Inspiration for Leaders

Enjoy this news and reflection blog brought to you from the LHRIC Technology Leadership Institute!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Leadership Expert Touts "Learning Science" as Solution for School Districts

Seeing education through the lens of “learning science” is what leadership expert Dr. Frederick M. Hess believes educators and school district administrators should be doing as they look for ways to enhance learning.

Dr. Frederick Hess speaking at the
Tech Summit Nov. 1.
Dr. Hess, an educator and co-author of the book, “Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age: Using Learning Science to Reboot Schooling,” shared this and other insights during a keynote presentation delivered at the LHRIC’s inaugural Summit 2013 held Nov. 1 at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor.

The event was intended to highlight the many vendors who work with the LHRIC and local school districts.

By learning science, Dr. Hess does not mean brain science or neuroscience. “That stuff is too far removed from working with the challenges of kids,” he noted. It is about tapping into the existing body of cognitive science and using it to identify where the old schoolhouse idea of American education reformist Horace Mann fell short, said Dr. Hess, and looking at new tools as ways to solve particular learning challenges.

Computer-assisted tutoring models, such as the Khan Academy, ClassDojo, New Classrooms, MasteryConnect and LearnZillion are all good examples, he added.

Despite the availability of legitimate learning tools, however, Dr. Hess believes that tech companies often have a tendency to overly promote the value of such tools in the classroom. “The stuff is cool, but the excitement is a little disconcerting given that educational technology always seems ripe with promise, yet has rarely delivered,” he added.

He cited the experiences of district officials in the Los Angeles Unified School District who halted the home use of district-issued iPads earlier this year after discovering students had hacked them and were using the devices for personal use.

In many ways, it’s not about the technology itself, said Dr. Hess, but the way that educators think about it and what they do with it. “We tend not to be imaginative and smart,” he noted. “We say we need more money, more staff and more professional development, and then we put a lot of technology in schools and wait for the magic to happen, and it doesn’t happen.”

What matters more, said Dr. Hess, is what skilled hands can do with the technology that is available to students these days. Three myths that usually get in the way of advancement in this area include the notion that technology is anti-teacher, that schools need more of it, meaning they won’t transform unless certain initiatives are implemented, and that the next generation of technology gadgets and know-how will make a difference.

A “technology” that transformed teaching and learning several hundreds years ago was the book, said Dr. Hess. The book had two powerful assets, he added. First, its introduction meant that students were no longer hostages to the knowledge of their teachers, and secondly, they could learn from experts all around the world, meaning they didn’t have to depend on school to obtain knowledge.

“There is no magic power in the book,” said Dr. Hess. “What matters is what we do with it. Everything we are talking about today, including new assessment systems, new tutoring systems and virtual delivery, all of these are variations on what books have done for us.”

One way to rethink the integration of technology is to stop looking at technology as a way of “reforming” or “fixing” schools and instead to look at it as a “learning science,” he said.

For more about Dr. Hess’s work, visit his website at

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