Author Archive

Walter McKenzie

Paradigm-a-dox?

We're in the midst of an education paradigm shift. Are you on board? How do you know? More importantly, do you know what's driving it? Knowledge? Technology? The institution itself? We may have as many different definitions of the paradigm as we do of the shift.

I would argue the true paradigm shift is the move of focus from an individual to a communal orientation to society; a global view. This is a challenge in a culture where rugged individualism is a virtue. Our lore and legend are full of examples of strong individuals standing staunchly against adversity: Paul Bunyan, John Henry, Superman, Rambo. Then again, our historical heroes are also larger than life: Washington, Lincoln, Patton, MacArthur. They are revered for altering history against all odds. So how did this become our defining ideal, when the earliest settlers focused on the virtue of community? From colonizing in the new world to finding salvation in the afterworld, everything was achieved through communal life. How did we get from The Pilgrim's Progress to Walking Tall? It feels like a shift in paradigm and a paradox; a paradigm-a-dox.

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Walter McKenzie

Connected Community

The hallmark of this brave new Information Age is the interconnectedness of everything: ideas, information, and people. Relationships are key. It's no longer what you know or how much you know, it's who you know and how to connect with them. Interactions are more immediate, fluid, and dynamic.

On an individual basis, it is happening as I write. But what about on an institutional scale? Don't we eventually have to affect change in our public institutions so that they will morph from their successful Industrial Age mind-set to this new way of living and working? This is the biggest challenge of making the shift: finding institutional incentive for becoming more interconnected, agile, and responsive.

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Walter McKenzie

The Best Principals

Who's the best principal you ever worked for? And why do you say so? Ask this question of educators from the classroom to the superintendent's office and the common denominator answer is quite consistent: he or she cared. Cared about what? Content? Pedagogy? Test scores? Well sure, those are a given. But in this case, the principal cared about them. They felt a connection with this principal, that he was more than just a supervisor. He made a difference in their day, much in the same way they made a difference in their students' day. It's all about the relationship.

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Walter McKenzie

The Whole Child Requires Whole Tech

So you're actively working to implement the tenets of the Whole Child Initiative? Excellent! How about your whole tech initiative? What's your vision for technology in education? Not what you have in your inventory or what you're comfortable using, but your action plan for technology empowering the whole child. Why? Because in today's world, technology is not an add-on or a nice-to-have; it's an essential array of tools that support and energize every Whole Child tenet.

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Walter McKenzie

Education’s Greatest Common Factor

Are you tired yet of working to the lowest common denominator? Think about it. Every problem under discussion in public education boils down to it. Funding. Staffing. Standards. What's the least, the minimum we can expect everyone to accept?

To make it sound reasonable, we reference "milestones" and "benchmarks" to suggest that anyone can go beyond these minimum expectations, but the reality is the lowest common denominator becomes the de facto goal. Bars are lowered. Expectations settle. Learning is minimized, meted out, and measured. But what if we changed the formula so that minimum measures of learning become the variable and student learning becomes the constant for success?

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Walter McKenzie

A Whole Child Education Transformation

Everyone freeze! Stop right where you are and look around. Survey the landscape. With all the clamoring and commotion in education, have you stopped to notice? Education transformation is already well under way. I know, I know. With all the posturing and politicking going on from your local school board to the state house to the White House, there's a public perception that it's business as usual. Voices of self-interest continue to tout the status quo. Advocates for the public interest continue to toe the bottom line. Amidst all the noise and distractions, education in 2013 can look and feel like more of the same.

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Walter McKenzie

A Call to Action!

Sign for Whole Child

The We the People initiative is the Obama administration's effort to provide citizens with a new way to petition the administration to take action on a range of important issues facing the United States. If a petition garners 25,000 signatures within 30 days, White House staff reviews it, sends it to the appropriate policy experts, and issues an official response.

Today ASCD is taking advantage of this initiative and petitioning the administration to make whole child education a national priority. We petition the Obama administration to establish a President's Council on the Whole Child to help students be healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged, and we urge you to add your voice in support of this holistic and child-centered push for education at the executive office level.

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Walter McKenzie

We Want and Need Parents at the Table

Imagine you have all the education stakeholders at the table: the students, teachers, administrators, unions, lawmakers, state and federal education agencies, professional education associations, teacher preparation programs, education technology experts, and visionary gurus... Even the deep-pocketed philanthropists who want their say. Let's throw a few more tables together... it's getting crowded... and more chairs... we need elbow room...

But wait, there's still something or someone missing. You would think with this many interests represented at the table that we'd have it covered. Let's see... we have everyone with a self-interest in seeing education move forward... no, wait.. No, we don't. There are no parents at the table.

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Walter McKenzie

Open Campus, Open Network, Open Possibilities

It's a bright, sunny Tuesday morning, and students are entering Roosevelt Elementary school with excitement and energy. No backpacks. No luggage on wheels. Just lunch bags and handheld devices.

As they enter the renovated 75-year old building, students find places to settle in. No homerooms. No morning announcements. Everyone busily logs in to the network system using their personal devices, indicating they are present for the day, reading school announcements, and reviewing their individual schedules for the day.

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