February 2013

Although the hour went by much too swiftly, Suzie Boss, Brett Jacobsen, and I had a great time sharing our thoughts on the topic of Bringing Innovation to School today at NAIS AC 13

The slides are above.  If you are interested, you can click over to read Mike Gwaltney’s notes from the session.

In my remarks, I made reference to my presentation a year ago at NAIS on Innovative Schools, Innovative Students, which you can find here. 

My remarks also drew heavily upon a post I wrote last fall on about the power of peer networking and Steven Johnson’s new book, Future Perfect, which can be found here. 

boss book cover

Highly recommended for our attendees and everyone else interested in this topic is Suzie’s book,  Bringing Innovation to School.

As a part of our session, we invited attendees to answer themselves on sticky notes questions about how they are, or how they would, bring innovation to school– and as promised, I’m happy to share them here:

How might we innovate around…

Learning assessment?

  • Group/self evaluation of public speaking, collaboration, using rubrics and feedback
  • Have students design the assessments and rubrics
  • Build more assessments for learning
  • Include multiple assessors (members of community, parents, etc.)
  • Use of rubrics with the 4 C’s
  • Listen more
  • Project-based assessment
  • Always think about what type of human you’re attempting to graduate first. Then match assessment (and learning) to those desired transformative outcomes

Learning space?

  • Flexible
  • Make every classroom a makerspace
  • Cover walls with Idea Paint
  • Ask: If we had a blank space to create a new middle school, what would it look like?
  • Collaborate with other subject areas and other classrooms in different schools
  • Flexible space with flexible, comfortable furniture
  • Spaces for: 1 student, 3 students to work together, 5-8 as a group, 15-25 as a class, 30+ for group experiments
  • Think “outside” the box. Different types of learning require different spaces
  • Involve students in designing their school spaces; visit as many other schools as possible (from both your and other school “genres”) (more…)

Suzie Boss, Mike Gwaltney, and I had the great pleasure to present, share, and discuss this topic with about 50 workshop attendees here at NAIS AC 13.

In addition to the slides, we have built out (thanks to Mike) a full website of materials and resources for our presentation, which you can find here.    It’s shortened ULR is tinyurl.com/leadpbl   Below is a screengrab of the front page.

Leadership for PBLThis is a topic about which we are all very passionate, of course, and eager to support in the future.  We’ve created a user group inside isenet here, which we invite all to join us in.    We intend to do things with this group in the future to continue to support this important work.

Thanks to all who came and participated– let’s go forward with this important work.

OESIS 2013   Online Education Symposium for Independent SchoolsI was delighted to be able to contribute as a featured presenter at the first annual Online Education Symposium for Independent Schools (OESIS), in Marina del Ray, Los Angeles– and accordingly for full disclosure realize anything I write has a bias: I participated in some early planning conversations about the event with my friend Jeff Bradley, and I am intending to support as best I can future OESIS events.

What was great about the event was its energy and innovative spirit: this was a subset of NAIS and or a typical state association conference meeting, but a subset self-selected to be especially interested in, and for the most part, enthusiastic about the opportunity online and blended learning offers our students– and hence it was a dynamite and dynamic group.

More so than most other events I’ve attended, it was a nice crossover and hybrid of academic leaders–  school-heads, division heads, academic deans– and tech directors, and so important that it was, because conversation and shared understandings between these groups is so important.  Think how often is usually the case that tech directors go to one set of conferences, and return home, meeting up with academic leaders who attended a different conference– and then talk right past each other.

It was also held in a terrific location at the Marriot on the Marina, with a top floor meeting room and roof deck with stunning views, and we were lucky to have excellent weather.

View this document on Scribd

There was some running conversation I heard here, as I often hear at conferences among the progressive and forward-leaning educators: are we hear to learn whether/why we should adopt these changes and lead this innovation, or how we do so most effectively and efficiently?   But though some complained they heard too much of the former, I was delighted to hear mostly the latter- -and in many cases, they were very grounded, very specific, very applicable.

A wide set of the conference presentations is freely available (behind a sign-in wall, but open to all after very simple registration) at the Educators Collaborative website here.

I’ve already put up here on the blog three posts from sessions I led at the event:

Below I’ve embedded some of the standout sessions from the conference, which offer terrific inspiration, good advice, and food for thought.

Two other sessions I attended were also fascinating and valuable, (though not available on the site): Jenifer Fox’s presentation on the extraordinarily unique, innovative, and student-centered blended learning program she is piloting at Clariden School of Southlake near Dallas, and Dave Ostroff’s valuable and entirely applicable suggestions and steps for doing it yourself, creating your own blended program and not going with an outside service, based on his excellent initiatives leading Parish Virtual at Parish Episcopal School in Dallas.

Mark Milliron kicked off with an, as always with Mark, energetic keynote that offers the promise that increasingly blended learning offers students.

View this document on Scribd


Last week I presented (for a second time) a webinar for Simple K12 on the topic, Performance Task Assessment is 21st century Assessment.

Those slides are embedded above, and the webinar is available here (free for members, for a fee if you’re not).

In that presentation I discuss various strategies for designing and developing your own performance tasks for assessment, and suggest that one avenue is to borrow an existing one and adapt for your purposes.     In the PBL world where I also spend a lot of time, we refer people often to PBL libraries (BIE has a list of them here), and so it is important we match them with performance task libraries.

Performance Task assessment is becoming increasingly important, as I’ve posted here several times before, because of its role in Common Core assessments, (more…)

Think Tank“Working within a system,” Bill Sedlacek replied when Ray Diffley and I asked him about what one criterion among the many on his Non-Cog list he would choose to evaluate applicants, if he could choose only one.

Our conversation took place after Sedlacek’s keynote presentation at the University of Southern California’s Rossiter Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice annual conference “Attributes That Matter,” which Ray and I attended on behalf of the SSATB Think Tank.

In his landmark book, Beyond the Big Test, Sedlacek elaborates: “the applicant’s ability to understand the role of the system in life and to develop a method of assessing the cultural or racial demands of the system and respond accordingly and assertively.” This is one of the eight research-based traits this distinguished scholar has, over a lifetime, determined “present a method of improving assessments for all students and are particularly useful for nontraditional students.”


We should be clear here: Sedlacek is not arguing we should dismiss traditional cognitive assessment in the form of the SAT or its analogues. Like Sternberg and other scholars in this field, he is calling for a more balanced approach, a both/and proposition that is entirely aligned with the mission of this Think Tank. To quote him in what might be something of a thesis for Beyond the Big Test:

We do not need to ignore our current tests; what we need is to add some new measures that expand the potential we can derive from the assessment. The goal of using non-cognitive variables is not to substitute this approach for the cognitive focus more commonly employed in assessments, but toadd to the range of attributes that we can consider in making the many judgments required of us all.” (Italics in original)

Read the full post at SSATB/The Admissions Organization…. 


Delighted today to have the opportunity to share these slides and thoughts with folks here at OESIS today.  I continue to think that using technologies, current and emerging, to reinvent testing and assessment is among the primary projects for 21st century K-12 learning in the current decade, and I’m going to continue to do my best to support this reinvention.

As I explained at some length in the opening of my session, and I realize I may stand a bit alone here, I still love tests– of all kinds, including the “test” that is asking students to demonstrate their learning in challenging ways– and a huge part of my personal mission is to make testing more engaging and meaningful for students: let’s improve the way we use assessment as, for, and of learning!