Future of Learning Top Reads for week of Oct 1 2018

“Why Are American Colleges Obsessed With 'Leadership'?” by Tara Isabella Burton, in The Atlantic

“But it's worth investigating the assumption that to be a ‘good leader’ and to be a ‘desirable student’ are the same thing. In valorizing ‘leadership’ as a quality, we risk overlooking other—less obvious—qualities, something Harward concedes could use more discussion. ‘We do need good followers, and I think that aspect of leadership is something that we should talk about more,’ she says. ‘What good is any leader if they alienate those around them or don't empower them to lead themselves? And does the focus on leadership imply that a student who embraces the life of the mind and a specific intellectual interest to the fullest isn't leading in some equally compelling way?’ Certainly, it's worth asking if assumptions about ‘leadership,’ culturally-specific and quintessentially American as they are, penalize candidates from different cultural backgrounds, where leadership—particularly among adolescents—might take different forms, or be discouraged altogether.”

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

A provocative piece. How do we define leadership? Why do we define it that way? Given that work increasingly calls for rapid teaming and disbanding, how might we educate for followership as much as leadership (since it’s unlikely someone will always lead, no matter the team)? These questions carry implications for school, especially when we ask students—and teachers!—to collaborate.


“Why the Periphery Is Often More Powerful Than the Core,” by Jal Mehta and Susan Fine, in Harvard Ed. Magazine

“Once we began to see this world this way, we realized that the most powerful core disciplinary classes that we observed shared many of these characteristics. The teachers in these classes are less interested in covering content and more interested in helping students learn how to think in the mode of the domain; they enact a ‘cognitive apprenticeship’ model that echoes what happens in extracurriculars. They foster ownership by organizing the learning around the production of something that is authentic and high quality. Once students have a sense of purpose, teachers build in the more prosaic aspects of learning; writing a letter to a city councilwoman is an occasion to learn how to craft an introductory paragraph much as an upcoming basketball game motivates layup drills. These classes also frequently involve a real (if bounded) element of choice; students need to produce an essay or documentary film that accomplishes certain academic objectives, but they can choose the topic that interests them. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the ethos of these classrooms is similar to what one might find at an athletic practice or theater rehearsal — an ethos that combines playfulness with purposefulness, drawing together the warm virtue of passion and interest with the cooler virtues of intellectual demand.”

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

Simple lessons that come to life in student-centered pedagogies:

  1. Learn how to learn; think about your thinking.

  2. Work on a complex question or challenge. Give students choice here.

  3. Demonstrate your learning through a product that has an authentic purpose for an authentic audience. Give students choice here.

  4. Cultivate a culture of feedback that inspires learners to iterate and to aspire to high quality work (vs. simply seeking a grade).

  5. Combine purpose with play.

These principles animate High Tech High’s project-based learning model, Science Leadership Academy’s inquiry-based learning model, or Expeditionaries’ design-based learning model.


“5 things to know about the future of jobs,” by Vesselina Stefanova Ratcheva and Till Leopold, on World Economic Forum

“By 2022 the skills required to perform most jobs will have shifted significantly. Global average ‘skills stability’— the proportion of core skills required to perform a job that will remain the same — is expected to be about 58%. That means workers will see an average shift of 42% in required workplace skills in the period leading up to 2022. […]

“On average, employees will need 101 days of retraining and upskilling in the period up to 2022. Emerging skills gaps — both among individual workers and among companies’ senior leadership — may significantly obstruct organization’s transformation management. Depending on industry and geography, between one-half and two-thirds of companies are likely to turn to external contractors, temporary staff and freelancers to address their skills gaps. A comprehensive approach to workforce planning, reskilling and upskilling will be the key for positive, proactive management of such trends.”

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

The future of learning is not more content (e.g., more APs).

The future of learning is about learning how to learn and about asking better and better questions. (Answers, by contrast, have shorter and shorter half-lives in a world of accelerating change.)


Question of the week:

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Christian Talbot