The 10 Big Issues of Our Time

The introduction of real college and career ready expectations is occurring simultaneously with the shift from batch-print to personal digital learning.  These two shocks to the American education ‘system’ lead to at least 10 big issues that need to be addressed.

  1. The new student backpack: portable electronic records and comprehensive learner profiles.  Specific issues: portability, security, and outside providers
  2. Big data policy:  more measures for improvement and accountability.  Specific issues: school accountability, teacher evaluation, instructional improvement, and student matriculation.
  3. Instant feedback: getting states, district and school ready for online assessment.  Specific issues: screen size, resolution, testing conditions, new methods of comparability
  4. From cohorts to competency: How schools work when everyone moves at their own pace. Specific issues: recognizing achievement and granting credit, managing without cohorts.
  5. Customized learning: emerging strategies for adaptive, personalized and social learning.  Specific issues: role of curriculum architects, mixing open and proprietary content.
  6. Financing student achievement: weighted, portable, and performance-based education funding. Specific issues: managing fractional funding, weighting factors, Robin Hood politics.
  7. Funding the shift: how to aggregate state, district, and parent capital and reallocate budgets to fund the shift to high access environments. Specific topics: BYOD polices, the role of parent pay, home connectivity, and new blended learning staffing strategies.
  8. Improving conditions & careers: how blended learning is improving the teaching profession. Specific issues:  evaluating in a team-based differentiated environment, managing a distributed staff with dynamic scheduling, and a really big issue–providing rich JIT PD during the shift.
  9. A new approach to research & development: dynamic trials, iterative development, and lessons from lean startup.  Specific issues: how to combine aspects of crowdsourcing with more rigorous methodologies.
  10. Communicating across the drop in proficiency: coming to terms with real college/career ready standards.  Specific issues: staff evaluations, comparability, and college entrance concerns.

I’m sure I missed a few important issues.  What would you add to the list?

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Paul leather

I think this list is a great start. The issues of both governance and support, for students and educators must also be tackled. The systems that will drive the changes you list to scale do not yet exist.

Robert Clegg

Embedded Expert Assessment: Expertise cannot be measured by an aggregation of discreet data. So how can we automate or scale it? Look for the emergence of high end simulations and multiplayer educational video games that embed strategy in context that differentiates, defines, and displays expertise.

Robert Clegg

The Achievement Squeeze: While many focus on raising the low end of the achievement gap, they ignore the downward pressure the global economy is creating on middle and upper-middle class workers. The lack of jobs is forcing higher skilled workers to compete downward for lower paying, and lower skilled work. The effect is higher competition which erases the efforts of those trying to reduce the achievement gap.
The resulting future trend: technologies to scale advanced learning and expertise will emerge so the middle and upper-middle class can move up as well.

Robert Clegg

The Rise of Context: Testing on discreet items cannot determine expertise. Expertise is determined through the application of knowledge within context. Expertise is different from context to context. Rich worlds and simulations in multiple contexts are needed to teach and determine expertise. This demands niche content to create dynamic contexts.

Robert Clegg

Corporate Sponsorship in Curriculum: Students are now direct consumers (iTunes) buying content at ever increasing rates. Corporations looking to get their brand in front of students will look for ways to integrate their brand with curriculum. How long until Pepsi figures out it can use Gatorade to show kids how energy is used in the body and help them with chemistry or biology? How long until the NFL provides teacher resources for fantasy football around math content? Nike and sports physics? ESPN already does this with tv spots... soon they will see the gamification of curriculum leading to more users in the classroom.

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