The Chieftain and the Tribal Environment:
Exploring Learning Frontiers in the Post-Gutenberg Society

Pam Moran and Ira Sokol (bio)

Media trumpet daily headlines and stories that portray schools across the nation as failing. In reality, schools are measurably better than they’ve ever been.  However, the schools we have were designed to fail most students so that they could exit into jobs of physical labor. That economic environment has vanished in the United States, but the resulting school environments remain in place - creating a powerful disconnect between school and society. We’ve now entered the Communication Age but our schools still function like factories on an agrarian calendar. The educational system must change rapidly in response to our societal and economic needs, or we’re likely to lose so much market share we’ll be out of business as public schools. What’s the solution? There’s no silver bullet but….

Leading in today’s Communication Age demands a set of skills more relevant to tribal environments than work in 20th century factory schools. Deep change won’t occur unless leaders learn to exercise frontier skills grounded in adaptive leadership not technical management. To create new learning traditions for the 21st century, contemporary leaders must return to their frontier roots to develop the skills of the scout, the storyteller, and the chieftain. Leaders with frontier “know how” skills will be better equipped to leverage collaborative, but diverse, teams to problem-solve shifts from mass to customized learning options available to all young people. Contemporary leaders must coalesce such teams and build their capacity to understand why a redesign of schooling is necessary. Such leaders must break down hierarchies to engage the entire population in crowd-sourced creative processes necessary to emergent change. Look beyond the horizon, communicate with clarity, and inspire investment in change; that’s what the best staff of contemporary schools and districts do.

Our keynote and workshop sessions are designed to make sure participants understand why these frontier skills are critical for contemporary leaders and how to use those skills to create immediate and lasting changes in your own schools and districts. We’ll explore in-depth issues, connections, and applications of learning technologies, contemporary learning spaces, teaching away from the frontal wall, and passion-driven, project-based learning.


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