Wednesday, March 18, 2015

T-ee It Up?

I spent Monday evening and all day Tuesday at the T -Summit 2015 on Michigan State's campus.The conference, in its second year, was co-hosted by MSU and IBM and focused on experiences and best practices surrounding the development of T-shaped abilities. Using this graphic jointly developed by MSU and IBM, the "T" looks like this:

Another way to think of it is "confidence" or "soft skills" across the top, and "purpose" or "passion" as the vertical.

As I interacted with a variety of business people and academics from all across the country, I began to see how this may fit with some of the work we are doing right here in Forest Hills, especially as we take time to evaluate our secondary model. It is an approach that pairs up well with the Instructional Framework, specifically the Design Questions within Domain 1. Through serendipity, Dr. Donald Heller, Dean of MSU's School of Education sat at my lunch table, and we spoke about how the T fits within instructional best practices.As an aside, he is also very interested in some of the innovative pieces we are currently doing or getting ready to launch, such as the STEM Academy.

MSU is already making multiple small-to-medium bets on the T. One of the leading researchers in this emerging field, Dr. Phil Gardner, is making great strides. Elsewhere on campus, with the support of President Simon, MSU is designing a four-year leadership program for undergrads that embraces the T. The current thinking is that in addition to their degree, students would receive a leadership certificate endorsed by the corporate, non-profit, and entrepreneurial partners of MSU. Another "bet" placed by MSU is already in action. Any student, regardless of major or program, may now declare a minor in entrepreneurship, and an "entrepreneurial ecosystem" is being cultivated at the Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the Broad College of Business (go check out "the Hive."). Other colleges and universities are also engaged in similar projects: Rose-HulmanBoise StateSan Jose State, and the University of Maryland, just to name a few.

Various corporations are also embracing the T, notably IBM. I was fortunate to spend a few hours at the end of the day with Dr. Jim Spohrer, Director of IBM's Global University Programs and leader of IBM's Cognitive Systems Institute.  Dr. Spohrer is working to align IBM and universities globally for innovation, amplification, and T-shaped skills. Joining us was Dr. Karen Sedatole, Professor in MSU's Broad College of Business and chair of the Broad Integrative Fellows program (BIF). The BIF program seeks to develop integrative thinking across business disciplines among Broad College early-career faculty as a means of enhancing the college's teaching and learning culture. Our discussion centered around how to "fit" T skills into an already busy secondary and post-secondary curriculum, and what remains the professional responsibility of businesses as they hire. Like any great discussion, we seemed to pose more questions than answers, but we agreed to stay in touch and keep the conversation going.

If asked to speculate, I would guess that a good number of our teachers are already incorporating the T into the great teaching and learning that is happening across our district, but we just don't call it that.But I also wonder if embracing the T in the ways in which it fits within the Instructional Framework may help propel us even further forward. For example, how might it help us organize students for cognitively complex tasks (element 21) or understanding students' interests and background (element 36)? Or how might the BIF program be a model for us to bring teachers together through Destination: Innovation? Again, I have no answers - I just want to T-ee it up and start the conversation. So, what say you?

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