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June 11, 2011

2020: Coming to a school near you…

by Chris Lindholm

Knowledge Works has published an updated version of the 2020 Forecast!  This brief PDF document is packed with 21st century vision and sends my mind spinning into panic mode when I start thinking about the changes certain to impact how public schools do business today (and have for the past 100 years…).  A few deep breaths later (to re-grip and gather some perspective) leads to excitement and a sense of empowerment.  Not even our most seasoned elders leading districts today have witnessed a time with so many drivers of change aligned to create the perfect storm that is present today.  Indeed it is both a blessing and a curse.  Leading through difficult times of transition requires… well…  the heroic leadership that creates stories of heroism.  If you don’t think this is such a time, take a spin through the 2020 Forecast, subtract 2011 from 2020, and reflect on what how the changes described will play out in the number of years you came up with.  That’s no day on the beach for a leader of public education… 

Again… deep breaths and perspective.  The descriptors of possibility for helping students achieve their dreams is absolutely invigorating.  Did you catch this paragraph under “Platforms for Resilience” on pg. 2?

Schools will become a part of an adaptive infrastructure that helps communities
cultivate resilience through extensive service and social action platforms, modular
learning systems, and new ways of funding teaching and learning. Service learning
will evolve from disconnected volunteer work to high-impact, coordinated, and
targeted community development work that includes energy audits, water monitoring,
health advocacy, and urban farming. Location-based social media will transform such
service learning experiences into game-like quests and collaborative missions. Those
experiences will result in coordinated action networks that become vibrant sources
of community transformation.

 What does mean in day-to-day work?  I envision more freedom to engage students in the real work of community development running local food markets, doing real work on city infrastructure, creating youth “think tanks” to tackle issues requiring the innovation capacity of young rock stars, and connecting multi-age groups of student learners with community leaders to address the issues presented by a more engaged public.   I’ve witnessed the magic of students stepping up to help out  multiple times over my career, and I’ve never been disappointed by the outcome.  Nearly 100% of the time, community members are shocked by the ability of our youth to solve problems and make an impact far beyond their years. 

Here’s a thought…  What if we unleashed the secondary students in our district to tackle the issue of getting wireless connectivity into the hands of every student in the district?  It might not be a pretty process, but my money is on the students getting it done. 

 The 2020 Forecast raises real questions and offers great insight for thinking about the 10 years ahead.  Some questions to ponder:

  • How is your district capitalizing on shrinking budgets to maintain the core and cut away the distractions?
  • How is are you cultivating deep relationships with city, county, and state officials to ensure an efficient cradle-to-grave education system?
  • Are you thinking and discussing how to expand your impact beyond the district geographical borders?
  • How is technology being used to drive student-centered, rigorous teaching and learning?
  • What resources are you investing in performanced based assessments aligned to 21st century skills and careers?
  • What structures can we eliminate through partnerships with other public entities to create more efficiency and flexibility to meet the needs of learners?
  • What if school was held inside corporation owned spaces, public properties, and in “moveable classrooms?”  A wi-fi equipped bus, two teachers, 50-60 students… 

Do you believe this kind of change is doable in the next 9 years?  This education leader certainly does.  I look forward to discussions with legislators about removing hand-tying policies, to articulating clear learning outcomes that can be aligned to service and project based learning experiences, and to unleashing students on tackling the pressing issues of our time that we adults struggle to tackle ourselves.  Difficult times of transition call for authentic leadership of heroic measure.  What better heroes to call upon than the energized wisdom of our youth?  I’m armed with a few thousand brilliant minds, so bring on 2020…

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