School leaders as ‘learning engineers’

School leaders must become “learning engineers,” write Rick Hess and Bror Saxberg in Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age: Using Learning Science to Reboot Schooling.

“Learning engineers” are “creative thinkers who redefine their problems and design new ways to better serve kids’ success.”

It’s not enough to introduce technology, they write. School leaders must rethink “schools, systems, and classrooms” to make effective use of digital  learning tools.


About Joanne


  1. (Joanne): “School leaders must rethink “schools, systems, and classrooms” to make effective use of digital learning tools…”
    “Must” or what? In a competitive market in goods and services, businesses must continually improve or they will die. Tax-subsidized State-monopoly providers of education services can operate as inefficiently as they like.

    • Until they exhaust the patience and credulity of the electorate and the electorate starts entertaining previously undiscussable ideas. As is occurring.

      But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wrong. The state-monopoly providers of education services can simply ignore the changes overtaking them in the hope that universe will right itself and return to its previous, proper state.

      • Richard Aubrey says:

        It helps that the propensity to blame others is so well-entrenched.
        Reactionaries. Fundies. Greedy. Union-busters. Hate kids.
        As long as the blame can be cast elsewhere, running into reality has no educational effect. Now, that can be in two ways;
        One is you know better but hope you can fool others. You do that when the status quo is acceptable to you but you know outsiders are unhappy.
        The other is when you believe your own blame-casting.
        In neither case will change occur until the actual props are kicked out. In that case, the status quo people will continue blame-casting, but the world will have moved on.

        • Not sure why you think the “propensity to blame others” is germane to this discussion. I posit that the public’s in the process of moving past blame and onward to solutions.

          That those who are dependent upon the district-based public education system, or those who can’t imagine a future without the district-based public education system, are willing to blame everything and everybody in the hopes that some excuse will change the public’s mind is really immaterial. The process is pretty clearly in motion as evidenced by the number of states that’ve departed from the one, true view of public education by passing charter, voucher, ESA, teacher and student accountability and parental trigger law.

          To get back to the book that’s the subject of this thread, the Amazon review starts with “This is a great “how to” book for any district…” which means the authors are charting a bold, new path for the K-12 environment of twenty years ago. The lesson implicit in the existence of charters is that a district’s not necessary to public education although that’s a lesson that’s yet to break into the public debate the operative word being “yet”.

    Why do we keep on trying to ‘redefine’ education? All these corporate and government sponsored attempts to find a panacea that ignores student effort, student interest, and family input do nothing more than distract schools from what they should be doing – educating students. Every fad proposed by wannabe teachers (yes, I understand they may have some limited time in the classroom, but not enough to personally test and evaluate their ideas) just furthers the idea that external meddling is necessary to fix education.
    Western civilization flourished largely due to the organic development of education that occurred over thousands of years as some of the finest minds in history influenced it. Socrates faced a lot of the same problems that we do now – broken families, distracted students, government bureaucrats, etc.
    The difference? Teachers were respected for their abilities and given the control necessary to best educate their students…and they were held responsible for their failures. The root of today’s education problems lies in the number of individuals and organizations that intrude upon the educational process without being true stakeholders in the school.

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      As if the fans get to call the plays but the team is blamed if there’s a loss.

    • Why shouldn’t ‘we’ redefine public education as we see fit? It belongs to ‘us’. We bought it. We paid for and continue to pay for it. Who better to hold the power to redefine or reboot or reject public education then the public?

      If you want an education system in which relatively uninterested third parties, or third parties with their own agendas, aren’t part of how education’s defined then you’ll have to do away with the public education system. As part of the political process the public education system is properly in service of whichever constituency has the most political power.

      • Too many of these “redefinitions” are overzealous in their attempts to improve education… they throw the baby out with the bathwater. Western education has a long successful history… it is not perfect, but it does work, and it is based upon a core relationship between the teacher and student. Any attempts to improve education should conserve that foundation.

        We can redefine education however we want, but that doesn’t mean that we should.

        • Actually, it pretty much does mean that we should.

          If “we”, as an electorate have decided that there are aspects or results of the public education system which we find wanting “we” can certainly hear out the experts but the responsibility to decide whether change is necessary and if it is, which changes ought to be enacted, resides with “us”, the electorate.

          Who else would you have make those sorts of determinations? Those employed by the public education system? I trust the conflict of interest is sufficiently inescapable as to require either acknowledgement or a change of subject, depending on your honesty. If not the employees of the public education system then who?

          As to the “long successful history” of public education I’ll acknowledge that it’s history is relatively long but successful? That’s a subjective determination and given the split responsibilities of the public education system in trying to strike a balance between indoctrination and education, along with the lack of any inherent responsibility to educate kids, I’d say asserting that public education’s been successful is debatable at least.

  3. SuperSub – Plato’s Academy is probably about as relevant to the average American public school as the Institute For Advanced Study. I am completely unaware that the Academy was ever “held responsible” for the subsequent fortunes of it’s attendees.

    • Perhaps its a bit of extrapolation, but I doubt they had tenure and union protections.

    • Your lack of awareness is immaterial. Higher education’s proven to be a tough environment in many ways for those opposed to free enterprise since it’s based on free enterprise.

      Free enterprise is based on the perception of value and while the flood of government money’s made that determination more difficult there are still schools where the smart, hard-working kids will go and schools they won’t. What differentiates the one from the other is the perception of one school being a better place to learn then the other.

      That’s how higher education’s held responsible for results the inevitable, human desire to escape that harsh scrutiny not withstanding.