Ok, what else you got? (nais reflection part I)

I have just returned from 3 days in Seattle, WA where I attended both the NAIS Annual Conference and EDCamp Independent School at The Northwest School. One blog for reflection is certainly not enough, so I’ll try a few topics.

I realize that what I am about to write may be vilified by the tech community but in the spirit of reflection, I must put type to screen. I was tremendously excited about the opening keynote for NAIS. Bill Gates was our speaker and had the opportunity to share with us his passion for innovation and reform in schools. I was one of the first in the room to get a seat to hear this icon of technology. He spoke of the increased use of blended learning and online learning. But I am sad to say he offered no original insight. It was 30ish minutes of preaching to the choir. Down to his examples for online/blended learning. It was a terrible disappointment. It proved to me that he was playing to the disconnected part of his audience rather than the connected. I fear that he was playing to the majority. In a nutshell, I was underwhelmed by Mr. Gates.

Frankly, the highlight of the morning’s keynote was the call to action from NAIS President, Pat Bassett. He offered six clear points for the direction that Independent Schools need to go in order to move forward into the already decade old 21st Century. These are his recommendations for Schools of the Future. (taken from my notes from his ppt.)

  1. Adopt backwards design around skills rather than subjects. 6 C’s.
  2. Document student outcomes through formative assessments and demonstrations of learning. Digital portfolios
  3. Connection appreciative inquiry, strengths movement approach, and growth mindsets–all subsets of the positivist psychology
  4. Globalizing independent schools (internationalizing day schools)
  5. Stage II greening of Indy schools
  6. STEM and beyond signature programming (robotics, rub Goldberg, etc.)
  7. Professionalize the Profession. Allow for time for reflection and professional development. (rotating schedules, teaming, PLCs for research)
  8. Public purpose of private education (global students network, Papp)
  9. Online learning consortia for independent school branded courses–online school for girls, goa
  10. Design thinking (MIT/Stanford design labs)

I am most motivated by his first three steps as well as step seven. I think looking at the development of standards and outcomes by skills rather than subjects could lead to a seismic shift in the education community. For this to occur we must beyond what we already know and focus upon major shifts in our learning. Teachers will need to model life-long learning in order to be an effective educator in 2012 and beyond. Likewise, hard looks at “what has always been done” will need to commence in a bit of a mission critical mode. Or at least, that is the way I see it.

Finally, an overall theme I heard in every single session was that time and space must be provided for teachers and schools to grow. Where do we find this time? I don’t know but if it cannot be found we must make it. Consistent, critical conversation about our work with children is not an option. We cannot afford to wait another 10 years into our decade to reshape our work, the time is now. Our children deserve it.

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