January 2013

A Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age   EdSurge News
Mike Gwaltney and I presented this afternoon at OESIS a session on robust and responsible digital citizenship; see my previous post for those slides.

At the center of that session we shared with the session participants the recently published EdSurge “Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age,” and then asked them to use it is a model and inspiration for discussing and developing in small groups their own set of rights and responsibilities for learning, participating, and contributing in the digital age, aka a digital citizenship bill of rights.

Here is the link to the open google document for those who wish to join in the conversation and add their own additional suggestions: it is (should be) an open for editing document.

Below is the what the group came up with in our short time together.  I also welcome readers to use the comment box as another way to add their own suggestions or comment on this set— (which is not meant to be my own work, nor to be inclusive/exhaustive).

Our followup conversation was about the potential for bringing this back to your school community– Mike asked if it were Polyannish to think that this might be a real option.  But the conversation in the room was rich with the optimism that this is an exercise feasible in our schools and in our classrooms, democratizing the AUP.  Several said they are already in the midst of reinventing the AUP into a RUP– Responsible Use Policy– and a “Digital Citizenship Agreement.”

Several seemed to think it would be exciting to take this approach and make it a democratizing experience in our schools as a vehicle for all members of an educational community to examining, reflecting upon, and developing a more thoughtful, intentional, and meta-cognitive appreciation for the rights, responsibilities, and opportunities of digital citizenship.


  • Freedom of Expression
  • Participation
  • Guidance and Mentorship
  • The right to access and not be filtered.
  • Privacy and boundaries
  • Right to your own creations with attribution.
  • To safely experiment with ideas and expression and points of view.
  • To Be treated with respect and common decency
  • To participate in communities to the degree to which one is comfortable.
  • To equal access.
  • To unfiltered civil discourse and avoid the echo chamber tendency.
  • To unplugged time.
  • To contribute to and build upon the creative commons.
  • To Access.
  • To be Creative
  • To express thoughtfully
  • To express oneself without censorship
  • To Transparency
  • To dialog in a safe environment—without there being a right answer.
  • To an environment in which things would not be said that we couldn’t /wouldn’t say face to face.
  • To engage honestly with peers and that others will reciprocate understanding.
  • To change your mind without being ridiculous.
  • Ownership
  • Expression
  • T0 Control one’s identity and presence.
  • To Community.
  • T0 Curiosity


  • Honesty
  • Transparency
  • Cautiousness
  • Respect for other opinions
  • Taking responsibility and being held accountable.
  • Treating others online as you would in person.
  • Policy yourself and your colleagues
  • Understands the responsibility that they are part of a community not a lone wolf.
  • Mindfulness
  • Self-Monitoring
  • To self-regulate connections and connected-ness.
  • Control one’s identity and presence.

Mike Gwaltney and I enjoyed greatly facilitating this conversation on digital citizenship, rights, principles and responsibilities.     We ended up just focusing on the digital bill of rights, which will be posted here soon, but we wanted to make available the rest of these slides for those who might be interested.

View this document on Scribd

In “conversation” yesterday at educon about the CWRA and the data it generates, Pam Moran and I spoke about how important it is we all develop our skills in interpreting data– and even more than that, and I have to say, this has previously been a bridge just beyond my full focus– using data to conduct our own research as teachers and administrators.

Pam emphasized this is a critical project: we need to support teachers, offering education, resources, and time, to undertake their own action research projects and generate their own findings.

I began, belatedly, this conversation as a Head of School last year, and it is a big project, to be sure, to help busy, often over-loaded, teachers to get to this place.

And so it is with great respect and admiration I share with readers here this very interesting report, generated by teachers and administrators, on their research and findings.    The folks at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School (MD), particularly Glenn Whitman, were kind enough to send me their recent publication, Think Deeply and Differently:  The Transformational Classroom:How Research in Educational Neuroscience Enhances Teaching and Learning at St. Andrew’s.

Too often, I fear, and certainly I’ve been very much guilty of this, professional learning in schools lacks focus, coherence, continuity and a sense of accomplishment and completion, and part of the reason it lacks focus is because it doesn’t have a finish line and any type of finished product around which its efforts can be centered.

But, it would see here in this example from St. Andrew’s, they’ve tackled exactly this problem by organizing themselves, their professional learning, and their action research toward the end of a publication that speaks from and to their organizational mission and their pedagogical initiatives and next steps.   That is great.

To quote the preface,

St. Andrew’s Episcopal School and its Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning is a sterling example of how educators are informing the teaching and learning process through research-based practices.

These practices encompass every aspect of the educational experience including how we approach the learning environment, how we plan instruction to promote mastery of skills and concepts, how we assure that students are engaged in higher-order thinking and creative problem-solving, and how we use the arts and technol-ogy to maximize each child’s learning potential.

St. Andrew’s is on the forefront of not only practicing but also advancing this knowledge by engaging in research and discovery that has the potential to inform their own teaching practice as well as the entire field of education.  (more…)

Pam Moran and I shared this and facilitated this conversation today at educon: our thanks to the attendees for the rich and meaningful conversation.

lightbulbHeadBenchmarks, projects, inquiry, presentations— these words trip off the tongue of Science Leadership Academy as easily and frequently as do the words test, quiz, and paper for most “regular” school students.

But, in contrast,  they do so with a different intonation, a tone of pride and seriousness of purpose.

I’ve just completed spending a day visiting classrooms in session (last time I attended educon, this day was a snowday and school was cancelled) and speaking with, listening really, to SLA students, as this was the agenda for day 1 of educon.

There are many things to be impressed with and excited about at this school– to be sure.   So student centered is it that one friend here, Greg Bamford, observed in conversation, “The sign of SLA’s student-centered genius? When you walk into a class, everyone’s working – but you have no idea who the teacher is.”

photo (28)

It is a  a cliche, perhaps, of Educon observations that these students are especially articulate about and proud of their school– and I heard this loudly.   Students told me they think their PBL education is far preferable to the norm, that it “requires they become more independent, responsible, and collaborative, that it is better preparation for college and life.”

They say that at first their friends at other schools are jealous that, mostly, educon students don’t have tests and quizzes to stress about, but that envy diminishes as they recognize increasingly how demanding it is to have “benchmarks” every quarter in every class.

But what interested me most specifically was how fluent these students are with the school’s “jargon,” its practices and concepts of inquiry driven, project based learning.   Every student I spoke to went there, explained it to me, often patiently in the manner of someone who has to explain it often, and proudly.

In working with educators on developing PBL, project-based learning,  so often these days, I often hear– and anyone who works in this field often hears– the response that as much as the teachers think it is valuable or important, they regularly encounter push back from their students– their students don’t want to do PBL.  (more…)

View this document on Scribd

When we are selecting for admission, do we prioritize selections of those who will succeed inside our halls, or those who will be most successful in using our education to be valuable after leaving our school?

In one of the most fascinating presentations of the USC conference, Sheldon Zadeck, a professor of industrial psychology at UC Berkeley shared the story of his ten plus year, as I understood it, project with the highly selective UC Berkeley Boalt Hall law school.

You can see his lengthy presentation above.

His work dates to the end of affirmative action, on the basis of race or ethnicity, in California by popular referendum.   As he explained, the result was a steep decline in the number of enrolled African Americans and Hispanics– because, he explained, their LSATs, and their combined rating of undergraduate GPA and LSAT scores, their INDEX,  were rarely high enough for admission.


Upon close review, it was also found that that combination could be “justified,” because it was a high predictor for first year law school GPA.

But- maybe first year GPA is not the only, or best, thing we should ask of prospective students applying to law school.   It not good law students we are seeking to add to the world’s ranks, it is high quality lawyers.

zedeckInstead, this professor spent years studying very intensely how one might establish the definition of a good attorney– and came up with 26 criteria.

Quoting the conference blog:

The 26 factors were organized into 8 categories including: intellectual and cognitive, research and information gathering, communications, planning and organizing, conflict resolution, client and business relationships- entrepreneurship, working with others (other attorneys), and character (passion and engagement, diligence, etc.).

Next up was collecting a sample set of over 1000 California attornies, Boalt Hall alums, who subjected themselves to rigorous evaluations– by themselves, peers, supervisors, etc– of their effectiveness on each of these 26.

The first question that follows: Did their LSAT scores predict their effectiveness as a lawyer?

For almost half– 12 of these factors, LSAT did correlate.

But for nearly a third, LSAT scores inversely correlated!

Regarding the INDEX of undergraduate GPA and LSATs, the INDEX predicted 9 of the 26 performance dimensions and 4 were negative.

As the blog quotes, Zedeck:

Thus, for some domains, the better you did on the LSAT, the less effective you would be in the workforce in that specific domain. (more…)

View this document on Scribd

This is the third of four posts about the USC Rossier Attributes that Matter Conference.

Morning Sessions: Non-cognitive Variables in Action and Attributes of Good Students and Good Professionals

Where Bill Sedlacek (see previous post) laid out the intellectual concept of noncognitive assessment with a bit of history and a lot of theory, sharing his decades of research and his passionate advocacy, the following two sessions took us from theory to practice, as five university administrators and researcher told us about the fascinating work they’d done in this field.


Two bold and innovative directors of admissions at the university level, (Oregon State and DePaul), came to report that, despite their best efforts, their experiments with noncog assessment have had only very limited success in predicting student performance on campus.

As Eric Hoover reports in the Chronicle of Higher Ed about Noah Buckley’s leadership at OSU.

In 2004 the university added to its application the Insight Résumé, six short-answer questions.  One prompt asks applicants to describe how they overcame a challenge; another, to explain how they’ve developed knowledge in a given field.

The answers, scored on a 1-to-3 scale, inform admissions decisions in borderline cases, of applicants with less than a 3.0 GPA. “This gives us a way to say, ‘Hey, this is a diamond in the rough,'” Mr. Buckley says. For students with GPAs of 3.75 or higher, the scores help determine scholarship eligibility.

The Insight Résumé is a work in progress, Mr. Buckley says.

Reading 17,000 sets of essays requires a lot of time and training. Meanwhile, he believes the addition has helped Oregon State attract more-diverse applicants, but it’s hard to know for sure. A recent analysis found that although the scores positively correlated with retention and graduation rates, they did not offer “substantive improvements in predictions” of students’ success relative to other factors, especially high-school GPAs.

Details about the Insight Resume can be found in the slides above; it includes

Six short-answer questions asked as part of admissions application:
•Leadership / group contributions
•Knowledge in a field / creativity
•Dealing with adversity
•Community service
•Handling systemic changes / discrimination
•Goals / task commitment

Similarly, at DePaul as at OSU, very meaningful evidentiary results still stand further in the future.   (more…)

(2nd post in a series of there from the USC Attributes that Matter conference)

For several decades, going back to the 1960’s, University of Maryland Professor, now Emeritus, William “Bill” Sedlacek has been sounding the call, an inspirational one, to better appreciate the significance of non cognitive dimensions of learning and success, and has been calling upon all of us who are educators to integrate assessment of these “non-cogs” into university, and now K-12, admissions evaluation and student progress evaluation.

Bill sedlacekRegular readers here know of my passion for transparency and open-source sharing– that as much as is possible, we should make freely available our tools, resources, practices, and learnings, and welcome others to take and use them freely.   Sedlacek, who surely could have decided upon many moments in his career to seek to monetize his research and findings by creating a commercial, profit-making, noncognitive test, has instead taken the path of developing, posting, and sharing many different tools, welcoming schools and universities to take and adapt to his purposes.

As he explained, as a Professor he was successful, financially, enough– and “why would I need more? That others are using my tools, adapting them to their needs, to improve their process, their educational program, and opportunities for others is reward enough.” 

There is accordingly an extraordinary abundance of tools and resources freely available at Sedlacek’s site, here: http://williamsedlacek.info/

From that site, here is just a quick view of the particular instruments he is making available on his site, which could be of value to any and all educators seeking to expand their work in noncog assessment:

Professor Sedlacek’s presentation, which you can review in the slides above, and which is elaborated in writing in the document embedded below, was certainly to my eyes the highlight of the USC conference, Attributes that Matter: Beyond the Usual in College Admission and Success.


Why NonCog?  Obviously, this is the place to start, and Sedlacek laid out many purposes, all of which are very relevant to K-12 educators. (more…)

Attributes(First of 3 posts)

This conference surged with a spirited optimism.

We can do this: we can improve our ability

  • to predict who will succeed in our schools and colleges and who will benefit from our school’s programs and attributes;
  • to differentiate our institutions and market their unique values;  we can improve our ability to support our incoming students when they arrive by understanding them better in the admissions process;
  • and, perhaps most importantly, in the work of selective admissions, as complicated as they are, we can better choose those students who will best benefit from our programs to make a positive impact in their professions.

Last week I attended the USC Rossier Center for Enrollment Research Policy and Practice’s Attributes That Matter: Beyond the Usual in College Admission and Success  annual conference.  This is the first of three posts about the conference.

As regular readers know, exploring how we assess what our students are learning, and what things are most important for us to assess,  are  regular pursuits here.

This exciting conference looked at this topic through the prism of university admissions, but there is much we can learn and apply to the K-12 arena from this research.  This is the broader agenda of the this conference is explained by its chair:

What makes students succeed in school and how can we evaluate these things in students applying to our schools or preparing for further education, and what is important for students to learn, master and demonstrate for success later in life?

Eric Hoover at The Chronicle of Higher Ed explains the conference’s purpose this way:

Every year, presidents and professors expect freshmen who are curious, determined, and hungry for challenges. The traditional metrics of merit, however, can’t reveal such qualities. Standardized-test scores may or may not predict a given student’s long-term potential. Grade-point averages present only a partial view of an applicant’s talents and work habits. And so, some admissions officers say, it’s time for a new set of tools.

Critical discussion topics across the course of the conference included:

  1. Recognizing the noncog dimension is essential to all learning and thinking.
  2. Why noncog is increasingly essential to quality admissions assessment.
  3. What are key non-cog domains?
  4. Where do we find and how do we afford these tools?  How do we “operationalize” this?
  5. How’s is the progress of experiminents and initiatives underway in colleges and universities?

Of course, it is critical to recognize that the very Non-Cognitive, which emerged decades ago to describe these areas outside of IQ, are nevertheless entirely interwoven with our cognitive experiences and aptitudes.

Mary Helen Immordino Yang This was among the key messages made by the first night kick-off speaker, Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, from USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute, on the topic:   Embodied Brains, Social Minds: The importance of social reflectiveness and emotional awareness in young adult development

She argued that

Success in the 21st century requires not just positive results on the usual metrics but results measured in much, broader and richer ways.   We need to prepare people who can manage these changing times, creatively, responsibly, intellectually, socially.

What evidence are we gathering about the nature of emotions, to have a self, to have a subjective sense of purpose—how do we get that sense of self, how do we foster that and cultivate that in our young people?

Neuro-biologically, our minds are inherently social minds, the intellect that we have does not stand independent from the rest of our lives:  we use our intellect collaboratively—and we must take many inferences from the socially embedded minds. (more…)


[graphic from Digital Learning Now]

This post continue a small project here at 21k12 of viewing the coming Common Core Standards through a backwards prism: the testing assessments that will evaluate student and school success at learning and teaching Common Core standards.  These new assessments sit at a junction of topics I’m interested in and working on regularly: integrating technology, next generation and digitally enhanced assessment, computer adaptive assessment, and  performance task assessment.

These new Common Core (CCSS) assessments are the product in part of Secretary Arne Duncan’s call for a new generation of Assessments, Assessment 2.0 he calls it, about which I have written before.   To advance this vision of moving “beyond the bubble,” the US DOE is spending, via Race to the Top funding, more than $300 M in developing new kinds of tests and testing systems, split between two major programs, PARCC and Smarter Balanced.

As the Ed Leadership article by Nancy Doorey reports,

The assessment consortia are drawing on new advances in technology, cognitive science, and measurement as they develop this improved generation of assessments.

They hope these new systems will address concerns about existing state assessments—that many assessments measure skills too narrowly; return results that are “too little, too late” to be useful; and do not adequately assess whether students can apply their skills to solve complex problems, an ability students need to succeed in college, the workplace, and as citizens.

Both tests are administered digitally and online, and will require in most states and districts a massive technological infrastructure improvement to be implemented.   Administering them digitally and online offers many advantages, including the ability to offer adaptive testing (which is currently intended for SB only, not PARCC), and faster results returned to teachers for instructional purposes.

Eight questions worth asking about the the new assessments:

1.  Will they come on-time or be delayed, and will the technology be ready for them?    Although the test design is funded (enormously), the technological infrastructure upgrades are not externally funded, and it remains a very open question whether and from where this funding will come.   If districts are unable to meet the requirements, will the 2014-15 launch date for these digital and online tests be postponed?

Engaging Ed fears they will.

Digital Learning Now, in a recent report embedded below, pleads with the consortia: Don’t Delay.

Don’t phase in. With two years left to prepare, the combination of a long test window and supporting outdated operating systems allows almost all schools to support online testing now. Going further to support paper-and-pencil testing in and past 2015 is unnecessary, expensive, and reduces comparability.

It is also is unwise for districts to seek to compromise by the use of less than 2:1 ratios of computers to students.    Imagine the schools which are trying to use current computer labs to assess their students– it will take 12 disruptive weeks to roll all students through the labs, and the labs themselves won’t be available for any other learning during that time. (more…)

Above are the slides for my presentation today to the Association of Colorado Independent Schools Heads and senior administrators, a three hour workshop.   Sadly, I (again!) made the mistake of trying to stuff in too much information, and several of our intended activities and videos had to be cut.

Below are first, some of the key links to think to which I referred, and below that, some of the videos I showed or intended to show as part of the presentation.

A very valuable reference is the excellent presentation, Measuring What We Value by Lyons and Niblock.   (Note: I borrowed/adapted a small number of these slides for integration into my presentation: My thanks to Lyons and Niblock. )

My thanks to Lee Quinby, the very fine ACIS executive director, and all those who took the time for the session this morning.


Think TankNot everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. — Albert Einstein

So much of what really matters in education just can’t be measured. — Independent school educators everywhere

Count me in. The quotes above are words I’ve uttered not dozens or scores but hundreds of times during my 15 years of independent school administration—and I very much believe I am in good company. Indeed, how can I argue with Albert Einstein?

But perhaps I am wrong. I’ve been enjoying reading this month a book which shakes my conviction that there is much of value that cannot be measured—and which gives very good guidance in how we can improve the way we capture in data just about anything we desire to know more about. The book is entitled How to Measure Anything by Douglas Hubbard—and although in my experience it is not a much discussed book in educational circles, I think it should be.

Grant Wiggins, author of the essential education book, Understanding by Design, is a fan of this book, directed me to Hubbard’s work in a blog post entitled “Oh You Can’t Measure That.”

Recently, I read a great book that might be of interest to anyone who wants to get beyond a knee-jerk reaction about what can and can’t be measured. The book makes the point from the git-go, in its title: How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business, by Douglas Hubbard. Don’t let the ‘in Business” part throw you off. Almost everything in the book speaks to educational outcomes.

Hubbard writes with an axe to grind, and what becomes clear in the reading is that education is far from the only field or profession where managers express, frequently, their view that something, or most things, can’t be measured. This is Hubbard’s bête noir, one he is determined to confront with this book.

Often an important decision requires better knowledge of the alleged intangible, but when an executive believes something to be immeasurable, attempts to measure it will not even be considered.

As a result, decisions are less informed than they could be. The chance of error increases. Resources are misallocated, good ideas are rejected, and bad ideas are accepted.

Hubbard embeds as foundations to his argument three genuinely inspiring and impressive stories of measurement—times when individuals generated creative, ingenious methods for measuring something thought to be immeasurable—most famously and wondrously, Eratosthenes’ uncannily accurate measurement of the circumference of the earth two hundred years before the Common Era, using nothing more than shadows of the sun.

Click here to read the full post.

Every holiday season I seek out something charming and inspirational as a small “gift” to readers, and this year I’m pleased to share this History of the Universe in 127 seconds, from Now This News, which I saw on the Atlantic website.

As much as change accelerates, much remains the same, this fast paced video demonstrates.  It concludes with these words:

our social circles expand, we move toward hope, we move toward freedom, the challenges never stop, but we hold onto hope, because that is what we do best.

These last few words are accompanied, you can see, by a picture of Pakistani youth blogger, Malala Yousafzai.

In just a few short months, this young woman has become, inspirationally because of the way she uses digital media to voice her passion for justice (and, of course,  tragically because of her near martyrdom), the face of hope for our human civilization– and a Time Magazine runner up for Person of the Year.

We need to keep doing all we are doing to give all students voice and access the tools and the power of the web to access the world, connect with others in meaningful and safe ways, and contribute their individual points of view and wishes for justice and a better world.