Friday, June 30, 2006

ACE's National Competitiveness Strategy

If you’ve followed this Blog, you know that we’ve been talking about the rising education imperative all along. There is a rising tide of discontent about our place in a highly connected world increasingly driven by an economy directly tied to education.

The American Council on Education (ACE) is on a campaign to increase awareness about this education imperative and has launched a incredibly useful site called A recent article from that site’s newsletter is a must read. It’s called: Towards A National Competitiveness Strategy: Congress Turns To Higher Education.

Here’s a quick excerpt from the beginning:

The nation’s capital is abuzz with talk about the state of American competitiveness. From the groundbreaking National Academies of Sciences report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” to journalist Tom Friedman’s best-seller “The World Is Flat,” a chorus of corporate chieftains, world-class scientists and public intellectuals is sounding the alarm that America’s future prosperity is at risk and that American preeminence in the 21st century cannot be taken for granted.

Check out the article. But more importantly, check out the site. The resources are outstanding, the policy briefs are useful, and the links to take action are compelling. ACE is doing great job of trying to mount a National Campaign for Higher Education. We need to support them!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Connecting with the Connected . . . Not So Easy

Today’s students are quickly becoming hyper-connected, media inundated, network informed, cynics. As a result, they just don’t trust our standard press releases, brochures, catalogues, commercials, or standard website rhetoric. The folks at ClueTrain have been saying this for some time. Just look at MySpace, FaceBook, Massive Multi-Player Online Games, Wikipedia, or to see the how students are leveraging vast global social networks to share, compare, and search for the real story.

Reaching these students in this postmodern world with outreach and recruiting messages is more difficult than ever. That’s why it’s not surprising to see colleges turn to more creative viral marketing strategies. Just check out SchoolDaze from Kettering University. This first foray into an alternative outreach strategy has been forwarded around student communities like wildfire. It’s been so popular, Kettering created episode II to respond to “fan mail” flooding in. It’s not quite the standard campus tour, is it?

This just gets you thinking: how are we connecting with connected students? More importantly, is what we’re doing working? How do we know? What do they know about us that we don’t? You’d be surprised.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sometimes You Have to Slow Down

Things are moving fast. Life, work, and all the rest. E-mails are pouring in, cell phone buzzing non stop, and meetings, meetings, and more meetings. At times like this, I think of Sandy Shugart’s Brick Work poem. It makes you pause.

But something closer to home woke me up to slowing down this time. I was riding our Honda ATV through the Western North Carolina Mountains near our little farm. Joining me on the ride this morning is my 8-year-old daughter Alex. We’re buzzing through the Blue Ridge when suddenly she starts waving her hand up and down. I slow down and ask her “what’s up?”

She tells me, “Daddy, sometimes you have to slow down to see the butterflies.” My little Buddha. I slow the ATV down and sure enough, as we creep along the path, black, gold, yellow, and white butterflies come fluttering from the flowers and bushes all around. It’s like they came out of hiding. She waves her hand again, so I put my ear closer in and she tells me, “If you stop you can hear the birds sing.”

We come to a stop and I cut the engine off. Here we sit, on this crisp morning in the Blue Ridge, butterflies all around, being serenaded by bird song. She’s right. Sometimes you just have to slow down.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Rookie Courage

If you read some of the current literature on brain research and learning, a major maxim jumps out: be a rookie every year. From Ian Robertson’s Mind Sculpture to James Zull’s The Art of Changing the Brain to Eric Jensen’s Brain-Based Learning to Daniel Amen’s Making a Good Brain Great, we find that the brain has somewhat of a use it or lose it protocol. And you are best served by not only deepening your current learning, but by stimulating fresh neural-synaptic pathways through explorations of the new and novel. Learning a new language, new technology, knitting, or horseback riding, it really doesn’t matter. Just learn something new.

We’ve known the value of learning renewal for some time. Remember Merlin’s admonition to the Once and Future King:

“The best thing for being sad . . . is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn."

Still, it takes a lot of courage to admit you don’t know what you’re doing. The best of teachers understand the raw courage of this moment for their students. In The Courage to Teach, Parker Palmer argues that this realization is essential in breaking the cycle of fear—the fear of both the teacher and student that the other will find out that they don’t really know everything.

Rookie courage is sometimes quite difficult for veterans in particular. Their expertise weighs on their minds; their pride in past accomplishments restrains them from embracing a learning experience which might make them look like a duck out of water. However, the best of veterans know that living out loud with this experience—right in front of your students—may be the most important gift. It teaches students about the importance of rookie courage, and the fact that they need to develop it as a skill for lifelong learning.

The great news is that our modern technology changes so rapidly we continuously have opportunities to be a rookie. From trying out online learning to experimenting with Podcasting, there is an endless array of moments for us to keep our own brains fresh with new learning and to engage our students as well. Yes, we may look foolish at times, as we fumble with new hardware, software, and systems. But we’ll not only survive, we’ll thrive because of it.

We all just have to have a little Rookie Courage.