Kahoot!: Kid’s Game That All the Fortune 500 Companies Use

By: Tom Vander Ark & Rachelle Dene Poth

Launched in 2013 at SXSWedu, quiz platform Kahoot! was a hit; it spread virally.

Now, more than half of U.S. teachers and students use Kahoot!

But you probably knew that. What you may not know (we certainly didn’t) is that more than 97% of Fortune 500 companies use Kahoot! for employee engagement and training.

And given the explosive education and corporate use, Norway-based Kahoot! has attracted $59 million in investment from the likes of Microsoft and Disney.

While American startups are obsessed with growth, they’d never announce a revenue target. Kahoot!, on the other hand, announced ambitions of reaching $100 million in revenue by 2022.

Most teachers use Kahoot! for free. There are modest efforts to convert schools to a discounted subscription Pro model. There is also a retail model targeting parents. But most of that revenue growth will come from corporate subscriptions for sales, product, and policy training.

Nordic Game Backstory

Back in 2011, five Scandinavian founders saw a gap in student engagement. They wanted to create a platform that would transform the classroom into a game show with the goal of increasing student engagement.

Back then, some U.S. edu-game makers sunk a fortune into heavyweight multiplayer role playing games. Instead, the Kahoot! strategy was lightweight, low bandwidth device-agnostic games which make it easy for teachers to implement and for students to enjoy in the classroom.

With ambitions to be the ‘Nextflix of learning games,’ Kahoot! recently acquired math learning game platform DragonBox and reading platform Poio.

Why Teachers Love Kahoot!

Using Kahoot!, teachers can take a new approach to delivering instruction, personalizing learning and increasing student engagement. With more than 500 million public questions available, teachers can simply search for a specific question and they will likely find that question or a similar one, making the creation of games even easier.

There are many new features recently shared on August 20 during the Kahoot! Unconference. One new feature that will bring relief to many educators and probably students, too, is auto-save. Many times in class as students were creating their own kahoot quizzes, they forgot to save their work and subsequently lost all of their questions. With a Kahoot! Pro account, teachers can create an entire lesson within the platform. Using the slides feature, teachers can insert one slide between questions as a way to introduce a concept or provide additional content in a gamified environment. Teachers can use the polls feature as a way to gather feedback or for a quick check-in or exit slip. Teachers can share their Kahoot! games with colleagues as well, which adds many more resources for all students.

The new Mix it Up (Pro) feature allows the creator to add different types of questions into the same game, whereas it was only possible to create games with one type of question. In the Mix it up option, question types include quiz, true/false, polls, and slides. Teachers can also create a collaborative kahoot, where students submit a specific question related to a class topic to a spreadsheet. The questions from the spreadsheet are then pushed into a game that can be played in class. Students will enjoy playing with the questions they created.

Some other updates include an increase of the timer to four minutes, allowing for deeper in-class discussion and brainstorming. Questions and answers now have increased character limits, with the increase from 95 to 120 characters for questions, and from 60 to 75 characters for answers.

There are also Kahoot! Studio Collections, which are games created in collaboration with teachers that are ready to play in class. There are currently over 1,000 games available in content areas such as math, ELA, history, and science. There are also more than 1,000 trivia kahoots that can be good options for icebreaker activities and introductions to training sessions.

Why Students Love Kahoot!

students taking Kahoot quiz
Courtesy of Rachelle Dene Poth

Students love using Kahoot!; not only do they enjoy playing, they enjoy creating their own games. When students become creators, they can focus on their specific needs and develop their ability to self-assess while also building technology skills in the process.

When Rachelle introduced Kahoot! to her students in spring 2014, the first day of playing Kahoot! was intense. Students wanted to keep playing and one student actually decided to create his own game to play in his history class the next day. Students were asking to play Kahoot! in each class, every single day. It was after learning about the student-created kahoot that Rachelle first considered the potential for having students create games as a way to build their skills in a more meaningful way.

The new opportunity for students to create games was the start of a transition from students to creators to advocates. Ben Johnson, a ninth grade student at the time, was so impressed with the possibilities for learning that he presented Kahoot! at local and state edtech conferences over a four-year period of time along with some of his classmates. He also had the opportunity to share his take on the benefits of using Kahoot! and its impact on learning by contributing to a blog on the Kahoot! website.

Students enjoy having different ways to practice the content and the best part of these game-based learning tools is that they empower students through more active learning. For teachers, it’s an opportunity to engage students further in the classroom and promote peer collaboration—whether students play individually or as part of a group.

Learn More

Educators can now become Kahoot! Certified. Last year Kahoot! launched its free certification program for educators to become a Kahoot! Certified Educator. Through the Kahoot! professional development program, educators enroll in a course which offers training on all aspects of Kahoot!

Check out Kahoot! With all the corporate usage the company has gained, it’s likely they’ll hit their revenue targets and engage even more people, both young and old.

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Making PBL Stick Part 2: Leading a Reflective Year

By: Jenny Pieratt

Are you an instructional leader looking for small ways to make big shifts that move your staff forward in their project-based learning (PBL) practice this year? Hint: your power move is all about reflection, and I’ve got you covered with practical strategies from the trenches! Consider any number of the following ideas to help you collectively move a group of teachers to the next level of PBL implementation this year.

The Power of a Project Audit

I know the word ‘audit’ feels icky, but by definition, it means an official inspection of an individual’s or organization’s accounts, typically by an independent body. When it comes to our craft looking at all elements of it, with somewhat objective eyes, can lead to big shifts in student outcomes.

You can go about a project audit in many ways, here are just a few of my tried-and-true strategies:

1. Chart characteristics of quality in student work. Ask teachers to bring student work from their most recent project to your next staff meeting. Have each teacher create a three-column chart on poster paper. Each column should be labeled as one of the three components of your staff definition of high quality PBL. Then conduct a silent gallery walk where teachers roam the room analyzing colleagues’ projects and identifying which components of your staff ‘North Star’ are present in the student work they see, listing those components in the corresponding column on the poster paper next to the student work. Teachers can return to their posters and see which columns may be lacking, or perhaps leverage those columns that appear to be ‘Bright Spots.’ Have teachers then use these posters to help inform goals for improving the project next time around.

2. Tag tenets of quality in project work. Have teachers bring student work from their most recent project to your next staff meeting. You can provide a color code key for your North Star to match with sticky notes provided to staff (for example pink = voice and choice, blue = real world connections, yellow = 21st-century skills). Ask the staff to conduct a silent gallery walk in which they place their colorful sticky notes where they see components of the staff definition of quality PBL directly on/in the student work. Teachers can return to their work and do a quick gut check; is there a rainbow of sticky notes? Is there some work that does not have any sticky notes? Those are areas to zoom in on when they refine the project for next time!

3. Do a tuning protocol. I’m yet to run a tuning protocol where the majority of the staff didn’t feel like the feedback they received from colleagues didn’t push their practice and help them improve their project plans. In fact, teachers often beg for these because they are so helpful! in addition to helping teachers reflect, it also serves as a bonus calibration exercise when you create cross-grade or cross-content area groups.

Prior to running any protocols, it’s important to address issues related to staff culture, in particular norms. The norms I often offer up are the following:

  • Hold one another to the protocol
  • Keep it about our craft (not about the teacher)
  • We are better together

Whichever protocol you run, it’s important to have those teachers who are receiving feedback take notes, and then build in time at the end of the protocol to debrief the process as a group, giving teachers time to share feedback with their project planning team and generating goals/next steps based on what they took away from the protocol.

4.  Co-create a staff rubric for reflection. Warning: this can be a messy process, but the risk is worth the reward! In a recent workshop on Project Reflection and Refinement at Lake Elementary, I asked the staff to consider what each of the components of their North Star looked, sounded and felt like. From there, we started brainstorming what student outcomes we would see for each component of the North Star.

As teachers shared their ideas, I attempted to turn them into descriptors for ‘proficient’ in a staff rubric; all in real-time on a projector in front of 45 of them. It was a beautiful mess because it was authentic, I reflected their ideas and their voice and It modeled a best practice they could do with their students in their next project. I then turned over the ‘bones’ of our rubric to become a teacher reflection tool that the school leadership team could continue to work on and use in their next project reflection professional development exercise.

These four steps toward building in collective reflection can lead to big wins not only for student outcomes, but your professional culture as well! Do you have other ideas for staff reflection that you have tried or want to try? Comment below and share. After all, we are better together.

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Jenny Pieratt is the president and founder of CraftEd. You can find her on Twitter at @Crafted_JennyPieratt


What is Mastery Learning?

By: Scott Ellis

Mastery learning is THE transformational education innovation of our time. At its core, mastery learning enables students to move forward at their own pace as they master knowledge, skills, and dispositions. Effective implementation at scale will completely change how students learn, how teachers teach, and how schools work. It will revolutionize state testing, education research, and the labor market. It will transform how curricula are developed, how learning is measured, and how teachers are trained.

Yes, it is THAT big.

That is why it is so critical, and also why it is so difficult.

Recently an education colleague said to me, “I don’t understand why you talk about mastery learning as if it is so new. You act like you suddenly discovered fire—but fire has been around for a long time. So has mastery learning.” She’s right. Mastery learning as a concept and even as an instructional practice is not new, it has been around since at least the 1960s. If we think about licensure more broadly, the requirement of demonstrating mastery has existed where it mattered for centuries, from medieval guilds to modern driver’s licenses.

Over the last several years, a growing number of teachers, schools, and systems across the country have gradually started to move in this direction, with increasing awareness of mastery learning and its potential benefits for students and teachers. But it is challenging work. Most schools still use letter grades and manage the education process based on seat time requirements and pacing guides where teachers teach groups of students the same content at the same time. The entire system, including college admissions, scholarships, financial aid, and athletic eligibility, expects traditional grade point averages and often translates them into a four-point score. The current system is driven by teaching rather than learning, and all of its complex and deeply-rooted systems and practices are based on this paradigm. Educators have heard of mastery learning and some have even tried it, but America’s education system is not mastery-based.

Why a Mastery Learning Approach is the Future of Student Instruction

Over the past several years, educators have heard about and increasingly been exposed to terms like personalized learning and blended learning. These are closely related to mastery learning and often include concepts like differentiated instruction and the effective use of real-time data. Competency-based education and proficiency-based education are often used as synonyms for mastery learning in different regions and by various groups. But the essential and truly transformational element in all of these is the same: enabling students to move forward at their own pace as they master content.

Today, through technology, tools, and expertise, we have the ability to scale this model at a national level. We have reached a point where for the first time we could implement mastery learning across the entire American education system. We have defined the required elements and all the pieces exist.

The question is: will we choose to do it?

It will require innovation—in software tools, classroom practices, and policies. And innovation is challenging, especially in education.

Enabling Mastery Learning Strategies with Technology

Over the past several years we have made tremendous progress as a country in implementing the enablers necessary for mastery learning. More schools than ever before have sufficient internet connectivity to enable online systems to be an essential component of classroom learning. Laptops and tablets are widely available, and students (and increasingly teachers) are very comfortable using them. Teacher practices like rotation models and data-driven instruction have been defined, and many coaching organizations exist to help educators implement these practices effectively. Many software and online learning platforms have been developed and widely adopted as part of daily classroom learning.

The pieces are in place; the ecosystem is ready. It is now time to take the next step in the journey of innovation. System-wide implementation will, of course, require action at state, district, and school levels to address thorny topics like mastery-based high school transcripts, transitions from traditional grades to mastery-based measures of progress, alignment with parents and school boards about expectations, and numerous other critical issues. But an important catalyst to support this essential work is clarity about what exactly happens in the classroom. How do the student, the teacher, the learning resources, and the data actually interact on a daily basis to nurture the kind of mastery learning we are seeking? As the sector gets more experience the answers are getting clearer. It is time to transform America’s education system and implement mastery learning at scale.

What is required for this to happen?

5 Key Elements of Mastery Learning at Scale

In addition to continued implementation of the enablers described above, five key elements need to be present for mastery learning to occur at scale:

1. Specific, clear, demonstrable learning objectives. We must be clear what we want students to know and be able to do when learning has successfully occurred. Traditional high-level standards do not enable mastery learning; greater precision is essential.

2. Clear mastery thresholds for each learning objective. Students and educators need to know exactly what mastery means and how we know when the student is ready to move on to the next learning objective. Historically we have been mushy in our thinking about this topic; we must be clear. This applies to all learning objectives–the simple objectives that require computation and memorization as well as the very advanced objectives that require complex collaborative synthesis and application. All objectives must have clear mastery thresholds!

3. Clear processes for students to demonstrate mastery. The processes must be fully scalable: for every student and every learning objective. This also works to ensure equitable access for all learners.

4. Clear processes for teachers to assess mastery. These processes must also be fully scalable so it is feasible for teachers to assess mastery for every student and every learning objective (remembering that some students may need multiple attempts to demonstrate mastery depending on their level of readiness and the potential variety of assessment options available).

5. A system to effectively organize and display the data about mastery-based student learning progress. The data must be immediately and easily available to students, teachers, principals, and parents.

Once these elements are in place, mastery learning can occur. And once mastery learning systems are in place, they will improve over time. As teachers become accustomed to teaching in a mastery-based system, they will get better at using effective classroom practices and continue to hone their craft. Curricula will re-align to specific learning objectives and mastery thresholds, and they will support mastery-based teaching and learning more effectively. As schools generate and then review data about mastery-based student learning progress, they will be able to identify promising practices to adopt and scale. These parts of the system do not need to be in place at the beginning, but rather will develop over time. But without the five key elements described above, mastery learning simply cannot occur at scale.

None of these elements are particularly revolutionary or complex at first glance. However, very few of them actually exist today at scale or in ways that are scalable.

But innovation is starting. The enablers are in place.

The time has come.

For more, see:

This blog is part two of a series on mastery learning, sponsored by MasteryTrack. If you’d like to learn more about our policies and practices regarding sponsored content, please email Jessica Slusser. For other posts in the series see:


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Scott Ellis is the Founder and CEO of MasteryTrack. You can find him on Twitter: @MasteryTrack.


Acton Academy: Hero Launch Pad Goes Global

“We believe each person who enters Acton Academy will find a calling that changes the world.”

In a world where most schools have mission statements about preparation for a fuzzy future, the Acton Academy promise is shockingly bold and full of agency.

The promise is that through Socratic dialogs and experiential learning, each member of the Acton community will begin a Hero’s Journey; discover precious gifts and a commitment to mastery; become a curious, independent, lifelong learner; embrace the forging of a strong character; cherish the arts, the physical world, and the mysteries of life; and treasure economic, political, and religious freedom.

That robust promise has activated the Austin microschool for a decade. Launched by Jeff and Laura Sandefer (@LauraSandefer) out of frustration about educational options for their own children, Acton Academy is now the flagship of a global school network with more than 185 ‘owner’ partners in 30 states and 20 countries.

Guiding the Hero’s Journey

Drawing inspiration from the classics, the ‘Hero’s Journey’ is the archetypal series of adventures every human yearns to experience. It describes life at Acton where learners prepare for the challenges, opportunities and adventures of the real world.

The Acton model relies heavily on self-directed learning with a lot of peer feedback—older students help younger students set and monitor goals. Teaching by lecturing or issuing instructions is not allowed at Acton.

Sandefer recently explained, “Unlike a traditional teacher, the ways in which a guide can intervene in the studio are strictly limited.”

A guide’s role is to model behavior that leads to self-directed learning. Every morning, guides welcome each learner by name with a friendly welcome, direct eye contact and a firm handshake.

Guides may offer a morning, midday and afternoon ‘launch,’ a short inspiration, challenge or introduction to tools or processes. Guides may provide coaching on the energy or intentionality of learning in the studio. They may showcase a learner as a role model or turn over more responsibility to learners.

While they do not assign grades or rank students, guides ask tough questions, “Is that the best you can do?” and invite a student to try again if the answer is “no.”

Acton learners earn Servant Leader Badges that celebrate the development of heroic character and signify earned freedom and responsibility. In middle school, for example, a badge is awarded when a learner leads a Socratic dialog. Launch Pad (high school) learners could earn a badge when they lead a campuswide improvement project.

Guides encourage Acton learners to ask three big questions:

  • Did I accomplish something meaningful?
  • Was I a good person?
  • And, Whom did I love and who loved me?

Acton learners earn points for displaying focused effort. They receive feedback from peers and guides on their contribution to the studio. In addition to the academic progress charts that line each classroom, the health and effectiveness of the school community are monitored by survey.

The intentionally limited role of guides encourage self-directed learning and yields a low-cost staffing model that keeps the school affordable for many families.

Skill Sprints, Dialogs and Quests

Younger students have big blocks (2.5-3 hours daily) for individual work on core skills—reading, writing and math. Goal setting, points and badges motivate progress. A suite of adaptive tools support individual progress on skill development.

The goal is to unlock an intrinsic love of reading. During “Drop Everything And Read” time, elementary students occasionally read from a list of “Badge Books.” Middle school and high school learners are required to pitch their individual choices to studio mates for approval to ensure adequate challenge. After reading, learners lead a “Between the Lines” literary critique.

Acton learners become powerful communicators by observing world-class examples, practicing in many genres and vehicles, through peer critique, and by writing for public audiences.

A big afternoon block gives learners a chance to take on quests—challenging hands-on projects that give Acton learners the opportunity to apply skills. The four- to six-week projects are bounded by a compelling narrative and designed to deliver 21st century skills.

Middle school quests might include diagnosing patients in a biology quest or designing a floor plan for a new school in an architecture quest.

Acton learners practice critical thinking and powerful writing and speaking through deep Socratic discussions about heroes, history, and self-governance. They are asked to make and defend difficult real-world decisions building habits and mindsets that forge character.

Each year, the Acton community shares an overarching question (e.g., what does it mean to be human; is truth discovered or created?) that helps learners explore what it means to be a hero and focuses attention for the year.

Acton promotes authentic relationships through written promises and covenants that form a tightly bound community around four character traits:

  • self-directed (responsible),
  • warm-hearted (kind),
  • tough-minded (honest),
  • and antifragile (resilient).

Acton learners hold themselves accountable with public exhibitions at the end of each quest and a portfolio of quality work. They may also participate in outside competitions.

Acton Academy could serve as a cost-effective model for other schools worldwide.

A Big Idea Going Global

The small innovative school with a big promise is catching on. The global attraction has been the Acton belief that “each person has a gift that can change the world in a profound way” and a learning model focused on learning to learn, learning to do and learning to be.

The cost-effective model has the potential to deliver more powerful learning experiences than traditional private education. The Sandefers have received over 18,000 applications to join the network.

Owners enroll their own children and pay a $15,000 fee and 3% of ongoing revenue. Owners gain access to detailed guidebooks and over 20,000 pages of learning challenges. They install cameras in classrooms to ensure compliance with Acton principles.

After adding 50 new schools this fall, the tiny Acton Academy team is gearing up to onboard 150 new schools each year thereafter.

Acton is the leading example of four important trends in learning:

  • Microschools: tiny schools with powerful relationships
  • Organizing learning as skill sprints, projects, and dialogs rather than discipline-based courses;
  • Growth community: a commitment to individual and collective growth; and
  • Purposeful education that is both student-centered and character-based.

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This post was originally published on Forbes.


Dare to Imagine: The First Global School Opens in D.C. and Shenzhen

“Our job is to build the first modern school—not a little better but fundamentally, radically better.” That was Chris Whittle’s charge to the founding faculty of a new global school opening in September in Washington, D.C. and Shenzhen, China. 

“The campuses represent the best thinking from around the world,” said Whittle. His hunch is that the inaugural campuses will offer an education dramatically better than current options. He wonders if, like improvements in computing power, it could become 10 times better. 

“A network beats an individual school,” said Whittle. “A system of schools can do so much more.” Whittle explained that it’s not about economies of scale; it’s about achieving higher quality than possible as individual school. 

Whittle School & Studio is the global school that Chris Whittle spent the last 40 years preparing to build. He describes his prior work building schools, networks, and companies as the trek to Mount Everest base camp—and setting the stage for an extraordinary opportunity. 

As a design partner, there’s a lot we like about the Whittle School. It features project-based and personalized learning that uses the host city as the classroom. It connects local issues to global themes—and soon will have Centers of Excellence around the world staffed with leading experts. Whittle learners will be able to connect with experts at other campuses and even travel to and study at other campuses. In addition to travel, a commitment to global competence also means dual language immersion opportunities.  

The Studio part of the name refers no only to the integrated design ethic but also the great makerspaces which are open to community learners. 

The other features we’re excited about are the extraordinary talent that Whittle has assembled and the culture and the advisory system they are developing.

Getting to Know You

From the beginning, Whittle wanted this network to have the best guidance system in the world. He explained to his faculty, “We will know each of our children—their hopes and fears; we will know each of them deeply, our school will become their school.”

Whittle learners will meet with their advisors four days each week. These intimate gatherings will build community and interdependence and foster life literacies—the skills for flourishing. The advisory process will also provide every student with at least 15 minutes of one-on-one planning time with an advisor every week. 

Whittle designers treated advisory as a new discipline, “…a set of practices in enriched contexts from which emerge learners on the path to living the Whittle graduate profile.”

Courtesy of Whittle School & Studio.

Learners will keep a learning journal. Advisors will help learners weigh personal projects and will stay in touch with parents. 

Elementary advisory reflections include “Where am I at my best?” and “How can I help others?” 

The first few weeks of middle and upper school advisory periods will reflect on “How is my transition going?” and “How can I help others?”

Remarkable Talent

Whittle learners will have remarkable experiences because the founding faculty is a remarkable assemblage of some of the best educators in the world.  

Internationally renowned historian and anthropologist Nick Dirks served as the 10th chancellor of UC Berkeley until mid-2017. He joined Whittle as its chancellor for the opportunity to reimagine learning and build a genuinely global institution. 

“We believe that each human being has magnificent potential,” said Vice Chancellor Jim Hawkins. “We see the uniqueness and value in every one of us.”

Hawkins joined Whittle a year ago after leading two famous U.K. boarding schools that between them had 1,300 years of history. Hawkins engaged the founding faculty in a values dialogue, urging them to forge deep and meaningful connections and bonds “deepening our understanding of both ourselves and the world.” 

“We dare to imagine, to challenge current paradigms, to search out great thinking and practices, and to relentlessly imagine how things could be better tomorrow than they are today,” Hawkins said.

Before joining Whittle, Vice Chancellor Rebecca Upham led Buckingham Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge for 17 years. She hosted a faculty dialogue about how the Whittle curriculum reflects the priority skills for the future of work. 

Whittle’s Head of School in D.C. Dennis Bisgaard worked at leading U.S. schools for 30 years. He speaks five languages and has lived and worked in Denmark, Germany, and Canada.  Bisgaard discussed the importance of safety and a sense of belonging. With a global student body, Bisgaard urged faculty to hold multiple realities as both host and guest. 

Before joining Whittle as its global head of enrollment, marketing, and communications, Li Jing was secretary-general at YK Pao School, China’s top independent school. She urged the founding faculty to maintain what global consulting firm Bain & Company calls the founder’s mindset: fast, agile and adaptable. 

If you’re in Washington, D.C. this fall, visit the Whittle School campus on NW Connecticut Avenue at Tilden Street. The campus—one of what’s likely to be three dozen in the world’s great cities—is just the beginning. The Whittle School will be the first school that gets better as it gets bigger: a network effect of expanding opportunity and a global learning community. 

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Making PBL Stick Part 1: All It Takes is 5 Minutes

As we ramp up for the back to school season, I’m certain that your mind and heart is filled with a ton of ideas that you want to try this year to make it the best year yet. As your checklist grows it’s easy to get swept away with action items; however, I want to encourage you to think about how you might stop the inertia and consider the power of pause. If you want to make project-based learning (PBL) stick this year for your staff it will depend upon your ability to weave in time to hurry up and slow down throughout the year. Can you spare five minutes at the beginning or end of your monthly staff meeting agendas for a little teacher reflection? I bet you can! And if all you have is five minutes, let’s make the most out of it by living the PBL model with your teachers (that makes it a two-for-one teaching and learning special!)

Live the model: Project Reflection in 5

PBL Works has a great student project reflection that I often use when I run Project Reflection and Refinement workshops. When we engage in student PBL practices (with our teacher cap on) we are forced to be reflective and think about how our students are experiencing teaching and learning. When I’m running these workshops I ask teachers to use my version of the Project Reflection worksheet in the same way their students would, with an easy swap of some language so that it reads as if they are thinking about how their project plans were received by students, and how they as a designer can continue to learn and grow from that experience. I take the worksheet one step further and ask teachers to then generate three specific goals for how they will improve not only this project, but other projects in the future.

You can use these goals throughout the year in the following ways:

  • Ask teachers to revisit their personal growth goals for the  year
  • To guide PLC professional learning plans for the year [I bet their goals map onto one of CraftED’s PBL on Demand e-courses!]
  • To revisit their Scope and Sequence and pacing guides-what needs to be reworked?
  • To do an in-depth project tune to improve their project plans for the year.
  • To inform where they would like support in their PBL efforts this year

All of this good stuff can come from just FIVE minutes in your first staff meeting this year. Now that’s what I call juice that’s worth the squeeze!

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Jenny Pieratt is the President and founder of CraftEd. You can find her on Twitter at @Crafted_JennyPieratt


Climate Collapse: Is AI the Antidote?

“It is worse, much worse, than you think,” said David Wallace-Wells, author of The Uninhabitable Earth, about the climate crisis.

Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history—and the rate of species extinction is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely, warns a landmark new UN report.

The climate crisis is biological, ecological and political. It’s at least catastrophic, if not existential (more likely a contributing factor to existential risk) according to scientists at the University of Cambridge’s Center for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER), and it will take a portfolio of efforts to begin mitigating the impending disasters.

In this five-part series on trends in learning, we’ve covered 12 trends at various stages of maturity, but none of them compare to the climate crisis—nothing is more important or more imminent. This post considers four impacts of the climate crisis on education.

1. Climate becomes an education priority. The climate crisis will be the most dominant issue in the lives of young people. It will monopolize the weather, the science, and—after it becomes painfully obvious to even the climate deniers—the politics of the next 30 years.

Category Mega Trends Emerging Trends Adjacent Trends Next Trends
Global crisis Climate collapse Populism v activism AI capabilities Adaptation
Aims New goals Contribution Inclusion/equity Responsive
Strategies Active learning Immersive learning Lifelong learning Lean
Measures Competency Success skills Quantified life Social economy
Supports Integrated services Guidance Mindfulness Growth communities

Teachers in the U.S. have shied away from exposing the crisis to students for fear of political condemnation. An NPR/Ipsos poll found that 55% of teachers don’t teach or talk about climate change. However, four in five parents wish they did.

Given the widespread implications, the climate collapse will become central to learning in science, math and social studies. Consider holding a community conversation and making climate a priority in your school sooner rather than later.

2. Populism vs. activism. The global tilt toward populism and nationalism is short-sighted; it is instead a political sugar rush, right at the inflection period during which we have a (continually diminishing) chance to stave off complete climate disaster, but only with a rapid, coordinated comprehensive response.

Education can help young people figure out who they are, what they are good at, what the world needs, and what they care about—and help them make their initial contribution. Greta is the model: the planet is on fire, the time for action is now.

3. Can AI save the planet? The rise of artificial intelligence—code that learns—is the most important technical capability ever developed. It is driving what the World Economic Forum calls the Fourth Industrial Revolution: the disruption of every sector of human society with a good news, bad news story. It holds the promise of extraordinary benefits, from curing diseases to unlocking clean energy. But like climate collapse, it is a catastrophic risk that needs to be thoughtfully managed, starting now.

Will AI help reverse the climate crisis? Simon Beard and Haydn Belfield at CSER warn against tech optimism as an excuse for anything but a full portfolio response. With that in mind, AI is:

AI will help combat the climate crisis, but it won’t save us. In fact, the combination of AI-accelerated income inequality and flood, famine and fire caused by climate collapse is likely to be catastrophic (and, as a result, we should let young people in on the fact that we’ve made a mess of the place).

4. Adaptation. In The Archipelago of Hope, Gleb Raygorodetsky reveals the links between indigenous cultures and their lands and how it can form the foundation for climate change resilience around the world. Perhaps indigenous people are a model for how we can start planning for life on a hotter planet with chaotic weather.

The education answer is to teach young people the design skills to mitigate and adapt to the damage we’ve created.

But we don’t have much time—perhaps a decade—for comprehensive coordinated action. “We are the last generation that can prevent irreparable damage to our planet,” General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés.

“Our future is in your hands; do not let the hope of the world be in vain,” concluded Sheddona Richardson, the youth representative to the U.S. for Grenada.

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This post was originally published on Forbes.


Eduprotocols: Facilitating Student Collaboration, Creativity and Ownership

If you looked at a teacher’s lesson plans and saw Cyber Sandwich, Iron Chef or BookaKucha, would you think you were seeing learning activities or new reality tv culinary programs? Well, these are definitely about learning, but they represent some very unique approaches.

Traditionally, teachers have wrestled with how to get students to effectively and accurately complete work. Teachers want learning experiences that are rigorous, academic and completed in a timely manner. Students want things to be interesting, engaging, social, relevant, collaborative and maybe even enjoyable. Enter Eduprotocols.

Longtime learning pioneer Jon Corippo teamed up with a lifelong teacher and coach Marlena Hebern to create Eduprotocols – a series of prescribed workflows and systems that are content-agnostic. Regardless of grade level, subject area of specific content, these protocols are designed to allow any teacher, as well as any group of students, to not only engage with the content but produce high quality and collaborative work. And although they introduce these protocols in now a best-selling book, with the 2nd installment coming out any day, they are really intended to be field guides. Rather than theory, these are a set of instructional workflows that will accomplish both teacher goals and student interests.

The Field Guide

The Eduprotocol Field Guide: 16 Student-Centered Lesson Frames for Infinite Learning Possibilities was published in 2018 and features classroom-tested customizable lesson-frames for any subject or grade to break up clichéd lesson plans, build culture, and deliver content to K-12 students in a supportive, creative environment.

In addition to the aforementioned, these instructional frames also include names like Fast & Curious, The Frayer Method, 8 Parts, and Sketch & Tell among others. The impetus, according to Corippo, to publish and share these protocols came from the desire to memorialize the techniques that they discovered that made teaching far more enjoyable and less taxing while being much more successful for the learners.

The Impetus Explained

The core concept can be narrowed down to not working harder, but smarter. Or, as the authors suggest, it’s about just teaching better. “We have decades of data that shows that school, and learning, as we know it, has really stalled,” said Corippo.

He argues that changes like NCLB, CCSS, 1:1 Technology and more have done very little, if anything, to move the needle on student achievement. “Eduprotocols are ways to get this all fixed, as well as effectively integrate technology,” he said.

Tech integration is a big part of this. According to both creators, there is lots of published work on instruction and technology, but very little on how to do both well.

“We want to share this new lesson design and instructional approach that both integrates technology and better student workflows,” added Hebern. “We also wanted something that works across all disciplines, grade levels, and content areas.”

The Why Revealed

Eduprotocols is also designed to address one of the biggest competing intersections in education. According to these authors, students are underperforming while teachers are being overworked. This leads to more and more frustration while continuing to increase both the student underperformance and teacher workload.

“We are providing ways to lower the cognitive load through practice while simultaneously increasing student engagement, student/teacher interaction, feedback, and coaching opportunities,” said Corippo.

These protocol pioneers suggest that more interaction and feedback creates the means for student growth. “Our students need to be more creative, collaborative and better critical thinkers. The model of talking to them and memorizing is not going to produce what the world needs,” said Corippo. “This is about getting them to work and assume more of the workload – in some engaging and interactive ways.”

Connections

These classroom-tested lesson frames are meant to be used in tandem with other implementations. Hebern quickly points out that Eduprotocols are not a curriculum, but rather a lesson design approach like Madeline Hunter or Kagan Structures. “The teacher brings the what, Eduprotocols are simply the how,” said Hebern.

Additionally, Eduprotocols are designed with college readiness and higher-level thinking skills in mind…skills that are necessary for things like successful project-based learning implementation.

“Deeper Learning is a natural outgrowth of Eduprotocol classrooms where students are continuously researching, summarizing, presenting and creating,” said Corippo. “These lesson frames are the building blocks for what makes great long-term, inquiry-based learning.”

These protocols foster and support an environment of relevant, collaborative learning that models the work that they will be engaged in for the rest of their professional lives, according to  Corippo. He cites such key components as the high level of peer and adult interaction, creativity, success, feedback, executive function, access, and even grace. “See if that list describes what students you know are getting in their classrooms,” said Corippo. “It’s simple but profoundly different.”

The Reaction

One does not need to look past the #eduprotocols on Twitter to discover many enthusiastic testimonials from diverse practitioners such as high school AP teachers to primary grade leaders. And although Corippo and Hebern are not averse to selling books or gaining a loyal online community, they both say the excitement is in the everyday teacher users who are making teaching and learning more enjoyable, engaging and successful for all.

“Eduprotocols provides a new way for them to create and expand the ways that students are using technology- they like to take our basic protocols and grow them,” said Hebern. “Many teachers are not ‘techie’ and the Eduprotocols provide a clear path forward for those who could not previously see a way forward in the classroom.”

Coriippo added that they are both consistently amazed by not only how teachers respond, but even students. “I overheard a student in class recently say that working with these (Eduprotocols) are not like regular school work – I really like it,” said Corippo.

School districts are also beginning to formally include Eduprotocols in their district-adopted curriculum. When the Union School District in San Jose, CA was looking for the best new instructional strategies available to incorporate district-wide, they looked at how this might be perfect to activate and maximize their 1:1 device environment.

“Eduprotocols incorporate Universal Design For Learning and hit all of the 4 C’s with high student engagement,” said Andrew Schwab, Union School District’s Associate Superintendent, Learning & Innovation. “They provided us an accessible set of strategies that we could standardize across the district as a core component of our ELA adoption while also being applicable to every other subject.”

In Action

According to the authors, The first book was the starter kit to get the basic concept out there for educators to start using and sharing. Eduprotocol Field Guide Book 2 offers 12 new protocols, as well as new sections on things as diverse as adapting this work to enhance things like UDL, blending protocols and teacher sharing. In the future, Corippo and Hebern indicate that more specialized editions are in the works including ideas such as one for pre-service teachers.

You can find more information about Eduprotocols books and resources here. There is also a very active community on Twitter @EduProtocols or following the #eduprotocols.

Ultimately, Corippo and Hebern emphasize that this is about the process of learning. “The classrooms that are consistently using these protocols are seeing student skills bloom and digital work develop accordingly,” said Hebern.

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Does Mastery Mean Mastered?

Ask a teacher, “How do you know your students can add fractions?” Ask a project manager, “How do you know if team members are really collaborating?”

It is challenging to define competencies that are clear and signal important priorities without being oversimplified. Assessing and tracking skills is complicated. In a Common Core Toolkit, standards authors warned that “fragmenting the Standards into individual standards, or individual bits of standards, erases all these relationships and produces a sum of parts that is decidedly less than the whole.” They worried about their rich standards being turned into checklists.

If one of our goals is for students to be challenged every day and to master important skills, they need a better way to progress through school than counting birthdays.

For demonstrations of mastery to be the standard mechanism for progress and foundational architecture of the K-12 education system, getting standards and assessments right is key—but it’s enormously difficult, particularly within the scope of a system transformation.  When considering the challenging transformational shift to a new learning model such as competency-based education (CBE), determining mastery for competencies is critical for success. In an overview of K-12 CBE, Competency Works and iNACOL define CBE as:

  • Students advance upon demonstrated mastery;
  • Competencies include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students;
  • Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students;
  • Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs; and
  • Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application and creation of knowledge, along with the development of important skills and dispositions.

Interwoven into these traits is the need to provide strong assessment protocols to recognize learning needs, and to celebrate learning growth. Both of these are essential for building learner agency and both are ideally communicated in progress reports, data dashboards, and report cards.

Making the shift to a mastery grading system requires strong protocols, transparent and consistent communication, and supportive policies. Any grading system must be rooted in a defined learning model to be truly impactful; a learning model that defines graduate outcomes, instructional practices, and recording/reporting systems. Choosing the right digital management systems is a critical step in moving toward a CBE system. Whether a district is considering a learning management system or a stand-alone assessment dashboard, the choice will be impactful for learning systems. All but a few recent learning platforms were not designed for personalized and competency-based learning.  Supporting good practices with the right tools continues to be a challenge for the sector.

In CBE, learning organizations strive to define mastery beyond philosophical terms. Systems need to define what showing mastery means and what rating systems are used for communication, such as defined likert scales, rubrics or scoring guides. Systems should also consider how often a learner needs to show mastery and the variation of assessments. Mastery will then describe the level of achievement of a particular standard or how well a student needs to know something in order to apply that skill. These protocols can be defined within instructional learning models or in an assessment framework.

When CBE receives criticism, it’s often focused on the grain size of the targeted learning objectives and to what level it is assessed. Mastery within a competency system is focused on application and creating a larger body of knowledge. Competencies should emphasize the application of skill and lead to an understanding of theories or conceptual knowledge. Mastery is defined in terms of application and retention, not checklists.

Organizations transitioning to a CBE system will require a transcript translation for Carnegie crediting. While there are varied beliefs on the importance of this translation, learners still live in a world that uses this benchmark for postsecondary pathways. In addition to this understanding, learners may leave or transfer out of a system for a variety of reasons and reporting systems must be in place to appropriately capture their learning for their next learning organization.

Over the next several weeks, we’ll be exploring what mastery is and how it is determined, recorded and managed through various blogs related to mastery. Stay tuned for new content and please let us know if this is something your learning organization has been tackling. We’d love to hear from you; comment below or join the conversation on Twitter using #MasteryLearning.

Lastly, we’re excited to share that Getting Smart readers have been given advanced access to the MasteryTrack Grant Program! The deadline is October 1, 2019 and MasteryTrack has made available a series of support sessions to help you learn more about the grant and get access to technical assistance. Click here to register.

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This blog is part one of a series on mastery, sponsored by MasteryTrack. If you’d like to learn more about our policies and practices regarding sponsored content, please email Jessica Slusser. For other posts in the series see:


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Service Learning: Designed to Motivate and Inspire

By: Liz Pitofsky

Part of the thrill of facilitating The Service Learning Project (SLP) is seeing the incredibly positive impact on youth of all ages, and there are consistent trends: Students are excited to participate in, but even more so to lead, the process. They are passionate about working together to help solve a social problem of their choice. And they are energized by the opportunity to share their proposals for change with adults in their schools and communities.

“Thank you for letting us express what we think problems are…
Thank you for giving me the confidence that I have now…
Thank you for teaching me that I will be heard if I speak up…
I wouldn’t have cared about this topic if you didn’t come.”
– SLP 4th graders

Why are children and teens so highly motivated by service learning or action civics? Research conducted by Paul Pintrich, University of Michigan professor of education and psychology, points to five essential elements of student motivation, all of which are fundamental to service learning, civics education and the SLP model.

Self-Efficacy

According to the theory of self-efficacy, if students expect to do well, they will try harder, engage more deeply and show more persistence. On the other hand, if students don’t believe they can do something, they find it easier to quit or to feel that a task is impossible.

Service learning and the SLP model promotes student self-efficacy in multiple ways: First, at each step of the process, our faculty convey optimism about the general capacity of young people to create positive change, while also sharing stories about successful projects completed by other SLP participants.  Second, we emphasize the unique power young people have to capture the attention of adult decision-makers, which is confirmed during the research phase when students engage with adults who are often moved by their passion and determination. Third, we provide concrete and realistic feedback so that students do not feel overwhelmed by trying new tasks. Similarly, we make sure students do not attempt a new task, such as interviewing an adult working in their school, without sufficient preparation for the challenges that may arise.

Self-Determination and Personal Control

Not surprisingly, research also shows that students who believe they have more personal control of their own learning are more likely to engage. In an SLP project, students drive every step beginning with the selection of the social issue to be tackled. Although faculty guide the process, we ask students to take the lead by deciding what questions to research, which people to interview, which solutions to explore, etc.  Even with our younger students, who may not be quite ready to direct the process, we offer multiple options to choose from and then, at each step, follow the path about which they are most enthusiastic.

Similarly, SLP students have tremendous autonomy. Any task, big or small, that a student can handle, we give them the space to do so.  Whether it’s collecting information from their peers, facilitating a group discussion or editing a public service announcement (PSA), we encourage our young advocates to take charge and remind them throughout the process that the adults in the room are there merely to assist them in the process. This is very exciting, especially for young people who are accustomed to the more adult-driven approach of traditional classroom settings, and very effective in building their enthusiasm for the project.

Personal and Situational Interest

Tapping into personal interest is, of course, an excellent way to motivate students, which is one of the reasons our model requires that students choose the social issue to be tackled.

Situational interest, on the other hand, refers to how interested students are in specific tasks.  By allowing youth to take the lead in determining which activities to pursue, mixing up the activities throughout the process, and adjusting the focus, as needed, to evolve with the students’ growing knowledge about the issue, we ensure that the project stays interesting for our participants.

Value Calculations

Students want their work to be important and not busy work. With each activity, we make sure students understand why we’re doing it and how it will help advance their project. We also take any opportunity for students to appreciate how skills they are developing can be used outside of the SLP process in their academic and personal lives.

Goal Orientation

Students pursue many different goals in the classroom, both individual and social. Individual performance goals that are achieved through action civics include opportunities to demonstrate ability, receive recognition and compare individual progress with that of their peers.

Because social ‘success’ can be strongly related to effort and achievement, peer interaction is key to maintaining student motivation. Small group activities, which make up a significant part of the SLP process, are effective because they promote a sense of belonging to the group, demonstrate responsibility within the group, and provide emotional and cognitive support as needed during a particular activity.

Through work with SLP, we have seen the power of action civics and service learning on increasing the motivation of students. It is my hope that every student will one day experience the benefits of a service learning or action civics project—the benefits to students are profound.

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Liz Pitofsky is the founder of the Service Learning Project (SLP), a Brooklyn-based civic engagement program for youth in grades K-12. You can find them on Twitter at @TheSLPNYC.