The Bots are Coming! Better Re-think My Lesson Plans

» 17 August 2014 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Leadership, Strategies » 3 Comments

S.H_Horikawa_–_Star_Strider_Robot_Close_Up

Here’s a suggestion for your back-to-school faculty meeting - take 15 minutes to watch Humans Need Not Apply by CGP Grey. Then have a discussion on it’s implications for your students and (your curriculum). Talking about robot invasions is way more fun than updates on new state tests.

The video’s thesis is simple - robots are coming for our jobs. Actually, they have already taken many of them. And it’s not just low-skilled labor they're taking over.

… white-collar work is no safe haven either. If your job is sitting in front of a screen and typing and clicking -- like maybe you're supposed to be doing right now -- the bots are coming for you too, buddy.

I’ll bet that accurately filling out a worksheet won’t be a valued bot-competitive skill.

Are the professions safe from bots? Not exactly. The video makes the case for bots replacing significant aspects of legal, medical and even creative work. (And I’d add teachers to that list.)

It begs the question - what skills should we be teaching to students who will have to compete against the bots for employment? I don’t think there are any easy answers to that question. But I’ll bet that accurately filling out a worksheet won’t be a valued bot-competitive skill.

As the video concludes:

We have been through economic revolutions before, but the robot revolution is different.

Horses aren't unemployed now because they got lazy as a species, they’re unemployable. There's little work a horse can do that do that pays for its housing and hay.

And many bright, perfectly capable humans will find themselves the new horse: unemployable through no fault of their own. …

This video isn't about how automation is bad -- rather that automation is inevitable. It's a tool to produce abundance for little effort. We need to start thinking now about what to do when large sections of the population are unemployable -- through no fault of their own. What to do in a future where, for most jobs, humans need not apply.

For full text of the video click here.

Image credit: S.H Horikawa – Star Strider Robot
By D J Shin (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

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DIY Textbooks With iBooks Author

» 22 January 2013 » In Ed Tech, Guest post, History / DBQ's, How To, Leadership, Publishing, Teachers » 2 Comments

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Two years ago, three junior high teachers were thinking about how to better motivate their social studies students. They decided one way to get kids more excited about learning was to get rid of their traditional textbooks. Here’s a guest post on how these teachers teamed with their school and district leadership to create their own textbook.

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Romney vs. Obama Wordle Smackdown

» 06 September 2012 » In Commentary, Leadership, Visualizations » No Comments

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Here’s text visualizations of the Romney and Obama speeches to their conventions. Interesting comparison of the top twenty words in each speech as represented in a word cloud.

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14 Provocative Questions for the Faculty

» 25 July 2012 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Leadership, Reflection, Teachers » 3 Comments

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It’s back to school time. Get ready for that opening day faculty meeting where you sit and listen, while wishing you could be getting some actual work done in your classroom. Here’s few disruptive questions you could pose to subvert the status quo in your school. Let’s begin with who’s learning, who’s not, and what are we doing about it?

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Excellent Sheep and Our Crisis of Leadership

» 21 February 2012 » In Commentary, Leadership, Reflection, Students » 3 Comments

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Test prep courses, admissions coaches, private tutors. … So what I saw around me were great kids who had been trained to be world-class hoop jumpers. …They were, as one of them put it herself, “excellent sheep.”

We have a crisis of leadership in America because our overwhelming power and wealth, earned under earlier generations of leaders, made us complacent, and for too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going. Who can answer questions, but don’t know how to ask them. Who can fulfill goals, but don’t know how to set them. Who think about how to get things done, but not whether they’re worth doing in the first place.

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Schools Making A Difference: Films and Discussions

» 08 February 2012 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Leadership, Students, Teachers » No Comments

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The Portland City Club is continuing its educational series “Schools Making A Difference: Portraits of Excellence, Engagement and Equity” – films, panel discussions and participant dialogues

Though economic realities pose significant challenges for our education system, when schools and communities work together with a clear vision and heroic effort, they can achieve stunning results. Exemplary schools provide high expectations and opportunities for all students to succeed. They also provide real world learning experiences that prepare students for college, careers and citizenship in the 21st century. They do this through an engaging curriculum that recognizes the diverse talents and needs of their student populations. Join fellow citizens, educators, and students for any of four evenings of films, panels, and participant dialogues that offer portraits of such schools in our region and around the world.

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Why Johnny Can’t Search – a Response

» 23 October 2011 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Leadership, Literacy, Students » 21 Comments

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Clive Thompson wonders “Why Johnny Can’t Search” (Wired Magazine Nov, 2011). I note that schools contribute to the problem in two ways. In an effort to protect students from offensive online content many schools respond by sequestering students behind an information firewall. That sets Johnny up to fail in our “wild west” of information. Every day he walks into a sanitized information landscape with the expectation that anything he finds behind the school firewall is acceptable.

Schools inhibit the development of critical evaluation skills in another way – the relentless (test prep) focus on mastery of facts. Johnny can assess the validity of information because he’s awash in a sea of text without context. Critically evaluating sources requires a deeper understanding of author and purpose. That’s developed with an inquiry-based approach to learning. No time for that – we have to “cover” content for the test. In the relentless march to the exam, Johnny gets well acclimated to quickly stuffing his head with facts. No wonder he’s willing to take up Google on the bet that “I’m Feeling Lucky.”

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Learning Walks: The Power of Teacher to Teacher PD

» 22 September 2011 » In How To, Leadership, PD, Reflection, Teachers » 4 Comments

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Learning walks (also known as classroom walkthroughs) create opportunities for teachers to reflect on their craft. Here’s how I helped Lebanon Community Schools (Oregon) create a powerful teacher to teacher professional development opportunity. While visiting we kept our focus on watching the students, not the teacher. It moves “PD from lecture to the lab” in roving Socratic seminars – engaging participating teachers in observation, reflection, and discussion. Isn’t that the perspective we want to foster in our students? – thoughtful learners who are reflecting on their progress.

Typical PD takes place in the isolation from the students. Herd the teachers into a large lecture hall and let some consultant talk at them. Too often the consultant is viewed as a person with a PowerPoint from somewhere else who wants to sell you the solution to your problem. Learning walks can be lead by teachers and move the discussion to the reality of the classroom. More importantly, instead of treating teachers as a passive PD audience they are active participants in staff development.

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The Future of Schools – Three Design Scenarios

» 16 May 2011 » In Commentary, Ed Tech, Leadership, Social Web » 3 Comments

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“What proportion of the activity called ‘learning’ will be located in the institution called ‘school’?” The availability of relatively cheap technologies offering direct access to knowledge of all types creates opportunities for students to experience a dramatic increase in the choice of what they learn, with whom they choose to learn, and how they choose to learn. How will the institution called “school” survive in this environment?

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Jerry Seinfeld: History Teacher – Observations in the SNL Classroom

» 14 February 2011 » In History / DBQ's, Leadership, PD, Reflection » No Comments

Last week I used this classic Jerry Seinfeld piece from Saturday Night Live as part of an administrators’ workshop. We had lots of fun. Here’s your chance to borrow the idea. Goal: I was working with a team of principals and district administrators who wanted to provide more consistency in their teacher observations and look […]

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