September 2008

The student paper at University High School emailed me recently, with very fine interview questions, following up on my visit there last week. Here is the Q&A from that interview, including my own first, first of many I anticipate, stab at providing my own list of 21st c. aptitudes.

1. In a nutshell, what is 21st century education?

21st century is education that recognizes and reflects the fact the fastchanging world and that the 21st century economy and workplace will be very different from the 20th century. In the 21st century, for success, we will all need to be able to know how to approach and solve complex problem; how to innovate, design, and create new products, services, and solutions; how to use a wide array of digital tools for our problemsolving and innovation; how to think critically and discriminate for accurate information as we consider the huge voume of information coming to us from the internet; how to communicate effectively; and how to successfully collaborate with people all over the world.

21st century education is also education that is attentive and responsive to the fast accumulating new knowledge about the brain, memory, and learning. 21st century schools are schools that are asking themselves, repeatedly, how they as a school think the 21st century is different, and asks themselves what they are doing to respond and effectively prepare students for the changing times.

You can also click here for the questions I think 21st century schools should be asking themselves.

2. What do you think are essential skills that students should take away from their experience from high school, beyond the material that they’ve learned?

1. complex problemsolving
2.quality questioning
3. resilient perseverence
4. analytical reasoning
5. skillful argumentation
6. creative innovation
7. responsible stewardship
8. effective communication
9. respectful collaboration
10. critical thinking.

Also look here for my collection of several different authors’ view of these aptitudes.

3. What do you plan to do with your research and observations on all the different schools?
Most of all, I intend to use the lessons I have learned from my research and observations so as to be a more effective, 21st century, school leader in my independent school administrative position. I also hope to find ways to share with colleagues my ideas and observations, so that they can be better informed and more aware of the great things happening at other schools, and use that information for the ongoing development of their own schools.

4. How did you get started on this project?/When did you decide to pursue this research?
You know, it just developed over the course of the spring and summer. Reading Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, was a huge inspiration to me, really opened my mind to recognize we had to ask new questions about what and how we are teaching. When I learned last spring that I had a sabbatical year upcoming, I knew I wanted to use it in an intensive way to rethink and closely observe how schools should be changing to meet the fast changing new century. I also knew I wanted to be more internet savvy myself. I love to write, so the different strands came together into this blog.

5. How do you see your research benefiting other schools in the future?
I should say that it is my intent to have a very modest approach to this project; I know I want to learn more, and I want to grow in my understanding of and appreciation for 21st century education, and I want to be more aware of the “best practices” going on at different schools. I certainly hope that in my doing so and blogging about it, other educators can become more informed about 21st century education and best practices, and can then bring that information to their own schools for implementation. I’d love it if, as a result of people reading the blog and taking inspiration, more schools begin asking themselves what they should be doing differently to prepare students for a changing age, if more schools began using contemporary brain research, if more schools teach students to solve complex problems.

Speaking more particularly about my observations at Univerisity High School, I’d love it if more schools expanded their commitment to doing things like having debates about slavery in US History, having groups work on complex, multi-step physics challenge problem requiring innovative solutions and practical applications (physics), having groups compare and contrast two philosophical texts with the requirement that the group take a position that they are similar or different and defend that position (Russian Lit), having groups in French view a press conference by President Sarkozy at an online French news site, or having student groups plan an all-day school event in the city– all of which I saw and greatly admired at University HS.

Prudence is not the most attractive of words, and it is not one I find in wide currency– and certainly haven’t found it in any of the lists of 21st century aptitudes I have been surveying.    I know it partly went out of favor thanks to Dana Carvey’s frequent mocking of the first President Bush– “wouldn’t be prudent.”  

But David Brooks, whom I find a great guide, writes today about prudence, and I am struck by the way he describes the word, and how well the word captures so many of the intellectual capacities I think we need to be developing in ourselves and our students in the 21st century. 
To quote: Prudence “is the ability to grasp the unique pattern of a specific situation.  It is the ability to absorb a vast flow of information and still discern the essential current of events– the things that go together and the things that will never go together.  It is the ability to engage in complex deliberations and feel which arguments have the most weight.   The prudent leader possesses a repertoire of events, through personal involvement or the study of history, and can apply those models to current circumstances to judge what is important and what is not, who can be persuaded and who can’t, what has worked and what hasn’t.” 
In writing these words I am reminded of a description of Frank Boyden’s leadership style.  Boyden, among the most legendary of independent school leaders, headed Deerfield Academy for 66 years, from the age of 22 to 88; he is brilliantly profiled in McPhee’s book, The Headmaster (originally published in the New Yorker).    It is just a short line, almost a throwaway, but I always think it contains important insight about smart leadership.   Boyden, McPhee writes, “has the ability in conversation to give his undivided attention, and the perception to understand the implications of practically anything that is said to him.”   
This perceptive ability, I would suggest, is closely related to Brooks’ notion of prudence– the ability to discern what is important, to recognize patterns, connect dots, evaluate the implications in any proposed course of action.   And I think we can seek to teach this: provide students challenging dilemmas or complex problems, and ask them to think them through, identify multiple pathways or remedies, and then evaluate each.    We would be instilling this important quality of judgement which is best captured in what is an old-fashioned word, prudence, but which is also a critically valuable 21st century aptitude. 

Good high schools, in this writer’s opinion, are schools where there is regular, ongoing, innovation in teaching and the educational program more broadly.    Recently I posted on the implications of Estrin’s Innovation Gap for what and how our students should be learning; today I want to write on what it means for our schools, faculties and administrators. 

When I reflect on my own ten years teaching, I know that I was far, far more alive as a teacher, and more effective at meeting my students learning needs, when I was innovating.   A favorite memory comes from the year, 1992 perhaps, when our school hosted a diversity program.  Students thereafter pressed for a more multi-cultural curriculum, and the faculty concurred, setting a strategic priority on developing the curriculum that way.  What did I do?  I was already slated for an English elective offering for the following semester, and instead of repeating a course I had taught previously on the Modern Novel, I chose to develop a new course, in Black Women Writers.    The course was a great success, and it clearly advanced the school’s strategic priorities. 
I think we need to do it this way: boards and faculties, with good inclusion of input from other constituencies, need to identify strategic priorities and directions for the development of their educational programs, and then teachers need to be empowered and supported (and perhaps rewarded) for innovating their curricula in that direction.    Note, I am not saying school boards or admnistrators should decide what the new curriculum should be itself, and then hand it down: “here is your reading for all curriculum, or your open court, or your facing history– now implement it while I take credit for the school’s curricular innovation.”  No. 
In my leadership role at Maybeck High School, 1996-99, I sought to promote greater innovation in the curriculum by reorienting the social studies curriculum.   Its structure was simple: Government and Economy, each for a semester, in 11th grade, and then Modern History, year long, in 12th.  In the revamp, we swapped those classes out for semester electives, offering two options each semester– and the result was a flowering of new classes: origins of the holocaust, the powers of the presidence, the Civil Rights Movement, international relations. 
Promoting curriculum innovation by teachers was the subject of my Klingenstein fellowship research– and I was able to find a few, (only a few!) research based articles on methods for this.  My complete article reviewing the research is available here
What are Estrin’s suggestions for an innovative corporate culture?  First, establish the core values: she recommends, as we have seen, questioning, risk, patience, openness, trust.  Let’s work with boards and faculties to determine our own core values for the promotion of innovation, referring to these, and then hold them up high. 
Then there are these additional points, for what she calls green-thumb leadership, because “nurturing innovation is more like gardening than karate.” 
1.  “there is no one set of rules to facilitate leading for innovation. It requires intuition, imagination, and judgement, with decisions often needing to be made with little or no hard data.   Leaders need to be supportive of experimentation and to have the natural curiosity and courage to try something new.” 
2. “innovation requires flexible, open, less hierarchical processes, with leaders who see their primary role as being supportive rather than directive.  This tends to be more chaotic than traditional hierarchical organizations.”  For illustration, she offers this, deliberately provocative statement from Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, who says Google is “poorly managed by design.” 
3.  Management must be willing to be “open about and tolerant of failure.”  Quoting Meg Whitman: “mistakes are such a part of being better as a company.  you learn a lot from products that aren’t as successful as you thought they would be.” 
4.  “In companies large and small, questions should flow at every level starting from the top… innovation friendly companies encourage challenging questions while discouraging combativeness and defensive attitudes.”  Use wikis, list-serves, and blog for information sharing. 
5.  “If you force operational metrics too early, few people with the disruptive potential to create future growth will ever pass the tests.”    
6. “Barriers to exploring new initiatives should be set low, and new initiatives should be protected.” 
7.  “One of the most effective ways to focus on the future is to create small, dedicated teams or strategy groups, granting them the freedom to develop their own rules, structure, and culture, but enable them to leverage the resources of the company as a whole.”  What if at our schools we had a joint faculty-board strategy or innovation committee, which met monthly, determining what our innovative priorities should be, what summer reading we should have, what speakers we should bring in, what experiments we should fund.  
8. “A commitment to innovation starts with the CEP and is every employee’s responsibility.”
9.  “At Google, thoughts about new features and products are discussed broadly via email on an “ideas” list and at informal brainstorming meetings.  Experts are brought in daily to give talks at the company on a wide range of topics to provoke thinking about problems in new ways.”
10.  “There is no substitute for leaders spending time talking and listening to their employees.  Demonstrating that new ideas are being considered and discussed is the best way to encourge people to speak up.” 
11.  Innovators need to be “critically optimistic– enthusiastic about their projects, but also open to spotting potential problems and making necessary course corrections.” 
12.  “In a world of revolving door executives, swapping out the CEO seems to be many boards’ knee-jerk response.  Senior managers can no longer assume they’ll be at the helm for long, which encourages even more shortsighted thinking.  Why should they make bold decisions for the long-term health of the company if they’ll be history in three years?  Our society as a whole is growing risk-averse.   But by trying to predict and prevent every failure, we end up quashing innovation.” 

Previously I referred to Friedman’s New York Times article on the importance, centrality even, of the skill of innovation for the 21st century. 

Friedman pointed readers to this book, by Judy Estrin, which I think is somewhat unfortunately titled Closing the Innovation Gap.   The title doesn’t work: first, the word innovation immediately follows closing, and by the time you get to the word gap, you are already processing the wrong message.   Second, Estrin acknowledges herself there is no gap yet– Americans are still better innovators than anyone else- the problem is we need to focus on maintaining that edge, not losing it.   And third, she also recognizes that innovation is no zero-sum game, such that if everyone else is doing it we will fall behind— it is not such a sharp competition as the word gap would suggest.   Everyone on the planet is lifted by everyone’s innovation.   But do we need more of it, in the US?  YES!  Hence my suggested retitling: Widening the Innovation Window.  (I realize it might not sell books as well; sometimes you need a message crafted on competition and a bit of edgy fear to sell well in airport bookstores). 
I am going to do two entries here– one on the importance of, and methods for, teaching our students to be innovative and creative. That is this piece.  Then, I want to use the book to springboard in a different way: how can we make our schools labs of innovation. 
First, let’s list her five core values for innovation– values I think I could happily build a school around.  
1. Questioning.  Like we have seen in the writings of Wiggins and Graff, and as emphasized heavily by Wagner in Global Achievement Gap, questioning is at the heart of good thinking, learning and teaching.  Bravo to Estrin for putting this first.    
2. Risk-taking.  Failure is an inherent part of innovation– and people need to be trusted they will not flop if their experiment does.    
3. Openness.    Curiosity thrives in open environments, and sharing ideas is the best way to create synergy and gain feedback.  
4. Patience.   Estrin bashes repeatedly Wall Street for its focus on quarterly earnings, and it is critical we better appreciate patience as a tool for instilling innovation and facilitating its development.    Sternberg is a close relation here: his whole notion of creativity it seems is based on resilience– those who are more creative are those who are more patient, more persistent, more resilient.   Estrin, in a very Sternbergian vein, writes that “It takes a special kind of resilience to get back again after being knocked down…If failure is a stigma, employees and leaders will not be willing to take the personal or professional risks required for innovation.” 
5. Trust.  Trust is at the heart of an innovative endeavour– we must give freedom to others to experiment, and support their trials, and welcome questions and challenges.   
Some other highlights from this important book: 
1.  As much we need to embrace data (see my thoughts on testing, for instance), we need to remember that innovation is messy (messiness is one of my favorite metaphors.) To quote: “Organizations have lost tolerance for anything that couldn’t be measured through the metrics dashboard on the executive’s desktop PC.  Innovation can be a messy and inefficient process; it’s not one that can be managed through simple metrics.”  And later: “if you force operational metrics too early, few projects with the disruptive potential to create future growth will ever pass the tests.” 
2. We need to develop ourselves and our kids to be T shaped: “those who have a depth of knowledge in a particular area, but also the breadth to communicate well with people in other disciplines.” 
3.  So what is called for in K-12 education (in 21-K12)   Sounding very Pinkian, she writes “we need to prepare a workforce of innovators who will be employed in the creation of new markets, products, and services, as well as jobs that require a human touch.”   
4. Bubble tests won’t cut it– we have to educate to “think outside the bubble.”
5. Technology proficiency is essential, and let’s employ laptops and cell phones in learning.  “the next step for educators is to determine how computers can be used to enhance learning through individualized lesson plans, online access to experts and other students, and immersive educational environments.” 
6.  Math, science and engineering is essential, but they need to be taught and learned in hand-son, less is more, full inquiry methods.  Get students into working labs and tackling real world problems.  Give kids the thrill of building things, taking things apart, even blowing things up. 
7.  Finally, again like Pink and others say, we need to engender innovation via the “right brain.”  “Learning about literature, history, and the arts encourages curiosity, creativity, collaboration, and communication, all of which are essential skills for potential innovators.” 

Hello UHS community members.    The blog entry below this one is the liveblog for today– you are invited to read along, and remember that in liveblogging, the chronology goes from bottom to top. 

You are also invited to use the little comment box, just to the lower right here, to respond.  Respond to something I have written, respond by telling me what you think are the best ways for students to learn and prepare for the changing 21st century, or respond by telling me what you think is the coolest, best, teaching and learning that happens here (just keep it positive and constructive!).  Also click on the comment box to read what your fellow community members are saying…. 
Thanks for welcoming me. 
Attending a student council subcommittee meeting, planning for CityDay.  This is a signature UHS day, it would seem, and planned by students, from what I gather; students spend the day interacting with the city, serving it, interacting with it, learning from it.   Seems like excellent experiential, memorable, learning experiences, that also support student leadership development.   Right now we are discussing budget for the day, and what to do for lunch: bag lunch, fund lunch from the limited budget, or offer kids to bring their own lunch or lunch money.      Working on equity and perception– if the taqueria group gets their lunch funded, and others don’t, it will create distorted notions of fairness.   Lunch is a big issue, and needs to be dealt with, someone says.   And it is a big part of the budget, which is seriously factored. 
The day includes a total of 30-35 different activities, the website says, so we are brainstorming project ideas.    Ideas for the day include Back Stage at the Zoo; Non-Museum Art; Murals in the Mission; A Tour of the Castro; Walk the Bridge; OnTop: Photography at Coit Tower, the TransAmerica tower, The Westin St. Francis Glass Elevators.   I want to interject suggestions for process– this open ended idea generating and critique is going to take a long time.  But I don’t.   That said, despite the difficulty of process, there is a lot of good, analytical thinking happening here, and the responsibility is being taken seriously.   And it is great how well these kids know the city. 
Good conversation/debate about scavenger hunts and how to make all these events more active, not just about viewing.   Jane points out that a lot of these activities seem to be framed as Tour, tour, tour, tour,  but, she says, they should be more Do: Do, Do, Do.  Great conversation about how to make the day active and engaging– and not boring.  
French class.   Good energies late in the day on a Friday, and lots of laughter.    Class really sparkles with pleasure; learning is certainly advanced by the comfortable quotient in this room. Teacher using a laptop/projector to facilitate students orally filling in the blanks of a lengthy paragraph. 
Now we are discussing the news; students are reading French newspapers, and now discussing what they read there.   Nice connection to the real world, and real world applications of their learning.   Now students are being asked to compare their preferences for news via TV, radio, newspapers and the internet, which is a real, real-world issue; connected to questions of information and technology; and requiring them to think about similarities and differences, which we know is good learning.   I wonder though if the kids could have spent more time discussing this topic with each other in small groups, with the teacher circulating, than having the students speaking to this one at a time.       
Nice use of French TV news and President Sarkozy off the internet for student listening and discussion.   Connected to global events, making good authentic use of their French skills. 
Physics.  Going over the recent quiz.  Students asking good follow-up questions.     After quiz review, assignment is distributed.   Students are required here to design their own experiments, and have a framework for that, but he says he is not going to handhold for experiments.   They have to prepare their own lab purpose and procedures analysis.  Students required to provide a drawing too for their planned experiment, which is good non-linguistic representation.  Nice.     
Students now working in group, puzzling through the lab preparation questions, displaying good collaboration skills, explaining confusions and asking questions.   The assignment has an end product goal– the ball has to hit the mark, rolling off a sloped surface above, and there is a prize for groups achieving this.  To plan accordingly, questions of velocity and acceleration have to be accurately answered.  “The goal of the lab is to try and place the target that you have been given at the correct position away from the base of your lab table so that you hit the ‘candy zone.’   You will be given a ramp, stand, and clamp, ball bearing, meter stick, stopwatch, and a target.”    Students are drawing on previous knowledge, references to sine and cosine for instance.    The teacher suggests, and students find great advantage from, drawing out their understanding of the assignment and the proposed solution.  He also offers encouragement and reinforcement for good efforts. 
Great conversation with the teacher, asked him how he was evolving the program to meet changing times.  He said AP physics can be very tradition bound, but they are really working to evolve it here.   He said the school is committed to more group work, and more communication– engineers can be geniuses in their own minds, but that isn’t going to cut it, they have to communicate their ideas.    He also explained how he is trying harder to not give kids the answers, but empowering them to approach it in an inquiry kind of way; he explained he attended a good summer seminar in AP physics by a guy who was really into inquiry.   So he is trying to not give the kids the answers and then asking them to repeat, but asking them to try to come up their own answers, and then review where they might have gone astray.    He did point out this can be hard for kids, used to the other way, but it is important.  He told me that this assignment, which I really like, he developed himself, and it represents a real change from the same unit assignment a year ago, which was much more traditional.  
Tagging along with Jane to the student newspaper meeting.  Asking for article ideas first.   Proposal: Compare high school experience in France, Russia, and here in the US (nice!); the group brainstorms who they know at schools in different countries.  Another: a shoe store named Tom’s that donates a pair for every pair of shoes sold.    Sports– alternate sports people do.   Great opportunities for students to pursue passions, do real authentic learning here.   Great proposal: Menlo School is also doing a production of Our Town, and the idea is to do see both and write a review comparing how each school stages it.    Another proposal– reviewing a new pizza restaurant.    Great enthusiasm for a new band (Mgmt?) and a concert review of its concert. 
Russian Lit.  Jane tells me they don’t have AP English here, they have in junior and senior years semester electives on special topics, which I think is a great way to go.    Class begins with what the teacher says is a “soft start” to accommodate kids coming in from other classes– there is a handout, with a philosophical paragraph, and students are reading and taking notes on it. 
To kick off the period, the teacher asks students, in groups, to discuss whether the handout text is in agreement with, or disagreement with, their assigned homework reading.   And provide two examples of that agreement or disagreement.  This is great.  We are seeing comparison and contrasting of the two texts (Marzano best practice), and then the requirement of an interpretive posture, recognizing there exists the possibility of an argument, pro or con, and they need to enter the test by taking a side and then offering support- which is really thinking, questioning, explaining (Graff, many others).    Also good group work– small size, good guiding question– the kids are really engaged.  The teacher is moving around, facilitating groups.  
Reconvened; students asked to explain their choice.  Good references to the text for support.   Teacher follow up questions:  Where do you see in the handout, (Chaadaev) that he agrees? Next question: what other imitation by Russia of Western Europe do you see?  Waits for response, lets 30+ seconds elapse as students think, nice.    What is behind dueling, why do people duel, what is the bigger idea here?   honor, an answer.  Describe honor for me, explain what is behind honor?    Students pursue it– militaristic society generates an honor culture.   Adds gambling to dueling and battle, and then asks what ties these together.  Fate.  Why Fate?  Go back to yesterday– what did we talk about yesterday? 
Good dialogue and good questions happening, but now limited to those students volunteering and then responding to the quality teacher followup, whereas earlier, in groups, it seemed a much higher proportion of students were talking and involved, and the teacher was getting to each group with good regularity.  Nice and pertinent anecdote about Pushkin and gambling.   Really got the kids’ interest with another story about a friend and a girl he met in a bar and a coin-flip– which is good, meeting the kids where their interests are.  This, kids will remember– brain research really tells us that an emotionally packed, surprising, (hormonal) story is something the brain will retain. 
Another student tells us his group went in a different direction– seeing more of a contradiction between the two writers.   Really powerful analysis here.    Teacher doesn’t respond himself– asks group what do you guys think?  Waits for response.    Students building off each other– and using that phrase, building off of that idea.  Nice.   “What I think we are arguing right now is whether the Russians have any inherent argument,” another student says– which is what Graff is pushing us to elicit in students, a conscious recognition that we are engaging in an argument.     This is good, right now there is wider involvement in the rich, analytic discussion. Students have the book open, and are citing particular passages, not passages the teacher has already directed them to. 
Wow– teacher showing us “drawings of the narrative”– what great non-linguistic representation, and multi-modality.  Really fun, large sized, renderings of the text graphically.   Love it.    Asks kids to vote on the best– really engaged. 
US History, great day to be here.  The kids are about to conduct a debate about slavery, adopting the thinking of the pro and anti slavery sides in the mid-nineteenth century.  Two students will moderate.   Kids were provided, in a textbook, in a hand-out, and online, documents from the period, pro and anti slavery, and had to study them to prepare the debate.   10 minutes provided at class start to review and prepare for the debate; the teacher bounces back and forth to the two groups prodding and stimulating their thinking.   The teacher checked in with me at class-start, and explained the plan; she told me that today I’d be seeing a “class generated by the students themselves.”   Great!
First question from the moderator: Cites the Dec. of Ind., and its provision of inalienable rights, and asks why they don’t apply to Africans?   The pro-slavery group makes it reply: they are not people, they are not landowners, it is not to apply.  Anti responds with passion– they are people, they are brothers and parents and children, they have feelings, they are entitled.   Pro group– a society is about parameters and civilization and society that the Africans didn’t have in Africa.  Anti– but they did have that in Africa, more so than the London poor.  Anti– they are humans. 
This is so great.  Second question from moderator asks about a document from a pro-slavery slave, Job, and how do you respond?  Anti group steps right up– how can this be understood as representative of all slaves?  Most slaves are living in terror, so they will say what they need to survive?  The pro group steps right in– these slaves say they are happy, and what is better than happiness?   Anti– “uh, freedom?”  Further– proslavery takes on the topic of work-ethic– with a powerful logic that the slaves are unhappy for being beaten, but they are being beaten for being lazy or defiant; if they were not slaves, they would be lazy and unproductive to society, so it isn’t great that we have slavery whereby they are more productive.    Anti– their defiance is due to their condition of slavery.   Next– sophisticated economic analysis of the need for slavery– that tobacco/sugar plantations  cannot compete globally with other slave economies if they have to pay wages, and so if they have to begin paying wages, they will go out of business, and then the unemployed slaves will become desperate marauders.   Debate– what about using indentured servants instead? Answer– England’s economy is improving, hence fewer indentured servants available.   Proslavery– don’t you enjoy the comforts provided?  No slaves, and you are going to have to go work in the fields yourself! 
Next question:  Ethically, morally, what justifies your treatment of slaves?   Pro: God provided us this, and we are Christians so god provides for christians.   Another pro: we have no other choice– we couldn’t survive otherwise, and so we have to do this.   Anti argument: But Africans are converting to Christianity too– so how does that change the equation?  Pro: Well maybe the Africans owe us a favor for our converting them and saving their souls.   We have helped them to eternal salvation– they can give us their temporal lives, and then in heaven they will have their payoff.    This way everybody is happy. 
Anti– if you are enslaving them because they can’t take care of themselves, why don’t you teach them to be independent?  Pro– There are too many slaves, we couldn’t do it all.  
Teacher processes “takeaways.”  What did you get out of this?  Student– I got better understanding of the economic value of slaves.   Another: issue of slaves and Christianity, and that they were forced to covert to Christianity.  Another: I was surprised to see how easy it is to argue for slavery– that if you are English, and have a sense of superiority, then you can make that argument.  Another: you better understand the two sides of it now, and how do you undermine European superiority when they are so certain of that.     
Nice homework assignment– a graphic organizer to accompany the reading assignment and provide guiding questions.  
Had a good, brief, conversation with the Chemistry teacher after class.   He taught four years of IB, four years of AP, and so is  great observer of the two systems.  He appreciates that AP covers so much important material, but as I asked him about IB, he shared a lot of things he likes about IB– including that the labs count, significantly, for the final score, which is a lot of work for the teacher to submit but really good for kids to have to do; he liked that the IB curriculum had so many choices for teachers on what to focus on, and can go in depth on, and he liked that the labs — and this is great– entailed an inquiry approach, where kids had to design their own labs, time consuming, but they had to do it, rather than being given a lab to do as in AP.    I also asked about how his teaching is changing– to meet the changing 21st century– and he spoke of how they are doing a lot more environmental chemistry, and implications for the environment. 
In chemistry class; yesterday they measured the silver content of a pre 1965 dime, which I would have loved to have seen.  (A note about that– both UHS and Drew have shorter sections Mondays and Fridays, and blocks on T-W-Th, and both schools suggested I come on a Monday or Friday to see a wider range of classes, which I happily accepted and makes a lot of sense.  BUT, that said, I know I would have seen much more activity based, engaged, constructivist learning in the T-W-Th. blocks). 
Chem teacher is using laptop and digital projector for a powerpoint presentation/lecture on Dalton’s Law.   A complex word problem is presented, and one student is asked to think thought the answer, and the teacher asks good follow-up questions.   This is good, but only one student here is doing the work– why not take a pause and ask every student to work out an answer, rather than just the one on the hotspot? 
Now he is giving problems for everyone to work on.   Like that he waits for students to process and do their work, and then after an answer, asks others to “confirm” that answer.  
In cluster, about 8 students and 2 teacher for a bi-weekly advisory. Usually food is available; food is important they tell me, and teenagers are always hungry.   (certainly brain-research supports this good practice).    
Very comfortable, students and teachers; kids call most teachers by first name, and one student tells me that this is a very good thing, it makes the experience feel more like “we are working together as a team to do our our learning, rather than being taught by a distant Mr. or Mrs.”  
In cluster students vote in response to a poll from the global action committee, (which I love– how cool), on which project to focus on, supporting a book project in Tanzania, a woman’s center in Nepal, or an environmental center in India.   One of the advisers here tells me she is sorry I won’t be here for an ASM, which is an all-school-meeting, at which the whole community really comes together and I could see the vibrancy of the student clubs.   


Good morning; I am here at SF University High School, UHS, for today.   Great to be here, so appreciative of Kate Garrett, Academic Dean, for her warmly welcoming me today. 

In the company of my guide, “Jane,” we have already been to Calculus, where students were asked to explain their reasoning, and asked to do work themselves pretty consistently.    Students used their graphing calculators with great ease.   
Remember, a live- blog reads from bottom to top, in confusingly reverse chronology.  Lots more to come.  

Great conversation published last winter between Dan Pink and Tom Friedman, two of the key guiding influences for this blog.  Check it out here.   

Reading it, it is easy to infer some of Friedman’s biggest emphases for 21st century success. What is required is the capacity to Synthesize, Navigate, Integrate, Imagine, and Write.   There are other elements too; curiosity is important, as is an ability to intuit or indentify what is coming next.   (Navigate is about managing your way through the internet, and having the internet savvy in evaluating on-line information and using it effectively.  Instead of banning wikipedia, schools should teach kids to “triangulate” wikipedia information with other, more reliable sources, and then establish an effective interpretation of what the evidence is.)
Pink of course, somewhat amusingly, keeps trying to tie Friedman’s suggestions back to his own book and “Six Senses.”   Friedman talks about integration, and Pink says it just like his concept of symphony; Friedman relates an anecdote about Steve Jobs needing skills both of algorithms and calligraphy for the apple, and Pink says that that is a “whole new mind.” 
Integration is at the heart of much of this– integration, symphony, or what they call the “mash-up”.  At Georgia Tech, one example provides, students take a class that is both computing and screenwriting, and then are assigned to “write an on-line play with what you have learned.”
Pink: That makes sense.  Give them instruction in the subject matter, and then leave the execution to the students.  And then give them a fair amount of autonomy along the way. 
Friedman: Right. The assignment can be: Mash these two together. 
Pink: And these kids get mash-ups. 
Friedman:  Oh they get mash ups.  They do it naturally.  And these days, he who mashes best will mash most, and be wealthiest. 
And we’ll give Friedman the last word on imagination: “Your ability to act on your imagination is going to be so decisive in driving your future and the standard of living in your country. So the school, the state, the country that empowers, nurtures, enables imagination among its students and citizens, that’s who’s going to be the winner.”

I think most of us recognize the important role of data in decision making today, though this is one educator who thinks it has to done in ways reconciling of the importance of the qualitative assessment  and the significance of the unmeasurable.   I have written about this previously here.

But what data?   Standardized testing is the near-universal default for what is called measured “student achievement” but I want to take a look at what kind of testing we should be using, and could be using alternatively. 
I am following on the lead of Tony Wagner’s Global Achievement Gap, which is greatly influential for me.   Wagner certainly acknowledges and accepts the importance of testing for accountability: “the fact that schools and districts are now being held accountable at all– and accountable for the success of all of their students– is a new and very important concept.”
But the important caveat is, “do these state tests assess the skills that matter most for work, citizenship, and college?”    Employers surveyed did not rank mathematical skills as even being in the top ten list of most important.   It is not specific content knowledge that is important, but broader thinking and reasoning skills.   One international expert says in Wagner that “there are very different styles of assessment, but I would put the US at one end of the extreme, largely driven by efficient multiple-choice tests…. US students tend to be rather good in multiple choice tasks, when four choices are clearly laid out, [but] they have a much harder time when they’re given open-ended tasks.”  
When college students are surveyed about what they needed more of in preparation for college, they answer writing and research skills, time management, and learning to work with others in study groups, not more content knowledge.   
And the AP is no better, to Wagner.   It may have a reputation as a “gold standard of  rigor,” but it is not deserved.  Studies have said it is not a predictor of college success.   It is textbook driven, dedicated to breadth rather than depth, lacking in critical thinking and analysis.  It is too much “focused on mastery of factual content– at the expense of research, reasoning, and analysis.”  It is not “merely old-fashioned… it is hopelessly obsolete.”
So is there any alternative?  Yes.    There are many.  IB, PISA, CLA, ISkills, and Stenberg-Tufts, to name a few.  
To my disappointment, Wagner doesn’t really engage with IB; this is all he says: “The IB has become more popular and demands more thinking from students in both course work and assessments, but it is far less prevalent than AP.”    I am not IB expert, but have had two weeks of IB training and I want to venture that it is a much more substantial and rigorous in the right ways kind of assessment.   Tests are longer and richer; they employ exclusively open-ended questions with a great deal of choice, evaluating what kids know, not hunting out what they don’t.   They measure strength of thinking and clarity of communication, not “having the right answer.”   The structure of IB also requires community service and an extended essay.   
PISA (the Program for International Student Assessment) is an international test from the OECD, intended for 15 year olds.  To quote from its website, “In all cycles, the domains of reading, mathematical and scientific literacy are covered not merely in terms of mastery of the school curriculum, but in terms of important knowledge and skills needed in adult life.In the PISA 2003 cycle, an additional domain of problem solving was introduced to continue the examination of cross-curriculum competencies.”

CLA (College Learning Assessment) and the CWRA (College and Work Readiness Assessment) are two new related, and really exciting, programs to assess more authentically what really matters.   Both come from the CAE, the Council for Aid to Education; the first tests college freshman and seniors in an “open-ended, ninety minute performance assessment in which students have to demonstrate their reasoning, problem-solving, and writing skills while attempting to solve a “real-world” problem.”  As an example, test takers are required to advise a mayoral candidate in a town with a high crime rate about which of several proposals for reducing crime might be most effective, reviewing documents and preparing a memo summarizing the pros and cons of different options.    Here is a link to more samples from the test. 
The CWRA is the CLA’s extension to high school students, testing them in freshman fall and senior spring, and “teachers say it is the best test, by far, of the skills that matter most for college.”  Speaking for myself, I think one of my first acts as a leader of a school including secondary grades would be to quickly adopt the CWRA. 
ISkills, from ETS, measures ICT, or critical thinking in the digital environment, how to navigate the plethora of digital information and appropriately evaluate and employ it.    It can be used for graduating high school students (I think, it was entirely clear) as a tool to test how effective kids are at managing information in the age of the internet.  Again, I’d love to jump on this myself as a school leader.   (The New York Times wrote about the on-line critical thinking topic in a popular article this summer, found here)
Robert Sternberg, whose work is essential to this topic, has ongoing projects considering how better to assess and evaluate for “successful intelligence”– the stuff that really matters today.   His Rainbow Project, for the College Board, offered a better alternative, and was found to have demonstrated better college success prediction.  Unfortunately, it seems to have been put aside; Sternberg is onto new projects at Tufts.  


In this blogger’s view, 21st century education embraces in educationally effective ways all the digital tools available, and few tools are more widely available than cell phones and now smartphones. This shouldn’t mean open season on students making and taking calls and text messaging in class, but just as we allow students to use pencils in good ways and not bad (i.e. throwing them as darts), we can empower students to use cell phones in positive learning ways.

Discovery Education Network is advocating for this, and providing examples for effective usage– check out a blog posting from an Edweek journalist, and the response postings (even more valuable) here.

As noted in a previous post, I was struck by a student at one high school who told me she used her smartphone to look up definitions and geographical locations in class, but had to hide this because there was a no-cell phone policy in class.  Let’s fix this. 

The Tucson based Partnership for 21st c. Skills outfit published today an attractive (a bit glossy) overview and call to arms, entitled 21st Century Skills, Education and Competitiveness: a Resource and Policy Guide

It doesn’t add anything new, really, to what is already on their website– it is a marketing piece as much as anything. But nonetheless, here are a few observations.

What is driving the need for new skills? The piece lays out the Friedman-esque case: we have dramatic changes in our jobs and economies, our workers require new skill sets, and we are increasingly lagging in a global achievement gap.

The complete list of 21st century skills is available at their website and is included in an overview I have done in a previous post. But what I note as really standing out here, and I know they stand out for many of us, is creativity (and innovation); communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and problemsolving– particularly of complex, open-ended problems.

I am struck too by the resouces cited– there is to my view an increasingly defined universe of thinking on the topic: Friedman, Pink, Wagner, Sternberg, Conley, and Robinson are all cited here, and are the brightest stars in the constellation of thinking informing my project.

Here is the call-to-arms concluding quotation:

“This is a seminal moment in history for education and competitiveness. The fundamental shifts in the economy demand bold and creative policies. Formalizing the connection between
education and competitiveness with an agenda focused on 21st century skills—which are widely acknowledged and supported by voters, employers, educators, researchers and thought leaders—is the starting point.”

Thanks to Mark Salkind at Urban for this recommendation, and it is spot-on.   Pope’s book is in large part a report on her student shadowing, so it is especially useful that way for me and this project.   She does it in a very different way– shadowing five students, multiple (many) times, all at the same school, and watching for how they are managing to “do” school.  

Like Pope, I too aim to be an educational thinker dialed in too to the views of our students, and to use shadowing for this goal.  She says at the book’s end: “Only by working closely with high school students and by listening to their needs, frustrations, and desires may we begin to pursue answers to the important questions raised here.  Without their voices, we are missing a key component of any conversation on school success.” 
What does she find? No surprise– her subtitle reveals all.   High school students at this “good” high scoring comprehensive public high school are competitive, good-grade obsessed, exhausted, disengaged, overextended,  bored, prone to cheating, and stressed out.   Teachers are “blind” to student experiences and  see “only one side of a the student.”  They are trapped by the realities of an overcrowded, impersonal, bureaucratic and competitive school system;”  they are “robo-teachers,” they “go through the motions,” they multi-task, they suffer from stress and burn-out.   Schools  have “fragmented schedules,”  are too large, too tracked, and too departmentalized.  It is a bit of a tale of woe.  
But there is another way…  School and class size matter, teacher relationships with students can have a great impact, and we have to reduce competition and grade grubbing.   Parents need to tap down the incessant pressure for elite university admission (a message loudly echoed by Levine’s Price of Privilege).  
And we have to honor our students wish for genuine engagement.    As Pope explains, her shadowed students are at their best when doing activities meaningful to them: community service, theater, a presentation.   Here they are “extremely focused on their work, passionately committed to doing it in the best possible way, and willing to toil long hours until satisfied.” 
“What students say they want are more opportunities to do real work as opposed to game-playing… These students long for what they believe is genuine, real success for jobs done well, a different kind of success from what they experience for the most part in school.  They want more moments of engagement in school and, ideally, a context that supports this kind of learning. ” 
Pope doesn’t tell us a lot about where we might find this, but does refer to and endorse schools where curricula is designed “around a small number of concepts and skills to be covered in depth…choose to organize lessons around central challenges or problems to be solved, many of which have application to the world outside of school.”  

Click here for a direct link to both read and post comments regarding the Drew Liveblog. 

Advanced Art class; the school-day’s last period.  9 girls and 1 guy– again, an art gender imbalance, I wonder why?  Anybody care to speculate?    
Music playing, assignments made, and students are working.    Reading about best practice, several writers have advocated that all subjects should be taught more like art: teachers do demonstrations, give clear examples of excellence in subject achievement, make assignments with clear expectations, and then step aside, letting students “practice” while teachers coach.   That is happening here, and it looks great.  Full engagement, lots of low-key support for classmates, substantial responsibility taken for product, and lots of ongoing feedback and positive affirmation offered by teacher. 
Art students are going to take the last few minutes of class to read a section and post a response to the blog.    Please read the above, and/or any three paragraphs below, and post a response of some kind, either reacting to what you have read, or just telling what you think the best thing that is happening here. 
After what seemed a very short transition, I am now in French class with Simone; she is the TA, and before the teacher arrives, she immediately takes command of this group of freshmen and sophomores, asking them to take out their homework,  which she is checking.   She didn’t identify this when I asked her about authentic or applied learning, but it certainly is a great example.   I haven’t had many opportunities to view high school “TA” work (ever?), and this seems great.   How many Drew students do this, TA work?  How systematized is it?  I like it.
The class is all in French– our teacher is Senegalese, and is deliberately speaking only en francais.   (But in a complicated example of the imperative, he steps out of French into English to explain).   Simone is not needed for today’s lesson, after the initial check-in, so after a few minutes we head out, taking a break for the rest of the period.  It would have been fun to see more of Simone’s TA-ing in action, but not today. 
Instead we toured the school– covering all four floors, and finding a very open, safe, informal, comfortable environment.    We went into the learning center, where teachers and tutors are available, all day, for drop-in assistance, and a group of students are taking them up on it.   Simone has an extended conversation with one tutor about a previous week’s assignment.   We go upstairs and visit in the art studio; a class is in session, beginning painting, and Simone goes right on in, welcomed into the environment by the teacher.   Kids are very engaged, two different assignments in action, and the teacher, having established the expectation, is checking in with them.    She says she hopes this class allows kids to have a lot of fun, in what otherwise for some might be a very pressured day, and because fun elicits creativity.   The class is all girls; we discuss some reasons why that is so: the gender of the teacher (in contrast, there is a male music teacher, and more boys seem to gravitate to music), or perhaps the career tracks of men and women in the arts?   We also discuss how her art instruction has changed over the years, and for the 21st century; she suggests she is glad for more opportunity to focus on depth over breadth, recognizing the value of less is more; she also says that she is more aware that she now needs to teach the hidden elements of visual art, for greater visual literacy in a visual age (and refers to Pink’s whole new mind in this context).  
Briefly we visit the library, where Simone happily says hello to friends with a casual and teasing banter; she says students at Drew (still) use the library books frequently; when I ask her about just using wikipedia, she says she doesn’t trust wikipedia.  
After a quick lunch (pad thai), I am back in class, in Physics, with Simone.    Over lunch, we discussed some quick topics of 21st century schooling.  “Simone” and “Alice” offered some input to me about what they think 21st century education is: they said it has to do with being able to really offer your own point of view and your political opinions, and speak your mind; to think independently and critically.   Simone is glad that she has exposure to a pretty wide variety of cultural diversity among her classmates, and they are all welcome to speak their own views.      
About authentic education, Simone says she really values the week-long experiential ed. programs Drew offers, called DEAL; she has done pottery and a Quebec exchange.
I asked about digital tools, and heard about appreciation for email and a homepage Drew offers for homework and other communications.   Neither Simone nor Alice are carrying laptops, but they tell me they both carry iphones to check their email and for other school uses– I think it is really interesting to consider how we can use smartphones to leapfrog laptops.   I asked for examples; Alice says she has an iphone app for chemistry formulas she needs, and Simone says she has used it in class to check definitions of terms (even though, and I thought this was fascinating, she seemed to say she has to hide using her smartphone in this way because cellphones are not supposed to be used in class).    
We also spoke about the most challenging assignments they have had; Simone told me about a terrific history course she had where she had to write a paper about the West, and she used the school’s great library (and librarian) to find sources, and wrote a 5 page paper about prostitution during the gold rush.  Alice told me about an essay she wrote last year on communism, having read Marx and other writings about communism in practice.  In her paper she offered an argument (and I liked her sophistication in recognizing this as an ‘argument’) that communism could only work in a closed system, utterly unaware of other options for societal organization.  Once people in communism become aware of other systems, communist systems will collapse.    Nice thinking. 
Physics: Animated, after lunch. Reviewing key terms, in an energetic back and forth question and answer session.  What about velocity– does velocity have to do with mass?  She is working off of a digital projector from her laptop, and a powerpoint of key topics.  Students have been given a units problem– and they are doing the work, talking and supporting each other.  Now three more acceleration practice questions– students doing the calculations, and the teacher is moving about, checking answers and coaching the problemsolving. 
Is gravity a force?  Debate is breaking out among the students, and she is letting the debate play out.   A little press from the teacher– explain your thinking.   It is a fun argument to watch.   Fun at the end, an activity measuring length of time of falling objects.  
I jumped ship from “simone” to “alice” for this morning’s fourth class period, and I am in an English seminar, Literature of Ethics.   The class actually begins, (very nicely!) with a bit of a press to me: what am I doing here again?   Why am I even doing this?  the teacher encourages the questioning– this is critical thinking, go ahead.  I answer, and then then teacher engages me when I say I want, in part, to shadow students to see their perspective and “hold up a mirror” to schools so they can see the “cool stuff” going on.   She says do I mean that administrators have no real idea what is going on?  I say that I think they do have some ideas, but that they, and everyone in a school, could all stand to know better what is going on.  She agrees that she thinks students do have a much better idea what is going on than do the teachers, as the students go class to class and see the breadth of teaching.  
We begin with a question about the night before’s reading, from Steven Pinker on the Moral Instinct and how the understanding the brain can inform our understanding of morality,  Students are very engaged, and the conversation is free flowing. (the guys are also participating a lot).   Our teacher asks good followup questions– what is the point, is there a moral gene, and students are pressed to support answers.   A student answers by citing a passage directly.   Followup: “and what is he saying about that?”   “What about the morality involved?”  This is great. 
taking a quick look now at the Course description– which most of the classes have, really helpful course overviews.    Beautifully the course description opens with our guiding questions: What does it mean to be human?  How do we choose to behave under duress? Why do characters act unethically?  And it is made personal, connecting the course to ourselves:  how do we choose to act, and why?  How should we account for our lives? 
Course sheet also lays out the assignments, including multi-draft essays, reading journals, and presentations.  A rubric is also provided.
Today’s Pinker reading was accompanied by questions for preparation.  One asks for close reading: what is the proof?   The second question is intentionally difficult– and bravo.  Listen to this: “If morality is a biological imperative; if it behooves us socially and evolutionarily to behave ‘morally,’ does this negate the ‘moral’ nature of morality?”   I love this– this really requires thinking.    (then added is this postscript: “if you understand this question, you get an automatic A on this assignment”).     The third question induces an argumentative approach (I think Graff would love it), and demands assertion and defense.   “Is Steven Pinker a smarty-pants, or an opinionated goofball?  (you must pick one or the other, and tell me why).”  (Italics added).  
Teacher makes a connection to college preparation– in college you will have to do deep critical thinking and focus on logical analysis, and let’s start doing it here.   Let’s scrutinize the Pinker article– let’s look closely at its logic and assertions.  Pinker says there are five human universals– do we just accept that, just take that for granted?  No, let’s interrogate it, what is he bases that on?  What is his evidence for his claim?  
Very strong approach here to explaining and defending.   Like it a lot. 
Went with Simone and got some coffee.  Now in Math class (Precalculus); in part of the modern part of the building with these great glass windows over California. 
Over coffee, hurriedly, (easy to forget how little pause time high school students have, rushing from one thing to another), chatted with Simone about what she thinks is most important preparation for college; she says it is strong essay abilities, a strong ability to write college writing.  Simone says she had a good junior year course, “writing for college” that helped a lot, and now AP English is very focused on this as well. 
Teacher asks for questions about homework– and checks the breadth of the class for comprehension of what the question is looking for.   Very nicely he is using a digital projector, and can immediately shift back and forth between his notes and the textbook itself, to check on exactly which question is so difficult. 
Simone asks a question about something she really doesn’t understand, and it is clear that here students are comfortable to do so– it is totally ok to admit a confusion here, it is really a safe place. Good dialogue of questioning, back and forth.   Lots of questions– students explaining things to each other, students really seeking clarity.   Working on slope now– asking students to do it, students to draw the graph of a slope going 1 to negative one, one to negative one– I like that he is asking the students do it, and then he is moving and coaching them– students do. 
Glad for an aside he provides, bringing us to the real world– what if you started a business, he says,  selling bags (pocketbooks), you’d have an initial investment of a sewing machine, and a per unit cost of material, and so you’d need a function analysis to determine when you would become profitable.    Then we go back to the text– be great to keep the sewing business example alive, try to return to it, not lose it too quickly, it really grounds us in what the value of the learning is. 
Another real world connection– why Walmart needs to sell a “massive amount of stuff to make any profit” is recognized by a function analysis. 
Now comes an interesting, really important point:  he says the calculating questions are typically not that hard for students, but the explain questions, the “why” questions are always harder for students, but that is ok because we will work on that all year, that will be a main theme of the course, learning to answer the “why” and the “explain” questions, which is exactly as it should be– (throughout?)– we need to be learning to think, to question, answer questions not just do calculations, to explain our thinking.  
Nice, visual, tangible display of the formula of the surface of a cylinder. 
Homework will be posted online– he says, nice and convenient. 
I am in a 12th grade English seminar, Fact and Fiction: Latin American fiction.   Working on One hundred years of solitude– what great readings at this school!   A course in Latin American literature (in translation) is itself too a nice nod to a global interest. 
Opened the class with a short youtube video about a disabled man without a memory– short, engaging, intellectually stimulating, nice use of media and technology– and then students write a response to it, and then there is a good, questioning dialogue to set up one of the key issues of GarciaMarquez, the problem and power of memory. 
Now we are into the text– looking at characters as animal figures, looking at metaphor.   
Kind of a funny, good reference to a videogame, Civilization; I like the contemporary reference and familiarity with gaming.   Teacher is at the board, and then drawing a diagram with arrows and shapes, asking students to think about how this might be a representation of the movement of the book.   More non-linguistic representation.  
Simone offers a really interesting character interpretation, and the teacher, effectively, asks her to defend her argument.   then good followup questions.  Pretty wide classroom involvement, though I will note more of it coming from the girls. 
Ongoing effort to link back to other readings, to understand this book as being interconnected and in a dialogue of sort with the currents of Western Literature, with special attention to the kids’ previous study of the Bible.   
9:10– Just left humanitias, here are notes from it, written in the present tense. 
The room is busy with very good energy on this Monday morning.  Our discussion is about my VERY favorite subject, Plato’s Republic.  We are beginning by setting a context, with a nod to previous knowledge and to organizing your notes. 
Simone shares with me the course syllabus, which is in fine essential question form, setting out five guiding questions: “what’s out there, how do I know about it, what should I do, what actions are permissible, what can life be like?”  This is a great way to organize a course, pursing good, open-ended questions, questions which are authentically interesting, interesting to anyone, open ended, and very amenable to argument.  The course sheet also establishes clear methods of assessment– 20% is allotted to imagination and participation, which I love, and then the bulk for “long essays.” 
Professor, as Simone refers to him, opens with the big question for the Republic: What is Justice? 
After a helpful introductory lecture of 10 minutes, setting the scene, we plunge into the questioning, which I really enjoy.  What is happening in Book 1 of the Republic?  Do you know now, having read it, what justice is?  What is justice?  Students are venturing forth ideas, and defending them. 
The professor draws a nice analogy of the Republic to a symphony, what I would call something of a valuable non-linguistic representation, which is something I am looking for, and explains that the whole book is like a symphony. 
Having set out key overarching questions, we now go over an outline of themes to be developed in the Republic.  One of the five is framed as a question, the others as tensions or dynamics, which is just shorthand for questions really: seeming vs. being is just another way of saying What is the tension of seeming vs. being in the Republic?   We are not being told a summary of the content, we are being provided key questions to bring to it. 
More questioning: what is Piraeus, what is impiety?  An attention to vocabulary is here to, importantly. 
Reading the text aloud, and then more good, open ended questions.  Can you find any elements of these themes? A first answer is ventured, tentative, then a followup from the teacher: “go on, continue” (think deeper!). Patience, a great willingness to wait for the answers. 

8:30 AM

Good morning– very happy to be here at Drew School (San Francisco) today, shadowing a 12th grade student, “Simone”– not her real name.     This is the first of what I intend will be 20-30 such shadow/visits this school year. 

The goal of the blog is to observe and celebrate 21st century education, and I am here to see it in action, and  report and reflect on it in a liveblogging fashion.   For more on what I mean by 21st century education, you can scroll down the blog to previous postings– you might start with the post: What is 21st century education, anyway? 
I warmly welcome Drew community member (students, teachers, and anyone else) to follow along over the course of the day (remember that in liveblogs, the chronology of the page is backwards with the most recent posting being on top)
I’m hoping that this will be interactive: I want to hear from you, and encourage you to share with and respond to each other.     Use the comment button to post your responses.   (I am moderating them for appropriate content, so they will not post immediately, but quickly)
Here are some prompts for you to consider, but please also feel free to write a reaction to anything I have written, or to respond to what someone else has written in the comments. 
1. What do you think is good 21st century education?  How is it different from what good education was 10 years ago?  How should schools be best educating for this dramatically different new age?   What are the necessary skills, aptitudes, minds or senses for success in this new era?   (see a list of these from different sources here)
2.  What are good examples of this kind of education happening at Drew?  What in general is happening here that is really excellent practice? 
3.   I think good 21st century education includes some of the following– you could respond by telling me whether you agree or disagree, or respond with examples of these in practice:  
  • requiring students to think critically, ask good questions, and employ effective argumentation; 
  • authentic education where students engage with and apply learning to real problems; 
  • learning for global understanding and ‘international-mindedness’; 
  • schooling which integrates effectively contemporary digital tools such as laptops and cell phones. 

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