Future of Learning Top Reads for week of Feb 19 2018

"Adding Value Means Addressing Difficult Questions," by Tom Olverson / @TomOlverson, on RG175 blog

"What is your winning aspiration? Yes, heads of school, this is the vision thing. But what makes it different from school visions of yesteryear is the word 'winning.' It is true that strategic planning has to help the school do a better job of living its mission, but that’s not enough. The school’s position in the marketplace has to be improved as a result of a successful strategic plan. Likewise, the school’s capabilities to better fulfill its mission have to be strengthened as a result of a strategic plan. 'Winning' means creating value and feeding capabilities that are critical to the school’s on-going success."

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

Whether your school calls it strategic planning, strategic thinking, or strategic design, it all comes down to the overlap between mission and market. Or, as Olverson calls it, "the vision thing."

The Basecamp team likes to ask our school clients:

  • In an age of accelerating change, what are you uniquely positioned to do?
  • In an age of accelerating change, what does the market demand that you do?
  • What will be your license to operate over the next several decades? (Hint: this is the place where your mission and the market overlap.)

Answering those questions requires a bold, coherent point of view.


" 'MicroMasters' Surge As MOOCs Go From Education To Qualification," by Adam Gordon / @AdamVGordon, in Forbes

"Mindful of a fast-changing world, iterative learning suits both employee and the firm. Neither expects sufficient ongoing capability to come from early career one-shot learning."

Why does this matter to the future of learning? 

It was easy to dismiss MOOCs a decade ago because they were "low fidelity" learning experiences. Since then two important things have changed:

  1. In an age of accelerating change--not just rapid change, but an increasing rate of change--the idea that college graduates are fully formed for professional life is preposterous. We must all be lifelong learners, because accelerating change will require us to adapt on a regular basis.
  2. Micromasters have become:
    • more effective learning experiences.
    • more reliable signals to employers.
    • cheaper, faster, and nimbler credentials.

We will keep an eye on this innovation, because it could be enormously disruptive to higher ed, with implications for the cost-value equation of independent schools.


"Following the lessons of learning science in schools isn’t convenient," by Tara García Mathewson / @TaraGarciaM, in The Hechinger Report

"There is, of course, a problem. The method of instruction most often employed in industrial-style classrooms, 'direct instruction,' is a relatively easy lift. Teachers, who have all the information, stand at the front of the room and deliver content to students, who sit passively, absorbing as much as they can before the teacher moves on. Many teachers already do much more than this to teach increasingly diverse groups of students, but for argument’s sake, let’s call this the basic instructional model in an industrial-era classroom.

"Sanjay Sarma, vice president for Open Learning at MIT and a mechanical engineer, sees a fundamental assumption underlying this model: 'The mind is a sheet of paper for a professor to write on.' But that’s the wrong way to think about education, he said. The right way, he argued, is to think of a human as a plant to which educators offer fertilizer and water and sunlight when it needs it, or wants it, most.

"'This is a very different model,' Sarma said, 'but it’s so inconvenient we ignore it.'"

 Why does this matter to the future of learning?

Every educator and parent should read this short article. It is packed from top to bottom with some of the most important insights from learning science--many of which are either unknown or ignored in schools.

As independent schools face shrinking demographics, increased income inequality, and unsustainable tuition models, there will be no place in the market for schools that ignore brain science and learning science.


Question of the week: What will be your school's license to operate over the next several decades?

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Christian Talbot