Services for Schools, Educators, and Families

11 Things Independent Schools MUST Be Thinking About


I keep yammering away in favor of innovation, mission-driven strategic development, and a bunch of other things, all in the interest of urging schools to pull up their socks and get ready for the new times that are upon us.

It’s time, then, to be specific. Here, then, is a quick list of the topics that EVERY independent school should be making part of its discussions—at least be making itself aware of—in the 2011–12 school year. And don’t worry, they won’t go away, so perhaps you don’t have to get to ALL of them before the December break. (Astute readers will note an absence of the word “technology” from the main headings. Technology is a given, folks; it’s a matter of when and where it can applied to do the most good. You’ll find that power of technology implicitly embedded in much of what follows.)

  1. Design Thinking. What-ing?
  2. Data-informed decision-making
  3. Collaborative learning and (related issue) project design
  4. Smart assessment of student learning
  5. Social media—for advancement
  6. Social media—in the classroom
  7. New directions for your library
  8. Online learning
  9. Strategic professional development learning
  10. Shorter horizons for strategic thinking
  11. Being Green
In the next week or so I’ll be delivering up a little gloss on each one of these–what I mean, why it matters, and what a school can do to get moving, or sustain movement, in the right direction.


  1. @Jack

    First, I hope you’re having a great year!

    Second: Great point, and one that must not get lost amid all the other “digital” imperatives I write about.

    Since iPads are not yet as cheap as shoes (mostly) yet, I guess I am operating from an overly optimistic assumption that (at least) independent schools have this issue front and center–that is, that in Bring Your Own Laptop schools the schools are supporting less affluent families in making sure that kids have appropriate computers and appropriate connectivity. At our place this is the case, and we don’t stint on hardware for the kids we have to support.

    You’ll note that I did not use the word “device.” Over the past couple of weeks there has been a long thread basically on “Who owns the laptops” on the ISED listserv (info at, and posters had fallen into using “BYOD” as shorthand for the “students/families own the laptops” model. The other day I found to my horror that Gary Stager had launched a blistering attack on “BYOD” that seems to be in large measure based on a loose construction of “device”–as in, “as long as the kid has a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, it’s all the same to the school.”

    I truly hope that this is a rare case, at least in independent schools–that “laptop” or “1:1” schools are making sure that kids have actual laptops of more or less equivalent capacity and that no one is expecting less affluent kids to limp along with 3-year-old “smartish” phones while the rich kids are zooming ahead on 17-inch MacBook Pros. This would obviously be a perversion of the intent as well as in the execution. Thus, I guess we need to be mindful of the word “device” and hyperalert to the issues around digital equity–and not to use “BYOD” when we mean BYOL, lest we risk the wrath of Gary Stager and others. (His point is well taken, but there are devices and there are devices.)

    This is also an argument for schools moving in the direction of ever more cloud-based resources. A kid at our school, for example, would never have to buy a piece of software to thrive in our curriculum (although of course we’d like them to have something pretty strong by way of virus protection).

    In the meantime, I await cheaper iPads along with cheaper Eccos.


  2. What about digital equity? From the days when the most expensive essential school supplies were new shoes, mandating BYOD or funding one-to-one programs is a huge change.

  3. I’m especially looking forward to #4-6 so I hope you’ll take a look at:

    which frames social media as means to assessment, accountability, & advocacy of learning.