A New Course on Education Moonshots & Social Entrepreneurship

The ASU/GSV Education Innovation Summit is my favorite conference of the year. It is rare to find such a diverse gathering of interests in educational innovation. You will see investors, startup founders, people from established education companies, bloggers and journalists, K-12 educators and school leaders, higher education educators and school leaders, representatives from government, along with people from a variety of non-profit organizations interested in educational innovation. The plenary sessions are typically thought-provoking and the breakouts/panels can be interesting as well, but I go for the incredible conversations. Of course, I also love the startup pitches. As I’ve written before, I see those as the poetry slams of the business world, and I love attending them. This year, I have related to but different goal. I’m attending to make connections with potential guest speakers and case studies for a new course that I’m designing on Education Moonshots and Social Entrepreneurship that is tentatively scheduled to run during the Spring of 2017. This is scheduled to be a traditional undergraduate course, but I’m also musing about the possibilities of having some sort of virtual element for those who are not officially enrolled. Stay tuned for developments on that.

I’d venture to say that out of all the events that I attend, I probably feel most at home when I’m at the Education Innovation Summit. In some ways, the diverse attendees at the event align perfectly with the focus in my work and writing. There are not many academics whose work focuses almost exclusively on futures in education along with educational innovation and entrepreneurship, so events like this are wonderful opportunities to expand my work into new areas, to extend my network, to get feedback on new and future projects, and to learn from the innovations of others.

This year, I’m only there for one full day, so I’m committed to making the most of it. I always set personal goals for each event that I attend, but given the short time, I’m sticking with that single goal thisis year. And as aside, that goal that gives a hint at something that I hope to publicly announce in the next week or so. The new course design is a strong clue, but you’ll likely hear more about the larger announcement soon.

I am excited to begin designing this new undergraduate course called Education Moonshots & Social Entrepreneurship. This is an important project to me so I’m putting 8 months of focused preparation into this project. Between now and the launch of the course, I will be conducting interviews, expanding my reading and writing in the areas represented in the course, conducting visits and observations, building a collection of virtual and live guest speakers and panels for the course, devising engaging learning experiences for the students, and of course, deepening and refining my knowledge of the research in each of the course topics. All of this will also contribute to a new book that I plan to write and finish just as the course ends in May of 2017 (I’ve not approached any publishers yet so if you work with a publisher that might be interested, feel free to reach out).

The thinking represented in my 2016 book Missional Moonshots: Insight & Inspiration in Educational Innovation along with my forthcoming book, What Really Matters?: 10 Critical Issues in Modern Education, certainly influenced my intention to design this course, but if you read my blog, you will also not be surprised by what I’ve elected to include in the syllabus.

From the tentative course description:

This course focuses upon educational innovation and entrepreneurship as a form of social entrepreneurship that seeks to solve some of education’s greatest challenges.
It begins with a survey of critical issues in contemporary education followed by an exploration of innovative and entrepreneurial efforts to address these issues. Learners will explore how diverse education startups, non-profit organizations and NGOs, individuals and grassroots groups, K-12 schools, Universities, foundations, government agencies, professional associations and others are each responding to these issues in diverse and often innovative ways. As the course progresses, learners will explore the roles of funding, foundations, corporations, and government policies and regulations upon educational innovation and entrepreneurship. It will conclude with an examination of potential ways for personal engagement with current and future education moonshots.

Right now my list of topics looks like more than you could fit in a typical semester course. I’ll need to select from the list for the actual class, but I still intend to have a dedicated chapter on each of these areas in the book that I plan to write in parallel with the course design and offering. Here is what I have so far.

  1. The Education “Moonshot”
  2. A Survey of Prominent Leaders & Voices in Educational Entrepreneurship
  3. The Educational Entrepreneur’s Code: Ethics, Missions and Motives
  4. Education as Social Entrepreneurship: Personalized & Adaptive Learning
  5. Education as Social Entrepreneurship: Open Education
  6. Education as Social Entrepreneurship: Access & Opportunity
  7. Education as Social Entrepreneurship: Self-directed & Informal Learning
  8. Education as Social Entrepreneurship: Non-cognitive & 21st Century Skills
  9. Education as Social Entrepreneurship: Unbundled Education
  10. Education as Social Entrepreneurship: The New Digital Divide
  11. Education as Social Entrepreneurship: Blended & Online Learning
  12. Education as Social Entrepreneurship: Competency-based Education
  13. Education as Social Entrepreneurship: Alternative Learning Pathways
  14. Education as Social Entrepreneurship: Virtual & Augmented Reality
  15. Education as Social Entrepreneurship: STEM Education
  16. Education as Social Entrepreneurship: Gamification & Game-Based Learning
  17. Education as Social Entrepreneurship: Credentialism and Workforce Development
  18. Visions and Rationales for Post-Industrial Education
  19. Emerging and Experimental Models of K-12 Education
  20. Emerging and Experimental Higher Education Models
  21. Intrapreneurs & Educational Innovation
  22. The Role and Impact of Foundations on Educational Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  23. Corporate Interests in Educational Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  24. Regulations, Government Policy & Educational Entrepreneurship: Muzzles and Megaphones
  25. Exploring Roles and Opportunities in Educational Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Now the work begins. I am committed to having a list of virtual and/or personal guest presenters, panels, and/or pre-recorded video interviews from researchers, innovators, leaders, entrepreneurs, and other key stakeholders in each of the topics listed above. So, if you have done work in one of these areas and think that it might be relevant for the course, I would love to connect with you. Just use the contact page on this blog to reach out or connect with me on Twitter.

What happens when…?” 6 Questions from Day 2 of #SXSWedu

Day 2 of SXSWedu comes to an end. What better way to end the day than to reflect on the rich conversations, presentations and interactions? Today I’ll do it in the form of 6 questions that highlight memorable moments of the day (That is apart from a great lunch and dinner with new and old friends. You’ll have to ask me in person about those.).

Question 1 – What happens when you apply a social entrepreneur’s mindset to addressing the fact that 90% of the hottest new jobs in Texas require a college degree, but less than 30% of high school graduates go to college…and many who go to college do not graduate?

You get PelotonU, a less-than-three-year old organization that provides funding for eligible students in the Austin area, connects them with regionally accredited competency-based programs (like College of America, WGU, and Patten University), offers mentoring, and creates a space for people to gather, learn, and get the support they need to persist and succeed.

This represents another example of what I’ve written about in the past as the un-bundling of higher education. In some ways, this is like the financial aid office, career services, student advising, and the tutoring center at a college. Only this isn’t a college. It is these types of services unbundled from a school, but then it connects with existing CBE schools to create a full and valuable learning experience for working students. Look for this model to expand over the next few years. I can see a day in the future when we see PelotonU-like services available in most major cities.

Question 2 – What happens when the US Vice President’s wife is a community college professor and she shows up at SXSWedu? 

You get a standing room only presentation with security guards all around the perimeter. You also get a polished and on point message about the importance of college education; making it “accessible, attainable and affordable for all Americans.” You get a champion for President Obama’s challenge to reduce the cost of a community college education to $0.

Question 3 – What happens when you get a passionate, competent and confident teacher; but put him in a school full of policies and practices that hinders his effectiveness?
According to one panelist at the “What a Student Needs from a Teacher for Success” presentation, you get a “subversive teacher,” one who says something like this, “I shut my door and I teach. I try not to let anybody do anything that keeps me from doing what I know is needed to help these students learn.” Good or bad? There are probably positives and negatives to such an approach. Regardless, this description is an invitation for us to ask how we can design or re-design learning communities where everyone is laser focused on the shared goal and vision of helping students thrive and learn.

 Question 4 – What happens when you put two engaged journalists on the main stage to debate whether good teaching is learned or in the genes?

You get a playful but interesting exploration of the challenges that we face as we think about what it takes to have highly effective teachers in our schools. While one camp says that we are best to get smarter people in the classroom, the other says that it is about getting the best trained. So, why not aim for both. Let’s put the smartest teachers with the best training (and a commitment to lifelong education) in the classrooms.

Question 5 – What happens when you take three long-time friends who grew up coding; put them together, and have them design product for young people that teaches coding fundamentals in a way that is engaging and not overly simple?
You get CodeMonkey, another welcome provider of an online tool that teaches computer programming to youth. You also get a University administrator and professor who proudly blogged about making it through challenge 5 in no time flat! Try out the game before you are too impressed.
Question 6 – What happens when you bring hundreds of edupreneurs and educational innovators to downtown Austin and tell them to hang out?
You get much more than a collection of presentations. You get days full of rich and serendipitous conversations and connections. Sometimes I wonder if this event would not be just as good if we took all the same people, put them in a large open space for three days, and told them to do something meaningful and valuable. This is my way of saying that the people are the best part of SXSWedu for me, and I suspect that is true for quite a few others.

Notes, Quotes & Reflections about Geoffrey Canada’s Keynote at #BbWorld14

Geoffrey Canada, educator and activist took the closing keynote spot at Blackboard World 2014 last week. You might know him from his engaging TED Talk on “Our Failing Schools: Enough is Enough!” Perhaps you know him for his inspiring work with Harlem Children’s Zone or by watching Waiting for Superman. Or maybe you read one of his books: Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence or Reaching Up For Manhood. For those at BBWorld2014 who never heard of him, maybe they will remember him for a compelling, passionate, provocative closing keynote.

This was his first public appearance since retiring after 31 years with the Harlem Children’s Zone, and he started with a short reflection on the way his work has spread and influenced education. “All I ever wanted to do was save my kids…but the ‘my’ kept getting larger and larger,” he explained. Then he got into it, launching his main talk with the following quote:

“I’m convinced that if we don’t do something radically different, we’re going to preside over the decline of our country.”

“When I stared, I went to Detroit and found out that it was worse than Harlem.” And as he learned more, he wondered, “How big is this problem?” “I discovered that as a nation, we’ve developed a strategy”…a toxic one, designing a system where many kids don’t get an education. What do we do when places produce kids who are unemployable? “We lock up all the guys.” ‘We incarcerate more people per capita than any place in the world bar none.” “We created an industry around incarceration in our country that is rivaling education.”

What does it take to education kids coming from poverty? He explained that it is difficult, but we can do it. We invest in kids from the beginning, carefully measuring how they are doing so that we can do something to help them. We stay with them through high school and college. Canada claims that this will cost $5000 per child above what we already spend on education. Right now, Canada pointed out that the average cost per child is $30,000 per year, but in some places it is $60,000 to over $100,000. He described this to argue that, when put in perspective, this $5000 is not that much. “People scoff at this modest investment, but we don’t seem to worry that the cost of incarceration is so much more.”

“We see an American tragedy unfolding, and those of us in education are part of the problem.” Canada used a couple of illustrations to explain that we see problems elsewhere and don’t think they will impact us. Perhaps it is a problem in another part of the country or with a different demographic. Yet, Canada argued that this education problem “is an American problem.” He saw a report that 75% of American kids can’t qualify for the military. 30% of the kids don’t graduate high school. 30% can’t pass the entrance exam. 27% are so obese that they can’t qualify. “We let this happen to our kids.”

Canada then went on to explain a few things that need to change.

1. “If you are a teacher and you can’t teach, you should probably find another job.” and “If you are a barber and you can’t cut hear, get another job.”

2. Canada argued that we should expect of each kid what we would or do expect of our own. If we want our kids to graduate high school and go to college, what about having that goal for every kid? “When you walk around Harlem, almost every kid in my zone goes to college, ” Canada explained. “This is about normative behavior.”

3. “Let’s stop teaching to the middle and start teaching to the student.”

4. “We need to hold everyone accountable for the work they do, and we need to use real data. While this is controversial for some, this is how you improve things in education.”

5. Kevin ended his talk by reciting one of his poems, “Don’t Blame Me”, a poem that calls us to take responsibility and take action to address this crisis in education…not to piont the finger at someone else, but to do something.


Notes & Quotes from The Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know Were in BB Learn #BbWorld14

I attended “The Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know Were in Blackboard Learn” this morning, led by Jim Chalex (Senior Director of product Management for BB Learn). For those who have been using Learn for quite some time, perhaps much of this is familiar. For people newer to the LMS (like me), it was an impressive and helpful overview of new features and enhancements of existing features. Everything below is part of the “Learning Core” package.

10 – Date Management

When you are teaching a course for the second time, what do you do to get ready? One thing is to adjust the dates for the new term/section. Date management automates much of this process. It gives you a list of dates to review and adjust from the last term. This is much faster than if you had to recreate dates for everything.

9 – Student Preview

You know what the course looks like as a teacher. What will it look like for the students? Student Preview helps you answer that question, including a preview of what grades will look like. You can do anything that a typical student would do. You can even take a test, add discussion posts, etc. When you exit the student view, it gives you an option to keep that student data. So, if you took a test in student view, you could keep the data from it and then see how the score shows up in the teacher view.

8 – Blackboard Store

Students need materials…easily and in a timely manner. This feature integrates the text and resource purchasing process right within the context of Blackboard Learn. The student can see the required materials, and BB promises competitive pricing.

7 – Delegated Assignment Grading

What if you need more than one person to be involved in the grading of the course. What if there are teaching aids, or you want to set up peer graders, or even bring in other guests to grade or give feedback on student submissions? This tool allows you to explicitly define who will be the graders for each assignment. You can even specify which submissions they can grade (like the entire class, select students, or select groups). In addition, you have the option of making the submissions look anonymous to the graders. After all this, you have the choice of reconciling the final grade, like if you had multiple graders for the same assignment. You can even add a grader mid-stream.

6 – SafeAssign Integration

BB has had a built-in plagiarism detection tool. Now it is much more integrated in the workflow. As you create assignments, you can build in SafeAssign review as part of the submission workflow. Now rubrics and multiple assignment attempts, for example, work right in SafeAssign. In other words, SafeAssign is now a fully built-in plagiarism detection solution.

5 – Inline Grading

How do we make grading faster? Word documents and PDFs now show up right in the submission itself…no need to download (although you can still do that if you want). You can annotate the documents right in the browser, and your other feedback options show up right on the side of the submission. This sidebar works for grading pretty much anything in Learn.

4 – Test Power Features

For STEM fields, you can now develop calculated/formula questions with significant figures…important for chemistry and related disciplines. Another enhancement is test exceptions. Maybe you have a timed test. What if you need to make an exception for a single student who needs a special accommodation? Now it is extremely easy to do this. You can make feature exceptions for people or select groups.

For high stakes tests (midterms, finals, etc.), there is often a proctored environment. To support that, they added IP address filtering. You can define where a test can be taken…like only at a computer in a specific lab on campus.

Access logs are also enhanced. What if a student is taking a test and has Internet problems? The logs let you know exactly what a student did or did not do, allowing you to validate a student claim about what happened.

3 – Portfolio Assessment

Portfolio capabilities are already built-in Learn. However, the way students created the portfolio was clunky and not aesthetically pleasing.  It was also not integrated into the environment. They have redone the portfolio to make it aesthetic, easy to use, and integrated with the grading and other features. Students can also pull assignments out of a course and put them into the portfolio with ease, working well for a more program-wide portfolio instead of one just tied to a single course. In addition to this, they created a feature in assignments where you can require students to submit their portfolio in the course! All this is part of the learning core.

2 – Learn Outcome and Activity Reporting

You now have the option to define learning outcomes on a program level and align them to most anything. This can drive curriculum mapping and performance reports, reports like how students in a given class are doing in terms of meeting the program level outcomes.

There is detailed activity reporting to track group activity and drilled down student-specific activity on pretty much everything in the course.

1- The Retention Center

Everyone is taking about retention and persistence. It is a critical part of what we do. The retention center provides a straightforward way to figure out which students are struggling and need a potential intervention (or just a little nudge). It lets you see patterns of behavior (like missing due dates, not logging in, poor performance on a grade, inactivity in the course, etc.). There are default settings, but you can also adjust it to determine risks levels of different students. And when you find an at-risk student, you can also connect with the student right from the same screen.

0 – Publisher Integration

Learn is working hard to make it really easy to integrate resources from publishers like Wiley, Pearson, Cengage, and McGraw Hill…all deeply integrated with single sign-on.