As I continued through the cloud of Technology, Pedagogy, and Content (TPACK) at ISTE 2012 I was continually drawn to the work of Michael Fullan. By entering the Stratosphere, we can embrace all of the TPACK needs, in a way that is easy to understand and implement. While at ISTE, I had the chance to talk to Michael on several occasions. To top that off, I just finished reading his book Stratosphere.

One of the first topics the Michael brings up, is the term Simplexity. This term describes a situation where the pieces of the puzzle are relatively simple, but what becomes complicated is weaving them together. I can not think of a more fitting definition of the complexities of implementing TPACK. All teachers are taught the pedagogy, the majority know the technology, and as far as NCLB is concerned, all educators must be well versed in the content knowledge. The teachers have the skills, but sometimes the simplexity of integrating those distinct areas into a coherent teaching model is difficult.

This idea hinges on needing inspiring motion leaders who “motivate the unmotivated in a way that the unmotivated thank them for later.” For Michael, this problem boils down to a need to find the intrinsic motivation for all of the stakeholders in education. He postulates that we can find a world where all parties are interested and motivated to provide the best education possible. Until recently, those tools and that motivation have been veiled behind the nebulous term “21st Century Skills” (which have been around since 1990 but have never been properly defined).

What amazed me about Dr. Fullan’s presentations at ISTE was the sheer amount of Data that he has collected to reinforce his point. One of the most amazing sets of data that Dr. Fullan presented was a graph of student interest in school as a function of grade. According to his data, 95% of kindergarten students are enthusiastic when talking about school, compared to only 37% in the 9th Grade. This loss of enthusiasm is hindering the progress of students. When looking at this number, I was immediately drawn to another set of data that Dr. Fullan presented regarding teacher satisfaction.

Fullan’s data shows that teacher satisfaction has been steadily declining since 2008. In the corresponding two-year time frame, teacher satisfaction dropped from by 13% (from 57% to 44%) and in the same timeframe, 1 out of ever 3 teachers was considering leaving the profession (Dr. Fullan referenced a MetLife study which contains the original datasets). On top of that, the average teacher leaves the profession after five years (or just two if you teach in Washington D.C.). With this data, it is clear to see that “there are more teachers in this country in their first year of teaching than in all of the other years combined.”

What sparked me from this presentation was the focus on the students. Take an entering freshman at an average high school in the United States as an example. If that student is enrolled in 7 periods of instruction, they will likely have 3 first year teachers. Of those original seven teachers, 3 of them are unsatisfied with teaching, and 2 are looking for jobs in other professions. After four years of learning, he will likely outlast several of his teachers in the profession… No wonder our system is failing!

We have reached the limit of what we can squeeze from the current system.


Dr. Fullan has a solution: We need to think about systemic change from the ground up. His plan requires that we create exciting learning environments for students that are irresistibly engaging, elegantly efficient to use, technology ubiquitous, have 24/7 access, and are steeped in real life problem solving. By designing our schools and learning environments in this manner we can finally create innovative systems instead of just innovative teachers! Dr. Fullan said:

We have innovative teachers, a few truly innovative schools, and no innovative systems.

Every system that has been designated thus far as an innovative approach always paints technology as the way to create innovation. Dr. Fullan argues that “you cannot get anywhere unless you join the forces of technology and pedagogy, it is time to redefine the learning game as racing with technology.” This argument is one that I see in my every day life. As we continue to integrate the materials and resources required for technology, it often takes a back seat. I have even seen educators express that they would get farther with their students if they did not use technology at all. Other teachers tend to focus on simple technology skills rather than instructional pedagogy. “Digital Savvy is not Pedagogy” cautions Fullan, reminding us that we cannot teach technology alone.

So how do we create a system that allows us to integrate and motivate our students and our teachers? We asked Dr. Fullan at his talk, and he stated that Principals need to start looking at their educators as Professional Capital. Until they start to manage the passions and experiences of those educators to the betterment of the school, nothing will change. It is also important that we take begin thinking about what defines an Expert Teacher. Fullan defines it as someone “with High Levels of knowledge that can provide defensible positive evidence of learning.” He also proposes that we need to throw away the term Facilitator, which is highly used in the flipped classroom (which Fullan proposes to be vague in its implementation, as few educators and administrators really analyze the roles of the teacher and the student) and instead start thinking of teachers as Activators and Change Agents.

The only way to start this change is to:

  • Treat students as learning partners – not subjects
  • Employ and use the students own tools for learning when possible
  • Use as much peer-to-peer teaching as possible
  • Offer students choices in their learning, not mandates

I am hoping to integrate these four tools of change as I design and implement my curriculum for next year.