Revisiting and Replaying Ideas that are Sticky, but Haven't Stuck

I was doing some digital diving into my writing files from the past decade and found this piece that I originally posted on the previous Big6 website. I’d like to share it with you on this new site and add a comment on why this seems relevant to information problem solving and education reform now.

The Big 6 and Super 3 provide access points and clarity to the fundamental building blocks of learning for any age student, teacher, teacher-librarian, school leader, trustee—really anyone! It really is time to make the idea stick that PK-Lifetime Learning is really about empowering and enabling all learners to identify, solve, present, create, and improve upon information problem solving in all aspects of life.

(It’s About) Learning and Time

It’s (About Learning and) Time

It’s About (Learning and) Time

It’s About Learning (and Time)

It’s About Learning, #DeeperLearning

In the field of education, we are fond of our acronyms and metaphors. DRA, IRA, NCSS, NGSS, CCSS, CST, IEP, SPED, ESEA, etc. In particular, we seem captivated by metaphors for time when we talk about imperatives for reform, change being overdue, or pendulum swings in policy and practice. For students, the focus is on using time to stay on task, stay on track to graduation, stay engaged for lifelong learning--not to mention instructional time, professional learning time, seat time, creative time, technology time, active time, . . . time ad nauseam, ad infinitum. In my musings on the topic of time in education, it seems to me that time is the primary focus of rhetoric around public education, whether the discussion is about reform, accountability, and urgency for change.

What would it take to change the focus on time to a focus on learning? What do preschool, K-12, and post-secondary students need to know and be able to do in order to be successful as they progress through the time allotted for formal education? How do students best learn these things? If we take time out of the equation and begin to commit to the multiple paths and choices available to learners, would more students reach the aspirations they have for meaningful work and productive adulthood? I also wonder how conversations around equity of opportunity and choice would look when policy and practice set [(TIME)] aside and consider the complex opportunities afforded by putting teaching and learning at the center of problem-solving the change needed to shift/break the current education paradigm.

A couple of other thoughts:

CCSS provide a promising foundation for the “what” but only if instruction embraces deeper learning and abandonment of programs and structures that inhibit mastery learning

1990s - outcomes-based didn’t fly because the industrial model couldn’t be retooled

The re-tooling excuse doesn’t fit now because of the ubiquitous nature of information and access to robust digital tools to access, create, and disseminate new ideas.

THERE MUST BE A FORUM for CIVIC ENGAGEMENT: Libraries, public and school (or better yet deeply connected school and public libraries), provide the digital and physical environment to support deeper learning by making learning opportunity personal, local, and global.

For me, it is frustrating to see the leading edge of real change and know that the weight of time and unwillingness to abandon the status quo will impede progress. My comfort is in knowing that there are more who are willing to pull forward, despite the time and effort needed, because pulling ahead is what we are meant to do for our children and future generations.

Some Reading that Has Influenced these Comments

Barnes, Mark (December 6, 2014) “TEACHERS: DIP YOUR TOES INTO THE SHALLOW END OF THE POOL” Brilliant or Insane: Education on the Edge

An insightful colleague once told me that many teachers are overwhelmed by major change. They are scared to death of the deep end of the pool. “That’s too much,” some say. “I could never do that.” The path to change for these trepidatious educators may start in the shallow end. They need to dip their toes, before they leap headfirst from the diving board.

Kamenetz, Anya (June 2, 2014) “Schools Fight to Skip Standardized Tests, But Keep Learning Standards High” KQED/Mindshift

There is high-level learning on display here, from the math and science content to independent research and public speaking skills. Yet Bate isn’t some gifted school. Of the 400 students, 69 percent qualify for free and reduced lunch, and 38 percent are members of minority groups. About a fifth are in special ed.

Martinez, Monica (June 2014) Deeper Learning: How Eight Innovative Public Schools Are Transforming Education in the Twenty-First Century. The New Press.

Martinez, Monica (Fall 2014) “Deeper Learning: The New Normal” Source

Mastery of Core Academic Content: Students build their academic foundation in subjects like reading, writing, math and science. They understand key principles and procedures, recall facts, use the correct language and draw on their knowledge to complete new tasks.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: Students think critically, analytically and creatively. They know how to find, evaluate and synthesize information to construct arguments. They can design their own solutions to complex problems.

Collaboration: Collaborative students work well in teams. They communicate, understand and integrate multiple points of view, and they know how to cooperate to achieve a shared goal.

Effective Communication: Students communicate effectively in writing and in oral presentations. They structure information in meaningful ways, listen to and give feedback, and construct messages for particular audiences.

Self-directed Learning: Students develop an ability to direct their own learning. They set goals, monitor their own progress, and reflect on their own strengths and areas for improvement.

An “Academic Mindset”: Students with an academic mindset have a strong belief in themselves. They trust their own abilities and believe their hard work will pay off, so they persist to overcome obstacles. They see the relevance of their schoolwork to the real world and their own future success.

Martinez, Monica (November 13, 2014) “6 Rules to Break for Better, Deeper Learning Outcomes” Edutopia. George Lucas Education Foundation.

Six Rules to Break

1. Don't learn from just me.

2. Learn what you want to learn.

3. Use social media in school, too.

4. Don't quietly wait to be told what to do.

5. Learn outside of school.

6. Fail, then try, try, and try again.

McKenzie, Walter (December 7, 2014) “On Ulysses, Yoda, and the School of Hard Knocks”

We have certainly been moving away from the industrial model of desks and chairs in orderly rows. But we’re still working within the confines of grading scales, chronological-age-based grade levels and curricula organized by scope and sequence. There’s more work to be done. The good news is today everyone values learning: vibrant, meaningful, engaging, authentic learning. The School of Hard Knocks is imploding, consumed within is own black hole. Forget John Henry and Jesse James. Think Yoda: “There is no try. Relevant and respected, education must be. Evolve, we must!”

Porter-Magee, Kathleen (December 01, 2014) “The Reading Paradox: How Standards Mislead Teachers” Common Core Watch. Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

After students learn how to read, the “outcomes-focused” instruction that characterizes the standards era needs to adapt as the classroom shifts to English language arts. Then we must stop trying to teach reading the way we teach math. Rather, we need to view the skills and habits described by the standards as tools—tools that can and should be honed over time, in service of understanding and analyzing great texts, but that are not the “content” of reading instruction.

That is precisely why the Common Core ELA standards deliberately call for a “content-rich curriculum.” The CCSS authors realized that, particularly when it comes to reading, standards do not a curriculum make. They provide a broad outline upon which a curriculum needs to be built, but it’s the curriculum, and not the standards, that should drive daily practice in the classroom.