Anthony is the author of Personalized Learning Playbook, Why the Time is Now. He has contributed to many publications on new school models including Lessons Learned from Blended Programs: Experiences and Recommendations from the Field. Anthony is a nationally recognized speaker on personalized learning and his work has been referenced by the Christensen Institute, iNACOL, EdSurge, CompetencyWorks, EdWeek, District Administrator, and numerous other research reports. He is the founder and CEO of Education Elements, a provider of technology and professional services to school districts across the country. Prior to Education Elements, Anthony founded Provost Systems, which provided online learning solutions to school districts. In 2008, he sold Provost Systems to Edison Learning and served as Executive Vice President of Online. Beyond implementing personalized learning models, Anthony focuses his research on organizational design and culture of innovation at school districts. Though this research, he is currently working on a new book, which bring self-organization strategies to school districts to better prepare students for the future of work. Anthony is a graduate of Cornell University and lives in San Francisco.
Describe Education Elements and tell us more about the work you are focused on, and as you look ahead at the future of education, what do you see?
The work that we think about deals with how a digital native actually learns in a new school system environment and what might that system environment actually looks like. Our job is to help schools figure out the school design of the future including what incremental steps they can implement to create learning experiences that are more relevant to the students we are trying to serve.
Why does the work you do now matter? What happens to the education system, and the students in it, if we don’t change?
Students that have opportunities are leaving rural communities and the students who do not see opportunities are staying, creating a vicious cycle and a lack of global awareness and a lack of people to expand beyond the community.
GETTING TO KNOW ANTHONY
You have spent time on a number of different initiatives in the education space. Tell us about what led you to the work you are doing today and why you think it is different than other things you have done in the education space.
By working with Provost Systems and tracking student data, I was able to better understand where students spent their time in an online world, which led me to build a system for virtual schools. When I left in 2010, a friend asked me to help figure out how to create a small group experience when schools had increased class sizes. We used centers based learning by dividing the students into three groups of ten and rotating the students every 30 minutes. At Education Elements we work exclusively with school districts to build and support dynamic personalized learning systems.
In your role you have the opportunity to spend a lot of time talking to district leaders. From your vantage point as CEO and Founder of Education Elements, what are the ways in which you think you personally are able to best support them?
Many of the district leaders we work with have limited exposure to how fast the rest of the world is changing. We want to help districts understand how the workplace is important and the differences between the generations since we are in a transitional period.
You sit in a unique position, having supported the work of over 100 districts over the past 5 years in a very personal way. I know you have interacted with the leadership at every one of those districts. What changes have you seen in districts and their thinking around personalized learning over the past few years, and what changes do you think we will see over the next few?
A lot of effort went into how personalization is not just about the technology. Certainly it enhances the experience; however, personalization has been expected for a very long time. One of the big shifts we are noticing is that educators are emphasizing the need for personalization in their own lives, as well as a greater understanding that students need not only personalization, but to feel engaged. Educators emphasize the need for personalization in their own lives, so we see a greater understanding that students need levels of personalization as well to be engaged.
PERSONALIZED LEARNING JOURNEY
What is it about personalized learning that you believe will transform teaching and learning?
If we want teaching and learning to change, how we interact between the school district office and school and how we organize the adults that are leading this change has to be different. Personalized learning is not just about how a student learns, but about how the interactions change between district office and schools, and how we organize those adults leading this change.
Why is it important that teaching and learning gets transformed? What outcomes do you hope to see as a result of districts making this shift to their approach?
I would like to see the notion of competency based education taking more of a clear implementation track. In order to achieve this, we need competency based education to be indoctrinated across the district system.
Can you share some examples of districts and how this work has changed them?
Charleston School District is restructuring their whole district office. Because of this change, this district can better support their needs of their students and teachers.
SECRETS TO SUCCESS
What one strategy would you suggest district leaders and educators focus on every day that will have the greatest impact?
One of the things I often recommend to districts we work with is when you bring a third party facilitator in, you can control the meeting to be more productive. Maybe districts should focus on building capacity within their own organization to facilitate their meetings.
For a district that is just starting to think about this work, where do you think they should start? What is one thing you think will be essential to their success?
The first thing they need to do is be honest through self reflection as well as align on a common vocabulary.
People often want to know not only how to be successful, but also what mistakes to avoid. What are some of the risks to personalized learning and what can districts do to avoid them?
It is important to not over plan because it takes away from our actions.
What final words would you share with the audience to inspire them to start,continue or accelerate this transformational work?
The first step is to take a small step forward in personalizing instruction in the classroom and allow for feedback and iteration.
CONNECTING WITH ANTHONY
The Six Elements
2. Creating/Managing Roles
6. The Learning Organization