7 Trends That Shaped 2014; 7 Problems We’ll Solve in 2015

It was an odd year in US education. There seemed to be more talk about what people are against than what they are for. Federal K-12 education policy (ESEA) should have been revised a decade ago and is badly out of date.
High school graduation rates topped 80% and are as high as they’ve ever been. US students made progress on NAEP, especially Hispanic kids. But progress stalled in the nation’s largest districts. Leaders in NYC stopped doing what was obviously working. After helping LAUSD make real progress, John Deasey stepped down.  Fortunately places like Houston, Denver, and New Orleans keep chugging along.
Like the end of 2013, the stock market is at record highs–the Dow reached 16,000 in December 2013 and 18,000 this month. Consumer confidence is up, tax receipts and unemployment rates recovered to pre-recession levels. Real estate prices have rebounded in most areas. However, State K-12 education spending per pupil fell in 29 states since 2008. The continued need to do more with less is the first of 7 trends that shaped 2014.

  1. Productivity. As Secretary Duncan announced in 2010, we now operate in a “new normal” age, one with the potential and need for “transformational productivity.” While most states aren’t making big contributions to the digital conversion like Ohio’s Straight A Fund, some foundations and nonprofits joined the effort to help create schools that work better for less (e.g., New Staffing Structures Piloted in Nashville Schools).
  2. EdTech. While unremarkable for innovation, another year of more than $1.2 billion invested in US education technology startups yielded a handful of startups achieving real scale–Edmodo serves 45 million users, Class Dojo serves 35 million, Coursera has 11 million learners, and 1 million teachers use MasteryConnect*. Publishers of the last century have transformed themselves into personal digital learning service providers. Learning tools and resources get better every month.
  3. Access. Mobile access expanded at home and the majority of public districts dropped their cell phone bans and gave teachers the option to make use of all mobile tech coming to class. Chromebooks emerged as a new favorite at schools backed by increasingly useful Google Apps for Education.
  4. Next gen. Hundreds of new and transformed schools exhibited personalized, blended, and competency-based learning. Evidence that next gen environments work better for students and teachers continues to grow. We tracked the progress of 14 teams developing new and transformed schools and wrote about applying the same strategies–personalized, blended, and competency-based–to preparing teachers.
  5. Competence. Globalizing employment markets are increasing the return on competence and initiative–and driving growing interest in deeper learning and habits of success. (See advice from teachers on building an innovation mindset.)
  6. Fast path. New flexible and affordable postsecondary options are making it possible for Millennials worried about big tuition bills and high young adult unemployment to assemble personalized new career pathways. Code schools and competency-based options like College for America and WGU are rapid and affordable options. We’re telling the stories of Generation Do-It-Yourself (#GenDIY) on Huffington Post and Getting Smart.
  7. Nays have it. The anti-Core, anti-federal, anti-testing, anti-reform, and anti-enterprise groups combined forces and had a field day in 2014–they called BS on common standards and week-long end-of-year tests, they expounded privacy concerns, and they ran off some really good state chiefs. Andy Smarick called it the end of an EdReform era, but the first six factors are overwhelming this era of political wandering with positive momentum and broader access to powerful learning.

Perhaps the most significant and least appreciated trend is teacher leadership. Some places figured that out–including Washington DC, Fulton County, and Rhode Island–and harnessed teacher energy and initiative.
7 Problems. Solutions to 7 problems will emerge in 2015:

  1. Combining formative. More students are learning, practicing and applying skills in several engaging modalities most providing frequent instructional feedback. In 2015, a couple different organizations will combine the assessment information from multiple sources in ways that are useful for driving instructional improvement or managing student progress. Super gradebooks will be a killer app.
  2. Comparable growth. Once formative data can be tagged and combined in consistent ways, it will be possible to improve the ability to calculate individual growth rates and compare academic progress of individual students in different learning environments (see feature).
  3. Secondary v3.0. There will be a couple new personalized learning models in 2015. There is a growing list of cities using the Next Generation Learning Challenges framework to develop new and transformed schools. Summit Public Schools will open schools in Washington State (there is still time to join their blended journey by applying to their Basecamp program). NewClassrooms will launch a new version of the blended middle grade math program next summer.
  4. Achievement recognition. The stars appear to be aligned for several more comprehensive systems that include competency maps (of what students should know and be able to do), competency-based assessment systems, and achievement recognition capabilities (e.g., badges, micro-credentials) that promote student ownership. Thoughtful systems will track habits of success as well as foundational skills and will promote more equitable results with strong supports and extended learning time for struggling students.
  5. Show what you know. A state that has left the consortia will make competency-based advancements to policy and assessment including eliminating seat time, adding competency components to graduation requirements, and using frequently scheduled secondary end of course exams. They may use an innovation zone (discussed here) an incentive for schools, networks, and districts.
  6. Credentialing. States, districts and networks will adopt competency maps for educators including blended learning and differentiated staffing (see Preparing Teachers and iNACOL Blended Learning Teacher Competency Framework).
  7. Guidance and support systems. With more informal modular and mobile learning options, expanding access to part time online learning (often called Course Access) and new postsecondary options, secondary students need stronger guidance and support–the spine of next gen secondary schools (see paper).

New school models are making it possible to challenge advanced learners and accelerate struggling students. However, states and districts need to remain vigilant about equity–the shift to personal digital learning will exacerbate gaps without a continued focus on the least well served neighborhoods and students.
For EdTech entrepreneurs and EdLeaders there’s never been a better time to make a difference.
* Portfolio companies of Learn Capital where Tom Vander Ark is a partner. Next Generation Learning Challenges is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner. 

2015 Edu-Resolutions, Behavior Change, and Idealism

First, a test (choose the answer that best fits your individual circumstances):
“In 2015, I’m going to ______.”
A. Lose weight
B. Quit smoking
C. Save money
D. Go on that trip we’ve always talked about
E. Probably not do anything I want to do and make the same resolution(s) in 2016.
Americans are a pretty optimistic lot, particularly at the end of December/beginning of January. Our motivation to be nicer human beings and to tackle big, audacious projects spikes. We’re finally going to do that thing we’ve always said we would do. Then, much like the morning after a wild night on the town, it’s as if we wake up completely wondering who that person was that inhabited our body and why in the world we ever decided to ________. There’s a big, glaring problem with the way we approach our resolutions: They’re far too idealistic and lack specificity to the point we can never really know whether or not we actually accomplished what we set out to do.
I think our approach to education is eerily similar. We say things like “reach every child” and “differentiate our lessons,” but in practice, as soon as we say these things, we end up doing the equivalent of eating a dozen donuts while binge-watching House of Cards. Or, perhaps worse, we burn ourselves out trying to accomplish the goal in the first months of trying. Ever been to a gym in March or April? Ghost town. The goal is declared “unattainable” or relegated to the category of “just another edu-fad” and we go about business as usual.
gg-running-300pxwIn 2014, I decided to change my personal approach to resolutions. I made exactly one: run 1000 miles by the end of the year. What makes this kind of resolution worth sticking to is simple: it requires long-term, sustained effort and commitment. The goal is clear and specific and I know exactly what it will take to get there (putting on my shoes multiples times per week, every week, for 52 weeks). Some quick math told me at the that I needed ~83 miles per month, which I rounded to ~20 miles per week. If I run 4 times per week, that’s 5 miles per run (on average). 5 miles seems a lot more attainable than 1000. I can do 5 miles. I wasn’t sure if I could do 1000.
What do you want to see change in education? In your classroom? In your professional habits? Do you want to connect with more people via social media like Twitter? Try setting a goal like “tweet 10 times per week and participate in 1 Twitter-chat per month.” Do you want to see a change in the way legislators view education? Set a goal to write each of your representatives and senators at least once per month. Or, if you can, schedule meetings with them or their staff. Do you want to incorporate “more technology” in your instruction? Find 9 or 10 tech tools and commit to trying one per month, every month.
Resolutions aren’t about these idealistic goals that you have no intention of keeping. It’s about behavior change. It’s about completely altering the way you choose to make a difference and then making the monthly, weekly, or daily decisions to act. What good is it to lose 15 pounds if you gain 16 afterwards?
Oh, and in case you were wondering how my commitment turned out, by the end of this month, I will have better than 1100 miles on the year. I didn’t always want to go for a run, but I never regretted a single mile as it brought me closer and closer to my goal.
What will you change? What are your 2015 edu-resolutions? What specific steps will you take next year to accomplish them? Leave them in the comments so we can motivate and encourage each other!
For more blogs by Greg, check out:

Calling All Smart Parents!

Calling all parents! In partnership with The Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Team Getting Smart is pleased to announce the launch of a new blog series and book project!
The “Smart Parents” series and culminating book, tentatively titled “Parenting for Powerful Learning,” will act as a resource to guide parents in creating, choosing and advocating for powerful, student-centered learning experiences for their children.
Building off Nellie Mae’s Student-Centered Learning framework, we’ll support parents identify and advocate for powerful learning experiences–Personalized Learning (My Way), Student Ownership of Learning (My Plan), Competency-Based Learning (My Pace), Anytime-Anywhere Learning (My Place). We’ll offer suggestions for parents of students at different points of their educational journey–from young learners to young adult learners–around understanding options, assessing options, creating options and making decisions.
Our goal is to make this project by parents and for parents. We aren’t just theorizing about what parents need; we’re asking them.  This is where you all come in. Over the next several months, we’ll be inviting guest blog contributions on topics directly related to the Smart Parents project.
If you have stories to tell about your own decision-making processes as a parent helping your student to navigate through their educational journey, email us using [email protected] with subject line “Smart Parents” and follow the conversation using #SmartParents on Twitter. Keep an eye out for more information and specific prompts that will invite you to share your challenges and successes for consideration as a Smart Parents feature on our blog and in the book we’ll publish in Summer 2015. In the meantime, we’d love to see your comments here about topics you’d like us to be sure to cover.
Our core work focuses on connecting people to resources that empower them to improve learning opportunities for all kids. We create lots of resources for lots of people interested in education–including teachers, schools & district leaders, policy-makers, companies and education organizations. We’re always excited to hear about parents engaging with our work and are thrilled that we will now be creating something with parents as the primary audience!
Interested in contributing? Here are some suggestions on blog ideas:
Parents, Tell Your Story: How You Empower Student Learning
The 16 Year Old Coder: Why My Daughter No Longer Attends Public High School
I Received This Email From My Son’s Principal
Don’t Let a Piece of Paper Put Children Into an Educational Box

Encourage Writing with a Domain, Blog & Portfolio

Every learner (i.e., everyone) should have a domain–a place to share what they are learning and a collection of personal bests. Why? There are probably a dozen reasons. More writing for one—and writing for public audiences which promotes authenticity, clarity, and humility. A domain can build  agency and encourage learning and reflection beyond the formal curriculum. It can boost motivation, expression, and creativity. Students could pick up a few coding skills. An intentionally curated portfolio could boost employability.
With cheaper web hosting and great–often free–tools, a growing number of schools and universities are encouraging learners to create a domain and a digital portfolio. The University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia provides its faculty and 5,000 students with a domain to, “Explore the creation and development of their digital identities.” The Domain of One’s Own initiative facilitates WordPress installation, provides technical support, and hosts the site until graduation–and then the domain and content remains the student’s. Students write about anthropology, the Internet, 3d printing and GIS mapping.
In her exhaustive and otherwise dark review of 2014, Audrey Watters called Domain of One’s Own one of the most important initiatives in EdTech and notes that it has spread to multiple campuses this year – Davidson College, Emory University, the University of Oklahoma, and CSU Channel Islands are all now piloting “Domain”-like initiatives.
We’d love to see secondary schools join the wave and, in addition to a take-home device, provide a portable domain for every student. In addition to a domain, encouraging writing and blogging across the curriculum and curating a digital portfolio can productive strategies to promote more and better writing. Following are 20 recent and relevant posts:
On more and better writing:

On blogging to promote writing:

On portfolios:

Growing Smart Cities By Networking New School Champions

The three year Smart Cities investigation cataloged innovations in learning in America’s great cities. The meta finding was that ecosystems matter–most innovations occur where there is a confluence of knowledge creation, talent, and incentives. Innovations are successfully implemented where there is sustained leadership, incubation capacity, and impact-focused partnerships.  This post recognizes a half a dozen organizations contributing to building better learning ecosystems.
Portfolio. For 20 years, the Center on Reinventing Public Education has been the intellectual driver of portfolio theory of provisioning public education–multiple operators providing options for families. Founded by Paul Hill and affiliated with the University of Washington, CRPE advances 7 elements of a portfolio strategy:

  1. Good options and choices for all families: District ensures quality options through student assignment policies and improving options.
  2. School autonomy: School leaders should have as much autonomy as possible and should be held accountable for results.
  3. Pupil-based funding for all schools: Funds follow the student to schools.
  4. Talent-seeking strategy: Nationally recruit and develop local talent.
  5. Sources of support for schools: Provide a diverse set of providers.
  6. Performance-based accountability for schools: Effective schools get replicated, struggling schools get support, and chronically low-performing school are closed.
  7. Extensive public engagement: Portfolio strategy creates significant change for all stakeholders and, as a result, requires high engagement.

CRPE inspired a 2004 white paper I wrote with Jim Shelton,  Good Urban Schools: A Portfolio Approach. Over the last decade, most urban areas adopted a portfolio approach–not always with the full support of the urban school district(s).
With help from a growing web of external partners, districts and charter networks have been making a digital conversion–using new tools to create new school models. (See the Blended Learning Implementation Guide or Project 24 from the Alliance for a roadmap.)
Harbormasters. Many urban areas benefit from a nonprofit or foundation that takes ownership of citywide results, sponsors new schools, develops talent, and advocates for productive policies. Education Cities is a nonprofit that builds the capacity of these “harbormasters” organizations and leaders committed to growing the number of great public schools in their cities.
Incubated as CEE-Trust by The Mind Trust in Indianapolis, Education Cities convenes and supports 28 city-based organizations in 22 cities working to dramatically increase the number of great public schools in their geographical area.
Next gen schools. In the first decade of this century we learned how to open good new schools. More than 5,000 schools (both district and charter) were formed–most around the tried and true formula including a college prep curriculum, talented teachers, and a supportive learning environment. Sponsored by NewSchools Venture Fund and a dozen national and regional foundations, it became apparent that it was easier to open a good new school than to dramatically improve a struggling school–especially a high school.
With cheap devices and improving broadband coverage, this decade will be marked by the shift to personalized learning in blended environments. The most influential group packaging promising strategies into new school grants is Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC).
We tracked 14 of the 45 teams that have received an NGLC grant and told their story in Lighting the Path to Personalized Learning (featured image).  Each of these teams embrace high expectations for college and career readiness and personalized learning.  They are approaching their work in a way that is scalable and sustainable.
Learning together. Last September, with support from Gates, Broad, and Dell, NGLC launched $25 million effort to support six regional incubators starting with Washington D.C. and Denver.
Earlier this month, 10 city-based education nonprofits and foundations across the U.S. were selected as members of the Emerging Harbormaster Network (EHN) by NGLC and Education Cities. Through the EHN, local organizations will bring personalized learning practices to more schools, educators, and students in their cities. Participating EHN members are:

  • Battelle Education (Central Ohio)
  • Center for Collaborative Education (Boston)
  • Choose to Succeed (San Antonio)
  • Excellent Schools Detroit
  • The Marshall L. and Perrine D. McCune Charitable Foundation (Santa Fe)
  • The Mind Trust (Indianapolis)
  • New Schools for Baton Rouge
  • Project Renaissance (Nashville)
  • Rhode Island Mayoral Academies
  • Schools That Can Milwaukee (STCM)

With support from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, each group will receive a $20,000 stipend, a dedicated expert consultant, and access to a  range of online and in-person convenings and resources. Some, like CCE in Boston, have been at new school development for 20 years.  Some, like MindTrust, have had success catalyzing talent development. Some, like STCM, have deep “no excuses” roots and are learning about next gen opportunities. NGLC director Andy Calkins said, “There are differences in these ten organizations — and yet they are all connecting around the idea of developing school-level experiments in next gen, personalized learning.”
In the conclusion to chapter 6 of Smart Cities, I noted that a city with a harbormaster will gradually increase the number of high-quality schools, but “A city with a harbormaster, an incubator, a talent development strategy and collective impact funding alliance will see transformational results.”  It takes an ecosystem.
Next Generation Learning Challenges is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner. 

It’s Time to Invest in Learning Design

New tools and schools have created the opportunity to reconceptualize learning experiences and sequences. In Getting Smart I predicted that new learning environments and experiences would customize learning, making each hour invested more productive and that improved motivation would boost persistence, leading to more learning time invested–and we’re starting to see evidence of both.
We used to think of this work as instructional design or curriculum development. However, these terms come loaded with a presumption of context–structures, schedules, systems, staffing patterns, courses and credits. A number of factors have made our old notions of learning obsolete including the:

  • explosion of digital and modular content including adaptive learning and games;
  • rapid growth of online and blended learning;
  • deeper appreciation for learning sciences, particularly motivation (e.g., Keller & Suzuki on Attention, Relevance, Confidence and Satisfaction); and
  • expansion of applied and project-based learning.

Rather than curriculum, I prefer to think about a series of learning experiences because it doesn’t connote a delivery modality. Rather than instructional design, I prefer the term learner experience (LX) design. Like consideration of user experience (UX) in application development, LX is broad enough to consider many learning, application, and demonstration options.
LX design is the process of “co-create the client’s educational vision,” according to Jason Gorman of leading design shop Six Red Marbles by serving as a translator between stakeholders. “The first deliverables come from early conversation, using design thinking methods,” said Gorman.  “We generate a lot of ideas before developing initial prototypes.”  A complicated project may involve hundreds of hypotheses and test prototypes.
If LX is such a big opportunity, it must be worth investing in, right? The short answer is yes! But it remains a new practice and it the sector is just beginning to build evidence of a return on LX design. This post considers K-12, HigherEd, and corporate training when it comes to investing in more engaging and more productive learner experience.
K-12. There are are many resources linking elementary and secondary teacher quality to student achievement and a few that cite content quality but few point to how learning experiences are designed. There is a significant amount of literature suggesting instructional strategies–a subset of learning design–influences achievement. Two relevant international studies include:

  • Tuncay Saritas and Omur Akdemir, Balikesir University in Turkey, determined in 2009 that instructional strategies and methods, teacher competency in math education, and motivation or concentration were most important in contributing to math achievement.
  • Hye-Jung Lee and Ilju Rha, Seoul University in Korea, compared eLearning to traditional classes and determined in 2009 that the structure of content and the nature of interaction influenced student achievement.

On a larger scale, John Hattie’s ranking of various influences on achievement according to their effect sizes suggests that in addition to instructional strategies, factors that boost student agency (i.e., self reported grades, formative feedback, behavior management) are important.
High performing schools share common characteristics including focus, high expectations, leadership, talent development, and an aligned instructional system. These dispositional, structural, and pedagogical factors are the product of an intentional design progress.
Over the last five years, the expansion of Internet access and development of new learning tools has expanded the opportunity for personalized learning in environments that blend multiple modalities. The fact that top performing networks and districts are spending time and resources on developing and adapting new instructional models suggests they predict that their investment will yield high rates of achievement as well as college preparation and completion.  (See features blended learning models on Summit, KIPP, Rocketship, High Tech High (pictured) and 96 other schools and networks).
Higher Education.  “Our current phase includes adaptive technologies, ubiquitous and extensible design (for mobile and quick-twitch learning), data & analytics, and new approaches that include competency-based education (CBE), blended, and flipped instructional models” said Todd Hitchcock of Pearson.
Instructional designers like Debbie Morrison make the case for thoughtful design. Startups like Acrobatiq appreciate the value of course design and analytics. But in traditional higher education there is little consideration of return on design.
Career education and online learning are two categories of higher education with clear metrics. Programs are often designed around specific outcomes; enrollment, completion, and achievement measures can readily be measured.
Corporate Training. The most mature learning experience work is in corporate (and military) training. Five decades ago Donald Kirkpatrick wrote about evaluating training programs suggesting that the four levels include reaction, learning, behavior and results–and ever since corporate trainers have been attempting to maximize learning and validate the transfer of learning to the workplace and measure actual business impact (Levels 3 and 4).
Twenty five years ago Gloria Gery recommended a performance support solution–an “orchestrated set of technology-enabled services that provide on-demand access to integrated information, guidance, advice, assistance, training, and tools to enable high-level job performance with a minimum of support from other people” In Show Me the ROI!, Conrad Gottfredson suggests that performance support systems make it possible to measure “capability and practices that will link training to business impact and ultimately to financial and strategic benefit.”
Jack and Patti Phillips of the ROI Institute specialize in designing and measuring learning activities but acknowledge that moving from learning activities, to application and impact is challenging. Despite the challenge, corporate trainers continue to attempt to build and measure impact producing experiences. Chris Pappas collected a list of 15 Free eLearning ROI Calculators.
It is becoming increasingly possible to create powerful sequences of experience that boost engagement, promote transferability, and support impact.  Powerful learning results from well considered learner experience design–an iterative process well worth investment.
For more, see:

Also, see 2 Pearson reports on course design in higher education:

Six Red Marbles and Pearson are Getting Smart Advocacy Partners

School District Transformation through the Future Ready Initiative (#FutureReady)

Tom Murray
This blog first appeared on all4ed.org.
The Future Ready Schools Initiative is a bold new initiative, led by the Alliance for Excellent Education, supported by the US Department of Education, and in partnership with the LEAD Commission and a vast coalition of organizations, working to support school district superintendents and their leadership teams on district-wide transformation. The vision of this new initiative is for district leaders to develop and implement a sustainable, forward thinking roadmap for effective digital learning transformation. This transformation ensures that an effective technology deployment aligns with instructional best practices and is implemented by highly trained teachers, so that the learning is effectively personalized for every student. In turn, students will experience greater success and ultimately be better prepared to succeed in the competitive global workforce that they will face upon graduation.
The initiative began with the “Future Ready Pledge”, created by the Office of Educational Technology at the US Department of Education, and will officially launch through a Superintendent’s Summit that will be held at the White House in mid-November. 150 of the most innovative superintendents from around the nation will join high-ranking White House officials and members of the US Department of Education for a digital pledge signing ceremony, launching the initiative. Following the summit at the White House, twelve regional summits will be held across the nation, with hundreds of school leaders attending each event. At regional summits, district teams will develop specific action plans in areas such as professional learning, data and privacy, technology and networks, curriculum and instruction, assessment, the use of time, etc. Over the course of the first year, district leaders will be provided with a dynamic self-assessment tool, as well as additional implementation guidance, a vast array of online resources from the coalition partners, capacity to connect and network with other leaders in their region, and the support needed to transition their district into one that is future ready.

Effective transformation doesn’t happen overnight, and for such transformation to be sustainable, internal capacity must be developed. During this process, teachers will be empowered and a valuable part of the decision making process. Districts, through their future ready school leaders, will create cultures of innovation, where risk taking is encouraged, and technology enables teachers to personalize the learning for each student through rigorous, dynamic instruction. In a Future Ready School, all students have access to high quality digital content and broadband access supports whatever is dictated by teaching and learning needs. As with any technology-related initiative, it’s important to remember that pedagogy is the driver, while the technology serves as the accelerator. The Future Ready Initiative will support this notion, while giving district leaders resources, connections, and the training needed to initiate sustainable transformation in their school district.

Over the next four weeks, both the Alliance for Excellent Education and the Office of Educational Technology at the US Department of Education will share blog posts from guest bloggers on the following topics, all of which align to the Future Ready Pledge:

  • Fostering and Leading a Culture of Digital Learning Within Our Schools
  • Helping Schools and Families Transition to High-speed Connectivity
  • Accelerating Progress Toward Universal Access for All Students to Quality Devices
  • Providing Access to Quality Digital Content
  • Offering Digital Tools to Help Students And Families Reach Higher
  • Mentoring Other Districts and Helping Them Transition to Digital Learning

We encourage all educators to share their thoughts on how they are preparing students to be Future Ready in their schools! Make sure to include the hashtag #futureready and feel free to share with @all4ed and @officeofedtech. Share your #futureready story today!

Entry Points Into Blended Learning Implementation

As advocates for next gen learning, we spend a lot of time surveying the field and creating resources that speak to specific needs identified by schools and districts. As more and more schools see the merits of new approaches to teaching and learning and launch efforts like blended learning implementation, we’ve noticed that many folks simply don’t know where to begin. We always encourage school and district leaders to begin with specific learning goals then move on to decisions around models, technology, staffing, etc. In our discussions with hundreds of schools and districts across the country, we’ve found that there are some common “entry points.”
Often schools and districts start with using educational technology for students at the margins – to fill gaps for Advanced Placement students or credit recovery students – then gradually work their way across the full spectrum until all students are given these personalized learning opportunities. But this isn’t always the case. One entry point that somewhat surprised us, and encouraged us to create a pair of resources in partnership with Rosetta Stone, is world language learning as an entry point.
The first resource – The Next Generation of World Language Learning – advocates for accessible, high-quality world language instruction for all students, from elementary through high school. We reviewed the current state of world language instruction and made the case that world language instruction deserves a place in the conversation around new standards, assessments and blended learning opportunities.
The second resource shifts the focus from students to teachers. Elevate and Empower: World Language Instructors as Key Players in the Shift to Competency-Based, Blended Learning explores two key questions:

  • Are world language educators uniquely poised to act as leaders in system-wide shifts to new models of personalized learning?
  • How can world language educators be elevated and empowered to lead this charge?

In it, we share findings based on a series of interviews with current world language educators. Our “Leaders in the Shift” stories describe teacher-driven transformation from traditional world language instruction to blended, competency-based models.
Both resources offer information about how schools and districts can begin with blended learning in world language classrooms in order to simultaneously serve as entry point for blended learning for all students and equip students with the language skills necessary for global competency.
For links to these papers and infographics and to share these resources with your professional learning network, check out these publications:

Feature photo includes Elevate and Empower teachers and researchers Gisele Falls, Tallwood High School, Lisa Frumkes, Rosetta Stone, Moss Pike, Harvard-Westlake School and Carri Schneider, Getting Smart at iNACOL 2014. 

There’s an App for That: 5 Expectations of Mobile Learners

Mobile communication and computing technology is the most significant change in the way we live, learn, work and play in a century.
The number of mobile phones grew by about 50% in the last three years. There is now a mobile phone for every person on the plant–but not yet evenly distributed. More than 1.2 billion smartphones were sold in 2014.
Tablet sales went from near zero to about 50 million units per quarter in 36 months. Apple sold 210 million iPads through first quarter 2014–and they only have one third of the market.
In January, U.S. mobile traffic surpassed web traffic for the first time. “This trend will likely continue thanks to improved user experience on mobile apps and the expansion of high-speed 4G access,” said comScore’s Andrew Lipsman.
There are more than a million apps in both Google Play and the iTunes App Store alike–more than 200,000 learning applications.
YouTube videos help us cook, fix, teach. On-demand help builds demand for personalized anywhere anytime learning.
Improved broadband, inexpensive devices, mobile gaming, and ubiquitous computing are creating new learning opportunities and pushing learner expectations.
1. Experience. Mobile learners expect a clean intuitive interface, cloud-based services, and high interoperability.
2. Engagement. Mobile learners expect a high engagement social experience.
3. Progress. The potential to learn anywhere and from multiple sources increases demand for competency-based learning where learners show what they know and progress based on demonstrated mastery.
4. Relationships. Mobile learners expect always-on interactive relationships. These new relationship expectations raise the bar for how project teams interact, how online classes are conducted, and how guidance services are delivered.
5. Motivation. Mobile learners expect novelty, gamification, storytelling, and application. Learning design experience
Good app developers pay attention to user experience (UX). Mobile apps and ubiquitous computing expand learning opportunities but they also raise expectations for learner experience (LX). Note to high schools and post secondary providers–time for an upgrade.
For more see

2014: A Reflection

Dear Smart Friends,
As we reflect on the last year, we can’t help but be excited about advancements in education that hold promise for improving learning opportunities for all. In 2014 we have thoroughly enjoyed working on a variety of engagements, publications and launching new services all focused on innovations in teaching and learning.
A few highlights on Getting Smart engagements this year included:

  • Partnering with non-profits and for-profits on strategic communications including public relations and social media;
  • Leading workshops on Blended Learning and professional development in more than 15 cities;
  • Presenting at national and regional events and conferences;
  • Managing a national competition to help reimagine the school report card;
  • Leading school districts through strategic planning processes.

2014 was another year of great content creation. With partners we produced a wide range of publications that included white papers, ebooks, briefs, field research, school profiles, blog series and infographics. Some common themes among our key publications included:

Our greatest content achievement of 2014 was publishing Tom’s newest book, Smart Cities that Work for Everyone: 7 Keys to Education & Employment. If you haven’t already, check out one of the blogs from over 60 contributors in the Smart Cities series. A copy of Smart Cities also makes a great stocking stuffer. Get your copy now!
We also launched our newest service, the Smart Bundle. A compilation of blogs with an introduction and conclusion designed in a sharable, and printable, PDF. This year we presented…

Check out the exhaustive list of our publications by visiting, GettingSmart.com/publication.
This year we have spanned the globe attending educational conferences and meeting dedicated colleagues. From Moscow to Austin, we loved the chance to network and learn from so many talented and passionate people. Some of the conferences we attended include,

We have seen incredible growth on GettingSmart.com nearly tripling our traffic from 2013 to 2014 and added over 35K followers on the Getting Smart social media platforms.
We have also expanded our team with the addition of Jennifer Aalgaard, Communications Manager, Bonnie Lathram, Project Manager, Tyler Nakatsu, Content Coordinator & Mary Ryerse, Senior Project Manager in 2014.
As we reflect on our work, we are thankful for the incredible people we have the privilege to work with. We are so lucky to have the support of our advocacy partners, friends and, most importantly, family. We look forward to the new year and what that brings for us all!
Happy Holidays from all of us at Getting Smart.
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