Future Ready Schools

What if school didn’t look like this?

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I know what you’re saying, my classroom doesn’t always look like that.  Maybe it never looks like that.

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Chairs, technology, walls…”school”.

If you asked most people (teachers, students, non-education people) what they expect a classroom to include they would have a pretty common list:  teacher, students, desks/tables, board (smart or otherwise), books, computers. And, if you really pressed them to list absolutely everything…walls! 

This, however, is where the problem lies – these constructs of a classroom and/or school are old, they are antiquated, they date back beyond my grandparents.  What else that we rely on so heavily today is done/made the same way it was 100 years ago? 50 years ago? 20? Think about it, look around you, what is one relevant thing that is the same as it was 20 years ago?  Computer? Phone? Books? The clothes you’re wearing? Nope…everything has changed – except education!

Every industry is working to improve their product; working to make them more cost-effective, make them more user friendly, make them more green, improve functionality or performance.  Yet education, by and large, remains the same.

How are we, educators who are meant to be preparing our students for the future, supposed to do justice to a process that prepares kids for a future that includes so many unknowns?  

The answer is breaking away from the deep-seated rituals that have become school.  We must offer students the chance to truly engage with their learning, get their hands dirty, and live a life of active (not passive!) learning.

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What is this was a “classroom”…everyday??

But how?  

Well, that is for each school to figure out on their own.  How are they going to commit to being a school for the future?  It will take courage, it will take forward thinking and it will take lots of time and effort.  The results, however, will easily outweigh everything. If we keep doing things the same way, we’re going to keep getting the same results.  If we’re preparing for a dynamic future, we need a dynamic present – flexible, engaging, adaptable and inspiring…

Take a look at these schools and see how they’ve already begun to challenge the construct of school and the classroom.  These are all forward thinking schools (listed here from closest to traditional to least traditional, according to me)…they’re all awesome and all have room to improve.  However, what they have in common is that they are all schools for the future!!

Perhaps your school isn’t ready or able to make such a leap forward right now, that is fine.  However, what are you doing to create a dynamic educational experience that prepares students for the future?

I was tempted to explain these programs in brief but was concerned that an oversimplification of these wonderful programs just wouldn’t be fair.  So, I’m STRONGLY encouraging you to have a look at these programs (or at least a couple) and evaluate them yourself.

Carpe Diem School in various locations

Western Academy of Beijing – Capstone Program in Beijing, China

Roosevelt Innovation Academy in Lima, Peru

Summit Public Schools San Francisco, California

Green School in Bali, Indonesia

High Tech High in various locations

Khan Lab School in Mountain View, California

NOMAD in San Francisco, California

Think Global School in…well…nowhere and everywhere at the same time (if you look at one of these, this is it!!)

 

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AASSA – Where do we go from here?

I’ve been reflecting on all of the learning from our time in Lima, there certainly was a lot of it and I’m confident it will keep me busy for quite a while.  I went through all of my notes and took notes on the notes.  I’m trying to synthesize my learning and make connections from one session to the next.  To be honest, it’s hard work!  However, a conference like this should be the genesis of great ideas.  Too often we leave a conference, class, meeting, etc. with new learning but it gets quickly set aside as we return to the shuffle and hustle of “school.”  I wrote earlier about a strategy to ensure success while working toward goals, but how do we choose those goals?

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“Less is More” – Priorities Matter

Drawing on a few of the key phrases from the week, I’ll start with “Less is more”.  Looking through my pages of notes I can’t help but get a little overwhelmed.  In total I had about 24 pages covered in scribblings (not to mention the newspaper I decorated with ideas and thoughts while flying home).  Add all of the resources shared on Edmodo and Google Drive and there’s a lot to go through.  So where to start?

I’m starting with the “less is more” concept.  I’m starting with me.  Before I can commit to new initiatives or goals I need to take a look at what I’m currently doing.  There’s only so much time in the world, priorities need to be evaluated.  So, that’s what I’m in the process of doing.  How is my time spent?  What are the non-negotiables?  What can be reduced?  What should be set aside for the time being?

“Think Big, Start Small, Learn Fast” – Patience is a Virtue

On Wednesday I spent the day with the Innovation Academy at FDR.  I really enjoyed the  experience of learning about the progressive program they’ve created but it was even more special to learn about how they’ve gotten to this point.  The real key, that I can see, is that they started small.  They didn’t get in over their heads and they learned along the way.  These guys had a long term vision and they worked methodically toward their goals (they’re still working to grow and improve!)  

Once I figure out my priorities and create the time and opportunity for myself to launch into the next great idea I’ll be sure to follow this maxim.  I’ve long been a proponent of working slowly, often at odds with those who want to dive in head first.  It takes patience and confidence in both yourself and the idea to go slowly.  As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”  It takes time and patience to create something great…Think big, start small, learn fast!

“Stay Foolish” – Disrupt, push forward

A sign on the door in one of the IA classrooms read, “Stay foolish.”  I love it!  That, along with the implicit messages from Ewan McIntosh and Martin Skelton, left me with the idea of being disruptive.  The thinking we have today in schools is too much in line with the status quo.  Where are we going?  Seemingly nowhere if we look at education and where we were 5, 10, even 25 years ago.  Sure the technology has advanced but have the philosophies?

I’m pretty sure I haven’t come up with the “next big thing” in education but there are certainly some ideas that are capable of disrupting the status quo and the “usual” educational thinking.  One of the early commercials for Apple discusses the idea of challenging the status quo and thinking differently.  It’s prophetic in a way, at the time of this commercial Apple wasn’t yet the world leader in technology that they’ve become today.  But their ideas, their “foolish” thinking and challenges to the status quo have literally changed the way we communicate.  

How can we “push the human race forward” by staying foolish and disrupting the status quo?