think P-21. That is, while P-12 school systems may certainly have the systemic obligation to continuously upgrade the skills of their teachers and administrators particularly with respect to the ever evolving necessary competencies for excellent instruction, it is also true that Higher Education bears a specific set of responsibilities to graduate teacher candidates who have both practiced and mastered the requisite competencies Mc Cleod speaks to, and also have the intellectual and dispositional capacities to learn new skills as the need for these present themselves.

That is a long sentence I know but it is rife with real issues, issues that have been spoken to from both the K-12 and Higher Education ends before.

School systems we often hold up as exemplars, like Singapore and Finland typically hire teachers who are in the top ten percent of their classes. In the United States our teacher candidates come from the the top two thirds of their classes.

One could argue that perhaps the yardsticks for top ten percent and top two thirds are not the same. But few would disagree that we aspire to create teacher candidates who have shown the abilities to be excellent, effective instructors.. To that end accrediting agencies of schools of education, most notably NCATE and TEAC, have worked hard to establish high standards and rigorous processes to evaluate the quality of schools of education. We can be hopeful that their leadership will contribute to graduating excellent teacher candidates. We have to hope they will have the skills and capacity to carry out many of the components Dr. Mc Cleod notes.

Perhaps the next question would then be whether and to what extent K-12 systems and schools of education have evolved system of continuous collaboration and improvement. Are the structures for ongoing alignment in place?

The most important part of Mc Cleod’s first suggestion is about shifting the emphasis from seat time to individual mastery for students. Of itself this is a massive mind shift both for our present instructional systems and for the parents of students in our present systems, parents who are not accustomed at all to this kind of thinking since they endured, failed at, or succeeded in the “old” seat time system.

Who takes the leadership, what kind of leadership, what kind of communication skills, what sorts of leadership competencies to generate true shared vision and commitment among all stakeholders, are in place so that everyone understands and buys into the richness of the premise that our future students are best served by concentrating on their individual mastery of real, P12.org literacies instead of adding up the amount of time their bottoms warmed a seat.?

You know what? I’ve decided that Dr. Mc Cleod’s ideas are too strong and too provocative to take in one blog post. So this blog post will have drawn from his first premise and succeeding ones will follow.