Failed plans should not be interpreted as a failed vision. Visions don’t change, they are only refined. Plans rarely stay the same, and are scrapped or adjusted as needed. Be stubborn about the vision, but flexible with your plan. – John Maxwell
2015 was a good year. It was not an easy year, but it was a good one. I learned a great deal, had rich conversations with many fascinating people, wrote, taught, advised, consulted, failed fast, grappled with some intriguing challenges, presented, designed, thought, helped lead a wonderful set of teams and broke new ground in my thinking about the emerging future of education. I did not reach all of my goals, at least not on the desired timeline, so some of them will expand into 2016. I had a few setbacks recently but, God willing, I will work through those and make good progress on new goals for 2016. With that in mind, here is my combined reflection about 2015 along with some working goals for 2016.
- Educational Innovation – In 2015, I had a series of presentations on, “The Calling of Higher Education Innovation”, starting with one to a group of University Presidents of Christian liberal arts colleges around the United States. It was at the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina, a perfect spot to talk about higher education innovation, as it was only 30 miles from the original Black Mountain College and the experimental Black Mountain SOLE that has since closed but I still consider an important experiment that will generate important benefits still to come. I later presented a related keynote at the Distance Learning Administrator’s Conference on the beautiful Jekyll Island, Georgia, allowing me to further refine my thinking on the subject. This set the stage for a year of writing about educational innovation that turned into a 50,000-word manuscript. The tentative title for this forthcoming book is Missional Moonshots: Insights & Inspiration in Educational Innovation. It is an expansion of many ideas expressed on this blog over the years. Think of it as a blend of two non-existent books: Chicken Soup for the Educational Entrepreneur’s Soul and Tips & Tricks for the Educational Innovator.
- Assessment Innovation – I enjoyed consulting for a few clients this year on topics related to assessment innovation and learning analytics. That led to refining a manuscript that I also plan to publish as a shorter book in 2016 that is tentively called Learning Beyond Letter Grades: Exploring Promising Practices in Assessment. Some of you might recognize this as the name of a short course that I taught for Educause/ELI in 2015 and ran as a MOOC in 2014. I am very excited about this forthcoming book because it is a healthy blend of philosophical musing about assessment and grading along with a collection of practical chapters that will assist educators in conducting a solid assessment makeover for individual courses or entire programs. I’m also planning to run an online continuing education course on this topic, a series of 3 webinars starting in February. You can learn more about that at CUW Online.
- Birdhouse Learning Labs – In April of 2015, I was invited to give a presentation for Young Entrepreneur’s Week in Milwaukee, WI. I spoke on the promise and possibility of educational entrepreneurship, making the case that a spirit of entrepreneurship is a very good thing for education and that socially minded education startups can play an important role in education reform. It was a persuasive presentation to at least one person…me, because, with a colleague, I launched Birdhouse Learning Labs. Right now it is just a placeholder but it is an entity with a personally compelling mission. “We are on a mission to support, celebrate and create unconventional solutions to education’s greatest challenges.” I’ve yet to decide on the what and how, but the why is clear to me. I love education, but I still consider myself a writer and designer at heart, and I’m interested in using 2016 and beyond to turn more ideas into viable and useful educational products and services.
- Book on Digital Badges – I continued to write about various aspects of digital badges for learning in 2015 and presented on them at the U.S. Distance Learning Association and DevLearn. As part of the International Day of Badges, I put together a blog post highlighting over 50 articles that I’ve written about badges over the years. That led me to collect those essays and do some heavy editing. It is my goal and hope to publish that as a book by the end of 2016 / early 2017…possibly sooner depending upon my other book projects.
- A Book on Self-Directed Learning – In January 2015, I ran my third MOOC, this one called Adventures in Blended Learning. After that, I ran another one later in the year called Adventures in Self-Blended Learning, a look at the growth of self-directed learners in otherwise traditional learning organizations. That also turned into a developing manuscript that I plan to publish as a short book in 2016. I’m debating between going with a traditional publisher, an independent publishers or self-publishing for this one. After all, what better type of book to self-publish than one about self-directed learning. Regardless, it is my goal to have this out in 2016 as well.
- 10 Critical Issues in Contemporary Education is becoming a book. – I write 2-4 blog post every week, and responses to each one are different. When I wrote one that summarized my convictions about the ten most important issues in education, I was not prepared for how it resonated with people, getting shared on social media far more than most of my articles. I received countless emails and encouragements about it, and based upon that feedback, I decided to expand on these ten themes by writing a book on the subject. That book will also be a major project in 2016, with the goal of publishing in late 2016 or 2017. After all, if you have been counting, I have high goals for writing in 2016.
- The Pedagogy of Faith book – Not everyone who follows my blog knows about my background in Christian education, but it is an important part of my identity and personal formation. I have immense gratitude for the role that such schools played in my life, and I considered it a great honor to serve as the editor for Concordia Publishing House when they asked me to assist with a first of its kind book called The Pedagogy of Faith. It is an unprecedented collection of essays that explore everything from the influence of technology on faith formation to topics like project-based learning, service learning, and child development. This is scheduled to release in the spring of 2016, likely around May or June.
- The Moonshot Edu Show – It was started on a whim with a colleague and it was great fun. It was far from a polished show but we learned a great deal through our pilot and experimental episodes. We interviewed some fascinating people and difference-makers, connected with amazing people around the world, and had great fun exploring the “Hashtag Headlines” of 2015. I’m still deciding upon the future of the show, but there is a good chance that it will restartin the first quarter of 2016. I’ll be sure to share news here if that happens, but you can also check out the dedicated site.
- Identity Management, Reputation Systems, and More – Amid a series of readings and conversations, my thinking about credentials and digital badges took an important turn. There was a marriage of my work in this area with my work and writing about self-directed learning. More than ever, I am committed to promoting, creating and normalizing multiple learning pathways as well as means for individuals to “show their work” and represent their achievements and accomplishments that are not tied to formal degrees and University credentials. This showed up in my article about learning pathways. It was also evident in my article about digital badges in the special issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Expect more on this in 2016.
- A Calling Confirmed – Perhaps you noticed a trend here. I love to design and create ideas, and I love to write about them. I thoroughly enjoy advising clients on topics related to educational innovation and education policy. Yet, regardless of the typos or sloppy grammar that you might find in my blog at times, writing is one of my callings. Writing, connecting with people through my writing; and sharing ideas that benefit other mission-minded educators, educational innovators and social entrepreneurs is a personal calling. I came to recognize and embrace that even more in 2015, and it is my hope and personal goal to make it a distinguishing feature of my work and scholarship in 2016. I am committed to making writing a priority and sharing my best (and often unconventional) ideas about education with the world. God willing, that will be in the form of published books, this blog, some and other emerging writing, research and design opportunities. I am humbled by the affirmations and encouragements that I’ve received from so many about the ideas that I share here and elsewhere. For me, borrowing from the Isaac Asimov quote, I’m just thinking with my fingers.
- Continuing Education – I love to teach, mentor and consult. I especially love it outside of the confines of formal degree programs. So, I have aggressive goals for offering a myriad of continuing education offerings in 2016. Look for potential news about webinars, workshops, and other formats. I have sketched for over 30 possible webinars around 6 different themes ranging from a “Digital Influencers Academy” to a Continuing Education Certificate on Designing Digital Badge Systems for Learning” and “Planning for Self-Directed Learning.” These are drafts, but it is my goal to bring at least some of them to reality this year.
- Three Words – For the last several years, I quit setting New Year’s Resolutions, opting instead for three words to guide and inspire my work and thinking. My three words for 2016 will be write, design, and launch. Expect more writing from in my multiple forms. Expect me to design and create models, frameworks, strategies, products and services. Also expect me to have a strong bent toward launching at least some of these into the world in more formal ways. I live in a world of ideas, and that is unlikely to change, but 2016 is also about doing things with those ideas.