The thing isn’t about the thing.

“The impact of innovation on education isn’t in using technology to deliver obsolete education experiences. It lies in understanding what skills students need in the innovation era, and constructing classroom experiences that promote skills that matter.”  -Tony Wagner, Ted Dintersmith

As we continue to fine tune our ‘1:1 project’, called Fife Forward, our reading and study continually drives home the point that the ‘thing isn’t about the thing.’

Putting a device in the hands of kids means nothing, if nothing different is done with the device from a teaching and learning standpoint.  Without an examination and commitment to the possibilities of increased collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking…we might as well distribute $200 pencils.

Our good fortune in our district is that we have excellent educators in our schools. Educators willing to do all they can for all of our students.  We see their work every single day with kids. They literally recommit each day to find additional ways to support and engage more and more kids.

We are reading a book called The Leader’s Guide to 21st Century Education by Valerie Greenhill and Ken Kay.  The ask us to consider two important questions as we work.

“How is your district/school preparing its children for the demands of the 21st century?”

“Have you adopted a 21st century model of education? If not, do you need to?”

These two authors continue the urging of other educational thinkers to strongly bear mind the ‘4Cs’.  Collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking.  So we will. With support, professional learning, and time. Our job is to prepare our kids for their tomorrow, not our past.

A final thought.  Can we do this?  Yes.  “We have the chance to transform the course of our lives. Doing so will mean discovering the heroism of the incremental.” –Atul Gawande

Fife Forward.

“Who dares to teach, must never cease to learn.”

A common thought from the trenches is, “What the heck do you guys at the district office do all day?”  I know, when I was in the trenches, this thought would occur on occasion.

In our district, we have the great opportunity to write monthly columns for our local newspaper.  Here’s my latest column, describing some of what the heck we do all day.

“One of the major roles of our Teaching-Learning-Innovation (TLI) department is providing quality professional learning opportunities for a variety of our educators. Here are three recent examples. First, Elaine Smith, Assistant Director of TLI, at the request of the educators at SLMS, developed and shared learning about differentiated instruction for students.  This is an example of learning the educators wanted at their school.

slms (Educators at SLMS)

Second, Elaine and I have designed a series of induction learning sessions for all of our ‘New to Fife’ teachers.  We have focused the learning and work on our district’s adopted instructional framework.  We use the Center For Educational Leadership’s framework, from the University of Washington.  Its acronym is CEL.  It focuses on 5 dimensions of teaching and learning: Purpose, Student Engagement, Curriculum/Pedagogy, Assessment for Student Learning, and Classroom Environment/Culture. Our last session was on assessment for student learning, specifically formative assessment. Checking kids’ understanding in the middle of the learning to ascertain where they are in relationship to what teachers need them to be learning, and making in the moment instructional adjustments.  

induction (Induction session)

Third, we conducted a book study with all of our building administrators, using the book Innovator’s Mindset, by George Couros.  This book has had the most profound impact on my professional learning in my 33 year career in Fife.   For our leaders, we utilized a learning strategy called ‘The World Cafe’.  With this strategy, we create 3 ‘courses’ for the learners.  Each course has a variety of discussion questions on the ‘menu’ from which our learners can choose.  It was a spectacular success.


(Book study)

The most important point of all this work is that our learning is ongoing.  As educators, we don’t shut down our learning the minute we graduate from college.  We believe in the idea that, “Who dares to teach, must never cease to learn.” -John Cotton Dana”


A well tossed around stat says, “Around 65% of children starting primary school today will end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist.”

Some argue this point.  That’s fine.  However, it’s certainly not too difficult to imagine that is close to reality.  Here are 3 jobs that didn’t exist just 10 years ago.  App developer, social media director, and Uber driver.  

Here are a few of the types of jobs that might exist in our kids’ lifetimes.  And here’s the source with the descriptions of most of these jobs.

  1. Chief productivity officer
  2. Excess capacity broker
  3. Drone manager
  4. Private industry air traffic control
  5. Medical mentor
  6. Self-driving car mechanic
  7. Autonomous transportation specialist
  8. Personal medical interpreter
  9. Human-technology integration specialist
  10. Wholeness mentor
  11. Cyber Security Specialist

We’ve seen other titles like ‘Medical Roboticist, Custom Implant Organ Designer, Space Tour Guide, Space Pilot, Virtual Reality Simulation Engineer, and Genetic Counselor.  Wow!

Our part of the equation, as professional educators, is to understand that the rate of change is accelerating.  We do well when we know we are helping to prepare our students for their tomorrows and we give kids opportunities to learn how to learn, collaborate, communicate, create, and critically think.


Restarting the ol’ engine.

One of the best parts about being a teacher is the opportunity to restart your class(es) at any point, in any regard.

You weren’t satisfied with how things were unfolding in 2016 with your students or colleagues?  Fix it.  Attack it. Change something.  Teachers have so much control over what happens in their own classrooms.  Try something new.  Welcome the kids to 2017 with renewed enthusiasm!  One of our veteran administrators shared this resource on twitter. It’s a great one!

Very few jobs have the autonomy to repurpose without permission.  We work in such jobs.

Welcome 2017!