Author Archive

Walter McKenzie

MI21: Multiple Intelligences and Preparing Children for the 21st Century

Society is quickly shifting, and so with it shifts the dialog about meaningfully learning and contributing. What used to pass for preparation to participate in a democratic society with a free market economy no longer holds true. Public schools currently reflect the 1900s more than the 2000s, even as education bureaucracy has clamped down and locked in on traditional, measurable standards and assessments. Instead of opening things up to the marketplace of ideas, public schools have opened themselves up to the assessment and technology marketplace, investing in solutions to document and justify the last century's ideals.

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Walter McKenzie

No Planned Obsolescence in Education

We are a nation of makers and consumers. And in this free market culture, value is king and the art of the bargain is most prized. It's a conundrum: you get what you pay for, but no one wants to pay full price. In every transaction, let the buyer beware!

So let me ask you this. Would you sink money into a car without dashboard displays? Would you buy a house with no electrical wiring or plumbing? How about a mobile device with no wireless capability? Yes I know; ridiculous examples. But follow me here...

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Walter McKenzie

You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat!

"You're gonna need a bigger boat!" —Police Chief Brody, Jaws

Three able men are shoveling chum out into the water to attract the menace terrorizing their beaches. Suddenly an image begins to take form beneath the water, circling the small fishing vessel. They assess they are looking at a 25-foot, three-ton great white shark. Police Chief Martin Brody exclaims, "You're gonna need a bigger boat!" A patently obvious observation? Granted, but remember the theater breaking out in nervous laughter when Schneider blurted it out in 1975? But as Shark Week is celebrated this week, it's also an apt allegory for capacity building ... personal capacity building.

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Walter McKenzie

iPedagogy: From Piaget to iPads

I've had ongoing discussions with artists and educators who aggressively advocate for high-quality human experience they believe they can provide via handheld tablets. The artist is adamant his iPad paintings are a valid form of art. The educator is touting his implementation of iPads to kindergarteners in a Maine public school district. In both cases, I asked the same question: "Are you advocating for this because it adds value, or just because you can?"

I ask the question because we live in the age of "just because I can." We don't need a reason. We simply push the boundaries of traditional assumptions. If I can do something that couldn't be done five years ago, it has de facto value and any arguments are invalid. In a virtual-world vacuum this may be true; in a vacuum there are no real-world implications. But as educators, there are very real implications for how we think about research-based learning theory and the integration of technology into learning. I continue to think through this personal pedagogical dilemma, as a veteran educator and techie. I write this as an open invitation to you to think this through with me.

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Walter McKenzie

ASCD Affiliates Unconference

ASCD affiliates, we have been exploring ways to revolutionize the ways we serve their affiliate members. Why? The writing is on the wall that today's educators have different needs and expectations. It's difficult to get out of the classroom to attend conferences, and when educators can get away for professional development they want to be actively engaged in acquiring meaning and building understanding. One concept I have asked affiliates to explore is the deconstruction of conferences, workshops, and seminars into a newly emerging kind of professional development: the unconference.

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Walter McKenzie

Lots of Second Chances

My best friend often says, "People deserve lots of second chances."

"But why?" I ask, trying to grasp the concept. "At some point don't you risk people taking advantage?"

"Walter, people do the best they can. It makes no sense making it harder on them." I dedicate this blog post to my best friend and this wisdom I have come to adopt as my own.

In an age of cynicism and competition, I find the notion of second chances refreshing, intriguing even. But is it practical? Individually and collectively, how can we afford lots of second chances? Then again, are life and learning value equations? Is there some economic benefit to separating the men from the boys, so to speak? Or in reality, do we all rise to our own potential over time, given the chances and support we need to succeed?

As I look back over a lifetime of opportunities and challenges, how many times did I nail anything on a first try? Not many. How many second chances have I used? How many mentors supported me as I tried and failed and tried again? How many practice sessions? How many retests? How many mulligans? How many "I'm sorrys"? How many times redeemed by forgiveness? More times than I can count. And that's just my lifetime. How about yours?

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Walter McKenzie

Let the Waters Flow

One of the legacies of the Industrial Age is the ideal of standardization: creating products of consistent quality that can be mass-produced. Coming out of the Agricultural Age, this was a huge step forward; without standardization much of what was accomplished in the 20th century could not have been attained.

Along with standardization came specialization, as specific standards of quality had to be met by specific experts. On any assembly line, each worker knows expertly his or her one piece of the whole standardized assembly process. It serves its purpose well in manufacturing.

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Walter McKenzie

Education’s Attention Deficit Dilemma

In the blogging era everyone can publish their ideas and opinions and grow quite a following doing so; the democratization of information in practice. This proliferating idea exchange is part and parcel of Thomas Friedman's flat earth analogy. Developing one's voice and being heard is a good thing. But it's not enough. If we carry the flat earth metaphor to its logical conclusion, opinions freely rolling across a flattened sphere clatter, collide, and ultimately roll right off the edge. (I just had a flashback to playing Crossfire circa 1970.) Why settle for a random collision of opinions deciding which ideas carry the day? Not all opinions are equal. They need to be vetted for merit.

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Walter McKenzie

To Infini-Pie and Beyond!

We baby boomers grew up in an age of finite pie. There was only one pie and it could be divided into only so many slices. Even our pie graphs represent the totality of the resources we have to work with. There's only so much pie to go around. And the implications play out in how we think, act and define success. If you only have one finite pie, what flavor is it? How many people can it serve? How small can you make the slices? What does it mean if you simply don’t have enough?

All of this is a legacy of the Industrial Age, which was based on the availability of natural resources to feed growth. Empires were built by gaining access to raw materials that could fuel their economic engines. You could not sustain industrial success on finite resources, so you kept expanding the size of your pie. Of course, this works well as long as there are new lands to acquire and new resources to consume. But in the physical world, there are always limits. Be it foreign lands or fossil fuels, everything runs out eventually.

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Walter McKenzie

Education in Your Backyard

ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show

As a director of Constituent Services at ASCD, I work with the best and the brightest educators leading our affiliates around the world. It is a sincere honor and privilege. And this time of year, as affiliate boards begin meeting, reflecting, and planning, I have the opportunity to work with them virtually and face-to-face and support them in their important work. Representing ASCD, I enjoy bringing the collective resources of the world's premier professional education association to our leaders in the field. What I enjoy the most, though, is learning from our affiliates as they share their successes and opportunities.

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