April 2011

The following essay was written by our new incoming Librarian and Director of Information Literacy, Laura Lee Calverley.   She prepared this piece as part of her application for our position.   Next week I intend to post excerpts from other essays we received in the course of our search.

The 21st Century School Library: Literacy in a New Era

Traditionally, the school library has been a house of books, supporting the development of student literacy and learning. Though radical changes have swept us into the Information Age, the overall goal of the school library remains the same: To teach and promote literacy and to continue to provide students access to learning materials and information. Focused no longer on the idea of literacy being cemented to books and other printed materials, the modern school library appropriately embraces a modern idea of literacy—an information literacy. To truly teach information literacy, the 21st century library and the 21st century librarian must create a safe and welcoming learning environment that promotes a modern day literacy; teaching a comfort and understanding of the intellectual concepts behind information technology, whilst maintaining the library as a thriving center of research, reading and learning. (more…)

I downloaded the TED app recently to my iPhone– I regret I waited so long.   The first tab within the app is devoted to TED themes, and I am struck that one of the most popular theme is “The Rise of Collaboration (54 talks)” and it says that this also understood as “the wealth of networks.”

Struck, delighted, but as I reflect, unsurprised.  We are living in an era of extraordinary intellectual networking, and so many of us are finding ourselves connecting, communicating, collaborating, networking, and growing by the virtue of our online networks.

This is a major theme of my recent writing here on the blog and of my recent keynote address, Innovative Schools, Innovative Students.   It is prominent in the new book by Steven B. Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From: A Natural History of Innovation and in the new book by John Seely Brown, A New Culture of Learning.   Many are writing about it online: one terrific post about the power of being a networked educators is by Lyn Hilt: Becoming the Lead Learner. 

In the TED talk above, Will Richardson provides a brilliant and compelling articulation of the significance of a newly networked era and its significance for learning.    Even more compelling than the TED talk is Will’s slideshow, Learning in a Networked World: For our students and for ourselves: Check it out.  It is exquisite both in form and content: I am intending a blog post about it soon.

Some favorite quotes from the TED talk:

I think this is the coolest moment to be a learner.

It is very different from when we were growing up… Our kids can learn whatever they want whenever they want… (more…)

At a conference recently, I was approached and asked for advice about resources for using skype in the classroom to connect with schools in other countries.   I started to answer the question with a specific suggestion (the Cool Cat Teacher’s Flat Classroom) when I stopped myself and took another tack in my advice-giving.

Instead, I suggested, I encouraged him to join the online community of educators, to join the network, and to be empowered to learn continuously rather than in discrete lumps.

Teach a man to fish and feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish, and feed him as long as the fish supply holds out.  But create a collective, and every man will learn how to feed himself for a lifetime.

I am quoting from a brilliant new book, A New Culture of Learning, by John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas.

Learning in an age of constant change simply never stops. In the new culture of learning, the bad news is that we rarely reach any final answers, but the good news is that we to play again, and we may find even more satisfaction in continuing the search. (more…)


I shared this with our upper school student body last week, in a continuing series of TED talks for student assemblies, ( which I think is the greatest thing since email).

Simon Sinek tells us of an extremely simple and extremely powerful strategy for leadership and commercial success: to tell Why first? All people need to follow you, and follow you passionately, is to know why you do what you do, and to believe in it.  The what doesn’t matter nearly so much once people believe in the why.

Martin Luther King was so successful because he shared his dream: his followers knew why he was calling and working for change, and the followed him.    Apple, the computer company, shares its vision for why they are a company: to disrupt the status quo, Sinek explains, and that is its secret sauce, not its quality products; this is in contrast to TiVo, he says, which has a similarly quality product but hasn’t explained why consumers would want it.

Myself, I am conflicted about the success of the talk.   I think his historical examples are less than convincing: both Apple and TiVo have had, over their histories, plenty of ups and downs on the roller coaster of the stock market and consumer adoption. (more…)


We are pleased at St. Gregory to announce and share our new opportunity for our high school students, diplomas in Leadership and Innovation .  As described in the slides above, the program allows those students who wish to go further in their leadership or innovation education can do so by pursuing one of these two diplomas in a program which functions in a way somewhat akin to a college major.

St. Gregory’s motto is to “Create Leaders and Innovators,” and I’m certainly confident that the school has long done exactly this, and that in recent years the school has taken very excellent steps forward in doing so even better.   Our school will continue to do so for all our students, and we will work to ensure that this new opportunity for some students to go further or deeper doesn’t in any way result in any diminished such education for all other students.

This program has a few parallels at other schools around our continent.  A particular inspiration for our initiative has been the Global Studies diploma offered by Providence Day School, which I first learned about at an NAIS conference in Chicago, two years ago. (more…)


After my talks last week on the topic Innovative Schools, Innovative Students, Karl Fisch suggested to me to Dan Meyer’s talk, and I thank Karl for that.   Dan’s terrific talk has a great resonance with my argument that if we are to teach our students to become innovators, we must move them away from simplicity and formulas and most of all from absolute answers,  against actually.   We must become more comfortable with discomfort, with lack of clarity, with a lack of simple or certain solutions.

Dan says early in his talk that this is an amazing time to be a math teacher, and this is certainly one of my larger arguments in parallel: this is an amazing time to be an educator.

Dan fears that our educational system is inculcating in our students exactly the wrong traits for their future success, and I would extend, exactly the wrong ones to prepare them to be innovators.

  • Lack of initiative
  • Lack of perseverance (more…)

[cross-posted from Connected Principals]

According to a College Board webinar I participated in last week via EdLeader21,  as part of its promised “revamp” of the AP toward depth over breadth and better integration of the skills and content, the College Board/ Advanced Placement program is developing a new online platform called “the AP Lifeline.”  It is intended to be a rich resource and repository of the “learning objectives” in each subject area, with mini-lectures on each and sample questions and answers.

(Click here for the College Board’s overview of their changes).

I am a bit put-off by the name: AP Lifeline? Doesn’t that almost sound as if the AP drives kids to an almost suicidal level of stress, so much so that they require being thrown a lifeline?  Now, many are concerned that this is the case (see the new film Race to Nowhere), and we all are aware that a small number of students do struggle with academic stress to the point of suicidal impulses, but it seems an odd choice by the College Board/AP to acknowledge and underscore this problem by naming their resource the “Lifeline.”  Give them points, I guess, for self-awareness rather than denial.

But how about:

  • the AP Hub?
  • AP Deeper?
  • AP Inquiry? (more…)

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