6 School Relevancy Gaps (And What We Can Do About Them)

Location: Room 217D

Participate and share

[Participate and share : Interactive lecture]

Monday, June 26, 10:30–11:30 am
Location: Room 217D

Scott McLeod   Dean Shareski  
Schools need to change but the gaps that we need to close are ones of relevance, not just achievement scores. Complex problems don’t get fixed with the simplistic approaches and technocratic "solutions" offered by most of today’s policymakers. How we get there lies along a historically unrealized path.

Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Android, iOS, Windows
Laptop: PC, Chromebook, Mac
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Bring your Internet-capable device for this interactive session!
Focus: Leadership
Topic: Educational policy and leadership
Grade level: PK-12
ISTE Standards: Administrators : Systemic improvement
Administrators : Visionary leadership
Administrators : Digital age learning culture
Additional detail: Session recorded for video-on-demand, Leadership strand session

Digital tote resources

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Schools need to change. We can’t keep doing the same things that we have always done, nor can we continue to move at the frustratingly-slow pace that we have seen so far. The challenges that lie before us are too great - and the opportunities ahead are too powerful - for us to sit back and pretend that the status quo is adequate. We love schools. But we must change them in order to save them.

We recognize that this is the rhetoric of most other educational reformers too. Indeed, many of the ill-guided educational reform measures that plague school policy arenas today are a result of well-intentioned attempts to remedy both perceived and actual shortcomings. The reasons that most educational reforms have not succeeded to date are either that they have failed to accurately diagnose or address root causes or because they continue to merely approach the problem as one that just needs tweaking or intensification rather than wholesale redesign. The problem is mainly one of not thinking or acting big enough…

If schools are to genuinely prepare graduates for a technology-infused information landscape, they must stop acting as they did when learning and teaching primarily occurred in analog formats and begin immersing students in deep, significant ways into the digital tools and outside contexts that surround them. If schools are to genuinely prepare graduates for a hyperconnected, hyper-competitive global innovation economy, they must stop emphasizing low-level content coverage and instead focus more on those interdisciplinary deeper thinking capacities, interpersonal skills, and technological fluencies that allow individuals to offer value and differentiate themselves in national and international marketplaces. If schools are to genuinely prepare graduates to be powerful “lifelong learners” as so many of them claim, they must help students learn how to utilize mobile devices, digital environments, and online communities to foster powerful learning and connection rather than filtering and blocking those tools out because of fear, nostalgia, and control concerns. If schools are to genuinely engage students in their learning rather than simply forcing them to comply with academic and attendance directives, they must move away from one-size-fits-all instructional models and instead find ways to personalize and make more authentic the learning opportunities that students experience. If schools are to genuinely prepare innovators rather than “just tell me what to do” workers, they must transform their learning spaces into engaging environments of discovery, play, and intrinsic motivation rather than continuing to disengage students in classrooms dominated by extrinsic punishments and rewards. And if schools are to genuinely address equity issues throughout these shifts so that no child is truly left behind, they must find ways to enable robust learning for all children, not just those who are most advantaged.

We know that high-level thinkers don’t magically emerge from low-level thinking environments. We know that very few innovators graduate from schools that place an overwhelming emphasis on compliance. We know that it is very difficult to prepare technology-savvy learners and employees in environments that devalue technology-infused knowledge work. And so on… But most schools - and the educational reform initiatives that are being implemented these days - pretend otherwise. Scott’s most popular tweet ever says:

You want student learning to change but you don't want to change teaching or schooling. Good luck with that.

Until we’re ready to significantly upend how we do school, we’re only going to be tinkering around the edges. And that is what most educational reforms are doing these days.

Until we change the 'why' of school, the 'whats' and the 'hows' that we currently spend so much time on will continue to lead us down paths of irrelevance. Participants in this session will leave more deeply grounded in the visionary and leadership practices necessary to foster 21st century learning and teaching environments. They also will be able to utilize numerous session resources back home in order to begin facilitating those changes in their local systems.


This session will address the 6 relevancy gaps outlined above in the 'Standards Addressed' section. We will spend time together discussing each one. Together with our attendees, we also will crowdsource both challenges and solutions in each of the articulated relevance areas. And, of course, the two facilitators will contribute additional resources for the attendees. By the end of the session, we should have numerous ideas for how to begin initiating the change we need within our school systems and numerous supports to help us be successful.

Supporting research

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Scott McLeod, University of Colorado Denver

2016 ISTE Award for Outstanding Leadership. Associate Professor. Founding Director, CASTLE. Blogger. Idea generator. Solution builder. Agitator. Catalyst. “If the leaders don’t get it, it’s not going to happen.” | dangerouslyirrelevant.org | @mcleod

Dean Shareski, Discovery Education

ISTE Outstanding Leader of the Year 2010. Community Engagement with Discovery Educator, adjunct professor, blogger, author, tweeter of silly, Embraces a Culture of Joy. Expert on golf and naps. @shareski http://ideasandthoughts.org

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