Issue 18

August 11, 2016

In this issue, we highlight cases where designing around learners is strengthening their educational experience.

George Lucas

When people tell you it's impossible, you're on the right track.

Dear Pioneers,

The learning continues! A few months ago, we were thrilled to learn that a cohort of about 40 superintendents organized by AASA had adopted “A Transformational Vision for Education in the US” as their North Star, using it as the framework to guide their inquiries. These superintendents, brought together through the AASA Digital Learning Consortium, are on a learning journey to discover how to improve their districts. And, just two weeks ago, I had the privilege to speak at one of their in-person meetings.

I helped to set the context for the meeting by focusing on the paradigm shift itself. This included sharing what people sometimes hear when we share about the five elements in the vision, even when we mean something completely different. The superintendents got it immediately. They saw that the five elements can be done in a school-centered paradigm. So, what people sometimes call “personalized,” “competency-based,” or “open-walled” is actually still being done “to” kids, rather than “by” and “with” the learners. The difference comes when you shift paradigms.

After my presentation, the superintendents launched into a day-long design thinking exercise, led by Google, that began with interviewing nine fantastic students from Leyden and Oak Park school districts. It was all about really listening to the kids—or the “end users” of education—and hearing what would make a difference for them. With the continued input of the learners (many of whom joined the superintendents small table groups as co-designers), the superintendents then came up with prototypes for the work they could do in their districts to display the five elements in a learner-centered paradigm. It was extraordinary. I look forward to discovering what they do and learn at their next meeting in October.

Again and again, we are reminded of the power that comes from truly listening to learners. And, of the power of pioneers—those willing to lead the way and create the paths for transforming education.

We hope you are all having wonderful summers!

Warm wishes,

Kelly Young

P.S. Thanks to the students, superintendents, AASA, and Google for your courage and leadership!

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