December 2009


This is terrific, and free for all, posted here with full permission by the generous sharing of Godin and his contributors.   Every slide is great, but my favorites are 14 (Chris Meyer); 19 (Chris Anderson); 20 (Tom Peters); 25 (Dan Pink); 43 (Dan Balter); 54 (Tom Sanders); and 67 (Dan Dougherty).

Chris Meyers (14) writes about the obligation we have to adapt to changing environments: “The shape of companies will evolve as the world changes around them.. (more…)

Two pieces published in the New York Times this week entirely separately support the argument made here that our students need not just “hard” knowledge and skills to prepare them, they need also to be powerfully effective in their ability to create, imagine, innovate, and apply these skills in the real world.  In one, a military expert pleads for more innovative thinking from our Army leaders, and in another, we learn about preparing students for careers which blend digital skills and creativity.  I will end by connecting these ideas to a recent piece from Yong Zhao, arguing our schools need to teach creativity more effectively.

The first piece, an op-ed by Mark Moyar, a professor of national security affairs at Marine Corps University, is entitled “An Officer and a Creative Man.” The crisis emerging in the armed services, Dr. Moyar writes, is “a significant portion are not demonstrating the vital leadership attributes of creativity, flexibility and initiative.”

Researchers have found that the leadership ranks of big organizations are dominated by either “sensing-judging” or “intuitive thinking” personality types. Those in the former category rely primarily on the five senses to tell them about the world; they prefer structure and standardization, doing things by the book and maintaining tight control.

Today, the Army has more intuitive-thinking people among its lieutenants and captains than at the upper levels.   (more…)

On Our Minds @ ScholasticOver at a blog I have not seen before, On our minds at Scholastic, they have published an interesting list of the decade’s ten big ideas for education.   I think it is a very helpful way of thinking about the changes of our era.

Some on their list are not in my focal area, and/or I am not sure I would have chosen them:  1. alternate paths to teaching; 5. charter schools; 6. a focus on adolescent literacy 9. it takes a village; and 10. the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

But I am quite intrigued with the other five:

2. Transformative Technology — From interactive whiteboards to online education, 1-to-1 computing to eReaders, for the first time in the history of American education, classrooms are increasingly plugged in — and so are the students.

Regular readers know how important this is to me– and how enthusiastic I am not just about getting technology into the classrooms, but getting it into the hands of students, empowering them, engaging them, and respecting their powerful proficiency with technology as tools for their learning.   (more…)

In the spirit of the season, I am seeking to offer small bouquets of appreciation to some with whom sometimes I argue here.  Last week I offered kind words for Daniel Willingham, and this week I wish to do so for Bob Compton (producer of the Two Million Minutes movies), with whom some readers remember I had a sharp (perhaps too sharp) quarrel in October.

Today however I want to send sincere words of praise for his fine post last week on a school he visited in South Korea, a post entitled “Returning to Middle School Engineering and Creativity–IQ-EQ– Class.”  It is excellent; I hope he doesn’t mind my quoting some of his fine observations:

In American public Middle and High School, I’m unaware of any formal hands-on classes in actually designing and building things.

The Korean economy seems firmly committed to staying in the design and building of products and this three-year course is a unique way to introduce students to that thinking and have them experience the process first hand.  Based on the principal’s translated explanation and the EQ/IQ teacher’s enthusiasm for this class, it is clearly one of the students’ favorites and is highly regarded by the school.

This sounds like a great learning program for these students: this is an educational approach I also am very enthusiastic about, one where students “actually design and build things.”   (more…)

Happy to see today that  this new publication from NAIS, (National Association of Independent Schools), a two page flyer on myths of independent schools, includes myth number 8: independent schools are traditionalists.  When this list was first published on the Bassett blog in September, the list included only seven, but your humble blogger suggested to NAIS President Bassett that they missed one, that we as an industry need to correct mis-perceptions that our schools are stuck in the 19th century educationally.   In fact, some of our member schools are on the cutting edge of educational innovation, and we need to celebrate that!  The list, now republished for a wider audience, includes my suggestion as the 8th Myth:

MYTH #8: Independent Schools Are Traditionalists

Fact: It’s true – Independent schools are (educationally)
preserving a tradition of excellence and perpetuating
a legacy of learning. BUT – independent schools are
also educational innovators where students are learning
21st century skills of critical thinking, real-world problem
solving, innovation and creativity, and collaboration.
~

College SummitEngage and Prepare: the distillation of quality education.  Last week I wrote at length about engagement; here I want to return to two topics: the right data for data driven decision-making, and what it means to be serious about preparation.
As Tony Wagner writes in the Global Achievement Gap, Schools that work “hold themselves collectively accountable for quality student work and student success in college and beyond.. they keep track of how many students go on to postsecondary education and how well they do there.”

We are not serious about either topic, preparation or data,  if we limit our attention to SAT scores and the names of the colleges which admit our students are admitted.   Now I am not saying to eliminate altogether this pair, but I am saying that there is other information far, far more valuable to collect and use, and at the top of this list is the proficiency of our graduates in colleges, graduate schools and careers.

Addressing the topic this month is a valuable new monograph from College Summit and the Center for American Progress: “How College Proficiency Information Can Help High Schools Drive Student Success.”  “College proficiency reporting makes sure we don’t leave the success of America’s high schools to chance.” (more…)

Global Achievemnent GapA colleague asked me recently to share the ways in which we are using Tony Wagner’s Global Achievement Gap with our faculty this fall; this post is  my answer.    The book has been hugely valuable for us this year as a guide and foundation as we seek to further advance St. Gregory as a 21st century school and as a “School that Works” to teach the “new survival skills.”   I think that often schools assign faculty summer reading, and then do very little with it– maybe a meeting/discussion or two– but we have deliberately erred in the other direction: I am seeking to infuse the ideas of the book into many different arenas of the educational work we are doing at St. Gregory, even at the risk of overdoing it.

Some of the ways we are using it  include, with full explanations after the jump (more):

  1. Rich reading discussions
  2. Describing the St. Gregory Wagnerian Classroom.
  3. Respecting and applying the four principles of Schools that Work
  4. Implementing new Measurements of student learning: the Egg, CWRA, HSSSE, PISA, and dashboards. (more…)

Friday I presented at a Tucson Rotary Club, on the topic of 21st century learning: closing the global achievement gap.   It is a presentation much like the one I made at ISAS last month, but I thought I would post the slides here.   These are presentation slides, not full talking points, so please know they are a quick visual trip through the main ideas, rather than a full narrative. Enjoy!

Thrice of late I have posted to criticize cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham (and author of Why Don’t Students Like School?), although in every case I have also said he has a lot to offer; here I want to offer my appreciation for his essay in the Washington Post in praise of arts education.

Willingham is drawing upon a lecture by Harvard’s Jerome Kagen, and does so identify six arguments for arts education, three of which speak most loudly to me:

Kagan argues that children today have very little sense of agency—that is, the sense that they undertake activities that have an impact on the world, however small. Kagan notes that as a child he had the autonomy to explore his town on his own, something that most parents today would not allow. … The arts, Kagan argues, offer that sense of agency, of creation.

Participation in the arts allows children to see the importance of creating beauty, of creating an object that others may enjoy. When a child gets an A on a math test, the immediate benefit is to the child alone. But when the child creates a drawing, she makes something for the pleasure of others as well.

The arts offer an opportunity for children to work together. Most school work is solitary, but when a band is congratulated for a performance it is the band as a whole that receives the compliment, not the individual child. Kagan ties this value to a larger moral complex. Too many of children’s activities are solitary, and solely for the child’s benefit. Morality and concern for others grows, in part, from understanding what it means to have a common fate.

I think there are many other great, and practical-pragmatic, reasons for arts education as well, which are not touched upon in the article.  Certainly arts education demands, or should demand, of students that they think through and identify original ways to express ideas and new approaches to old questions and concerns.   (more…)

Law School Surey of Student Engagement

I have written often here about the importance of measuring what matters, and treating the data seriously; I have also written here about the value of the High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE), which has been called an idea to save the world in the Atlantic Monthly.   At my behest as the incoming head,  St. Gregory administered the HSSSE for the first time last spring, and we now have these results to share with readers.

Inside the powerpoint are a series of 20 graphs, representing our results in about 50 different criteria, with, in every case, our average compared to the average of the respondents nationally who participated.  The national respondent base represents over 100 diverse schools, private and public, urban, suburban and rural.   (we believe there is a slight self-selection bias, that schools more committed than average to promoting student engagement are more likely to participate in the survey!).    For each set of questions, two graphs are provided: the first compares averages for the one “top” option (among four), the “Often” or “Agree strongly” option.    The second compares the averages for the top two options (among four): the often and sometimes, or the agree strongly and agree simply.

I also am providing (after the jump)a table of the categories of greatest difference; those where our students reported much stronger engagement than their national peers (there were NO categories where St. Gregory students reported lesser engagement).

Meanwhile, we are also analyzing the results to identify areas which we as a faculty wish to target for improvement in the years to come, a list I will provide at some time in the future.

St. Gregory National Avg. Difference
Written paper more than five pages: Often 51 17 34
Written paper more than five pages: Often and Sometimes 94 51 43
I place a high value on learning: Strong agreement 63 35 28 (more…)

Businessweek’s innovation guru Bruce Nussbaum offers a view on educating for innovation by comparing what he sees happening in Chinese and US education; meanwhile, over at Harvard Business Review, Rosabeth Moss Kanter argues for the advantages for innovation the accrues from serving the disadvantaged.  First, Nussbaum, reporting as he travels China for four weeks:

* Asia wants to shift its education from math and science to creativity. America wants to shifts its education from creativity to math and science. Maybe we should just exchange teachers.

* Asian universities are opening thousands of design programs and departments to promote creativity. The most popular degree in America continues to be the traditional business degree (22% of all degrees granted in the US are in business). (more…)

Fullscreen capture 11142009 15021 PMI love this ladder of  “social technographics,” as described by the authors of the book Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies.   Hat tip to my colleague and fellow (very fine) blogger Josie Holford, Head of Poughkeepsie Day School, and her blogging about this ladder.   The ladder represents various stages of social technology use, from “inactives” to spectators to joiners and on up to Creators; Josie and I agree vigorously that an important goal of our two schools is to educate and empower our students to rise to the top rung.  At her blog, the Compass Point, she argues that

That top rung is small in the wider world but in schools with students beyond the early elementary years it should be 100%. In schools [like PDS, ( and like St. Gregory)] getting engaged, being creative and collaborating is not an optional activity. And technological innovation makes it possible  to engage with a global reach.  And if we believe in the importance of innovation and creativity,  making a positive contribution and changing the world – there is the purpose. It brings a whole new meaning to the eduspeak catch phrases of problem-solving and ethical and creative thinking. It makes our mission possible in effective, dynamic and inclusive ways.

I have written here often that 21st century schools educate, empower, and enable students as publishers– that they should be asked to share their content with a wider audience, and use the many new technologies available (like wordpress!) to do so.  Our students at St. Gregory are blogging, but still primarily within the walls of stgregoryschool.org domain; it is my intent we find ways to broaden the reading audience for their publishing.

Some terrific elaboration on this approach is provided at another excellent blog, The Innovative Educator.   The post is entitled “21st century educators don’t say hand it in– they say publish it!” Right on.    (more…)

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