Notes from India – I’m not sure you appreciate…

Conference organizers usually strive to have participants leave upbeat and energized at the end of the conference. I violated that rule on the last day of the ASB Unplugged conference in Mumbai, India. 

Each of the February TEDxASB speakers had 3 minutes to speak to the audience. Scott Klososky’s segment with an American School of Bombay student was particularly awesome and I hope someone captured it on video.

In both of my two leadership workshops, I kept hearing variations of the same theme from the international educators in attendance. One participant summed it up:

I'm not sure you appreciate how far along are most of the schools here today. We're far from average in terms of our implementation of technology.

When it came to my 3 minutes, I just couldn’t keep quiet about this. So I said something like the following:

One of the participants in my morning session said that I didn’t appreciate how far along you all are and that you are way above average when it comes to integrating technology into your instruction. And yet, from my conversations with many of you over the past few days, it’s very clear to me that there still are many things you’re not doing.

For example, most of you have yet to put a computer in every kid’s hands; that’s why you’re here at this 1:1 conference. Most of you have yet to incorporate online courses into your curricula in any kind of substantive way. Few of you are teaching students to be empowered – not just responsible – digital citizens in our new information landscape. Few of you have a staff full of educators that are modeling active participation in that landscape. As far as I can tell, none of you has robust student assessments at every grade level that target higher-level, more cognitively-complex thinking and doing and being. None of you has moved to a truly personalized learning environment for every student, one in which students’ progress is facilitated and perhaps assessed by technology and is organized around student competence and completion rather than age and grade level.

So some of you are sitting there in the audience feeling pretty good about yourselves. And you should. You’re blessed with wonderful financial resources, fantastic facilities, and amazing faculty. But for those of you who think I don’t appreciate how far along you are, all I can say is that I'm not sure you appreciate how far you still have to go.

Thank you.

I’m still second-guessing my decision to use my final statement in this manner. Despite tempering my negativity with a fun follow-up Animoto of the conference, I still think I might have violated one of the cardinal rules of conferences…

This likely is my final post about my trip to India. Here are my previous posts:

Notes from India: Pictures and Tweets from ASB Unplugged and Mumbai

For those of you who are interested, here is the Flickr photo set for ASB Unplugged, a February 1:1 laptop conference for international schools that was sponsored by the American School of Bombay in Mumbai, India. You may recognize a few edublogger faces like Vicki Davis, Julie Lindsay, Doug Johnson, Kim Cofino, Susan SedroNick Sauers, and others!

And here is the Flickr set of the pictures I took of India while I was there (these also are intermingled in the ASB Unplugged set above). I also took some video.

And here is the Flickr set of the pictures of India that I took two years ago when I was there for the inaugural ASB Unplugged event. I also took some video.

Finally, here are all of the Tweets from this year’s conference:

Notes from India: Educators as risk-takers

I just returned from ASB Unplugged, a 1:1 school laptop conference hosted by the American School of Bombay in Mumbai, India. If you can imagine nearly 300 educators from international schools all across the world – all talking about technology integration and implementation, effective instruction, and empowering leadership within the context of 1:1 laptop programs – then you probably can guess what a great time I had. I was in charge of the leadership strand of the conference. Jamie Fath and Nick Sauers, whom many Iowa educators know from the Transitioning and Boot Camp training that CASTLE is doing with the School Administrators of Iowa, accompanied me. The conversations that the three of us had with the international educators were extraordinarily robust, meaningful, and insightful. My time in India sparked some thinking about educators and risk-taking…

Part 1: International educators are risk-takers

One of the things from the conference that resonated with me was the international educators’ willingness to take risks. If you’ve been teaching the same thing in the same school for the past 15 to 20 years, it may seem like a fairly big deal when someone then comes in and asks you to start integrating this technology stuff into your daily teaching practice in a meaningful way. On the other hand, if you’ve already packed up your entire family and headed off to work in Nairobi, Kenya – and then Caracas, Venezuela – and then Budapest, Hungary – and then Doha, Qatar – and then Shanghai, China – you’ve already taken the enormous risk of repeatedly uprooting your entire lifestyle and adjusting to a new school, city, and country. For international educators who already have proven themselves as risk-takers, being asked to pull technology into their educational practice may not seem as big a deal.

So I think one of the biggest assets these international schools have – even more than their globally-minded students and parents and their tremendous financial resources (tuition often is upward of $30,000 per student) – is that they have buildings full of educators who already have established themselves as risk-takers. It seems to me that a school full of people who are willing to try things – to ‘give it a go,’ if you will – is extraordinarily well-poised to be successful in a rapidly-changing climate such as that in which we now live. The challenge for those of us who don’t work in such schools is how we create this kind of learning climate within our own organizations.

Part 2: Wouldn’t Google’s CSI event be a good model for educators?

Google has an annual event called Crazy Search Ideas (CSI), for which employees bring their most offbeat ideas about Internet search to the table for vetting. This is a classic technique to foster innovative brainstorming. Why don’t schools do this? I’m sure that front-line educators have plenty of out-of-the-box ideas that might potentially be breakthroughs for school organizational and/or instructional logjams. Until we find ways to empower school employees’ risk-taking and innovation – and then scale successes to the larger school system – we’re never going to become the true learning organizations that we need to be.

Part 3: Assessing educators’ willingness to take risks

I’m working with an ISU honors Psychology student, Hana, to identify assessments of individuals’ proclivity to take risks. What we’d like to do is run some educators against the assessment(s) to see if they’re more likely to be high or low risk-takers. We may even do some comparative work where we also assess professionals in other industries. If your school or organization might be interested in participating in this project, please drop me a note in the next couple of weeks.

See you in Mumbai?

The American School of Bombay (ASB) in Mumbai, India is hosting a 1:1 laptop computing conference in February 2010. While the conference is aimed at other international schools, it should be an excellent learning opportunity for anyone who can attend. I attended (and keynoted) ASB's first conference two years ago, brought my buddy, Dr. David Quinn, and had an absolutely wonderful time. I met a bunch of really great international educators and learned a lot about effective 1:1 programs. I highly encourage you to try and attend; Mumbai's a fascinating city! The conference is a collaborative effort of ASB, the Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation (AALF), the Laptop Institute, and the NESA Center.

If you'd like to submit a proposal to present, the deadline is September 5. The deadline to register and attend is November 15. More information on the conference – including how to register and/or submit a proposal – is at the ASB Un-Plugged Ning.

CASTLE will be sending three representatives to the conference. We're going to make sure we're there in time for the preconference with AALF, which looks totally amazing. ASB is the best 1:1 school I've seen to date; I'm looking forward to seeing how much progress they've made since my last visit. I'm heading up the leadership strand of the conference. Vicki Davis, Julie Lindsay, Doug Johnson, Scott Klososky, and Helen Barrett will be leading conference strands too. Hope to see you there!

Related posts

Dr. Yong Zhao at SAI 2009

Here are my notes from Dr. Yong Zhao’s presentation, Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization, at the 2009 School Administrators of Iowa (SAI) conference…

  • Dr. Zhao’s book will be out soon from ASCD.
  • Thomas Friedman: “When I was growing up, my parents used to say to me: ‘Finish your dinner — people in China are starving.’ I, by contrast, find myself wanting to say to my daughters: ‘Finish your homework — people in China and India are starving for your job.’”
  • When something bad happens in America, it has to do with education. When something good happens in America, it has to do with some politician.
  • March 24, 1958 article in LIFE magazine comparing Russian students’ work with American students’ was very similar to the rhetoric of 2 Million Minutes.
  • 1983, A Nation at Risk: “a rising tide of mediocrity” and “we are raising a new generation of Americans that is scientifically and technologically illiterate.”
  • Achieve, the College Board, and ACT are writing the upcoming national standards. Ask yourself who stands to benefit from the new standards?
  • 2 Million Minutes: now the ‘enemy’ is China and India. Dr. Zhao grew up in China and is back there almost every month. He disagrees with Bob Compton, the director.
  • The USA continues to be the most economically competitive country in the world. We continue to be the most innovative, as measured by patents issued. And of course we are the most open, democratic.
  • No other country comes close to the US when it comes to exports of intellectual property / knowledge (patents, royalties, copyrights, license fees). China dominates toy exports, not knowledge exports. China is a country built on cheap labor, not knowledge.
  • If the US educational system is so bad, why are other countries (like China) trying to emulate us (see, e.g., China’s 2002 and 2005 curriculum and assessment reforms).
  • Singapore is emphasizing the explicit teaching of critical and creative thinking skills.
  • The correlation between the 1964 First International Math Study test scores (FIMS) and economic output, hourly productivity, quality of life, etc. 40 hours later are all negative. Democracy, creativity, livability all have no relationship or a negative relationship with the FIMS scores.
  • Recommends reading Day of Empire: How HyperPowers Rise to Global Dominance – And Why They Fail, by Amy Chua, and The Rise of the Creative Class, by Richard Florida. Diversity of talents, creativity, entrepeneurship, and passion are what allow nations to thrive.
  • We are busy closing the achievement gap. Asian countries are busy closing the creativity gap.
  • The strengths of American education: school talent shows (value individual talents, inspires passion and responsbility, tolerate deviation, cultivate entrepeneurship) and children are popcorn (some pop early and some pop late; respect individual differences; have faith in every child; second, third, and fourth chances)
  • Creativity is fundamentally to be different. America is a society that tolerates, values, and celebrates difference.
  • We do face new challenges. For example, globalization (i.e., the death of distance). Columbus took about 3 months to get from Spain to the Bahamas. Now it takes 13 hours on airplane. Electronic information, money, voice phone calls, etc. now get there instantly.
  • Global supply chains: corporations can fragment their production and distribute it wherever it makes sense (outsourcing of labor). Products are now made from parts that come from a multitude of different countries.
  • New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce: “Today, Indian engineers make $7,500 a year against $45,000 for an American engineer with the same qualifications. If we succeed in matching the very high levels of mastery of mathematics and science of these Indian engineers – an enormous challenge for this country – why would the world’s employers pay us more than they have to pay the Indians to do their work? They would be willing to do that only if we could offer something that the Chinese and Indians, and others, cannot.”
  • Equalling China’s or India’s performance on standardized tests doesn’t differentiate ourselves, doesn’t allow us to offer what others cannot.
  • Problems in other countries also affect everyone now (e.g., swine flu, poverty, violence, financial meltdowns). We no longer can keep ourselves isolated.
  • Where does the new hope lie? With Madonna and eBay! Many people don’t like Madonna. But across the globe, there are enough who do for her to be successful. Globalization allows us to find the other crazy people across the world who find value in what we offer. eBay allows us to find others outside our local area who will buy our trash. Globalization expands our audiences and allows our skills, talents, products, etc. to find new places that they can thrive. What do you have that others don’t? What can you contribute to other markets? What’s your niche?
  • Societal changes create new job opportunities. Right now, for example, we need people who understand other countries’ cultures, languages, politics, etc.
  • Technology demands new skills (e.g., virtual designers). Virtual “gold farming” is now a $2 billion industry worldwide.
  • The Partnership for the 21st Century Skills framework is too long and complex. Our problem in America is that we keep adding, we never take away.
  • See Jenifer Fox’s
  • We need to take technology and the digital world SERIOUSLY.
  • Every child should have a personalized curriculum. This is happening in other countries (e.g., United Kingdom).
  • We should think of schools as global enterprises, not local entities, and draw on global resources.
  • Never send a man to do a machine’s job. Let people and computers each do what they do best.
  • Slides available at

Model 21st century schools – Update 2

Model21stcenturyschoolslogo_130Here’s how we’re doing at collectively creating a list of model 21st century schools that are doing a nice job of infusing 21st century skills, digital technologies, problem- or inquiry-based learning, and other innovative practices into their school organization:


Those 59 United States schools represent 26 states. The International schools are in 10 different countries.

So we’re making GREAT progress. However, we still have a number of states (and countries) that don’t have a single school organization listed. I know that there are schools in every state that are doing wonderful things in the areas of problem-based learning, 21st century skills, or technology integration. Would you help us identify more model schools, either by adding them yourself or passing this quest along to others? We are in desperate need of good models that educators can learn from and visit. Thanks!

Model 21st century schools – Update 1

Model21stcenturyschoolslogo A week ago I asked for your help identifying model 21st century schools. Although I knew of a few schools or districts that were good models of what the new learning paradigm might look like, I was sure that there were many more schools out there that were doing great things when it came to project- or inquiry-based learning, technology integration, and so on.

Here’s what we have so far:

So, as you can see, we have a long way to go toward meeting my goal of at least 2 schools in each state and at least 50 in other countries.

Why don’t we have more? Several reasons, I’m guessing:

  1. My readers don’t know what the exemplary 21st century schools are in their state/country,
  2. I wasn’t persuasive enough for my readers to actually go to the Moving Forward wiki and enter the schools that they know about, and/or
  3. There just aren’t that many exemplary 21st century schools.

While #3 is probably true to a certain extent, I’m guessing (hoping?) that each state has at least 2 schools that can serve as models for others. And I’m positive that some states, like California or Texas, have many more than 2. So I’m asking for your help again. Please go to the United States or International wiki pages and enter schools in your state/country that you know about. Also pass this quest along to others who may have knowledge in this area. We’re in desperate need of models of 21st century schooling. Help me create a shared resource that will be of value to everyone?

Help wanted: Model 21st century schools?

Model21stcenturyschoolslogo Which schools are good models that others could (should) visit to see what a new educational paradigm might look like?

This is the #1 question I get asked when I work with K-12 educators. I know a few, but I’m guessing that you know more. So I’m on a quest…

  1. Think about who's doing a nice job in your state/country of infusing 21st century skills, digital technologies, problem- or inquiry-based learning, and other innovative practices into their school organization.
  2. Go to the United States and/or International page at CASTLE’s Moving Forward wiki and add the name of the school organization and contact person in the appropriate place. If your state/territory/country isn’t listed, please add it.
  3. Using the category list at the top of the page, indicate the category of innovation at the end of your entry so that visitors know which schools to visit for what. If you need to add a category, please do so.
  4. Hyperlink the name of the school organization to its web site.
  5. Repeat Steps 2 through 4 for each school organization that is a model of 21st century learning.

By Monday, April 27, I’m hoping that together we can identify at least 150 model school organizations, including at least 2 in every state and at least 50 overseas. I will be reporting out daily on our progress both here and via Twitter.

Please pass along this quest. The more model 21st century schools we get, the better resources these two pages will be for everyone. Feel free to use the logo as desired. Thank you!