A dashboard for the 7C’s – metrics for pedagogical master planning

I’m just playing with strands of ideas here…imagining one possible weave or braid.

Strand 1: 10,000 Hours

In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, as well as in earlier work by Howard Gardner, the 10,000-hour rule is posited. Essentially, to become expert, or deeply disciplined and proficient, one typically must commit to at least 10,000 hours of dedicated practice. Hold that thought for a minute…like you’re holding one strand between your fingers.

Strand 2: Tracking Time

Not too long ago, I wrote about tracking my time at Unboundary, and I imagined what a similar practice of tracking time might be like in schools. Now, hold this second strand between another set of mental fingers.

Strand 3: The 7 C’s

In Trilling and Fadel’s 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times, the authors advocate for the traditional 3 R’s (reading, writing, and arithmetic), as well as 7 C’s:

  1. Critical thinking and problem solving
  2. Communications, information, and media literacy
  3. Collaboration, teamwork, and leadership
  4. Creativity and innovation
  5. Computing and ICT literacy
  6. Career and learning self-reliance
  7. Cross-cultural understanding

Now, we can braid and weave.

Do we know how much time our students – the individual students – spend engaged in these seven activities? If a parent asked me, “Bo, I’ve been reading and listening about 21st C education. Can you tell me how much time your students spend in the 7 C’s? Can you explain some examples of how they might engage in the 7 C’s?”

I think I could knock the second question out of the park. I would totally strike out on the first question.

What if we had some sort of “dashboard” that could show us how much time our students are spending in these various C’s? Yes, you know…like the dashboards in our cars.

In our cars, the dashboards give us real-time feedback on speed, oil pressure, engine temperature, fuel remaining, battery voltage, etc. In 2012, couldn’t we have some sort of tech-enabled dashboard for how much time students are actually getting to immerse themselves in and practice the 7 C’s? It’s so easy now for me to examine how I spend my time at work by using the time tracker. I can see what projects I am working on, I can review what and how I am researching, and I can understand where I might need to rebalance my time allotments.

Wouldn’t it be insightful and informative to know, even if just for one day or one week or one month, how much time a student…

  • sits in lecture passively listening
  • practices communicating with an authentic audience
  • engages in collaborative problem-solving for a real-world problem (like a school’s recycling versus trash quandary)
  • participates in 3D printer activity to create something useful via Maker methods

By looking at the dashboard, I could see how close my son PJ is getting to 10,000 hours in “Creativity and innovation.” I could review how much time he is getting to engage in “Communications, information, and media literacy.” We could make some great, informed adjustments with this information. Just like we know when to stop for gas, when to adjust our speed, when to add oil to our car.

As a school we could examine aggregates and grouped data. We could look at departments to see if one department contributes more to certain C’s and another department contributes more to a different sub-set of C’s. We could see our bright spots and our areas for growth.

There could even be an app for that!

Driving without those gauges and instrument panels on the dashboard could cause a disaster! Using our dashboard makes us a better driver…and helps us get to where we are trying to go with greater success.

Developing and utilizing such tools could really help a school trying to create its finely tuned pedagogical master plan!

Tracking Time to Learn from Our Patterns – a Lesson from My New World

At my new company, we track our time. I imagine many companies track how time is spent. For me, in these two weeks, during an 8-9 hour day, I probably spend 3 minutes total going through the exercise of tracking my time. So, it’s easy. The software we use makes it easy. There are pre-poulated pull-down menus and sub-menus. There are wonderfully granular levels of such activity as “research.” There are text fields so that I can add commentary, too. Then, I can look at reports of how I am spending my time. Of course, my coaches can also view how I spend my time, and I totally and completely trust them to do so.

What if we teachers tracked our time like this? Recently, at lunch with a colleague, I mentioned how surprised I was to learn that I am loving my self-tracking of time. Because I have spent 20 years in schools, and because I love to integrate most of what I am learning with school life, I could imagine us teachers tracking our time. I could imagine content-oriented pull-down menus and sub-menus. I could imagine skill-oriented pull-down menus and sub-menus. I could imagine methodology and pedagogy menus and sub-menus. I could imagine running a report after two weeks and seeing for myself, “Wow. I spent 78% of my teaching time this week lecturing. Is that a good thing? How might I re-balance my methodology and approaches given my SMART goal and desired outcome for the year?”

Of course, I also imagined students tracking their time. In the spirit of making education “more pull, than push,” I would love for a student to share with me in an individual conference how he or she had spent his/her learning time during the week or two-week period. I could imagine doing this with advisees, so that I could discover with them how they are exploring their interests and spending time in their structured school-learning environments. I could imagine seeing the cross-polinations and synergies among class-content time recordings and self-directed time recordings.

In many ways, I see my time tracking as related to the tips shared in an article that a colleague sent to me about 11 secrets of leadership. My time tracking allows me to record reality in short bits, and then I can study my time to be more proactive about how I structure my days to further leadership and learning.

Time is a valuable resource. In fact, time may be the most valuable resource. I am thrilled to have a better handle on how I spend my time so that I can be purposeful, intentional, and strategic about making the most of my opportunities to create impact and to make a difference.

How are you spending your time…your time learning…your time teaching…your time working?

[Interestingly, after talking about this with my friend at lunch, he sent me a link to Lesson Note, a digital tool for tracking class activity, particularly as it relates to “lesson study,” an action research collaboration in learning communities for which I am a strong and dedicated advocate. However, the kind of time tracking that I am sharing above is very different and only distantly related to Lesson Note tracking. The type of time tracking I am discussing feels more self-initiated and self-directed. Of course, Lesson Note could be used in very positive and powerful ways, too, if a team decided to employ such a digital resource to advance their work and understanding about their teaching.]