Education Must Evolve

Education is famous for being an incredibly slow moving body when it comes to change. But if anything good came out of Covid, we learned that we can adapt and learn new ways of doing things.
Teachers: Learned that they can utilize technology to reach their students in new ways. They learned to experiment in their classroom to find out what works. They learned that it is ok to make mistakes and to not have all the answers. 
Students: Learned that learning can be more engaging and that learning does not have to begin at 8:00am and end at 3:00pm. They learned to be empowered to learn on their own.
Schools:  Learned to give more freedom to teachers to explore possibilities in the classroom.  Learned that education can happen in a variety of ways. They learned that procedures and policies of the past are not applicable in post-covid school.

What does this mean?

Education pre-covid had not really changed in several decades; we were basically doing education like we did since the 50s. Now is the chance to redefine

  • What we need from education
  • What we want from education
  • When, where and how education is delivered

Those schools that truly explore these questions will not only survive, but will pave the way for learning to finally transform into the modern era. This is true for K-12 as well as higher education.

The assumptions, traditions, policies, procedures, and priorities that existed pre-covid–toss ’em out the window and start fresh!

Let’s ask, explore, and figure out what assumptions, traditions, policies, procedures, and priorities we can embrace and develop so that education reaches students in ways unlike we ever have.

What does innovative and engageing learning in this new world look like?

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Reimagining Education

This post is in reference to this article

Why not take the opportunity to look at every facet of education, keep the parts we love, kick out the parts that are useless, fix the parts that broken, update the parts that are out of date, rethink the ones that are not quite doing what we want…in other words lets ask questions about every component., and be ready to accept whatever answers we get. 100% agreed if we are seeing schools just go right back to the older decade out of date style, those schools will fail by failing our students. But this is not going to be easy. We are past the point where we need to blame anyone or anything. We are where we are; we got what we got. We need compromise, civil discussion, brainstorming, collaboration, listening….and then we need action, decision, and honesty. Students can start by talking with their teachers. Teachers can start by talking with administrators. Administrators can start by talking to city and state and national leadership. Parents can start by talking to teachers, administrators, and politicians. State and local educational leaders can start by listening to students, teachers, administrators, parents, and business owners. Let’s start asking questions now.

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K12 Education Really Comes Down to 3 Things

First: Watch this
To anyone out there involved or interested in K-12(and even higher ed) education, find 5 minutes to watch this TODAY. What we need in education really comes down to 3 things: 1) mastery learning where students learn at their own pace, 2) flexibility where students don’t all have to learn the same thing in the same way , and 3) divergent outcomes where we accept that there are numerous ways to define success. In some ways, school in the way we do it now is actually limiting to many students. The entire premise of education is based on the “average student”, but yet that “average” student does not even exist? Every student is unique. We can do better. What I challenge this audience to do in the comments is suggest ideas on how we get there…not pie in the sky ideas, but ideas that can grow roots and grow.

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The Declining Value of the College Degree

This post is based on this article

It is important that we are having this discussion. But, as the article says, it’s not black and white. In some areas, demand in the workplace is high enough where a full 4 year degree is not necessarily the best option. Somewhere in this discussion has to be the nature of the 4 years degree itself. We spent our time in K-12 experiencing liberal arts where we explore all subjects, then in college we still spend the first 2 years doing that again. I would be interested in seeing options for the a degree 1) full degree as we have always done and 2) just the in-subject core classes required for graduation, 3) core-classes + x optional classes. Employers and society can decide which is most effective. It may be that some degrees do require more general education coursework, while others such as engineering might just focus on core subjects. Perhaps the core subjects are offered for the main degree, then if needed, students can “add on” course work after gradation to enhance their degree, kind of like a la carte. Either way, the traditional model of college will soon be dead. Just like every industry, it must adapt to stay relevant.

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The Future of Education

The United States is slowly coming out of these crazy covid times….scarred badly, but alive and kicking. Education, typically a slow-moving and change-resistant institution, saw that it can actually pivot quickly…and in many cases, effectively.

What did we learn?

As a country, we learned that remote education is possible, and in some ways, highly effective. Will it replace in-person school? Absolutely not. But, we don’t really have to choose one or the other. As in business, the best way forward is not one answer, but instead a hybrid approach that takes the best of many worlds.

There are also some powerful questions to ask

  • Do we really need a full school year to teach a class?
  • Do we really need the volume of content that we had pre-covid?
  • Is the 7-classes-a-day, changing-every-hour model effective for learning?
  • Can we please please please reconsider the role of standardized tests?
  • Even after students return to the classroom, should some classes remain online?
  • Should schools require some level of online learning as a regular part of the curriculum?
  • Are students forced to attend only schools physically located near them?
  • Is there a place for entirely online high school education?
  • Can students learn on their own using resources such as Udacity and
  • Can we finally get rid of bulky and heavy textbooks?
  • What new tools and strategies will teachers bring back into their classrooms?
  • Can we accept that there are numerous ways to evaluate besides a traditional test?
  • Is the lecture, homework, lecture homework, quiz, test pattern of education finally seeing its irrelevance?
  • Can students learn with the teacher not at the front of the classroom?

    Remote education allows schools to reach students outside of the traditional 8:00am-3:00pm school day. What does this mean? Some communities may find value in having school available 24/7/365. That does not mean your teachers are working 24/7/365, but the learning is available. This also means we are not necessarily bound to a Sept-June school year, with a spring break, summer, vacation, and holiday break. For the in-person environment, it means the doors can be open evenings, weekends, and during summer break. There may be students and teachers who prefer a non-traditional schedule. Maybe there is night school, weekend school, a true summer school, but that are equal and comparable to any other education available,

    We learned that some types of classes can be effectively done asynchronously, where the class material is prepared in advance and students can access it any time, anywhere. Extra help, additional resources, reinforcement activities can be effectively done without a teacher present. Amazing tools such as Khan Academy allow students to learn new content without the need for a teacher to deliver. Many teachers spent this last year generating huge amounts of online resources and learning tools. We can take advantage of this. Some educators even learned that they enjoy this challenge and will take some of these new tools back into their physical classrooms. Some students thrived in this world and learned some self-reliance tools to enable them to learn on their own.

    “Money” by thethreesisters is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    At the college level, we saw the high cost of college finally get challenged. Is the value there as it once was? We saw online learning become not only a realistic option but a highly effective instrument of change. Many colleges are offering online options, and in some cases, entire degrees. With most k-12 schools being liberal arts-focused, where students explore a wide variety of classes, do students still need to spend an extra 1 or 2 years at the college level to complete “general education” requirements? That alone can reduce the cost of higher ed by tens of thousands of dollars.

    “Leica test shots, 06 – Aug 2015” by Ed Yourdon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    We learned that lecture, note-taking, and multiple-choice tests as the main instrument of educational delivery no longer have a place. Online learning opens up the possibilities and potential for cheating. Designing assignments and evaluations which are generic in nature, purely objective, and repeatedly used, are ineffective. The role of project-based learning has gained traction and acceptance, as educators realized not only can it work online, but when planned correctly, can be a highly effective instrument in both in-person and online learning. Educators over the last year saw the value of changing it up to keep the engagement factor alive. In remote learning, teachers quickly learned that they have to break up the learning. 60 minutes of passive learning will put your students to sleep. Hmmmm…wasn’t that also true in the classroom as well? Teachers quickly learned that students want and need to collaborate together. Hmmmm…wasn’t that also true in the classroom as well? Teachers quickly learned that providing a variety of experiences, including multi-media, taking advantage of individual time as well as group time, shorter and longer assignments, summative and formative assessments–all of these lead to a more engaged classroom. Hmmmm…wasn’t that also true in the classroom as well?

    Remote learning did not necessarily introduce new problems, but it brought existing imperfections(and opportunities I might add) in our educational systems to the surface. Things that we have known, or should have known, to be true simply came to the forefront. And it was also front and center on the news.

    “Left in the Dust” by Bill Gracey 25 Million Views is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Covid did not cause our schools to fail. The schools that will fail going forward from this point will be the ones that go back to the pre-covid status quo. If there was ever a time to redefine what we want in our schools, now is the time.

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    The Value Proposition in Education

    What happens in before and after classes is where the real value is

    No question that schools earn their tuition when students are on campus. There are great academics, clubs, service projects, sports, study groups, friends and peers, amazing learning experiences in the classroom, fun gathering places, assemblies, speakers, cool research projects, activities, groups, student government, career search assistance, art exhibits, school newspapers, intramurals, student demonstrations, practices, games, extra help, and of course amazing faculty, and staff who will drop whatever they are doing to help a student or parent. The energy on a school campus is electric.

    In great schools, it is what happens outside of class that makes them great. Of course great academics are the foundation upon which all that happens, but these “extra” elements are where the real value comes from.

    As we look to finish out the year virtually. As we look to fill our summer programs virtually. Even as we consider what the fall semester will look like, private schools, universities, and colleges must be asking a different question: What is our new value proposition?

    Online learning, in some ways has leveled the playing field. Within the schools that are able to offer online education to its student population, most are getting by teaching math, science, history, art, computer science, language, and even physical education. And yes some creative teachers have found ways to be more effective than others in that teaching, but overall the new learning is relatively equal. What I mean is that there are not really any visible way to distinguish features, at least not enough to distinguish excellent learning vs good learning.

    Private schools K-12, private and public universities and colleges, suddenly have to define what it is that they can offer that distinguishes them from their competition. In some cases depending on where you are located and who your audience is, just offering classes online might be enough, or at least minimally enough. Or is it?

    What are you doing above and beyond to earn tuition dollars

    Tuition, whether to a K-12 private school, public university, or private college can go from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars. Our traditions, extra-curriculars, intangibles, and activities that go on inside of the buildings on campus are what justify that amount.

    How can you justify that amount when those elements are no longer part of the equation?

    You have to define your value proposition. Why would people pay you money, especially when that money is hard to come by… especially if there is a similar product elsewhere for less, or even free. What are you doing for your constituencies that others are not? Are online classes alone worth the value of the tuition? Are you able to offer the exceptional quality of learning online? Better yet, do you even know how you will determine that? What else are you doing?

    There are 2 things you have to do right now.

    Make it clear to your constituencies that you are trying hard, pushing the envelope, reaching out, thinking out-of-the-box, experimenting, taking advantage of every tool you can. You are doing everything in your power to earn their tuition dollars. Your community must be aware of everything that you are doing. Communication, marketing and advertising are vital. Get the word out. Get in the paper. Get on TV. Get on the radio. Get on social media. Send regular correspondence via email. Make phone calls. Send out newsletters, surveys, and brochures. Let the name of your school be in their mind throughout this. The best complaint you can have now is that you are communicating too much. Let your school be a known in the middle of these unknown times.

    Go back to your mission statement. Read and re-read it, and then get your best team members together and figure out how your school can accomplish your mission given the new circumstances. Think hard, study the words, what can you do right now, think in-the-box and think-out-of-the-box, what is at the core of the mission. And by the way, failure is an option here!! Meaning: it is OK to try things. Some of those ideas may not work out as planned, but your students and families will appreciate the attempt. Get back up and try again.

    In times like these with more unknowns than knowns, schools have to re-define their value propositions.

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    Virtual Reality in education and business

    This morning I went to an art gallery that was completely empty.–and loved it. It was empty until I put on my Halolens. Then the entire gallery came to life as it filled with vibrant 3D colorful artwork, moving statues, and interactive explanations. It was 100% immersive augmented reality…and amazing. I could not help think of what this would look like in the office and the classroom? Imagine taking a potential client through an entire 3D experience of life with your product/service. They don’t just hear your pitch, they feel it and interact with it. What if students could actually be inside the heart as it was beating. Students could stand next to a great leader as they delivered a famous speech. They could watch hydrogen and oxygen atoms come together or explore real math as they build a bridge. No limits to the possibilties.

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    Is the college model relevant?

    I was intrigued by a recent Linked In post commenting on the irrelevance of the current college model. This speaker was actually referencing yet another talking-head whose point was that the current college educational model was an excellent preparation tool for the world. Hmmmm…I don’t think either person’s point of view is “correct”, because there is no single answer. What I do think is that the current model of traditional “high school to college” model, while it is not necessarily broken, is just in need of a makeover.

    Typical college lecture

    “sunway university college” by T|ng~ is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    I get it—It’s scary to take a system which has been around for 100+ years and mess with it. If you change it, and it fails, the institution which took decades to build, could fall in ruins. It could take years for the system to change. What families want their children to be the guinea pigs for that transition. Then again, there might be many willing and even eager to take part.

    The cost of college has become unrealistic for many; getting through college for most without a loan, is simply not an option. Now,that being said, I will also suggest that there are ways to do it; of course if you want to go to an elite private school with no scholarship opportunities, then yes that is going to be incredibly expensive.And for some the name recognition and status symbol of some schools will continue to be a draw. But a good state school, especially with scholarship opportunities, is within reach for those who really want to make it work. My family was able to find a way to pay for college in cash semester by semester. It was not easy, but we did it. Our gift to my son is a college degree with no loan for me or him. So don’t tell me getting a loan is a given.

    A variety of college students

    “Fall 2010 hackNY Student Hackathon” by hackNY is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    What does college do well? They bring lots of people together from various backgrounds. Unfortunately, especially in the first couple years, classes tend to be the exact same as the high school curriculum. The first two years of most degrees are full of non-major classes. The meat and potatoes of most degrees really start to kick in junior and senior years. I am not suggesting that in-major classes should be taught exclusively, but a college major could easily take 3 years, not 4. That would shave $10-$50K off the cost of college. And would probably increase graduation rates, which by the way for a 4-year degree are < 60% nationwide. Some colleges are riding their own coat tales and are becoming irrelevant with their resistance to change and evolve. Many are still stuck in an outdated mindset which is starting to be tested in new ways by students with new perspectives. For those colleges, it is vital that they consider their value proposition.

    Is the value of a traditional degree still worth it? Are there other options?


    “3D Shackled Loans” by is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    As a high school teacher for 20 years, and as a parent, I became familiar with the marketing and selling points made to seniors from the colleges. One thing for certain, academics was not the primary selling point for many schools; the campus tour and highlights were more aligned with lifestyle, extra curriculars, community, and sports. Nothing wrong with any of those, but not as the major reason for attending a college at the price they are charging. What 18 year old is not attracted to a parentless Disneyland? Many parents just assume they will take a loan, or worse require their child to take a loan. But, quite simply, an 18 year is not capable of understanding the impact of a college loan. I have friends who 10-20 years later are still paying for college. Another important element to consider is that for many people, the degree that they work so hard to get from their college experience does not necessarily dictate what type of job, or even what industry, they will find themselves. Passion, interest, flexibility, and the ability to adapt may be just as important.

    OSMCS at GT

    Georgia Tech Online Masters of Science in Computer Science

    The speed of internet, and proliferation of high tech has been foundational for e-learning platforms and on-line college degrees to move from what was once perceived as a scam, to on-line learning being a tool used by pretty much every college in the United States. COVID has surely moved that along. Whereas some colleges made assumptions their classes could not be done well online, the last several months have found that there are some disciplines that have found that they totally can. We still have a lot of figuring out to do in making those classes effective and engaging online, but the initial fears are gone. Suddenly, those schools have access to new revenue streams as students can be from any place in the world. Universities and colleges that innovate over the next few years might not only survive, but thrive. But, even with these new students, keeping the engagement high while teaching true career preparation skills will prove to be a challenge.

    For-profit colleges, such as Apple co-founder’s Woz U , are experimenting with a new style of college model. Completely new approaches such as Make-School are disrupting as we speak. Time will tell to see if these models can be self-sustaining. Boot camps are providing technical skills in months, not years, and for a fraction of the cost of a traditional degree. In fact, in some areas, Youtube for free can provide enough learning for an entry level position in some industries. Google is experimenting with this space by providing a career-tracked certification program, for hundreds of dollars, that is viewed equivalent as a college degree. Many people are quick to cancel these, and yes if you use traditional models of education as your evaluation tool, then yes they do not accomplish the same goals. Of course that is exactly how and why they might actually succeed…because they are not the typical path. Especially in industries where supply and demand are so out of sync, these explorations may very well be an alternative answer. These are not liberal arts degrees with all the “extras”. There is no Greek system, exploratory basket weaving classes, or rock climbing walls.

    For the mid-career professional, companies like Udacity are offering on-line upskilling , not to replace college, but as a tool for the mid-career professional to redefine their career in a reasonable amount of time and money, in other words–level up. For many people with full-time careers and families, going back to college is simply not an option, financially or logistically.

    Higher Ed is facing challenges unlike any they have seen before. This has nothing to do with COVID, but the COVID situation has certainly brought the topic to the forefront. Students have more options than at any point in our educational history. As we start to look with different eyes, we will start to see that there is no longer just one way to the top, but many ways to many tops.

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    Inclusion and Diversity in the Engaged Computer Science Classroom

    I was honored to have been asked to present as part of Microsoft’s Hack the Classroom: Change Maker series.

    It focuses on engagement being the key factor towards attracting a wide variety of students

    Here is that video

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    The silver lining of corona in education

    Schools are infamous for slow change. Yes, most schools have made more change in just weeks than they made in years. Of course there were mistakes, gaps, failures, and challenges….but there were also surprises, problems solved, advances, and tremendous successes.

    What we experienced from March – June was(is) not necessarily what school is going to be long term. However, technology allowed us, in many areas, to continue some level of learning despite a deadly virus all around us. This would simply not have been possible 10 years ago. Yes, there were some areas where connection and technology was limited, but that was also the case before this all happened. In many cases, teachers were able to provide that vital and needed connection with school. I am not talking about teaching Shakespeare, Boolean variables, causes of the War of 1812, or Pythagorean theorem; I am referring to that idea that education—for many students— is part of the path to their future. It is one of the places where students learn the skills to become active contributors to society. Teachers providing that connection with school, without knowing it, were helping keep that dream alive. That is what we experienced from March – June.

    Tough times like this do not necessary create new types of learning, but instead simply take what was already there and amplify it. What that means is teachers that were at least willing to try , think out of the box, and be thoughtful were able to make much more progress than they ever imagined. Schools that were proactive were able to provide learning when many thought not possible. Educators did not simply throw up their hands. Instead, quite the opposite– it was all hands on deck. Teachers in all grade levels found that regardless of their level of comfort with technology….online learning and project-based environments were in fact able to enable them to offer authentic learning experiences. And if you asked these teachers what they would do different or better next time, they already have new ideas in mind. Most of the teachers I talk with already have numerous nuggets to take back to their face-to-face classroom as well. Many are ready for(or at least expecting) what will come next.

    That is why the fall semester need not be something we are afraid of, but instead excited about. Will it be different? Yes. Will it be like school in the past? No. Will there be failures? Absolutely. Will there be huge wins? Without question. Will we have to make adjustments on the fly? Yep. Will it be easy? No. But education has never been easy.

    As I said before, times like these amplify what was already happening, but instead of spending a year transitioning into a new pedagogy or trying out a new project idea, we are doing it in weeks or even days.

    Tools like Microsoft Teams help us connect remotely

    Why is this working? Mainly because students are resilient, flexible and adaptable. Educators who are willing to be open minded have also been resilient, flexible and adaptable. Schools that charge tuition, including higher education and private education, have no choice in the matter; they must adjust their value propositions (read my thoughts on this vital realization) to justify the dollars coming in. Those schools that do not adjust will not survive. This is nothing new…these crazy times have simply sped up the process.

    What am I excited about in the coming “future” (which has already arrived) of learning?

    Higher education will have to change how they sell college life. Parents and students over the last decade who went on admission tours were given glimpses of rock climbing walls, new construction, football stadiums, dorm rooms, and Greek life housing. Little was discussed about the academics. Yet now with a limited campus, the academics are all that they have. And isn’t that what college is supposed to about anyway? The pursuit of learning?

    Interactive learning is the new norm. Projects, problems, hands-on activities have taken the place of worksheets, multiple choice tests, and even exams. How we spend our time when we are physically or virtually with students has changed dramatically. What we want students doing with the limited time we are allotted out of class has also changed. Lecture simply does not work in virtual learning.

    We are learning that testing is not the only way to evaluate learning.

    The time table of learning is finally a discussion we can have. 7 periods a day for 5 days a week is incredibly not conducive to good learning.

    The traditional schedule of school running from August – June is also a discussion we can have. Is our current model the best model to take advantage of the world, as it will be the next couple of years?

    Doing the even problems at the end of the chapter style of homework is dead. Using homework as real tool outside of class…as opposed to busy work is what has replaced it.

    What is considered a core class is now not clearly defined. This is a good thing. Students are demanding that classes like art, music, and physical education are a regular part of their virtual day. These are the classes that offer a complete different experience than traditional core subjects. They provide a needed change of pace, while being incredibly valuable in ways that traditional “academic” classes cannot be. Are we finally realizing that these classes are possibly even more valuable during times like these. Mental and physical health are far more important than solving for x.

    High school graduation requirements in high schools are finally on the table for discussion

    College admission requirements and the admissions process itself is finally changing.

    Standardized testing is finally not a top priority in schools. This may be the best news of all. Standardized testing, in the way that we do it and use it, drains the life out of our schools.

    We are finally transitioning from occasionally incorporating technology in the classroom…to technology just being a natural tool that allows us to interact with students and student to interact with subject material.

    The place of traditional textbooks in education is finally a topic for discussion

    Digital portfolios, presentations, and artifacts are being used as a legitimate tools to document learning. This is an indicator that we are looking to demonstration of learning as opposed to regurgitation of content.

    One of the side dishes of silver that is also coming along with this craziness is that parents are now having an appreciation and understanding of school, learning, and teaching….in ways they never have before. The fact that ‘it takes a village’ is now more true than ever.

    We are reevaluating what grading means…and where and how it fits into learning.

    Innovation, exploration, and experimentation have become required skills in successful teaching.

    So, while there are many unknowns in the coming months for all of us in education, this is not necessarily a negative. After all, isn’t learning itself just helping people learn about unknowns?

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