I had the wonderful opportunity to attend ISTE18 in Chicago where forward-thinking educators and vendors come together to learn, network, dream, and reflect. The experience was an occasion to be surrounded by the innovative, those who are iterating on current practices and tools and those who are creating the completely new. The enhancements to personalized and interactive learning through virtual and augmented reality are noteworthy. The tools to develop early learning skills such as sequencing through basic coding applications for K-2 students are inspiring. The shift that has already happened in private industry and the systemic disconnect with pedagogical practices was astonishing.
There continues to be a draw to the “shiny.” We like app smashing. We like tools that save time. Yet, we struggle to connect these to creating knowledge among adult and child learners that shift us from consumers to creators of content that is relevant to building contemporary skills, fluency, and meaningful learning applications that align with what our students need to be successful in the workforce. There is a continuing struggle to simultaneously develop these skill sets as well as those necessary to perform well on the standardized tests our society values as a measure of a student and school’s success.
With that in mind, presentations by Carl Hooker and Brianna Hodges and Eric Curts were noteworthy for their focus on enhancing pedagogical practices, empowering struggling learners, and inviting educators into planning processes to both enhance and empower the student learning experience.
We have pockets of excellence with educators like Hodges, Hooker, and Curts happening in schools and different classrooms happening in schools and districts across the country. However, we struggle to create the conditions in which these practices become systemically ingrained across all of learning including the professional learning of educators. As the world continues to become increasingly automated, the necessity of preparing students with the foundation that prepares them for an automated world for behind the scenes careers focused on design, experience, personalization, and technical knowledge continues to grow as a moral imperative to society.
Heading to San Francisco via O’Hare, a series of events struck me that drove home the urgency there is to prepare our students for jobs in a largely automated world.
I checked in to my flight on the United App the evening before from an Uber ordered through the app while heading to Hamilton. I paid for my luggage on the same app in another Uber on my way to the airport the next morning. I weighed and printed out the sticker for my luggage at an automated kiosk, scanned my boarding pass from the app as I went through security and boarded the plane. Along the way, there were a lot of travelers, but my experience was largely automated and self-driven as well as very different from school environments.
Even refilling a water bottle and flushing the toilet was automated.
I came home to find that I had received a paper check in the mail. I opened the Chase Bank app on my phone and within moments, the check was deposited. I noticed we were low on some non-perishable items in the cupboards, opened the Amazon app and reordered the items with a few taps at a lower cost than our local stores and home delivery.
The implications of these experiences for student learning demonstrate the urgency to hire personnel who are adaptable, who stay connected to the contemporary and connect their own learning to private industry as well as education. It is imperative that all schools, regardless of size or location are provided with the expertise and funding levels that allow students and communities to experience the shift to modernization before it surprises them or they aren’t prepared to navigate and compete in a world with tools that require creativity and critical thinking skills to fully access what is becoming ubiquitous in some communities while remaining novel or unknown in others.
Not only will our students need the creativity and critical thinking skills to access the automated world, but they will need the critical thinking skills to design, communicate, and work collaboratively in a world that will require this of them to be successful, contributing members to society.
Our challenge as leaders grows to invite the politicians who make crucial decisions regarding funding and assessment of education success criteria into a shared understanding of what is needed to prepare this and the next generation of student to be successful in careers that will take them into the 22nd Century.
“Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes…” Paramahansa Yogananda
Does what you’re doing feed your soul?
Spring brings reflection and opportunities for change, particularly in the field of education. College students wonder about changing majors, changing schools. Teachers and professors wonder if they are in the right place, right grade level, right subject matter, on the right team. Leaders wonder if they are in the right organization, are they leading their teams well, have they empowered others to be their best?
“When do you sleep?” “You look so happy.” “You must love what you do.” “Are you going to quit?” “I feel in limbo.” “Should I really change majors?” “I was told I could make more money…”
There is a dichotomy to these questions and statements every one of which I’ve heard this past week. Each question, each statement allows for the same responses, “What is it about what you’re doing that feeds your soul?” “What is that you think will feed your soul about the change you are considering?” “What does success look like and feel like to you?” Success is not defined by what others think and feel about your decision. Success is defined by how you feel and think about your decisions when you lay down to fall asleep at night.
Ask yourself, “What my feeds my soul?”
Do what energizes you. Do what makes you smile. Do that which makes you feel vibrant and causes others to ask and comment, “Do you sleep? You look so happy.”
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through the experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambitioned inspired, and success achieved. Helen Keller
“Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up.” 1 Corinthians 13:7
As educators of faith, let us remember that, love never stops…
…being patient Help us to remember to be patient with our students who struggle, with colleague’s who we may not see eye to eye with, with parents whose support we don’t feel, and community members that we work in partnership with.
…believing Help us to remember that every child, every student, can grow and learn. Help us to remember that we do have the patience and the ability to support them. Help us to remember that everyone has the same goal of doing good work for children.
…hoping Help us to have the energy and enthusiasm to always bring our best, to know that we are making a difference in the lives of children and the direction of their futures.
Love never gives up. Help us to remember that through the challenges, You are by our side and the side of every student we serve. Help us to remember that when negativity comes our way, to stay true to the work of helping and teaching children, to supporting and accepting support from our colleagues, parents, and community. Help us to keep an open mind when listening to those who don’t agree. Help us to do work in the interest of all children unconditionally, to forgive, and give the gift of grace to ourselves and to others.
ACSA’s Superintendent Symposium recently brought together leaders from the forefront of California’s schools. The symposium provided the platform for sharing the vision, learning, and successful practices that are moving the State’s public schools forward. While California’s public schools rank 41st in the nation for per-pupil funding, the State’s superintendents contributed successful practices that are bringing creative and visionary leadership to the challenge of being underresourced. The goal – to provide rigorous academic instruction highlighted by preparing students for rapidly changing workforce skill sets while instilling a strong foundation in local, national, global, and digital citizenship. The methodology – putting structures and systems into place in cultures of support and caring for students and the adults who serve them.
Achieving this goal comes, first and foremost, with an investment in people. An investment in the professional learning of the people who work with students every day. An investment in the teachers who design lessons. An investment in the support staff who keep things moving behind the scenes. An investment in all those who are supporting the learning and the social/emotional development of the children who attend our schools. Students come to school each day with a variety of needs. Some students show up from strong, supportive homes ready to be challenged. Some students show up for the only two meals of the day they will eat and a safe place to spend their spend time. Others show up needing social/emotional support, extra help to work through the challenges of a disability, or trying to learn English while also keeping up with grade level curriculum. Our schools are filled with caring staffs rising to the challenge of serving every child.
Calfornia’s school superintendents gathered to share successes and strategies on how to lead and support this very important work. These leaders were inspired as they focused on what it takes to prepare today’s student for their future within the structures that are being defined by rapid change and a need for adaptability. Keynotes by Thomas C. Murray of the Alliance for Excellent Education and Future Ready Schools, as well as Travis Allen of the iSchool Initiative, were energizing. The messages and resources provided forced deep thinking about how we are engaging our students in classrooms right now while simultaneously being tasked to prepare them for the world they will live in as adults.
I left inspired!
Upon coming home from this week of professional learning, I, like the rest of the attendees, needed to catch up with mail, bills, email, laundry, grocery shopping… One of my first stops, as I embarked on catching up on the home and work fronts, was at Albertson’s. As I shopped for the upcoming week’s groceries, I noticed how engaged a three-year-old was with his grandparents as they too did their grocery shopping. I began gently “stalking” and eavesdropping on them.
I first met them in the meat department, where the full of life and personality three-year-old showed that he has great taste in the type steak he would like to eat – top sirloin. His grandparents were far more partial to the hamburger, but he had outstanding self-advocacy skills and, ultimately, the top sirloin made its way into the grocery cart.
As his grandparents hesitated to buy the steak, he took it upon himself to look around for and connect to other resources to help himself get what he wanted. He received support from unsuspecting customers in the meat department who responded to his requests for assistance. The first customer he reached out to, grabbed a plastic bag for him. He took the package of steak he wanted and the next customer he approached helped him to get the steak in the bag. All this, while his grandmother’s hand rested on his shoulder as she perused the hamburger options with her husband. I became cognizant that in this brief moment, the child had shown me that the at the age of three, he is already able to identify his preferences, speak articulately, advocate for himself, and collaborate with those around him to assist with problem-solving. These are expectations that are addressed specifically in the standards and strategies taught in our schools. Yet, there continues to be discussion and pushback in some circles on giving students voice and flexibility in their learning.
The final stop of the shopping trip was at the Redbox. As I was selecting a movie, this toddler stood at the machine to my left while his grandparents watched him from the check-out line. As his grandmother paid for the groceries, he tapped through the prompts to get to the video game he wanted.
I watched and listened as his grandfather approached and asked him what he was doing. The young boy, confidently responded that he was renting a video game. His grandfather responded that they couldn’t rent the video game. “Why not?” asked our clearly well-developed consumer. Grandad replied, “Because the machine isn’t working.” Without skipping a beat, the gentleman‘s grandson responded, “Yes grandpa, the machine does work. Here, let me teach you how. Can I have your credit card? All you have to do now is swipe your credit card and confirm your email. It will give you the game. The machine is working.”
I thought,”What an incredible spirit of generosity ready to teach, not to mention, great use of the word ‘confirm’.” I saw the beginning understandings of financial literacy. I saw the medium that is most engaging to this young man. I saw that he wanted to share this knowledge and was excited about his ability to do so. I saw self-advocacy skills.
I also saw that despite being told no twice, his spirit continued to remain positive, his ability to problem solve on his own continued to remain strong, his confidence to speak up continued to remain intact,
I kept this in mind as I thought of the research and data that Tom had presented from the “Engaged Today: Ready for Tomorrow,” Gallup Student Poll, 2015 during his keynote. It is disheartening to see how students respond by grade level to the prompt of whether they are having fun learning while at school.
The graph clearly shows the rate at which the level of enthusiasm for learning at school declines.
Travis Allen, college student, and entrepreneur shares a story about the skills he learned through video games that serve as the foundation for his successful business. I appreciated his encouragement that as adults we should sit down and play these games with children so that we can see the skills they are learning from gaming. Games such as SimCity, Diner Dash, Roller Coaster Tycoon, and the Angry Birds series are only a sampling of games that develop skills such as urban planning, creativity in problem-solving, managing a budget, paying attention to details, pulling information and details out of situations.
This wonderful three-year-old boy, grocery shopping at Albertson’s with his grandparents, made sure that the learning and the thinking that happened at ACSA’s Superintendent’s Symposium solidified an understanding of what our call to leadership is. We must support our public schools with adequate resources and the freedom to explore how to engage students. This boy will come to us with some understanding of financial literacy. He will come to us as a child who is curious, creative and a problem solver. He will come to us with strong verbal communication skills, already applying critical thinking to come up with solutions for real world day to day challenges and problems.
It is up to us, as educators, to put structures in place that allow for the freedom and flexibility needed to change a system in which data points demonstrate a decline in student engagement the longer they attend school. It is up to us to continue to engage this little boy with the learning tools he has already started developing during his toddler years. It is up to us to provide him with an education not just from the point of view of adults, but also from the point of view and expectations of him as a learner. It is up to us to capitalize on the skills he is already bringing with him
He will be in one of our classrooms in a year and a half. Will we be ready?
It’s 2018 and we’re still having conversations about what it means to be a 21st Century Leader and Learner in education. We are still having conversations about what a 21st Century education should like. Nearly one-fifth of the way into the 21st Century, it’s time to shift these conversations and focus on the actions needed to ensure that we are providing a relevant education to today’s student that will prepare them for their tomorrow.
What exactly does this look like:
- Design learning experiences and spaces that will allow students to develop the skills they will need to be successful in careers that will take them into the 22nd Century: Adaptability, Communication, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Relationship Building.
2. Understand that National, Global, and Digital Citizenship can all be rolled into one. Citizenship. Being a person of good character stands the test of time.
3. Engage each generation’s student in learning with the tools that are being used by their generation.
Making the commitment to being an educator is making a commitment to the future. It is making a commitment to empowering each generation with knowledge and skills. The responsibility for educating children and students of all ages has always been an important one. Yet, our generation has been given the gift of living in a time marked by rapid shifts technological growth and in how the world does business.
The education system is still in its infancy in responding to the needs of the globally connected, digitally literate student. Courage is needed by educators, parents, community members, legislators, and students to move from accepting the transferring of past practice to digital formats towards practices that enhance and accelerate learning that is engaging and relevant.
We must bring an open mindset to our roles. We must embrace innovation and lead by investing in people. Teacher leaders invest in your administrators. Site and district office leaders invest in your support staff, classified staff, and classroom teachers. Educate parents, community members, school boards and legislators to bring an understanding of what it looks like to prepare students for their tomorrow. Share resources and professional learning that support the growth and adaptability of the education profession and the system that supports it.
Preparing students for their future is a call to action. Whether in a small school district or a large one, whether in a small school or a large school, whether in a small community or a large community, invest in, learn with, and educate. Shift the conversation. Embrace what is possible and make it happen.
Five years ago this week, I posted the TedTalk, Teaching Design for Change by Emily Pilloton, on my Facebook page with the comment that the content of the talk was great advice for rural school districts. At the time of the posting, I was a principal with a great team overseeing the special education programs for a county office of education. Little did I know that five years later, I would be the superintendent of a rural school district that would pass its first bond measure, Creating Class A Schools, under my tenure and that I would be working with another great team of educators as well as a school board that exemplifies what it means to put students first. In addition to this, I would also be knee deep in becoming increasingly versed in what it means to design a Future Ready instructional program.
As our team dives into the design work of redefining learning spaces so that they allow for flexibility and the incorporation of today’s learning tools, combining the advice of Emily Pilloton with the Future Ready gears of Collaborative Leadership, Community Partnerships, Budget and Resources, Curriculum Instruction and Assessment with the Use of Space and Time couldn’t be more opportune. As we dive deeper and deeper into the process of working with the architect and his team, it is clear that the concept of “designing with not for” is more intuitive to some than others.
It is easy to take a look at designs for layout, furniture and infrastructure that have been implemented at other schools. It can even be tempting for professionals to suggest that a school or district use the work that was done elsewhere as their model. Yes, it’s easy, convenient and might even feel like it saves time. However, the perception of time saving and efficiency only applies to the front end. It creates far more work on the back if staff voie, student and community voice aren’t specifically and intentionally incorporated into the process. While schools have many similar characteristics and needs, each school design and culture has its own nuances. The location of a particular room or door can dramatically impact the flow and use of space. Classroom design and furniture layout may impact student learning differently from year to year based on the characteristics of the students in each and the strengths of the teacher.
Bob Dillon, author of Redesigning Learning Spaces, gave some simple sage advice at CUE’s BOLD Classrooms event in Northern California to help prioritize instructional space design projects that can be applied to undertakings of all sizes. As schools dive into modernizing learning spaces, let us ask “What is neat to have and what is need to have?” as we move forward with construction and design projects. This concept applies both to things that we purchase such as furniture, lighting, flooring, whiteboards, screen technology as well as to how traffic flow and visibility will impact the use of spaces.
The California voter, this past June and November, has been generous to schools in passing both local bonds and a state school facilities bond. This allows for a great opportunity for schools to take a look at how facilities, infrastructure and learning tools engage today’s learners, prepare them for tomorrow’s careers and stay flexible to adapt to the needs of the next generation of student. This is a great opportunity to show leadership in bringing teacher, student and community voice to the table. This is a great opportunity for collaborative partnerships to leverage social media and professional learning networks to share their work to engage in local, statewide and national thought partner conversations to support wise decision making in design, use of time and space as well as budget and resources to influence curriculum and instruction. This is a great opportunity to invest in the future.
It is inspiring to connect with the work being done to move the Office of Educational Technology’s Future Ready Initiative forward. It is energizing to be able to support a vision that has such a clear and profound impact of setting up our next generation of citizens for success.
School districts making the investment of time and resources in becoming familiar with the Future Ready Initiative have embraced this bold movement that is providing educational institutions across the country a robust network of resources to embrace and leverage digital learning. The seven gears embedded in the Future Ready vision are well thought out and a district’s use of the Interactive Planning Dashboard yields meaningful insights into the structures of its organization that supports learning and encourages developing a mindset of preparing today’s student for a future with tools that we can only imagine, but that will exist in workforce that students sitting in today’s classrooms will be a part of.
Going through the dashboard, its resources and implementing an action plan founded in the research based practices that are provided at the culmination of this process is a comprehensive effort. The tools and the information provided through the Future Ready process are robust. They support strong, action based initiatives to provide an educational vision focused on more personalized learning through a systematic approach that includes the smooth integration of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, Use of Space and Time, a Robust Infrastructure, a focus on Data and Privacy, Community Partnerships, Personalized Learning, and Budget and Resources. Follow through on this effort takes a significant amount of organizational capacity and strong leadership. It is also an effort that today’s forward thinking schools are ready to embrace.
Allocating the organizational resources to fully leverage the resources made available through the Future Ready Initiative are not readily available in all school districts across the country. According to Using Data to Improve Student Learning In School Districts, written by Victoria Bernhardt, about 60% of this country’s school districts have fewer than 1500 students. This puts a clear limit on a district’s available resources to allocate the personnel needed to fully leverage the robust suite of resources available. In addition, this constraint of resources puts a strain on the smaller school district’s ability to implement the complement of structures recommended in a systematic manner.
Yet, innovative leaders of small school districts across the country are jumping in feet first to embrace the Future Ready mindset. Leadership teams are making adaptations to the process of the Future Ready Leadership Self Assessment and the resulting self assessment reports to create modified Future Ready Action Plans. Small school district teams are creating action plans that embrace the personnel, budget and infrastructure resources that are available to them. Non-traditional leadership teams are being created that allow for the amplification of the teacher voice as well as that of the classified employee in planning and preparing schools to deliver a robust 21st century education to students. Educators from smaller organizations strive to create the opportunities for students in small districts that will make them equally competitive with the students of the 6% of the nation’s school districts that educate more than half the students in our country. These efforts seek to equalize the playing field with students who are able to benefit from districts with greater organizational capacity, more robust infrastructures, access to more community partners and internal professional expertise, in addition to access to greater financial resources to support the implementation of Future Ready organizational structures.
Today’s successful educational leader must embrace the philosophy of and understand the power of the collaborative relationship. For today’s educator and Future Ready Superintendent this takes the form of a robust professional learning network. This network includes and values personal face to face relationships while also relying heavily on social media. Superintendents and leadership teams should bring energy, innovation and an open mindset to the their positions. Leaders should be able to support action that moves the vision of preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s careers forward. They should be connected on social media and should be able to adeptly move the Future Ready conversation forward by connecting with other administrators from across the country. Professional connections and partnerships can be created quickly via Twitter, LinkedIn, Voxer and Facebook as well as through membership in professional organizations.
The California School Board Association defines small school districts as those that serve 2500 students or less. These districts make up 55% of the districts in the State of California. One of those districts is mine, the San Antonio Union Elementary School District in Lockwood, CA. We are a Future Ready school district and I, as the the superintendent with a passion for education and a passion for supporting small schools encourage my colleagues of districts both large and small to take the Future Ready Pledge and dive into its supporting resources.
What an incredible learning experience!
Concierge vs Coach
Relevant vs Worksheet
Engaging vs Compliance
Try-athlon vs Comfort Zone
Personlized PD vs One Size Fits All
Future Ready vs That’s the Way We’ve Always Done It
These are just some of the shifts in thinking being embraced by the 7000 educators who attended National CUE in Palm Springs. This amazing event is like a trip into a professional development candy store. That’s right, powerful, intense learning that, to use one of my favorite colloquiums, was “sweet!”
Three days of incredible learning at #CUE16 ended with these thousands of educators leaving with overflowing knowledge on how to be Future Ready, pedagocically innovative, how to improve their personal professional practices and how to share the inspiration they found with others. The goal for many, if not all…to begin or continue implementing an increased number of 21st Century educational practices that exemplify the redefining of once traditional worksheet based or one size fits all instruction into learning experiences that are relevant and engaging. All this while, most importantly, helping students develop the dexterity they’ll need to be successful in a workforce where the jobs and skills required continue to adapt to increasing automization and adapting technologies.
Sessions challenged educators ranging from first year teachers to experienced superintendents to up their professional game, covered topics from incorporating project based STEAM activities and 3D printing to gamifying both student instruction and educator PD, to innovatively applying Hattie and Marzano’s research.
One of the most powerful things that National CUE offers is that while providing opportunities to participate in learning that is deep and to listen to keynotes that inspire, there is also always a lot of fun. It’s hard not to enjoy the flying antics of Sharknado.
Click here for the video: https://youtu.be/QuFuJUacL3Y
Then there is the always entertaining and inspiration on steroids of Jon Corippo who along with Mike Vollmert hooked CUE affiliate meeting attendees on attending this summer’s LDI (Leadership Development Institute) with this gem:
Find this video at: https://youtu.be/j-cxvTqxJP0
But, my favorite part of this year was definitely getting to hear from the creator of Kid President, Brad Montague and being reminded that the messages and that the actions that make the biggest difference are usually the simple ones:
You’re Awake, You’re Awesome, Live Like it Be Somebody Who Makes Everybody Else Feel Like Somebody Love Never Fails Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti -Kid President
It’s here! #CUE 16 and I’m looking forward to presenting the Future Gear of Personalizing Professional Learning. Click on the gears to learn more about creating a personalized approach to professional learning for your district.
Interested in where to find Twitter chats, Blab conversations or blogs to follow? Click here for a listing of EdChats on Twitter or check out some hashtags such as #kidsdeservit, #TLAP, #caedchat, #edcamp, #NGSS, #CommonCore. Have something you want to learn about or a group of people you want to connect with? Just get on Twitter and see what you find when you add the hashtag. Looking for some blogs? Check out these recommendations by Edublogs and EdTech Magazine. Who should you follow on Facebook? Start with Edutopia, Elementary Librarian and the Buck Institute for Education as well as the authors you enjoy or professional organizations you belong to. Check out Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinais on Blab. Prefer a podcast? Take a look at the recommendations Edutopia has to offer. Start playing, start exploring and have fun creating your own personal learning plan.