In 20 Words: Modern Schools Today

The idea of modern schools encompasses not just the tools they use, but also the life they lead and the challenges they face. It recognizes that school is about now and the future while honoring and learning from the past.” — Chris Lehmann

If you could describe the spirit and ethos of learning in schools that you would like to see as daily reality — and perhaps, like me, increasingly do — from the teacher perspective (student-centred, but in response to the educator question: “what should I be doing?”) … how might you describe that using no more than 20 words?

Here is my list:

  • Relinquish Control
  • Model Learning
  • Cultivate Culture
  • Collaborate Creatively
  • Empower Strategically
  • Risk Relentlessly
  • Connect Globally
  • Engage Virtually
  • Assess Authentically
  • Celebrate Digitally

What is the intended context? Essentially, it is, to make schools increasingly …

life-worthy in the David Perkins context … different in the Scott McLeod context … relevant in the Will Richardson context … hospitable in the David Price context … innovative in the Tony Wagner context … creative in the Ken Robinson context … cultured in the Todd Whitaker context … disruptive in the Gabriel Rshaid context … inspiring in the George Couros context … connected in the Steve Hargadon context

The above is my first take. Please add your personal takes as a response below and / or here with your name, Twitter username and / or blog address and I will share. Please share with 3–5 of your connections.

Note: I think the order of the words is important. Feel free to add another context. The objective here is a sharing of ideas and thoughts, an opportunity to learn from each other. Yes, 20 words may seem contrived (it is), but I hope you appreciate the spirit of the idea.

Feel free to make your contribution as a response.

Reader Contributions:

  • Greater student agency
  • Deeper cognitive complexity
  • More authentic, real-world work
  • Richer technology infusion

Scott McLeod, @mcleod


Claude Lord @cloudlord


  • LAUGH more
  • SHARE stories, passions, student work
  • LEARN more — from students
  • ASK more questions
  • FORGE connections — locally & globally

Rene deBerardinis @rdeberardinis
Current project: Social Entrepreneurship site


  • Learn continuously.
  • De-emphasize grades.
  • Support creativity.
  • Embody disruption.
  • Encourage expressiveness.
  • Personalize feedback.
  • Challenge students.
  • Redefine rigor.
  • Embrace uncertainty
  • Be ourselves.

Gabriel Rshaid @grshaid


Like your list. Wonder about a list of just 10 words that places the most essential components of an optimal learning environment in order of importance? Mine would be:

  • leadership
  • people
  • student-centered
  • modeling
  • philosophy
  • culture
  • environment
  • technology
  • collaboration
  • freedom

Jeff T via Medium


We need to be warm demanders, who respond rather than react, and teach kids about their principled interdependence with world.

  • warm demanders — Lisa Deplit
  • “Teachers who are warm demanders help students realize they can achieve beyond anything they may have believed.”
  • Respond rather than react — Tara Brach
  • Principled interdependence — Keri Facer

“This networked child requires educational processes to help her explore the different networks and resources that she is already connected with, to explore the networks that others have access to, and to understand how best to develop and use these networks and tools. This process would be directed not at attaining an enlightenment model of rational autonomy but towards what we could call instead a ‘principled interdependence’ with the people and machines with whom she is connected. Principled interdependence implies a recognition of the extent to which we are dependent upon other people, wider institutions, environment and tools to be able to act in the world; and of the extent to which our own actions therefore also have implications for other people and for their agency in turn.”

Benjamin Doxtdator @doxtdatorb


Instead of ‘Create Culture’, I’d suggest / I’m more comfortable with ‘CULTIVATE Culture’. My reasoning: ‘Create’ to me suggests control, not really compatible with culture. ‘Cultivate’, on the other hand suggests cooperation, inclusiveness, … — the source of meaningful culture.

John Bennett via Medium @jcbjr


My initial thoughts here:

  • Building supportive communities
  • Engaging locally, globally
  • Embracing messiness enthusiastically
  • Empowering awesomeness digitally
  • Communicating powerful stories
  • Having impact
  • Developing innovative thinkers

This would be a great activity for faculty.

Mary Jeanne Farris @farrismj


  • Disruptive
  • Knowledge-able
  • Fail forward
  • Student driven “voice”
  • Resilient
  • Open Ended Problems
  • Cross culture competency
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Design Mindset
  • Adaptive thinking
  • Local focus for Global impact

John Mikton, @jmikton


Where the process of learning is more important than what we learn, where kids learn from each other and teach us.

David Mellett, @MellettDavid


Originally published at on November 28, 2015.