Personalizing from Local to Global

As a full-time education consultant, Allison Zmuda works with educators to grow ideas on how to make learning for students challenging, possible and worthy of the attempt. Over the past 19 years, Zmuda has shared curricular, assessment, and instructional ideas, shown illustrative examples, and offered practical strategies of how to get started.

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Thanks so much for your immediate and warm response on our last newsletter — Power of Portfolios. If you were on Spring Break or it got lost in your inbox, click here to get access to it.

This newsletter broadens our horizons and brings in global perspectives to inspire your local school community on how we are taking on the challenge of preparing students for the world. Bena and I often start our “WHY” conversation by using the acronym VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity) to describe the world we are living in right now.

This term was initially coined by the U.S. War College in 1987 but more recently has impacted the strategy many schools and  organizations are using. In a VUCA world, leaders of organizations must focus on developing flexible, agile learners. According to Dr. Warner Burke and his research colleagues at Columbia University, the attributes of learning agility include:

Flexibility – Willingness to try new things; Speed – Rapidly grasping new ideas; Experimenting – Testing out new ideas; Performance Risk Taking – Taking on challenges; Interpersonal Risk Taking – Asking others for help; Collaborating – Leveraging the skills of others; Information Gathering – Increasing your knowledge; Feedback Seeking – Asking for feedback; and Reflecting – Taking time to reflect on your effectiveness.

You might want to cross reference this with the Habits of Mind. We are all moving along the same pathways.

We are clamoring for a new vision of school that:

  • Grows student capacity in contemporary skills, behaviors, and dispositions that are vital to becoming employable. If you haven’t see the updated 2018 list from the World Economic Forum, click here.
  • Grows student capacity in contemporary skills, behaviors, and dispositions that are vital to becoming a contributing, kind human being. This was one of the highlights of the Finland trip as we saw this focused articulation and attention from the National Curriculum documents to the teacher-preparation programs to the local schools we visited.
  • Amplifies student voice in what they learn, how they learn, and how they demonstrate learning. I have the privilege of working with Western Academy of Beijing as they reimagine how to operationalize their personalized learning vision with their school community. (NOTE: Check out they use VUCA in Target #6!)
  • Regularly examines the horizon of what the future of work looks like and how to provide exploratory and meaningful learning experiences. At the 2018 Davos retreat on the Future of Education, invited speaker after invited speaker talked about how automation will increasingly replace routine or repetitive jobs and a clear emphasis on developing “soft skills” in our children. (Check out Guy Claxton, Art Costa and Bena Kallick’s article on why soft skills are vital but also hard as they are types of thinking.) The World Economic Forum posed this question (scroll to question #3) and shared the best responses from around the globe.

How can we create places of possibility as we continue to reimagine and revitalize learning experiences for and with students? Happy to feature regular contributors as well as brand new authors to the Learning Personalized community to share global thinking around local challenges.

  • Last month, I was thrilled to present with my dear friends and colleagues Marie Alcock, Heidi Hayes Jacobs, and Bena Kallick on lessons learned from our road trip to Finland. After our week-long excursion in the fall, we designed the slide deck into four lessons that cross the boundaries of country and region.
  • We welcome back Assistant Superintendent of Innovation Matt Doyle to Learning Personalized as he describes how to leverage design thinking to develop a viable and meaningful career superhighway for your students.
  • Carol Carter founded an organization to address questions of equity as our newly minted Americans work to stay in higher education as they move toward fulfilling the promise of a more equitable workforce.
  • Matt Renwick provides a commentary after reflecting on Future Wise by David Perkins and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari. He advocates for refreshed approaches to literacy where students can “develop a strong sense of personal identity within the context of a big world that has as many perspectives as it does communities and individuals.”
  • Finally the anchor interview comes from Director of Curriculum Philip Muscott from CIA School in Cambodia on how he is leveraging both Understanding by Design and Habits of Mind with teachers and students to develop reflective and agile learners. An added bonus is we have an interview with two of the students at the school as well!

Please respond with your feedback regarding this newsletter – thank you for continuing to engage!


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