What’s Your Story?

Image from BrochureTomorrow I’ll be part of an interesting and unique (for me) experience with the Houston/Gulf Coast Chapter of the American Leadership Forum.  Here is a blurb from the front page of their national site.

American Leadership Forum is a national network of chapters, each dedicated to building stronger communities by joining and strengthening leaders to serve the public good. It enhances leadership by building on the strengths of diversity and by promoting collaborative problem solving within and among communities. ((“National Office.” American. 27 Mar 2008. American Leadership Forum. 27 Mar 2008 http://www.alfnational.org/.))

It will be an interesting day for business, political, and education leaders from the Houston/Gulf Coast area.  I kick things off with a keynote address about the needs of education.  It will be a version of my increasingly presented, “Our Students • Our Worlds.”  This will be followed by small group meetings, where leaders will discuss the ideas that I have presented and their own experiences, within the context of three grounding questions:

  1. What does the future hold for education?
  2. What do schools and districts need to do to prepare for the future?
  3. What will this future require of me?

This will be followed by a panel discussion of area superintendents, which I will moderate.  Other small group sessions will follow (along with lunch), and I will close things down with a short culminating message.

So, for you, what’s the future hold for education?  What do schools need to do?  and What will this future require of communities?

I await your ideas 😉

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14 thoughts on “What’s Your Story?”

  1. What does the future hold for education?
    In the very near future, I hope that the state and national governments realize that standardized multiple choice tests are not teaching anything other than puke back the facts. Wit this behind us we can resume teaching. We have great tools for the students to develop their own learning communities with in and outside of their schools. We must open the walls of the classrooms to allow for open learning and collaboration. We must teach students to work together and learn how to filter information. All people are hunters and gatherers of information, and we need to teach with this in mind.

    What do schools and districts need to do to prepare for the future?
    Develop teaching and learning teams to learn new methods. We have been talking about this for years, lets get to it. Schools need to train teachers to re-learn how to learn. Give some of the control to the students to help direct their learning. I am not saying forget about the curriculum, but there are many ways to reach an objective, and for many students the traditional methods are not working.

    What will this future require of me?
    Become a learner. Learn how to work with others. Develop your own leaning communities.

  2. 1. What does the future hold for education?

    If we continue down the road we currently seem to be, the future holds “disappointment” for education. If we continue to test to the standards and worry more about performance “results” rather than looking at the individual student and meeting their needs both now and in the future — than we will continue to just push students through and there will be no sense of accomplishment or pride. The students of today are unique, global, communicators, and multi=taskers — that must be noticed and addressed.

    2. What do schools and districts need to do to prepare for the future?

    They need to admit that things need to be re-evaluated and changed. They need to find the EXCELLENT of the present and the past and expand on that. They need to address what is over overlooked and change that. They need to have vision for the future and strive to make that a realization and not just a hope. They need to put money into effective professional development, they need to find ways of making teachers feel not only needed but appreciated, and at the district level, the admin MUST be involved in what is going on in the classroom!

    3. What will this future require of me?

    This future will require me to not settle on what I could do in the past. This future will require me to be flexible, to continually be learning, and to be ready to learn new skills all the time. This future will require me to NOT look at my past as my students’ future. This future will require me to see options that are not even there yet and help my students achieve that. This future will require me to be ready for anything.

  3. I had a similar discussion recently with area admins and the staff of our local career school. Here are a few of our conclusions.

    1. Promote 21st century skills in all content areas.
    2. Outline and integrate essential questions, concepts, and skills; not content.
    3. Create a support network to collaborate, cooperate, and share resources and ideas

  4. Hi there, David!

    Trying to answer your questions, I found myself going back to another one: What is the future that we want to build?

    Your first question (at least for me) feels like there is a predetermined future to which education must react to or do something about. I wonder if this happens too often. We think about the productive and competitive needs of our countries, and then we discuss what education should do about it. We think about the extremely fast changes in technology, and we wonder what education should do about it (or with it). But is that the final purpose of education?

    I really think we are not doing that question often enough. If we get to agree, as a school/district, about what is the future we want for our children/community, then maybe it will be easier to see what actions should be done in order to go there.

    So, the second question wouldn’t be about “What do schools and districts need to do to prepare for the future?” but something like “What do schools and districts need to do to create the future that we want?”. I really feel that this second option gives us more responsibility, and maybe could get us more committed to that future. The same would go for the third question.

    Now, I don’t mean to sound oblivious to all the changes that our society is facing. But I feel that we, as individuals, need to feel again that there is something more we can do than just react to what’s happening outside.

    P.D. The picture is both cute and a little worrying, if you ask me! 😀

  5. 1. What does the future hold for education?

    By this, I assume the implication is “public education.” At least that’s the stance I’ll take in my response. I believe there’s a huge disconnect between the way our students operate and the way our schools operate. It could simply be the digital divide betweens the immigrants and the natives. The dissemination of new technologies (especially those that are collaborative in nature) and their rate of adoption has progressed so rapidly that our industrial-age schools have been left in the dust. Change is a process, often a painful one, but often necessary. Our instruction, even my own while I was in the classroom, is often very linear and packaged. Admittedly, once I had a formula that could produce 100% proficiency on standardized state testing, I was very reluctant to deviate from it. It was student performance on those high-stakes tests that put my head on the chopping block. I’m not sure this system can sustain this disparity. The future holds inevitable change.

    2. What do schools and districts need to do to prepare for the future?

    We need to stop and ask ourselves: can we let go? I’m sure there’s no easy answer to that. Again, this change is likely to be a painful one because it threatens some of the foundational ways that schools operate. However, if we are to prepare, first I think we need to start planning for change yesterday. We must be very forward-thinking and willing to take some risks. Of course, the concepts of “risk” and “public education” are, in my view, diametrically opposed to each other. That’s why we may see the rise of non-government funded education in the future. Currently, there’s too much bureaucracy, red-tape, and fear of litigation, to be cutting-edge in public education. However, to put aside some pessimism, discussions like these, by the leaders of school districts are a positive step.

    3. What will this future require of communities?

    Our public schools, in some regards, are simply a sub-set of the surrounding community. The digital divide between generations extends beyond the campus. The community as a whole will also be required to make some fundamental changes in the way they perceive education. For example, a local business that hires graduates from a particular local school may have to stop relying solely on GPA and the results of standardized tests and rather look to a particular set of skills that a potential employee brings to the table. What if graduation requirements shifted from students having to show proficiency on a state exam in Biology or Geometry to students producing a portfolio of products that demonstrated not only their skill set but also their personal learning interests? Free-market education, anyone?

    -Lucas Gillispie

  6. What does the future hold for education?
    As the father of two young children, 3 and 6, this is an important question to me. I want my children to experience all of the positive things that await them in public education. Friends, field trips, sports, music, etc. I also want them to experience all of the things that some public schools have not embraced fully, blogs, wikis, social networking, etc. So I think that the future holds tremendous potential IF schools can get away from this mentality of test, test, test and toward one that embraces the social aspects of technology and all the promise that it holds.

    What do schools and districts need to do to prepare for the future? Schools need to embrace these social technologies from the top down. The districts need to include RSS feeds for their homepages that alert parents to snow days, upcoming events, vacations, etc. The district administrators need to embrace the potential of blogging to both their parents and staff. If the administration won’t embrace these technologies, where’s the hope for the teachers? There needs to be opportunities for teacher training. All this means is time for the teachers to learn and play with these new technologies. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. With the new technologies and the number of conferences being streamed and archived and the accompanying wikis, etc. The information is out there, they just need time to find it and use it.
    What will this future require of me? I think the biggest hurdle will be getting teachers to change roles. They need to start moving from expert to tour guide. The information is out there, the teacher is no longer the only expert that these kids have access to. With the amount of information that is out there it should now be the teachers job to guide the students through the learning process, not just speak it at them.

  7. Hi David – Although I don’t have specific answers to your questions, this group’s direction has it right as one answer to the overall dropout crisis occurring across the U.S. (One-third of all high school students dropout across the U.S.). The dropout crisis is a community problem and needs to have a community solution, part of which can be a technology solution. I would encourage you to share some of these statistics off my blogpost today – http://robdarrow.wordpress.com. It is something we all need to work on reversing!

  8. I have been a high school teacher for the past 11 years. I teach both Mathematics and Computer Science. One of the things I strongly believe we need to work on is our ideas about what skills and knowledge a student needs to leave high school with to be successful.

    Do we still need to require them to learn the names of all the presidents? Should they have to memorize state capitols? What information should be the minimal common denominator?

    Before the hackles raise at the idea that students might not know the facts above, consider that we live in a society where that information is easily obtainable. And even with a digital divide in terms of computers and internet access, cell phones are slowly bridging that gap and also becoming more and more connected themselves. Information is becoming ubiquitous.

    We still only have a set amount of days, hours with students in school. We need to teach them to be consumers of information. Rather than a social studies class being a repetition of facts, the best classes are the ones that pull information from multiple sources and teach students to reason and draw connections between what they see and read. So what if one president isn’t mentioned one year, is it not more important that a student be able to recognize historical themes in an event (be it current or past) and write about it?

    Should science be a continuum of facts? or should it be a series of experiments showing students what the world around us is like.

    In an age where I can retrieve facts quickly and efficiently is it not more important that I be able to deal with large amounts of information and understand underlying processes?

    The current education system is built by and for people for whom facts were expensive. Writing a paper on a particular topic involved hours of pouring through the library resources, not minutes of searching on google. Now understanding is expensive and facts are cheap. Shouldn’t we be educating our students about understanding?

    We need to be willing to let go of some of the lists of facts that students “know” and instead give them the tools to understand.

  9. Dave here are my answers to those questions.
    Cross posted at: http://hshawjr007.blogspot.com/

    1. What does the future hold for education? The future of education needs to include a paradigm shift in expectations of students, teachers and administrators. We need to change our focus to the “knowledge based” economy instead of the old “factory preparation” model. If this shift does not occur we are doing a disservice to our students and taxpayers, by not preparing our future for their future.

    2. What do schools and districts need to do to prepare for the future? To closely look at what they are actually teaching and how they are teaching it. Teaching to a standardized test does not equate into being prepared to compete in the “real world” and be successful after high school. Stop boring the kids, why are we teaching students the same way we did in the 1970’s when we can do so much better. This might even help stem the “silent” problem of school dropouts.

    3. What will this future require of me? It will require me to continuously learn new methods to keep current, to become politically involved to change laws that are not beneficial to students, to become more of an advocate for what is right for our students instead of remaining in the background and letting “others” do it for us.

    Finally , the future will require me to do the right thing for the right reasons. Even though this stance may not be popular with peers or those in positions of authority over me. I will need to stand up for what I believe in.

  10. Apparently my attempt at a track back did not work. Here is the blog post with my comment. http://tinyurl.com/3exfm9
    Text follows:

    I tend to look at History when thinking about the future. So when David Warlick asked for help preparing for his meet up with Houston/Gulf Coast Chapter of the American Leadership Forum, I impulsively looked at my own history.

    David asked:

    So, for you, what’s the future hold for education? What do schools need to do? and What will this future require of communities?

    I await your ideas 😉

    Commodore 64. That’s the first thing that popped into my head.

    I bought a Commodore 64 when my oldest son was 2. That would be 1984, the same year his first brother was born. There was fun and learning involved with that machine. We added Muppet Keys, a disk drive, printer and all manner of software that fit in a young family’s budget.

    The Commodore based learning system lasted for the first few kids. Since then it’s been mostly Macintosh based learning around my house. A notable exception would be when son 3 built a PC in high school. We got on the internet in 1996. 4 kids have used a myriad of computers and other technologies to this point when the youngest is almost out of high school.

    So what can I say about the future based on my past? Here’s David’s questions and my answers.

    What does the future hold for education?

    In 20 years, much of the technology we use for education now will be so many Commodore 64s. We have no way to know what will replace it.

    Teachers in the future will look for the best ways to teach. Technologies will be developing that out pace those used in the classroom of the time. Some teachers will be frustrated by their school’s resources in 2028 and seek to bring in the newer technologies. So for teacher’s, pretty much like now.

    What do schools and districts need to do to prepare for the future?

    Seek out the best teachers. Teachers schooled in the values of good citizenship, who will pass that heritage to future generations. Teachers who want to make a difference in the lives of students. Teachers who are not afraid to try new things. Teachers who can articulate what they need, including new technologies.

    Then listen to those teachers and support those teachers. Trust the people who are teaching the kids when you want to spend money on technology. Don’t just buy the thing you see at a conference. Don’t take the salesman’s word for it. Let your teachers tell you how they would use a technology before spending the cash.

    Be aware that if you don’t involve teachers, you may make large monetary outlays for systems and programs that don’t work. Be ready to admit mistakes. Don’t keep using a system or technology that doesn’t work, just to get your moneys worth.

    What will this future require of me?

    I need to keep my eyes open. Keep looking for better ways to teach kids. When I am aware of new technologies, I need to keep in mind the question “How can this help improve my teaching.” Then use what’s good and reject the rest.

    That’s what I would say to the Leadership Forum.

  11. David,

    I liked your chosen questions. I might tweak them if I chose to address educators:

    What does the future hold for education?
    What aren’t schools and districts doing to prepare for the future?
    What change in society might help improve the impact of our jobs?

    We might all ask thought-provoking questions such as these of our colleagues, administrators, and those in our circle of blogs and social networks.

    I wrote my own replies on my website.

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