April 2012


Survey: What is your favorite School of the Future resource?

Google Doc: What do you view as Core elements of Schools of the Future? 

Shared Slides: Group Work, Sharing your Suggestions for Uses of Tech. 



It was great to share this presentation with my “home association” colleagues, ISAS Technology administrators and educators.

Above are the presentation slides, in which you should be able to find most or all of the books to which I referred,  and below are some of the videos I used in the presentation.

Cross posted from the Santa Fe Leadership Center newsletter/blog, for which it was commissioned and where is was first published April 12. 

Uh,oh, I thought at first, and then “oh-no:  Jonah Lehrer isn’t joining the dark side, is he?”  The title of the New Yorker piece previewing his forthcoming book Imagine read “Groupthink: the brainstorming myth.” Would he be yet another horseman of the Creativity and Innovation backlash, arguing to their readers (many of whom, after all, found their writing online, via Social media, or shared with them via some collegial network) that “groupthink” is the enemy and that original thinking and breakthrough creativity is being lost in the crowd and drowned by the information flood inundating us.

William Deresiewicz makes the strongest claim of those I declare to be on the “dark-side” of the creativity force in his much circulated essay for the American Scholar, “Solitude and Leadership“:   “Here’s the other problem with Facebook and Twitter and even The New York Times. When you expose yourself to those things, especially in the constant way that people do now – older people as well as younger people – you are continuously bombarding yourself with a stream of other people’s thoughts.”

More recently, Susan Cain, whose recent book Quiet and TED-talk on Introverts are all the rage, laid it out on the front page of the Times’Sunday Review:  “Artists work best alone …. I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone… Not on a committee. Not on a team.”

Fortunately within about a dozen paragraphs of Lehrer’s New Yorker its true thesis emerges: “Human creativity has increasingly become a group process. Many of us can work much better creatively when teamed up,” he wrote, noting that the trend was particularly apparent in science labs. The essay’s title is a misleading misdirection: despite a few flaws in traditionally constructed brainstorming,  creativity is best advanced when we effectively connect and collaborate.

Disregard the dark side, because the evidence is increasingly and abundantly clear: creativity may spurt into consciousness when the churning currents of our brain-stream are in a momentary calm spot, perhaps when the topography temporarily flattens and waters slow or find respite from the rush behind a rock or tree, but the significance of that spurt will be richest when our momentarily still waters have come from many tributaries rushing into one another with great tumbling, frothing, and intermingling.

We live in a golden age of thinking about thinking, and in particular, thinking about creative thinking, and we should all be grateful for this wave of new understanding, because there is nothing – nothing – more critical for our global future and for the future success of our students and ourselves, than that we enhance creative powers.

Reflecting upon my reading, four elements emerge as most valuable to the project of helping ourselves, our colleagues, and our students become more creative.

1. Our own consciousnesses come first: unless we genuinely seek to understand better and be open to learning – from experience, from others, from failure – we will always find our creativity sharply restrained. Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset, sets the stage for a creative life better than any other I know.  The fixed mindset is an insidious plague; it sneaks up the back of our spine and calcifies if we don’t actively exercise its opposite: the growth mindset – the simple but profound notion that whatever it is we are attending to, there is more we can learn. (more…)

“Increasingly in 21st c., what you know is far less important than what you can do with what you know.”

“Academic content is not very useful in and of itself. It is knowing how to apply it in new situations or to new problems that matters most in the world of innovation.”

“Transforming classroom experience at every level essential to develop capacities to become innovators.”

“Collaborative, project-based, interdisciplinary approaches to learning have a profound effect on the development of young persons [to become innovators].”

There are three essential  interrelated elements: Play, Passion, and Purpose.  “Whether, and to what extent, parents, teachers, and employers, encourage these qualities makes an enormous difference in the lives of young innovators.”

“High Tech High and New Tech Network provide outstanding examples of educating students to develop innovation skills… Together, High Tech High and Olin College provide an outline of 8 years of educating for innovation.”

Regular readers here will understand with the enthusiasm with which I greet the publication of Tony Wagner’s new book, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World.  I’ve been a fan of Wagner’s writing since the Global Achievement Gap was published in 2008, a book which has influenced this blog’s educational vision perhaps more than any other single title.   “Creating Innovators” has been a theme both of my educational leadership and my blogging since 2009, when the Board of St. Gregory adopted it as a core component of our mission and our slogan/tag line.

This book, like Dr. Wagner’s previous one, has many different audiences; it is not a book exclusively for K-12 educators, and includes among its targets parents of young and school-age children, post-secondary educators, and, more generally, those many general nonfiction readers who have been influenced by Thomas Friedman to recognize that the “World is [Now] Flat” and it is essential that we confront the changing demands of our fast-changing times.   Frankly, there are times at which as a reader who is an educator I feel a little cheated that there isn’t more attention to and more information about what we should and can do to strengthen educating for innovation in K-12 learning, but that doesn’t mean I don’t recommend this book: I do recommend this book, wholeheartedly.

The book is built upon interviews with an array of outstanding young (twenty-something) innovators, and often also with their parents, teachers, professors and mentors.  Innovation here is defined broadly (which is fine) to include social innovation and entrepreneurship in addition to more conventional technological innovation.   Wagner has a narrative style which is different from that of some other nonfiction authors: as in Global Achievement Gap, but even more so here, he is generous with his interview subjects, allowing them to go beyond sound bites and wax eloquent and elaborate, sometimes for several pages.  (I find myself sometimes skimming the longest of these quotations; perhaps my attention span is too short).

The upshot for K-12 and post-secondary educators?  We are not currently succeeding in  “creating innovators.” (more…)

Sadly I missed NAIS President Pat Bassett’s Annual address at the NAIS Annual Conference, because I was presenting in the same time slot, but it was great to get to see it posted on the NAIS website, and I have taken the liberty of selecting out a few slides to share here.

After a review of the state of the industry, Pat argued that independent schools (and all schools, I’d add)  must strive to be informed about and attentive to developments happening broadly in our “industry,” to what is happening at the cutting edge, and be prepared to incorporate the best practices and respond accordingly to remain relevant and competitive.

In doing so, he called particular attention (as you can see in the slides atop) to three themes that are essential for any school to explore and examine in the quest to be relevant, compelling, and successful:

  • Formative Assessment,
  • Embedding Practical Skills for Greater  Problem-Solving Skills,
  • and the Value of PBL.

1. Formative Assessment: Testing is obviously a highly sensitive and politicized arena; it is nothing less than a tragedy the way that high stakes, summative, end-of-year standardized testing has demoralized and deprofessionalized the art and profession of teaching and driven teaching down to a lowest common denominator approach of drilling students to pass the tests.    That said, this is a case where we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, where we still have to strive for a middle ground whereby we can use tools that gauge student progress and give us as educators valuable information on how to support, how to challenge, how to advance, how to uplift our students.

Pat’s slides on this topic, slides 2 and 3 above, come from a report prepared for and published by NWEA, the masterminds of the MAP testing which St. Gregory administers to students in grades six through eight.   For more on using MAP as formative assessment, click here.

The NWEA report, entitled For Every Child, Multiple Measures: What Parents and Educators Want From K-12 Assessments,   proclaims the following findings and recommendations, which are further illuminated in the video immediately below and the informative infographic at the very bottom of this post.  I have highlighted in bold the findings and recommendations which I find especially interesting.

Key findings from the study include:

  1. Child-centered teaching and learning is a top priority for parents and educators.
  2. Parents, teachers and district administrators think it’s important to measure student performance in a full range of subjects—and in the “thinking” skills that will be critical in life. (more…)