Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 8.01.50 AMIt’s getting close!  The official page for my new book, #EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education, is now up on the Jossey-Bass website!

There are links to major US distributors, including Amazon, which has #EdJourney available now for a pre-order discount. I am discounting my normal facilitation/workshop/speaking fees by up to $750/day to encourage schools to buy copies for their faculty and staff.

Honored for some more of these wonderful reviews and recommendations:


“A book of hope…a book of urgency…Lichtman’s insightful reflections combined with his sharp analyses of education’s future form an urgent call for an educational paradigm shift. A must read for all who seek directions, strategies, and action plans for better education.”

Yong Zhao, author, Presidential Chair, University of Oregon

“… a must read book for anyone interested in helping shift the education world out of the Industrial Age mindset.”

David Kelley, Co-Founder of the Stanford d.School; Co-author of Creative Confidence; Founder of design firm IDEO

“Lichtman strikes hard and true.  Recommended reading for all educators and citizens who think America’s schools must meet the needs of kids in the 21st Century.”

Pat Bassett, past president of the National Association of Independent Schools

“A truly stunning achievement, an eye-opening pleasure…Lichtman has done his homework and the heavy lifting for us all…an astonishing microscope into the heart of educators that reveals myriad ways our collective wisdom can make sense and solutions that can work for every child in America.”

 John Hunter, veteran teacher, inventor of The World Peace Game and author of World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements


“Wow…required reading for all stakeholders! Loved it!”

Jack Andraka, high school student, 2012 winner Intel ISEF award, TED speaker, featured on CBS “60 Minutes”

…on par with Horace’s Compromise, Theodore Sizer’s seminal 1984 descriptor of the failures of America’s high schools…the critical difference is Lichtman’s sense of real hope for a bright educational future…a must read…

Pam Moran, Superintendent of County Schools, Albermarle, VA

“Lichtman raises questions of the most basic nature…persuasively argues that innovation requires us to change or suffer the missed opportunities in an educational future that won’t wait for us to catch up.”

John Gulla, Executive Director, EE Ford Foundation

“… incredibly insightful about the future of K-12 education…poignant, memorable, and full of wisdom…a firsthand account that is alive and real…witty, funny, and engaging…it sees the future of education for what it should be – about children and how they learn.”

Dr. Thomas Shields, Director, Center for Leadership in Education, University of Richmond

“… captures the essence of the transformation underway in American education…an incredibly helpful roadmap for all of us who are committed to change education so that our students are truly prepared for their 21st century lives.”

Ken Kay, CEO, EdLeader21, Co-author, The Leader’s Guide to 21st Century Education

The conveners of #FUSE14 chose the perfect image as metaphor for the event: a swimming pool. I was a swimmer growing up; learned how to swim at age three and was competitive in all four strokes by age five. Am still at home in the water as I am on land.  Like our students in the classroom, things we learn at a young age stick with us, the muscle memories of limb and brain are set through practice and repetition. If you don’t learn to swim until you are an adult it is uncomfortable until you both learn and practice the skills; that is the nature of learning.

imgresDesign thinking, what I hope we can agree to as a highly effective process that allows us to find, unwrap, and solve complex problems in an equally complex world, involves a set of skills, just like swimming.  Perhaps more than anything else, we have to decide to enter the water with a mindset that yes, we can swim.  Then we learn some skills and put them to practice.  We don’t expect to be a great swimmer right away; it takes practice.

There was discomfort at #fuse14; that is a sign of learning in an important zone, as opposed to just listening and spewing back.  I have now both organized and attended many active learning programs where we disdain or disallow the traditional “sit-and-get” model of educational conferences.  #fuse14 sets a new bar.  Attendees were pushed to challenge themselves emotionally, intellectually, and socially.  It was the noisiest, most interactive, most collaborative event I have ever attended...and my own workshops are pretty darn noisy, interactive, and collaborative. Going to have to play some loud music to really pump up the crowd during brainstorming!

I imagine some of the attendees will leave and not practice what they learned; that, too, is the nature of learning. Others have already expressed that this the event was utterly transformational for them.  I have been thinking, teaching, writing, and trying to practice this kind of evolutionary problem solving for more than three decades and I still learned a lot, mostly from watching people dive into the pool, make a few mis-strokes, and then correct and swim just a bit better and with more satisfaction.

Here is my main message to those hundreds who have followed from outside the walls of the event: this kind of approach to solving problems is powerful stuff. Yes, it takes some time and attempts to begin to master, but real personal and organizational change can be successfully achieved in short periods of time.  The solutions are just flat out BETTER than when we approach problems from an old school model.  We have way too many examples now of the efficacy of design-like thinking to ignore its impact.

I could go on with more and more, but the airplanes call.  I hope those who took a dive will encourage others to follow, overcoming our natural fear of the pool.  You will be happier and your school/organization/group will be increasingly comfortable and capable with dealing with a rapidly changing world.



Shameless plug? Yeah, a bit, but I cannot help but reflect on how much of the conversation amongst this group of educators at #fuse14 parallels the core elements of my first book, The Falconer. I guess it was inevitable at this venue: a key driver of #fuse14 is Bo Adams who was one of my earliest supporters in The Falconer as an outline of transformed learning. Thanks goodness, unlike when I first conceptualized the skills and process that The Falconer describes in 1985, we are at a point where those arguments are behind us. We are not talking about “should” we transform the learning system, but “how might we”.  The process of developing a mindset open to the world around us; of understanding our own worldview and empathetically that of others; of finding problems and asking questions before leaping to answers…and making it accessible to students young and old; all this is what we are practicing in DT this week!

The book intro is free to download over to the right of this page.

There is passion, noise, and emotion in the room here.  There is learning.  People are pumped with the range of possibilities they are uncovering, their heads pushed in somewhat new directions.

imgresThere is also discomfort here. Some are past the edge of their comfort zone, probably not radically so, but past it nonetheless.  What will they take home with them? Relief it is over, so they can retreat to comfort? If we created a scale: 0%=no #fuse14 attendee changes anything they do when they leave; 100%=all #fuse14 attendees radically change how they teach-learn-lead…what is the outcome of a gathering like this? Like any opportunity for professional and personal growth when we go back to our own “real world” the long days of work, family, home, responsibilities, how much bandwidth do we have time for, or allocate, to new stuff?

What about those who are not here, who don’t want to see the world changing, who believe just as deeply that the past is a great indication of the future as those here believe the opposite? Will anything that people learn here change those minds? My observations are that the answer is “yes”. When we cut to the core, design thinking is about creating an environment that promotes/allows students to learn through direct engagement with their own passions, and the vast majority of adults who work in schools recognize and enjoy passionate, engaged students.  They may not know how to DEAL with the relative chaos of passionate students pursuing multiple simultaneous learning directions, but they recognize the great learning that is taking place.

What scares me is the rate of change, that schools which do not embrace the sort of rapid evolutionary processes that we are seeing in action this week face a substantial risk of becoming irrelevant in the very near future.  Increasing numbers of families see traditional education as generating outcomes that do not prepare their children for the future.  School communities think they can’t ‘change the direction of the aircraft carrier’ quickly; they are often wrong. It may be a messy process and it may take people outside their comfort zone, but to say it can’t be done is just wrong, and if I may be forgiven, in some cases it stems from a deficit of courage to take the same risks that we are asking of our students.

As I blogged yesterday (really? at the pace of #fuse14, it seems longer than that), Mount Vernon Institute For Innovation (@MVIFI) has created a remarkable playbook for design thinking.  It is available at this link. I know I am going to use some of these routines in my workshops and work with schools.  Remember to cite attribution when using!


Can you afford 30 minutes every few weeks to chat with someone from another country on subjects of mutual interest? Can you NOT afford to take the time? Can you say your school has a “global” focus if you collectively don’t?

After a fast and full day at #fuse14 yesterday, teacher/innovator/leader Meghan Cureton from Mount Vernon and I chatted via Google Hang Out with three colleagues from New Zealand:  Claire Amos, Steve Mouldey, and Karen  Mehluish Spencer. Have never met these folks face to face; this was even our first video connection, but we have been connected via Twitter and mutual blog following for the last 6 months or so.  There is a growing hotbed of transformed, student-centered learning in New Zealand, particularly at Hobsonville Point School where Claire and Steve work. Follow their blogs.

(The chat space was a little noisy until we moved rooms; sorry for that if the background noise comes through on the video.)

I have another chat scheduled for next week with Steve, Bo Adams, and Thomas Steele-Malley.  Do we know what we are going to talk about? Not really. Just know we have tons to share and good things come from like-minded and focused people sharing, like what is taking place at #fuse14 this week.



Am writing this blog post is in real time.  In the 101 Track of #fuse14, the coaches are leading what they call a “flash lab” a quick introduction experience that compresses the DT process into very short segments.  Attendees have partnered with people they never met before five minutes ago.  The group was handed the challenge “12 grade graduation”. Protocols/steps include: (and am writing this in real time so please forgive!) It looks like this is going to blow through in only about one hour; a flash experience but one that will give participants the faith that they can do this…and will go deeper into the steps this afternoon. How long does this process usually take at our schools? Days? Months? Years? This is part of the power of DT-type events; we can get to “yes” vastly more quickly, and with more authentic buy-in, than most of us ever thought possible. We just need to have a mindset open to a different process.

  • Word Web: jot down words that come to mind.
  • Rose, Thorn, Bud: what are bright spots, pain points, and possibilities inherent in the challenge?
  • Interview: partners interviewing each other to gain empathy with another end user. Working on skills of questioning and real listening. How often do we let an opportunity to learn pass us by because we are not REALL listening to someone else?
  • Second Round Interview: dive more deeply into something that important that surfaced in the initial brief interview. Explore those key issues that you heard.
  • Empathy: Define/Distill: Narrow, filter, bring it down to bare bones. Who did you meet? What blew your mind? What if? Not designing solutions, but better defining the issues that stood out during the interviews. Got very quiet in here as each person is unpacking and synthesizing their interview knowledge.
  • How Might We: turning a defined problem into a set of questions that you can brainstorm. (See how far into the process solutions/answer occur?!)
  • Good brainstorming: defer judgement; go for volume; be visual; build on ideas of others; stay on the topic; encourage wild ideas.
  • Four Corners: way to gather feedback. Things I like; things I don’t understand; things that could be improved; new ideas to consider. Not trying to convince a partner that we are right; gathering feedback on potential solutions.
  • Write or sketch solution/idea; Version 2.0 now with feedback.
  • Tell the story; 60 seconds. Who did I meet? What moved you? What was the need? What is the solution? What is the impact?

See how much valuable KNOWLEDGE has been gathered in this process that we would not have had if we had started off by brainstorming solutions right away, which is the traditional way to solve a problem?  And it took just an hour!

Whew. Lots there. The DEEP Playbook that will be available after the conference has this spelled out much better than I did here!



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