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Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age

Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age
Using Learning Science to Reboot Schooling

October 2013 | 216 pages | Corwin

“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

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


"Hess and Saxberg cut through the ed-tech hype and identify great instruction as the key to improved learning outcomes. Teachers, as well as school and district leaders, will find in these pages an effective blueprint for trying and deploying instructional technologies that is at once deeply conceptual and entirely practical."

Stacey Childress, Deputy Director of Education
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

"Hess & Saxberg recognize that thoughtful use of technology in schools is not primarily technical nor technological – rather, it is human.  Or, as the old cartoon character Pogo said, I have seen the enemy, and it is me.  Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age is a must-read for education leaders who want to harness the possibility of new tools, and do so in a thoughtful way that makes a difference for learning."

Keith Krueger, CEO
Consortium for School Networking (CoSN)

"The concept of a 'learning engineer' is nothing short of an overdue revolution in thinking about innovation in public education. Leaders across the educator sector, who are committed to improvement in service to kids, must resist the silver bullet promise of shiny new tools air-dropped into yesterday’s classrooms. Hess and Saxberg tell us why, and more importantly, how to squarely place people as the drivers of innovation. The pragmatic approach laid out in this book will help leaders recognize that kids need more than touch screens. They need teachers, school and district leaders, and policy makers who approach this work as entrepreneurial problem finders, thoughtfully applying technology as a solution when and where it makes sense."

Jennifer Medbery, Founder & CEO

"It's not the tools, as Rick and Bror point out; it's the new potential to engineer engaging pathways to mastery, to leveraging great technology and buying time for teachers to build powerful sustained relationships with young people. Rick's attention to 'Cage-busting Leadership' and Bror's relentless demand for learning R&D make them great co-authors--and make this a must read."

Tom Vander Ark, Author & CEO
Getting Smart

"This important book urges readers to create powerful, new learning environments based on learning science. Technology can be transformative when we focus on actual learning experiences and not just the shiniest gadget."

Alex Hernandez, Partner
Charter School Growth Fund

"This book provides powerful insight into why state, civic, and system leaders should rethink policies, practices, and procedures related to technology and its usage in our classrooms. 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

"'Learning engineering,' the application of learning science to learning at scale, is likely to be a critical ingredient to make progress in on-line and on-the-ground education in the years to come. The use of technology in education is finally fulfilling its potential. Bror and Frederick are leading thinkers in this accelerating space."

Salman Khan, Founder & Executive Director
Khan Academy
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.

Purchasing options

For large school/district orders, volume discounts, availability and shipping times contact customer service at 800-233-9936

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ISBN: 9781452255491
CAD$ 54.95

For large school/district orders, volume discounts, availability and shipping times contact customer service at 800-233-9936

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