Getting Smart Podcast | Andy Calkins on Effective Learning Competencies

Andy Calkins leads Next Generation Learning Challenges, a national new high school grant program that morphed into seven regional funds. The combination has resulted in over 130 new and transformed schools that continue to work together in a network.

All of the NGLC schools promote deeper learning and seek broader aims, most use MyWays, a new student success framework that reflects the demands of the innovation economy. A comprehensive guide to MyWays was recently released. Andy Calkins discusses it in this week’s podcast.

What is Next Generation Learning Challenges?

NGLC is a seven year old intermediary and catalyst. Originally funded by the Gates and Hewlett Foundation, NGLC is a program of EDUCAUSE, the HigherEd EdTech nonprofit. About $85 million in national and regional grants have been deployed in support of next generation schools based on design principles that emerged from the field.

NGLC was looking for schools that developed student agency through experiential and project-based learning. NGLC schools share high expectations for core academic skills seeking 1.5 years growth each year.

Initially the program included HigherEd models benefiting SNHU’s College for America. Summit Public Schools used an early NGLC grant to develop their innovative model.

Why a new outcome framework?

MyWays reflects what NGLC grantees are learning. They see today’s high school graduates facing more complexity and challenge than previous generations. The MyWays framework was developed in response to a scan of grantees and environmental factors.

The MyWays community of practice is growing rapidly including many school districts. Calkins hopes that it helps the next set of adopters skip the invention process.

How is MyWays different?

Content Knowledge, the most familiar of the four categories, include interdisciplinary and global knowledge as well as career and technical skills.

Creative Know How includes critical thinking–an important element in Common Core State Standards. It also includes 21st Century skills of creativity, communication and media skills.

Habits of Success includes aspects of social and emotional learning and positive mindset. This section attacks the “high calorie, low value PBL” compared to High Tech High, d.Tech, and New Tech Network where you’re likely to see high quality project-based learning.

Wayfinding Abilities may be the most unique aspect of MyWays but Calkins says navigation skills show up in about a third of new frameworks. At least two thirds of U.S. secondary students do not get adequate guidance when facing the most complex choices of any generation. Wayfinding includes surveying landscape, developing personal roadmaps, finding resources, and navigating each stage. This section builds on work done by  David Conley and the ConnectEd network. It’s related to Julia Freeland Fishers new work on building social capital.

What should EdLeaders do?

Heroic leadership doesn’t work and there’s no silver bullet. Andy recommends building strong community awareness, support, and momentum for change, in order to do this kind of work. He notes that a common commitment can only come from understanding the “why.”

The first step is to open up a dialog internally and then with community including business leaders and social service networks.

Andy finds that everyone, especially employers, support next gen learning and a new vision of competency. Communities like Lindsey, Vista, Kettle Moraine are examples.

MyWays includes tools for communities to develop their own outcome frameworks. A new set of 14 reports summarizes three years of research. It’s a great resources and it’s all open source.

For more see

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