Exponential Educators

So, I've seen quite a bit about these being "Exponential Times", and the need for "Exponential Leaders" 
The first time I recall seeing the word "Exponential" used as an adjective (and outside of the Algebra II curriculum I used to teach) was in the "Did You Know?" series of YouTube clips.

"We are living in exponential times"

A few choice highlights: 

  • "We are currently preparing students for jobs that don't exist, using technologies that haven't been invented, in order to solve problems that we don't even know are problems yet."
  • "Students starting a 4 year technical degree...half of what they learn in their first year will be outdated by their third year of study." 
Just for good measure, here's a clip from futurist  Gerd Leonhard: 

Digital transformation: are you ready for exponential change?

Here are some highlights:
  • "Right now, you are central in the raging tornado of change fuelled by digitization, mobilization, augmentation, disintermediation (I had to look this one up), automation....
  • The way we work will never be the same. The skills we need will be dramatically different. ....So what's your response?"
Sounds great. Makes sense. Times are changing. 
Got it. 
(And by the way, "futurist" is a job? One of those we never knew existed) 

Nothing new here. These clips are an attempt to demonstrate how rapidly (exponentially) technology is changing, and how equally rapidly society is changing. But if you buy the premise, this should suggest profound implications in how (and why) we are educating our kids, right?

Exponential Leaders

Furthermore, we see discussions of "Exponential Leadership". Vanessa Gavin writes about this in CEO Magazine:

"Exponential leaders are tuned in to tomorrow. They pick the next Uber, Kickstarter or Airbnb before it starts disrupting and have strategies in place to handle the opportunities or potential fallout.
Thinking exponentially is exciting, but counter-intuitive. Our ancestors lived in a linear world, where things stayed the same for years and changes were slow and incremental. They didn’t think ahead — their main concern was surviving in the present."
Furthermore, she presents this intriguing graphic, the top ten important qualities for Exponential Leadership: 

Of course, this was written from a business perspective, but we can easily adapt these qualities for the educational field, no? 

It would be awesome if these qualities were expected of our teachers, and nurtured in our students as a matter of course - if it were "baked into" our system. 

Here's the problem

As a field, Education is TERRIBLE at this. Let's look at the implications of living in "Exponential Times" and being an "Exponential Leader" from Gavin's top qualities: 
  • Reacting quickly to change, 
  • Identifying and reacting to relevant trends, 
  • Embracing new ideas, 
  • Disrupting the existing organization, 
  • Taking risks and allowing staff to fail constructively, 
  • Encouraging collaboration, breaking down silos, nurturing creative problem solving. 

We are teaching in a system that hasn't changed significantly in over a century, that often actively discourages these qualities. We live in an educational world where things stay the same for decades and changes are slow and incremental. 

As a Superintendent, it's my job and my passion to change that system - to ensure that these qualities are developed, nurtured, and celebrated in our students and adults. 

However, while Education is still getting up to speed, we have individual educators in pockets who are already at cruising speed. We have teachers, administrators, instructional coaches, aides and any number of other adults in our schools who are doing exponential work. We have programs that encourage exponential thinking and leadership. 

So, that's what this blog and its accompanying podcast (coming soon) are going to be all about: highlighting the work of these "Exponential Educators." 

More to come......