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Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age
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Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age
Using Learning Science to Reboot Schooling



October 2013 | 216 pages | Corwin

“By deconstructing learning science and making the connection to technology, Hess and Saxberg have outlined key strategies for school leaders as they work to transform traditional practices in schools. Whether it is whole-school reform or targeted interventions, principals will be motivated to rethink or‘re-engineer’ the use of technology to optimize teaching and learning.”
—Gail Connelly, Executive Director
National Association of Elementary School Principals

“Everyone touching education—from educators to school leaders and from investors and philanthropists to entrepreneurs—needs to understand how to think like a learning engineer and read this book. Technology holds unbelievable promise to be a part of the solution to transform education, but it won’t happen unless all parties attack its implementation smartly. Breakthrough Leadership in a Digital Age points the way forward.”
—Michael B. Horn, Co-Founder & Education Executive Director
Clayton Christensen Institute

“Too often, our current structures fail to promote and support learning engineering. Rick Hess and Bror Saxberg have designed a compelling guide for the road ahead.”
—William Hite, Superintendent
School District of Philadelphia, PA


Reboot student learning the right way!

Today’s most successful school leaders are truly “learning engineers”: creative thinkers who redefine their problems and design new ways to better serve kids’ success. Technology has a critical role, but it’s the creative reinvention of schools, systems, and classrooms that has to come first. In this powerful book, best-selling author and education policy expert Rick Hess and chief learning officer Bror Saxberg show you how to become your school's learning engineer. Using cutting-edge research about learning science as a framework, you’ll:

  • Identify specific learning problems that need solving
  • Devise smarter ways to address them
  • Implement technology-enabled, not technology-driven, solutions
 
Preface
 
Acknowledgments
 
About the Authors
 
1. Introduction
Thinking Like a Learning Engineer

 
Why This Volume?

 
The Book: The World's Most Successful Education Technology

 
Books Are a Learning Technology

 
A Dispiriting Track Record

 
A Lot of Potential

 
Myths That Suffuse and Confuse Rethinking

 
Carpe Diem: Reengineering What It Means to Be a "School"

 
Don't Get Stuck on Bogeymen

 
Learning Science and Learning Engineers

 
The Book Ahead

 
 
2. What We Can Learn From Learning Science
Cognitive Science and Its Less Useful Cousins

 
Becoming an Expert

 
How Memory Works

 
Deliberate Practice

 
Working Memory Has Two Channels: Audio and Visual

 
The Crucial Role of Student Motivation

 
Putting Learning Science to Work

 
Seven Elements of Learning

 
A Few Key Takeaways

 
 
3. Applying Learning Science to Technology
The Five Capabilities of Technology

 
The Tutoring Challenge

 
Know What Problem You're Solving

 
Technology Can Help With the Elements of Learning

 
Putting People and Technology Together

 
Putting This to Work

 
 
4. Reengineering With Technology
The Socratic Method

 
New Tools Can Create New Capabilities

 
Engineers Ask a Lot of Questions

 
What Happens When You Don't Think Like a Learning Engineer

 
Mooresville Graded School District: Fish Don't Talk About Water

 
Technology Can Be a Powerful Tool

 
 
5. Redesigning Schools and Systems
Designing for New Challenges and Opportunities

 
Khan Academy: Distinguishing the App Store From the Apps

 
Leveraging the Elements of Learning Design

 
Rocketship Education: The Engineer's Tale

 
It's the Engineering, Not the Gizmos

 
 
6. Doing This in the Real World
Technology in the Real World

 
When Rules Get in the Way

 
Going One-to-One

 
Summit Public Schools: Finding a Way

 
Overcoming the Obstacles

 
 
7. Bringing It Together
Three Big Things to Keep in Mind

 
Every Team Needs Learning Engineers

 
Learning Engineers Ride in the Engine, Not the Caboose

 
Revisiting Our Myths

 
The Bad News... Is the Good News

 
 
Index

"This is a great "how to" book for any district that is interested in tackling the technology challenges for our students.  It gives a new way to think about instructional delivery and how to best prepare ourselves for facilitating learning in the 21st Century."

Colleen Jones,Assistant Superintendent for Academic Services
Liberty Public Schools

"The democratization of information and the availability of technology are two of the biggest issues facing American public education today and can have a transformative impact on teaching and learning. But we can't simply plug new devices into old classrooms. In Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age, Hess and Saxberg make it clear that we can only fully leverage the educational possibilities of technology if we are willing to become "learning engineers" first, and redesign our schools, classrooms, and teaching practices to take full advantage of these tools. This will require bold leadership and dramatic changes to the way we structure our school day, train our educators, and deliver instruction. This book is an important part of the conversation about what it means to education children in the 21st century."

Joshua P. Starr, Ed. D., Superintendent
Montgomery County Public Schools

"Hess and Saxberg offer a powerful read for principals as the chief 'learning engineers' in schools. Instructional leaders know that technology has changed the complexion of schools and classrooms, but their leadership is needed to steward its use to solve learning challenges.  

Principals are becoming masters of navigating programs, gadgets, and curricula to best utilize resources. Applying the principles of learning science to these leadership competencies will deepen the level of thinking about technology, and lead to more meaningful student outcomes.

By deconstructing learning science and making the connection to technology, the authors have outlined key strategies for school leaders as they work to transform traditional practices in schools. The insights and ideas put forth by Hess and Saxberg will help principals implement myriad practices that fully realize the potential of technology and digital learning.

Whether it is whole-school reform or targeted interventions, principals will be motivated to rethink or 're-engineer' the use of technology to optimize teaching and learning."

Gail Connelly, Executive Director
National Association of Elementary School Principals

"Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age provides clear insights and thoughtful design to help schools understand that the main thing with technology is not the technology; it is what you do with it. The authors provide a powerful example vital to the understanding of creating classrooms that are full of ‘learning engineers’ including teachers and students."

Mark Edwards, Superintendent
Mooresville Graded School District

"Hess & Saxberg are spot on about the right future for the role of science and technology in education.  They wonderfully combine an enthusiasm for new and creative approaches with a clear-minded 'does it really work?' skepticism.  This book presents the most clear argument I have seen that learning science can make a huge difference in improving student learning and lowering costs."

Ken Koedinger, Professor of Human-Computer Interaction and Psychology
Carnegie Mellon University

"Technology alone will not improve teaching or learning in our schools. However, as Hess and Saxberg have succinctly lain out, if leveraged properly by effective educators, technology can and will have a profound impact on the educational landscape. It is important that all education stakeholders embrace this way of thinking in order to effectively move technology use in schools beyond just quantity of devices to quality of learning experiences."

Josh Stumpenhorst, Junior High Teacher (2012 Illinois Teacher of the Year)
Naperville Community Unit School District

"As we educators expect our children to think deeply and critically about the world, around them, we should expect nothing less of ourselves. Here, Rick and Bror provide us with an outline for that thinking. They push us to ask the right questions as we challenge the conventional approaches to learning within our schools. This book is about far more than educational technology; it is a call to critical thought from an orientation that aims first and foremost to provide excellent learning opportunities for our children."

Mark Murphy, Secretary of Education
Delaware Department of Education

"This is a "must read" book for educational leaders, policymakers, educational product developers and those of us who have a stake in our education system. While many books have described ways that educational technology can help save our K-12 education system, this book is different. Hess and Saxberg combine a realistic view of technology with an engaging and acurate description of what we know about learning sciences and a discussion about how to combine the two. Their concern is that technology is often a solution in search of a problem to solve--a solution that seems very seldom to bring expected benefits. They remind us with brief cautionary stories that different technologies are empty vehicles that are most often used to deliver educational products whose impact has ranged from destructive to ineffective--but also that occasionally their impact is positive and game-changing. They describe many popular but failed approaches that should be avoided because of solid evidence that they don't work. They also offer compelling examples to support their view that the best outcomes occus when forward-thinking school leaders combine solid, evidence-based learning strategies chosen to solve identified problems, with cost-effective technology. They describe the strategies they recommend. They offer clear and specific pointers about how to use these learning science based strategies and an engineering approach to create smart school reform (with and without technology)."

Richard E. Clark, Professor Emeritus of Educational Psychology and Technology
University of Southern California

"Technology gives us the opportunity to customize education and meet student needs like never before. It's our moral imperative to avoid the next achievement gap between students who master technology and those who do not. Hess and Saxberg's vision for technology's integration into America's schools presents a powerful solution to some of the most important questions facing education leaders today."

Dr. Tony Bennett, Former Florida Commissioner of Education
Florida Department of Education

"Everyone touching education—from educators to school leaders and from investors and philanthropists to entrepreneurs—needs to understand how to think like a learning engineer and read this book. Technology holds unbelievable promise to be a part of the solution to transform education, but it won’t happen unless all parties attack its implementation smartly. Digital Leadership points the way forward."

Michael B. Horn, Education Executive Director
Clayton Christensen Institute

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