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McNulty Wants More Commitment to Serious Planning for the Future of Learning

The concept of Airbnb, Amazon Prime and Uber began less than 15 years ago. Now, they are integrated in our daily lives. Yet over the same period, classrooms have remained much the same.

COVID-19 did force school districts to look at learning differently. But, as an AASA conference panel asked Thursday, did school districts change the thought process from tactical performance to adaptive performance or did educators just react?

Raymond McNulty, president of Successful Practices Network, challenged conference attendees at his program to move from forward focus to future focused. He pushes school administrators to take charge of disrupting the core of our educational institutions while moving thought processes to anticipation and preparation for the future.

“When this happens, administrators and districts become the agents of change,” McNulty said.

For this type of change to happen, districts should prepare for readiness, transparency and trust.

“The future is something we create,” said McNulty, a key player in AASA’s Learning 2025 initiative. “Administrators should look at what is no longer a fit for their organization … and invent a different future for the learner.”

Shari Camhi, superintendent of Baldwin Union Free Schools on New York’s Long Island, joined McNulty in the discussion. She said school districts must anticipate and prepare for the future while emphasizing you cannot plan the end.

“We wanted to make learning a place kids want to be,” said Camhi. “We are looking at what learning looks like versus what does a classroom look like.”

Her 4,500-student district concentrates on creating an incubator of learning in which educators design, engineer and facilitate learning experiences. Each learner is considered a producer, pioneer, explorer, collaborator and innovator. Classrooms are being transformed from the traditional to look and feel like modern workplaces and language is altered to reflect learning spaces versus classrooms, learning engineers versus teachers, citizen scientist versus students.

Baldwin is not expecting teachers to automatically know or understand this new vernacular. New adult learners participate in a new teacher program for four years with changing emphasis each year. Other adult learners are offered educator residency programs and internships.

Ultimately, balancing culture to embrace both the tradition of the core work and the need to innovate and create a different future for learners is the key to preparing students for their future.

(Lisa Trail is a reporter for Conference Daily Online and communications director for Murfreesboro City Schools in Murfreesboro, Tenn.)

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