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 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 (esboces.org). 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!

Broccoli vs Mathematics? STEM and Minority Populations

Special Note: Much thanks to three of my St. John’s University students, Wilfredo Abrahante, Kim Casaburi, and Tanya Weisberger for contributing to this blog entry!
 
 
 
The Raytheon Co., one of Massachusetts’ leading employers of STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics)  professionals, conducted a survey of 1,000 middle school students across the country and asked them if they preferred doing math homework or eating broccoli. The winner, with 56 percent of the vote was … broccoli.
 
We could certainly future THAT tidbit lots of ways. For one thing it certainly suggests a DIStaste for mathematics that supersedes the general perception of youngsters’ preference for broccoli.
 
If this is true, and if other potential negative assumptions generate about American education from this, what does this suggests about education’s impact on our ability to maintain a leading role in the 21st century global economy?
 
Consider other related facts:
 
Black and Latinos, compared to Asians and whites, only have about half as many post secondary college degrees.
 
The Center for American Progress and the Center for the Next Generation released a joint report showing that more than half of U.S. postsecondary students drop out without receiving a degree.
 
When it comes to STEM jobs, the pipeline issue is complicated further. The U.S. Department of Commerce projected that in the decade leading up to 2018, STEM occupations would grow by 17 percent, compared with 9.8 percent growth for all other occupations.
 
 Across the country, across all occupations, there are 3.6 people for every one job. In STEM fields, there is one person for every 1.9 jobs.
 
Employers can’t find the talent to fill these jobs, which is even more surprising considering that the U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that the median salary for engineering majors was the highest of any profession.
 
Supply is low and demand is high.
 
There is a mismatch between projected future jobs requiring STEM skills and the projected supply of qualified workers to fill them.
 
Minorities and women are highly under-represented in STEM occupations.
What are we going to do?

Readers of this blog know that a skill of Futuring certainly involves studying trends. And one undeniable trend is the accelerating rate of immigration from Hispanic countries to the United States. In addition the birth rate of the current Hispanic population in the United States suggests that by roughly mid century that set of ethnic groups will be the majority in the country.

A metaphor comes to mind … If the decision makers, educational and political, do not make concerted efforts to include all minority populations, including females of all ethnicities, in quality education that gives STEM subjects its proper due, it would be tantamount to playing baseball with one arm tied behind out collective backs. In other words, we would be limiting / hampering our entire country’s ability to continue to be the economic and social power we presume ourselves to be.

So if you don’t take this as a moral imperative at least consider this as an economic one.

The cross impact matrix below, certainly not a complete one, projects certain probable futures and how these could impact our country in a variety of ways. Use it to project your own futures.

More importantly use it to chart PREFERRED futures!

POSSIBLE FUTURE MINORITIES UNITED STATES US WORKERS US ECONOMY
INCREASED NEED FOR STEM JOBS IF IGNORED RELEGATED TO UNSKILLED LABOR NEED TO DEVELOP REAL PLAN FOR ENCOURAGING TRAINING IN CAN ONLY KEEP ECONOMY GOING IF ADJUSTMENTS MADE WIIL DECLINE IF PROPER ATTENTION IS NOT DEVOTED
OUT PERFORMED BY OTHER COUNTRIES WILL COMPETE WITH OTHERS FOR LOW PAY JOBS MAY DEVELOP SHORT SIGHTED PLANS WILL SUFFER FOR LACK OF PLAN AND WILL WILL SUFFER IN ALL ASPECTS
LACK OF CONCERTED EFFORT TO ENCOURAGE STEM EDUCATION BECOME A PERPETUAL UNDERCLASS ISSUE BECOMES A POLITICAL FOOTBALL BECOME VICTIMS TO POOR PLANNING MUST SEEK OTHER FORMS OF VIABILITY
LACK OF CONCERTED EFFORT TO INCLUDE MINORITIES PERPETUAL UNDERCLASS COULD LEAD TO SOCIAL UNREST ELITE FEW HAVE PROSPERITY DIVIDED BETWEEN HAVES AND HAVE NOTS LACK OF DIRECTION SPIRALS DOWNWARD