While some express hope amid a recent presidential transition, the current climate of public and political discourse in the United States continues to trouble me, and I have to wonder what we can do in education to help. Yet, if we are going to do something about a problem, it is necessary to define or at least describe the problem. In this instance, there is more than one issue, but I’m beginning to focus on the nature of discourse and how we treat, think about, and interact with people who have significantly different beliefs and values from our own. My…


Almost seven years ago, I attended SXSWEdu for the first time. It was a meaning-rich and inspiration event. Even today I find myself turning back to notes and reflections generated from that event. Working on a recent thought project about how to equip college students for work and life beyond school, I opened up an old notebook and discovered the following collection of notes and quotes. They are just as relevant today. Check them out and let me know if you agree.

Here are 17 jewels that I plan to keep, polish and put to good use well into the…


What would happen if we invested as much energy in nurturing compassionate schools as we do in other education reforms? I continue to value schools that focus upon a few school-shaping concepts and build their entire community around those…compared to schools that have a broad, generic mission of educating children. The latter often lacks a strong culture that draws people together and into deep learning and curiosity. As such, I enjoy seeing so many such schools school school-shaping concepts start and gain attention.

As such, we find ourselves in a time when there are indeed schools with distinct niches. We…


“Nobody wants to be a brick. Everybody wants to be Lego, Inc.” This was a statement that I heard at least twice as I participated in a 2-day event hosted by Educause, Exploring the Next-Generation Digital Learning Environment: Opportunities and Challenges. The idea of a next generation digital learning environment is not an easy one. It is largely more of a conversation than a targeted program or initiative. Yet, the idea of a NGDLE helps establish a rich and robust ongoing exploration of the future of digital learning environments. …


Once upon a time there was a boy who measured his worth by the numbers. When he was number one, he felt valued and important. When he was not, doubt and disappointment consumed his thoughts. This applied to playing a game of pickup basketball, being the top scorer on the teen bowling team, playing a family board game, getting the highest score on the school math test, even being among the first to finish the test. Since as far back as he could remember, this boy loved numbers and what they said about him. He tracked his numbers on a…


What would you say if I suggested that the letter grade system has the potential to be a dangerous form of structural bullying?

For those of us who experienced bullying as students, we know how much it can work on a person, drawing someone into completely different thoughts and behaviors. In 5th grade, I was riding the bus to school when a boy grabbed my neck from behind. Next I felt a cold, hard piece of metal below my chin as he whispered clinched-tooth threats into my ear. I remember the sour smell of his breath, the stench of dirty…


What does a letter grade mean? Scan a dozen school handbooks or University course catalogs and you will find a largely consistent definition for letter grades.

A = Superior

B = Above Average

C = Average

D = Below Average

F = Your are at the bottom of the heap, among the worst performing in the comparative group.

Admittedly, I have not found any handbooks or catalogs that put it as bluntly as I just did for “F”, but if you ask people about what it means to get an “F”, the word failure is usually the first thing they…


I don’t like letter grades. Schools that use them still often do amazing work, but I see no compelling evidence that grades support or amplify education at its best. I’m convinced that we can do better by students with new and different perspectives on assessment, grading, and measurement in education. I start out with this strong statement because I want to be honest about my bias (I think it is a carefully considered and thoughtful bias, but it is a bias nonetheless). However, I consistently advocate for being well-informed about the benefits, limitations, and possibilities; and this applies to letter…


11,000 members. At that time that I first started writing a draft of this article, that is the number of people who were part of a Facebook group called “Teachers Throwing Out Grades.” It is a group of mostly K-12 educators who are personally committed to implementing something better than the traditional letter grade system, they are already part of a school that moved beyond grades, or they are keenly interested in exploring the possibilities. Scan the past conversations in this group and you will find a range of viewpoints and experiences. …


If you want to capture my attention for hours/days/weeks on end, just share a question with me that starts with “What if…?” or “Would it be possible to…?” These questions almost always draw me in because, at then end of the day, I see myself as a designer. As much as I immerse myself in data and research, my greatest passions in education reside with creative and imaginative pursuits. So, when I first read Thinkertoys: A Handbook for Creative Thinking Techniques, I felt as if I’d been introduced to a new universe! I found myself using the techniques and exercises…

Bernard Bull

Seeker of truth, beauty, & goodness. Writer, applied researcher, college president. Forecasting, futures, innovation, & trends in education.

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