Schooling in an age of accelerations

vwYou’ve likely heard of Moore’s law.  In Thomas Friedman’s latest book Thank You for Being Late he provides this explanation.  In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore first postulated that the speed and power of microchips—that is, computational processing power—would double roughly every year, which he later updated to every two years. Moore’s law has held up close to that pattern for fifty years. The doubling has gotten so big and fast that we’re starting to see stuff that is fundamentally different in power and capability from anything we have seen before—self-driving cars and computers that can think on their own.

To demonstrate, Intel engineers did a rough calculation of what would happen had a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle improved at the same rate as microchips did under Moore’s law.  Today, that Beetle would be able to go about three hundred thousand miles per hour. It would get two million miles per gallon of gas, and it would cost four cents! Intel engineers also estimated that if automobile fuel efficiency improved at the same rate as Moore’s law, you could, roughly speaking, drive a car your whole life on one tank of gasoline.

However, even though human beings and societies have steadily adapted to change, on average, the rate of technological change is now accelerating so fast that it has risen above the average rate at which most people can absorb all these changes. Many of us cannot keep pace anymore. This creates a number of challenges, including the way we educate our population. Friedman argues that when the pace of change gets this fast, the only way to retain a lifelong working capacity is to engage in lifelong learning.

Technology can create demand for totally new jobs even as it transforms the skills needed for some very old routine jobs that would seem to be made obsolete by computers and robots but actually aren’t. And it can vastly increase the skills needed to practice old jobs that have been transformed by technology. Friedman argues that at a minimum, “our educational systems must be retooled to maximize these needed skills and attributes: strong fundamentals in writing, reading, coding, and math; creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration; grit, self-motivation, and lifelong learning habits; and entrepreneurship and improvisation—at every level.”  

What does all this mean for our students, staff, and families, in Worthington Schools?  Certainly it means we have to become comfortable with change.  We can’t do what we’ve always done as a school district and expect that our students will see the results they have always seen.  The pace of change in society is accelerating and thus the pace of change in our school district must accelerate as well.  Secondly we must focus on these important skills: fundamentals in writing, reading, coding and math; creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration; grit, self-motivation, and lifelong learning habits; and entrepreneurship and improvisation.  If we can accomplish these things our students will continue to see success into their future.  

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

  • Special thanks to Jim Mahoney Executive Director Emeritus, Battelle for Kids, whose book notes were the source of this post.
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Learning didn’t stop over break

K. HallWe have only 25 school days until the class of 2017 graduates at the Columbus Convention Center on Sunday May 21st.  It’s a sprint towards the finish of the 2016-2017 school year.  Hopefully you had some opportunity to enjoy Spring Break last week.  The grass is growing in Central Ohio and it does finally feel like spring in Worthington.

While some of our students, teachers and families were out of town over break, many others were here in Worthington.  On a rainy Tuesday over Spring Break, Math teacher Kevin Hall had five students in his classroom working on mastering some difficult material. He patiently sat on a desk talking to one student about parabolas while the other four worked independently. Two of the students said they are in the class to stay eligible for spring sports and Mr. Hall offered his break to help. While others in class were taking time away to refresh for the end of the year, Mr. Hall reached out to parents and students setting up individual times for students to come into school and work on their math.

This type of thing happens regularly with Mr. Hall. You will see him at school on Saturdays with students providing the support they need to be successful in his class and beyond. After going home after the school day, Mr. Hall will often return to the building at 8:00 p.m. or 9:00 p.m. to record a lesson. He will post these recorded notes online so in class he can spend his time working with students individually or in groups. There are countless examples of his dedication to students and families.

Kevin is unassuming. He does not seek accolades or credit. He won’t appreciate this blog post but he works tirelessly to improve his craft for one goal – helping students learn. His efforts, like the efforts of many of his Worthington colleagues, give kids confidence and a belief in themselves. He is a trusted adult for many kids and in Worthington we believe that every student should have a trusted adult who they know believes in them and cares about them. Kevin helps make his school and our school district a special place for students and families. On a rainy Tuesday over Spring Break, Mr. Hall was making a difference.

Let’s make it a great month and a half of school!  Happy sprinting!

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
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Finding the intersect between student interest and the Ohio Standards for Learning

911 classStudents learn best in context and when they can relate their classroom learning to real-life situations.  We know this to be true unequivocally and yet it’s not always an easy thing to accomplish in traditional schools.  One of our non-traditional schools has a long history of designing courses to fit the intersect between student interest and the Ohio Standards for Learning.  

With that in mind, I loved seeing that last week we sent a class of Linworth Alternative students to New York City as they completed experiential learning of their social studies elective course focused on September 11, 2001.

Linworth teachers Rosanne Nagel and Lilly Yap led this course and they explained it to me like this… “Students ask so many questions, but it can be hard to divert the curriculum without a better sense of what happened and is happening in our world. Our high school students know about 9/11, but not really.”

Throughout the semester, the course has looked at various sociological, political, and practical changes that have occurred as a result of the events of 9/11. “We look at everything from understanding terrorism and risk to current cultural and geopolitical issues with connections back to 9/11. While we do also explore many aspects of what happened that day, a great deal of the course looks at what came next for Americans and the world. For example, we look at the debate over security vs privacy that many students recognize but don’t realize takes a new path after 9/11.”

Part of the class (including students from 9th, 10th, and 11th grade) traveled to NYC from Sunday morning through Wednesday night. “For the trip, we’re extremely fortunate to visit the 9/11 Museum and Memorial along with a special meeting with a local curator. We’re taking in many iconic sites along with ones that connect directly to the novel that we read as a group. Finally, the timing is so fortunate because we’re taking in a new Broadway show called “Come From Away,” centered on the way communities of strangers came together to support one another on 9/12.”

It’s great to live and work in a public school district that believes learning happens in places other than just the classroom.  I hope our students had a great trip!

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
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