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Aurora Institute

#iNACOL16 Day Two Learnings on the Run

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Chris Sturgis

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Lead Change and Innovation

Well, I think it is safe to say the highlight of the Day Two was Virgel Hammond’s (KnowledgeWorks) keynote dedicated to helping all of us reduce our cool factor. His point is that for all of us to learn, we need to be vulnerable. We all need to be willing to take risks and get out of our comfort zones. He demonstrated this point by having Susan Patrick (iNACOL), Bill Zima (RSU2), Nick Namba (Lindsay), Dave Roberts (Fraser), and Steve Schultz (District 51) and yours truly dance our hearts out to silly songs such as The Twist, Greased Lightening, Thriller, Mr. Roboto, and Shout!

Lesson Learned: I’m too old (or perhaps I should admit just plain out of shape) to dance to Shout! anymore…instead of just twisting down to the floor, I found it more comfortable to just fall on my belly.

On a much more serious note, Todd Rose, author of The Myth of Averages, kicked off day two at #iNACOL16. If you haven’t heard him, it’s worth listening to one of his TED talks. His message is powerful – when you design for the average, we meet the needs of none. He draws on research and science to explain why we must root the design of the education system in the individual. We must figure out how to have more personalized systems of education.

His concept of jaggedness was totally new to me, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it yet. He tells a fascinating story of how the military designed planes for the average pilot until they discovered it was the source of a decline in effectiveness. Again, designing for the average is designing for no one. In education, we want to roll kids up into one number – but that’s impossible because we are multi-dimensional. Learning has many features and each one is important. What we need are ways to talk abut the different features in ways that are meaningful and help us better support students.

He also raised two other key issues. First, context matters. We all know that a student in a safe, respectful environment will be vulnerable and willing to take risks. In an unsafe environment – including one that freely passes out Ds without providing adequate support – students will shut down, be resistant, and possibly lash out with a broken heart and damaged ego. Second, there are infinite pathways, not just one. Most people will agree that students vary in their pace of learning. Every individual will have a different path toward mastering the learning targets. However, he cautions us from falling into the trap that faster is the same as better or smarter. There is no relationship between pace and ability.

Stay tuned – Day Three has blown my mind, I’m learning so much.