21ST CENTURY EDUCATION: REIMAGINING LEARNING FOR A NEW ERA

What Makes You Unique?

What makes human beings unique is we are naturally curious, creative and social.

These are the innate human capacities that cannot be automated and this is what we must focus on developing in our own lives as self-directed learners to remain indispensable in a knowledge-based economy.

The unique human qualities that robots and software can’t easily replicate are sensory awareness, creativity, and social intelligence. So, this is what a 21st-century education needs to develop.

I think re-imagining learning and education in this new era should start with asking some big questions about how we can better harness human potential. We desperately need to help more people develop their innate talents and gifts in the service of the greater good.

Asking Yourself The Big Questions:

Let’s start by asking some big questions about the nature of education and how we can unleash creative talent and initiative in a global, knowledge-based civilization connected by the Internet.

Here are a few questions that I feel are important to think deeply about:

1. What does it mean to be well-educated in the 21st century?
2. How does one live a creative, purpose-driven life that matters?
3. How do we nurture curiosity and wonder in ourselves and our children?
4. How do we inspire self-motivated learners able to solve their own problems?
5. How do we empowered citizens who actively serve their communities?

It’s people like you and me — not just institutions — that need to reimagine the role of learning in our lives by spending more time following our curiosity, exploring, creating, sharing and experimenting with our ideas.

We must foster a lifelong learning mindset in ourselves and the people we care about to navigate the challenges of 21st century education that require us to be constantly learning, adapting and developing our skills.

A 21st Century Education:

In the thousands of hours I’ve spent studying the nature of learning and creativity, and how to connect these two capacities in a knowledge-based economy, there have been some thought-provoking authors who have stood out as shining lights.

What I want to do is share with you some of their most profound insights and quotes to illustrate the characteristics of 21st-century education and self-directed learning that I strongly believe we all need to develop:

1. We need to be creative problem solvers.

Play, passion and purpose. That’s what makes someone creative. Tony Wagner of the Harvard Innovation Lab makes a compelling case in his books that our current model of education is obsolete and irrelevant to most people’s lives and work.7 Skills For 21st Century Learners, Tony Wagner, author of Creating Innovators

Quotes from Tony Wagner, author of Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World:

“The world doesn’t care what you know. What the world cares about is what you do with what you know.”

“Students who only know how to perform well in today’s education system—get good grades and test scores, and earn degrees—will no longer be those who are most likely to succeed. Thriving in the twenty-first century will require real competencies, far more than academic credentials.”

“Now, adults need to be able to ask great questions, critically analyze information, form independent opinions, collaborate, and communicate effectively. These are the skills essential for both career and citizenship.”

“Education needs to help our youth discover their passions and purpose in life, develop the critical skills needed to be successful in pursuing their goals, be inspired on a daily basis to do their very best, and be active and informed citizens.”

“Most policy makers—and many school administrators—have absolutely no idea what kind of instruction is required to produce students who can think critically and creatively, communicate effectively, and collaborate versus merely score well on a test.”

“U.S. education is failing, in large part, because of the misguided belief that it’s imperative to test on a massive scale.”

“A recent report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation concluded that “The United States has made the least progress of the 40 nations/regions [studied] in improvement in international competitiveness and innovation capacity over the last decade.”

“Our “leaders”—on both the left and the right side of the aisle—continue to claim that our schools are failing and in need of reform while, in reality, our education system is obsolete and needs reimagining.”

“With well-designed pedagogy, we can empower kids with critical skills and help them turn passions into decisive life advantages. The role of education is no longer to teach content, but to help our children learn—in a world that rewards the innovative and punishes the formulaic.”

“An overarching goal of education should be to immerse students in the beauty and inspiration of their surrounding world.”

 

2. We all need to adopt a growth mindset.

These are the best of times for those with a growth mindset because it gives you the flexibility to adapt and rise to any challenge. But these are the worst of times for those stuck in the rut of a fixed mindset and unable to change.  Reading Carol Dweck‘s book Mindset and adopting a stronger growth mindset transformed my life.

Quotes from Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success:

“Did I win? Did I lose? Those are the wrong questions. The correct question is: Did I make my best effort?” If so, he says, “You may be outscored but you will never lose.”

“We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.”

“No matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.”

“I believe ability can get you to the top,” says coach John Wooden, “but it takes character to keep you there.… It’s so easy to … begin thinking you can just ‘turn it on’ automatically, without proper preparation. It takes real character to keep working as hard or even harder once you’re there. When you read about an athlete or team that wins over and over and over, remind yourself, ‘More than ability, they have character.’ ”

“After seven experiments with hundreds of children, we had some of the clearest findings I’ve ever seen: Praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation and it harms their performance. How can that be? Don’t children love to be praised? Yes, children love praise. And they especially love to be praised for their intelligence and talent. It really does give them a boost, a special glow—but only for the moment. The minute they hit a snag, their confidence goes out the window and their motivation hits rock bottom. If success means they’re smart, then failure means they’re dumb. That’s the fixed mindset.”

“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”

“Mindset change is not about picking up a few pointers here and there. It’s about seeing things in a new way. When people…change to a growth mindset, they change from a judge-and-be-judged framework to a learn-and-help-learn framework. Their commitment is to growth, and growth take plenty of time, effort, and mutual support.”

“Parents think they can hand children permanent confidence—like a gift—by praising their brains and talent. It doesn’t work, and in fact has the opposite effect. It makes children doubt themselves as soon as anything is hard or anything goes wrong. If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”

“Praise should deal, not with the child’s personality attributes, but with his efforts and achievements.”

“This is something I know for a fact: You have to work hardest for the things you love most.”

“John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach, says you aren’t a failure until you start to blame. What he means is that you can still be in the process of learning from your mistakes until you deny them.”

“As growth-minded leaders, they start with a belief in human potential and development—both their own and other people’s. Instead of using the company as a vehicle for their greatness, they use it as an engine of growth—for themselves, the employees, and the company as a whole.”

“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better?”

“Research shows that normal young children misbehave every three minutes.”

“If you don’t give anything, don’t expect anything. Success is not coming to you, you must come to it.”

“The students with growth mindset completely took charge of their learning and motivation.”

“Many growth-minded people didn’t even plan to go to the top. They got there as a result of doing what they love. It’s ironic: The top is where the fixed-mindset people hunger to be, but it’s where many growth-minded people arrive as a by-product of their enthusiasm for what they do.”

“When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world. In one world–the world of fixed traits–success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other–the world of changing qualities–it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself.”

 

3. We need to be self-motivated learners.

I strongly believe in the value of following your curiosity and finding what motivates you. In Drive, Daniel Pink brilliantly collects the psychology research into how high performers become self-motivated. It boils down to creating our own self-directed productivity systems that allow us to develop a higher degree of autonomy, mastery and purpose in our lives.

Quotes from Daniel Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us:

“Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.”

“While complying can be an effective strategy for physical survival, it’s a lousy one for personal fulfillment. Living a satisfying life requires more than simply meeting the demands of those in control. Yet in our offices and our classrooms we have way too much compliance and way too little engagement. The former might get you
through the day, but only the latter will get you through the night.”

“The problem with making an extrinsic reward the only destination that matters is that some people will choose the quickest route there, even if it means taking the low road. Indeed, most of the scandals and misbehavior that have seemed endemic to modern life involve shortcuts.”

“One source of frustration in the workplace is the frequent mismatch between what people must do and what people can do. When what they must do exceeds their capabilities, the result is anxiety. When what they must do falls short of their capabilities, the result is boredom. But when the match is just right, the results can be glorious. This is the essence of flow.”

“The monkeys solved the puzzle simply because they found it gratifying to solve puzzles. They enjoyed it. The joy of the task was its own reward.”

“Why reach for something you can never fully attain? But it’s also a source of allure. Why not reach for it? The joy is in the pursuit more than the realization. In the end, mastery attracts precisely because mastery eludes.”

“Goals that people set for themselves and that are devoted to attaining mastery are usually healthy. But goals imposed by others–sales targets, quarterly returns, standardized test scores, and so on–can sometimes have dangerous side effects.”

“We have three innate psychological needs—competence, autonomy, and relatedness. When those needs are satisfied, we’re motivated, productive, and happy.”

“Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.”

“For artists, scientists, inventors, schoolchildren, and the rest of us, intrinsic motivation—the drive do something because it is interesting, challenging, and absorbing—is essential for high levels of creativity.”

“Being a professional,” Julius Erving once said, “is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don’t feel like doing them.”

“Management isn’t about walking around and seeing if people are in their offices,” he told me. It’s about creating conditions for people to do their best work.”

 

4. We need to create systems to focus our minds and achieve full engagement in our work.

Nothing has made a greater impact in my life then learning to apply flow psychology to my learning and work. I am so grateful to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the Godfather of Flow research, who has taught me that I can prime my mind and body through meditation and flow practices to feel my best and perform my best consistently.

"Flow is an optimal state of consciousness, a peak state where we both feel and perform our best." Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Quote

Quotes from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience:

“A joyful life is an individual creation that cannot be copied from a recipe.”

“Control of consciousness determines the quality of life.”

“These examples suggest what one needs to learn is to control attention. In principle any skill or discipline one can master on one’s own will serve: meditation and prayer if one is so inclined; exercise, aerobics, martial arts for those who prefer concentrating on physical skills. Any specialization or expertise that one finds enjoyable and where one can improve one’s knowledge over time. The important thing, however, is the attitude toward these disciplines. If one prays in order to be holy, or exercises to develop strong pectoral muscles, or learns to be knowledgeable, then a great deal of the benefit is lost. The important thing is to enjoy the activity for its own sake, and to know that what matters is not the result, but the control one is acquiring over one’s attention.”

“But it is impossible to enjoy a tennis game, a book, or a conversation unless attention is fully concentrated on the activity.”

“It is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were. When we choose a goal and invest ourselves in it to the limits of concentration, whatever we do will be enjoyable. And once we have tasted this joy, we will redouble our efforts to taste it again. This is the way the self grows.”

“Most enjoyable activities are not natural; they demand an effort that initially one is reluctant to make. But once the interaction starts to provide feedback to the person’s skills, it usually begins to be intrinsically rewarding.”

“To overcome the anxieties and depressions of contemporary life, individuals must become independent of the social environment to the degree that they no longer respond exclusively in terms of its rewards and punishments. To achieve such autonomy, a person has to learn to provide rewards to herself. She has to develop the ability to find enjoyment and purpose regardless of external circumstances.”

“Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we
make happen. For a child, it could be placing with trembling fingers the last block on a tower she has built, higher than any she has built so far; for a swimmer, it could be trying to beat his own record; for a violinist, mastering an intricate musical passage. For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves.”

“Few things are sadder than encountering a person who knows exactly what he should do, yet cannot muster enough energy to do it. “He who desires but acts not,” wrote Blake with his accustomed vigor, “Breeds pestilence.”

“Of all the virtues we can learn no trait is more useful, more essential for survival, and more likely to improve the quality of life than the ability to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge.”

 

5. We need to actively learn new things and rely less on formal education.

Few intellectuals offer analysis and insight as profoundly challenging to our worldview as social critic Ivan Illich. He saw how the materialization of human values and the debt-fueled status anxiety at the heart of modern Western consumer culture was a race to nowhere that would eventually lead to the breakdown of society.

School Is The Secular Church

Quotes from Ivan Illich, author of Deschooling Society:

“School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is.”

“Man must choose whether to be rich in things or in the freedom to use them.”

“Most learning is not the result of instruction. It is rather the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful setting. Most people learn best by being “with it,” yet school makes them identify their personal, cognitive growth with elaborate planning and manipulation.”

“School has become the world religion of a modernized proletariat, and makes futile promises of salvation to the poor of the technological age.”

“In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.”

“The re-establishment of an ecological balance depends on the ability of society to counteract the progressive materialization of values. The ecological balance cannot be re-established unless we recognize again that only persons have ends and only persons can work towards them.”

“Schools are designed on the assumption that there is a secret to everything in life; that the quality of life depends on knowing that secret; that secrets can be known only in orderly successions; and that only teachers can properly reveal these secrets. An individual with a schooled mind conceives of the world as a pyramid of classified packages accessible only to those who carry the proper tags.”

“School initiates young people into a world where everything can be measured, including their imaginations, and, indeed, man himself.”

“Neither revolution nor reformation can ultimately change a society, rather you must tell a new powerful tale, one so persuasive that it sweeps away the old myths and becomes the preferred story, one so inclusive that it gathers all the bits of our past and our present into a coherent whole, one that even shines some light into the future so that we can take the next step… If you want to change a society, then you have to tell an alternative story.”

“Effective health care depends on self-care; this fact is currently heralded as if it were a discovery.”

“We can only live changes: we cannot think our way to humanity. Every one of us, every group, must become the model of that which we desire to create.”

“We cannot go beyond the consumer society unless we first understand that obligatory public schools inevitably reproduce such a society, no matter what is taught in them.”

“I believe that a desirable future depends on our deliberately choosing a life of action over a life of consumption, on our engendering a lifestyle which will enable us to be spontaneous, independent, yet related to each other, rather than maintaining a lifestyle which only allows to make and unmake, produce and consume – a style of life which is merely a way station on the road to the depletion and pollution of the environment. The future depends more upon our choice of institutions which support a life of action than on our developing new ideologies and technologies.”

“In schools, including universities, most resources are spent to purchase the time and motivation of a limited number of people to take up predetermined problems in a ritually defined setting. The most radical alternative to school would be a network or service which gave each man the same opportunity to share his current concern with others motivated by the same concern.”

“Observations of the sickening effect of programmed environments show that people in them become indolent, impotent, narcissistic and apolitical. The political process breaks down, because people cease to be able to govern themselves; they demand to be managed.”

“Societies in which most people depend for most of their goods and services on the personal whim, kindness, or skill of another are called underdeveloped, while those in which living has been transformed into a process of ordering from an all-encompassing store catalogue are called advanced.”

“The public is indoctrinated to believe that skills are valuable and reliable only if they are the result of formal schooling.”

“School prepares people for the alienating institutionalization of life, by teaching the necessity of being taught. Once this lesson is learned, people loose their incentive to develop independently; they no longer find it attractive to relate to each other, and the surprises that life offers when it is not predetermined by institutional definition are closed.”

“A second major illusion on which the school system rests is that most learning is the result of teaching. Teaching, it is true, may contribute to certain kinds of learning under certain circumstances. But most people acquire most of their knowledge outside school, and in school only insofar as school, in a few rich countries, has become their place of confinement during an increasing part of their lives.”

 

6. We need to spend time each week exploring and exercising in natural environments.

The scientific research is unanimous, people that regularly unplug and spend time in nature are much healthier, happier and more creative. In Last Child In The WoodsRichard Louv explores how the sedentary lifestyles of children (and adults) are ruining their long-term physical and mental health.

"The woods were my Ritalin. Nature calmed me, focused me, and yet excited my senses." - Richard Louv Quote, from Last Child In The Forest

Quotes from Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder:

“An environment-based education movement–at all levels of education–will help students realize that school isn’t supposed to be a polite form of incarceration, but a portal to the wider world.”

“Unlike television, nature does not steal time; it amplifies it. Nature offers healing for a child living in a destructive family or neighborhood. It is often overlooked as a healing balm for the emotional hardships in a child’s life.”

“Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.”

“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love of this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children’s memories, the adventures we’ve had together in nature will always exist.”

“An indoor (or backseat) childhood does reduce some dangers to children; but other risks are heightened, including risks to physical and psychological health, risk to children’s concept and perception of community, risk to self-confidence and the ability to discern true danger.”

“Studies of children in playgrounds with both green areas and manufactured play areas found that children engaged in more creative forms of play in the green areas.”

“Numerous studies document the benefits to students from school grounds that are ecologically diverse and include free play areas, habitats for wildlife, walking trails, and gardens.”

“Natural play strengthens children’s self-confidence and arouses their senses—their awareness of the world and all that moves in it, seen and unseen.”

“Nature is one of the best antidotes to fear.”

“This tree house became our galleon, our spaceship, our Fort Apache…Ours was a learning tree. Through it we learned to trust ourselves and our abilities.”

“Children need nature for the healthy development of their senses, and therefore, for learning and creativity.”

“Nature—the sublime, the harsh, and the beautiful—offers something that the street or gated community or computer game cannot. Nature presents the young with something so much greater than they are; it offers an environment where they can easily contemplate infinity and eternity.”

“Nature is a teacher. A teacher that is immensely old and extraordinarily wise. A teacher that can teach subjects that no human can teach. A teacher that will go at any pace.”

“Increasingly the evidence suggests that people benefit so much from contact with nature that land conservation can now be viewed as a public health strategy.”

“Stress reduction, greater physical health, a deeper sense of spirit, more creativity, a sense of play, even a safer life-these are the rewards that await a family when it invites more nature into children’s lives.”

“The physical exercise and emotional stretching that children enjoy in unorganized play is more varied and less time-bound than is found in organized sports. Playtime—especially unstructured, imaginative, exploratory play—is increasingly recognized as an essential component of wholesome child development.”

“If a child never sees the stars, never has meaningful encounters with other species, never experiences the richness of nature, what happens to that child?”

 

7. We need to develop our creative gifts and talents through play.

Work doesn’t have to suck. I’ve found that through playful creating and following my curiosity I’ve been able to develop my creative instincts where I can rely on them to support myself. Peter Gray makes the passionate argument that play should be at the center of 21st century education

.Have Fun And Play More

Dr. Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life:

“Children come into the world exquisitely designed, and strongly motivated, to educate themselves. They don’t need to be forced to learn; in fact, coercion undermines their natural desire to learn.”

“Today anyone who can get their hands on a computer with Internet access— even street kids in India— can access the world’s entire body of knowledge and ideas, all beautifully organized and available through easy-to-use search engines. For almost anything you want to do, you can find instructions and video on the Internet. For almost any idea you want to think about, you can find arguments and counterarguments on the Internet, and even join a discussion about it. This is far more conducive to intellectual development than the one-right-answer approach of the standard school system.”

“The idea that you have to go to school to learn anything or to become a critical thinker is patently ridiculous to any kid who knows how to access the Internet, and so it is becoming harder and harder to justify top-down schooling.”

“How did we come to the conclusion that the best way to educate students is to force them into a setting where they are bored, unhappy, and anxious.”

“We have forgotten that children are designed by nature to learn through self-directed play and exploration, and so, more and more, we deprive them of freedom to learn, subjecting them instead to the tedious and painfully slow learning methods devised by those who run the schools.”

“Everyone who has ever been to school knows that school is prison, but almost nobody beyond school age says it is. It’s not polite. We all tiptoe around the truth because admitting it would make us seem cruel and would point a finger at well-intentioned people doing what they believe to be essential. . . . A prison, according to the common, general definition, is any place of involuntary confinement and restriction of liberty. In school, as in adult prisons, the inmates are told exactly what they must do and are punished for failure to comply. Actually, students in school must spend more time doing exactly what they are told than is true of adults in penal institutions. Another difference, of course, is that we put adults in prison because they have committed a crime, while we put children in school because of their age.”

“Sadly, in many cases, the assumption that children are incompetent, irresponsible, and in need of constant direction and supervision becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The children themselves become convinced of their incompetence and irresponsibility, and may act accordingly. The surest way to foster any trait in a person is to treat that person as if he or she already has it.”

“Several experiments have shown that playing fast-paced action video games can quite markedly increase players’ scores on tests of visuospatial ability, including components of standard IQ tests.”

“Self-education through play and exploration requires enormous amounts of unscheduled time—time to do whatever one wants to do, without pressure, judgment, or intrusion from authority figures. That time is needed to make friends, play with ideas and materials, experience and overcome boredom, learn from one’s own mistakes, and develop passions.”

“If we love our children and want them to thrive, we must allow them more time and opportunity to play, not less. Yet policymakers and powerful philanthropists are continuing to push us in the opposite direction — toward more schooling, more testing, more adult direction of children, and less opportunity for free play.”

“By “true learning” and “deep knowledge,” I mean children’s incorporation of ideas and information into lasting ways of understanding and responding to the world around them. This is very different from superficial knowledge that is acquired solely for the purpose of passing a test and is forgotten shortly after the test is over.”

“Schooling that children are forced to endure—in which the subject matter is imposed by others and the “learning” is motivated by extrinsic rewards and punishments rather than by the children’s true interests—turns learning from a joyful activity into a chore, to be avoided whenever possible. Coercive schooling, which tragically is the norm in our society, suppresses curiosity and overrides children’s natural ways of learning. It also promotes anxiety, depression and feelings of helplessness that all too often reach pathological levels.”

“Repetition and memorization of imposed lessons are indeed tedious work for children, whose instincts urge them constantly to play and think freely, raise their own questions, and explore the world in their own ways. Children did not adapt well to forced schooling, and in many cases they rebelled. This was no surprise to the adults. By this point in history, the idea that children’s own preferences had any value had been pretty well forgotten. Brute force, long used to keep children on task in fields and factories, was transported into the classroom to make children learn.”

“It is nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreck and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.”

 

8. We need to recognize our inner genius and resist the conformity of mass culture.

When I read John Taylor Gatto‘s Weapons of Mass Instruction it became clear why I felt that school was a prison as a child. The damage that our one-size-fits-all education system does to many highly creative and energetic individuals is a tragedy that is our greatest waste of “natural resources”.

John Taylor Gatto Quote

Quotes from John Taylor Gatto, author of Weapons of Mass Instruction:

“Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your roadmap through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.”

“I’ve concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress genius because we haven’t yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.”

“Independent study, community service, adventures and experience, large doses of privacy and solitude, a thousand different apprenticeships — the one-day variety or longer — these are all powerful, cheap, and effective ways to start a real reform of schooling. But no large-scale reform is ever going to work to repair our damaged children and our damaged society until we force open the idea of “school” to include family as the main engine of education. If we use schooling to break children away from parents — and make no mistake, that has been the central function of schools since John Cotton announced it as the purpose of the Bay Colony schools in 1650 and Horace Mann announced it as the purpose of Massachusetts schools in 1850 — we’re going to continue to have the horror show we have right now.”

“In our secular society, school has become the replacement for church, and like church it requires that its teachings must be taken on faith.”

“This was once a land where every sane person knew how to build a shelter, grow food, and entertain one another. Now we have been rendered permanent children. It’s the architects of forced schooling who are responsible for that.”

“What’s gotten in the way of education in the United States is a theory of social engineering that says there is ONE RIGHT WAY to proceed with growing up.”

“Schools teach exactly what they are intended to teach and they do it well: how to be a good Egyptian and remain in your place in the pyramid.”

“Schools were designed by Horace Mann and Barnard Sears and Harper of the University of Chicago and Thorndyke of Columbia Teachers College and some other men to be instruments of the scientific management of a mass population. Schools are intended to produce through the application of formulae, formulaic human beings whose behavior can be predicted and controlled.”

“The old system where every child was locked away and set into nonstop, daily cut throat competition with every other child for silly prizes called grades is broken beyond repair. If it could be fixed it could have been fixed by now.”

“The lesson of report cards, grades, and tests is that children should not trust themselves or their parents but should instead rely on the evaluation of certified officials. People need to be told what they are worth.”

“School trains children to be employees and consumers; teach your own to be leaders and adventurers. School trains children to obey reflexively; teach your own to think critically and independently. Well-schooled kids have a low threshold for boredom; help your own to develop an inner life so that they’ll never be bored. Urge them to take on the serious material, the grown-up material, in history, literature, philosophy, music, art, economics, theology – all the stuff schoolteachers know well enough to avoid. Challenge your kids with plenty of solitude so that they can learn to enjoy their own company, to conduct inner dialogues. Well-schooled people are conditioned to dread being alone, and they seek constant companionship through the TV, the computer, the cell phone, and through shallow friendships quickly acquired and quickly abandoned. Your children should have a more meaningful life, and they can.”

“Bit by bit I began to devise guerrilla exercises to allow as many of the kids I taught as possible the raw material people always use to educate themselves: privacy, choice, freedom from surveillance, and as broad a range of situations and human associations as my limited power and resources could manage. In simpler terms, I tried to maneuver them into positions where they would have the chance to be their own teachers and make themselves the major text of their own education.”

“A few years back one of the schools at Harvard, perhaps the School of Government, issued some advice to its students on planning a career in the new international economy it believed was arriving. It warned sharply that academic classes and professional credentials would count for less and less when measured against real world training. Ten qualities were offered as essential to successfully adapting to the rapidly changing world of work. See how many of those you think are regularly taught in the schools of your city or state:

1) The ability to define problems without a guide.
2) The ability to ask hard questions which challenge prevailing assumptions.
3) The ability to work in teams without guidance.
4) The ability to work absolutely alone.
5) The ability to persuade others that your course is the right one.
6) The ability to discuss issues and techniques in public with an eye to reaching decisions about policy.
7) The ability to conceptualize and reorganize information into new patterns.
8) The ability to pull what you need quickly from masses of irrelevant data.
9) The ability to think inductively, deductively, and dialectically.
10) The ability to attack problems heuristically.”

“Close reading of tough-minded writing is still the best, cheapest, and quickest method known for learning to think for yourself… Reading, and rigorous discussion of that reading in a way that obliges you to formulate a position and support it against objections, is an operational definition of education… reading, analysis, and discussion is the way we develop reliable judgment, the principle way we come to penetrate covert movements behind the facade of public appearances.”

9. We need to risk failure and learn quickly from our mistakes.

Few people have done more than Sir Ken Robinson to wake people up about the short-sightedness of the current obsession with standardization and measurement. Our model of schooling is killing the most valuable resources we have: curiosity and creativity. He argues that creativity is just as important as literacy in a knowledge-based economy.

Sir Ken Robinson, author of Out Of Our Minds: Learning To Be Creative

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”

“We stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national educational systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make — and the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities.”

“The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn’t need to be reformed — it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.”

“Ironically, Alfred Binet, one of the creators of the IQ test, intended the test to serve precisely the opposite function. In fact, he originally designed it (on commission from the French government) exclusively to identify children with special needs so they could get appropriate forms of schooling. He never intended it to identify degrees of intelligence or “mental worth.” In fact, Binet noted that the scale he created “does not permit the measure of intelligence, because intellectual qualities are not superposable, and therefore cannot be measured as linear surfaces are measured.” Nor did he ever intend it to suggest that a person could not become more intelligent over time. “Some recent thinkers,” he said, “[have affirmed] that an individual’s intelligence is a fixed quantity, a quantity that cannot be increased. We must protest and react against this brutal pessimism; we must try to demonstrate that it is founded on nothing.”

“Creativity is as important now in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.”

“Imagination is the source of every form of human achievement. And it’s the one thing that I believe we are systematically jeopardizing in the way we educate our children and ourselves.”

“We have sold ourselves into a fast food model of education, and it’s impoverishing our spirit and our energies as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies.”

“One problem with the systems of assessment that use letters and grades is that they are usually light on description and heavy on comparison. Students are sometimes given grades without really knowing what they mean, and teachers sometimes give grades without being completely sure why. A second problem is that a single letter or number cannot convey the complexities of the process that it is meant to summarize. And some outcomes cannot be adequately expressed in this way at all. As the noted educator Elliot Eisner once put it, “Not everything important is measurable and not everything measurable is important.”

“You create your own life by how you see the world and your place in it.”

“Although mindfulness does not remove the ups and downs of life, it changes how experiences like losing a job, getting a divorce, struggling at home or at school, births, marriages, illnesses, death and dying influence you and how you influence the experience. . . . In other words, mindfulness changes your relationship to life.”

“If you are considering earning your living from your Element, it’s important to bear in mind that you not only have to love what you do; you should also enjoy the culture and the tribes that go with it.”

“Very many people go through their whole lives having no real sense of what their talents may be, or if they have any to speak of.”

“Human resources are like natural resources; they’re often buried deep. You have to go looking for them; they’re not just lying around on the surface.”

“Education can be stifling, no question about it. One of the reasons is that education — and American education in particular, because of the standardization — is the opposite of three principles I have outlined: it does not emphasize diversity or individuality; it’s not about awakening the student, it’s about compliance; and it has a very linear view of life, which is simply not the case with life at all.”

“Nobody else can make anybody else learn anything. You cannot make them. Anymore than if you are a gardener you can make flowers grow, you don’t make the flowers grow. You don’t sit there and stick the petals on and put the leaves on and paint it. You don’t so that. The flower grows itself. Your job if you are any good at it is to provide the optimum conditions for it to do that, to allow it to grow itself.”

“You can’t be a creative thinker if you’re not stimulating your mind, just as you can’t be an Olympic athlete if you don’t train regularly.”

“Passion is the driver of achievement in all fields. Some people love doing things they don’t feel they’re good at. That may be because they underestimate their talents or haven’t yet put the work in to develop them.”

“I define creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value.”

“Many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not — because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized.”

“Curiosity is the engine of achievement.”

“To be creative you actually have to do something.”

 

10. We need to make ourselves indispensable by getting creative with our life and work.

Few people in the world understand the paradigm shift happening in today’s economy better than Seth Godin. His books are inspiring manifestos that call you to take control of your life and develop your creative talents and gifts to serve others. I’ve read nearly all his books but Linchpin remains my favorite and I re-read it every year.

Seth Godin, author of Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

The only people who get paid enough, get paid what they're worth are people who don't follow the instruction book, who create art, who are innovative, who work without a map. That option is now available to everyone so take it." - Seth Godin Quote, Linchpin

“The only people who get paid enough, get paid what they’re worth are people who don’t follow the instruction book, who create art, who are innovative, who work without a map. That option is now available to everyone so take it.”

“Perhaps your challenge isn’t finding a better project or a better boss. Perhaps you need to get in touch with what it means to feel passionate. People with passion look for ways to make things happen.”

“Treasure what it means to do a day’s work. It’s our one and only chance to do something productive today, and it’s certainly not available to someone merely because he is the high bidder. A day’s work is your chance to do art, to create a gift, to do something that matters. As your work gets better and your art becomes more important, competition for your gifts will increase and you’ll discover that you can be choosier about whom you give them to.”

“The only way to get what you’re worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people care deeply about.”

“Art isn’t only a painting. Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.

What makes someone an artist? I don’t think is has anything to do with a paintbrush. There are painters who follow the numbers, or paint billboards, or work in a small village in China, painting reproductions. These folks, while swell people, aren’t artists. On the other hand, Charlie Chaplin was an artist, beyond a doubt. So is Jonathan Ive, who designed the iPhone. You can be an artist who works with oil paints or marble, sure. But there are artists who work with numbers, business models, and customer conversations. Art is about intent and communication, not substances.

An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it personally.

That’s why Bob Dylan is an artist, but an anonymous corporate hack who dreams up Pop 40 hits on the other side of the glass is merely a marketer. That’s why Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos, is an artist, while a boiler room of telemarketers is simply a scam.

Tom Peters, corporate gadfly and writer, is an artist, even though his readers are businesspeople. He’s an artist because he takes a stand, he takes the work personally, and he doesn’t care if someone disagrees. His art is part of him, and he feels compelled to share it with you because it’s important, not because he expects you to pay him for it.

Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn’t matter. The intent does.

Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.”

“The tragedy is that society (your school, your boss, your government, your family) keeps drumming the genius part out. The problem is that our culture has engaged in a Faustian bargain, in which we trade our genius and artistry for apparent stability.”

“The problem with competition is that it takes away the requirement to set your own path, to invent your own method, to find a new way.”

“A brilliant author or businesswoman or senator or software engineer is brilliant only in tiny bursts. The rest of the time, they’re doing work that most any trained person could do.”

“The greatest shortage in our society is an instinct to produce. To create solutions and hustle them out the door. To touch the humanity inside and connect to the humans in the marketplace.”

“The competitive advantages the marketplace demands is someone more human, connected, and mature. Someone with passion and energy, capable of seeing things as they are and negotiating multiple priorities as she makes useful decisions without angst. Flexible in the face of change, resilient in the face of confusion. All of these attributes are choices, not talents, and all of them are available to you.”

Us Now: Social Media and Mass Collaboration

 

New social technologies such as crowdsourcing and open source collaboration are giving us the power to take a bigger part in the decision-making processes of governments. This will radically change the shape of our governments and our societies.

Us Now is about the power of mass collaboration, the government and the Internet. It’s a fascinating look at how corrupt and inefficient bureaucracies will be dramatically downsized and their power will return to the people.

PressPausePlay

The digital revolution has unleashed creativity and talent in an unprecedented way, creating nearly unlimited opportunities for those who can master the digital media arts and convince others of the value of their talents.

PressPausePlay looks at his new democratized culture of creativity and how it is reshaping the arts and culture. The film features interviews with some of the most influential creators of the digital age.

Collaboration: On the Edge of a New Paradigm

This excellent documentary grew out of an experiment in collaboration undertaken by Danish student Alfred Birkegaard for his PhD in Philosophy. He traveled to the heart of Silicon Valley to interview the pioneers who are engineering the future of digital communication and collaboration.

Collaboration: On The Edge of a New Paradigm is the story of how the Internet is pushing the boundaries of research, collaboration and knowledge creation. The result is a revolutionary paradigm shift where learning and working is becoming a more collaborative process.

100 Best Websites for Writers 2017

The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2017

What do you picture when you imagine yourself writing?

Are you quietly tapping away on your office desktop computer in the early morning hours? Maybe you’re scribbling new ideas and observations amidst the hustle and bustle of a coffee shop.

It’s likely that you imagined yourself alone. And that’s not surprising, because when it comes down to actually doing the work, you — the writer — are the one who has to put pen to paper.

But here’s the thing about great writing: it takes a village.

They may be your words, but the words you write are a culmination of years of practice, learning from mentors, emulating your favorite authors, workshopping with peers and supporting fellow writers.

 

blogging

1. Be a Freelance Blogger

Sophie Lizard teaches you how to take your freelance blogging skills to pro level. Through her blog posts, free community and jobs board, you’ll increase your blogging income and become an expert in your niche.

2. Beyond Your Blog

Are you working to grow your blog audience? Beyond Your Blog provides practical tips and resources for getting published on other blogs and and in digital publications, so you can tap into new groups of engaged fans.

3. Copyblogger

Take your content marketing, SEO and community building skills to the next level with Copyblogger’s library of free ebooks, blog posts, forums and more. It’s a leading resource for professional blogging from the creators of the Rainmaker Platform for digital marketing.

4. ProBlogger

Founder Darren Rowse and the ProBlogger team bring you the latest news and tips to build a better blog. This site offers extensive resources on how to monetize your blog, as well as a job board constantly updated with new blogging opportunities.

5. See Jane Write

At See Jane Write, founder Javacia Harris Bowser seeks to empower women to be “authors of their own lives and live a life worth writing about.” Consistently recommended by many of our readers, See Jane Write is a great place for bloggers who are looking to grow their platforms and turn their blogs into businesses.

6. Aliventures

Ali Luke provides both practical and motivational advice on writing books, blogging and building a business around your writing. Check out her Writer’s Huddle community and ebooks on blogging.

7. Ann Kroeker

Author and writing coach Ann Kroeker is on a mission to help writers reach their goals by maximizing curiosity, creativity and productivity. Her website is home to numerous blog posts, podcasts and resources for writers.

8. Australian Writers’ Centre

No matter what type of writing you enjoy, the Australian Writers’ Centre has a course for you. Along with a full blog archive, this site offers dozens of online and in-person courses on freelance writing, creativity, novel writing, business writing, blogging and more. Courses start at $97.

9. Bang2Write

If you’re a screenwriter, Bang2Write is for you. This site offers tons of advice on how to develop great stories and pitch your scripts, along with best practices for writing research.

10. Barely Hare Books

You are the hero of your own novel-writing adventure, and Rae Elliott of Barely Hare Books is here to help you defeat the monster keeping you from writing that fandom-worthy story. With blog posts, a podcast and several ebooks, this site has lots to explore.

100 best websites for writers 2017

11. C. S. Lakin’s Live Write Thrive

Author, editor and writing coach C. S. Lakin loves helping writers get their manuscripts ready for publication. At Live Write Thrive, she writes about proper scene structure, character development, editing and crafting a fantastic story.

12. DIY MFA

The folks at DIY MFA believe you can access the benefits of an Master in Fine Arts without having to go the traditional (expensive) route. It all comes down to a simple but powerful combination: writing with focus, reading with purpose and building your community.

13. Elizabeth Spann Craig

Prolific mystery author Elizabeth Spann Craig blogs about all things relevant to a writer’s life, including public speaking, productivity, gaining visibility and connecting with the wider author community. Her weekly roundup of writing articles is a reader favorite.

14. Eva Deverell

A passionate writer and creative writing teacher, Eva Deverell offers tons of resources for readers, writers, poets and people who just love learning. With worksheets, blog posts, writing prompts and ebooks, this site offers practical ways to deepen your craft.

15. Every Writer

At Every Writer, owner and editor Richard Edwards covers everything you can imagine about writing, including writing tools, website building, and how to overcome writer’s block. He even shares tips on starting a literary magazine. Check out his poetry and writing contests, too.

16. Fiction University

Janice Hardy understands there’s no “right” way to write. So instead of giving advice on what writers should do, she explains how to make industry rules work for you. With new articles and guest columns every day, you’ll gain valuable insight into the book-writing and publishing process.

17. How to Write a Book Now

At How to Write a Book Now, author Glen C. Strathy shares tips on everything about the writing and book publishing process, from where to start, to story model analysis, to creating compelling characters. Readers can also submit their questions about writing.

18. Inky Girl

Inky Girl is the place for children’s book writers and illustrators. Debbie Ridpath Ohi shares original comics, interviews with industry experts, and advice on telling unique stories. Her series on writing picture books is a reader favorite.

19. Journalist’s Resource

Run by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center, Journalist’s Resource offers write-ups on the latest scholarly studies, reports and data. This is a great place to find reliable research as well as inspiration for your next freelance article.

20. Knockin’ Books

The editors at Knockin’ Books are self-described “addicted” to reading, so they’ve created this site to help connect readers and authors. Whether you’re a reader looking for your next favorite book, or a writer looking for a beautiful cover design, you’ll find it at Knockin’ Books.

21. Lucy Flint and the Lionhearted Writing Life

After eight years of a love/hate relationship with writing, Lucy Flint went on a mission to explore how writing can be more enjoyable, easy and fulfilling. In her blog posts, she shares tips on how to be more courageous in your writing, stop being stuck and more. Her site is a mini dance party for your writing life.

22. Market Meditations

At Market Meditations, Charles Chu documents the experiments and lessons he’s learned in the pursuit of being more productive, successful and effective at the work he does. This is a great blog to follow if you’re looking to raise your potential at work.

23. Positive Writer

In the pursuit of creating work that matters, all writers get stuck from time to time. Doubts can creep in, and it’s sometimes hard to get back on track. Bryan Hutchinson offers motivating blog posts to help you move beyond writing paralysis and finish the work you set out to create.

24. PsychWriter

At PsychWriter, Tamar Sloan explores the intersection of psychology and writing, specifically as it pertains to character development and reader engagement. This blog covers the art of making your characters and story believable.

25. Re:Fiction

No matter what kind of fiction writer you are, Re:Fiction welcomes you. This site offers resources to help you at all stages, from getting better at writing, to publishing, to marketing and building your platform. It also offers multiple scholarships for professional editing and critiques each month, on manuscripts of up to 5,000 words.

26. The Write Practice

What do all successful writers have in common? Practice. At The Write Practice, Joe Bunting and his team help you develop your writing rhythm and grow into your voice and identity as a writer.

27. The Writing Kylie

Kylie Day’s blog is a great place for those who are in the midst of writing a novel. With tips on outlining and story structure, and a dose of inspirational posts about the writing life, this blog will help you on your path from story idea to complete manuscript.

28. Tweetspeak Poetry

Tweetspeak Poetry is the go-to site for “the best in poetry and poetic things.” Here, readers and writers alike can indulge in beautiful poetry, writing workshops, book clubs and more. This is also a great place to find resources for teaching poetry.

29. Write or Die

Writer Mandy Wallace believes that when it comes to writing, you can’t wait to become inspired or for luck to strike. Just “Show up, shut up, and write,” and sooner or later it will all come together. Wallace’s blog documents the writing lessons she’s learned and offers practical guides for upgrading your own writing.

30. Writerology

The one constant when it comes to writing? It all comes down to the people: you as a writer, your characters and their development, and the audience you seek to connect with. At Writerology, Faye Kirwin combines her expertise in writing and psychology to help you hone your craft, understand people, and write amazing stories.

31. Writers Helping Writers

Authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi are dedicated to creating one-of-a-kind resources that writers will actually use. Their books and blog posts focus on helping writers become better storytellers, and their One Stop For Writers library is teeming with tools for planning, researching and writing your book.

32. Writers In The Storm

Just like their characters during perilous times, writers must weather the storm of their profession — and shifting industry tides. Run by a group of authors, the Writers In The Storm blog provides inspiration and tips for writers during all stages of the process.

33. Writer Unboxed

Frustrated their analytical articles about books and movies were rejected, founders Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton decided to create Writer Unboxed in 2006 so they could freely publish their observations. It has since grown into a thriving community where writers of all levels can contribute their thoughts on the craft of writing.

34. Write to Done

Write to Done is all about learning to write well. Founder Mary Jaksch brings the age-old advice to keep writing to a whole new level, noting that it’s not practice that makes you a better writer — it’s practice directed in a positive way.

35. Grammar Girl

You may speak English fluently, but the language can still be quite a mystery. Grammar Girl is the go-to guide for all things “grammar, punctuation, usage, and fun developments in the English language.” She has a popular podcast, too.

36. Kathy Steinemann

Kathy Steinemann loves words. On her blog, she shares master lists of adjectives and offers tips for avoiding overused words and being more descriptive and original in your writing.

37. Scribendi

Scribendi is focused on the art of editing and proofreading. Their resources for writers cover everything from grammar, to finding inspiration, to the mechanics of writing.

38. Comps & Calls

On the first of each month, Cathy Bryant posts an extensive list of competitions, contests and calls for submission. She notes whether they’re paid or not, for quick skimming. This site is a great one-stop shop for all recent writing opportunities.

39. Elna Cain

Elna Cain believes you don’t need experience to be a successful freelance writer — you just need a passion for writing. On her blog, she shares tips and strategies to help new freelance writers succeed.

40. Freelancer FAQs

You have questions, they have answers. Team members and guest contributors at Freelancer FAQs address all the things you’ve ever wanted to know about freelance life, including marketing, getting started, recommended resources, money management and more.

41. Freelance to Freedom

You love to write. But in order to be a successful freelancer, you need to work those business muscles. That’s where Freelance to Freedom comes in. Founder Leah Kalamakis offers articles and e-books that teach everything from client management to setting up your business website.

42. Freelance to Win

At Freelance to Win, Danny Margulies wants you to stop compromising and start living a life of freedom — all by building a freelance career. Danny is an expert at landing gigs on Upwork, and his blog shares all the latest tips on how to use this platform for ultimate success.

43. Freelance Writing

It’s been around since 1997 and is still going strong: Freelance Writing has an extensive archive of articles, tutorials, media and resources all geared to helping you build a successful career. Its jobs listings get updated daily, so you’re always in the know about new opportunities.

44. FundsforWriters

Hope Clark believes writing can be a realistic career for all writers. Her weekly newsletter lists the best competitions, grants and other well-paying markets, and her platform has grown to include a blog and a bi-weekly paid newsletter with even more high-paying opportunities per issue.

45. Horkey Handbook

Within six months of starting her freelance writing career, Gina Horkey was earning $4,000 a month. Now, she wants to help others achieve their dreams of making a real living off freelance writing. Check out her free five-day kickstart course.

46. LittleZotz Writing

Lauren Tharp has found a way to write as a freelancer full time and is dedicated to helping other writers do the same. With bi-monthly newsletters, a blog, and a podcast, LittleZotz is a great source of practical tips for your freelance life.

47. Make a Living Writing

At Make a Living Writing, Carol Tice helps writers move up from low-paying markets and earn more from their work. With her blog, e-books and paid community, you’ll find awesome advice, support and resources to grow as a freelance writer.

48. Pen & Pro$per

At Pen & Pro$per, Jennifer Brown Bank shares more than 15 years of professional writing experience to help others reach financial success with their writing. As one The Write Life reader said, “With an outstanding array of diverse topics, tips and tricks of the writing profession, this is a blog well worth bookmarking!”

49. Untamed Writing

“Your life is YOUR life. You should be able to do whatever you want with it.” So says Karen Marston, founder of Untamed Writing, her internet home for helping people build a freelance writing career they love without sacrificing their freedom. You’ll find a full archive of blog posts, resources and courses to develop your writing skills, fearlessly approach clients, and maintain a successful career.

best websites for writers

50. Writers in Charge

With over 600 posts in its archives, Writers in Charge is filled with resources and leads for freelance writers who are looking to be well-compensated for their work. Don’t miss founder Bamidele Onibalusi’s master list of 110 websites that pay writers.

51. Writers Weekly

Around since 1997, Writers Weekly is a tried-and-true resource for freelance writers. It offers regular updates on paying markets, as well as expert interviews and success stories.

52. Writing Revolt

At Writing Revolt, Jorden Roper is leading a revolution to help freelance writers and bloggers make serious money. Her site is filled with actionable articles, courses and resources that will help you become better at writing, pitching and landing great clients.

53. HubSpot

For business, sales and marketing-focused writers, HubSpot is a great place to stay on top of the latest research, insights, and strategies for connecting with your audience and making them fall in love with your brand.

54. Kikolani

Founder Kristi Hines brings you the latest strategies, trends and how-tos in digital marketing. Kikolani is a must-have resource for business and professional bloggers who want to make their brands stand out.

55. MarketingProfs

If you’re looking to grow your expertise in marketing communications, MarketingProfs is the place to go. It offers articles, podcasts, training events and more, so you can learn to use strategic, data-driven marketing.

56. Seth Godin

Seth Godin’s blog might not be specifically about writing, but his daily bits of wisdom on business, marketing and life will help you approach your work in new ways. His posts never fail to inspire an energy to “Go, make something happen.”

57. Shelley Hitz

Shelley Hitz believes everyone has a message, and she’s on a mission to help you reach your target audience and build your author platform. With her blog posts, podcast and Author Audience Academy, you’ll find tons of content on book writing, publishing and marketing.

58. The Creative Penn

Author Joanna Penn has built a best-selling writing career, and she wants to help you do it, too. Her site offers a wealth of resources on self-publishing and platform-building — from her articles and ebooks to her popular podcast library of author interviews.

59. Beautiful Writers Podcast

On the Beautiful Writers Podcast, host Linda Sivertsen features authors and thought leaders about their writing, business and publishing adventures. With a touch of spirituality, these conversations are great listens for those interested in creative contemplation.

60. Create If Writing

We all love writing, but sometimes platform building and promotion don’t feel as natural. That’s where Create If Writing comes in; host Kirsten Oliphant shares tips and tools on how to build an authentic platform for your creative brand.

61. I Should Be Writing

With author interviews and a huge archive, I Should Be Writing chronicles the journey to becoming a professional author. Conversations focus primarily on speculative fiction and traditional publishing.

62. Rocking Self Publishing

Looking to be a published indie author? This podcast is for you. Each week host Simon Whistler interviews some of the top names in self-publishing, so you can create success for yourself.

63. Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast

On the Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast, the hosts interview successful authors, engage in group discussions and dive deep into specific writing genres and niches. This is a smart listening option for those looking for solid discussion around the science fiction and fantasy markets.

64. Self Publishing Formula

Hosted by a writer who’s just starting out and another who is a best-selling author, the Self Publishing Formula podcast features interviews with some of the biggest names in the self-publishing game. Listen for tips on writing, publishing, marketing and more.

65. Story Geometry

Ben Hess is an award-winning producer, director and screenwriter. After hitting a creative wall, he decided to start Story Geometry, where he interviews esteemed writers on their craft.

66. Story Grid

On the Story Grid podcast, author Shawn Coyne and “struggling” writer Tim Grahl discuss the art and science of writing a story that resonates. There’s a blueprint for great novels — and these co-hosts seek to crack the code.

67. The Dead Robots’ Society

Throughout the nearly 400 episodes in its archive, the many hosts of The Dead Robots’ Society gather to discuss their writing journeys and offer tips on the writing process. They also  occasionally invite guests on the show.

68. The Worried Writer

On The Worried Writer podcast, Sarah Painter investigates how authors overcome anxiety, distractions and worried feelings on their way to publishing success. Listen to this podcast if you’re looking for practical advice on managing self doubt.

69. The Writer Files

On The Writer Files, host Kelton Reid uncovers the secrets of productivity and creativity of some of the most well-known writers. If you find yourself stuck, plagued with writer’s block or just need to get those writing gears turning again, this podcast is for you.

70. Writer 2.0

On Writer 2.0, A. C. Fuller sits down with bestselling authors and publishing experts like literary agents and book marketers. This show offers great content around both traditional and self-publishing, as well as the writing journey.

71. Writing Class Radio

This show brings you inside an actual writing class, where you can hear other people tell their stories, witness breakthroughs, and hear the ins and outs of learning to write well.

72. Writing Excuses

In these weekly 15-minute episodes, writers Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells talk about all things writing. They often have season-long themes — check out season 10 for a masterclass-type season on creating a story.

73. Your Creative Life

On the Your Creative Life podcast, co-hosts Vanessa Carnevale and Kimberley Foster help writers connect to their creativity. With discussions on publishing, platform building and different genres of writing, this is a choice place to find inspiration.

74. Anne R. Allen

Publishing veterans Anne R. Allen and Ruth Harris created this online space to offer wisdom and tips for navigating the increasingly complex (and sometimes predatory) publishing world. Whether you’re an indie author or looking to land a traditional publishing deal, check out their archives and resources.

75. Better Novel Project

Christine Frazier takes a scientific approach to writing a best-selling novel. She deconstructs popular books to pinpoint the common elements they share. These findings are then incorporated into the “master outline” for a better, research-backed novel. Follow along for insights on plot, word counts and character development.

76. Go Teen Writers

Stephanie Morrill knows a love of writing often starts at a young age. That’s why she created Go Teen Writers: to provide encouragement, community and wisdom to aspiring teen writers who want to learn more about how to finish a novel and get it published.

77. Helping Writers Become Authors

Consider K. M. Weiland your writing and publishing mentor. With hundreds of blog posts, instructional ebooks, and an exclusive e-letter, her website is the perfect place to find the answers to all your questions. She also responds to every email she receives (really!) about writing, publishing and marketing fiction.

78. Jane Friedman

Former publisher Jane Friedman explores the intersection of publishing, authorship and the digital age. With more than 15 years in the industry, Friedman knows her stuff — and her blog is a wealth of information on how to embrace “the future of authorship.”

79. Jenny Bravo Books

Author Jenny Bravo offers personal anecdotes and guidance for writers who want to take a leap into the publishing world. From her blog full of tips to her “Blots and Plots Party” Facebook group, to her Busy Writers Starter Kit, Jenny is here to help you realize your dream of writing a book.

80. My Story Doctor

At My Story Doctor, author David Farland offers tips and workshops on how to write your story and get it published. He offers strategic advice on the business of writing, covering topics like how to get great deals and make the most of your publishing opportunities.

81. Nail Your Novel

At Nail Your Novel, bestselling ghostwriter and book doctor Roz Morris shares her best traditional and self-publishing tips as well as musings on the writing process. Be sure to check out her radio show “So You Want to Be a Writer?”

82. Novel Publicity

The team at Novel Publicity believes every story should be told, and have its own platform and loyal fans. With that core belief in mind, it provides guidance on writing, marketing and publishing. Posts cover everything from social media strategy and book design to finances and author blogging.
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83. Self-Publishing School

Chandler Bolt believes everyone has a book inside them. With proven systems and strategies, the Self-Publishing School blog will walk you through writing and publishing your book, even if you don’t even know what you want to write about yet!

84. She’s Novel

It took Kristen Kieffer two and a half years to finish her first draft — then she realized she had made every mistake in the book. She vowed not to let these personal lessons go to waste, so she created She’s Novel, a blog and resource hub that helps writers more-easily navigate the journey of crafting brilliant novels.

85. Standoutbooks

You’ve written your book. Now what? Standoutbooks has tons of articles, templates, tools and resource recommendations for getting your book published and marketed to the max. While you’re there, grab your free Book Marketing Plan and Press Release templates.

86. The Book Designer

At The Book Designer, Joel Friedlander uses his experience in book design, advertising and graphic design to help writers “build better books” and get published. Along with his extensive blog archive, check out his book design templates and Book Launch Toolkit.

87. The Steve Laube Agency

What better way to get book publishing advice than from an agent himself? From resource recommendations to eight years (and counting!) of blog archives, The Steve Laube Agency website is full of advice for writers who are taking their first steps into the world of publishing.

88. Writer’s Digest Editor Blogs

Writer’s Digest is home to many resources, competitions, and communities. Their editor columns are quite popular, and we particularly like The Write Life contributor Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents, featuring all types of information on finding literary agents, sending query letters, building an author platform and marketing your book.

89. Writer’s Relief

For more than 20 years, Writer’s Relief has helped creatives successfully submit their writing to literary journals, book publishers, agents and more. The staff’s blog is full of publishing tips, and they also have a paid-subscriber-only classifieds section listing contests, conferences and residences.

90. Chronicles

Chronicles is a thriving community for science fiction and fantasy writers. Community members gather to discuss favorite books, authors and common themes in science fiction and fantasy writing.

91. Fiction Writing

The Fiction Writing Facebook group is a community of nearly 10,000 writers. Here, you can post your writing for critique or reviews, and veteran members can announce details about upcoming book releases and published pieces.

92. Inkitt

Inkitt is a data-driven book publisher and community where writers can share their work and find an audience for free, even if their novel is not yet finished. Inkitt’s algorithm analyzes reading behaviors to understand whether a novel has a strong potential to become a big success. If readers love your work, Inkitt will offer you a publishing deal.

93. Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Whether you’re just beginning to write or a best-selling pro, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is here to help you overcome whatever doubts and insecurities might keep you from being your best.

94. Now Novel

The Now Novel program offers a structured, straightforward way to get your book done. With a step-by-step process that takes the guessing out of what to do next, personalized mentorship and community groups for even more support, you’ll be an author in no time.

95. Prose

Prose is a social network platform for writers who want to focus on the work — not the superficiality of social media. This is a great place to publish your work, connect with other authors, and participate in writing challenges.

96. She Writes

Over 27,000 writers of all levels of expertise have joined this buzzing community, founded by author Kamy Wicoff. At She Writes, you can create your own profile, build your network, share your work, get expert advice and feedback and discuss all types of topics in the forum.

97. Talentville

Talentville is the online destination for screenwriters and storytellers. This community focuses on bringing together people across the industry — from novice script writers to top agents and producers — so high-quality work can be easily discovered.

98. The Masters Review

This community is focused on supporting emerging writers. They publish works from writers who don’t have published novels and haven’t been featured on larger platforms yet. Be on the lookout for their annual anthology, which features the 10 best emerging writers in the country.

99. Two Drops of Ink

Two Drops of ink is a literary blog accepting submissions from writers of almost any genre. The editors also post book reviews and blog posts about writing and the publishing industry.

100. Wattpad

At Wattpad, “Stories are made social.” Hailed as the world’s largest community of writers and readers, members are free to post and read original stories and engage in conversation with each other. This is a great platform to build buzz around your writing.

Untangling your organization’s decision making

It’s the best and worst of times for decision makers. Swelling stockpiles of data, advanced analytics, and intelligent algorithms are providing organizations with powerful new inputs and methods for making all manner of decisions. Corporate leaders also are much more aware today than they were 20 years ago of the cognitive biases—anchoring, loss aversion, confirmation bias, and many more—that undermine decision making without our knowing it. Some have already created formal processes—checklists, devil’s advocates, competing analytic teams, and the like—to shake up the debate and create healthier decision-making dynamics.

Now for the bad news. In many large global companies, growing organizational complexity, anchored in strong product, functional, and regional axes, has clouded accountabilities. That means leaders are less able to delegate decisions cleanly, and the number of decision makers has risen. The reduced cost of communications brought on by the digital age has compounded matters by bringing more people into the flow via email, Slack, and internal knowledge-sharing platforms, without clarifying decision-making authority. The result is too many meetings and email threads with too little high-quality dialogue as executives ricochet between boredom and disengagement, paralysis, and anxiety (Exhibit 1). All this is a recipe for poor decisions: 72 percent of senior-executive respondents to a McKinsey survey said they thought bad strategic decisions either were about as frequent as good ones or were the prevailing norm in their organization.

Growing organizational complexity and proliferating digital communications are a recipe for poor decisions.

The ultimate solution for many organizations looking to untangle their decision making is to become flatter and more agile, with decision authority and accountability going hand in hand. High-flying technology companies such as Google and Spotify are frequently the poster children for this approach, but it has also been adapted by more traditional ones such as ING (for more, see our recent McKinsey Quarterly interview “ING’s agile transformation”). As we’ve described elsewhere, agile organization models get decision making into the right hands, are faster in reacting to (or anticipating) shifts in the business environment, and often become magnets for top talent, who prefer working at companies with fewer layers of management and greater empowerment.

As we’ve worked with organizations seeking to become more agile, we’ve found that it’s possible to accelerate the improvement of decision making through the simple steps of categorizing the type of decision that’s being made and tailoring your approach accordingly. In our work, we’ve observed four types of decisions (Exhibit 2):

The ABCDs of categorizing decisions.
  • Big-bet decisions. These infrequent and high-risk decisions have the potential to shape the future of the company.
  • Cross-cutting decisions. In these frequent and high-risk decisions, a series of small, interconnected decisions are made by different groups as part of a collaborative, end-to-end decision process.
  • Delegated decisions. These frequent and low-risk decisions are effectively handled by an individual or working team, with limited input from others.
  • Ad hoc decisions. The organization’s infrequent, low-stakes decisions are deliberately ignored in this article, in order to sharpen our focus on the other three areas, where organizational ambiguity is most likely to undermine decision-making effectiveness.

These decision categories often get overlooked, in our experience, because organizational complexity, murky accountabilities, and information overload have conspired to create messy decision-making processes in many companies. In this article, we’ll describe how to vary your decision-making methods according to the circumstances. We’ll also offer some tools that individuals can use to pinpoint problems in the moment and to take corrective action that should improve both the decision in question and, over time, the organization’s decision-making norms.

Before we begin, we should emphasize that even though the examples we describe focus on enterprise-level decisions, the application of this framework will depend on the reader’s perspective and location in the organization. For example, what might be a delegated decision for the enterprise as a whole could be a big-bet decision for an individual business unit. Regardless, any fundamental change in decision-making culture needs to involve the senior leaders in the organization or business unit. The top team will decide what decisions are big bets, where to appoint process leaders for cross-cutting decisions, and to whom to delegate. Senior executives also serve the critical functions of role-modeling a culture of collaboration and of making sure junior leaders take ownership of the delegated decisions.

Big bets

Bet-the-company decisions—from major acquisitions to game-changing capital investments—are inherently the most risky. Efforts to mitigate the impact of cognitive biases on decision making have, rightly, often focused on big bets. And that’s not the only special attention big bets need. In our experience, steps such as these are invaluable for big bets:

  • Appoint an executive sponsor. Each initiative should have a sponsor, who will work with a project lead to frame the important decisions for senior leaders to weigh in on—starting with a clear, one-sentence problem statement.
  • Break things down, and connect them up. Large, complex decisions often have multiple parts; you should explicitly break them down into bite-size chunks, with decision meetings at each stage. Big bets also frequently have interdependencies with other decisions. To avoid unintended consequences, step back to connect the dots.
  • Deploy a standard decision-making approach. The most important way to get big-bet decisions right is to have the right kind of interaction and discussion, including quality debate, competing scenarios, and devil’s advocates. Critical requirements are to create a clear agenda that focuses on debating the solution (instead of endlessly elaborating the problem), to require robust prework, and to assemble the right people, with diverse perspectives.
  • Move faster without losing commitment. Fast-but-good decision making also requires bringing the available facts to the table and committing to the outcome of the decision. Executives have to get comfortable living with imperfect data and being clear about what “good enough” looks like. Then, once a decision is made, they have to be willing to commit to it and take a gamble, even if they were opposed during the debate. Make sure, at the conclusion of every meeting, that it is clear who will communicate the decision and who owns the actions to begin carrying it out.

An example of a company that does much of this really well is a semiconductor company that believes so much in the importance of getting big bets right that it built a whole management system around decision making. The company never has more than one person accountable for decisions, and it has a standard set of facts that need to be brought into any meeting where a decision is to be made (such as a problem statement, recommendation, net present value, risks, and alternatives). If this information isn’t provided, then a discussion is not even entertained. The CEO leads by example, and to date, the company has a very good track record of investment performance and industry-changing moves.

It’s also important to develop tracking and feedback mechanisms to judge the success of decisions and, as needed, to course correct for both the decision and the decision-making process. One technique a regional energy provider uses is to create a one-page self-evaluation tool that allows each member of the team to assess how effectively decisions are being made and how well the team is adhering to its norms. Members of key decision-making bodies complete such evaluations at regular intervals (after every fifth or tenth meeting). Decision makers also agree, before leaving a meeting where a decision has been made, how they will track project success, and they set a follow-up date to review progress against expectations.

Big-bet decisions often are easy to recognize, but not always (Exhibit 3). Sometimes a series of decisions that might appear small in isolation represent a big bet when taken as a whole. A global technology company we know missed several opportunities that it could have seized through big-bet investments, because it was making technology-development decisions independently across each of its product lines, which reduced its ability to recognize far-reaching shifts in the industry. The solution can be as simple as a mechanism for periodically categorizing important decisions that are being made across the organization, looking for patterns, and then deciding whether it’s worthwhile to convene a big-bet-style process with executive sponsorship. None of this is possible, though, if companies aren’t in the habit of isolating major bets and paying them special attention.

A belated heads-up means you are not recognizing big bets.

Cross-cutting decisions

Far more frequent than big-bet decisions are cross-cutting ones—think pricing, sales, and operations planning processes or new-product launches—that demand input from a wide range of constituents. Collaborative efforts such as these are not actually single-point decisions, but instead comprise a series of decisions made over time by different groups as part of an end-to-end process. The challenge is not the decisions themselves but rather the choreography needed to bring multiple parties together to provide the right input, at the right time, without breeding bureaucracy that slows down the process and can diminish the decision quality. This is why the common advice to focus on “who has the decision” (or, “the D”) isn’t the right starting point; you should worry more about where the key points of collaboration and coordination are.

It’s easy to err by having too little or too much choreography. For an example of the former, consider the global pension fund that found itself in a major cash crunch because of uncoordinated decision making and limited transparency across its various business units. A perfect storm erupted when different business units’ decisions simultaneously increased the demand for cash while reducing its supply. In contrast, a specialty-chemicals company experienced the pain of excess choreography when it opened membership on each of its six governance committees to all senior leaders without clarifying the actual decision makers. All participants felt they had a right (and the need) to express an opinion on everything, even where they had little knowledge or expertise. The purpose of the meetings morphed into information sharing and unstructured debate, which stymied productive action (Exhibit 4).

Too many cooks get involved in the absence of processes for cross-cutting decisions.

Whichever end of the spectrum a company is on with cross-cutting decisions, the solution is likely to be similar: defining roles and decision rights along each step of the process. That’s what the specialty-chemicals company did. Similarly, the pension fund identified its CFO as the key decision maker in a host of cash-focused decisions, and then it mapped out the decision rights and steps in each of the contributing processes. For most companies seeking enhanced coordination, priorities include:

  • Map out the decision-making process, and then pressure-test it. Identify decisions that involve a cross-cutting group of leaders, and work with the stakeholders of each to agree on what the main steps in the process entail. Lay out a simple, plain-English playbook for the process to define the calendar, cadence, handoffs, and decisions. Too often, companies find themselves building complex process diagrams that are rarely read or used beyond the team that created them. Keep it simple.
  • Run water through the pipes. Then work through a set of real-life scenarios to pressure-test the system in collaboration with the people who will be running the process. We call this process “running water through the pipes,” because the first several times you do it, you will find where the “leaks” are. Then you can improve the process, train people to work within (and, when necessary, around) it, and confront, when the stakes are relatively low, leadership tensions or stresses in organizational dynamics.
  • Establish governance and decision-making bodies. Limit the number of decision-making bodies, and clarify for each its mandate, standing membership, roles (decision makers or critical “informers”), decision-making protocols, key points of collaboration, and standing agenda. Emphasize to the members that committees are not meetings but decision-making bodies, and they can make decisions outside of their standard meeting times. Encourage them to be flexible about when and where they make decisions, and to focus always on accelerating action.
  • Create shared objectives, metrics, and collaboration targets. These will help the persons involved feel responsible not just for their individual contributions in the process, but also for the process’s overall effectiveness. Team members should be encouraged to regularly seek improvements in the underlying process that is giving rise to their decisions.

Getting effective at cross-cutting decision making can be a great way to tackle other organizational problems, such as siloed working (Exhibit 5). Take, for example, a global finance company with a matrix of operations across markets and regions that struggled with cross-business-unit decision making. Product launches often cannibalized the products of other market groups. When the revenue shifts associated with one such decision caught the attention of senior management, company leaders formalized a new council for senior executives to come together and make several types of cross-cutting decisions, which yielded significant benefits.

When you are locked in silos, you are unlikely to collaborate effectively on cross-cutting decisions.

Delegated decisions

Delegated decisions are far narrower in scope than big-bet decisions or cross-cutting ones. They are frequent and relatively routine elements of day-to-day management, typically in areas such as hiring, marketing, and purchasing. The value at stake for delegated decisions is in the multiplier effect they can have because of the frequency of their occurrence across the organization. Placing the responsibility for these decisions in the hands of those closest to the work typically delivers faster, better, and more efficiently executed decisions, while also enhancing engagement and accountability at all levels of the organization.

In today’s world, there is the added complexity that many decisions (or parts of them) can be “delegated” to smart algorithms enabled by artificial intelligence. Identifying the parts of your decisions that can be entrusted to intelligent machines will speed up decisions and create greater consistency and transparency, but it requires setting clear thresholds for when those systems should escalate to a person, as well as being clear with people about how to leverage the tools effectively.

It’s essential to establish clarity around roles and responsibilities in order to craft a smooth-running system of delegated decision making (Exhibit 6). A renewable-energy company we know took this task seriously when undergoing a major reorganization that streamlined its senior management and drove decisions further down in the organization. The company developed a 30-minute “role card” conversation for each manager to have with his or her direct reports. As part of this conversation, managers explicitly laid out the decision rights and accountability metrics for each direct report. This approach allowed the company’s leaders to decentralize their decision making while also ensuring that accountability and transparency were in place. Such role clarity enables easier navigation, speeds up decision making, and makes it more customer focused. Companies may find it useful to take some of the following steps to reorganize decision-making power and establish transparency in their organization:

Drawn-out and complicated processes often mean more delegating is needed.
  • Delegate more decisions. To start delegating decisions today, make a list of the top 20 regularly occurring decisions. Take the first decision and ask three questions: (1) Is this a reversible decision? (2) Does one of my direct reports have the capability to make this decision? (3) Can I hold that person accountable for making the decision? If the answer to these questions is yes, then delegate the decision. Continue down your list of decisions until you are only making decisions for which there is one shot to get it right and you alone possess the capabilities or accountability. The role-modeling of senior leaders is invaluable, but they may be reluctant. Reassure them (and yourself) by creating transparency through good performance dashboards, scorecards, and key performance indicators (KPIs), and by linking metrics back to individual performance reviews.
  • Avoid overlap of decision rights. Doubling up decision responsibility across management levels or dimensions of the reporting matrix only leads to confusion and stalemates. Employees perform better when they have explicit authority and receive the necessary training to tackle problems on their own. Although it may feel awkward, leaders should be explicit with their teams about when decisions are being fully delegated and when the leaders want input but need to maintain final decision rights.
  • Establish a clear escalation path. Set thresholds for decisions that require approval (for example, spending above a certain amount), and lay out a specific protocol for the rare occasion when a decision must be kicked up the ladder. This helps mitigate risk and keeps things moving briskly.
  • Don’t let people abdicate. One of the key challenges in delegating decisions is actually getting people to take ownership of the decisions. People will often succumb to escalating decisions to avoid personal risk; leaders need to play a strong role in encouraging personal ownership, even (and especially) when a bad call is made.

This last point deserves elaboration: although greater efficiency comes with delegated decision making, companies can never completely eliminate mistakes, and it’s inevitable that a decision here or there will end badly. What executives must avoid in this situation is succumbing to the temptation to yank back control (Exhibit 7). One CEO at a Fortune 100 company learned this lesson the hard way. For many years, her company had worked under a decentralized decision-making framework where business-unit leaders could sign off on many large and small deals, including M&A. Financial underperformance and the looming risk of going out of business during a severe market downturn led the CEO to pull back control and centralize virtually all decision making. The result was better cost control at the expense of swift decision making. After several big M&A deals came and went because the organization was too slow to act, the CEO decided she had to decentralize decisions again. This time, she reinforced the decentralized system with greater leadership accountability and transparency.

Top-heavy processes often mean more delegating is needed.

Instead of pulling back decision power after a slipup, hold people accountable for the decision, and coach them to avoid repeating the misstep. Similarly, in all but the rarest of cases, leaders should resist weighing in on a decision kicked up to them during a logjam. From the start, senior leaders should collectively agree on escalation protocols and stick with them to create consistency throughout the organization. This means, when necessary, that leaders must vigilantly reinforce the structure by sending decisions back with clear guidance on where the leader expects the decision to be made and by whom. If signs of congestion or dysfunction appear, leaders should reexamine the decision-making structure to make sure alignment, processes, and accountability are optimally arranged.


None of this is rocket science. Indeed, the first decision-making step Peter Drucker advanced in “The effective decision,” a 1967 Harvard Business Review article, was “classifying the problem.” Yet we’re struck, again and again, by how few large organizations have simple systems in place to make sure decisions are categorized so that they can be made by the right people in the right way at the right time. Interestingly, Drucker’s classification system focused on how generic or exceptional the problem was, as opposed to questions about the decision’s magnitude, potential for delegation, or cross-cutting nature. That’s not because Drucker was blind to these issues; in other writing, he strongly advocated decentralizing and delegating decision making to the degree possible. We’d argue, though, that today’s organizational complexity and rapid-fire digital communications have created considerably more ambiguity about decision-making authority than was prevalent 50 years ago. Organizations haven’t kept up. That’s why the path to better decision making need not be long and complicated. It’s simply a matter of untangling the crossed web of accountability, one decision at a time.

By Aaron De Smet, Gerald Lackey, and Leigh M. Weiss

Report: Digital Natives ‘Easily Duped’ by Information Online

Many students are having a hard time judging the credibility of online news, according to a new study from Stanford University. Researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Education assessed middle, high school and college students on the their civic online reasoning skills, or “the ability to judge the credibility of information that floods young people’s smartphones, tablets and computers.”

The Stanford History Education Group recently released a report that analyzes 7,804 responses collected from students across 12 states and varying economic lines, including well-resourced, under-resourced and inner-city schools. To test news literacy, the researchers administered 56 tasks that involved open web searches. They found that when it comes to evaluating information that flows on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, students “are easily duped” and have trouble discerning advertisements from news articles.

Native advertising, for example, “proved vexing for the majority of students,” according to the report. For one task, 203 middle school students were asked to evaluate the homepage of Slate magazine’s website. More than 80 percent of students believed that an advertisement with the words “sponsored content” was a news story. Several even responded that it was sponsored content, yet identified it as a credible news story.

Many people assume that today’s students – growing up as “digital natives” – are intuitively perceptive online. The Stanford researchers found the opposite to be true and urge teachers to create curricula focused on developing students’ civil reasoning skills. They plan to produce “a series of high-quality web videos to showcase the depth of the problem” that will “demonstrate the link between digital literacy and citizenship,” according to the report.

The report, “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning,” can be found here.

Facebook, Apple, Google Executives Push STEM at Trump’s Tech Meeting

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, alongside a dozen other executives of major tech companies, met with Republican president-elect Donald Trump Wednesday to discuss jobs and the economy.

What ever happened after this meeting? Has any of these companies actually changed what they are/were doing?

Image Credit: Quartz.

Trump was relatively quiet about his plans for education while campaigning, but during the sit-down meeting at Trump Tower in New York City, a conversation about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education unfolded.

According to various reports, invitations were also extended to:

  • Jeff Bezoz, Amazon CEO;
  • Safra Katz, Oracle CEO;
  • Alex Karp, Palantir CEO;
  • Elon Musk, Tesla CEO and product architect;
  • Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO;
  • Larry Page, Alphabet CEO and Google co-founder;
  • Eric Schmidt, Alphabet executive chairman and former Google CEO;
  • Chuck Robbins, Cisco CEO; and
  • Ginni Rometty, IBM CEO.

Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal and other companies and a member of Trump’s transition team, was also in attendance and sat next to the president-elect. Notably, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was not at the meeting.

Recode reported that meeting attendees talked about developing fairer trade deals and creating jobs, emphasizing the importance of innovative technologies, like automation and advanced manufacturing. Cook brought up President Obama’s work to advance STEM education in K–12, including national computer science initiatives, stressing STEM’s impact on the U.S. economy. Additionally, Sandberg pushed the importance of STEM education for women and underrepresented minorities in the tech industry.

 

K12 and other Virtual Companies REJECT ACCOUNTABILITY/TRANSPARENCY Proposal

Virtual charter school company K12 Inc. rejected a transparency proposal Thursday that would have required the company’s board of directors to create a new report detailing K12’s lobbying efforts.

The proposal came from a group of shareholders, represented by Arjuna Capital, who said the company spends millions on state lobbying, even as its stock has been dropping and revenues have decreased.

K12 Inc. has spent at least $10.5 million to hire lobbyists in 21 states, according to more than a decade of state lobbying disclosure forms examined by Education Week as part of a recent investigation into the lobbying efforts of for-profit virtual charter school operators.

The shareholders called on the company’s board to prepare an annual report detailing spending on “direct or indirect lobbying or … grassroots lobbying communications.” They also wanted the company to report K12’s membership in, and payments to, any tax-exempt organization that writes and endorses model legislation — such as the American Legislative Exchange Council.

The K12 shareholder effort to push for more transparency was headed by Bertis Downs, the legal counsel for the rock group R.E.M. as well as a traditional public school parent and advocate in Athens, GA.

Downs also sits on the board of the Network for Public Education, the group co-founded by education historian and traditional public schools advocate Diane Ravitch.

K12’s board of directors opposed the proposal. In a proxy statement put out ahead of the annual shareholder’s meeting, the board said the requirements outlined in the proposal are not necessary and could hurt the company.

“The expanded disclosure requested by this proposal could place the company at a competitive disadvantage by revealing strategies and priorities designed to protect the economic future of the company, its stockholders and employees,” the statement said.

K12 has faced major challenges in recent years. Revenues are down by $75 million from last year, according to an Education Week report. Investors sued the company in 2014, claiming it had misled them before its stock prices fell in 2013. A federal judge dismissed the suit last year.

And California Attorney General Kamala Harris launched an investigation into the company for alleged false advertising and unfair business practices. In July, K12 Inc. agreed to pay $8.5 million to settle the state’s claims and provide $160 million in balanced budget credits to the nonprofit schools it manages, including California Virtual Academies.

Despite those setbacks, the company continues to open new schools in states such as Alabama, Maine and North Carolina.

 

by Richard Chang

Could a robot be grading your homework?

Artificial intelligence has become an increasingly big issue for education – not least because many tech companies and publishers are circling around the huge commercial opportunities. Especially with the possibility of the new chief at the USDOE coming on board soon.

One of those companies is Vantage Learning the industry leader in Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Computing Technologies. They were the first company to reach human level accuracy in their scoring engine and have patents on the world’s best artificial intelligent engine (Intellimetric) that automatically scores essays and provides prescriptive feedback to students globally.

To date the engine has scored more than 125,000,000 essays including many large-scale essays such as the GMAT, MCAT, SAT and ACT to name a few.

When thinking about the bigger picture in education though, could students really get their answers from a robot rather than a teacher? They are already receiving prescriptive feedback, and having their papers scored more efficiently than teachers can currently score. This leaves more time for intervention, content acquisition and remediation.

Donald Clark said it was a mistake to think jobs in education would not be automated, and I agree although, if technology can replace the teacher, then it should as that teacher is not doing their job, because teaching is more than technology and scores. It is about passion, choice and shaping our future as a country. You can decide for yourself and read this article. (http://www.edudemic.com/education-technology-pros-cons/)

Dr Tarek Besold, speaking at an educational technology conference in Berlin, said a joke-writing computer showed how robots could be creative as well as carrying out repetitive, factory-floor tasks.

And he highlighted experiments already taking place in using artificial intelligence in teaching.

Digital teacher

This summer, Georgia Tech, a university in Atlanta in the US, deployed a teaching assistant called Jill Watson for one of its postgraduate courses.

Except that Jill Watson was really a robot, which helped students and answered their questions in an online forum, without revealing her cyber-identity.

The only thing that students noticed was that Jill Watson answered questions and provided feedback much more quickly than other teaching assistants.

Dr Besold, from Bremen University, said such robotic teachers were becoming increasingly sophisticated and had advantages over human teachers. I am still wary of this as a model, being a teacher I know the reality of what it takes to be a teacher and a pseudo-parent at times.

They were always ready to respond, they were never bored, tired or distracted.

But such clever computers could also be stupid.

While they could be trained to operate for a particular task or set of questions, they couldn’t easily adapt that knowledge to a different setting.

For example; Peter Murphy, the CEO of Vantage Labs said “a human who was good at chess would be likely to be able to play other games that required a complex thought process; while a chess computer would struggle, unless it had been specifically programmed. This also holds true for the computer that beat the Japanese strategy game “Go” as well”.

Will robotics and automation take more professional jobs?

There are also more subtle questions about online help from a robot. Would you feel the same about positive feedback if it came from a machine rather than a person?

What about the pastoral side of teaching? Could a robot offer empathy as well as factual insights?

And academic instruction is often not about “right” or “wrong” answers, but teaching how to think and investigate. It is about teaching critical thinking and empathy. Can a robot or cognitive computing engine actually perform these tasks of teaching or leading students to critically think and problem solve?

Destroying jobs

Donald Clark, a professor at Derby University and an education technology entrepreneur, said it was a mistake for anyone to think that education would be exempt from the impact of automation.

“Are we really saying that accountants, lawyers and managers can all be replaced by artificial intelligence – but not teachers?”

Can a robot truly appreciate a creative student’s answers?

Clark argued that artificial intelligence would change office jobs and professions in the way that automation had already transformed production lines.

“Artificial intelligence will destroy jobs – so why not use it for a social good such as learning?” he asked.

The acceleration of big data and more powerful computer systems meant that more and more sophisticated tasks could be automated, said Prof Clark.

It is already ebbing around the edges of education.

Online tutors

The name of Georgia Tech’s robot teacher – Jill Watson – is a reference to the underlying Watson computer system, developed by IBM to answer questions in ordinary language.

The Watson system is also being used in an experimental project from education companies. There has been AI used in education by Vantage Learning for the past 15 years and they developed the first automated scoring engine to reach human level accuracy. (http://www.vantagelearning.com)

The use of artificial intelligence is growing in the workplace.

It’s not going to replace a conventional teacher, but it’s an indication of how online courses and revision tutorials could develop, with testing and feedback all wrapped up together.

But there are skeptics who see this as another wave of technology over-promising.

“We’ve been here before – with radio, television, computers, the internet,” said Stavros Yiannouka, chief executive of the Wise project, run by the Qatar Foundation.

“Technology in itself doesn’t revolutionize anything,” he said. Change in education is driven by public policy decisions, he said, not computer software.

There are also questions about whether automation will create a social divide – with stripped down, low cost, semi-automated courses, for those who cannot afford a traditional taught course.

Entrepreneur Nell Watson said that despite describing herself as a “happy clappy evangelist” for artificial intelligence, the role of teacher would not be replicated by a robot.

Cultivating the whole person and helping them to “blossom” was not something that was going to be achieved by an algorithm, she said.

And she doubted whether a computer could appreciate the work of an innovative student who thought outside the conventional questions and answers.

But automation is advancing.

The Bank of England’s governor, Mark Carney, said this month that 15 million jobs in the UK could be automated, including middle-class professions.

Changes in technology would “mercilessly” destroy jobs, he said.

So could it be “Goodbye Mr. Chips” and “Hello Mr. Silicon Chips”?

For more information on Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Computing or Natural Language Understanding reach out to me, I am always looking to discuss the future of the world we live, play and work in.