Getting to the Next Right Thing

We used to live in a world where few directed many: where one coach told his players to run this play; where a military general commanded a battalion to take that hill; where a CEO told his team to make those numbers. In that world everyone’s job was to use their skills to do the next thing right, to do things correctly. Today, when everybody is called upon for their qualities, to contribute their full character and creativity, everyone’s job is no longer to do the next thing right, but to do the next right thing. The former requires certain requisite skills and increasingly machines are programmed to provide just that. The latter, however, takes the kinds of character, conscience and consciousness that are uniquely human.

This from a Wall Street Journal article – Why Colleges Must Teach Students How to Pause – on a new report from the World Economic Forum – New Vision for Education, Unlocking the Potential of Technology:

 Our survey of educational technology trends revealed that much more can be done to develop higher-order competencies and character qualities, to align technologies with learning objectives and to develop learning approaches that efficiently and comprehensively deploy technology throughout the stages of instruction and learning

These are both good reads and discussion pieces for getting deep into how are spending our efforts and resources in school development.

 widgets/ Note: The starting point of the chart has been indexed to 1960.
Adapted from Levy, Frank and Richard J. Murnane. “Dancing with robots: Human skills for computerized work.” Third Way NEXT. 2013. Data provided by David Autor at MIT and updated from the original 2003 study by Autor, Levy and Murnane

My computer earned a Smiley

Last year I replaced a rapidly fading laptop. The old one had been durable, traveling to schools across the country for six or seven years. The new one, a wide screen, touchscreen, convertible, was getting its break-in during the start-up of a new school we were supporting. Getting late into the evening, I was sitting on a donated sofa in the reception area, working on budget notes, when a young man in the all-day kindergarten class crawled onto my lap. He was the reason five of us were still there working late, waiting, not for the first time, for a family member to arrive.

I had tried out a game designed for my widescreen touchscreen the other day, popping bubbles on the touchscreen, and showed it to my newest friend. He played a few rounds before getting antsy, not quite catching on to the idea of strategic bubble popping for added points. Before heading back to the Legos on the floor, he stopped, thanked me and removed a smiley face sticker from the back of his hand and put it on my computer. A year later it is still there, seemingly not much wear and tear at all, reminding me of why we do this, and that perhaps the most important measure of how well we are doing is in their eyes.

15 years later…

MSSP launched fifteen years ago when we took on a grant funded challenge to address learning opportunities for urban students by hard mathdeveloping local school models in partnership with eight school districts, each school designed for the learning needs of the community. Each model was intended to be unique, designed by local teams, with a set of common attributes to guide design thinking and implementation outcomes. Each of those schools opened successfully, a few are still operating today, while others faded with the funding and priority tides in their districts. In the years before that, we started our state’s first internet based school in Federal Way, Washington. While Seattle is still home, we have spent much of the past fifteen years working with schools and organizations across the country under the name of that original project – the Model Secondary Schools Project, though our focus has expanded to improving learning opportunities for students at all levels of their education from kindergarten to college.

We are now launching a new version of our organization with a new name – MSSP Solutions – with the intent of reaching farther in our efforts to improve learning opportunities for all students. Much of what we have learned is related to the shifting challenges of teaching and the capacity development needs of organizations that support learning. Much has changed and we have had an extraordinary opportunity to grow as our education systems have grappled with the social, cultural and technical shifts that have occurred. We work as change agents in classrooms, schools and organizations, our efforts focused on helping develop local capacity to respond adaptively to the current challenges facing us in education.

We started as teachers, and now we see the role of teachers and the impact of teaching decisions receiving much-needed attention. “Accountability” has received substantial attention over the past decade and is now shifting from improving test scores to improving opportunities for learners. The old adopted curriculum mandates are being replaced by expectations for equity in addressing learning performance. Not that testing has gone away, and we do not expect it too, but we do advocate, along with many others, for equity in learning opportunities and adaptive methods in every classroom as the new face of teaching. This goal of achieving equity in learning for all students is bringing new opportunities to teachers and school leaders. Our classroom doors are no longer closed – we learn and teach in a world where many if not most students and their teachers have access to the vast library of lightly cataloged learning resources and opportunities housed on the internet.

We have much to do, and we hope much to offer, in approaching this goal of learning equity. On our new website we plan to share the resources we find and create, as well as our thoughts and progress on these efforts, and we hope to hear from you.