7 Things Next Gen Schools Will Do Well

Seventeen years ago as a new superintendent I was invited to Microsoft to learn about 1:1 programs in Australia. The architect of those programs, Bruce Dixon, told a compelling story of student engagement in transformed learning environments.  The ten superintendents at the meeting committed to Anywhere Anytime Learning and we began an exciting but challenging journey together.
Bruce and I got together again at Microsoft Monday, this time in London. We spent the day with leaders attending the Innovative Schools Forum.  Bruce outlined the three fundamental shift of modern learning environments:

    1. The social learner: moving from me to we;
    2. The self directed learner: moving from dependency to autonomy; and
    3. The inquiry-based learner: moving from the know to the unknown.

Given these shifts, what practices will be common among next generation schools that prepare students for college, careers, and citizenship? With input from innovative school leaders from around the world, following are seven habits of next gen schools (with some similarities to next gen systems discussed last month).
1. Set Important Goals: Good schools have a common intellectual mission. They lead community conversations that result in important goals.  As previously discussed, the Danville Kentucky board adopted a good example of important goals:

      • Powerful learning experiences;
      • Global preparedness;
      • Growth for all;
      • Excellence in communications; and
      • Informed/involved community.

2. Create Powerful Learning Experiences. Innovative schools focus on how students learn.  Next gen schools will feature a 3 screen day (for consumption, production, and sharing) with broadband at school and home and will provision 24/7/365 learning opportunities of vetted resources (see Funding the Shift). Next gen schools will have multiple language learning options and tailored pathways to postsecondary options (e.g., fast, selective, career-specific).
Next gen schools leverage technology supported roles for deeper learning including student as producer, journalist, scientist, historian, maker, inventor, coder, apprentice, and coach. Next gen schools create relevance, value application, encourage integration, and pursh critical thinking. They prepare global citizens.
3. Manage Productive Learning Environments. Next gen schedules will include a shift to an online delivery for a portion of the day to make students, teachers, and schools more productive using rotation and flex models (see examples in 3 blogs on Next Generation Learning Challenge). One school head called it leadership on frugality; we call it smart resource allocation. (Watch for the DLN Smart Series Blended Learning Implementation Guide out 2/6/13)
4. Know Students.  Next gen schools will know students well by managing a comprehensive learner profile that drives student-centered learning. At Cornwallis Academy, LookRed powers personalisation and pastoral care (it’s near London).
As discussed in Data Backpacks, next gen schools will fill super gradebook with experience-embedded assessment and teacher observations. The data will help build a motivational profile of the kind of experiences that produce persistence and performance.  Student records will include a portfolio of personal bests.
Next gen schools will use next gen platforms to create customized playlists and early warning systems. Students will have a voice in next gen schools.
5. Promote Growth. Students in next gen schools will show what they know and will progress when they’ve demonstrated mastery.  Knowledge maps will guide the way.  Badges and other recognition systems will chart their accomplishment. See From Cohorts to Competency for more.
6. Leverage Teacher Talent. Next gen schools will recruit, develop, and leverage the talent of great teachers. They will use differentiated roles from assistant to master teacher and will make use of some part time specialists at a distance.  See OpportunityCulture.org for 10 specific models of extended reach.
7. Build Community. Next gen schools will build community, involve parents, and make connections with youth and family services.  They will value work and community based learning, outreach and service. They will find a balance innovation and execution.
The network of Microsoft Innovative Schools includes many schools exhibiting many of these attributes. They serve as mentors for other schools.  We need more models schools like this to visit and help us imagine a generation of schools that work better for teachers and students. The Partners in Learning network is resource for innovative schools on topics such as personalized learning (6 Vectors Advancing Personalized Learning).

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.

Discover the latest in learning innovations

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.



Really insightful article. Bentley University is one university that I believe has incorporated some of these practices simply by renovating a single computer lab. Creating a productive learning environment and involving the students has made a difference -- I think other universities should take note! http://vergepipemedia.com/blog/case-study-computer-lab-2-0/

Paul Walker

The teacher role from master to assistant is something that already happens in education, we are there to aid, guide and help each other, as we are in it together.... I think you are just restating current good practice


Tom Vander Ark

It happens informally in many places, but I'm suggesting more formalized teacher leadership roles that extend their reach (as described in detail at www.OpportunityCulture.org)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.