When I tell friends and family about the types of projects I’m working on with Education Elements, I throw around terms like “personalized learning” and “competency-based education” like they’re the titles of new Beyoncé albums. Usually, they smile and nod politely, but sometimes they ask further questions. Recently, I had a conversation with an educator friend who had some confusion around the difference between PL and CBE. So I decided to set the record straight.
One of the most common questions I answer about Education Elements is, “So what do you guys do?” If we have an elevator ride that goes to, say, the top of the world’s tallest building, I can give a fairly satisfying and comprehensive answer. If, on the other hand, we are just waiting in a short line for a cup of coffee, I tend to say something like, “We help districts solve their biggest challenges,” which, judging by the reaction I often get, is not nearly the level of detail people are looking to hear. So in the age of TL;DR and Buzzfeed lists that always come in odd numbers, I decided to try to put pen to paper and explain what we do in a way that gets more head nods and doesn’t have anyone thinking, “For the love of God will she ever stop talking?” (Don’t worry, you can just read the bold parts)
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We published The NEW School Rules: 6 Vital Practices for Thriving and Responsive Schools this winter to help leaders make a shift toward being more effective, responsive leaders. Since the book’s release in February we have had dozens of requests for webinars and presentations about The NEW School Rules. Demand has been so great that we’ve developed a leadership course based on the rules. This summer we kick off leadership courses across five districts and four states.
I’ve mentioned to a few people that I’m having my education mid-life crisis. After almost 20 years in education, I’ve seen various initiatives, software solutions, and programs come and go. Hundreds of millions are spent each year trying to move the needle, yet we continue to get similar results. It isn’t without the sweat, blood, and tears of all the educators in the country that work so hard.
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Last week, Justin DeLeon and I attended the Competency Based Education Convening in Los Angeles, held by CompetencyWorks, an initiative led by iNacol and MetisNet. The goal of the convening was to bring together technical assistance experts in the field around competency-based education and blended learning to better understand how blended, competency-based programs can facilitate personalized learning (which emphasizes student voice and choice). The technical assistance providers in attendance were comprised of competency-based learning organizations, such as Re-Inventing Schools Coalition (RISC), recent authors of papers on pertinent topics including Liz Glowa and Julia Freeland, in addition to practitioners of competency-based programs like Boston Day and Evening Academy. The group visited USC Hybrid High and further developed practices pitches to superintendents on what ideal steps we would take to achieve a blended, competency-based program to achieve personalization across a set of schools. Over two intense days, we determined a current roadblock to understanding how blended learning could better facilitate competency based learning was the glaring need to clarify for the field how digital content providers’ pedagogy is designed to personalize.
NGLC just announced a big round of funding. 15 schools across the country were awarded grants of $450K each, bringing over $7M to schools that are pushing the edges and focusing on innovative ways to realize competency-based, personalized learning.