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Michael Robbins

A New Community Compact for Education

March 7, 2016 | By | No Comments

We need a new chapter in K-12 education where everyone embraces a role and responsibility to advance student learning. Schools and teachers can’t and shouldn’t have to go itEdCompact alone. We need to support young people in learning paths that span across school, home, community, and online environments. We need a new Community Compact for Education.


This Community Compact for Education—or “EdCompact” for short—isn’t an organization or a sign-on letter. It’s not a school reform strategy, a technology platform, or just a hashtag. It’s a common commitment to set of principles for K-12 learning that can transcend the pervasive “us vs. them” debates and usher in the next era in education. These principles include:


Engaging entire communities. The EdCompact engages everyone across the community in teaching and learning. It prioritizes building and strengthening partnerships among schools, families, community partners, and youth. It doesn’t limit people outside schools to non-academic roles. It brings the community into the classroom and brings teachers into the community. It supports parents as learning coaches and co-learners. It recognizes we have a responsibility to help young people connect the disparate systems involved in their lives—linking schools, civic education, and workforce development.


Prioritizing student engagement. The EdCompact responds to the fact that too many young people are disengaged from learning and dislike school. It puts a top-level priority on student engagement—leading with curiosity and student interests. The EdCompact moves beyond “personalized learning” and “student-centered learning” to the next level of “student-owned learning.” It advances learning opportunities that better connect youth to their passions, peers, community, and careers.


Empowering learners with data. The EdCompact shifts the conversation on testing by focusing on how students and their parents can use test results and other education data to take ownership of their learning paths. It advances ways for students and their parents to securely store, access, and share their education data with others. It helps learners understand their capabilities, effectively communicate them to others, and identify what knowledge, skills, and dispositions they need to develop to build the future lives they want for themselves.


Embracing the digital age. The EdCompact recognizes that youth have increasingly erased the boundaries between their online and in-person lives. It embraces the power of technology not just as a learning tool, but as a way to improve collaboration among teachers, parents, and community organizations. Technology becomes a backbone for engaging entire communities, boosting youth engagement, empowering learners with data, and enabling anytime/anywhere learning.


Are you making everyone in your community an “education insider” and creating better answers to the question “How can I help?” Are you building a community-wide culture of education success? Are you advancing the EdCompact?


Let us know on Twitter using the hashtag #EdCompact.


Fix “school” to fix the teacher shortage

August 12, 2015 | By | No Comments

Frank Bruni pens an op-ed in today’s NY Times on the teacher shortage conversation. Both the problem and answer are bigger than what Bruni outlines. Most of even our best schools are based on antiquated models – agrarian calendars, regimented class times, separation based on ages, credit for seat time rather than what students learn.

Schools don’t reflect how young people learn in the digital age. Nationwide, over half of high school students are disengaged from their learning experience. For today’s youth, school is just one node on a much broader network of learning.

Teachers and teaching are constrained by our traditional approach to school.  We need a new vision for how to engage teachers in student learning that crosses over school, home, community, and online environments.  Developing and implementing this vision is one of the goals of District of Learning, the new ecosystem in DC that uses digital badges to acknowledge anytime-anywhere learning and skills development— strengthening pathways to college and careers.DofL logo

Teachers can help equip students with a Backpack, a GPS, and a Sherpa for learning.

Teachers can work together with community partners to create connected learning opportunities – learning that better connects students to their passions, peers, communities, and careers. They can help partners and students understand and use curriculum standards and skills standards beyond the classroom to link learning that happens anytime and anywhere. Teachers can validate that students have mastered content regardless of where or when it was learned, moving us to school credit based on competency instead of seat time.

By bringing together teachers, families, community partners, and students themselves, we can reinvent teaching to inspire a new generation of educators.

Parsing Internet Trends for Education

May 28, 2015 | By | No Comments

Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends report is out. It’s worth taking the time to review the whole presentation, but these highlights stand out in relation to education:

  • Smartphone access to the Internet continues to skyrocket, up to 64%
  • Time spent viewing videos on mobile devices is dramatically increasing.
  • Overall Internet connectivity in the U.S. is leveling off (just above 80%)
  • Instagram continues to pull ahead as the primary social network used by teens, outpacing Twitter and Facebook.
  • Cyber attacks and data breaches continue to grow, along with concerns about the security of personal data.
  • New user interfaces and design concepts have become the norm for mobile apps and similar approaches could transform education apps. (beginning slide 183)

My overall takeaway is that education still lags far behind in the Internet revolution, particularly on mobile devices. We’ve yet to see platforms transform education at scale the way that Google Maps, Yelp, Uber, AirBnB, and other platforms have transformed other parts of our lives. Given trends in China and India, the mobile education revolution may happen there first.