Impact Engine – Part 3
VERBATIM by Loop Lonagan – Investor and man about town,
as told to John Jonelis
Loop Lonagan here at IMPACT ENGINE Investors Day. I got an exciting report on the education of our kids. This’s real interesting stuff—and real important. Ever’body knows dat education is the difference between living in poverty and not. To tell the truth, maybe I didn’t pay so much attention when I was in school. But that’s the whole point. Lotsa kids in dis country is fallin’ behind the world bigtime
To fix the problem, forty-six o’ these United States already adopted the new CCSS standards fer their schools. That stands for Common Core State Standards ‘n’ they’re goin’ into effect real soon. So ever’body’s scramblin’ to get ready. Every student, every teacher and school is gonna get held to the same standards as ever’body else nationwide. This’s gonna mean a major shift in the way students learn.
Meanwhile, schools don’t know just exactly how the CCSS program is gonna get done ‘n’ they’re lookin’ fer answers. Seems like a big opportunity to me.
Hey, I’m all for anything that blows away the status quo in American education. What we got is broke. Ever’body knows it’s broke. And we’re fallin’ behind the rest o’ the world. Even Cuba’s got a better educational system fer heaven sakes.
That’s why Eileen Murphy, a classical Irish lass, started ThinkCERCA. CERCA stands for something I ferget—maybe I’m gettin’ old—I dunno. Anyhow, IMPACT ENGINE launched this company ‘cause it’s gonna solve the education problem in the good old US of A. I think that’s worth doing.
Note to Editor – Hey John, you never edited my copy on them other reports. It makes me look kinda bad. This one’s on education so gimme a hand here.
Note to Loop – Quit whining about the way you talk. You made all those millions. You earned a Masters from the U of C. You figure it out. As always, I’ll print exactly what you send—but keep it clean.
Okay, where was I? Oh, yeah—turns out the US is less competitive fer a good reason: Way too much focus on lower-level skills. No critical thinking. Not enough rigor. Not enough engagement. Mosta what kids soak up is ethnic media outsida school. The result? Our kids ain’t career or college ready. So whadaya gonna do? Here’s three options:
OPTION #1—THE STATUS QUO—Schools keep tryin’ to cram facts down these kid’s little throats. It’s a complete waste o’ time. Always was. Always will be. Lookit me. I never sat still fer it so whadaya think’s happenin’ in classrooms today? It don’t work. It don’t prepare nobody to go out ‘n’ solve real problems.
Look at it from the teacher’s side. Say you’re tryin’ every day to control six rowdy classes—50 kids each. All usin’ the same syllabus. The same text. The same boring lecture. Maybe that works for summa dem, but lots is strugglin’ and others is bored outa their gord. Enough to turn any class into a riot scene. So lemme ask you:
- How ya gonna do any face-to-face with individuals when yer time’s all used up controllin’ an unruly mob that don’t even listen to yer lecture?
- How ya gonna custom-design dynamic lesson plans fer every student when yer stuck with one textbook that most of ‘em can’t even read?
- How ya gonna set up an unbiased assessment that meets CCSS standards—uniform across all states?
Answer—You can’t. But that’s what the new rules are gonna require.
OPTION #2—SINK OR SWIM—We could chuck ‘em all over the side ‘o the boat and see who can swim ‘n’ who can’t. That’s the school I went to. So what’s the problem with that?
- Maybe I figured out how to succeed or maybe I just got lucky—I still get complaints from people about the way I talk.
- Alotta kids I knew never made it to shore neither. Not so good.
OPTION #3—ThinkCERCA—Kids learn critical thinking skills to equip ‘em fer life. That raises a couple questions:
- How does ThinkCERCA teach that?
- How do they measure the results?
Aha! Turns out them’s THE questions!
Turns out the ancient, Socratic method is the way to go. It’s been around fer like forever, right? So you might say ThinkCERCA is goin’ back to fundamentals—but they’re usin’ technology to do it.
They replace a school’s antique paper system with easy-to-use technology. The technology helps keep kids at their own individual pace. It don’t replace teachers—it helps ‘em.
The result? Teachers spend their time on face-to-face instruction. Kids collaborate with peers in real-life critical thinking exercises. Everybody shares and debates. Learning gets a whole lot more social. Here’s the 1-2-3 of it:
- DYNAMIC CONTENT—New material will constantly come online. They start with stuff created by their team of national experts. Then two million Grade 6-12 teachers will share and add to a common library. Collectively, those 2M teachers have the answers that get missed by traditional publishing. This I like.
- CONCEPTS FROM LEAN MANUFACTURING—One o’ the first rules in LEAN is to stop batching things. What you got in the classroom is a big batch of assorted kids up against one rigid, unyielding program. That’s gotta change. In the 21st century, students is gonna design their own learning experience and teachers is gonna curate the content. I like this, too.
- EVIDENCE-BASED ARGUMENTATION—This’s how ThinkCERCA teaches critical thinking. Students learn to gather evidence, build an argument, tie the two together ‘n’ explain it to another kid. The goal is to help students create viable arguments ‘n’ also analyze the reasoning of others. Bottom line—kids learn critical thinking. They can figure out the right answer all by themselves. I like this a lot. Lemme give you an example:
Here’s the old kinda question:
A car averages 27 miles per gallon. If gas costs $4.04 per gallon, which of the following is closest to how much gas would cost for this car to travel 2,727 typical miles?
- A. $44.44
- B. $109.08
- C. $118.80
- D. $444.40
I don’t care. Do you care? Ever’body remembers those kinda questions and we all hate ‘em.
Now here the new kinda question:
5 swimmers compete in the 50-meter race. The finish time for each swimmer is shown below.
- Swimmer 1 – 23.42
- Swimmer 2 – 23.18
- Swimmer 3 – 23.21
- Swimmer 4 – 23.35
- Swimmer 5 – 23.24
Explain how the race would change if each swimmer’s time was rounded to the nearest tenth.
Whoa! Makes you think, don’t it? And that’s the idea!
ThinkCERCA is a web-based platform that gives teachers the tools ‘n’ content they need to create and deliver personalized critical thinking instruction for ALL students. Here’s what you get:
- Teachers get web tools to create quick lesson plans tailored to each kid—just a few clicks o’ the mouse ‘n’ yer done! And these lessons are geared fer critical thought! In other words, kids learn to think ‘n’ they learn to express their knowledge and back up their ideas with real evidence.
- Schools get a library o’ web-based content insteada old fashioned text books. The library is dynamic so’s it keeps growin’ and improvin’.
- Students get their lessons right on a tablet computer. Hey, it’s actually fun, ‘n’ that frees up teachers for quality individual face-to-face education. And it frees up students fer critical interaction ‘n’ debate.
- Lessons connect-up all the different subjects so kids see the whole meaning of learning every subject.
- Ever’body follows a uniform standard across all states. What you get is an unbiased assessment fer each kid that meets CCSS standards. Principals are gonna love that. And the reports is clear to ever’body—even parents.
Pretty good, doncha think? Then I hear Ray Markman comment so I prick up my ears: “This is a shot across the bow of America in terms of teaching people,” he says. “I wish I was going to school now.” And that from a guy who attended Erasmus HS in its heyday. [For more about Ray Markman, see the link at the end of this report.]
These CCSS standards are mired in technospeak ‘n’ ya gotta be an expert to decipher it all. Eileen’s an expert. She’s got credentials up the whazoo. This gal’s smart with a distinguished history: Teacher at Whitney Young HS who influenced their climb to the top. Founded Walter Payton College Prep, which is huge. In charge of 115 schools in city of Chicago. Consultant for the national council of teachers—a highly respected group. Member of the blended-school design team.
A web search turns up lotsa scholarly papers—and here’s something interesting: Some o’ them’s focused on poetry as a tool fer teaching critical thinking.
And Eileen wrote the highly acclaimed book—360 Degrees of Text.
This is a “B to G” business model. (Business to Government) It’s a proven product with proven demand (teachers ‘n’ principals) and a customer with lotsa money (the public schools). Hey, we’re lookin’ at a 1.3 TRILLION DOLLAR MARKET with government regulation holdin’ their feet to the fire. I think we’re gonna see some real money change hands here.
Government is holdin’ the school principals accountable ‘n’ they’re holdin’ the teachers accountable. At the same time, teachers are finally looking fer resources that actually help their students. So the demand works both ways. That’s a combination I like.
The ThinkCERCA system is simple. Alotta schools already adopted it ‘n’ it’s working. It actually teaches critical thinking. It helps set up lesson plans. It tracks success. And it creates reports that satisfy the new regs. This is the way our kids catch up to the world.
I think this one’s a winner. Ω
Here’s a couple animations to give you an inside look:
Here’s a terrific video of Eileen presenting her company: http://vimeo.com/channels/thinkcerca/55798073
Find ThinkCERCA at – www.thinkcerca.com
Find IMPACT ENGINE at – www.theimpactengine.com
Here’s that article on Ray Markman as promised –
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.Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved