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Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age - Book Cover Look Inside

Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age

Using Learning Science to Reboot Schooling

By: Frederick M. Hess, Bror Valdemar Hang Saxberg


Today’s most successful school leaders are truly “learning engineers.” Hess and Saxberg show how you can rethink and reinvent schools through technology-enabled, not technology-driven, solutions.

Product Details
  • Grade Level: PreK-12
  • ISBN: 9781452255491
  • Published By: Corwin
  • Year: 2013
  • Page Count: 216
  • Publication date: October 23, 2013

Price: $39.95

Price: $39.95
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“By deconstructing learning science and making the connection to technology, Hess and Saxberg have outlined key strategies for school leaders as they work to transform traditional practices in schools. Whether it is whole-school reform or targeted interventions, principals will be motivated to rethink or‘re-engineer’ the use of technology to optimize teaching and learning.”
—Gail Connelly, Executive Director
National Association of Elementary School Principals

“Everyone touching education—from educators to school leaders and from investors and philanthropists to entrepreneurs—needs to understand how to think like a learning engineer and read this book. Technology holds unbelievable promise to be a part of the solution to transform education, but it won’t happen unless all parties attack its implementation smartly. Breakthrough Leadership in a Digital Age points the way forward.”
—Michael B. Horn, Co-Founder & Education Executive Director
Clayton Christensen Institute

“Too often, our current structures fail to promote and support learning engineering. Rick Hess and Bror Saxberg have designed a compelling guide for the road ahead.”
—William Hite, Superintendent
School District of Philadelphia, PA

Reboot student learning the right way!

Today’s most successful school leaders are truly “learning engineers”: creative thinkers who redefine their problems and design new ways to better serve kids’ success. Technology has a critical role, but it’s the creative reinvention of schools, systems, and classrooms that has to come first. In this powerful book, best-selling author and education policy expert Rick Hess and chief learning officer Bror Saxberg show you how to become your school's learning engineer. Using cutting-edge research about learning science as a framework, you’ll:

  • Identify specific learning problems that need solving
  • Devise smarter ways to address them
  • Implement technology-enabled, not technology-driven, solutions

Key features

  • Includes illustrations from multiple technology areas and anecdotes shared by school and district leaders
  • Because the book includes interviews alongside research and analysis it is both practical and grounded in best practice theory.


Frederick M. Hess photo

Frederick M. Hess

An educator, political scientist and author, Frederick M. Hess studies K-12 and higher education issues. His books include The Same Thing Over and Over, Education Unbound, Common Sense School Reform, Revolution at the Margins, Spinning Wheels, and Cage-Busting Leadership (Harvard Education Press, February 2013). He is also the author of the popular Education Week blog, “Rick Hess Straight Up.” Hess’s work has appeared in scholarly and popular outlets such as Teachers College Record, Harvard Education Review, Social Science Quarterly, Urban Affairs Review, American Politics Quarterly, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Phi Delta Kappan, Educational Leadership, U.S. News & World Report, National Affairs, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Atlantic and National Review. He has edited widely cited volumes on education philanthropy, school costs and productivity, the impact of education research, and No Child Left Behind. Hess serves as executive editor of Education Next, as lead faculty member for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program, and on the review boards for the Broad Prize in Urban Education and the Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. He also serves on the boards of directors of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, 4.0 SCHOOLS, and the American Board for the Certification of Teaching Excellence. A former high school social studies teacher, he has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rice University and Harvard University. He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Government, as well as an M.Ed. in Teaching and Curriculum, from Harvard University.
Bror Valdemar Hang Saxberg photo

Bror Valdemar Hang Saxberg

Bror Saxberg is responsible for the research and development of innovative learning strategies, technologies and products across Kaplan's full range of educational services offerings. He also oversees future developments and adoptions of innovative learning technologies and maintains consistent academic standards for Kaplan's products and courses. Saxberg most recently served as Senior Vice President and Chief Learning Officer at K12, Inc., where he was responsible for designing both online and off-line learning environments and developing new student products and services. Prior to joining K12, Inc., he was Vice President at Knowledge Universe, where he co-founded the testing and assessment division that became known as Knowledge Testing Enterprise (KTE). Saxberg began his career at McKinsey & Company, Inc. and later served as Vice President and General Manager for London-based DK Multimedia, part of DK Publishing, and education and reference publisher. Saxberg holds a B.A. in Mathematics and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Washington. As a Rhodes Scholar, he received an M.A. in Mathematics from Oxford University. He also received a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from M.I.T. and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School.
Table of Contents

Table of Contents



About the Authors

1. Introduction

     Thinking Like a Learning Engineer

     Why This Volume?

     The Book: The World's Most Successful Education Technology

     Books Are a Learning Technology

     A Dispiriting Track Record

     A Lot of Potential

     Myths That Suffuse and Confuse Rethinking

     Carpe Diem: Reengineering What It Means to Be a "School"

     Don't Get Stuck on Bogeymen

     Learning Science and Learning Engineers

     The Book Ahead

2. What We Can Learn From Learning Science

     Cognitive Science and Its Less Useful Cousins

     Becoming an Expert

     How Memory Works

     Deliberate Practice

     Working Memory Has Two Channels: Audio and Visual

     The Crucial Role of Student Motivation

     Putting Learning Science to Work

     Seven Elements of Learning

     A Few Key Takeaways

3. Applying Learning Science to Technology

     The Five Capabilities of Technology

     The Tutoring Challenge

     Know What Problem You're Solving

     Technology Can Help With the Elements of Learning

     Putting People and Technology Together

     Putting This to Work

4. Reengineering With Technology

     The Socratic Method

     New Tools Can Create New Capabilities

     Engineers Ask a Lot of Questions

     What Happens When You Don't Think Like a Learning Engineer

     Mooresville Graded School District: Fish Don't Talk About Water

     Technology Can Be a Powerful Tool

5. Redesigning Schools and Systems

     Designing for New Challenges and Opportunities

     Khan Academy: Distinguishing the App Store From the Apps

     Leveraging the Elements of Learning Design

     Rocketship Education: The Engineer's Tale

     It's the Engineering, Not the Gizmos

6. Doing This in the Real World

     Technology in the Real World

     When Rules Get in the Way

     Going One-to-One

     Summit Public Schools: Finding a Way

     Overcoming the Obstacles

7. Bringing It Together

     Three Big Things to Keep in Mind

     Every Team Needs Learning Engineers

     Learning Engineers Ride in the Engine, Not the Caboose

     Revisiting Our Myths

     The Bad News... Is the Good News




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