Today’s Reformers Have a Major Blind Spot

know it all

Reposted from the Thomas Jefferson Street Blog:

The education reform world is increasingly obsessed with “diversity.” Organizations and individuals are struggling to ensure people with different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds have a place in the conversation about how to improve our schools. Although these efforts range from serious and thoughtful to plainly exhibitionist, it’s an important conversation – especially because public schools have never worked particularly well for minority students. Yet for all the attention to diversity, one perspective remains almost absent from the conversation about American education: The viewpoint of those who weren’t good at school in the first place.

Of course there are people in the education world who were not good students, or didn’t like their own schooling experience. But for the most part the education conversation is dominated by people who not only liked being in and around schools, they excelled at academic work (or at least were good at being good at it and staying on the academic conveyor belt). The result is an over-representation of elite schools and elite schooling experiences and little input from those who found educational success later in life or not at all.

The blind spots this creates are enormous and rarely ever mentioned. Elliot Washor, founder of The Met Center, an innovative school in Providence, Rhode Island, and co-founder of Big Picture Schools says he sees a cadre of education leaders who are like horses wearing blinkers in a race – unable to see the entire field.

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Man on top of mountain. Conceptual design.

Authenticity is often touted and more often misunderstood.

Authenticity isn’t what I do; it’s my comfort level with who I am.

It’s an honest misconception…I can’t actually see authenticity…I experience it…I infer it from interaction…so shouldn’t it follow I can choose to show authenticity by my actions? Actors do it. Salesmen do it. But in the real world, no. I can’t fake authenticity…I can’t choose to be something I’m not.

Still, people try to create an aura of authenticity by:

  • Cultivating an online persona.
  • Networking in order to get noticed.
  • Making it about people instead of ideas.
  • Utilizing social media for upward mobility.
  • Injecting emotion into objective discussion.
  • Celebrating celebrity instead of doing the work.
  • Proffering opinions as if one is as good as another.
  • Spouting off popular buzz words and catch phrases.
  • Seeking affirmation instead of having thinking challenged.
  • Settling for breadth rather than depth in thinking, actions and relationships.

Efforts like these fall apart; our authentic self always shows through in the end. And that’s a good thing. Fidelity to our selves…transparency…integrity…are what lead to authenticity.

We recognize authenticity when we experience it in others, but it’s harder to see it in our selves; we are authentic by degrees, and we exhibit different levels of authenticity in different situations. Each of us is uniquely authentic by definition…because we are authentic when we are fully true to our unique selves.

To be authentic, I need to know and feel what makes me tick, what makes me satisfied, what makes me happy…what I won’t settle for and what I will absolutely go to the wall to earn and keep. And the only way to drill down and reach that kind of hard core certainty is through life experience: risks, gains, losses, lessons learned…experiences that create a gut-level understanding of who I am.

Authenticity is about what’s going on inside me, not what I project outwardly. When I am my authentic self I display a quiet self-confidence, responding with trust, openness and a willingness to collaborate. Authenticity espouses an optimistic world view, seeing life as generative and full of possibilities. It’s where we all want to be…but it takes patience and perseverance to get there.

Fear and self-interest are the enemies of authenticity. They hijack my focus and send me chasing after things I think I want. But what if those things attract me because of some perceived deficit or unaddressed insecurity? There’s no more unauthentic place to be than at a dead end, feeling empty…frustrated…lost.

Authenticity is the antithesis of fear and self-interest. It is content with me at my core; secure in the knowledge of who I am. I’m able to keep my focus on who I know my self to be, shortcomings and all. And while it’s hard to gauge my progress while on this journey, in the end it provides me the wisdom of hindsight…seeing the path that has lead me to where I’ve arrived.

My wish for each of us this year is to become genuinely authentic, without worrying about what it looks like to anyone else. May each of our journeys be rich and rewarding and irrefutably our own.

The Web Is Getting Slower In How We Experience It


Reposted from Wired Innovation Insights:

One thing you can always rely on technology to do is speed things up. Everything, from processors to phones to networks gets faster. Heck, there are actual laws that define this phenomenon. So when at a recent Akamai analyst event a speaker made the offhand comment that the Web is getting slower, it pretty much made me sit up in my seat and say “what?”

My first gut instinct was to say “No way, this is technology, things don’t get slower. I used to have a modem, now I have fibre. I used to use a WAP browser for mobile web, now I have fast 4G and LTE connections.” But once that initial instinct passed, I had to admit, it sure did seem that many of my recent web browsing experiences were less than satisfactory from a performance standpoint.

So what’s causing this slowdown? Is it the result of problems in the core of the Internet’s infrastructure? Well, while there have been cases of hardware problems causing Web slowdowns, as well as performance issues caused by political fights between major carriers and streaming video providers, the cause of the Web’s slowdown is actually coming from the other side of the infrastructure.

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Studying: A 22nd Century Skill?


Everything is moving very quickly in the two-thousand-teens. What was once thought of as common convention falls away like yesterday’s news. The ways we think, work, learn and play are all morphing faster than how-to infographics can keep up! And as I process and observe, it occurs to me, that one of the most steadfast practices of the last thousand years is likely to be obsolete in the not-too-distant future. Will studying be a 22nd century skill?

My answer is “No,” and my case begins with technology. At some point in the last quarter-century, we made the decision to no longer require the memorization of math facts, as the emphasis shifted to reasoning and problem-solving. Around the same time, the Internet arrived in homes and classrooms. And from the day we could look up answers to questions using search tools, the need to memorize rote facts has become less and less necessary. Why memorize a fact when you can Google what you need to know just in time? In the blink of a decade, the need to memorize took a back seat to creativity, problem-solving, and the ability to generate new knowledge, products and services.

This paradigm shift is becoming more evident as experience is becoming less valued in the workplace. Managers, supervisors and leaders of organizations are being identified at younger ages, bringing to the job fresh eyes, new energy, and innate skills that do not require years of cutting teeth, paying dues, or making bones. It isn’t so much putting in time anymore as it is being able to demonstrate capability and fill an immediate need in an organization. Millennials and generation X-Y-&-Z-ers learn by doing, and in the doing find upward mobility.


Finally, there are the biomedical innovations under development in research labs around the world. Just this past year, Nicholas Negroponte predicted the ingestion of knowledge; students literally swallowing a pill that deposits information in the brain we have traditionally internalized through reading and listening. Sitting here this morning writing this, the little voice in my head is saying, “Walter, who knows how much of this is science fiction and how much will actually prove to be true?” I can’t say. But the fact that it is part of the dialogue among professionals at the highest levels suggests that it lies within the realm of future possibility.

I see it in my own children, now attending college. Yes they do the readings and study for the exams. But there is a shift in how they perceive it. It’s no longer about the studying. Studying seems incidental to the larger process of learning by doing. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. We have been aspiring to the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy for more than half a century now. The struggle for me is reconciling current reality with the belief systems of my parents and grandparents, always making noise in the back of my mind. Basic skills. Hard work. Earn the grade.

Sure, studying will still occur on the fly next century, as learners want to know concepts and systems that will help them in their work. But imagine if this trend continues and basic factual knowledge is acquired without having to study in the traditional committing-to-memory sense. What a different role education will play!

Wait…WHAT? Aren’t we already seeing the beginning of this shift in teaching and learning? Facilitating? Mentoring? Coaching? We should take pride in the fact that we are responsible for this incredible education metamorphosis, even as we try to fathom its implications. Perhaps the real struggle is within ourselves, as the last generation born in the industrial age. Perhaps there was no way to foresee nor appreciate the seismic change we unleashed when we first embraced our constructivist ideals so many, many decades ago.


McKinsey: The Obsolescence of Experience


Reposted from McKinsey Quarterly:

Another implication flows from the creation of this new knowledge resource. The new generation of managers, those now aged 35 or under, is the first generation that thinks in terms of putting knowledge to work before one has accumulated a decade or two of experience. Mine was the last generation of managers who measured their value entirely by experience. All of us, of necessity, managed by experience—not a good process, because experience cannot be tested or be taught. Experience must be experienced; except by a very great artist, it cannot be conveyed.

This means that the new generation and my generation are going to be horribly frustrated working together. They rightly expect us, their elders and betters, to practice some of the things that we preach. We don’t dream of it. We preach knowledge and system and order, since we never had them. But we go by experience, the one thing we do have. We feel frustrated and lost because, after devoting half our lifetimes to acquiring experience, we still don’t really understand what we’re trying to do. The young are always in the right, because time is on their side. And that means we have to change.

This brings us to the third implication, a very important one. Any business that wants to stay ahead will have to put very young people into very big jobs—and fast. Older men cannot do these jobs—not because they lack the necessary intelligence, but because they have the wrong conditioned reflexes. The young ones stay in school so long they don’t have time to acquire the experience we used to consider indispensable in big jobs. And the age structure of our population is such that in the next 20 years, like it or not, we are going to have to promote people we wouldn’t have thought old enough, a few years ago, to find their way to the water cooler. Companies must learn to stop replacing the 65-year-old man with the 59-year-old. They must seek out their good 35-year-olds.

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The College-Workplace Disconnect


Reposted from CNBC:

“A Gallup-Purdue University study describes a huge disconnect between what college presidents think students need to launch successful postgraduate careers and what the schools are actually delivering. The survey, which involved more than 30,000 students, tackled topics such as internship experience, availability of mentors, enthusiastic teachers, special projects and extracurricular activities.

The biggest sticking point: Internships. On average, less than a third of undergraduates say they had an internship that reflected their course of study, and there’s concern the numbers will go lower.

“I consider that a monumental failure,” said Gallup Education Executive Director Brandon Busteed, who says business leaders have been expressing serious dissatisfaction over how qualified new graduates are for entry-level jobs. “Part of what we are seeing is that there is still a lot of hubris in higher education,” he said. “Most of these college presidents have a lot of confidence that their own institution is just fine. But then we talk about the future of higher education and they are pretty negative.”

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Ten Takeaways from Atlanta ISTE


I am just back to DC after my first ISTE conference in five years. Here are ten takeaways from my time in Atlanta:

Learning – gone are the days when “Spreadsheet Magic” was a best seller. There is a definite shift towards learning first, with tech incidental to learning.

Leadership – not just in role or title, but in learning by doing, taking risks and pushing the envelope in how we need to rethink education.

Capacity – building personal and communal capabilities to prepare our children to meet the demands of the knowledge economy workplace.

Design – thoughtfully and deliberately planning for the kinds of environments and experiences children need to successfully contribute to the global marketplace of ideas.

Infrastructure – putting in place the programs, policies and backbone to host and sustain a world of collaboration and contribution through innovation.

Personalization – trailblazing towards individualized instruction and maximized learning for all children, ensuring for multiple pathways to success.

Connect – network with subject matter, technical and process experts who push your thinking and advance the dialog around education and technologies.

Question – those who are expanding their capacity and growing their ability to impact education are asking many questions and are receptive to all possible answers.

Experience – for the first time I saw ISTE offering an experience, not just a conference; a place to be and be seen and be heard. How do we extend this beyond the four days in Atlanta?

Thrive – one of the key words on conference promotional materials around the Georgia World Congress Center, “thrive” connotes a level of existence beyond simply being and doing; perhaps that was the intent of the entire aforementioned conference experience – to recognize that ed tech is more than a job, it’s a lifestyle in which we all can realize our full potential and the potential in others.

Thanks for a great conference, ISTE.


A Different Experience in the Classroom

A Different Experience in the Classroom

The knowledge economy is not about information, but about the
skills, values and attitudes students use to work with information to
solve authentic problems and create innovative products. Get them engaged!