A Total Ed Case Top 5: 2016 Review (plus some resolutions for 2017)

Happy new year, Ed Cases! I hope your 2016 was good (all things considered).

I’m feeling awfully thankful in my corner of the ed world, as 2016 was crammed with new experiences, new learning, and new connections. Taken together, though, the best way I may have to describe 2016 is that is was a year filled with exciting beginnings. Memorable as so many events were, thinking of them now fills me less with satisfaction and more with excitement/inspiration. Some very positive and long-overdue developments are gaining momentum in education, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they play out — and, of course, figuring out how I can assist to keep them rolling over all the bullshit.

Below is a quick top-five list of things I feel either proud to have been a part of or lucky to have learned from in 2016, as well as a brief list of to-dos for 2017 (and beyond). Cheers to you for reading and for being in touch. No matter what the year is, I wouldn’t trade the connections I’ve made to all you brilliant, warm, and driven people so doggedly seeking to improve education for anything. Onward, y’all.

  1. researchED – Surprise! If you’ve seen this blog before, you know I think quite a lot of Tom Bennett‘s practical-improvement movement. I was thrilled to take my relationship with researchED to the next level in 2016, volunteering to co-organize a conference in Washington, DC. Some of the world’s best ed thinkers (including Dylan Wiliam, Ruth Neild, Robert Pondiscio, Kate Walsh, Sarah Thomas, Ben Riley, Pedro de Bruyckere, etc., etc. — seriously, see the program) were on hand as speakers, and even more were in attendance to get their first up-close look at what all the international excitement is all about. It made for a very tiring few months, but it was all very worth it: I got to hang with a lot of really awesome ed-folk, and I’m confident, based on the reaction we’ve received, that you’ll be seeing a lot more of the org in North America in coming years.
  2. Education Writing, Book Category – In 2015 I resolved to spend less time reading education titles. I’d just come off the research for Education Is Upside-Down and felt it’d probably be healthy to pull myself outside the rabbit hole a bit. My 2016 jump back into more ed reading was richly rewarding, both with 2016’s new titles and things I’d had back-logged. Particularly notable titles — and that I’d really recommend you check out if you have not — from the past year include E.D. Hirsch’s Why Knowledge Matters, Greg Ashman’s Ouroboros, Jeanne Chall’s The Academic Achievement Challenge, Barry Garelick’s Letters From John Dewey/Letters From Huck Finn, and the Michaela School staff’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Teachers (which I’ll blog a fuller review of in the next few days).
  3. Independent Opportunities – I was fortunate to write about framing effects for the Learning Scientists’ site, about practice-level reform in a series for Rick Hess’s ‘Straight Up’ blog at Education Week (three pieces: here, here, and here), about independent research’s role in practice-improvement for TES USA and Education Post, etc. Also, I’ve contracted with a few schools to do consulting/PD around ideas from my book, been invited to speak to staffs and conferences, and all that jazz. Proud as I might be of all the writing and consulting work, though, I’m more excited for what seems to be a growing appetite for these kinds of messages in the ed-improvement conversation. As stated above, another exciting beginning.
  4. Education Writing, Periodical/Journal/Online Media Category – Was it just me, or did I see more measured, honest, and evidence-based takes appearing in education media this past year? Though I’m nowhere near ready to say ed media’s onto all the right moves (there’s still too much attention to ‘cool practices’, for instance, and its tendency toward covering policy debates still woefully misses education’s trees for its forest), I was more hopeful that the right practical messages were getting out there this past year than I have been in many others. Sometimes it meant an independent group (like the Knowledge Matters Campaign, that is, with briefs like this one) had to grab the reins themselves, but, in a land where reform groups start news [sic] outlets to continue to push their agenda, I’ll take what I can get on these fronts. Some other favorite reads from the year: policy guy extraordinaire Rick Hess’s very practice-relevant series on memory and expertise (first series piece here), Max Eden’s straight talk on suspensions, NPR’s Anya Kamenetz on recent (and not rosy, for a change) evidence of ed tech’s actual effectivenessMind/Shift publishing a Paul Tough book excerpt with him correcting a bit on claims from his 2012 How Children Succeed, and Huffpo Education actually running an anti-experiential learning screed by Malkin Dare.  For a fuller list of stuff I found share-worthy, check my Twitter or Facebook pages and scroll away. There, you’ll also see all the bloggers I’ve been inspired by and learned from in the past year. (Omitted here only because I was keeping it to professional media sources. Sorry, all…not a slight, and y’all know who you are!)
  5. Work with Search Institute – Over the summer I joined Search Institute, a long-established applied research firm based in the Twin Cities, to work with schools hoping to more systematically and explicitly build students’ academic motivation. As I’m a big believer that students’ motivation is (1) of incredible importance and (2) the thing our enterprise gets the most wrong in far too many ways, I was thrilled for the opportunity. We still have a ways to go, but I feel hopeful about where our research is heading and proud of the org’s commitment to creating operations that make sense for schools. It’s a cool gig, for sure.

Not an exhaustive list, I know, but still exhausting I’m sure. (And I keep thinking of more to include!) If I don’t stop here, though, I won’t leave enough time to get groceries (and growlers) for tonight’s NYE stay-in bash with my family. Feel free to click around on some of the links in there, you’ll get the idea.

Looking ahead with all these new beginnings, I definitely want to keep adding to what I sense is a growing snowball. Here are a few resolutions/goals in particular:

  • More writing, for sure: This blog, various guest pieces and chapters (stay tuned on those), and a proposal for book #2. I plan to be sketching that this year, so if you know any good publishers or agents I should consider, please feel free to connect us. 🙂
  • More researchED: Attending/speaking when I can, co-organizing a North American event (or more), exploring partnerships based on the foundation being built, etc., etc. Most of all, though, staying connected to all the great folks I’ve met through the rED and continuing to tell everyone I can over here about it.
  • Slowing down enough to really enjoy my family. I’m officially in the backstretch of having two daughters full-time under my roof (my oldest graduates high school this spring), so I will be making a point to live that fully up. Much as I’m excited about all the new beginnings mentioned above, I’m most excited for my little one’s big new beginning this summer. (If I don’t get back to you quickly or go silent for a few weeks, then? It’s probably that. Thanks for understanding.)

Happy new year, Ed Cases. I look forward to building more with you in 2017.


2 thoughts on “A Total Ed Case Top 5: 2016 Review (plus some resolutions for 2017)

  1. Wow, totally surprised, blown away and humbled to see that “Letters from John Dewey/Letters from Huck Finn” made your list! Thank you!

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