Future of Learning Top Reads for week of Dec 3 2018

“Educator Discussions That Avoid ‘The Problem’,” by Larry Cuban, on the Larry Cuban blog

“Most educational problems become, sooner or later, a desperate attempt to escape from the problem. This is often done clumsily, causing unnecessary embarrassment and leaving the group without the comfortable feeling of having disposed of the problem. Educational leaders long ago worked out adequate techniques for dodging the issue.”

“The following list [of 27 items], of course, is a tentative, partial, incomplete, a mere beginning, etc. but it should give group leaders a command of alternative modes of retreat and enable them.

“1. Find a scapegoat. Teachers can blame administrators, administrators can blame teachers, both can blame parents, and everyone can blame the system.
2. Profess not to have the answer. That lets you out of having any answer.
3. Say that we must not move too rapidly. That avoids the necessity of getting started. […]”

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

Read the entire list. It is fascinating and still relevant 70+ years later.

Whatever problems your school faces, the challenges lie not so much in finding “the right” solution—there are likely several good solutions—but rather in facilitating change that avoids (or survives) the cultural antibodies to change.

I learned about change in schools the hard way. You can hear about it in this PechaKucha from the 2017 NAIS Annual Conference.

Keeping with the theme of facilitating school change…


“Why Canada needs five new digital learning universities,” by Tony Bates, in Online Learning and Distance Education Resources blog

“Because the new institutions are meant to have a wider impact on the rest of the higher education system, instructors/faculty will be seconded from existing institutions for a three year period, with the possibility of a further two year extension. They would return to their ‘home’ institutions to bring back the knowledge and experience they have gained, to influence their own institution’s approach to teaching and learning.”

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

H/T to Frank Ambrosio at Georgetown University for sharing this blog post.

For school leaders to facilitate change, they need to place a bet on some mental model(s) of how that change is going to happen.

In this blog post, Tony Bates implies a combination of mental models that we might call “test kitchen” and “innovation diffusion.”

First he calls for the creation of five new blended learning universities across Canada (“test kitchens”). Then he suggests time-limited appointments to these blended learning universities, after which faculty would return to their home schools to share what they have learned (“innovation diffusion”).

Which leads us to one last item on facilitating school change…


Part of the Basecamp approach to facilitating change involves working with school leaders to understand:

  • Where is everyone’s energy?

  • What kind of culture do we have? What kind of culture do we want?

  • Given the above, what is our mental model for change?

  • If we are placing a bet on that mental model for change, what things will we monitor and manage?

Facilitating change involves more than these four questions, but they are a good place to start.


Question of the week:

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Christian Talbot