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…)

My comments to the student body this morning, edited and expanded for this format:

Yesterday my 7 year old son, completely out of the blue , said to me  “Dad, wasn’t it interesting when the guy said  “Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world and in here is the dream.”

Recognize it? Anyone?   Yes, it is from Avatar, when Jake Sully compared his experience when embodied as his avatar to his self-identity in his normal world of being human.   His avatar experience has become his “true world.”

Mind you, my seven year-old said this to me an entire month after we saw the movie, and we had not previously discussed this quotation.   Somehow, this quote had been lingering and ruminating in my son’s mind for an entire month, and he was still chewing over it.   Why would Jake say that, what does that mean?

Students:  what does Jake’s saying mean to you—why was he feeling his avatar experience was his new “true world”? [Some discussion followed]

Surely there are more literal interpretations, but I want to reach more the metaphorical significance:  I would suggest to you that there are three reasons why Jake discovers his avatar experience to be his true world.

First,  inserting himself first slowly, then fully into Pandoran society, Jake finds himself deeply drawn into the social network of the Navi. He becomes (more…)

I haven’t written often here about Douglass Reeves, but he really is a great resource about leadership and learning (his catchphrase).   In an undated piece on ASCD Express (Hey ASCD Express: Date your pieces!), Reeves poses three challenges to educational leaders like myself seeking to foster vigorously in our schools a “genuine commitment to 21st century learning”: these three challenges he calls the Assessment Gap, the Teaching Gap, and the Leadership Gap.

Reeves is right to begin with the Assessment Gap.  He explains the problem that very few states measure 21st century skills– either in the way of higher order thinking skills such as critical thinking and innovative thinking, and also key personal and social skills, such as collaboration and communication.   If we are to be driven by state standardized testing, and those tests do none of this, then how can we drive learning toward this? (more…)

Really impressed with the recent (Summer 2009) publication from the Center for Public education, a 70 page document (free download!) entitled Defining a 21st century education,  by Craig Jerald, a noted educational researcher.  So impressed with this am I that I have written a posting (below) which is much too long! (Apologies)

Jay Matthews, the Washington Post educational columnist, turned me on to it, and he praised it highly:

Jerald’s paper, by contrast, carefully describes the corporate, economic, political, cultural and demographic trends that have put our children at a disadvantage, and explains how our teachers can adapt what they already teach, the content knowledge and literary and math skills that everyone needs, to help students think critically, collaborate with others, solve new problems and adapt to change.)

This is progress in itself, seeing Matthews becoming ever more accommodating of the 21st century educational movement; he also recently offered praise, belated I must point out, to Tony Wagner and global Achievement Gap, and it was fascinating to see the two of them dialogue, Wagner and Matthews, in an extended conversation.

But back to “Defining” this is a very fine work, offering extensive research based evidence for the significance of students learning 21st century skills, complete with many charts, graphs, and tables (34!).  (more…)

(Spoken remarks to the student body this morning)

Creative, Inventive, Ingenious, Original:  All four are thesaurus-provided synonyms for “innovative”, and these four are the words I shared with our students today to help illuminate the significant goals to which we aspire when we now say we are “creating leaders and innovators”.

Happy New Year.   It is a time for replacing the calendar, and entering into the next chapter of history, and here at St. Gregory, as I know you have seen, we have made a change in our motto for the school to what is now “Creating Leaders and Innovators” … and I know the change may be a bit jarring.

Character Scholarship Leadership, our former school motto and slogan, is certainly a wonderful expression of our school’s great traditions and foundational qualities.  Our school mission is unchanged—as always, we are here to challenge students to pursue excellence in character, in scholarship, and in leadership.

I want you to know that though I may not talk very frequently about character and scholarship, I am working behind the scenes to strengthen them further as the core components of a St. Gregory education.   For character, I have worked with the Academic committee to ensure we are reporting to you and your parents in the “Egg” (Essential Goals for Gregorians) how well we think you, our students, are growing in the Essential Goal of integrity, compassion, and ethical decision making.  I am also working hard to develop for next year a new advisory program: a structured way for you and an advisor-teacher to work together to support your growth in character.  In both ways, I am working to make character growth not less but more important than ever here at St. Gregory. (more…)

I hope this is OK to share here; Dan Pink didn’t say it wasn’t.  Pink, certainly a prominent figure in my pantheon of influential thinkers, offered this morning a New Year “teleseminar” with his 2010 recommended reading, trend predictions, and personal actions; this was provided for a lucky 500 who sent in a receipt for his new book, Drive.   To quote him, “This is stuff I haven’t talked about, and for the most part, will not be talking about again.”

  • 10 publications I will be reading.
  • 5 Trends I will be watching.

The below is just sharing directly what I heard from Pink, but before I do, some quick comments.  I appreciate his enthusiam for the intersection of art and science, and the ways in which they reinforce each other.  His endorsement of Artsjournal is partly on the basis of how well that publication relates art and science, making the bridge and seeing the interconnections, and it is no coincidence that Artsjournal is on his list immediately adjacent to the New Scientist.  As we all work so vigorously to educate students to become creative scientists and deeply knowledgeable artists, the thinkers who will best flourish in the new era, we need to follow Pink’s lead and look for these intersections.

A second quick comment: Pink recommended with many of these sites that we subscribe to the e-newsletters, and I did, but I also chose to follow them on Twitter, and I think that will be more effective for me.  I haven’t written much about this topic here on the blog, but Twitter is fast becoming, hugely, my best tool for staying informed and aware of what is being discussed and written about on the topic that interest me.

Again, everything below is in Dan Pink’s own words… his teleseminar for 2010.

10 publications:

  1. Springwise.com.  A website and fabulous electronic newsletter. Thousands of people out there, looking for new business ideas, from all over the world.  Every time the weekly email newsletter comes, it is full of great stuff. (more…)