#ISTE2014 Takeaway Two: Use of Time and Space

Energy. Ideas. Flexibility. Openness. Learning. Sharing. These are only a few words to capture the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference experience. It is important to note that the focus of #ISTE2014 was not on technology, digital tools, and gadgets but on the larger picture of relevant education topics – opening opportunities for students to learn without the restrictions of straight rows of desks. This is the second in a series of posts on #ISTE2014 takeaways.

For schools to become (or remain) relevant to today’s learning, the use of time (schedules) and space (classrooms, media centers, hallways, lunchrooms, grounds) must be viewed with a different lens, a fresh perspective. And, so it was at #ISTE2014 as reflected in this roundup of sessions provided by Sylvia Martinez of how space is morphing to fit the needs of collaborative pedagogy and student-centered curricula – think Maker Spaces and Learning Commons. For example, take Revere High School in Massachusetts; the 1:1 iPad school adopted flipped learning and revamped library space for a Learning Commons, complete with a Genius Bar, where students earn internship credits for helping others.

While an advocate for collaborative learning spaces for some time, I continue to learn how schools are using “space and time” in new ways for interdisciplinary applications. Check out Bob Pearlman’s examples of innovation labs, maker spaces, and learning commons, along with fab labs, weCreate, and other redefining-learning efforts. These examples, including revamped media centers and classrooms, speak to the collapse of the traditional, industrial age use of time and space in providing a more visionary and relevant curriculum supporting student empowerment.

  1. Shattuck-St. Mary’s School weCREATE Center, Faribault, MN
  2. Innovation Lab @Ross School, East Hampton, NY
  3. The Nueva School – Innovation Lab, Hillsborough, CA
  4. Quest Academy Innovation Lab, Palatine, IL
  5. Cushing Academy Innovation Lab, Ashburnham, MA
  6. Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, Atlanta, GA
  7. The Innovation Lab of Newton Public Schools, Newton, MA
  8. Thompson School District Innovation Lab, Loveland, CO
  9. Da Vinci High School Innovation Lab, Los Angeles, CA
  10. Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School (MICDS) STEM Center, St. Louis, MO
  11. MC² STEM High School FABLAB, Cleveland, Ohio
  12. Westtown Science Center, Westtown, PA
  13. The Idea Lab @ Gunn Library, Gunn High School, Palo Alto, CA

Look for further posts on examining the importance of redesigning a school’s use of time and space. Until then, what are you doing in your schools to revamp time and space for learning?

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Emergent Leadership for Learning Organizations

The conversation over at EdTechWomen on leadership sparked a reflection as to what characteristics are needed to be a leader, not a manager.

During my career as an educator, I have led professional development with a keen eye on servant leadership. Teacher voice and input is critical and often overlooked in traditional hierarchical organizations, which must give way for DIY learning and the push of market demand in an ever-increasing learning landscape of choice. In interviews with Tom Friedman and Adam Bryant, Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations for Google, noted several characteristics that are very important in emergent leadership, which is critical in the hyper-connected, morphing world of learning:

Stepping In & Out of Leadership
Bock observes, “’What we [Google] care about is, when faced with a problem and you’re a member of a team, do you, at the appropriate time, step in and lead. And just as critically, do you step back and stop leading, do you let someone else?’” The ability to step in and lead but also step back, letting others lead is key for we tap into the energies and thinking of others to tackle a problem, design new programs, or re-imagine what is possible.

Humility: Relinquishing Power
Bock believes humility is essential for learning by relinquishing power “’to step back and embrace the better ideas of others.’”

Consistency, Fairness, Predictability
Another key characteristic Bock cites is consistency: “’We found that, for leaders, it’s important that people know you are consistent and fair in how you think about making decisions and that there’s an element of predictability. If a leader is consistent, people on their teams experience tremendous freedom, because then they know that within certain parameters, they can do whatever they want. If your manager is all over the place, you’re never going to know what you can do, and you’re going to experience it as very restrictive.’” Being a leader is quite different than being a manager, and consistency, fairness, and predictability in leadership is an imperative to avoid the restrictive environment Bock mentions and critical for shepherding creativity and freedom to develop effective “moving forward” strategies for any organization, including schools. If team members are not sure of a leader’s (or manager’s) behavior on any given day, “moving forward” strategies are either stifled or never realized out of fear of backlash.

What do you think of these emergent leadership characteristics? Are learning organizations ready for them? Does your organization embrace emergent leadership?

The Future of Teacher Preparation & Social Entrepreneurs

This TechCrunch post Pathwright Launches Platform To Let Anyone Create, Sell Branded Online Courses is a must read.

Each course comes with a built-in social network for every student taking the course, allowing students to share notes, ask or answer discussion questions, and receive grades and feedback from teachers. Teachers can then publish their courses is a built-in, branded catalog and sell them directly, make them invitation-only, or offer monthly subscriptions that unlock all the courses. Educators can also offer online-only or location-based courses, or both, may be self-paced, or on a schedule with varying degrees of teacher interaction.

Now, what is described above is happening today. Thinking towards the future, perhaps teachers are prepared, not with courses, but with modules of experience embedded where learning happens – wherever that may be. Higher ed as we know it just ended; so, teacher preparation as we know it just ended as well.

In the future, teacher apprentices work with mentor teachers. Perhaps approach action research in conjunction with (or leading) “social entrepreneurs” by challenging them to solve a problem of Equity. Perhaps teacher mentors and teacher apprentices work with the future equivalent of today’s Stanford’s Innovations in Education course or those at Harvard Business School in Social Innovation Lab? (See Social Entrepreneurs Try to Offer Solutions to Problems in K-12) (Let’s don’t forget MIT’s Media Lab.) Instead of Race to the Top, perhaps it is Race for Equity?

Three examples of challenge sets (action research) put forth for these teacher apprentices and social entrepreneurs in the Race for Equity could be (1) close the Participation Gap (Pew Internet Report Digital Differences: Separate and Unequal in Digital Media); (2) reboot the public library system to continue the democratic ideal of free access to information and ideas by creating ebook or emedia repositories not tied to one format, such as Apple or Amazon, and checking out ereaders and mini-WIFI connectivity (See ZDNET series on the Digital Underclass); and (3) link economic development with education and wrap-around services in rural areas, including reservations for Indigenous populations and under served urban and suburban areas, e.g. lighting up dark fiber, National Broadband Plan, and the Summit on the Role of Education in Economic Development in Rural America, at which Education Secretary Duncan recently spoke. Further, numerous applications for special needs through universal access could be thought of, especially with the rise of Autism.

It is important to note that standards (Common Core or others in the future) not be used. Why? It’s important that standards not be used if going to scale and designing relevant, engaging curriculum (HOTS), global reach/partnerships, and application of Equity solutions on a worldwide market that are “made in America” AND can be replicated elsewhere. (See EdWeek commentary Does the Common Core Matter?) A universal language in learning products can be used. Digital Bloom Verbs provide a solution in content/product development and distribution would be the solution. Products could be tweaked considering the availability of infrastructure and mobility, e.g. low-tech, high-tech, bandwidth, etc. Ultimately, benefiting all children.

Thoughts?

Teacher Collaboration: The Missing Link in School Reform

The Missing Link in School Reform is a must read. Using research, Carrie R. Leana identifies the predominant ideology (human capital) in public school reform (Power of the Individual; Wisdom of the Outsider; Principal as Instructional Leader) and outlines the reality (social capital) of how sustained, successful reform (The Power of the Collective; Reform from Within; and Principal as Protector) can be designed.

She writes:

These three beliefs—in the power of teacher human capital, the value of outsiders, and the centrality of the principal in instructional practice—form the implicit or explicit core of many reform efforts today. Unfortunately, all three beliefs are rooted more in conventional wisdom and political sloganeering than in strong empirical research. Together they constitute what I call the ideology of school reform. And although this, like all ideology, may bring us comfort in the face of uncertainty and failure, it is unhelpful and perhaps dangerous if it leads us to pursue policies that will not bring about sustained success. Our research suggests that there is some truth to the predominant ideology. Teacher competence does affect student learning. Outsiders can bring fresh ideas and enthusiasm to tired systems. And principals do have a role in reform efforts. At the same time, our findings strongly suggest that in trying to improve public schools we are overselling the role of human capital and innovation from the top, while greatly undervaluing the benefits of social capital and stability at the bottom.


Her findings will not surprise teachers, who are very often marginalized from school reform policy development and understand the power of collaboration. However, the results may cause those who hold the predominant ideology to become defensive and dismissive.

What are your thoughts? Do the research results surprise you? Would you add another item to the list of successful school reform based on social capital?

Running the digital river of learning with you,

Emily Vickery