How Simulations Can Decrease Faculty Workload and Increase Employers’ Confidence

By: Don Fraser

At Education Design Lab, we believe in the importance of intentionally training learners in 21st-century skills. We help colleges and universities design programs, micro-credentials and micro-pathways tied to employers’ needs and that can stack to a full degree. We rely on micro-credentialing to make that learning visible to educators and employers, but micro-credentialing is still in its infancy and has a tough nut yet to crack for institutions to scale them.

In recent years, and fueled by the pandemic, higher education has been coming around to the idea that they need to begin offering more discrete credentials and the process of unpacking a degree, boiling it down to component parts, and offering digital badges for those parts as they’re mastered. This allows students to earn value along the way, rather than at the completion of a course or a degree. This approach is particularly useful in validating a student’s mastery of 21st-century skills, which tend not to be taught in a class of their own, but implicitly within course and majors.

The problem in the world of micro-credentialing is that assessment when done correctly, is a complicated process. Professors are already doing a lot of assessments, or they’re bringing in a teaching assistant because they need additional capacity to handle the grading of assessments. In many cases, that additional assessing and grading could be a non-starter for institutions interested in offering rigorous micro-credentials.

To solve that challenge, we partnered with Hope College and Muzzy Lane, a company that provides a platform and other support to help educators create simulations for students to practice and assess skills, to pilot the use of simulations for assessing critical thinking skills. Here’s how it worked.

Why Simulations?

From our years of research, one thing we’ve learned from employers is that performance-based assessments are the most effective way to evaluate and display competency in 21st-century skills, so we worked with employers and developed a set of assessments they’d find useful. We offer micro-credentials in eight of these skills:

  • Initiative
  • Creative Problem-Solving
  • Collaboration
  • Intercultural Fluency
  • Resilience
  • Oral Communication
  • Empathy
  • Critical Thinking

Those assessments were good, but not great, mainly because they were time-intensive to administer and to grade.

A friend had introduced me to Muzzy Lane and the learning and assessment simulations they helped educators build, and we began to think that simulations might solve that challenge for us. So we began creating scenarios that someone might encounter in the workplace based on the earlier assessment we’d created. We chose to start with critical thinking because, according to our work, it is the most in-demand among higher education institutions and employers regardless of industry.

One of the benefits of simulations is that they allow for teachers who are not experts in the content being assessed to assess students. We often hear from faculty, “I teach history. I’m not an expert in critical thinking as a skill. How do I teach that?” With simulations, if you put the learning in front of students, the assessment will draw on their skills and automatically assess them. The teacher doesn’t need to know what to look for in answers or what level of mastery the student must demonstrate to pass. That’s all handled on the back end.

Simulations also provide another level of engagement. As a lifelong educator, I know that we learn best by applying the skills that we’re learning. Reading and listening to lectures is important, but it’s not a direct application of skills relevant to the real world. A simulation will ask students to do exactly that: to put the knowledge they are learning to use in a way that they haven’t done in the classroom, an internship, or likely anywhere else at all.

Reading and listening to lectures is important, but it’s not a direct application of skills relevant to the real world.

Don Fraser

Creating the Simulation

Creating the simulation turned out to be a pretty intensive process, but we learned a lot from the experience.

Generally, faculty who are using the Muzzy Lane platform author their own simulations, tailored specifically to their class and content. In our case, we were looking to create a more universally applicable simulation that would fit into any class with minimal tweaking. We also had our rubric from the previous assessment, which had been battle-tested and proven, and which we did not want to change.

We used our assessment rubrics to match the four sub-competencies we’ve identified within critical thinking. Since we wanted a simulation that cut all the way across critical thinking, we needed the simulation to include all four sub-competencies. After advice and software expertise from the Muzzy team, we were able to create a scenario that would provide a dynamic setting and experience to measure all four competencies. In the end, we had not just an interactive simulation, but only a single assessment where we’d previously had four.

Piloting the Simulation

We chose to partner with Hope College because they were one of the institutions that helped us design the critical-thinking framework, assessments, and rubric. We asked students who had already completed the original assessments to go through the simulation.  To our delight, we received a lot of great feedback from the students. They said the simulation was more engaging and more fun than traditional assessments–UX matters to us, so this was music to our ears. But what we were really interested in was the response from educators. While the rubric was the same as the previous assessment, the scenario in the simulation was different, so we were very interested in hearing whether they thought it assessed the skill as well and to what extent it improved their experience as a facilitator.

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and they described it as a game-changer that freed them up to do other things besides grading multiple assessments. Since this initial test, other institutions and organizations have tested the critical thinking simulation and have provided us with similar feedback. One 21st century skill down and seven more to go! The Lab is well on its way to ushering in the next, improved phase of its 21st-century skill micro-credentialing.

Don Fraser is the chief program officer at Education Design Lab. Prior to his work at the Lab, Don founded CollegeSnapps, a Washington, D.C. based education technology startup company. He also served as the director of education for the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), where he created educational opportunities for high school counselors and college admission professionals. Don began his work as a school counselor and brings his roots in psychology and history of transforming student perspectives and needs into action to the Lab’s design thinking-driven process. Don received his B.A. in Psychology from Boston College and his Master’s of Education in School Psychology from the University of Massachusetts. He can be reached at [email protected].


Designing, Assessing, and Implementing Educator Micro-credentials

By: Karen Cator

Ongoing professional learning opportunities are critical as teachers strive to continuously advance their ability to meet the needs of their students in an ever-changing world. One incentive for continuous learning is the recognition teachers receive, such as through credits or pay increases. As states, districts, professional organizations, and other entities develop systems and policies that include recognizing micro-credentials for educators, overarching guidance will ensure quality and consistency.

In early 2019, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) launched the Certification and Licensure Collective to engage with a wide range of stakeholders that support states to improve all parts of the system, including initial licensure, renewal, and license reciprocity to support teacher mobility. As part of the work focused on licensure renewal, CCSSO joined with national organizations, including Digital Promise, to explore ways states might move toward competency-based recognition of professional learning. After a year of collaborative development, we are excited to announce the release of the Design, Assessment, and Implementation Principles for Educator Micro-credentials.

Why did we collaboratively develop these principles?

The national organizations participating in the collective, including the National Education Association, Learning Forward, the American Institutes for Research, and others, participated in a facilitated conversation about the promise of, and barriers to, using micro-credentials for professional licensure renewal. Based on our prior research and feedback from the other organizations, the collective chose to outline principles to support the design, assessment, and implementation of educator micro-credentials. This resource provides that guidance for

  • designing rigorous, research-based educator micro-credential content;
  • maintaining criteria for assessing educator micro-credentials; and
  • ensuring the experience of earning micro-credentials is relevant and impactful for educators.

How should the principles be used?

The principles offer a starting point for micro-credential earners (educators working to build their competence and earn a micro-credential), issuers (organizations, institutes of higher education, and other content experts who develop, assess, and award micro-credentials), and those who recognize their value (school and district administrators, and state and district policymakers who give value to micro-credentials) to consider. These groups may use the principles differently.

  • Earners: If the micro-credentials you find do not meet these principles, they may not hold the same currency as those that do. Be selective!
  • Issuers: Use these principles to design and assess your micro-credential content. Create micro-credentials that are grounded in research and make sure those who assess submissions maintain the highest standards.
  • Recognizers: Feel confident endorsing the skills and competencies of micro-credential earners when the micro-credentials meet these design principles. By providing the suggested implementation support, you can make professional learning through micro-credentials even more meaningful.

How can I learn more?

Please share your thoughts and feedback about these principles by joining our Twitter chat on Feb. 5 at 3:30 pm ET. Use the hashtag #EducatorMCchat.

You can also learn more about how states and school districts are implementing educator micro-credential policies by visiting Digital Promise’s interactive Micro-credential Policy Map.

Explore educator micro-credentials that meet these guidelines at https://microcredentials.digitalpromise.org and https://nea.certificationbank.com.

For more, see:


Stay in-the-know with innovations in learning by signing up for the weekly Smart Update.

Karen Cator is President and CEO at Digital Promise. Follow her on Twitter at @kcator


A Decade of Getting Smart

Over the last decade, the Getting Smart team along with dedicated guest authors and columnists have covered what’s next and what is possible in education. Our posts range from innovations in learning spaces, student agency, to AI—providing our readers the opportunity to learn about emerging trends and see themselves as change agents in education.

As the decade closes, we at Getting Smart wanted to reflect on the top posts over the last ten years. Project-based learning, student-centered environments and design surfaced as the most read topics. We know these topics, as well as others like competencies, real-world learning and student voice, will continue to be front-of-mind for many in our readership.

We look forward to the next ten years, where we will undoubtedly continue to push forward and question what is coming next for learners around the world. We also thank you for being a part of our community and for the work you do day-in and day-out in classrooms, learning spaces and educational organizations. Cheers to 2020!

Here are our top 10 posts from the last decade:

1. The Four Systemic Problems in Education (2010)
This article highlights some of the key systemic problems that are limiting excellence in education and creating the friction that deters change.

2. 6 Ways Digital Learning Is Changing Teaching (2011)
Tom Vander Ark responds to a few questions from employees at Wireless Generation, a leading edtech company in Brooklyn.

3. 3 New Teaching Methods Improve the Educational Process (2012)
This post from Sonia Jackson focuses on how to reimagine education with an emphasis on learner interaction, learner enjoyment and a nuanced understanding of authority.

4. Project-Based Learning in the Geometry Classroom (2013)
When PBL is aligned with Common Core State Standards, it is a powerful experience. This article follows some of the great offerings of Curriki, a leader in high-quality K-12 courses.

5. The 10 Questions Every Superintendent Needs to Answer (2014)
Superintendents have an extraordinarily challenging job. Here are 10 questions that all superintendents should be able to answer in order to maximize their contribution.

6. 11 Rights All Students (Should) Have (2015)
Erik Martin speaks on behalf of his school’s student-run organization, Student Voice, addressing 11 of the foundational rights that to which they believe every student is entitled.

7. 4 Key Elements of 21st Century Classroom Design (2016)
McKenna Wierman reflects on the way in which classroom designs have been slow to change and looks ahead to what the future of the classroom might look like.

8. 8 Things to Look For in a Student-Centered Learning Environment (2017)
Join Emily Liebtag as she documents the student-centered environments that make schools stand out and reminds us about what is foundational in education.

9. 7 Real-World Issues That Can Allow Students To Tackle Big Challenges (2018)
The world is facing a multitude of large scale issues that could provide students a way to engage with real-world problems. Join Michael Niehoff as he documents seven of the most pressing problems and what students can do about them.

10. Teaching Students About AI (2019)
What can we teach students about AI? What does AI really mean? How can we prepare for a future with more AI presence? Rachelle Dene Poth answers some of the most common AI-related questions.

For more, see:


Stay in-the-know with innovations in learning by signing up for the weekly Smart Update.


Indian Giant Infosys Opens Tech Center in Phoenix, Partners with ASU

“With very low unemployment—almost zero in tech—we’re hiring from campuses,” said Infosys CEO Salil Parekh.

The Indian tech giant hired 15,000 graduates in the last 12 months, including more than 2,000 in America, where many come through community college partnerships. “We hire people with adjacent skills and put them through our training program,” explained Parekh.

To build customer proximity and a talent pipeline, the Bangalore-based tech leader opened a campus in Phoenix last week at Skysong, the innovation center at Arizona State University (ASU). By 2023, the tech services company plans to employ 1,000 Arizonans.

The 35-year-old company has a deep commitment to growing employees. They are widely recognized as providing the best tech training for graduates in India—and they are bringing that talent development strategy to America.

Additional hubs are located in Indianapolis, Hartford, Providence, Raleigh, and Dallas-Fort Worth. Staffing up the Phoenix hub will bring the company close to its goal of hiring 10,000 American tech workers.

New hires will receive anywhere from six weeks to six months of training. “Our commitment to grow talent provides huge longevity. Most of our senior team has been with the company for more than 20 years—and they started in the training program,” said Parekh.

Infosys revenues grew 12% last quarter, with 40% growth in the digital portfolio. Parekh pointed to rapid growth in data analytics, cloud computing, and in user interface design.

On the importance of good design, Parekh said, “People increasingly choose their bank by the app, they choose where to get coffee by the app.”

The company has 160 design clients. “We’re helping a telco develop stores that work more like their mobile apps,” said Parekh.

Digital studios to design quality customer experiences have been opened worldwide, including U.S.-based studios in Providence, Los Angeles and Seattle.

Infosys EVP Krishnamurthy Shankar (TVA)Infosys EVP Krishnamurthy Shankar (TVA)

While the company hires many community college graduates, they do encourage them to complete a four-year degree, said Krishnamurthy Shankar, EVP and Group Head of Human Resource Development. “It provides higher potential lifetime earnings.”

Reskilling existing workers, providing rapid learning pathways for new hires, and partnering with leading institutions like ASU is all part of the Infosys culture of lifelong learning, explained Shankar.

The biggest talent development challenge? “We can teach the tech skills; what is more challenging are the client relationship skills,” Parekh noted. “We have programs that do some of that, but it’s also learned through experience.”

“Our main driver is the digital transformation of our clients,” said Parekh. A commitment to talent development—and a new hub in Phoenix—are key to that strategy.

Infosys has a comprehensive talent strategy based on a geographic arbitrage of distributed talent, which leverages the ubiquitous infrastructure of community colleges and the distinctive strengths of leading universities while retaining last-mile training to ensure that learning experiences are aligned, dynamic and engaging.

For more see:


Stay in-the-know with innovations in learning by signing up for the weekly Smart Update.


Contribution: Programs Alive with Possibility

Helping young people identify and make their unique contribution is motivating and great preparation for the innovation economy–and they’ll inherit a world that could really use the help right now. Now that we’re all connected, it has never been easier for young people to code an app, raise money, or launch a campaign. It’s time to help young people play a lead role in their own superhero feature.

We recently reported on seven schools alive with possibility. This post highlights 11 programs and community organizations helping youth make a difference.

1. Advancing Leadership (@ALFedWay) is a community development program in Federal Way Washington (between Seattle and Tacoma). Like hundreds of similar programs, a cohort of adults spends a day a month together studying community issues including education, environment, economy, and housing. Participants pick a project and work together for half a year to make a unique contribution to the community.

In 2005, Advancing Leadership was first of its kind to launch a youth program. A cohort of high school juniors participates in a parallel program to the adults. They also complete a service project. Seniors (ALY 2.0) practice leadership as they mentor the junior class and work on personal development and career exploration.

2. AI4ALL (@ai4allorg) is a summer program for high school students who self-identify as part of an underrepresented group. By connecting them to computer scientists from 11 leading universities, youth learn to use AI to solve problems they care about (see feature). Last week they launched open tools for difference-making.

3. Big Green (@biggreen) is building a national school food culture that promotes youth wellness. Through food literacy programs and a network of Learning Gardens, students, parents and teachers are connected through robust food culture. They are focused on underserved schools in seven cities. Their high school programs help students launch a food-based business (see feature).

4. Real World Scholars (@RWScholarsEdCorps Program operates an e-commerce platform that allows students to develop and operate businesses under their nonprofit umbrella

5. Global Dignity (@GlobalDignity) is dedicated to teaching learners how to “tap into values of kindness, understanding, tolerance, and compassion.”  They sponsor Global Dignity Day. This year it is  October 16 (see feature).

6. The premise is simple: elementary students are asked to describe their dream machine, college design students and high school prototypers help bring to life the dreams of elementary students. MyMachine (@mymachineglobal) spread across Belgium and now supports programs in eight countries (see feature).

7. One Stone (@onestoneidaho) is a student-directed nonprofit in Boise, Idaho led by a board of at least two-thirds students. Now known for an innovative high school, the flagship afterschool program, Project Good, provides an opportunity for a direct connection and benefit to the recipient and the opportunity for a life-changing experience for the One Stone student. Project Good tackles 15-20 experiential service projects per year that build community, leadership, a life-long love of service, and create good in the world (see feature).

8. The Purpose Project, incubated by IDEO, is a curriculum and digital platform that helps young people use design thinking to develop their purpose through impact projects.

9. Founded by Indiana teacher Don Wettrick, The STARTedUP Foundation (@letsstartedup) empowers student entrepreneurs and innovators with collaborative, immersive experiences, accelerator programs and the first seed fund for students under 20.

10. Based in San Diego with locations in St. Louis, Austin, and New York City, Whatever it Takes (WIT, @doingWIT) is a six-unit college credit social entrepreneur and leadership program in the country.

11. Youth Cinema Project, an initiative of the Latino Film Institute, is flourishing in Santa Ana. Students create, write, direct and produce films, which are often about their community or a local challenge their community is facing. They contribute films that highlight their stories, their families and their voices and working with leading filmmakers (a group of intentionally culturally diverse filmmakers) to receive guidance and support. After producing a film, students often continue to work on the cause and make a difference.

For more see


Stay in-the-know with innovations in learning by signing up for the weekly Smart Update. This post includes mentions of a Getting Smart partner. For a full list of partners, affiliate organizations and all other disclosures please see our Partner page


10 Talent Tips from Google HR

Iveta Brigis made it from a tiny high school in upstate New York to Google. In college, she didn’t study computer science, she studied people–and how to develop and compensate them. She joined Google 12 years ago when the company was beginning a series of deep dives in organizational development.

Brigis and her colleagues in Google People Operations learned a lot about recruiting and developing talent. A few years ago, Brigis ran the Google K-12 Talent Academy, an initiative to share lessons learned with school districts.

She recently left the company for new adventures but she meet us at a school and outlined ten talent takeaways (listen to our conversation here):

  1. Trust pays off. One now famous Google investigation was into why some teams are better than others. It turns out that psychological safety and team trust were the key variables. Teams that encourage safe discussions and different viewpoints succeed more. Good teams have high social sensitivity, they had team members that could sense how others felt based on their tone of voice, their expressions and other nonverbal cues.
  2. Don’t trust your gut. When it comes to hiring, everyone thinks they are a great interviewer. More process and more structure is almost always better.
  3. Don’t hire yourself. Most people tend to hire candidates like themselves. Be thoughtful about what you’re looking for. Try to identify success characteristics for the role.
  4. Hire collaborative learners. With the speed of change, the willingness and ability to learn is a key success variable. Because everything is done in teams, collaboration and empathy are key to success.
  5. Broaden your horizons. If you want talent diversity, look beyond the traditional name-brand universities. Google found success in recruiting at minority-serving institutions.
  6. Great workplace. It’s easier to hire if you have a place where people want to come to work. Check your employee value proposition. Find out if people have input in management, and if they receive feedback and recognition. The basics matter.
  7. Engage trainers. At Google, there is a big network of employees who teach classes on coding, teams, and management. They receive support on how to design effective learning experiences.
  8. Bring data. Google is a big data shop, they care about people analytics and strive to be evidence-based.
  9. Be transparent. Google strives for transparency and shares pertinent information as needed. Educators were particularly interested in strategies for how to do this better.
  10. Grow your own. In hard to hire categories like machine learning, encourage internal employees to learn and teach others. Make the work really attractive by making the mission compelling (pay is just one element of a great job). Again, (like #6), build your value proposition and talent brand.

Where you can’t hire the talent you need, partner with expertise. If you’re a school system or university, use your scale to create a compelling impact proposition. Brigis offered this advice to the state of California in a recent report she co-authored as a Commissioner on the Little Hoover Commission, Artificial Intelligence: A Roadmap for California.

Keep an eye on Brigis and Google People Ops for more lessons learned.

For more, see:


Stay in-the-know with innovations in learning by signing up for the weekly Smart Update

The feature image is used with permission from Kurani.us.


4 Reasons to Attend the Inaugural Digital Learning Annual Conference

When we hear ‘inaugural conference’ we think opportunity and new ideas. There’s a recent buzz in the air around the launch of the Digital Learning Annual Conference (DLAC), and we are all ears. We think you should be too.

DLAC derives from the September 2018 establishment of the Digital Learning Collaborative (DLC), a membership group dedicated to exploring, producing, and disseminating data, information, news and best practices in digital learning. With the DLC’s online community well into development, the members and organizers decided that hosting an onsite gathering would be a logical next step.

DLAC’s first conference will be held April 1-3, 2019 at the Hyatt Regency in Austin, TX. The three-day conference will not only explore online learning, digital learning, and the use of technology in education, but will be focused on the exploration of where attendees are relative to their educational goals, and how digital learning can be used to reach the next level.

We’ve done our research and have outlined below our top four reasons to attend this inaugural conference.

1. Learn from and collaborate with an array of thought leaders and educators.

The agenda is set, and the speakers are scheduled. You can surely expect to see some familiar faces like Thomas Arnett, Saro Mohammed, David Kanter, Aaron Jones and represented organizations like Clayton Christensen Institute, The Learning Accelerator, MasteryTrack, Virtual Learning Leadership Alliance, Microsoft Education and more. But at the core of this conference, are the speakers who are everyday educators from large and small school districts across the country sharing their unique digital learning narratives.

Speakers. Along with John Watson, Founder of Evergreen Education Group, opening speakers, Alexandra Griffith, of Oshkosh Area School District, and Heather Hiebsch, of TeachUNITED, were selected to share about their in-the-trenches journeys using digital learning in their classrooms and schools. Griffith, a public high school English teacher, will share the accomplishments and setbacks in working to best leverage technology supports in her classroom (see her story here). Hiebsch, Co-Founder and Executive Director of an education network using tablet technology and teacher training to transform rural schools across the world, will share her experience as the founding principal of one of the most successful hybrid public schools in Colorado to her current work with TeachUNITED.

2. Share your ideas and experiences.

This conference is an opportunity to connect with digital learning educators and leaders alike. Advisory Board attendees include leaders from school districts, state agencies, iNACOL, Bloomboard, Institute for Teaching and Learning, Pearson, Foundation for Online and Blended Learning and many more.

Sessions. DLAC’s session format is unique in that most presentations are planned for fifteen minutes plus five minutes of Q&A, to ensure that the conference is built around discussions among all attendees. Talks are meant to inspire conversations and DLAC wants to make space for those conversations to happen in both facilitated and informal sessions. There will be plenty of opportunity for outside-the-session connections with both familiar colleagues and new acquaintances. As many of us know, hallway conversations are such a crucial and powerful time at conferences! It’s great to see one where that is naturally built in.

3. Feel welcome to attend, no matter what level of knowledge or expertise.

DLAC is specifically geared towards a wide audience of educators, district leaders, researchers, policymakers and those representing companies and non-profit organizations.

Attendees. If you have experience or interest in learning about online/blended learning environments, system-level digital learning programs, digital tools, resources, professional learning and other supports, then this conference environment will be a good fit for you. The only caveat is that attendees come with an open mind and a willingness to share and learn from one another about how technology can most effectively increase student opportunities and improve student outcomes.

4. Attend at a discounted rate.

We hope the above are reasons enough to attend this one-of-a-kind event, but we’re thrilled to offer an added bonus. As a special offer to readers of this post, DLAC is offering a $100 discount on registration using the following promotional code: [email protected].

Registration. All details about registration can be found here and any further inquiries can be addressed by contacting the conference organizers at (616) 340-8066  or at [email protected].

An inaugural conference is exciting – and we can’t wait to see the conversations, inspiration and change that is sure to come from a gathering of digital learning minds at DLAC. If you can’t make it to Austin this year, follow along on Twitter using @theDLAC and #DLAC19. Also, be sure you subscribe to DLAC’s newsletter to stay up to speed on conference happenings, resources and information about DLAC 2020.

For more, see:

This post is sponsored by Evergreen Education. If you’d like to learn more about our policies and practices regarding sponsored content, please email Jessica Slusser.


Stay in-the-know with all things EdTech and innovations in learning by signing up to receive the weekly Smart Update


Educators, Civic Leaders, Businesses and More Unite For Student AI Showcase

On January 22nd, the Montour School District opened its doors for a special “Artificial Intelligence (AI) Grand Showcase” event to showcase the first AI middle school program in America. The showcase was called “grand” because the highlight of the event were an upwards of 100 students, grades five through eight, who presented projects that are direct byproducts of the curricula. The topics included practical applications for autonomous robotics, transportation, ethics, music, and more. In fact, over 500 students have participated in the AI program to date, and all middle school students will have the opportunity to take part of the program by the end of the school year.

U.S. Representative Conor Lamb

Before the students had the opportunity to present their projects, educators, AI experts, community members, business leaders, civic leaders, and more convened for a community AI gathering to learn more about the importance of AI education. Presenters included Dominic Salpeck (Principal of David E. Williams Middle School), Dr. Justin Aglio (Director of Academic Achievement and District Innovation- Montour School District), Dr. Christopher Stone (Superintendent- Montour School District) and Pedro Rivera (Pennsylvania Secretary of Education) who welcomed attendees and applauded Montour educators and students for their efforts.  In addition, Dr. Eric Sparkenbaugh, (Director of Academic Achievement (5-12)- Montour School District) facilitated a panel discussion on AI and its role in education with Kenny Chen, Founder of Pittsburgh AI and Dr. Steven Ritter, Carnegie Learning Co-Founder and Chief Scientist.  Also in attendance was U.S. Representative Conor Lamb who represents Pennsylvania’s 17th congressional district.

Pedro Rivera
Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, Pedro Rivera

Dr. Stone stated about the event, “Our goal is to make an all-inclusive AI program for all middle school students that prepares them for future educational and career opportunities. Under Dr. Aglio’s leadership, our educators have begun integrating AI courses into Media Arts, STEM, Music, and Computer Science electives.”

Guests from Carnegie Mellon University, California University of Pennsylvania, CCAC, Google, Society of Automotive Engineers International, Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing, in addition to various school districts, government, businesses, museums, universities/colleges, and more were interested in experiencing Montour’s AI program first hand by students. Students had the opportunity to showcase:

  • Autonomous Robotics using Calypso for Cozmo, an AI-powered robotics framework for the Cozmo robot. The autonomous robotics lab was equipped by ReadyAI, the first comprehensive K-12 AI education company to create an “out of the box ready” and complete program to teach AI for K-12 AI education that empowers students to use AI to change the world.
  • AI Music, using Amper Score™, a program that enables enterprise teams to compose custom music in seconds and reclaim the time spent searching through stock music. Whether you need music for a video, podcast, or another project, Score’s Creative AI quickly makes music that fits the exact style, length, and structure you want.
  • AI Ethics, based off the AI + Ethics Curriculum for Middle School project from the MIT Media Lab. Throughout the curriculum, students learn to think of algorithms as opinions, are taught to consider direct and indirect stakeholders in a system, and engage in design activities to reimagine familiar artificial intelligence systems.
  • AI Computer Science, using Proto, a Project-Based Learning (PBL) platform from Carnegie Learning that any teacher can use, with any student.

Jamie Sterling, VP of Product at Carnegie Learning, said: “Our AI course teaches students how they can code a computer program to use strategies to play tic-tac-toe better than they themselves can. During this event, students were set up to demonstrate what they know about AI and to show the process they went through to create their game.

I am not sure I have EVER seen students so enthusiastic to not only learn, but to demonstrate and present to me what they learned about computer programming and artificial intelligence. The students were filling me in on semantic and syntax errors, machine learning, how to change their games to ensure they’re more accessible (i.e. switching colors to create more contrast for those who are color blind) and more! I wish I had the opportunity to learn things like this when I was in middle school!”

Overall, the event was a grand student showcase. The day highlighted AI as the tool of the future; but, more importantly, highlighted the idea that our students are the key to the future. Special thank you to Montour AI educators Bill Black, Rick Stetzer, Cydni Mancini and Rob Roehn for their AI classroom expertise and willingness to learn and do what is best for kids!

For more, see:

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.


Stay in-the-know with innovations in learning by signing up for the weekly Smart Update.


Big Five: Whither Global Capitalism?

The S&P 500 hit an all-time high this week. We’re in the longest bull market ever and close to “full employment” but picking new fights all over the globe. Some pundits think the brash nationalism, populism and protectionism could bring growth to an end. The US picked a trade war over industries in decline while the new economy is about digital assets and services. Check out five big stories from the week to learn more.

1. Digital Biz. “What’s also changed is the massive shift from living in a physical world to a digital one,” noted GSV. “Today, there is a new generation of digital businesses that leverage the power of the internet and globalization to scale the massive sizes. If you look at the largest transportation company in the world, Didi Chuxing, they own none of their vehicles. Airbnb, the world’s largest hospitality platform, creates none of its inventory. Dropbox, the world’s largest storage company, owns no warehouses. Facebook, the world’s largest media platform, owns none of its own content. And there’s Spotify, the world’s largest music platform, which creates none of its content.”

2. Made in China. In the old days, “made in China” referred to cheap manufactured goods. These days it’s tech. Baidu (search), Alibaba (market), Tencent (chat), or BAT, are now valued at more than $1 trillion USD. With access to more internet users than those of the US and all of Europe combined, these platform-based business have gained unparalleled influence in almost every aspect of users’ lives.

3. Digital India. India is becoming a leader in Blockchain. The federal government plans to use distributed ledger technology (DLT) to distribute agricultural subsidies. A DLT backed land barter paved the way for a capital for the newly formed state of Andhra Pradesh

4. Crypto on the Run. After a big run up, BCG suggests a “reality check” for blockchain after cryptocurrency markets tumbled. The speculative nature of new blockchain-based currencies doesn’t change the transformative potential of distributed ledger technology. We spotted 20 potential ways it will improve education.

5. Learning at Microsoft. With global economy in high gear, it’s time to learn. Chris Pirie, general manager of worldwide learning at Microsoft, noted the tension between learner-centered and standards-driven learning.

“What learners want and what they truly need may be at odds. Learners have less time to learn and want access to instant and more customized learning experiences, their expectations of “just enough, just in time, and just for me” access, customized experiences, and rich selection of media are set by their consumer experiences. But real learning—acquiring skills, understanding new paradigms, and changing behaviors—takes time and costs attention.”

5 Discoveries

Book: In what Bill Gates calls a “brilliant new book,” Capitalism Without Capital, Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake argue that the portion of the world’s economy that doesn’t fit the old model just keeps getting larger. Digital assets are super scalable, often have valuable synergies, and create spillover benefits. The shift to a service economy with digital assets has major implications for everything from tax law to economic policy to which cities thrive and which cities fall behind, but in general, the rules that govern the economy haven’t kept up.

Resource: Want to give better career advice? Check out the list of the highest paying jobs in America from Glassdoor.

Report: How to close achievement gaps in diverse schools? Based on a meta analysis, Public Impact published a new report—Closing Achievement Gaps in Diverse and Low-Poverty Schools: An Action Guide for District Leaders.

“The evidence suggests that solutions require tackling the instructional, emotional, and practical needs of students, their families, and the educators who serve them. Importantly, we examined approaches that had evidence of boosting outcomes for disadvantaged students without reducing availability of advanced instruction, for two reasons. First, when all students have help to leap ahead, all need what today is considered “advanced” instruction. Second, schools that serve all students well, regardless of background, build strong family and community support for and commitment to public education.”

Pod: You Are Not So Smart is David McRaney’s  super smart look at human behavior. Check out episode 134 on How politics became our identity and (soon to be posted) episode 135 on Elaboration Likelihood (learning doesn’t change minds, it’s how likely we are to make the new information ours by elaborating on it…and, of course, our tribal identities, see #134).

Pic: Murie Ranch in Teton National Park, from the porch of the cabin where the Wilderness Act of ‘64 was drafted. It’s ironic that the fire haze evident in the picture is evidence of record temperatures and fires caused by climate change–whither global capitalism.

BONUSTools: Minecraft will be available for iPad next month.

See last week’s Friday Five: Closing the Guidance Gap.


Stay in-the-know with all things edtech and innovations in learning by signing up to receive the weekly Smart Update. This post includes mentions of a Getting Smart partner. For a full list of partners, affiliate organizations and all other disclosures, please see our Partner page.


Friday Five: Closing the Guidance Gap

1. Springboard jobs. A new report from JFF evaluates career advancement prospects of people entering middle-skill jobs through the unprecedented analysis of nearly 4 million resumes of middle-skill jobseekers. It highlights the types of occupations that offer the strongest opportunities for financial stability and true economic advancement. We appreciate how they highlighted “springboard jobs” that offer a decent starting wage and upside potential.

2. Alt postsec. The Guardian highlighted college alternative including degree apprenticeships where you work while you learn. Video producer Joe Wilson said about his employees, “I don’t know any of their qualifications. I know their experience. I can list the shows they’ve worked on. But I don’t know if they went to university – because that doesn’t matter to me. What matters is what you bring to the table.”

It’s increasingly a show what you know world.

3. Co-construction. Pike Road Schools serves a suburb of Montgomery, Alabama. The K-9 system (is adding a grade a year) seeks to “create a culture of intellectual curiosity where all students have ownership over their learning and are inspired to think, innovate, and create.”

An Education Reimagined profile described how high school students will engage in “service projects and authentic learning experiences with community leaders as well as furthering partnerships with higher education. This will allow for mentoring by adults who share learners’ passions and interests. These business and industry partners will co-design and co-facilitate with lead learners.”  

4. AI-construction. I spoke to a college sophomore in video production this week. She hadn’t heard of automated content creation. For a couple years, AI has been kicking out pretty good video trailers. Every field has been augmented.

Now poetry. Microsoft used AI to write poetry in Mandarin. Jack Clark said it’s becoming easy to “train machines to create synthetic media in a variety of different mediums.”

“Where it gets interesting will be what happens when young human writers become inspired by poetry or fiction they have read which has been generated entirely via an AI system,” added Clark. “Let the human-machine art-recursion begin!”

5. AI+Advisor. Brooklyn based Concourse Global Enrollment just raised $2 million to build a guidance system to match high school students with international postsecondary opportunities. “We have built the industry’s first matching technology platform that enables high schools and universities to collaborate to find opportunities for students,” said Joe Morrison, Concourse CEO.

5 Discoveries

Org: YouScience combines your aptitudes and interest to help build a personalized career path. YouScience is a Nashville startup that has raised $17.7 million in three rounds.

Resources: Cardonex, new school scheduling software (@CardonexSaves) from Education Advanced in Tyler Texas.

Book: That’s What She Said: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together, a new book by Joanne Lipman, former editor-in-chief of USA Today.

Event: The iNACOL Symposium will be held on October 21-24, 2018 in Nashville. The theme is “Driving the Transformation of Learning.” It’s the best convening on personalized and competency-based learning.

Pic: Active learning on the first day of school at the Young Women’s STEAM Preparatory Academy in El Paso. The second-year school is the first single sex school in the New Tech Network and ninth NTN school in EPISD.

See last week’s Friday Five: Career Ed Rising