Tips for Successfully Implementing SEL

By: Kristen Kopczynski

Social and emotional learning (“SEL”) is a practice and a way of educating that is being incorporated into more and more schools. The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotion Learning (CASEL) defines SEL as “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” In other words, it is a type of learning in which students can gain knowledge and practice around real life skills that are outside of the usual content area classes. These skills are just as essential to be successful in higher education or the workforce so it seems natural to include them as part of the education of young people.

As educators, it is already a difficult balance to cover the content and prepare for state tests, but preparing our students for life after high school, whatever route they choose to take, is about more than whether or not they know the facts of history or how to balance an equation. Students need to know how to cope with stress, how to diffuse anger, and how to make a good first impression. They need to know how to find their identity and set goals for the future. Having a dedicated SEL program in schools allows us to teach these skills. For example, here at the Urban Assembly School of Business for Young Women, we build in two days of direct instruction, one day of academic check ins and one day of restorative circles to directly develop students’ SEL skills.

Here are some things schools and teachers can do to make sure their SEL programs are effective:

Allow Time to Practice

SEL topics can be introduced through direct instruction of important ideas and skills such as managing your emotions, understanding mindset, and collaborating with others; however, providing opportunities for students to practice and apply these skills is essential for making them relevant and accessible to their daily lives. Practicing and applying these skills might involve role-playing activities, extension projects, or even just keeping the language around the concepts alive and in use in the classroom. Teaching SEL skills without providing opportunities for practice and application is like introducing a concept once in class and then putting it on the test without reviewing it or doing any practice problems.

Make SEL Instruction Relevant

There are SEL curricula out there to provide the foundation for a successful SEL program. The more relevant the curriculum is to the students, the more they will buy in to the ideas of SEL. As much as it is possible, curriculum should be modified to be relevant and applicable to the student population to which it is being taught. For instance, the types of examples that will resonate with students in urban areas may be different than those that would resonate with students in more rural settings. Teachers can also make the SEL practices more relevant and accessible to students by opening themselves up and sharing their own personal experiences. I remember the first time I opened up to my students about a situation I was facing where I had to apply the same SEL skill I was teaching them about — resolving conflict. My closest friend and I had a misunderstanding and just needed to talk it through to resolve it and get back on track. In the past, my students sometimes felt like the examples from our lessons didn’t resonate with them. Sharing my experiences helped my students share their own experiences, and these connections helped us all find relevance to these SEL skills across racial, cultural, and even generational differences.

Incorporate SEL Throughout the School

In an ideal world, SEL would live in some form in every classroom throughout the school and all teachers would be trained to be able to incorporate even small SEL practices or examples into their content area classes. With the demands on schools, such as standards, this is not so easily done. Class periods are short and there is specific material to be covered. There is limited time for staff training and development, and in most cases there is just not enough time in the day. Keeping some of the best practices in mind, teachers can try to provide opportunities for practice and application whenever possible.

One way of keeping SEL accessible and in practice throughout the school is through visibility of the core ideas in the hallways and in the classrooms. Having posters, word walls, and signage throughout all classrooms and in the hallways of the school with strategies and common language allows students to refer back and access the skills when needed. Another idea is to designate a bulletin board space to celebrate students that have shown either leadership or the most improvement around an SEL concept in a student of the month type program. For example, the month might have a theme around the core competency self-management with a focus on impulse control. One student from each grade level could be identified as a leader and another as most improved in this area for the month. These students are then celebrated with pictures on the wall, certificates, etc. Even little practices like this help to acknowledge the work the students are doing around SEL.

Use Data

The use of data can help inform SEL instruction and measure outcomes of SEL programs. Many schools use the DESSA (Devereux Student Strengths Assessment), a standardized, strengths-based assessment from Aperture Education that measures the social and emotional competence of students as rated by an adult at the school (teacher, social worker, etc.). The DESSA allows students to have a better understanding of their strengths and areas where they need to grow. Schools can also make use of the DESSA data to provide students with targeted support. For example, small counseling groups could be formed based on students’ needs around a particular competency. The data could also be used to determine topics for discussion in restorative justice circles.

SEL in schools is such an important part of preparing our young people for what lies ahead. In whatever way possible while balancing all the demands, all schools should strive to incorporate SEL on any level that they can. Like anything, it has to evolve over time and fit with the personality of the school. Schools should take advantage of the SEL resources and curriculum out there, but also remember to make the program their own so it will really feel meaningful and relevant to the students.

For more, see:

Kristen Kopczynski is a teacher at the Urban Assembly School of Business for Young Women in Manhattan.

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Making the Most of Student Reflections

This past school year, I sought to ask my students to reflect upon their learning more often. These reflections have allowed me to get to know my students better, understand their strengths and weaknesses with content and study habits, and discern what kind of connections they are making between topics and disciplines.  But the reflections had great benefits for my students, too.  Over the course of the year, I saw them grow as they were asked to more frequently take time to self-assess what they knew or how they could improve their understanding.

Here, I share how I collect student reflections, when I ask students to reflect, how reflections benefit students, and how I use their reflections to inform my teaching.

How I Collect Student Reflections

I ask students to reflect in whatever medium makes sense for the topic.  Therefore, some reflections are made on paper and some are online.  My favorite online or digital tools are:

  • GrokSpot: GrokSpot is an easy-to-use collaborative discussion tool for a classroom that blends reflection with mindset messages. Students and teachers can reply to reflections with both words and mindset-based emoji.
  • Microsoft OneNote: OneNote is a powerful digital notebook for teacher and student interaction. Students using Class Notebooks can respond to reflection questions by typing text, inserting pictures or video, or writing/drawing with a smart pen and digital ink. Teachers can easily provide feedback on student responses using text or digital ink.
  • Online Forms: Teachers create a form in Microsoft Forms or Google Forms. Student responses are recapped online and collected in a spreadsheet for easy analysis.

Other online platforms that could be used for reflections include:

When I Ask My Students to Reflect

  • At the Beginning/End of Year: I start each year with a discussion about mindset and the “Power of Yet” .   My students fill out an online form that asks them reflection questions such as: What are you looking forward to in this class? What are you most apprehensive about in this class? How do you feel when you make a mistake in math? How do you feel when you are facing a challenging problem in math?  I keep specific responses private, so I create word clouds like the ones below to engage the class in a discussion about their mindset.

At the end of the year, I ask students for a final reflection. This year, I asked the following question in GrokSpot:

I was impressed by the thoughtfulness and honesty of student responses, which I shared in a recent post about inspiring serendipity in the classroom.

  • During Learning: As students are learning new concepts, I ask them reflection questions during class or for homework.  Questions vary and include: What is one topic from this section that you understand well enough to teach to a classmate? What has been the least (or most) challenging topic for you in this section? What did you learn about this topic that surprised you?

In the image below, I show a student response to a question I asked in GrokSpot: “Why do you think it is important to be able to identify the shape of a cross-section when designing an object for 3D printing?”  When responding to this student, I choose the mindset emoji “tell me more” and followed up with a comment that asked the student to explain further.

I also ask reflection questions about the process of learning, such as this question that I posed in GrokSpot: “In class, we’ve been talking about the difference between understanding concepts versus memorizing. Has this changed the way you have learned anything this year?” The student who wrote the response shown below chose the mindset emoji for “challenged my thinking.” I responded with the “love your thinking” emoji.

  • After Assessments: I allow students to correct their mistakes on assessments after they respond to a few of the following reflection questions on paper or in Microsoft OneNote: What study strategies worked best for you when preparing for the assessment?  What did you like most (or least) about this test? If you were not happy with your score, what would you do differently next time? Do you feel that making corrections to the assessment helped you to learn from your mistakes?

I have been amazed at the honesty and detail in students responses.  I write at least one short, positive, and encouraging response to acknowledge their thinking, as shown in the example below.  If a student response is vague, I suggest a study strategy for them to try next time.

  • Connections in the Community: After my students visited our school art show, I  used GrokSpot to ask, “What are some math connections that you noticed or wondered about during your visit to the art show?”  In the response below, the student selected the “grew my thinking” emoji, and a classmate replied with the “pondering” emoji.

How Reflections Benefit Students

Too often, I see students manage their time by jumping from one due date to the next, learning exactly what they think they need to know for the upcoming assessment, homework assignment, or project. Some students simply don’t make time to think about the topics they have learned and how well they understand until the night before a quiz or test, when it is too late. Asking students to reflect on one class or one idea forces them to make time to determine if they understand before it is too late to seek help. In addition, the process of collecting, organizing, and communicating their thoughts to another person can help a student realize that they don’t fully understand a topic or idea.  As many teachers can attest, you don’t really know a topic thoroughly until you have to teach it (or communicate it!) to someone else.

Reflections also give students a chance to practice making and acting upon growth mindset comments. I worked with one particular student a few years ago who wanted to improve his quiz and test scores. In each post-assessment reflection, he honestly explained how he studied. I responded with other strategies for him to try, including meeting with me to go over questions and making his own practice tests. He tried every strategy I suggested, and about halfway through the year, earned close to a perfect score on a test. In his reflection, he proudly stated that by trying new study strategies, he finally learned how to determine when he really understood the material.  His hard work and growth mindset paid off!

Finally, reflections help students find connections with other classes or in their community that they may not have noticed otherwise. By looking for evidence of math in the student art show, students realized that math is around them in places they never expected. The reflection forced them to grow their thinking and look at the world through the lens of a mathematician.

How I Use Student Reflections

Student reflections have been a treasure trove of information that informs my planning for future lessons, helps me decide upon strategies to review material, and enables me to see which connections students make between math and other disciplines.  For example:

  • When I notice trends in the reflections of one student, I can determine how to intervene to better support the student’s learning and have detailed conversations with either the student or the parent.
  • Sometimes, students don’t follow their own reflection advice when preparing for the next assessment. Because of this, I am working on interweaving the teaching of study strategies into my classes and reminding students to look back at their reflections when studying.
  • GrokSpot enables me to ask students to gauge their confidence level, which is seen only by me.  This has enabled me to help students determine why their performance on an assessment differed from their perceived confidence level. An example of a confidence indicator is shown at right.
  • When writing report card comments or letters of recommendation, I sometimes include quotes from student reflections to show evidence of growth.

It took time to adjust my classroom routine to make time for these reflections. I preferred to assign reflections as the only homework assignment, but asking for reflections at the start or end of class also provided fruitful responses.

Where can you learn more about student reflections? Some of my favorite resources include the following: Mathematical Mindsets, Teach Students How to Learn, Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, and various articles about assessment for learning.

For more, see:

All pictures in this post were created by Jamie Back.

Jamie Back is an Upper School Math Teacher at Cincinnati Country Day School. Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jmeb96

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4.0 Schools Launches $15 Million Fund to Invest in the Future of Learning

“We believe that all people are capable of improving their own conditions. We believe that communities should own their visions of their futures. The problem we are here to solve is increasing their access to resources. We aim to reduce gatekeeping to the change we want to see in education. This is part of the message Hassan Hassan, CEO of 4.0 Schools, recently shared in a three-part series announcing 4.0’s new $15 Million Fund III. Before diving into the details of Fund III, it’s important to understand why 4.0 exists.

In Part I of Hassan’s series, he underscored that “4.0 is not a charity. We are not saviors. We are not the frontline leaders in every home, school, and neighborhood around the country doing the work that needs to get done day in and day out.” 4.0 is actually something more than all of this. They are connectors, coaches, and investor – and each of these roles plays out through 4.0’s Essential Fellowship and Tiny Fellowship programs.

Connectors and Coaches

Paramount to both of the Fellowship programs is the element of connecting and coaching. Fellows are connected with 4.0 staff, experts in the field, and program alumni during the course of their Fellowship. With the Essential Fellowship, aspiring founders receive coaching on “how to plan and run a short, discrete test of your idea.” In the Tiny Fellowship, aspiring founders learn how to take an idea to a proof point and they are coached in “how to plan, run, and evaluate a recurring, part-time pilot.”

As 4.0 looks to the next four years, the model of coaching and connecting will become more localized. In Part II of Hassan’s series, he noted, “4.0 will transition toward a distributed leadership model that moves all cash, coaching, community, and curriculum decisions and activities to representative alumni leaders in local communities across the country.” In practice, 4.0 has noted that this distributed leadership model will be driven primarily by alumni who will work in four areas:

  • Talent: Alumni leaders will coach each incoming class of fellows.
  • Ventures: Alumni investment committees will select and evaluate pilots.
  • Ecosystems: Alumni community builders will recruit future fellows and connect existing fellows within and across local communities.
  • Research: An independent collaborative of researchers will study the work to provide transparency, accountability, and continuous learning.

Investors in the Future of Learning

4.0 Schools has invested in more than 1,000 of its alumni over the past 8 years. Investments run the gamut from schools to programs to products (learn more about 4.0 alums here). What sets 4.0 apart is that they “invest relatively small dollar amounts in 10X more founders who have not yet quit their day job but have the technical expertise – and lived experiences grounded in the conditions they want to improve – to build the future of learning.” The relatively small investments are atypical of traditional educational philanthropy in that: 1) investments are made in the very early stages of an idea and 2) the smaller size of the investments means that more dollars can be given to more people. In Part II of Hassan’s series, he notes that the 4.0 strategy is one that “expands conventional wisdom in education philanthropy.”

As mentioned above, 4.0 will move towards distributed leadership where alumni will work in four areas. Those areas correspond to the areas 4.0 will pursue with its funding:

  • Talent: We will catalyze representation in education entrepreneurship.
  • Ventures: We will increase diligence in the earliest stages of investment.
  • Ecosystems: We will promote community ownership of education reform.
  • Research: We will advocate for smaller-scale pilots as more ethical R&D.

In 2013, we shared four reasons why every city in the country needs an organization like 4.0, and the reasons below still ring true today:

  1. They understand blended learning and can support teams in organizational design and tech integration (few shops are good at both);
  2. As a nonprofit, they are focused on impact, they take a longer view than accelerators, and will work on big problems;
  3. They build an innovation ecosystem by connecting educators and entrepreneurs; and
  4. They are the one organization that a superintendent, charter executive, chamber executive, and foundation executive could all get behind.

We look forward to seeing all of the innovative ideas that come to fruition as a result of 4.0’s Fund III. To learn more, view the Fund III Prospectus, sign up to be notified when the Fellowship application opens up in September, and be sure to read Hassan Hassan’s announcement of the fund.


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Google for Education and the Future of the Classroom

Earlier this month, I learned about a new partnership between Google for Education, and Canvas8 a team of global researchers who have been studying the different trends and shifts happening in classrooms around the world. Each day there are discussions in global learning communities about how we can best prepare our students for the future of learning and the future of work. The complicated part of these discussions is knowing which skills our students will need in the future. Educators have the challenge of figuring out how to prepare our students for a world that does not yet exist. To do so, they must not only determine how to leverage the tools and the knowledge that we currently have, but also make predictions about the skills our students will need in the future. Equipping students with the knowledge and diverse skills is a must so they will be at the highest advantage to adapt to whatever that landscape will look like.

To help all educators prepare students for the changes in the future, Google for Education has partnered with Canvas8, to study the changes in education and technology. Through this partnership, they have highlighted what they consider to be the eight emerging trends in education today and provided an overview of what these trends look like globally.

What Educators Can Learn by Exploring Google’s Future of the Classroom 

Google for Education provides multiple ways for educators to learn more about these emerging trends as well as broaden their perspective of what educators around the world are doing in their classrooms. The Future of the Classroom provides resources to educators through the following formats: Global Report, Edu OnAir, Educator Interviews, and Teacher Center training modules.

Global report – In the global report, the team breaks down the emerging trends in K through 12 classrooms which have been the focus of the study. The report is part of a series being done by a team of experts who undertook extensive research over the past two years. The research included interviews of different educational thought leaders, a literature review of publications from the past two years, desk research and a narrative analysis conducted through surveys and additional investigations. The team then compiled all of this information and identified the eight emerging trends in K through 12 education. The trends are:

  • Digital Responsibility
  • Life Skills and Workforce Preparation
  • Computational Thinking
  • Student-led Learning
  • Collaborative Classrooms
  • Connecting Guardians and Schools
  • Innovative Pedagogy Emerging Technologies

Educators can use the report as a guide to developing a greater understanding of how other classrooms are using this information to better design learning experiences to meet the needs of our students. The report outlines each trend based on: what’s happening, where are we seeing it, the numbers and resources for further reading.

Edu OnAir – There are currently four webinars available on demand and I had the opportunity to participate in the first two “livestreams.” 

The first, “Future of the Classroom Research Findings” provided a very informative overview of the work that has gone into this project. The panelists explained the process for identifying and defining the eight trends, the amount and type of research involved, the global experts consulted, and all of the components of this project that the Google team started. The data and analytics then became the basis of the Global Report.

The second, “Computational thinking: Now and in the Future, took a look at the changes in education due to STEM curriculum and coding, and how schools can provide more opportunities for students in these areas. The panelists included Kevin Brookhouser (Author), Krishna Vedati (CEO of Tynker), Samantha Amoroso (Researcher Canvas8) and Sally-Ann Williams (Leader of CS and STEM for Google). It was a nice balance of educators, researchers and thought leaders. 

The third, “Student-led learning around the world” focused on ways that students are being empowered in schools today and how educators can seek more opportunities for student-led classrooms. Educators looking to create more choices in learning for students will take away some helpful ideas and new perspectives from this episode.

The fourth, “Digital responsibility in the 21st Century” focused on how schools and families can best prepare students for interacting in an increasingly digital world, with a focus on digital citizenship. Based on the numbers which show increasing use of mobile device usage, especially in the area of social media, this is a very timely topic for educators to gather ideas from.

Interview playlists – Currently there are 13 videos available on the playlist, which provides short videos where educators discuss their thoughts about the future of education. Each educator shares their choice for an emerging trend in education and work, what they think will have a big impact on education, and offers advice for how to prepare our students and ourselves for the future. Some ideas offered were: to stay connected with technology, continue to take some risks, be willing to learn and fail, always learn about students and work together to build relationships. It is always helpful to learn from other educators with different experiences and perspectives and can help to generate new ideas and inspiration to try new methods in classrooms.

Teacher Center Resources – Provides links to Google for Education tools where educators can work through different modules and use the training resources to better understand some of these emerging trend topics. If you have taken the courses to prepare for the Google Educator certification exams, the links provided in the Teacher Center are set up in a similar way. 

What does the Future of the Classroom look like?

According to the research done and shared in the global report, there was a clear focus on how technology use has increased over the past six years and the role that technology will likely play in the future of work and learning. There will always be concerns about technology use, which is why it probably comes as no surprise that one of the first emerging trends identified was digital responsibility. 

In the UK, 99% of teachers said that online safety should be part of the school curriculum. Personally, I found it a bit startling that in the United States, more than 39% of students had a social media account by the time they turned 12 years old. That same statistic was 46% in the UK. Because the use of technology is so prevalent, and at such a young age, there has to be an intentional focus to teach students and to reinforce our own knowledge about digital responsibility.

The global report itself provides a lot of details, statistics, reference materials, and shows a global comparison between countries including the United States, the UK, Sweden, Germany, Brazil, New Zealand, Japan, Finland and several others. The Edu OnAir webinars did an excellent job of detailing all of these trends, providing different statistics and engaging the participants in the live discussion. 

What do I recommend?

For educators and administrators looking to better understand the emerging trends in education and how educators around the world are preparing our students, the resources provided by Google for Education through the Future of the Classroom will be quite helpful. I recommend reviewing the information shared in the global report and viewing the first Edu OnAir episode. It was full of data and references to perspectives from educators and classrooms around the world. It was quite informative and interesting to see and hear the detailed results of the two years of research and opinions of the education thought leaders. The goal is to broaden our understanding of what the world of learning and work might look like for our students and the Future of the Classroom provides a good starting point for educators and administrators. 

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Agilix’s Dawn Academy: Anytime, Anywhere Professional Learning


Last fall, Agilix announced that its new mobile-first, video-centric learner platform, Dawn Academy, would be coming soon (see our announcement and smart review posts); and now they have begun to unveil more of Dawn Academy’s capabilities. Educators can check out the platform by enrolling in free courses, and content providers can still reach out to Agilix to get their courses published.

We had the opportunity to speak with two course authors who have recently published content to get a deeper understanding all Dawn Academy has to offer.

Learning That Is Truly Flexible

Flexibility is integral to the Dawn Academy platform. From being able to access courses on any device at any time to the ease of course creation, flexibility is baked into the Dawn Academy model.

For Michael Simpson, Global Director of FranklinCovey – Columbia University’s Executive Coaching Certification Program, and author of “Unlocking Potential: 7 Coaching Skills That Transform Individuals, Teams, and Organizations,” flexibility is key.

“I am on the road 150 days of a year, working in over 35 countries and I can only work so many days/hours,” he said. But the flexibility of Dawn Academy allows him to deliver his coaching courses at any time. His first course on Dawn Academy is based on the “Unlocking Potential” book which he has “bite-sized into micro-learning, mini-modules on videos.” While the flexibility of Dawn Academy enables him to reach more people without having to travel, it also means more people can access Simpson’s leadership and coaching material from anywhere.

PBL Global’s Founder and CEO Thom Markham also appreciates Dawn Academy’s flexibility. Markham has a mission to bring Project-Based Learning (PBL) to every K-12 school in the world. So far, he’s been to over 400 schools and worked with more than 6,000 educators. But, there are only so many days in a year and hours in a day, and Markham runs all of his own training sessions. Dawn Academy has helped him to extend his reach, with eventual plans to have several dozen PBL courses on the platform. For now, his first course “Plan and Design” is available for free (but only for a limited time).

Meeting Learners Where They Are

Quite often professional development experiences are one-size-fits-all and don’t allow participants to enter at a place most beneficial to them. Herein lies the beauty of Dawn Academy. As Markham described, teachers, can “get into learning from where they are comfortable and where they want to start. It’s on-demand learning where they can choose their entry point.” In the screenshot below taken from Markham’s course, learners can choose to let each video run from the beginning, or they can start with a section of greatest interest to them.

Along with the ability to select their entry point, learners can also choose how and where they want to access the platform. Agilix noted that “Dawn Academy courses play on any device and sync when connected, so you can work on them anywhere, on or offline. Start a course on your phone in your dentist’s lobby and finish it later at home on your laptop.”

Another feature of Dawn Academy courses: they are intentionally designed to be shorter learning experiences. Each module is roughly 15-20 minutes in length. As Michael Simpson shared, the “content is broken down into small chunks, which is how the brain digests data.” As educators become busier and busier with numerous daily responsibilities, it becomes increasingly difficult to devote a full day to the typical professional learning course. Dawn Academy’s short courses meet teachers where they are in the time they have available.

While online learning provides great flexibility to learn at your own pace, it can also at times feel isolating. Dawn Academy has that covered in two ways. The first is by embedding discussion questions into the platform where learners can engage with other users. The second is that Dawn Academy “enables teachers to engage knowledgeable, caring coaches at crucial junctures.” Simpson advised that more than 50 coaches are available who can “support, mentor and reinforce the ideas of the course.” Reaching a coach is quick and easy following the platform’s navigational prompts.

As learners progress through each module, they will also be able to see their progress toward certification, which for many is a motivator to engage in, and complete, their learning journey.

With Dawn Academy, Agilix is planning for the future of teacher professional development. To join them, start by learning more about publishing content by visiting the Dawn Academy webpage. You can also try out a free course, for a limited time, by signing up here.

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How to Fix Higher Education: Seven Keys

We are watching the slow motion implosion of a cherished institution. The majority of Americans have lost confidence in college and many are considering alternatives.

A growing number of high school graduates are skipping college and stepping into technical jobs that offer an earn and learn career ladder. High school students that aspire to college are accumulating more free credit while in high school.

Working adults are increasingly taking advantage of employer provided or subsidized education or seeking rapid employment-focused alternatives like coding bootcamps.

As a result of demographic and market changes, most colleges are losing enrollment and finding it harder to raise prices. The first post in this series examined 12 trends killing college. Despite the bad news, there are new entrants and updated incumbents that are dramatically improving their value proposition. Following are seven keys to a vibrant future for higher education.

1. Clarity of Purpose. Key to delivering value in higher education is clarity of purpose. Thriving institutions have created a distinctive mission and focus on active engagement around priority outcomes.

As the most selective university program, the Minerva Project just graduated its first undergraduate class. Designed from scratch to develop global leaders, the program hosted by the Keck Graduate Institute focuses on 100 success habits and foundational concepts. Minerva instructors use the Forum platform to engage learners in active dialog in socratic seminars. As they study in seven of the world’s leading cities, students participate in place-based projects.

Northeastern is a 120 year old institution transformed into a global, experiential, research university built on a tradition of engagement with the world. New programs like Network for Experiential Teaching and Learning (NExT) create a global platform for educators to connect practice to more innovative, workplace-based learning.

Colorado School of Mines is a 145 year old school with an updated mission focused on Earth, Energy and Environment with a new commitment to engaging students in active learning and doing good in the world. Mines is part of the KEEN network of 44 universities training engineers to spot opportunity and deliver impact.

CEMS is a global network of 32 business schools engaging learners on sustainability and value creation.

2. Broader Evidence. Garrett Lord, CEO of career network Handhshake said two thirds of messages on the platform did not include GPA, companies are more interested in evidence of job ready competencies.

Following the lead of employers, more than 30 brand name colleges are looking beyond test scores and considering real evidence in search of youth ready to make a unique contribution now and in the future. The Coalition for College is 140 institutions supporting a common application and portfolio resources to increase access to higher education.

With growing interest in demonstrated competence over seat time and pedigree, many high schools want to present a more complete picture of a young person’s capabilities. Dallas County high schools are going to deploy an extended transcript to more fully share career readiness information. Another example is the 250 schools that have banded together in the Mastery Transcript Consortium to create a new way to share demonstrated capabilities.

3. Focus on Employability. Students are clear about their focus on employability and colleges are following their lead by focusing on job-ready skills.

“Higher education can be both intellectually stimulating and practical,” said Gordon Jones, dean of Boise State University’s new College of Innovation and Design. He argues that education and training can co-exist in the same programs. However, he added, colleges need to acknowledge that traditional deliverables—knowledge, a network, a credential and transformational learning experiences—are increasingly being assembled outside formal sources.

Following the lead of Olin College, more institutions are focusing on design thinking and entrepreneurship. Others are partnering with companies like Trilogy (recently acquired by 2U) to add employment-focused bootcamps.

4. Supporting Adult Learning. Many community colleges have long served so-called nontraditional students (25 and older) but they’re becoming the norm on many four year campuses as well. The need for lifelong learning is accelerating this trend.

Now that we all need to keep learning, the scramble is on to support your learning plan. “Institutions must prioritize and recognize ongoing learning—both formal and informal—for their faculty, staff and students,” said the NMC Horizon Report. Professional schools, alumni associations and online marketplaces (Udemy, Skillsoft, Linkedin) all want to be your primary learning provider.

Startups like College Unbound are demonstrating the importance of flexibility, strong supports and recognizing prior learning in serving working adults and boosting completion rates.

5. Active Monitoring. Using chatbots, big data sets and predictive algorithms, a growing number of institutions are monitoring academic and social health and pinpointing interventions to boost persistence.

Georgia State tracks 800 items to track undergraduate progress and spot at-risk behaviors allowing advisers to respond in a timely manner to get students back on track.

At Florida State University every student is on a “success team” which includes academic, career and College Life counselors and peer mentors. Monitored progress, smaller classes and stronger engagement boosted on time graduation.

6. Focus on Affordability. ASU has put access first, control costs, and support completion. In addition to cost control measures, universities are following Purdue’s lead and holding the line on cost and exploring income sharing agreements to reduce student debt.

A great way to make college affordable is to go to work for a company that will subsidize it. Walmart’s Live Better U includes 14 tech degrees and certificates for $1 a day in partnership with Guild Education. (See more examples of education as a benefit.)

7. Agility. The education advocacy group America Succeeds calls this new era the Age of Agility. The institutional ability to become responsive to a dynamic market may be the single most important characteristic of sustainable higher education.

A new example is the Udacity nanodegree for AI Product Managers. Created with Figure Eight, the curriculum and design projects teach students how to build AI-powered products and bring value to their businesses using AI. This job category is about two years old and growing fast.

Agility and market awareness doesn’t mean higher education should abandon liberal arts—they still prepare thoughtful citizens and provide transferable skills. But they must be accompanied by a new path awareness (i.e., how and where are you going to get a job), work experiences and development of career skills.

The new formula for higher education success includes clarity of purpose, embracing broader measures of success, focusing on employability and affordability, active monitoring and support, and market responsive agility.

The most important fix to higher education might be the choosing function—helping high school students and working adults make good choices. This is the subject of Michael Horn’s new book and the next blog in this series.

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This post is a part of the Getting Smart Future of Work Campaign. The future of work will bring new challenges and cause us to shift how we think about jobs and employability — so what does this mean for teaching and learning? In our exploration of the #FutureOfWork, sponsored by eduInnovation and powered by Getting Smart, we dive into what’s happening, what’s coming and how schools might prepare. For more, follow #futureofwork and visit our Future of Work page.

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This post was originally published on Forbes.

ISTE19: More Teaching & Learning, More AI and More Equity

By: Rachelle Dene Poth and Tom Vander Ark

More than 20,000 teachers gathered in Philadelphia this week to learn together about using technology to enhance learning. The 40-year-old International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference is the biggest ed tech convening in the US. This year, more than 3,000 presenters hosted 2,000 learning experiences–and they included about 500 students.

After serving as the nation’s ed tech director, Rich Culatta (below) took on the leadership of the ISTE two years ago. He opened the conference discussing the organization’s new focus on the implications of artificial intelligence and their renewed commitment to equity.

A Lap Around the Expo Hall

Microsoft had a huge presence at ISTE. Education VP Eran Megiddo was onsite to demo immersive reader (a new Azure Cognitive Service) available across Office 365, Minecraft and pretty much anywhere there is text. Developers can embed assistive tech to improve text reading and comprehension. Megiddo noted that three of four classrooms include students with learning differences that could benefit from the accessibility features.

Eran also showed off Teams, the workflow management platform (and Slack alternative) integrated with Office 365. Teams has a clean new interface and improved grading features. He also demoed Powerpoint coach which allows learners to rehearse presentations and receive feedback. Megiddo illustrated the expanded writing feedback features in Word.

The popular video platform Flipgrid (@flipgrid) was in full force. Acquired by Microsoft last summer, Flipgrid is free to schools and used by one in three teachers in the US.

Michelle Zimmerman, head of school at Renton Prep, spoke on the Microsoft stage about her new ISTE book Teaching AI (above).

Google was also front and center in the giant exhibition hall with a space featuring recent announcements including the App Hub (below), Classroom gradebook improvements and integrations, and G Suite certifications for students (see the feature here).

Carmen Coleman, CAO for Jefferson County Public Schools (Louisville) and Andrew Stillman from  Amplified IT (below) presented in the Google theater about their digital Backpack of Success Skills. Students make contributions into their portfolio each year and make a major presentation at transition years.


Illuminate is a rollup of 11 education data companies led by ed tech vet Christine Willig. The Google partner serves 5,200 schools and 17 million teachers and students. Notable products include:

  • SchoolCity is a comprehensive big district solution used by Houston, Chicago, and Hillsborough.
  • Data & Assessment (DNA) is a mid-sized district assessment solution.
  • eduClimber is a data visualization tool.
  • Fastbridge (acquired a couple of weeks ago) is a formative platform that combines curriculum-embedded and adaptive assessments to accurately predict learning trajectories.

Great Events Every Day at ISTE19

On Saturday morning, the Teacher Education Network kicked off the week of events by holding its second annual pre-conference, the SPARK Summit. There were 12 sessions planned along with special events like a book signing, prize patrol, and more. Members of the Leadership team planned the event which focused on helping educators learn about how to connect pedagogy and technology, some new tools to try and how to become more connected. Attendees did not have to be registered for the ISTE conference to attend so it was a nice way to become involved and to make some connections and start off the week of learning.

Also on Saturday, the Badge Summit was held at the Howard Gittis Student Center at Temple University. Noah Geisel (@SeñorG) was in charge of the program and planning all the things related to the Badge Summit which had a really great lineup of events and speakers again this year. The focus was on Microcredentials, Access and Equity with a keynote by Meenoo Rami, author of Thrive as well as two plenary panel presentations by Failure Lab and WorkDev.

Also on Saturday afternoon, there were many workshops and other sessions available to start the learning adventure of #ISTE19.

On Sunday afternoon, ISTE celebrated with their Annual Awards Reception, where many educators received volunteer service awards for their dedication to education ranging from Bronze (Over 100 hours), Silver (250-499), and Gold (500+) hours. This year Mark Gura received the Lifetime Achievement Award for having volunteered more than 4000 hours. Educators were also recognized by each of the PLNs for their work in the field. Flagler County Public Schools, Middletown City School District, and St Vrain Valley School District each received the ISTE Distinguished District Award. Betsy Corcoran (Co-Founder of EdSurge), Jennie Magiera (Chief Program Officer of EdTechTeam), and Sophia Mendoza (Director, IT Initiative, LA Unified School District), received the ISTE Impact Award. Three educators received the Making It Happen award: Rachelle Dene Poth, Nicol Howard and Doug Casey (below).

On Sunday afternoon, the ISTE Professional Learning Networks had their Community Networking Fair, a great opportunity for members to learn about the different PLNs available through their ISTE membership. Each PLN has members of the team available to share their resources, answer questions and help members to become more connected within the ISTE Community.

Getting Smart, ISTE, and Penn GSE, hosted a Sunday afternoon Future of Work dialog. Ten students (below) that had transformative high school experiences led table discussions about what they had learned and how other learners could gain access to similar experiences.

New features included the badging system which tracked participation in events and a lot of different ways to become involved with the playgrounds and the poster sessions. Many of the Professional Learning Networks offer sessions presented by their team as well as playgrounds focused on different topics. For example, the Teacher Education Network Playground focused on six of their themes from throughout the year including artificial intelligence, assistive technology, AR/VR, connecting technology and pedagogy, digital citizenship and mental health and wellness.

On Monday and Tuesday evening, the PLNs and ed tech company sponsored social hours filled the schedule. Lots of big announcements coming with Flipgrid, the ed tech industry held a two-hour panel discussion split between the edtech company leaders followed by a panel of educator experts presenting on student engagement. The companies involved were Nearpod, Participate, Adobe, Class Link, Flocabulary, Instructure, and Newsela.

On Tuesday evening, Edmodo hosted an event focused on social-emotional learning at the Academy of Natural Sciences of  Drexel University. After hour social events are always a great opportunity for people to become connected and extend the conversations from the conference throughout the day.

ISTE19 is a wrap. It was big and busy. We were happy to see a clear focus on teaching and learning and educational equity. Great to see so many of you there. What was your favorite part of ISTE?

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Google Beefs up Classroom, Begins Certifying Students

Just prior to ISTE, Google announced enhancements to Classroom, a new Chromebook App Hub, and certification program for students. These updates should lead to more robust learning tools for both teachers and their students.

Google for Education has a mission to help improve learning outcomes for students around the world. During the announcement webinar, Jonathan Rochelle who developed Google Docs and is the Director of Product Management for G Suite for Education said “starting in 2006, we began to recognize the value of collaborative productivity for schools, we got a strong pull from educators and students.” In 2013, added Rochelle, “we decided to go deeper for specific needs of educators and started Google Classroom effort and Chromebooks were launched. Today there are 90 million active users for G Suite and 30 million students using Chromebooks.”

Google Classroom: A Full-Featured Learning Platform

The already popular Google Classroom will soon have more features which have been designed with learning outcomes in mind. Google shared that many of the new features are a direct result of what teachers have said they needed. One such need is an easier grading process. As a result, Classroom will soon:

  • Allow teachers to create and grade rubrics. The rubrics will be available in both “Classroom and Course Kit through a beta. Instructors enrolled in the beta program can create a rubric and attach it to an assignment, giving students full visibility into how their work will be evaluated. Instructors can then use rubrics while grading to select rating levels and give consistent and efficient feedback. Alongside comments in Google Docs, rubrics allow educators to provide personalized insights that go beyond an overall grade.” Teachers can learn more by enrolling in the beta program.
  • Have a more robust grade book. Google has been working in beta on Gradebook since last year, and soon it will be rolled out to all Classroom users. With Gradebook, “teachers will be able to customize how grades are calculated in their classes (weighted average or total points-based), set up grade categories for assignments, and share an overall grade with students through a host of new class settings.”
  • Have better SIS integrations. Once enabled by an admin, teachers will only have to enter grades into one system which saves time and ensures accuracy of data. “The early access beta program will be available to schools later this summer, with Infinite Campus and Capita SIMS participating as initial partners, and more SIS partners to follow”

Google also announced that locked mode in Quizzes on Google Forms, which was previously in beta, will be available in August to all G Suite for Education users on managed Chromebooks.

#GoogleClassroom users are already showing their support for the enhancements:

Chromebook App Hub Makes Finding the Best Tools Easy

Chromebooks are being used in classrooms around the world and are robust learning tools for both teachers and students, given the numerous educational apps that can be accessed. Previously, finding the right apps and tools for classroom use could be a daunting task for teachers, but the new Google App Hub should make the process much easier.

Teachers can now quickly find resources — they can search by application type, age range, subject, language, and learning goals.

IT departments can find information on app data and accessibility; there’s even guidance on student data privacy and best practices for developing in Chrome OS. Developers will also soon have a space within the Hub where they can show off their tools and apps. Google is currently working with partners like Epic!, Adobe Spark and Khan Academy who in addition to their app, will also be able to include, “tips for success, differentiated instruction strategies and links to additional resources such as how-to videos, activities and websites.”

Security and transparency are of utmost importance and Google has been working with the “Student Data Privacy Consortium (SPDC) to assist developers considering the student privacy implications of their products,” as well as “the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) and ConnectSafely on guidelines to create healthy digital citizenship habits — a journey parents, students, and teachers take together.”

G Suite Certification Now Available for Students

Educators have long been able to certify their mastery of Google tools and now students ages 13 and up will be able to do the same. Educators can register their class to take the Applied Digital Skills lessons in preparation for the certification exam. Upon passing the exam, students receive a digital badge which signifies their demonstrated knowledge of the G Suite tools. This certification is a great addition for students to add to their portfolio given many schools and businesses are using G Suite tools.

Developing Skills for School, Work and Life Requires a Systematic Approach

Over the last 20 years, I and my fellow reformers have settled on a grounding exercise that has proven effective in establishing shared values for educational outcomes.

When I was at the Buck Institute for Education (now PBLWorks) we developed a workshop activity called the Ideal Graduate. Colleagues such as Ken Kay, founder of both EdLeader21 and the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, and Bernie Trilling, the former global director of the Oracle Education Foundation, employed similar activities. We challenged audience members to create a list of the skills, attributes, and knowledge learners needed to be successful in college, career, and community.

In every country in every context the list of skills, attributes, and knowledge are essentially the same: Our Ideal Graduate is an effective collaborator and communicator who uses creativity and critical thinking to solve problems and generate solutions that are meaningful to themselves and effective for their community.

Thought leaders in this space came to a tacit agreement with audiences, funders, researchers, policymakers, and community members. We agreed on the following:

  • These skills can and should be taught to all learners.
  • All learners deserve equitable opportunity to develop these skills.
  • These skills should be assessed on a regular and systematic basis.
  • These skills are most likely to be enhanced by inquiry-based pedagogies such as Project-Based Learning (PBL).

That’s a glorious list of assumptions, but as always I like to examine assumptions, especially my own. The assumption I currently struggle with involves our understanding of how skills are actually developed. Per my background in PBL, I wrote a Driving Question: Is how we are teaching and encouraging skills actually the way learners develop them?

One of the default assumptions in education is that learners develop skills (and knowledge) the way a toddler learns to climb stairs, i.e., one step at a time. Robert Siegler, a professor of cognitive psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, dismisses the staircase analogy and argues for another in his book Emerging Minds:

“Rather than development being seen as stepping up from Level 1 to Level 2 to Level 3, it is envisioned as a gradual ebbing and flowing of the frequencies of alternative ways of thinking, with new approaches being added and old ones being eliminated as well. To capture this perspective in a visual metaphor, think of a series of overlapping waves, with each wave corresponding to a different rule, strategy, theory, or way of thinking.”

Siegler is not the first researcher to ponder the process of skill development, a line of inquiry that stretches back to the late 1890s. One of the most notable frameworks is called the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition, which was developed by brothers Stuart and Hubert Dreyfus at the University of California in 1980. Their model suggests that learners pass through five stages of skill development:

  1. Novice
  2. Competence
  3. Proficiency
  4. Expertise
  5. Mastery

Six years later they released a book called Mind over Machine in which they made a few changes to the sequence: Novice, Advanced Beginner, Competence, Proficient, Expert. That revision is cast in shadow due to the brothers’ early exploration of A.I. and its significance.

Researchers beyond the field of cognitive psychology who focus on skill development in sports or careers have also generated theories that can inform our current discussion.

Paul Fitts and Michael Posner developed a 3-Phase Model in 1967 framed around the following stages of motor-skill development:

  1. Cognitive phase: Learner breaks down the skill into smaller elements and learns how to combine these elements to perform the task.
  2. Associative phase: Learner begins to understand what works and what doesn’t, enabling them to enhance effective techniques and drop the ineffective.
  3. Autonomous/Procedural phase: Learner perfects the target skill while learning to ignore inputs that are irrelevant via automaticity.

Image Credit: Daniel Patrick (

Dee Tadlock and Rhonda Stone described a Predictive Cycle Model in 2005 that includes four stages. It diverges significantly from the Fitts and Posner model in that the learner does not have to consciously understand the components of a skill. The stages are:

  1. Attempt
  2. Fail
  3. Implicitly analyze the result
  4. Implicitly decide how to change the next attempt so that success is achieved

This discussion should make apparent that a simplistic view of skill development is detrimental to our shared desire for students to develop skills that will serve them well throughout their lives. We should also understand that skill development is an ongoing process that has stages that may entail backsliding per Siegler’s framework. That understanding significantly impacts how we assess these skills and provide meaningful and actionable feedback to learners.

What is a teacher to do? Educators often loudly complain when writers like me broach the topic of industry practices, claiming that the context and purpose of school is so divergent from that of business it makes meaningful transfer impossible. As always, I disagree with that position. We can learn a great deal about skill development from business, including the learning model advocated by a software development company called Callibrity.

Callibrity, like most modern companies, expends vast energy and resources on developing the skills of its workforce. The recommendation list for its employees could easily be adapted to a K-12 or higher ed context.

  • Play: Employees should use a percentage of their regular work time to explore new areas of interest alone or with teammates.
  • Listening: Reading within that area of interest or participating in informal sessions (lunch-and-learn, in industry lingo) are encouraged.
  • Apprenticeship: Mentoring programs or even informal access to a mentor should be encouraged.
  • Classes: Online or face-to-face training in skill development is encouraged.
  • Pairing: A study buddy interested in the same skill enhances the process of learning.
  • External Expertise: Call in a staff development specialist, community member, or expert who can supplement instruction focused on a targeted skill.

Clearly, there are stages to skill development for both adult and young learners. Clearly, we must offer multiple opportunities to develop and hone these skills over time. Trial and error are integral to the process.

We return to our original statement. There is broad consensus on the skills that all learners need to be successful in college, career, and community. That consensus has even breeched the formerly impenetrable wall of federal education policy via the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). These skills, now unleashed by the tulip fever for social-emotional learning, must be taught and assessed. That process should be governed by what we know about how learners develop skills. Let’s all get up and do the wave.

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Agilix’s Publish Anywhere Delivers Learning Content to Any LMS

It’s a familiar story. A school or district wants to use digital learning content and then they are constrained by the Learning Management System (LMS). This can lead to headaches for both the user, and the content provider, as they work to transfer content between LMSes. Imagine doing this for every piece of digital learning content you’re using. Many don’t have to imagine it because it’s their reality. Until now.

Publish Once, Reach Many

Agilix’s new product Publish Anywhere, powered by Buzz, will enable content providers to “deliver best-in-class courses and learning content to customers, regardless of what LMS they use.” Agilix Co-Founder and CEO, Curt Allen said “a lot of customers are constrained to one LMS and as a result, providers have to manage multiple instances of their content in multiple platforms. With Publish Anywhere, content providers can author once and truly have it published anywhere. They will no longer have to worry about maintaining multiple versions and can focus on their content, not on LMS management.”

So what exactly happens in Publish Anywhere? “Content, learning activities, and assessments are delivered via LTI and Thin Common Cartridge to any compatible system. The magic is in the Publish Anywhere player.” The player allows the “learning experience to be embedded into the customer’s system, without the need for content exports, user and enrollment provisioning, or any of the other headaches associated with trying to serve multiple LMS systems.”

A Deeper Look

Publish Anywhere provides a robust solution for content providers and their customers. The seamless behind the scenes work that takes place allows for content to be pushed to customers with fidelity, and reporting and data functionalities are built in.

Agilix has highlighted four capabilities that really set Publish Anywhere apart, and make it a truly relevant option for content providers.

Initial feedback from Publish Anywhere users has been very positive. ResponsiveEd noted, “we tried to create what we have on Buzz in another LMS without success. Being able to create the best courses with Buzz and play them on any LMS with full fidelity is going to really extend our reach in the marketplace. Publish Anywhere is great for learners and great for us!” Similar sentiments were shared by Mawi Learning, “as a new publisher, we immediately recognized that content/LMS compatibility was going to be a difficult problem to solve. Having a partner like Agilix, who enables us to deliver our content anywhere, is exactly what we need. Sharing the data between our solution and the host LMS gives the insight that we wouldn’t otherwise have.”

Getting digital learning content into the hands of teachers and students shouldn’t be a hassle, and Publish Anywhere exists to make the process simplified and seamless. To learn more, be sure to check out the Publish Anywhere webpage.

If you’ve used Publish Anywhere we would love to hear your feedback. What other features would you like to see in a product like this? Share in the comments below.

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