In the spring of the year, flowers bloom, animals mate, and men's thoughts…

…turn to war. Millenia have not changed war‘s purposes, only its means. Each war presents a unique set of variables–the enemy, the terrain, and the political setting–that military leaders must either adapt to or lose. Regardless of a war‘s aims, the side that can better master the new means of war will wind up the victor.

History is full of examples of winners adapting quicker than their foes, but one reminder should suffice: gunpowder in the hands of European conquistadors, and native people’s inability to figure it out in time.

The the New York Times today reported that Defense Sec. Gates and General Petreaus believe the current commander in Afghanistan was too old-school to win on the new battlefield:

“…the war in Afghanistan, waged against an increasingly strong Taliban and its supporters across a rugged, sprawling country, is growing ever more complex. Defense Department officials said General McKiernan, a respected career armor officer, had been removed primarily because he had brought too conventional an approach [emph. mine] to the challenge.

Apparently the Pentagon thought the old ways were just not cutting it.

In the same way, educational leaders need to look at their ancient problem–getting kids to learn–with “new eyes,” taking into account the new digital culture. We educate children, who live in a culture mediated by digital communications, using methods we used when we were kids, and tv was it. Reminds me of how well beautiful spears, bows, and arrows do against bullets.

Regardless of the overall goals of their war-making, our military leadership today made a change because they saw clearly that their enemy, their battleground, and their political setting have changed since the last war.

Knowing that her overall goals are for our children’s benefit, I hope my superintendent is similarly prepared to change the way our schools have been meeting their task. Ours is a “successful” district: will she intend any change, much less disruptive change, to the way we do school?

Will my superintendent consider progressive innovation (as opposed to reform, which rearranges the same pieces)? The community is behind her. She has her team in place. If she is going to move, this is the time.

I have a few suggestions for K-12 districts going 2.0 elsewhere in this blog, but innovation is always messy, and to many, scary. What might the new school look like? Nothing too strange.

In this new school, there might be

  • different hours and weeks–why must the schedule stay rooted to a sun-based economy? where are the year-round, late start, late dismissal, night and satellite –and of course, web-based– courses?
  • different school days–why not incorporate much more the community connection, working a fifth of all students’ time (or more) w/ social work? and what about nap time and meditation time? and long lunches?
  • different means to get different teens–do we really think lecture in a ratio of 1:30 is the best means to engage them all? The best classes succeed now in achieving 80% engagement. When it’s no longer necessary because of time/space/material restrictions, how can we continue to lose those 1 in 5 kids? Blended learning offers the customizable, affordable solution.
  • different roles for educators–instead of teaching them to “teach,” our ed schools would prepare them to coach, by coaching and deconstructing themselves
  • different physical modalities–much of the education now can take place while walking and talking, either with real or web-timed communications; they can learn through games, especially the interactive, engaging sort now being channeled into destructive war scenarios, air guitar mimicking, and wii-tennis and fitness
  • different ways of evaluating and assessing–Christensen’s Disrupting Class explains the improved feedback loop to increase learning

I am eager to move things forward to better give each of our students a strong foundation for future success in life.

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