Sunday, October 1, 2017

Scaling Change to Create Schools Learners Need and Deserve

We live in exciting times although it is often difficult to keep up with how fast society is changing. Many of us can remember a world where there was no Internet or smartphones.  Now we not only have smart watches, but rumors are swirling that a global Wi-Fi network powered by commercial airliners is in the works that will provide people access virtually anywhere in the world.   We keep seeing major disruptions across the service sector. Up until a few years ago, there was no Uber or Airbnb. Now millions of people are hailing rides and booking rooms in ways that are more convenient and cost-efficient. With the exponential rate of change we are seeing, it is a bit exciting to think about what the future holds.

Education is beginning to experience some pretty exciting changes as well.  Across the globe, evolving technologies are being utilized to engage students in a variety of ways authentically.  Critical competencies such as creativity, collaboration, and communication are now easier to demonstrate through the use of numerous tools.  Classroom and school design are beginning to move away from what many of us experienced as students.   Flexible spaces, virtual learning options, and makerspaces are providing students with new opportunities to demonstrate what they know. Social media has flattened the world as educators have discovered how powerful this standard medium is in enabling the sharing of ideas, strategies, and resources regardless of time or place. Just like society, the future of education is bright.

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There is one caveat here though.  The pace of change in the education space has not matched that which we see across the world. Even though progress has and continues to be made, the paragraph above represents a small fraction of the education space. So, what gives? Why education needs to change has been discussed at length by authors and bloggers alike for years now.  If providing compelling reasons, research and opinions were enough I suppose education would look and feel a lot different at scale now.  We have also been exposed to all the many technology tools, programs, and pedagogical shifts that can support and enhance learning for students.  Some improvement claims are valid, while others tend to be on the fluffier side. With all this being said, change at scale still tends to be elusive. 

The conundrum painted above is not as perplexing as one might think.  I often go back to the work of Simon Sinek and his Golden Circle.  The "why" and "what" dominate conversations, writings, and presentations in my opinion.  I am not saying this is entirely a bad thing.  This is ideal for short-term satisfaction, but the "how" is the key to sustainability and scalability. In Learning Transformed, Tom Murray and I went to great lengths to unearth the why by presenting a vast research base to validate the ideas presented. The how is framed through the Innovative Practices in Action (IPA's) found in each chapter.  What often holds educators and schools back is taking great ideas and showing how they can be implemented under a variety of conditions and contexts. The video below provides a bit more insight into our thinking around this.

Change begins with you. Never forget that. The key, however, is to create a movement through collective actions that fundamentally improve learning for all.  Scalability matters if the goal is to build schools of the future by transforming teaching, learning, and leadership in the process.  Details on how this can and is being accomplished in the context of the real challenges educators and schools face on a daily basis can help move isolated pockets of excellence to scalable changes that influence all learners.  

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