January 2010

Greatly looking forward to the ISAS (Independent School Association of the Southwest) Teacher Conference next week.   The slate of speakers is very impressive, I think, for a regional conference.  I am delighted to be able to see two speakers who are great influence to me in my leadership and writing–Tony Wagner and Dan Pink– and I am looking forward to the others as well.   I am also very happy to be working with ISAS as an official blogger for the event.

My plan is to post an entry after each session,  summarizing highlights from each speaker, trying to embed in my summaries links to articles or other websites they reference, and  of course offering some commentary on how their ideas relate to my vision of 21st century education.    There is only one session in which two speakers are presenting simultaneously; Thursday at 2:00 both Andrew Zucker and David Eagleman present.  I am drawn to both, would love to attend both, but I think I will attend the Zucker.  So I invite any of you attending the conference and choosing the Eagleman session to write up a report and email it to me, and I will post it here (with full credit to you).

Readers are also welcome to join the conversation; use the “Leave a comment” button to submit a post, which does require my approval for publishing.   I welcome all kinds of opinion, and you are welcome to be critical of ideas; my only requirements for approval are that you identify yourself (no anonymity) and that you avoid fierce personal attacks.

For those of you looking to prep for your conference by doing some quick reading about some of our presenters, I invite you to read some of my previous posts.   For Dan Pink, you can read here about his New Year’s Day 2010 “teleseminar” and also see his TED talk about his new book Drive, though in the latter case I should give you a spoiler alert that viewing this video might reduce the pleasure of seeing his ideas live on Thursday.

I have written very often about Tony Wagner here at 21k12blog; our St. Gregory faculty read his book last summer and have been discussing it all fall.   There are several pieces on the blog, including this one about Chapter 1, and this one about Chapter 2, about our faculty’s discussion responses to his book.    I have also written about all the ways we are using Wagner’s book here.   Tony himself, I think it is appropriate to say, is a regular reader and occasional commentator himself on this blog, so you can expect that comments you post here to my blog about Tony Wagner will be likely read by Tony himself.

I also am an admirer and student of positive psychology, the subject of our last speaker at the ISAS conference.   If you are interested in a lighter piece about this topic, I invite you to read my remarks to my students linking happiness research to the plot and character development of the film Avatar.

Drawing again today from the authoritative report from Craig Jerald, Defining a 21st century education. Jerald views creativity and innovation as among the most important 21st century  “broader competencies;”

The new Skills Commission concluded that academic knowledge and skills, applied literacies, and critical thinking will not be sufficient for the U.S. to maintain its competitive edge in the global economy. “The crucial new factor, the one that alone can justify higher wages in this country than in other countries with similar levels of cognitive skills, is creativity and innovation.” Indeed, employers in the Conference Board survey ranked creativity third among skills they expect to increase in importance over the next half decade….Today, with so many similar products and services available to consumers, companies can only stay ahead by providing customized or uniquely designed versions.
But more than just establishing its importance, Jerald has done more, he has probed deeply into what we really are talking about when we talk about the competency of creativity and innovation.   Helpfully, he compares the view of this competency as seen by employers and by school administrators: whereas the latter most often see creativity as defined as “problem-solving,” employers see it as “problem identification or articulation.”
Employers and superintendents also disagreed on the “comfort with ‘no right answer.’” Employers ranked it fifth in importance, but by such a small margin that it was virtually tied for third, while superintendents ranked it eleventh—dead last. (more…)

I have said it before, and will say it again: Tom Friedman is perhaps my single greatest inspiration for my embrace of the mission to educate to innovate.   Yesterday he struck again with his message (“More (Steve) Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs“), this time with some new references and suggestions.

Like Friedman, I want to see schools produce more ingenious, creative, problem-solvers; I want students to tinker, I want them to engage with real-world problems,  I want them to draw upon their rich, liberal arts learning and scientific know-how and creative thinking to create new solutions.

What the country needs most now is not more government stimulus, but more stimulation. We need to get millions of American kids, not just the geniuses, excited about innovation and entrepreneurship again. (more…)

Creating Leaders, and developing in our students the 21st century skills which relate and support leadership, is one of my main projects in education.

(Although it is entirely important to note that I am very aware of, and very interested in, the nuance of what we mean by leadership; I have written appreciatively of new models of “innovative leadership,” and I am also admiring and mulling over a recent HBR piece calling for a  new model of a leader, one which might better be labeled “builder.” )

Jerald’s report on Defining a 21st century education I have recently reviewed, very favorably; today I want to look more closely at what he says about leadership and collaboration skill developments.   The topic comes up first when considering a study about various competencies, and their correlation to later success: Math, we learn, is most significant factor (among six)  for students enrolling in post-secondary ed., most in completing bachelor’s degrees, and most in predicting future earnings.  Math matters.

But I am intrigued to see that while leadership roles, and sports-related competencies are not so significant for enrolling in post-secondary or completing bachelors, they are significant for future earnings potentials. (more…)

I don’t write often enough here about the incredible importance of teachers, but as the Atlantic Monthly recently reported, no single factor is more significant to student learning than the quality of the teachers, and St. Gregory students are very fortunate to have so many terrific teachers.  This nice piece, which recently appeared on local TV station KVOA,  displays beautifully one of our fine faculty members, caught in action!   (I also appear briefly in the video.)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Dear St. Gregory Families:

Greetings this January, and a (belated) Happy New Year.   It is now six months into my new headship of our wonderful school, and there is much I want to share with you about our progress.

First, I should say that I regret not having had more time and opportunity to get to know more of you.   Fortunately, I am happily anticipating some forthcoming events being planned to allow me to better get to know you.

I should add that I have enjoyed enormously getting to know St. Gregory students this fall, especially when I have had chances to actively participate with them in their endeavors.   My two great highlights of the school year thus far have been the day I spent on Mt. Lemmon with the 8th graders rock climbing, and the day I spent with the juniors on our high ropes challenge course.  It is my ambition and intent to do much more of these activities in the months ahead. (more…)

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