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”,

Scott McLeod’s Seven Components Part Two – Projecting the Impact of Project Based Learning

“Project- and inquiry-based learning environments that emphasize greater student agency and active application of more cognitively-complex thinking, communication, and collaboration skills.”

A professor I had a million years ago, Jack Zevin, of CUNY Queens College once distributed what was an upside map of the then Soviet Union ( I told you it was a million years ago). Nothing of the country, the cities, the rivers and geographic  features were named. He invited each of us to pick any spot on the map and then to describe the culture of the civilization who lived there.

You can imagine the spectrum of skills and knowledge we had to drag out of our frontal cortexes to begin to piece together a theory of the cultural habits of our make believe peoples; the kinds of government they had, their religion, shelters, food, etc. I’m shortchanging the description because it is probably worthy of a blog post of itself.

And that was my own introduction to inquiry based learning. I do recommend his book, Inquiry Experiences in the Classroom. A terrific experience it was, as it changed my whole approach to teaching back then and has impacted my thinking about true, deep thinking ever since.

And that is the first thing I thought of as I pondered Dr. McLeod’s second component of a  future school. I wondered, and I lamented why over forty years later, this call for project and inquiry-based learning that he supports still needs to be called in the first place.

Shouldn’t it have become the rule rather than the exception in our instructional and organizational practices? And why it has not is worthy of blog posts of themselves as well. Nonetheless it is refreshing and assuring that educator – reformers like McLeod see and call for its rule rather than the exception.

Certainly McLeod’s advocacy is tied to his first component, that of Mastery Learning and one could wonder how you could have component one at all without a commitment to component two! For how can learners truly master material and deep thinking without both instructional practice focused on project-based, experientially anchored activities, and school organizational practices meant to train, upgrade and sustain teachers’ collective efforts to reach those same ends.

To be sure there are sources for project-based learning and inquiry. cites these within its literacies. I can think of Mock Trial, Mock U.N., the Odyssey of the Mind competitions, the INTEL competition as examples of deep, experiential learning. However these challenging, thought provoking higher order skills activities are typically restricted to the “gifted” or high achieving youngsters under the illusion, I think, that these are the only kinds of students able to engage such kinds of thinking.

I write to some of these issues in this blog series and to which is about the systemic issues associated with effective school reform. I also speak to experiential teaching in

And so curricula now aspires to Common Core Standards, whose mastery are more nearly assured by recreating instruction in America’s classrooms. That is certainly laudable and maybe not  too late.

And once again as noted in my first post in this reaction to Dr. McLeod’s offering, we can only hope that leadership creates collaborative communities of learners to change the paradigm of teaching from sage on the sage to guide on the side.

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,, 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, 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.

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!




Leadership for a Global Economy

If you’re looking for a textbook or want to read a book re Leadership. Check out book just published where I am co-editor and a co-author, “Leadership for a Global Economy”.

Available through Amazon and North American Business Press.

The Backwards Decision Tree: Truly Making the Common Core Work

If educational decision makers really believe that the Common Core is the Holy Grail for 21st century learning it follows that they want to see that its implementation is both done properly and that its momentum will sustain itself. Momentum, and sustainability of so-called educational reforms are not usually what characterizes educational planning.

One way to future-proof its implementation would be to use a Decision Tree. That is, there are processes leaders can use to anticipate a future and can help leaders build toward that preferable future. Clearly this recurring theme is anchored once again in both how we perceive what our future will be and what we consider the basic function of education is in the first place.

You can, you see, build toward that preferable future if you think about the control you have over it.

This Common Core push is partially attributed to I think, by the recognition that what we are teaching now is mostly “empty calories”, that is, teaching that does not prepare the learner for the future at hand.

The best future careers according to, by Glen Craig and taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics are

– Healthcare

– Engineering

– Technology

– Education

– Entrepreneurs

– Sales

Distill these needs. Of course in each case each profession requires a content / knowledge base. Then go deeper. Each profession requires that their practitioners can think on their feet, problem solve, collaborate, and create.

Marie O’ Doherty, a Common Core Standards Specialist for Sachem Schools pointed out to me that ” “for students to be ready for college, workforce training and life in a technological society, they must be able to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, and report on information, and ideas.”

We also know that future workers will likely change jobs at least four times across their work career. If that is so, and it seems likely that it is then we find yet another justification for getting deeper into the Common Core expectations than I suspect they are being currently implemented as. By that I mean, schools may be putting CCS into place and are also hopefully providing accompanying professional development, yet the quality of the both implementation and training may yet be cursory and superficial!

Therefore to make it work and make it last true edufuturing planning must be used.


Basically you work your future backward. That is, you envision the future that you prefer factored against and with your estimation of trends and developments in the future. Then you work backward from that.

Let me give you an example…

In 2014 I will be 25 pounds less than I weigh right now in February 2013.

So, in March 2013 I will lose 3 pounds. In April 2013 I will lose 3 pounds. And so on.

Of course understand that this is (while really difficult for yours truly) a very simple example. What’s missing for example is that in February 2013 I probably should also decide on a plan to lose that 3 pounds a month and factor that in. For example,

In February 2013 I will join a gym and go there 5 times a week for an hour a day.

In March 2013 I will increase my water intake by 50 % and reduce fats by 10%.

This plan obviously has more meat on it (no pun intended).

An EduFuture example:

By 2015 Common Core Standards implementation in 2013 will result in an increased graduation rate of 5%. (You can argue the quality of the preferred future I cite, it is meant as an example)

How would you train a group of stakeholders to think this way? How would you hold their hands to the fire?

Work backwards. If you mean to use CCS as a basis for increasing the graduation rate what must you do in 2014? What must you do NOW?

Trilaboration: When the Lines Among Higher Education, Corporations, and Research Centers Blur

Rick Docksai, associate editor of THE FUTURIST and World Future Review ( has reviewed Jerome and Theodore Gordon and Elizabeth Fiorescu’s book, 2012, State of the Future, which is part of The Millennium Project (www.millennium project) in the latest edition of THE FUTURIST.

Docksai apparently rightfully praises The Millennium Project for its “forward-thinking global scholarship” and cites several insights that the book offers.

As you’d expect I scoured his review for something directly slated toward education’s future. I did note one however “stretched” that did seem to allude to education: “Companies, universities, and research centers will increasingly form partnerships and cooperation networks, combining their expertise to bring new advancements in nanotechnology, photonics, advanced manufacturing, and other areas of endeavor to fruition.”

A couple of things struck me. One was that the quote above more or less affirms what I offered in the previous post, namely that education and economic endeavors will be even more entwined than they are now. On one hand I find this a laudable development in that it only makes sense that learned and expert minds will find ways to Trilaborate to invent new technologies for society’s advancement.

And the other hand it also is clear that the lines among higher education, companies, and research centers become even more blurred. One obvious, potential negative future that could emerge out of this sort of Trilaboration would be how or to what extent higher education might be compromised by the financial power of super-companies. Does higher education become subservient to the super – companies’ economic and profit aims?

Now think about the system that feeds those Trilaborators. Follow it backward down the system chronology. If Higher Education’s aims and visions become twined with Research Centers and Super Corporations doesn’t that also mean that Universities will demand that their K-12 feeder systems send them students likely with the capacity and the talents to feed the Three-Headed Monster?

What kind of Common Core Standards would we be talking about then?