• Design, Engineer, Build
  • Personalize, Choose, Create
  • Access, Integrate, Engage
  • Curiosity, Interest, Passion, Joy

As regular readers may recall, I’ve written several times before about the extraordinary educational leadership of Dr. Pam Moran, superintendent of Albemarle County: first from a distance, and then from a close up and in person view.

Now readers have the opportunity to view her themselves by viewing this new TEDx talk from Dr. Moran, in which she shares her many ideas and concepts for educational transformation, as can be seen above, the titles of her slides.

In this talk, she calls upon all us to take learning from what NASA deems the limitations of low orbit travel exemplified by the space shuttle to deep space exploration of Moon, Mars, and beyond missions.    Standardized testing and test prep keep us in low orbits, but we need to take learning beyond to deeper understanding, greater mastery, creativity and production as opposed to consumption and regurgitation.

I especially appreciate her passion and commitment for not just STEM, but STEAM, because integrating arts and artistic/design sensibilities into STEM learning is so critical to creating tomorrow’s innovators.    She shares very engaging examples of students participating in Coderdojos and various Design/engineer/build and Makerspace labs.


Note: I am delighted to be co-presenting with Dr. Moran next month at Educon at Science Leadership Academy Philadelphia, on the topic of Performance Task Assessment & the CWRA: Better Goal Posts.

Just last week I was asked by a colleague for a readily accessible, engaging and stimulating short introduction and overview of 21st century learning he could provide his faculty, and, somewhat embarrassingly, I found myself a bit stumped.

I know of plenty of great books, but what the best single short and free resource?

One option, and it is a pretty good option, is the pamphlet from NAIS, A Strategic Imperative: A Guide to Becoming a School of the Future, (which I was pleased to be a small contributor to).   But it is written a bit more for school-leaders than for teachers, is a bit long, and is a little dry.     It is still a great resource though; I’ve embedded it at the bottom of this post [after “more…”].

So it was with great satisfaction that I scanned the above first publication of Brain Food for Education, which comes from the innovation firm Unboundary and was produced by my good friend and highly esteemed educational blogger and thinker, Bo Adams.

This is a great tool for the purpose I described, and as such, includes of course great links for those who want to dig deeper and learn more.

4 things I like especially: 

1.  The visual look and graphic design is tremendous: bright, appealing, professional.

2.  The Discussion prompts shared on page 19 are very helpful: they could be a great resource for schools working to generate more and better conversation among all their constituencies as they facilitate change.    (for an additional resource, see the discussion prompts included in the guide to becoming a school of the future,page 36).

3.   The schools selected as exemplars are inspiring– from the nation of Finland (and I was glad to learn of the RSA video about PISA here) to High Tech High and Nueva Schools in California.    As Bo writes, “just seeing even one example can help us raise our aspirations and trajectories.”   Indeed– and I’d underscore, try to go and see them first-hand.


The slides above, which I used in a webinar I presented Monday for Simple K-12, is based on a post I wrote about a year and a half ago, entitled 15 Ways our Schools Can Prepare to be Relevant and Meaningful in 2015 and beyond.

The new presentation has evolved, of course,  a fair amount since that post, and it will continue to evolve, I am sure, in an organic way.     In this newer version, I made more of an emphasis on digital citizenship, added in some discussion of open computer testing, and expanded the conversation about personalized learning (via adaptive learning software) to include a discussion of recent fascination with student-centered learning analytics.

As I discuss in the webinar, this post/presentation/ongoing thinking can be seen as my response to or contribution to the work of others posing and framing the question: why school and how school should be in these fast changing times.   It is in part my tentative, still and always developing response to the subtitle of Will Richardson’s new book, Why School: How Education Must Change When Learning and Information are Everywhere.

It is also, in a sense, my take on Michael Horn’s article (co-written with Clayton Christensen), Rethinking Student Motivation, in which they offer their thinking on what students “hire” education for.  (For more about that, including a short dialogue I had with Michael in the comments, click here).  Using Horn’s metaphor of “hiring,” I am trying to answer what schools need to do to continue to be employed by students, and what they need to do to support their students in being employed in their future.

Let me unpack just a bit the two key descriptors.  By compelling, I mean learning which is engaging and attractive to students; it what they will find compelling them to want to come to school.   We want students to come to school not because it is mandatory nor because we offer them some vague promise it will prepare them for their future, but because they are eager to be there and to make the most of the environment.   In part, my intent is to preserve the bricks and mortar school-house, which I still think is a wonderful thing, but which is facing fast increasing competition from virtual learning environments, and so my argument for those situated in buildings is to determine what is it which will continue what brings students to school.

By relevant, I mean meaningfully and valuably preparatory for the world in which our students live today and, to the best of our ability to forecast, they will live in tomorrow.    What do they need to learn and what do we need to do to ensure they do?

Readers here can access and view the webinar at this link— but not necessarily for free.   If you are already a full member, you should be fine for free viewing; if you have not joined them yet, you’ll see a $17 price tag, but I think you can get a free basic membership, which then entitles you to watch a small/limited number of on-demand webinars for free.

I am seeking more opportunities to share this presentation;  readers who might be interested could suggest to your school, state or regional association, for instance, that I be invited to present at your next conference or professional development day.  This is a continually evolving conversation, which I think will be a little bit different each time I share it.

Below are some of the works cited in the presentation.

This isn’t a perfectly produced piece: it has a sprawling quality that roams around topic to topic in a way which reflects its oddly phrased title: The Future of Learning, Networked Society.   (Replacing that comma with a colon would have worked better.)

But, for those seeking a polished, visually engaging, and moderately inspirational overview of key developments and trends in learning, this is entirely watchable.   Having just published a few minutes ago a piece on whether we can move toward student-centered learning analytics, I found the section in this video about the Knewton platform and its agenda illuminating: it shows how it can show students, based on their own experiences and those of students like them what will be more effective studying and learning strategies.

Connected learning is celebrated, which I am always happy to see, and there is a useful introduction to MOOCs exemplified here by Coursera.  (It is not entirely clear how commercially driven this video is, but it may well be something of a paid promotional sales piece for some of these vendors– so caveat speculator.)

Seth Godin is the centerpiece here, though if you want to listen for 15-20 minutes from him, you’d do better with his recent Stop Stealing Dreams TEDx talk.   Here he has three main messages:  first, pretending we are preparing kids for success by testing them with multiple choice questions is nothing but a “scam.”   There are no multiple choice tests in the real world, and a SAT success quest is based upon the premise that getting into a “famous” university is a good thing, but, he says, “famous” universities are a scam too.

Instead, Godin says, “we need to get kids to want it– create an environment where kids are posed with creative problems and are made restless with a need for information and won’t stop seeking it out until they are satisfied.”  (more…)

Enjoy the short video above- it is very much worth the six minutes.

It is the time of year when many are looking ahead to opening of the school year faculty and departmental meetings, so it is a good time to start sharing valuable short videos which can be used for inspiration and illumination at these meetings.   This six minute video is a great candidate (and I intend to share a list soon); it is a very current (ISTE 2012) talk in which author and provocateur Will Richardson lays out his challenge to us: Bold Ideas for Change in Education.   (Another alternative would be Will’s TEDx talk.)

Consider the opportunities: ask educators in groups to identify their bold ideas first, and compare; ask them to watch and discuss which bold ideas make sense and how might they apply them, which don’t and why not, and what original ideas do they have.

From Lisa Nielsen’s blog I’ve copied at bottom of this post the list of 19 bold ideas for easy reference.

A few comments:

1.  Of course, I am delighted to see Will’s very first “bold idea;”  I think it is so important to put a focal point on assessment as a huge lever to influence, via backwards design, everything else that happens, and at St. Gregory we worked hard to develop and advance methods for ‘open network assessments.’   (more…)

The accompanying online article can be found here.

From that article, by Arizona Public Media reporter  Luis Carrión :

St. Gregory College Preparatory School will begin the new school year with an oversized addition: one of the largest solar arrays in any Tucson school, producing 140 kilowatts of energy. The project consists of more than 600 locally produced solar panels that will offset St. Gregory’s energy bill by a minimum of $1,000 a month.

Jonathan Martin, head of St. Gregory, says the project will not only offset dependency on the grid, it will also provide students with valuable opportunities to learn about an important sustainable energy source.

Young people care about the environment, Martin notes, and they are passionate about making changes that will benefit the planet and future generations. (more…)

As some readers may know, I am in the process of seeking new employment for 2012 and beyond.  I am deeply devoted to the community of St. Gregory College Prep, and fiercely proud of what we do there.  It is hard to leave, but at the same time, I am excited about the next great opportunity to serve a school and advance 21st century learning for our students.

I am not narrow-minded in my career thinking.  Many different types of positions hold interest for me, they only need be reasonably well aligned with my passion and philosophy: advancing learning for students, especially but not exclusively secondary students, which is active and engaging, meaningful, rigorous, preparatory for our fast-changing world, digitally empowered, networked, and globally-minded.

I welcome readers to suggest to me, or suggest me to, interesting opportunities which you think might suit my interests and goals.  (On my bio page, readers can find more about me, including a current c.v.)

Among the requirements for most positions is that candidates provide a statement of educational philosophy, and I have recently updated a statement I originally prepared more than a decade ago.   I’m sharing it here, and would appreciate any feedback and suggestions for improvement readers might be willing and able to provide.  You can use the comment box, and you can always email me at jonathanemartin@gmail.com.  Thanks.


Statement of Educational Philosophy

June, 2011

Janus-faced we must be as educators.  Looking backwards, we preserve and perpetuate the best thoughts of human civilization and the best of our institution’s traditions; looking forward, we confront our fast-changing times, draw upon contemporary tools, and prepare our students for success in careers which don’t yet exist.

Independent schools have a long and great legacy, and it is the work of all of us who love them and care for them to both carry forward that tradition while also continuing to innovate to meet the educational demands of the new century.  Art Powell, in his book Lessons from Privilege: the American Prep School Tradition, writes that the independent school tradition has long accomplished excellence with a simple formula, which will likely serve students well for centuries: “A demanding curriculum designed for all [combined] with personal attention within small scale environments.”

At the same time, schools which are not “of the future” will not be, as NAIS President Pat Bassett says, schools “in the future.” (more…)

I’m very pleased to report that our major solar panel installation is well underway (Click here for the press release with all the details).

This is a 140 Kw project, entailing more than 600 panels on six of our major buildings which we have undertaken in a partnership with a Tucson company, Solar H20.   This is an all-Tucson project: the partner utility company is Tucson Electric Power (TEP); the solar panels are manufactured not in China or overseas but right here in Tucson (though by a German company, Solon), and even the racks are manufactured here in town.

Yesterday, I was interviewed by KUAT, Arizona Public Media, for a television news report they are preparing for their weekly television “newsmagazine” show, Arizona Illustrated, about this project. It is my hope and intent to be able to share that news report here soon.

I was asked two main questions, and I thought I would do my best to share and replicate my answers here (in fairness, these written answers are a bit expanded).

Q: Why is St. Gregory undertaking this project? 

A: It has been a high priority of my leadership to embark on alternative energy support for our school, and to not go solar in this Southern Arizona sun seems foolish.   Rick Belding, our business manager, and I had been discussing and seeking opportunities to make this go, (including multiple conversations with Tucson’s Solar energy project manager, Bruce Tunze), when we were approached by a new company, Solar H20, which was ready to seize on certain incentives available from both our local utility, TEP, and the federal government.  After a very thorough review of the contract by Rick Belding, we were ready to commit.

This is a win-win-win project. (more…)

Day 1 is now at its end; it was a good day, with highlights including a strong 3 hour workshop this afternoon and a lovely evening spent with St. Gregory alumni at a charming pub in Dupont Circle.

All aspects of check-in were smooth; I thought it was terrific they had rooms for everyone, even before noon, checking in for tonight.  Very welcoming.  NAIS registration was easy and smooth, except for one ticket glitch for my wife.  Everything about the venue is warm, welcoming, clean, yet, perhaps, a little bit too clean.

It seems a bit funny to me that at a conference so emphatically and proudly dedicated to Public Purpose, we are so gated off and away from the public commons, from the city.  What a contrast to three years ago in NYC, two years ago in Chicago, one year ago in San Francisco, all of which were conferences situated smack in the city proper.

This Gaylord center, and I don’t mean to attack it, is a gated community, complete with a fenced in, all-too-clean,  village of shops safely secured within it.   It is a country club, an ivory tower:  it is in what it signifies by its setting and its interior exactly what private schools are negatively perceived to be, and it is exactly the image of private schools that this very conference strives to counteract and surmount.

Josie Holford writes with a similar skepticism in her post,

My first impression of National Harbor, Maryland is that it is an updated set for The Prisoner – that ground breaking TV series from the 1960’s…a tightly controlled and surreal holiday village where people ride penny farthing bicycles and no-one can be trusted. The perfect match of paradise and paranoia.

Nevertheless, I am happy to be here and it is a pleasant location. My session this afternoon was a three hour workshop, Schools of the Future, the Conversation Continues.   The session was ably overseen by Paul Miller, and was kicked off with presentations by the author and co-author of the new Guide to Becoming a School of the Future, Robert Witt and Jean Orvis.

Witt presented his case for the need for schools to reinvent themselves; he said bluntly, the verdict about most schools today is that we are doing a dismal job. (more…)

An academically demanding curriculum is an essential element of excellent schooling in every era, equally for the 19th and the 22nd centuries.

The new Schools of the Future guide from NAIS  lists as the first of its 8 “unifying themes” that schools be academically demanding.   They then offer in the elaboration six paragraphs, including some very valuable elements to define what they mean by academically demanding.

The difference is that they must go beyond the traditional passive capstone of a written examination to active application of knowledge in a new situation.

The model schools emphasize depth over breadth, adopting in spirit the motto of the Singapore Schools, “Teach Less. Learn More.” Like those who annually “purge” their closets of outdated, rarely worn garments,these schools systematically scour the curriculum to eliminate non-essential and redundant content. Although all of theschools have students who perform well on AP exams, most choose not to teach AP classes, or like Brimmer and May, selectivelyoffer only those AP classes that are what Anne Reenstierna calls “more than a mile wide and an inch deep.”

It  is terrific to read in  an official NAIS publication that the core principles for advancing academically demanding learning in our schools include active application of knowledge,  depth over breadth and less is more:  educational leaders now across our association have the national association’s official publication behind them as they move in these vital directions.

At St. Gregory,we are working to realign our curriculum in exactly these ways:

  • sustaining our commitment to block scheduling for depth over breadth in each course period;
  • thoroughly deploying PBL with tech.  for the vigorously active application of knowledge,
  • changing away from a pattern of year-long survey courses in upper grade levels toward topical, inquiry semester seminars which intentionally privilege a Singapore style less is more learning philosophy.

However, as I said in my previous post, it still disappoints me that they didn’t, (more…)

Congratulations and Kudos to the National Association of Independent Schools, its Commission on Accreditation, and its Schools of the Future Committee for their publication this winter of the new A Guide to Becoming a School of the Future.   The 60 page document, prepared by Robert Witt and Jean Orvis as lead authors, is an attractive, appealing guide and deserves reading by every independent school board and faculty.

I’m enthusiastic about the guide’s Unifying Themes: “eight commonalities exist among the schools that are successfully delivering a 21st century education.”

  • The schools are academically demanding.
  • Project-based learning, as an integral part of the school’s program, is woven throughout all grade levels and disciplines.
  • Classrooms extend beyond the school walls, actively engaging students in the world around them.
  • Digital technologies and a global perspective infuse all aspects of the curriculum.
  • Vibrant arts programs help promote creativity, self-expression, self-discipline, and flexibility.
  • The adults are actively engaged with one another and with the students in a process of continuous learning.
  • A culture of engagement and support invites participation, innovation, and a“growth mindset” on the part of teachers and students.
  • Transformational leadership challenges the status quo, draws out the issues, navigates through conflict, and mobilizes people and resources to do the adaptive work necessary to create and sustain effective change.

I provided bolded underlines for the items that leap out at me, but it was hard to resist highlighting every word. Comments on each of the highlighted terms above follow:

Academically demanding comes first, as it came first in my previous post, 15 Ways for Schools to Be Relevant in 2015 and Beyond.   What I worry about as I read the guide’s first bullet is that this wording, “academically demanding,” is a bit generic, and leaves me hanging– well how do you know?  I would have written,  Schools are academically demanding as demonstrated in widely varying quantitative and qualitative ways.   (more…)

[original version, 11 Ways…, originally published at Connected Principals, 1.24.11]

[Numbers 11-14 have been added since the previous publication.]

Technology and innovation are accelerating rapidly outside education, but not rapidly enough inside education.  To quote NAIS President Pat Basset, Schools which are not schools of the future will not be schools in the future.

Like others, I am fascinated by pieces  forecasting the coming changes in schooling, and I am inspired by their example to offer my own.

Two that have been particularly intellectually intriguing and influential to me are  Tom Vander Ark’s Ed Reformer post,  The Pivot to Digital Learning: 40 Predictions, and Shelly Blake-Pollock’s post, 21 Things That Will Become Obsolete in Education by 2020.

I should add too that my thinking is greatly informed by the Christensen and Horn’s Disrupting Class,  US DOE’s Karen Cator’s NETP: National Education Technology Plan, the writings of Michael B. Horn, and the Digital Learning Now initiatives.

This particular list is intended to present fifteen ways schools can continue to be  relevant, compelling, attractive, and effective to both students and parents in the coming years.   (more…)

As I’ve written before, Michael Wesch is among my very most important intellectual influences, and this new video is yet another important contribution to our thinking about how our intellectual world is changing and how education must be rethought.

Some of the key ideas come toward the end of the video:

the critical thing that is happening is that the public is exisiting now, is living and breathing, within a much larger sphere of information and knowledge.

we are missing the boat.

a critical open-ness to knowledge is something our work had better address or we are ill-serving our students.

I have written often here about the tranformative power of the web 2.0, and if we want our students to be active, engaged, critical and creative contributors, their learning environments should be ones of connection and communication with the wider world of intellectual discourse that the web provides.    But writing these ideas, as Wesch continually demonstrates, is only one of many vehicles for demonstrating the significance of this intellectual transformation; videos like he produces are eye-opening also.