Getting Smart on Social Media 2.0

In celebration of the eighth annual Social Media Day, today we launch Getting Smart on Social Media 2.0. Social Media Day was started by Mashable (@MashSMDay) as a way to celebrate and recognize social’s impact on global communication. Every day, individuals and organizations use social media to connect to people, cultures, movements and campaigns from around the world.

In education, social media has been used as a way for educators to connect with each other, learn new strategies, glean ideas and share successes. For students, it can be a way to connect with others outside their immediate community. For all of us, it’s a way to build community with people we wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise.

As wonderful as social media platforms can be, when you’re unfamiliar with them it can be very overwhelming. To help, we’ve created Getting Smart on Social Media 2.0 (an update to our original bundle).

Traditional communication efforts are continuously being replaced by the use of new media and social media. Facebook and Twitter have provided the opportunity to reach a wide audience quickly, with differentiated messages tailored to a particular platform. Today’s social media channels are also creating opportunities for two-way communication. This interactive communication is allowing schools, districts and companies to reach new audiences, join important conversations and have meaningful communication online.

As we share in the bundle, there are incredible benefits to social media if you use it right. “Getting Smart on Social Media 2.0” is a guide to help you effectively and strategically use all the social media channels effectively and strategically. You will learn how to:

  • Use Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and LinkedIn like a pro.
  • Effectively, strategically, and easily use these social media channels to reach targeted audiences in new and meaningful ways.
  • Amplify your impact as a teacher, school leader or edupreneur through the integration and application of social media tools.

Download the Bundle

And, in addition to the bundle, check out these social media resources to learn more:

This Smart Bundle was published in partnership with Getting Smart Services. Together with our partners, Getting Smart Services designs customized partnerships to amplify and extend the work of those dedicated to impacting the way the world learns. Through our advocacy, advisory and coaching services, we work with impact-oriented partners to invent the future of learning.


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7 Resources to Help Avoid Summer Brain Drain

It’s that time of year again: summer vacation! And while there are still many lazy days ahead to enjoy, it is also a great time to balance out those days with a plan for how to avoid the dreaded “summer brain drain.”

The importance of keeping the brain active and learning during the summer doesn’t just apply to students – teachers can also plan to get some learning in while not in the classroom all day. There are so many great resources out there that allow for instant access to brain fuel so you go back to school equipped with new knowledge and skills.

So whether your child is entering Kindergarten in the fall or you are returning as a veteran teacher, there is something here for everyone.

1. National Summer Learning Day. What better way to kick off your summer learning than on the official day (July 13) created to spread awareness about its importance? 38 states and 143 cities are signed up as participants in this day with a variety of events such as book challenges, field trips, summer camps and more.

You can search for events in your area to take part in on the site by simply entering your state and zip code, or even post your summer learning event to invite others to join.

2. PowerMyLearningFor parents looking to help their kids find specific content, students who need to focus on a certain interest and teachers searching for new online tools to add to their plans in the fall, PowerMyLearning Connect is a great resource.

Developed for every level from K-12 by the incredible people at PowerMyLearning, the nonprofit is determined to help students, teachers and parents use digital learning to improve educational outcomes. They have curated this completely free site, categorizing the “best of the best” free learning content out there in almost every subject area.

3. Summer Advantage USA. Summer vacation can especially affect at-risk students, who often rely on school for safety, meals and stability. In order to provide these students with the support they need during the summer months, Summer Advantage established a program aimed at taking elementary and middle school students to the next level over the summer months, providing rigorous academic programming and an array of enrichment activities during the summer months.

For a great example of a successful partnership, check out this short video from Summer Advantage and Central Indiana Community Foundation leaders sharing how they’re working together to address the needs of inner-city Indiana at-risk students through the Inspiring Scholars Program:

4. DreamBox Learning. For many students, math is where the largest amount of summer learning loss occurs. It can be very hard to find opportunities to keep exercising those “math muscles” in your brain throughout the summer. DreamBox can help solve that problem with its interactive math lessons and games. Its engaging individualized online math curriculum can be used by schools or by parents looking for math activities for their students.

There are a variety of free lessons available in the Teacher Tool section that anyone can try out (don’t forget to turn on your Flash player), or parents can sample some adventures in math to see what the Dreambox at-home version offers and sign up for a free trial.

5. Maker Camp. The maker movement is still going strong (check out what our Maker maven, teacher Lindsey Own, has shared about helping create and run her school’s makerspace).

Why not create and host your own Maker camp for your student and their friends this summer, or join one that already exists in your area? This online maker community is available year round, and provides several great starter projects to get your campers into making, creating, crafting, coding and more this summer.

It also provides background on how to lead these projects to develop maker mindsets and support them through their making process. So browse these new projects for 2017 and pick one to get started on your summer maker journey!

6. Sophia. Sophia offers students an opportunity to achieve college success through affordable, flexible, competency-based online courses. The self-paced courses cost a fraction of traditional college courses, and are accessible anytime, from any device. The site also provides free college readiness resources for students, including ACT test prep and refresher courses.

Sophia also has incredible learning and professional development programs for teachers, and offers free resources to boost interactive course materials, create tutorials and even flip a classroom. Check it out this summer to get ready to transform your classroom this fall!

7. Coursera. This MOOC powerhouse provides universal access to the world’s best education, partnering with top universities and organizations to offer courses online. It has an incredible menu of education courses that explore the practice of teaching from both an applied and theoretical perspective. Subtopics include educational policy, education technology, K-12 education and teacher training, and offer many relevant learning experiences for today’s hot topics.

For example, identifying and teaching students how to identify fake news has been of interest lately, so how about getting started in July improving your news literacy skills with experts at The University of Hong Kong and The State of New York University. You can audit the course for free (giving you access to all course materials except graded items) or pay $49 for full access and a certificate of completion.

How are you planning to avoid summer brain drain this year? Leave us your favorite learning resources in the comment section below.

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Survey Says: Google for the Win

A recent EdWeek survey demonstrated the overwhelming support that Google has developed among U.S. educators in the last few years. Asked what company they’d hire to help improve student achievement, more than half pick Google.

The survey makes clear that Google is becoming the dominant player in the EdTech market. The reasons are clear: Google products are cheap or free and perceived as easy to use.

The report confirmed our findings during school visits this year that Chromebooks have won the device race. With a price tag of just under $200, they are affordable and allow schools to go truly 1:1.

Hardware used most frequently for instructional purposes in U.S. classrooms

Behind the adoption of Chromebooks is the rapid adoption of Google apps for education (now G Suite). When asked which productivity tools they use, U.S. educators responded that almost seven out of 10 now use Google.

What The Tech Giants Offer

Google creates the operating systems used in the Chromebook devices that now have a dominant share of the U.S. K-12 market, and it also offers the popular productivity tool, G Suite, of which Google Classroom and many other features are a part.

Microsoft has long been a leading producer of operating systems in the U.S. and international markets. It also offers a productivity suite, Office 365 for education, widely seen as a competitor to Google’s G Suite for Education. Just this month, the company announced a new operating system and set of classroom tools—regarded by industry observers as an answer to Google’s platforms–that the company argues will give educators simple-yet-rich options to help students.

Apple iPad and Mac devices are widely used in schools, and Apple offers a variety of apps and tools for students, including ones focused on coding, music and video. It also offers features to help teachers improve their skills and instruction and their use of Apple devices.

Amazon has expanded its footprint in K-12 districts through Amazon Web Services, a cloud-based storage, data and analytics system, used by many school systems to replace physical storage. Amazon has also sought to ramp up schools’ ability to use its online marketing for purchasing, and it has announced plans to create a platform for open educational resources.

What IT Means

Inexpensive devices and free productivity tools have helped American schools narrow the digital divide and power 1:1 learning models. They’ve made a big contribution to the first generation of blended and personalized learning.

However, all the free software has likely had a dampening effect on innovation in learning platforms. It’s harder to sell a subscription-based platform when you can use a simple but free tool from Microsoft or Google. All of the tech giants view education as a lost leader–a place to win early users but not a lucrative market. As a result, none of them will invest in or risk their reputation on a comprehensive learning platform (see the eight platform advances needed to power personalized learning).

We are left with pretty good and pretty cheap EdTech, but we don’t have the tools to really transform learning. The influence of the tech giants is the main reason we don’t have two or three sophisticated learning platforms in education.

Of four ambitious K-12 efforts to build national platform networks (Summit Learning, New Tech Network, Cortex and AltSchool), only one is a venture-based startup. The others will rely predominantly on philanthropic support–which is great but will pale in comparison to the R&D spending by Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, Oscar and other platform leaders in other sectors.

All in all, the subsidized education software is a mixed blessing. It closed the divide but it’s a bit of an anchor to innovation.

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The Future of Professional Learning: 5 Design Principles that Transform

Reflecting on the 2016-2017 academic year, there are numerous themes that were prevalent in education circles–including, but not limited to, an increased emphasis on personalization, SEL, project-based learning, big data, AI and much more. One theme that sticks out to me is that of the importance of lifelong learning.

That is why I wanted to again share a blog that we originally ran a year ago, with an emphasis less on a new design principle and more of an emphasis on the entry point that centers around one word: ONGOING.

High-quality educator preparation and ongoing professional learning opportunities should be personalized and self-directed; focused on the needs of educators, students and schools; competency-based; and embedded and practical.

For professional learning–and all kinds of learning–we believe that lifelong learning is the only option.

Randy Ziegenfuss’s recent tweet underscores this:

It is in that spirit that we believe that the schools of the future engage students not just for the four years they are at that school, but for the 40 that are to come.


In order to create the professional learning experiences that will transform schools, future leaders need coherent, job-embedded, authentic, project-based learning opportunities to create and sustain deeper learning movements.

The current system of preparation (true for most, but not all, schools of education) typically does not foster the development of leaders who can create or sustain deeper learning environments. Reflecting on my own journey, I earned both teacher and principal credentials in a very traditional manner with discrete, disconnected courses. The process of earning my superintendent’s credential, however–in a deep, project and simulation-based program–was an entirely different story.

The former informed me about things like policy, curriculum, and legal responsibilities. The latter transformed me by immersing me in big questions around social justice, equity and deeper learning.

The future of professional learning is bright when focused on design principles that emphasize rich experiences and foster transformation of professionals, schools and students.

The Future of Professional Learning

Design Principles for Professional Learning

In Preparing Teachers for Deeper Learning, Digital Promise and Getting Smart outline four design principles for professional learning. These apply to credentialing programs, ongoing professional learning opportunities, and school or district-based initiatives. Graduate schools of education are in a perfect position to be leaders in applying these design principles.

What if professional learning experiences offered a diverse set of entry points–and future career paths?

Principles in Action: What it Means for Graduate Schools of Education

One example of a graduate school of education that is indeed a leader in applying these design principles High Tech High Graduate School of Education.

What follows are some higher ed examples pertinent to HTH GSE and beyond.

  • Focused on the needs of educators, students. Most importantly, the focus on educators and students must go far beyond rhetoric and be part of the design. One of HTH GSE’s strengths is its relentless focus on equity and deeper learning.
  • Personalized and self-directed. In addition to providing personalized learning experiences for students earning degrees, HTH GSE offers personalized learning experiences at a variety of entry points with school tours, conferences, residencies, an online Education Leadership Academy, a Center for Research on Equity and Innovation and more.
  • Competency-based. Like students, educators deserve a clear map of what they need to know and be able to do, multiple ways to learn, and options for demonstrating mastery. In most cases, the future of professional learning will be marked with a stackable series of micro-credentials. HTH GSE is looking to scaffold offerings to build stackable credits.
  •  Job-embedded and practical. Every adult has a personal learning plan and that learning plan helps connect “professional learning” and the “day job.” The future will hold no more random courses for continuing ed credits, just highly relevant job-linked learning.

The Impact of Such Learning

When built on the above design principles, the future of professional learning will settle for nothing less than transformation. Here are some examples of how professional learning transforms educators, schools and students.

Transformation of Professionals

With this focus on equity and deeper learning, professionals are transformed in powerful ways. For example, when professionals themselves engage in project-based learning experiences–particularly those grounded in an equity and deeper learning focus–they are transformed.

The six areas of deeper learning that have been identified for today’s students are also critical for the development of leaders. No matter what our age or experience level, Hewlett’s six competencies of deeper learning apply: mastering core content, thinking critically to solve complex problems, working collaboratively, communicating, learning how to learn, and an academic mindset.

This happens through experiences such as field trips and research. When we do that, we can solve budget, policy and other complex issues.

Transformation of Schools

There are a numbe of ways to practice transformative change in schools. In her blog on transforming schools through strengths-based professional development, Laura McBain said “You are allowed to be a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously.”

  • Build on strengths
  • Offer disruptive professional learning opportunities
  • Create a sense of belonging
  • Make meaning
  • Celebrate

The tips Laura provides are timeless–and they work.

Transformation of Students

As students practice principles of deeper learning and engage in personalized project-based learning, they learn to redefine roles (for example, through Bobby Shaddock’s Pathway to the Plate); take on meaningful challenges (Kyle Linnik’s Meals and Muppets); listen deeply, create products for “the real world” (Britt Shirk’s Tiny Home); and, perhaps most importantly, ignite passion and tackle big issues like social justice (Nuvia Ruland’s Beyond the Crossfire). Across the board, learning was not simply an expectation, but a requirement for success.

Building a Legacy of Leaders and Impact

Ultimately, as this rethinking of professional learning builds a legacy of leaders who embody the competencies outlined in Preparing Leaders for Deeper Learning, the output will be leaders who set and convey a vision for deeper learning, innovate and manage shifts to deeper learning, lead deeper learning outcomes, and engage and scale deeper learning.

The future of professional learning will not only inform, but it will also transform how we learn and who we are.

This post originally ran on June 2, 2016 as part of a series entitled “Getting Smart on Rethinking Professional Learning.” A Smart Bundle was produced in partnership with High Tech High Graduate School of Higher Education (@hthgse). Join the conversation on Twitter using #EdLeaders or #RethinkPD and #SmartBundle.

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10 New & Innovative EdTech Products Announced at ISTE 2017

Another ISTE conference is in the books, and this year’s roundup of new products and ideas announced at the world’s second largest EdTech event didn’t disappoint. From virtual reality to boosting reading engagement, we have compiled a list of the innovative products and tools featured at this year’s conference.

In addition, since technology in classrooms looks very different from almost a decade ago when ISTE last released its standards for teachers, CEO Richard Culatta shared the newly updated ISTE Standards for Educators with this year’s attendees. The Standards are designed to support educators with a framework for learning, teaching and leading amplified by technology:

Without further ado, here are ten EdTech products and tools (in no particular order) revealed at ISTE 2017 that we found intriguing:


1.
VR Learn. Veative Labs announced the launch of its VR Learn, the first all-in-one K-12 educational virtual reality (VR) headset. It’s also the first educational VR headset to include a controller and built-in mobile device, eliminating the need for a separate mobile phone.

Currently available in biology, chemistry, physics and math, modules can be adapted for any language and any curriculum and include 3D models, 360-degree animations, tasks, exercises, simulations and other interactive activities, all complemented by smart analytics and classroom management apps for teachers. Virtual reality is a hot topic right now in education (which Tom predicted back in 2015).

2. Soundtrap. If you’ve been around our team or our website at all in the past year, you know how much we love a good podcast. (Shameless plug: check out our podcast series of 100+ podcasts with EdLeaders around the nation).

So we were interested in learning more about the new collaborative tool Soundtrap, an online learning tool that enables teachers to follow STEAM curriculum through music and podcasts.

Participants operate in a secure, closed “Walled Garden” environment protected from the rest of the Internet. Teachers can create and oversee walled-gardened groups for a single class, an entire school, or multiple classes or schools as they collaborate on projects. Developers are currently working to spread the program to new users in 57 countries in the next year so U.S. schools can also collaborate with students around the world.

3. Pi-top OS. Put this company on your must-watch list: Pi-Top has created the first DIY Raspberry Pi powered laptop running its own Operating System: pi-topOS. Developers are also in the process of creating a cloud-based ecosystem to help schools across the world teach computer science more effectively and give all kids access to tools that will teach them the skills they need for the jobs of the future.

Their next goal is to democratize coding software & hardware in schools, offering affordable, easily upgradable products to all, changing STEAM education on a global scale. Here is a short video explaining more about this product and company:

4. Micro:bit Small-Board Computer. The UK-based Micro:bit Educational Foundation announced that the popular BBC micro:bit is now available to schools, clubs and families across the U.S. and Canada. The Foundation’s goal is to put the device into the hands of two million elementary and middle school students in the U.S. and Canada by 2020, in an effort to ensure all children have the opportunity to learn valuable critical thinking and coding skills.

The micro:bit is a credit card-sized, programmable device that includes 25 LEDs to display simple images and text, two programmable buttons, a variety of sensors and the ability to connect to other devices via Bluetooth. It can be programmed using the popular block-based coding language Scratch (speaking of which, be sure to check out this blog where Mary Ryerse and her son, Luke, reviewed Scratch Coding Cards), or students can also program the device using Microsoft MakeCode, which allows them to switch back and forth between block-based and text-based coding.

5. STEAM Curricula and Ambassador Program. 3D printing manufacturer XYZPrinting announced its new STEAM curricula built around K-12 Next Generation Science Standards (and further supports the important  “doing” of science versus just “knowing” it). The company is offering a complete educational solution including hardware, software and the largest catalogue of 3D printing curriculum currently available. Further courses will be unveiled at the end of this year, alongside a brand new education section on its website.

In addition to this, XYZprinting is offering schools an opportunity to participate in its ambassador program, where educators can share 3D printing knowledge and innovative ways of how they have successfully utilized 3D printing technology in their classrooms.

6. Augie Robot. To support educators’ use of augmented reality (AR) in STEAM instruction, Pai Technology announced the debut of Augie, its robot that combines augmented reality and coding. With Augie, students learn how to write a programming sequence and gain needed technology skills through the combination of augmented reality and play, creating a unique learning experience.

Designed for early childhood and elementary grade students, Augie blends research from child development experts with the latest technology. With Augie, students can discover how to code by controlling a range of the robot’s movements, and can use the video function to record their own sounds and movies. Here are five more unexpected benefits to using robotics in the classroom shared by guest blogger and teacher Aaron Maurer.

7. Reading Engagement Boost. Newsela, an instructional content platform, unveiled a suite of products designed to address the reading engagement gap. These latest offerings, available this fall, were created from demand by teachers and administrators looking for additional tools to help bridge the gap between how kids engage with modern digital content and how they engage with academic technology at school.

“Our team knows we still face an uphill battle when one out of five students report feeling actively disengaged at school. The vision for this expansion is to have Newsela at the core the classroom. We want to go beyond the textbook and help create an instructional content experience for the digital classroom era,” said Matthew Gross, Newsela Founder and CEO. “You’re also going to see a lot of new features layered on the texts themselves, making them more interactive…all beginning this fall.”

The following three features will be rolling out on the Newsela platform in the fall of 2017:

  • Newsela Units (beginning with U.S. History)
  • Power Words for vocabulary
  • Increased elementary content for younger readers

8. CollabSpace. This collaborative social website was built and maintained by the Cornell University College of Engineering to support the popular maker movement. It is a free resource where students interested in coding, robotics, autonomous vehicles, rocketry, 3-D printing, sustainability, circuit boards and other technological topics can meet and learn by sharing projects they’re working on, ask other students for suggestions, learn new skills or event get help from Cornell faculty, students and alumni.

Since not every student has access to after-school clubs, friends who like making or mentors, CollabSpace serves as an alternative community that encourages STEM education through making and inspires an academic and professional future in the STEM field.

9. Kahoot! App. This game-based learning platform previewed its new mobile app, bringing the magic of game-based learning outside the classroom. Teachers can use the app to send after-class challenges to students as homework, and learners can continue playing for revision and fun wherever they are.

The mobile app also caters to a growing number of students who are increasingly spending time on their mobile devices, giving them the opportunity for revision, reinforcement and, of course, fun outside the classroom.

10. Renaissance Flow 360. Renaissance launched its new product Renaissance Flow 360, created to connect assessment, instruction and practice in one place to drive student growth and save educators time.

Renaissance has recently collaborated with the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) on an implementation of Renaissance Flow 360. “Renaissance Flow 360 is the next step this district is taking on the path to creating an active learning environment for each of our district’s 60,000 students,” said Juan Cabrera, superintendent of EPISD (read more about EPISD’s active learning plan that is powering innovation.) 

Did you attend ISTE and/or follow #NotAtISTE on Twitter and see something you think should be added to this list? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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Digital Promise Making Research Accessible to Educators

Solid research is the underpinning of innovations that have a truly positive impact on those whom they touch.

We are all aware of the need for evidence-based approaches in our efforts to positively affect education, but it can be hard to utilize education research to its full potential for many reasons:

  • Research papers can be dense, and their application to the classroom is often not immediately clear.
  • There are a TON of research papers published every year. How do teachers know which are most relevant?
  • With this combination of an overwhelming number of options and fairly low signal-to-noise ratio, what teacher has time to parse through it all to find what they’re looking for?

We recently spoke with Karen Cator, CEO of Digital Promise, about their Research Map–their effort to address these barriers to educators’ access to academic research. Their goal in creating this resource, she said, is to increase use of research when educators are developing, designing, and implementing new projects and practices.

The Research Map contains over 100,000 research papers published as recently as 2016, conveniently organized by color-coded topics and subtopics. Simply click on a topic or subtopic of interest, and be taken to a list of the 20 most cited or most relevant academic papers. The tool also contains data such as the most-used keywords in a topic. “Researchers tend to jump to the ‘most cited authors’ section, to see if they’re listed”, Cator jokes.

Many of the articles contained in the database are free to access, though some of the research journals hosting the articles do charge for access. In order to make some of that information more accessible, Digital Promise also createe topic pages that serve as overviews of some of the more key outcomes of recent research, and a video series on specific subtopics that have actionable implications for the classroom.

Those who make frequent use of the tool can even create an account and save individual resources in the “My Tiles” feature of the page.

What do educators think of the new resource?

“Dr. Matt Doyle, Interim Superintendent for Vista Unified School District, told us that he turned to resources from the Special Education Practices topic page to quickly share with his colleagues as they were discussing how to effectively support diverse learners in their district,” Cator said. “He’s also interested in working with the district’s teachers to use the map to support their curriculum mapping, to help them explore new topics and resources to deepen their thinking and planning.”

Dr. David Dockterman, a professor of the Harvard Technology and Innovation in Education program, she said, has also introduced the Research Map to his graduate students as a resource.

With papers such as “A Framework for Designing Scaffolds That Improve Motivation and Cognition” and “The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning: A Meta-Analysis of School-Based Universal Interventions” in the catalog, it’s not hard to see how this resource could be useful for teachers and researchers alike.

At a time in which many are seeking to adapt their practice to new methodologies and technologies, academic research is an important tool. Digital Promise’s Research Map is a great option for educators looking for relevant resources.

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ConnectEd Takes Linked Learning National

Frustrated by large-scale reform? Think urban high schools are beyond repair? ConnectEd is a network of 30 districts in California, Michigan, Texas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio and New York that are making pretty good progress with a bundle of common sense reforms.

ConnectEd develops long-term (usually grant funded) district partnerships to help school district leaders:

  • Clarify what graduates need to know and be able to succeed in college, career and life;
  • Design and implement quality college and career pathways;
  • Strengthen capacity for effective learning, teaching and leading; and
  • Construct equitable and sustainable district and regional systems.

The program, called Linked Learning, was designed by the staff of the James Irvine Foundation and launched with a $100 million grant awarded to nine California districts including Antioch, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Montebello, Oakland, Pasadena, Porterville, Sacramento City and West Contra Costa.

An SRI evaluation showed that students participating in certified Linked Learning pathways were more likely to graduate from high school, move to postsecondary learning and be ready for a modern workplace. What do students think of the program? Listen to these California students describe how Linked Learning is improving their high school experience and guiding their future plans:

Scaling National Pathways

Now that the original grant program is over, the ConnectEd team is using a combination of fees and grants (the latter preferred) to scale the work nationally. And they’ve assembled a super talented team to support the work. We spoke with two of these team members: Brad Stam and Jennifer Lutzenberger Phillips.

In the orbit of Central Park East, Brad Stam’s early teaching career was influenced by Debbie Meier and Ted Sizer. He was CAO in Oakland before joining ConnectEd as COO seven years ago. Jennifer Lutzenberger Phillips started her career advising students at the Met, flagship of Big Picture Learning. She served as VP of Teaching and Learning at Envision Schools before joining ConnectEd. These two have serious education pedigrees and reform chops.

Stam sees that the critical elements of a ConnectEd partnership include rigorous college prep curriculum integrated with career and technical education and combined with academic and social-emotional supports. The goal is graduates who are “College, career and community ready,” said Stam.

ConnectEd is a Berkeley-based nonprofit intermediary organization formed to provide support services to districts implementing Linked Learning. ConnectEd has a staff of about 25 with approximately as many consultants.

Unlike other networks, ConnectEd doesn’t work with districts on new or branded schools–just big high schools striving to be what Stam called “learning-focused, equity-based.”

Phillips thinks the industry links that ConnectEd helps to create promote learning, integration and collaboration. Industry defined competencies promote a performance-based learning environment that gets learners ready for workplaces.

ConnectEd partner districts develop their own graduate profiles through a stakeholder-driven process.

“The relationships within and between school districts were the most surprising and perhaps most valuable thing about the network,” said Stam. “The ConnectEd team is very intentional about creating vertical [K-12] district teams.”

Twice annually, partner districts gather to share lessons learned. Stam and Phillips see a sense of reciprocal accountability form between districts. They enjoy seeing role-alike connections form across districts. “These relationships are often sustained affiliation after the grant,” added Stam.

Cloud-Based Pathways

ConnectEd Studios is a digital environment that supports the design and implementation of pathways. It facilitates the calibration of student assessment and a conversation about student work. District partners of EdLeader21 and some New Hampshire districts use the platform to promote deeper learning.

“Districts don’t need top down mandates,” said Stam. “They need support and room to experiment.” Phillips added that placing industry partnerships at the center of the work allows teachers to be reflective about the workplace–theirs and the ones students are headed for.

Why is it working? Stam thinks the key is a focus on student-centered, meaning-focused, equity-directed partnerships. “Learning together is a powerful force.”

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PBL World Educators Focus on Process

Last week, over 1,250 educators convened in Napa Valley at PBL World for a three and a half-day conference, where educators come together to learn about, hone and expand their PBL craft. One of the biggest takeaways educators at PBL World shared is just how important process is.

Leaders Share About the Importance of Process

Speakers at PBL World highlighted the importance of process and not just ‘producing projects for the sake of doing projects’. Bob Lenz, Executive Director of the Buck Institute for Education, reminded educators that PBL is all about the journey. Educators will experience many successes throughout their PBL journey, but facilitating high quality PBL does take time and practice. Speaker Stephanie Chang, Director of Programs at MakerEd, shared stories about students who worked diligently through the project process to produce meaningful work and it was this process that ultimately lead them to deeper learning.

Every leader stressed process, but they also each mentioned how encouraging it is that so many educators are experiencing, using and excited about PBL. They shared their own beginnings as PBL educators, which often included lots of trials, many student successes and a refreshed and renewed sense of purpose in the classroom.

Carlos Moreno, Co-Executive Director at Big Picture Learning (pictured above), shared similar sentiments and emphasized that he wished he stuck to the PBL process with students more when he was teaching. He eloquently described that sticking with the process, is really sticking with students – no matter the challenge you face – that is why we do this work. He elaborated that through PBL we should continue to iterate and improve upon the following three processes:

  1. Learn how to engage every student through sustained inquiry.
  2. Guide students from the beginning of a project all the way to the end and ensure projects are relevant and meaningful, and that they apply to the real world.
  3. Learn how to take core content and use it to fuel meaningful projects.

Educators at PBL World dug in, discussed and debated these processes of PBL. They learned that isn’t just going to be students who navigate the project process, but they too need to experience the highs, lows, failures and successes of truly high quality PBL. The importance of process is evident in planning, facilitation, presentation and even the questions you ask students to encourage them to persist in their own PBL process. This emphasis was clear in conference sessions at PBL World.

At facilitator Kevin Armstrong’s (Coach at Katherine Smith Elementary School, winner of the 2017 PBL School of the Year) session, educators actively discussed different student personas and how they would ensure that in the process of PBL planning and implementation they consider and incorporate each student’s academic and social and emotional needs.

Why Process?

Why focus on the process so much? Well, it’s true, if not “managed effectively,” then project-based experiences can be frustrating and not tap into the potential of each student. Critics share that projects can end up being fluff and not really engage students on a deeper level.

This is exactly why high quality PBL, especially the PBL process, is so important.

Great facilitators know how to create balance, understand when PBL makes sense as an approach and use effective processes and protocols with students to ensure each student feels supported, heard and engaged in sustained inquiry (sometimes in a group or as individual scholars).

Facilitating PBL experiences that don’t skip out on processes can lead to deeper learning and understandings. These experiences are key to developing graduates that feel empowered, have a sense of self and know they can have the skills to persist and tackle challenges in work and life.

What kind of processes are we talking about? Processes might include a portion of a project where students work to develop their own driving questions, determine the product they want to create and explore their own interests. It might be going through a specific protocol process that helps structure time when students collaborate with and get feedback from other students (in their own classroom, in another state or from somewhere else around the world). Or processes in projects that require students to iterate, revise and demonstrate how they incorporated (or why they made a decision not to) new ideas into their products.

Take the time. Trust the process(es). You won’t regret it.

These processes are often left out of the conversation but are incredibly important when it comes to implementing high quality PBL. In the draft Framework for High Quality PBL (visit hqpbl.org to share your feedback on the draft) we share four proposed categories for high quality PBL: processes, products, principles and purposes. The processes included in the draft Framework mimic those that were expressed as being important by educators at PBL World:

Processes. In High Quality PBL, students:

  • Engage in a process of inquiry over a period of time, in which they ask questions about what they need to learn and create, in an ever-deepening cycle.
  • Use project management practices, along with the teacher, to guide their work effectively from the beginning to the end of a project.
  • Gain knowledge and skills through instruction and coaching from teachers (and sometimes other experts), who facilitate the project to the extent necessary.

Catina Taylor, founder of Dreams KC and 4.0 Schools Tiny Fellowship recipient, shared thoughts with educators about how to take passions and turn them into an actionable plan. She, too, described that understanding the process is essential but that true change in teaching practice demands it.

PBL World is a community of dedicated educators from around the world coming together, creating and growing a path forward for themselves and ultimately the students they serve. I encourage you to attend next year’s PBL World and/or one of the many other great PBL conferences and institutes offered throughout the year (here are a few). Whether your school is using PBL or not, the process of learning about and experiencing projects will inevitably grow you as an educator, and in turn be beneficial for your students.

For more, see:

This blog is part of the High Quality PBL project. This project is supported by the Project Management Institute Educational Foundation (PMIEF) and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. For more, see hqpbl.org and follow @BIEpbl for all the latest news and resources on high-quality project-based learning and use hashtag #PBL.



3 Innovative Tips For Tackling School Culture

By Julia Freeland Fisher

On the heels of a series of PR nightmares facing Uber’s executives, headlines and speculation about what’s next for the company abound. Some investors have continued to defend the company’s evidently toxic culture, suggesting that once successful entrepreneurs have built a successful product or service, they then can afford to worry about factors like company norms. Others, like Freada Kapor Klein, have been less willing to let the company off the hook.

Both sides, however, seem to agree that Uber now needs to commit to fundamentally reshaping its culture. This, of course, may be easier said than done. Company culture is not something that can change overnight, which begs the thorny question that USA TODAY tech reporter Marco della Cava put best: Can Uber really change?

Although many school systems’ woes may pale in comparison to allegations permeating Uber, the question of whether entrenched systems can “really change” rings true through education circles today. All too often, new efforts die on the vine if a school culture isn’t lining up around those efforts. And in most reform circles, discussions about change management or school transformation inevitably circle back to nailing school culture. But we often remain short on the specifics of how to do so.

Luckily, innovation theory can help to surface insights on how schools might both measure and change culture. Here are three tips on what we’ve learned about culture, process and change inside and outside of education:

1. Find recurring problems

More often than not, discussions of school culture can feel vague. Successful leaders can rarely pinpoint the alchemy of what’s working, and culturally fraught schools can, like Uber employees, feel that all is not well but may struggle to find their way to a solution.

The first step for changing culture is realizing that it can indeed be broken down into something cognizable and measurable. Perhaps counter-intuitively, culture rarely presents itself through well-meaning mission statements or strategy documents. Rather, it manifests itself in repeated processes that are so common that they become virtually unconscious.

This means that measuring the actual components of culture cannot be accomplished merely through school climate surveys that offer self-reported data from staff or students. Although these instruments may help to take the temperature of school culture, they rarely reveal the factors actually contributing to it.

School culture, rather, should be identified through leaders and teachers gaining a clear sense of the processes guiding day-to-day practice. Culture results from students and teachers solving problems in a certain way; that solution becomes repeated over and over until it is so ingrained that no one has to think anymore. Schools have many processes and priorities that can coalesce over time into a shared culture. If these processes themselves are broken or routinely marginalize certain actors or priorities, then so too will the culture be broken.

2. Remember that resources alone rarely fix problems—processes do

All organizations consist of a model that includes resources, processes and priorities. Processes tend to become deeply ingrained over time. This means that resources (dollars, staff, space) are often far more flexible than processes. As such, managers faced with challenges often fall into the trap of dedicating additional resources toward a big problem or challenge. These resource allocation decisions tend to happen in a vacuum from a deliberate audit of processes that may be causing the problem in the first place. As a result, those additional resources may fail to accomplish their intended result. Instead, they may simply be absorbed and redirected by status quo processes.

In the corporate world, resource provision may go toward new initiatives or whole new departments designed to tackle issues like employee satisfaction, wellness or diversity. Reallocating resources may be entirely virtuous. But those new resources will often get cannibalized into pre-existing processes—or put differently, culture—that led to the problem in the first place.

In education, processes manifest themselves as the day-to-day actions and informal decision rules in the school system—from how teachers go about delivering lessons and sorting students to how administrators oversee those day-to-day operations. Over time, these processes may become very ingrained in school systems’ culture, which can make it especially challenging to introduce new policies and initiatives to the traditional ways of operating schools and state agencies.

Although we often bemoan scarce resources in education, like many companies, education managers and administrators tend to fall into the same trap as leaders in other industries: throwing additional resources at problems without restructuring ingrained processes. This tendency can help to explain numerous studies that show frustratingly little correlation between education dollars spent and outcomes attained—if those reallocated dollars are merely churned through old processes, rarely will they produce new results.

3. Rethink team structures to rethink processes

If changing a culture require process shifts, but processes are far stickier than resources, what can schools do to tackle and rethink processes? Creating new, deliberate team structure offers a promising strategy to make room for new processes to emerge from the ground up. New team formations with freedom from old ways of doing things can pursue innovations with the appropriate degree of autonomy needed to succeed.

For example, when Toyota decided to create the Prius hybrid car, it formed entirely new heavyweight teams drawing on professionals from across discrete functional departments. This was a wise move: the hybrid vehicle called for a completely different architecture than a traditional gasoline-powered vehicle. A hybrid vehicle required new components that interfaced with other new components in novel ways—the internal combustion engine had to coordinate propulsion responsibility with an electric motor, the brakes needed to generate electricity by interfacing with the battery, and so forth.

To entirely reconfigure their processes, Toyota pulled people from different engineering departments and placed them in a heavyweight team to design and build an entirely new vehicle. The success of this team structure resides in the freedom to deploy existing resources against new priorities and processes—team members don’t “represent” the interests of their respective departments or past priorities. Instead, they provide expertise that can help the group as a whole to figure out better ways to knit together ideas and work together.

Building a new car may sound easier than reinventing a company or school culture. Innovation theory suggests, however, that pulling teams out of their day-to-day context can create new ways of working together, helping organizations successfully get unstuck from the “old way” of doing things. From there, as those new processes take root, a new culture will be formed through repetition, one task at a time.


10 Tips for Designing High Impact Campaigns

Through our advocacy, advisory and coaching services, we work with impact-oriented partners to invent the future of learning. This post is part of a blog series designed to share lessons learned, case studies, and thought leadership from our projects and campaigns. To learn more about our services division, visit GettingSmartServices.com.

Are you ready to make an impact? Whether it is an idea that you want to explore further, a topic you want to share with the world or a question you want to ask, designing campaigns can be a critical component to growing your impact. For some, the end goal is brand advancement for others, it is further developing and sharing information on emerging ideas and trends. But for all, campaigns are a path toward strategic outreach, collaboration and information gathering.

As a team, we view campaigns as an aligned effort of core messages distributed through content development, events and promotion around a central idea or initiative. Unlike political campaigns, they are not meant to be overly promotional, partisan or polarizing. Thought leadership campaigns are a great way to build thoughtful and well-connected content. They can act as a catalyst to scaled impact through increased engagement and clear messaging. Thinking about them strategically allows you to maximize impact and increase the reach of your message.

Here are ten things we have learned from designing, implementing and promoting thought leadership campaigns with our partners:

  1. Goals First. Before you develop content, give ample thought to the purpose behind the work. What is it that you are trying to accomplish? How will you know if you have met these goals? What is the action you hope your audience will take?
  2. Know Your Audience. In order to effectively engage your audience, you need to put the energy behind defining who they are. Depending on the length and scale of the campaign, this could be as basic as identifying a key market or as comprehensive as developing personas.
  3. Vary Your Content Type, Connect Your Message. After you have defined your audience, think about what it is that you want to tell them. Campaigns are more than just blog series. Present information in a variety of modalities, from podcast to social media, publications to video. Keep the messaging aligned, but get creative on the information source and medium.
  4. Don’t Just Tell, Explore. Campaigns can be a format for sharing what you know, but they are just as effective as tools to better understand what you don’t know. Ask questions, listen and learn!
  5. Build Anticipation. Making goals and timelines public can do two things: they can act as an accountability system, but they can also build anticipation and a loyal audience that follows the campaign consistently rather than just dropping in once.
  6. Crowd Source. It is one thing to share content that has been developed behind the scenes, it is another to engage your audience in content development. Ask for guest submissions, create a survey, host a Twitter Chat. Make the barrier to sharing thoughts low and available.
  7. Connect with Experts. Campaigns that highlight and share a variety of expert voices have more credibility. Find people and voices who will align to your goals and ask them to contribute in manageable ways.
  8. Make it Easy to Share. Your campaign should be easy to share. A unique hashtag, a landing page and suggested social media are all great ways for people to get engaged and help extend your impact. No matter how great your content is, without a solid sharing strategy you are losing out on potential reach. Connect hashtags to your goals. Are you looking for a way to organize engagement, then think about a dedicated hashtag. More interested in connecting to existing conversations? Think about using hashtags that are already in play. Sharing can extend beyond social media as well–think about how you can utilize content in a variety of ways. Could you create a visual of a contributing tweet, using a tool like Canva? What about blowing up an infographic to act as a banner at a regional conference?
  9. Don’t Go at it Alone. Look for partners that have existing audiences that are relevant and aligned. For example, our partners appreciate the value that comes from connecting to the existing GettingSmart.com audience of innovative educators and school leaders.
  10. Do Something. As your campaign ends, make sure you have plans for how the lessons learned will be implemented and shared with key stakeholders who would benefit from this knowledge. Think about how the campaign will be archived for future use and how people can continue to contribute and share. Are there sessions to lead at upcoming conferences? Is there a workshop your team can facilitate? Don’t let good ideas die when a campaign ends.

How do you develop an idea? How do you build greater awareness while also learning more? How do you develop thought leadership? How do you share your passion and get people talking about a specific topic? Campaigns are a great place to start.

And, if you’re interested in developing a campaign but need support, we can help! Getting Smart Services helps impact organizations design, develop and execute communication and thought leadership campaigns. For examples check out: It’s A Project Based World and Power of Place. To learn more about how we can help turn your ideas into impact, head to GettingSmartServices.com

For more from our #SmartWork series, check out:


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