The Future of Schools Means Professional Learning

I stumbled across a LinkedIn blog post that resonated with me as my summer life contains taking online classes and reading books in my topic area (in addition to others which are somewhat related and sometimes not).  I think that we are so conditioned to think that professional development as it exists in schools today is acceptable and enough that we forget it is much like all standardized school nonsense, shooting for the bottom, and for acceptable.  That is not going to cut it in the long run, and the changes and signs have been visible for some time.  Take a look at the jobs and look, not just as a CTE Teacher, but as a Teacher.  Do we really expect to exist in this model?  The same as we are today? 

…research suggests there are going to be two types of businesses in the near future: ones that have robust employee teaching programs and win; and everyone else.

Specifically, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has analyzed how the world of business will change over the next four years. They concluded that more than 7.1 million current professional jobs will be eliminated by 2020, thanks largely to automation and changing geopolitics.

A mere 2.1 million jobs will take their place, some for positions that do not yet exist.

Even bigger than that, the study found that the jobs that stick around are going to change so drastically and so quickly, many of the skills needed to do them today will be obsolete in just four years. Specifically, the report found that 35 percent of core job skills will change by 2020.

Bottom line, a lot of jobs are going away, and the ones that are staying will require new skills. And it is impractical for companies to hire their way out of the problem, as the demand for people with select skills will be highly competitive, and yet those skills – and potentially those people – could become antiquated in just a few years.

Instead, companies will have to teach their existing people all these new skills. Many just aren’t sure how they are going to do that.

Diving into the numbers: Jobs are going to change, fast.

So what jobs are going to disappear by 2020? According to the WEF, most will be white-collar jobs, specifically office and administrative positions. They’ll be partially replaced by business and financial operation positions (i.e. people who know how to best use all this automation) and computer and mathematical jobs (i.e. people who can develop this automation):

But the bigger point is that even the jobs of today are going to change so much by 2020, they’ll be barely recognizable. Thirty-five percent of the core skills needed to do today’s jobs will be different by 2020, with finance and infrastructure positions facing particularly swift evolutions.


Companies want to teach their way out of this problem, but they aren’t confident in their teaching programs.

To counter this, companies can’t just keep hiring people that have new, needed skills. With change happening so quickly, that strategy would require either massive layoffs or a bloated workforce, along with astronomical recruiting costs.

Instead, when surveyed, nearly two-thirds of companies said they plan on dealing with rapidly changing demands by teaching their existing workforce new skills:

Sounds good, right? But therein lies another problem – in a WEF survey, a mere 53 percent of company’s chief human resource officers (CHROs) were reasonably or highly confident in their ability to teach their workforce going forward.

That means that nearly half aren’t. So, yes, most companies believe teach their employees are critical, and yet many aren’t confident in their ability to do that.

And that’s a problem.

What this all means to you going forward

All this sounds like the plot of a dystopian science fiction movie, where robots and new geopolitical concerns woof down five million jobs while drastically changing most others. That’s not completely accurate.

Instead, dealing with this problem simply requires a new way of thinking about learning. … It means organizations taking a hard look at their existing teaching programs, and doing what they can to improve them.

And, for all employees out there, it means taking learning seriously.


Remove Gamification

Know what this list represents?  Maybe a cleaner way to get where I want to go for my students. via teachthought

1. Have students create own their rules/terms

For an assessment, a project, an assignment, or even whether they pass or fail. If they make the rules, while there is still a game, they’ve had a hand in creating it.

2. Remove terms of failure or success

No minimum numerical value to pass–focus instead on quality, iteration, and action.

3. Remove letter grades altogether

We have them because they’re iconic symbols that express academic success in a language everyone understands–but because of this universal-language-ness, they’re reductive, hurtful, and artificial. There are alternatives to letter grades, after all.

4. Remove artificial start and stop times

Instead, strive for always-on learning–like intellectual start-ups that are open 24/7. Chain units together beneath one comprehensive question or challenge. Only give “points” for improvements to existing work, and constantly raise the quality bar so it’s more difficult each time to get the same “credit.”

5. Allow students to “start over”

If you’re not keeping score, every day is new. No such thing as a summative assessment. It’s all formative. And informative. Give them the space or flexibility to work from a clean slate whenever possible, even if they keep “failing.” Instead, change the terms of failure.

6. Don’t rank or compare student performance

Yes, I know norm-reference assessments rank students, as can criterion-based assessments. And yes, I know “the real world” will rank them. And so will colleges. Why are we in such a rush to introduce the heartbreakingly-broken “real world” to precocious young minds that are trying to find their rhythm?

7. Remove points

No numbers or points–these are just symbols. Find a more personal way to give learning feedback.

Circuit Simulator

LushProjects Circuit Simulator

This electronic circuit simulator is highly interactive giving the feeling of playing with real components. It’s very helpful for experimentation and visualization. Best of all, thanks to the power of HTML5, no plug-ins are required! The original implementation, in Java, belongs toPaul Falstad who kindly gave his permission for me to build this port.

8 Second Peptalk

It is Friday and I need a pick me up at the end of the week.  Classes have been good, final curriculum is shaping up strong, administrivia under control: budgets, new class curriculum, long term proposals and full professionalism is deployed across the spectrum of responsibilities.  And yet, it is hard and quiet where I am, so I turned to this quick list from TeachThought.  I think I will eliminate those that don’t speak to me today and see how I feel at the end of the list.

  1. “Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time.” (Chinese Proverb)

  2. “If kids come to us from strong, healthy functioning families, it makes our job easier. If they do not come to us from strong, healthy, functioning families, it makes our job more important.” (Barbara Colorose)
  3. “What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.” (George Bernard Shaw)
  4. “We’re trying to give the young people something that can help them, and we don’t know exactly what it ought to be.” (Wendell Berry)
  5. “Teaching is the greatest act of optimism.” (Colleen Wilcox)
  6. “Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” (Anonymous)
  7. “The dream begins, most of the time, with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you on to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth.” (Dan Rather)
  8. “Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater.” (Gail Goldwin)
  9. “The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” (Mark Van Doren)
  10. “Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.” (Jacques Barzun)
  11. “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” (William Butler Yeats)
  12. “I’m not sayin’ I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will.” (Tupac Shakur)
  13. “I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. It might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” (John Steinbeck)
  14. “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” (William Ward)
  15. “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” (Einstein)
  16. “We learn geology the morning after the earthquake.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
  17. “There is no failure.  Only feedback.”  (Robert Allen)
  18. “The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life.” (Plato)
  19. “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.” (Chinese Proverb)
  20. “Death is not the greatest loss. The greatest loss is what dies inside while still alive. Never surrender.” (Tupac Shakur)
  21. “A good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others.” (Mustafa Kemal Atatürk)
  22. “The more that you read, the more things you will know, the more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” (Dr. Seuss)
  23. “I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” (Robert Frost)
  24. “It takes a big heart to help shape little minds.” (Unknown)
  25. “Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best.” (Bob Talbert)
  26. “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.” (Khalil Gibran)
  27. “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” (Carl Jung)
  28. “Teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions.” (Unknown)
  29. “In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less.” (Lee Iacocca)
  30. “Remember that failure is an event, not a person.” (Zig Ziglar)
  31. “It may be that when we no longer know which way to go that we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.” (Wendell Berry)
  32. “Learning is not a spectator sport.” (D. Blocher)
  33. “The next best thing to knowing something is knowing where to find it” (Samuel Johnson)
  34. “Never discourage anyone…who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.” (Plato)
  35. “The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” (Henri Bergson)
  36. ‘I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” (Einstein)
  37. “There is a great difference between knowing and understanding: you can know a lot about something and not really understand it.” (Charles F. Kettering)
  38. “I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” (Lily Tomlin)
  39. “What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.” (Karl Meninger)
  40. “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” (Thomas Edison)
  41. “Thought flows in terms of stories–stories about events, stories about people, and stories about intentions and achievements. The best teachers are the best story tellers. We learn in the form of stories.” (Frank Martin)
  42. “You can’t direct the wind but you can adjust the sails.” (Anonymous)
  43. “The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book.” (Unknown)
  44. “Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.” (E. M. Forster)
  45. “The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence.” (Amos Bronson Alcott)
  46. “The teachers who get “burned out” are not the ones who are constantly learning, which can be exhilarating, but those who feel they must stay in control and ahead of the students at all times.” (Frank Martin)