Author Archives: Leslie Wilson

Onboarding for All

Six years ago Thomas Friedman asked “how did the robot end up with my job?”  He talked about our living in a time when being ‘average’ and successful no longer exist in the global economy.  We now compete, globally, with those who are ‘good, better and best’.  Employers have access to top notch performing people, robots and software.  Our education system still turns out a bell curve of capable young adults placing the United States in competitive edge jeopardy.  Hence, the persistent cry for school reform.

Core Standards/Curriculum is crucial to a guaranteed, viable set of learning outcomes/skills for today’s learners.  Powering up teaching and learning to the highest productivity with highest student achievement results is a significant goal.  Creating an ecosystem where learners ‘drive’ their learning to reach their greatest potential is being accomplished where meaningful use of technologies is in place.

How many times can we make the argument, present the research, data and case for infusion of well-implemented technology in schools?  It’s hard to believe that there are still education leaders requiring an evangelist approach about the moral imperative of technology tools in schools.  It reminds me of what’s happening with the postal service.

The United States Postal Service is still trying to compete with the Internet.  They maintain massive mechanical and human structures that were created before the Internet existed.  They face and have faced multibillion dollar deficits for at least 10 years.  The postmaster general began talking about a ‘new reality’ many years ago.

Remember The Pony Express?  It was a huge accomplishment because it moved mail at a fantastic rate across several states in just ten days!  The investors of that progressive movement pulled funding in just 18 months…when people and animals couldn’t move fast enough to match the speed of the telegraph.  Educators still have enormous textbook budgets while teachers and students are creating content and accessing ‘right now’ resources both free and online.

Several years ago the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) reported that there are over 2 billion worldwide Internet users.  The organization helps leaders understand the global economy by providing data and facts to help decision making around management and policy issues.  They focus on productivity, competitiveness and growth while looking through the lenses of global financial markets and the impact of technologies.

MGI further noted that the Internet has been the world-wide doorway for new waves of entrepreneurships, business models and innovations for using, delivering and accessing goods and services.  It has changed how we all engage with the world.  The same can be true in education once we throw open the network doors and facilitate each learner’s ability to have consistent access to the power of knowing and growing ‘now’.

There are great pockets of education systems where this has happened:  Mooresville Graded School District in NC; Auburn City Schools in AL; Alvarado Independent School District in TX; Eastern Upper Peninsula Intermediate School District in MI; and all of the Project RED Signature Districts (www.projectred.org).

Those are celebrations for sure….but when you consider the rapidity of change, growth, economical development happening in the world where they have well engaged technology tools and the Internet, our pace in education greatly pales. Every day is a wakeup call.

There is a lot of rhetoric – much on point regarding the need and possible avenues of growing bandwidth and furthering technology acquisition and correct utilization in schools.  We can rely just so much on government intervention and funding.  What we can control is what we have at our disposal..and what is in our own backyards – our own operating budgets, ability to vision, plan and nail down short and long term strategies.  Engaging community resources, businesses, local higher education settings and the like have all demonstrated support for local schools’ engagement of technology and development of global work skills.

Robust digital conversions are more feasible today than ever before given best in breed showcase sites, best practice resources available online and face to face, and current research.  For most education systems this will be a process. As all processes go….progress begins by taking the first step – making that first big decision.  Here’s to that time and place for all!

Leslie Wilson
Chief Executive Officer
One-to-One Institute

AdvancEd and Project RED III Findings Sync

Project RED III and AdvancEd’s education technology research are in sync.  RED III shows that infidelity to a high quality education technology implementation will result in failure of program and reaching desired goals (www.projectred.org/pr-briefs).  AdvancEd’s “The Paradox of Classroom Technology:  Despite Proliferation and Access, Students Not Using Technology for Learning” (2016, van Broekhuizen) http://bit.ly/2rScaSx reports that “Learners’ use of digital tools and other technology to support their learning in our K-12 systems continues to be sporadic and often not observed despite the proliferation of use outside of school. Based on an analysis of three years of direct classroom observations in K-12 schools across 39 states and 11 countries, AdvancED found there are still relatively few classrooms in which the use of digital tools and technology is a regular part of a student’s school experience. In more than half (52.7%) of classrooms, direct observations show no evidence students are using technology to gather, evaluate, or use information for learning; two-thirds of classrooms show no evidence of students using technology to solve problems, conduct research, or to work collaboratively.

The intersection of these reports lies in the evidence that organizations (schools/districts) must be mindful of each of the key elements required for successful implementations.  AdvancEd’s findings point directly to the lack of support, training, professional learning for teachers in implementing the technologies.  Project RED, early on, identified professional learning as a key requirement for successfully transforming schools to a digital ecosystem.  Simply having the technologies in the hands of teachers and learners means nothing unless they are being guided to shifting practice in teaching and learning.  Any adult trying to ‘change’ habits of mind and craft must go through numerous cognitive and behavioral shifts to retool to a learner-centric, personalized system of education.  Following that is the actual practice, job-embedded, upon which there is deep reflection and collaboration with peers.

Learners may come to the education table with vast experience using tech tools.  However, understanding and using technology for learning and achievement is much more complex than turning on a device, performing searches, creating presentations, etc.  Core standards and learning goals need to be powered up by technology in meaningful, focused ways, in order to make the transition from a traditional learning environment.  Teachers are important to facilitating learners’ abilities to develop creativity, problem-solve, collaborate and realize real life situations and solutions with technologies.

The idea is to begin educators’ professional growth process in preservice and before the deployment of robust education technology programs. Training on the functionality and power of the devices to be used is important.  Once that know-how is attained it is important to ‘use’ that knowledge and then explore ways of deepening the learning and teaching experiences to reach meaningful, focused levels of tech integration.

We at One-to-One Institute have long witnessed the professional learning gaps in schools’/district’s 1 to 1 programs.  AdvancEd’s research is helpful in underscoring this issue in the hope of all of us being more mindful and better practitioners in incorporating high quality, robust, early onset professional development for robust ed tech implementations.

Leslie Wilson
Chief Executive Officer
One-to-One Institute

Just In Time Learning Always On-Future

I barely know the powers and functionalities of my smart phone and it’s time to get a new one.  I’ll go through the same routine with my provider.  He/She will set up my new phone; show me the highlights and off I’ll go.  I seldom learn any of the phone’s potential until I have the need to do so. My 13 year old nephew has shown me countless tools and opportunities on my phone about which I would have never thought.

We are truly learning ALL the time. The question is, ‘when AREN’T we learning?’  This truth demands the learning environment (everywhere) be conducive to flexibility, just in time knowledge/information, collaboration, and communications. And also product development – making stuff as demonstrations of mastery and what’s been learned.  The four-walled prison style schools are not viable for what’s needed now and in the future.

Yorkville (IL) Community Schools #115 got it right.  They had the opportunity to completely transform the high school and did so with complete focus on the learner (http://bit.ly/2t04de8)Everywhere is a learning space with rolling furniture, access points, computer bars, and fishbowls for collaboration.

The fact is that we’re in a new revolutionary state and prepping next generation employees for what’s ahead (or in front of us now) is crucial. Soft skills (social, emotional, mindset, etc.) will impact employee’s effectiveness and marketability. Analysis, problem-solving, STEAM are on the front burner of needed skills for the future.  All of these are best addressed and developed in a learning environment that capitalizes on flexibility, cooperative work, trial and error, and production.  Real-life, meaningful tasks ensure this kind of learning occurs.

The article cited above lays out two more examples of how school leaders digitally transformed learning systems, environments and activities to mirror students’ future needs.  Most significant is the impact these changes had on student achievement and motivation.

Colorado Springs Schools 11 developed ‘Next Generation Learning’ resources as they continue to evolve their transformation.  A lot of good ideas here that began in 2014.  This accompanies their vision/mission.  It is a good guide for those engaged in the digital shift and learner-centered approach.

It’s good news that many models exist today to help others down the path.  It is more important, however, that the models follow research-based implementation processes to ensure success.  For more on that topic go to www.projectred.org.  You can read our new research Briefs.

Leslie Wilson
Chief Executive Officer
One-to-One Institute

A Mosaic of Best Practices

The Onion is a US news satire organization.  It features a newspaper and a website with articles on international, national, and local news.  My husband and I winter in Florida.  We walk miles along beaches from February through April.  I gather up lots of shells.  The Onion’s article, “Report: All Good Seashells Taken” (http://www.theonion.com/articles/report-all-the-good-seashells-taken,26337/), comes from Coral Gables, FL, not far from where we stay. The piece pokes fun at a host of human behaviors and beliefs.  It’s supposed ‘environmental’ research about why there are no more ‘good’ seashells.  They have all been grabbed up by ‘aunts with homes along the shoreline and 14 year olds with no friends’.

It is a ridiculous conclusion- every Onion article has one.  There is one ‘hopeful’ statement that helps the reader turn the corner from supposed despair about the seashells…. “When pressed, however, Coates (researcher) acknowledged there might be enough bits of good shell left to be assembled into a serviceable mosaic.”  The same can be said about schools.  Most have ‘bits of good shell’ that contribute to a serviceable system.  I mean schools with high student achievement, personalization, effective technology implementation, high quality teaching, community/parent/caregiver engagement, generative leadership, etc., etc.  Data-wise these are arguably difficult to find. But they do exist.  And if we assemble those ‘bits of good shell’ into a ‘serviceable mosaic’, we can inform and lead real school transformation.

We’ve learned through Project RED and the work of One-to-One Institute that there are few places that have it all pulled together in an effective, well running system that is producing expected student and organizational outcomes.  But there are places that are well greased in certain components that lead to success.  We could create a motif using each ‘showcase’ site’s special effects as part of grand picture for ‘how to’.

That is exactly what we planned to do with Project RED II and the seventeen Signature Districts.  The recently launched Project RED III findings put that package together.  We captured results-oriented best practices into robust media tools that can be virtually accessed by educators.  Highlighted will be effective leadership, meaningfully planned education technology integration, student achievement measures, revenue-positive and return on investment strategies, strategic visioning and planning for short and long term objectives and ways of creating capacity and sustainability.  Professional learning and communications also makeup the content of our new research.  You can find all here.

A major finding from Project RED III is that even in the most optimal environments that capture what we know for sure about implementing successful one-to-one programs, it remains a daunting task to reach desired outcomes.  Implementation systems must work in tandem at high quality levels, be consistently led by skilled leaders, and focused on transforming teaching and learning models through ongoing, embedded professional learning.  Unforeseen circumstances are reality.  Systems and leaders must figure out how to navigate those waters to keep the program safely on course.  It’s challenging work.  And we’re making progress.

Leslie Wilson
Chief Executive Officer
One-to-One Institute

Sprout or Restrain – Leaders Have the Power

A while ago, I moderated a panel of education and industry whizzes who discussed successful education technology implementations.  My task was to summarize the quintessential findings from Project RED regarding the keys to successfully integrating technology in schools.

During the Q & A segment, two teachers stood up and asked the question, ‘What do we do?  We’ve begun a one to one teaching and learning program and we haven’t done any of the things you report are required to be successful.  Our principal is not providing guidance or support.  Many teachers are abandoning the effort.’

To respond was daunting.  My experience, and my answer, had to be truth as I knew it.  The fact is that without that principal’s support, planning for professional growth, etc., they would not be able to grow or essentially create a success quotient for the one to one practice.  I gave a lot of other kinds of ‘scenario’ advisements – create a community of practice with the teachers-carve out time to collaborate, debrief, share research about others’ best practices/strategies/lesson plans, etc., request regular meeting times with the principal to discuss the program, challenges and successes and needs for professional development; seek out other educators and create a virtual network of support and guidance.

Finally, I told them that my personal, professional experience is that when the leader didn’t ‘get it’ there was little I could do as the non-decision maker to do what I deemed the ‘right, moral and necessary work’.  I changed teaching and administrator jobs numerous times because the leadership in my then present environment was a deterrent to using my skills and passion for serving young people. After describing my journey, there were applause from the audience-much to my surprise. Obviously, my comments resonated with a lot of people. We have a leadership crisis!!

Five teachers came to me after the panel. They said that they didn’t want to leave their current positions. They loved the students, community and school. They wanted to find another way.  My guess is that this wonderful group of teachers will find a way to do their one to one work effectively in this setting.  It would be even better if a new leader for the school emerges who provides what is needed for these teachers to flourish with their students through the use of education technologies.

Back at home office, I sent them a lot of resources and content regarding steps needed to be successful.  They plan to share with their principal.  I wait each day for a follow up.  Keeping my fingers crossed a plan will materialize.

The panel scenario is one we witness across the country.  There are educators who have leapfrogged into integrating technologies with teaching and learning.  They thirst for more resources, support, guidance – frequently creating their own communities for learning and sharing.  When the latter happens in tandem with focused, change leadership much can be accomplished for moving the needle ahead for today’s learners to be globally and productively connected to achieve at higher rates.

Leslie Wilson
Chief Executive Officer
One-to-One Institute

Talent: Must Develop and Deliver

I recently participated in an event sponsored by numerous automotive industry leaders in the Detroit area.  They invited superintendents from Michigan to collaborate with them on how to develop the talent needed to fill the thousands of ‘new’ manufacturing/auto/tech jobs that are emerging across sixteen state counties.  The event organizers presented data and profiles about these jobs.  They discussed different avenues of preparing high schoolers for these positions.  They sought the district leaders’ ideas regarding the same.

I learned a lot about how manufacturing jobs have been transformed.  To be employed in this pathway one needs to be highly technically skilled and experienced. This includes knowledge of content, technology application, and systems integration.  These are highly complex jobs that require expertise not only in core standard curricula but in relevant uses of technology tools within the same.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently released a policy briefing underscoring the very message as outlined above (http://www.oecd.org/employment/emp/Skills-for-a-Digital-World.pdfP)

And there is a void of talented candidates in MI to fill these jobs. Across sixteen MI counties, the bedrock of high tech development and engineering jobs, the companies are struggling to find talent to fill positions.  Many have instituted internships and co-op work that are fed by local school districts.  The profile of career technical schools has shifted dramatically. Where there exists high caliber, rigorous applied learning programs focused on integrated disciplines and the fusion of technologies, they are producing ‘ready to go’ employees. They are being placed immediately in top notch positions that posture them for continued career growth and opportunities.

The Early College program (TEC) exists across the country.  The original initiative, as I understand it, was launched in 2002 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Since then many Early and Middle College programs have emerged.  What I need to do is re-engage with the industry leaders who are seeking talent and make sure they are aware of the TECs that exist in Michigan.  Based on the TEC curricula, they should be able to pull graduates and current students from these settings into the work place.

There were only three TECs in MI a short time ago.  Today they have expanded into more state counties.  Nexus Academy of Lansing will join TEC at Lansing Community College.  Here’s an overview of the program.

“The vision of The Early College at Lansing Community College is to provide mid-Michigan high school students the opportunity to earn up to sixty college credits as part of their high school learning experience. We will promote innovation and best practices in education. Our students will have a personalized learning experience within a small learning community, a positive school experience and the social and academic tools to successfully continue their education or career.” (http://www.lcc.edu/earlycollege/documents/annual-report-2016.pdf) 

The program creators are committed to a nontraditional ‘school’.  Their goal is to ensure learners develop a zeal for continued growth and are prepared to be successful in our globally competitive world.  The development of students’ creativity, problem-solving, experiential learning and flexibility are embedded in the curricula.

TEC in Lansing is a three year program for students entering grade 11 in the fall. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are the basis for the curricula. These disciplines prepare learners for an array of careers and ensure a strong base for many four-year college majors.

Learners start the program via core high school courses and participation in learning success skill training to be prepare for the rigor of college work. “In the middle of their first semester, students may become eligible to be credentialed for taking college classes to obtain at least 60 transferrable college credits or a minimum of 30 credits in a certificate program. Students also receive extensive career readiness and exploration learning experiences.” (theearlycollege@lcc.edu)  TEC’s standard core curriculum meets Michigan Merit Curriculum requirements.  Learners also have the opportunity to receive transferable college credits that pave the way to an Associate Degree or Certificate program.

The illustration below profiles LLC’s Early College class of 2016.

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The Principal at Nexus Academy of Lansing has met with a number of teachers at the county’s career and technical center.  Quite a few of his students participate in programs at the center. Each teacher with whom the principal spoke told him that Nexus sends the most premier students to their programs.  They are head over heels beyond the students from other high schools because they actually know how to effectively use technologies within their skill/content areas.  The teachers noted that with the other schools’ students, they have to teach them how to use and integrate the tech tools as well as master the content.  It’s double duty for the teachers and most significantly for the learners.

Schools like Nexus Academy and other successful 1 to 1 settings are providing students with technology skills that are crucial to successful matriculation into a global workplace.  There are pools of talent being developed in these and the Early College setting.

Learning this I thought about the auto industry leaders’ pleas for talent development.  I thought about the mission of well implementing 1 to 1 technologies in schools that I’ve supported for 15 years.  Back then this was a new, often ballyhooed frontier. Most school leaders avoided implementing technologies because of cost and their lack of understanding and prognosticating what the world would expect from students in ten short years.  Today, we see an uptick in schools’ acquiring technologies.  Those acquisitions must be accompanied by vision, strategy, high quality leadership and a focus on learner outcomes to best ensure the talent needed for today’s and tomorrow’s jobs.

Leslie Wilson
Chief Executive Officer
One-to-One Institute

The Bull’s Eye Approach

The President and CEO of Steelcase, James P. Hackett, wowed an executive leadership network group with his ‘simple’ framework for guiding the organization. He said, “It’s a bull’s-eye, and you put ‘now’ in the center, and the outer ring is ‘near’ and the furthest out ring is ‘far’. And you ask yourself…..how much time do you spend in each of those three zones? And what is the right amount that you should spend?”

Hackett’s point is that leaders need to learn how to work in each dimension of the bull’s-eye simultaneously. We naturally lean toward working in the ‘now’ because of the immediacy of required action and meeting expectations. But great leaders, he posits, won’t necessarily be recognized until the long term becomes the present because these leaders looked way down the road, imagined the future, and helped grow the organization in those directions.

For the majority of US history, in education, we have followed a linear path in everything we do….by the book – what comes first, second, third and so on. What we know from current brain/learning research and the impact of information technologies is that our personal and global intersections demand the ability to integrate multiple targets.  We’ve also discovered that disciplines for which we carved an undeviating, supposedly developmental, instructional path are anything but linear.  Continuing to operate in a sequential manner is counterintuitive in today’s world and for different curricular areas.  Being charged with the most important task of preparing young people means we must adapt the educational framework to best meet learners’ abilities to be well prepared today and into the future.

There are many objectives for educators today.  One is digitally converting to robust technologies, infrastructures, securities and the professional growth needs that go with those demands.  It is very interesting to learn where each state (and district) sits in relationship to this technological readiness. Their status represents the leaders’ track record for having worked the ‘now’, ‘near’, and ‘far’ in guiding their entities.   Those working the ‘near’ and ‘far’ wouldn’t have been simply getting ready, let’s say, for the 2014-15 mandated online assessments, but for the world itself outside the walls of schools.  The one where multimedia, multitasking, rapidly engaged information are hallmarks of young persons’ experiences when not in school…not to mention the expectations for today’s work place, global and personal interactions.  We’ve had years of information telling us that the future would be embedded with technologies of all manner and that schools needed to gear up, plan and get on board. Some did. Most didn’t.

We hear a lot of reasons for why education doesn’t have the required technologies and consistent connectivity for students:  lack of funds and/or infrastructure; lack of Board support; lack of research/evidence that technology matters; commitment to ‘school the way I did it’; safety/security concerns. They all point to the need for the kind of leadership required for today’s and tomorrow’s schools.

When you explore sites with robust student technologies, infrastructures, etc., in place, you find leaders like Ann Linson (East Noble Schools, IN), Casey Wardynski (Huntsville Schools, AL), Bill Hamilton/Jim Geisler (Walled Lake Schools, MI); Mark Edwards (Mooresville Graded School District, NC); Terry Jenkins/Dennis Veronese (Auburn City Schools, AL) who also were confronted by the above obstacles.  But they defined a shared vision, aligned it with short and long term strategic plans – including funds – and well communicated the need and direction among their stakeholders. For each of them there were no speed bumps for which they lacked the fortitude, research, skills and commitment to move their districts forward. It was hard work that commanded they not only straddle the ‘now’ and ‘near’ but imagine and work toward the ‘far’ at all times.

Leslie Wilson
Chief Executive Officer
One-to-One Institute