Promotional film of an Ohio firm that supports youth robotics clubs

In the same Hamilton County, OH dubbed “America’s most addicted county”, manufacturers struggle to find qualified workers for their factories and machine shops.

Among the causes is a disconnect between our schools and the advanced language needed to fit in to a fast-paced production environment. Our factories aren’t what they were forty years ago. Even where the equipment is still basic, the language — impacted by a flood of college grads and production engineers — has evolved greatly.

To go directly to vocabulary, let’s look at some actual words…


[First published on LinkedIn].

It’s been a long time coming.

When we started in 2010 working with Ohio’s Credit Flex law, we created a demonstration app for issuing micro-credits. Essentially, components of high school learning that would accumulate into full Carnegie Units. If you learned the fundamentals of Javascript on CodeSchool, Art History on Khan Academy, welding basics and safety at a MakerSpace, or music theory at your local arts center, under Ohio law you might earn high school credit. We set out to make it easier to do so.

Then Mozilla began to standardize Open Badges. We knew…


In last night‘s SNL cold open, Kate McKinnon’s singing of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah rang just perfect. A song evoking millennial bonding like few others. It’s as if Cohen was called to his reward so we could together have that moment.

Remember where you were when you first heard the song? I do, with unusual fondness.

It was a bus ride to Cincinnati. With teens. Speech & Debate contestants, to be specific, district champs, headed to the state finals. To ease the long ride, the kids chose the first Shrek. I’d never seen it, and wasn’t enthused — til I heard…


Designing A Rick Hess “Mini-Me”

What’s your most prominent public skill?

If you’re Frederick M. Hess (who’s piece prompted this), it’s seeing how non-governmental entities can improve K12 learning. ..Plus writing cogently about the same, and gathering people to iterate and push such improvements forward.

What if we wanted to code Rick’s expertise into IBM’s Watson, the supercomputer that beat Ken Jennings, the Jeopardy world champ?

Ken Jennings, Watson, and Brad Rutter in their Jeopardy! exhibition match

I ask this because it bears on what high school should look like.

Thinking about Rick vs Watson helps us understand how kids learn.

It’s Rick’s excellent series on Practice, Memory, and Expertise that has me pondering. I sensed…


It’s surely wrong to so blatantly appropriate this. Yet the point is so good, and such a small part of the main piece, and yet so critical to our work here.

Read the whole piece Joe Posnanski piece on taking his daughter to see Hamilton. It’s really powerful and really moving. A wonderful tribute to the genius of Lin’s work, of the miracles of the American story, of the trials and pure joys of parenthood. It’s worth it to see this man’s view of a phenomenon you, like me, probably can’t see.

Yet as you teach, or design ‘school’, or…


I’m not asking you yet to believe it’s possible, or even that it’s a good objective. I’m only asking that you help sketch out some ways, means, and waypoints.

In this, let’s think far beyond ‘could Alton Sterling have been tazed?’ or even police matters in the larger sense. Let’s think about community-building and capital-amassing of all kinds.

If we could dream of magical, no-limits courses to contribute, where would we even begin?

Last week Dwight Carter had an amazing piece, Goodbye, Linear Factory Model of Schooling: Why Learning is Irregular. …


How might teachers judge if a learning playlist should earn teens high school credit? Begin with these checks.

Does it develop personal connections?

Not all pathways and experiences will. Most should. Whether the new connection is someone at the local arts center, a peer across town or across the state, professional programmers, designers, marketing execs, or manufacturers; in general, the point of doing this is to meet more people than one teacher at the front of the classroom.

Others have talked of this:


In which I confess my ill-gotten gain.

“Follow the money.”

You may know that for some anti-reform crusaders, the “follow the money” mantra has produced, well,… great money. One particularly famous education historian weekly collects expensive speaking fees and sells many thousands of books by mainly claiming that the ‘billionaire boys club’ wants to reduce our children to robots and spends hundreds of millions to achieve this aim.

So herewith my confession.

For a very long time I’ve taken a perverse pride in this claim:

“I’ve never made a dime in education”.

Sometimes, I annotate this by pointing out that I’ve had a number of tasty free…


What was the real innovation of the ’80’s that led to the .com and tech revolutions?

If you said the microchip, you’re less than a third right.

What allowed exponential change was largely a change in the legal climate that came with the breaking up of the AT&T like monopolies. It’s hard to imagine today, a ten minute phone call might cost $5 or more; forget about third party innovation getting around Bell.

And one more huge change, a change in our view of the problem space. A re-envisioning of the constraints that held back entrepreneurs and inventors. …


What do we mean to launch such an experiment?

We mean, first, to start small. Then grow organically.

Start with the most interested students, and the most interested teachers, and the most interested community members, and allow them to evolve a process that appeals to others.

National contests are fine and all. But they often fail of their own national weight. Transformative initiatives always start where the builders can hear from every one of their early users.

Facebook started on one campus, with Zuckerburg observing every interaction. …

Hackable High Schools

When we say we’re redesigning the American High School, people look at us like we’re a bit touched. http://hackablehighschools.com

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