The DeHavilland Blog

Friday, September 30, 2005

Video games as teaching tools

An article in eSchoolNews titled "$10B gaming field inspires new curricula" (link here) talks about the rise in college coursework dedicated to game design and technology. While the article focuses on new coursework at the college/university level, it is exciting to see an academic response to the emerging needs of industry. It also gives rise to two thoughts.

First, video games are tremendously important to kids and teens (they do make up a fair chunk of that $10B market after all). There's also a tremendous cool factor around game design (in the ESN article, Carolyn Rauch, SVP of the Entertainment Software Association says, "Just like when rock and roll came of age, everybody wanted to be a rock star--as video games have come of age, everyone wants to be a developer."). Why are we not leveraging this more at the K-12 level (or at least middle and high school), using game design/development as an entree into various content areas?

In addition to the growth in tech skills from actual coding, and increase in communication skills needed for good game design (you've got to approach game design from the user's experience - a great principle in communication), you also have to learn your subject in depth. Having kids build a game out of a Shakespearean work, for example, would allow them to explore a 360 degree view of the time in which the play is set (so costumes, locations, etc. are realistic). Same goes for history. You could also do great science instruction - to make a ball bounce realistically, you have to learn the physics of moving objects, including gravity, friction, and so on.

The second thought is that we should be using the principles of game design in planning instruction. One of the best books I've read in a while is "What Video Games Have To Teach Us About Learning and Literacy" by Jim Gee (link to book on
here). In it, he asks the question: why is it that in education, we keep trying to make things easier and easier, and continue to see engagement and performance slip (or at least stagnate) - when, in contrast, the harder our video games are, the more kids want to play them? He presents 36 principles of good game design - what makes games engaging, accessible, and challenging - and it would be fascinating to watch someone integrate this set of ideas into their instructional approach.

If anyone sees examples of either of these in action, please share - I'd love to study them and report.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

What teenagers like

As part of Advertising Week 2005, The Interactive Advertising Bureau asked a panel of 10 teenagers to evaluate the products of three interactive marketing campaigns - Nike, Coke, and Halo 2 - in front of an audience of hundreds of industry executives. The New York Times article can be found here.

Without getting into winners and losers, what they saw and heard was that teens like to have fun, they like to customize, and they like to socialize. The Times quoted Nick Law, VP of Visual Design at R/GA in New York:
And no other group is as interested in
controlling the product as the teenage market, he said. "I think what
distinguishes how teenagers interact with the media in contrast to us older
folks is that they want control over the media they consume," Mr. Law said. "The
possibilities of self-expression are endless."
MediaPost yesterday reported on an international study by Yahoo! and OMD that said something very similar (link here):
This broad ethnographic study suggests a
trinity of "core values" embraced by millions of teens who use "new media":
"community," "self-expression," and "personalization." Community and
self-expression are self-explanatory, denoting the basic human need to feel that
one belongs, and at the same time stand out from the pack. Personalization of
technology provides the main means of fulfilling both these needs.

This isn't terribly surprising information, but I bring it up to contrast it with what happens all too often in the classroom: top-down information distribution, standardization, and formidable controls on what students are allowed to do and how they are allowed to do it. Imagine what would happen if you truly put students in control of their learning experience: give them access to the core materials and let them loose to absorb, interpret, and distribute it in a unique new form of their own making. Students want to be engaged, and they want to work with things to modify them and put their stamp on them. Shouldn't we find a way to channel that into the learning experience?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Yet another great program

Jiffy Lube franchisees in Southern California issued the following press release yesterday:

September 27, 2005 08:55 AM US Eastern Timezone
Jiffy Lube Delivers ``Auto Care'' Class to Underserved High Schools across Southern California; Due to Statewide Budget Cuts in Vocational Training, Jiffy Lube Steps in with Free Classes

HOUSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sept. 27, 2005--The Southern California Franchisees of Auto Service Center leader Jiffy Lube International ( today announced it has launched a philanthropic program to bring Jiffy Lube's "Basics of Auto Care" classes to underserved high schools across Southern California. Comprising 10 distinct classes covering different aspects of auto function, the program is delivered free to schools in response to statewide budget cuts in vocational training and auto care classes in many public high schools. The interactive classes will present students the opportunity to learn about basic auto care, as well as various potential career paths within the industry.

Taught by longtime auto technicians, James McCaughley in the Los Angeles area and Louie Garcia in Oxnard, the Jiffy Lube "Basics of Auto Care" class will cover a wide range of topics, including: the fundamentals of the internal combustion engine, fuel, compression, ignition, air filter and fuel filter; oil changes, including proper disposal of spent engine oil; cooling system; transmission; suspension, steering, wheels and tires; brakes; and electrical. The class will also feature a day with Jiffy Lube professionals describing their jobs and how they became involved in working with cars, as well as a class dedicated to customizing, or "tricking out," autos.

"So many students these days are denied the opportunity to learn about automobiles and become exposed to possible careers within the industry, and Jiffy Lube is proud to step up and offer this kind of instruction to underserved schools around California," said John Kenyon, President of the LA Jiffy Lube Association of Franchisees. "Students taking Jiffy Lube's `Basics of Auto Care' class will come away with a broad knowledge base that will enable them to make smart choices when it comes to their own automobiles, as well as show them the kinds of careers that are available in the industry."

"My knowledge of auto care has been vital to my own success as a professional, and I'm very pleased to share my expertise with students in underserved neighborhoods around California," said McCaughley. "Students today often miss out on the opportunities I had, when `Auto Shop' classes were offered at basically every high school, and it's important to show teens the basics and how they can make a career out of it, as I have."

Jiffy Lube also offers several resources drivers can use to learn about how a car functions and what components need to be maintained. For example, at, drivers can find an animated "How Cars Work" tutorial. In about 30 minutes, the interactive tool provides a thorough overview of the critical parts of a car, what can go wrong with them, and how they should generally be maintained.

I've not seen the actual curriculum, but on the surface this is brilliant. Think about the key points of this program:
  • It's valuable to schools - auto work has been a mainstay of voc-ed programs, and was formerly covered prior to budget cuts
  • It introduces real-world skills - understanding the basics of auto care can certainly be considered as a life skill
  • It provides students with an engaging learning experience - students get some hands-on experience working on cars; the "tricking out" session is probably particularly fun
  • It introduces students to career opportunities - a workforce development angle that's great for students and great for the industry
  • It provides volunteer opportunities for employees - which not only can be rewarding, but also puts a human face on the company for hundreds - maybe thousands - of kids and families. It also sends a message to the entire employee base - we're proud of what we do, and proud to share it with the world
  • It reinforces brand positioning - Jiffy Lube is obviously the expert in auto care, or why would they be able to teach classes on it?

This program is win-win-win, with positives for students, Jiffy Lube, and the auto services industry - wonderful to see initiatives like this cropping up.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Compared to the rest of the world...

On September 13, the international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (click here for the OECD site) released their latest analysis of education indicators among its 30 member countries. The executive summary, and briefing for the American press, can be found here.

The compiled data show a frustrating picture for the United States, with sub-par results despite a tremendous investment being made in public education. A few stats to whet your appetite for the full executive summary:

  • America is first in terms of number of years spent in education. The US is closing in on an average 14 years in education, with many other countries close behind.
  • We are the second highest spenders on education; Switzerland edged us out, but we’re still spending more than $11,000 USD per student per year. These numbers may be skewed as they do account for postsecondary education expenses.
  • We’re also #2 in terms of educational expenditures relative to Gross Domestic Product, coming in at over 7% of GDP.
  • America is in the middle of the pack in terms of the ratio of students to teaching staff. We’re #10 of 23 surveyed countries, with 23 students per teacher on average. Switzerland is first, with 18 students per teacher; Korea is last, with 35 students per teacher.
  • We rank #6 of 30 on teacher salaries, with an average of approximately $43,000 per year.
  • We are first in terms of teaching time and teachers’ working time. US teachers spend more than 1,100 hours year working and teaching according to statute; this undoubtedly does not reflect the entire teacher workload.

  • In terms of current upper secondary (ie, high school) graduation rates, the US ranks 16 of 21 surveyed countries, with approximately 73% of its students graduating high school. (This number may be generous, since most estimates put the dropout rate at 1 in 3.)
  • We are 12th of 21 in tertiary (ie postsecondary) graduation rates. The US hit 33%; the mean among the 21 countries is 35%.
  • Our 15-year olds came in 24th of 29 countries in terms of mathematical performance. For comparison, Finland and Korea scored around 540 on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) math scale; we scored around 480.
  • Same story regarding cross-curricular problem solving capabilities. We came in 24th of 29 countries again, scoring another 480 while Korea, Finland, and Japan all came in higher than 550.
  • One piece of good news: we did make statistically significant increases in our math and science scores from 1995 to 2003. In fact, we achieved the greatest gains in these two areas among all countries.
I’m not well versed in the details of educational systems around the world, so I can’t offer any detailed comparisons or authoritative analysis. Nor do I think this data paints a complete picture: hours worked, worker productivity levels, and legislative environment all have a major impact on the ultimate competitiveness of the US in a world economy, and those are not reflected in this slice of data.

I do think, however, that common sense dictates that we be concerned about what this data is telling us. We’re close to the top in terms of investment in education, and near the bottom in terms of outcomes. We’re in an information age, where critical thinking is a prerequisite for a major portion of new jobs, and we can’t do better than 24 of 29 countries in problem-solving abilities?

This data was recently referenced in a chilling USA Today editorial (2/23/05) by Craig Barrett, CEO of Intel:

My company, Intel, invests more than $100 million a year to improve the quality
of U.S. education. But if the world's best engineers are produced in India or
Singapore, that is where our companies will go. This is not a threat, but a
reality in the modern world. We locate facilities where we can find or import
talent to produce our products. "The harsh fact is that the U.S. need for the
highest quality human capital in science, mathematics and engineering is not
being met," says the U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st Century.
Nor is it likely to be met soon, judging by U.S. student performance on
international math and science tests. In a recent study, 15-year-olds in the USA
ranked 24th out of 29 industrialized nations on practical math applications.

Does anyone else feel compelled to do something about this?

Friday, September 23, 2005

Great program from Dole Foods

In an age of record obesity among children, and increasingly vocal parents and professionals (see this article by Christoper Kimball, founder and editor of Cook's Illustrated Magazine), consider the outreach program designed by Dole Food outlined in this 9/12/05 press release:

Dole Fights K-12 Obesity With “School Salad Days”
Westlake Village, California - SEPTEMBER 15, 2005

Dole Nutrition Institute Donates Salad Bars & Provides Nutrition EducationTo Public Schools Throughout California In 2006

Dole Nutrition Institute (DNI), the nutrition research and educational foundation established by Dole Food Company, Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, David H. Murdock, today announced a new "School Salad Days" pilot program. Designed to encourage healthy eating habits and promote daily fruit and vegetable consumption in California public schools, the pilot program will be launched with the donation of an initial 50 full-service portable salad bars to California-based K-12 schools in 2006.

In addition to providing onsite self-serve salad bars, DNI ( will also offer recipient schools timely nutrition information. This continues Dole's longstanding commitment to the nutrition education through programs such as the Dole "5-A-Day" program (soon to be re-launched and updated as Dole SuperKids).

Other components of the "School Salad Days" program will include:

* Partnering with school food service directors, nutritionists and healthcare providers to combat child obesity through better nutrition
* Working with schools to develop fruit baskets to be sold as fund-raising alternatives
* Helping schools plant on-site "edible gardens"

"Dole Food Company, Inc. shares Governor Schwarzenegger's commitment to preventing childhood obesity," said DNI Director Jennifer Grossman. "By increasing access to fruits and vegetables and teaching the importance of nutrition, we hope to be part of the solution to the epidemic of childhood obesity in California."

For the complete release, visit the Dole Foods press release archive

Kit Cramer presents

Yesterday I attended an all-day session on the practice of PR in Raleigh, NC. The event was sponsored by several NC/SC PR and marketing organizations, and featured a range of speakers and subjects addressing techniques and best practices.

The speaker I came to see was Kit Cramer, VP of Education for the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. Kit also serves as vice chair of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, and several years ago served as a public information officer for two different school districts. She’s seen all sides of education – as a business advocate, politician, school employee, and parent – and these many roles give her a rare and valuable perspective.

Kit was one of two presenters in the community relations slot, and her talk was titled “Harnessing the Power of the Business Community to Support Schools” – I couldn’t have asked for a better topic given my interests.

She approached the issue from a different perspective than I’m used to. Normally, I work with clients who want to initiate their own program, which they can direct and control. As head of education for the Chamber, Kit (in conjunction with her working committee) designs programs based on their understanding of the needs of the schools, and solicits resources from businesses in the community. She is, of course, supportive of any investment that businesses may want to make in education outside of her efforts; however, she focused on Chamber-led initiatives in her presentation.

She led by acknowledging that the Chamber did not get involved in local schools for purely altruistic reasons: it’s a top member issue based on annual surveys, and ties in to very real economic development issues, both for the future workforce (students graduating from the local system) and for businesses and/or workers considering moving to Charlotte and deciding whether the local schools are a place they’d be willing to send their kids.

In this day and age of strategic philanthropy, she also expects that most businesses participating in their education programs are also operating with some sort of personal gain in mind. That gain could be any of a number of things, from bragging rights (highlighting your support of education in company communications) to giving local businesspersons, the opportunity to be seen as community leaders. An interesting “personal win” I had not considered.

She walked through a laundry list of Chamber successes, which I won’t detail here. But I will distill several of her key points here for those interested (from a company or sponsor perspective) in education outreach:
  • If this is a community relations effort, start by defining your communities of interest. Identify the communities you care about and know how you want to serve them and communicate with them through your education outreach efforts.
  • Establish a giving policy. Decide what you will, and will not, contribute resources to. If you publicly state you’re only interested in high school science and math initiatives, you’ll save time on applications you would not otherwise consider (and save the applicants’ time) and also find it easier to sniff out the appropriate opportunities. To decide your giving policy, focus on self-interest and program “fit”.
  • Consult your employees – if your people write the program, they’ll write the checks to support the program (whether those “checks” are for money or for volunteer time or some other resource).
  • Look for the win-win. Find areas which provide a return to your organization and to the school you’re supporting.
  • Create multiple opportunities for involvement from your volunteer base. People have different skill sets and different interests; give everyone an opportunity to participate according to their capabilities and you’ll increase your base of support.
  • Determine desired outcomes and require reporting. You cannot know whether your program succeeded if you have not determined what success looks like and instituted a way to measure progress and results.
  • Understand from the outset that your school partners will not and cannot take the lead in promoting your efforts. This will be your responsibility, although if you’ve made it one of the requirements of the project, you can expect them to play a supporting role (providing media access to leadership, offering testimonials, and the like).

Companies interested in education outreach should take a careful look at the ongoing initiatives of their local chambers and education foundations – you might find people who have already made inroads into an issue you’re passionate about, and you’ll likely find lots of flexibility as to the ways in which you can participate. Even if you decide to ultimately build your own, you’ll benefit from the knowledge, support, and recognition that these community leadership organizations can provide.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

NUMB3RS in the classroom

I love that there's a prime-time program that makes math cool - it's like a modern-day McGyver. And I love that people are trying to capitalize on that program to demonstrate the value of math. Click here for a release announcing free materials for math classrooms based on episodes of NUMB3RS, courtesy of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and Texas Instruments.

All kinds of partnerships...

An article in the Morning Sentinel of Maine highlights a local school's efforts to reduce energy costs by conducting an energy audit and acting on the results (article here). It sounds as if Honeywell is doing the audit at no cost, but only because it will profit from instituting some or all of the recommended changes.

Nothing unusual here - but for energy firms interested in education outreach, doesn't this sort of audit make imminent sense as part of a business-education partnership? It doesn't always have to be a lesson plan on energy conservation - there are many ways to help education and reinforce brand equity and community goodwill.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Education as reflection of society

One of the major purposes of public education is to prepare students for the real world: in other words, to give them the skills and knowledge they'll need to be productive, well-adjusted, and potentially happy workers and neighbors after they graduate from school. I believe that one prerequisite to that process is that schools must reflect society, in the sense that students are able to work on real-world content using real-world tools, communicating inside the school walls as they do outside.

A friend directed me a few weeks ago to a three-part article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that's been nagging at me. (See the first of three articles here). Titled "Is technology in schools the future or just a fad? - It's still unclear if computers upgrade academics," the article talks about how our investment in technology has not produced the learning gains expected. An excerpt:

...the predominant uses of computers remain word processing, heavily
filtered Internet searches and the occasional PowerPoint presentation. In
addition, with pressure rising to improve test scores, more schools have
embraced skill-drilling software that contributes little to long-term student
learning, observers say.

Even supporters are disappointed in what has - and has not happened -
in American classrooms.

"There have always been and will always be pockets of interesting
activity and innovation going on around the country, but in most schools, kids
maybe search the Web, they make PowerPoint presentations," said Margaret Honey,
director of the Center for Children and Technology in New York. "Those are all
good things. But we could easily build on those activities and make them much
more rigorous and applicable to the 21st century if we wanted to. . . . For the
most part, I think we're not."

I could write about this all day long, drawing comparison after comparison to how technology is used in schools versus how it's been shown to be effective in the professional world. (For one thing, you don't see many offices where four workers share a computer.) I'll also forego quotes from Marshall McLuhan about the disconnect between society and schools regarding the use of communications media (although I guarantee that'll come up later). Instead, I'll just share a quote from Rod Paige of all people. In his forward to the Visions 2020 report (downloadable here), he writes:

Everywhere one looks, the Internet and information technology are
transforming every aspect of life in the United States. We are living, shopping,
working, governing, and communicating in new ways that are enabled by
technology. Organizations are learning how technologies streamline processes,
enable real-time information transactions, expand markets beyond geographic
areas, and customize service offerings to the needs of customers. These new
capabilities have done more than simply make organizations more efficient - they
have forced leaders to rethink markets and reengineer business structures and
processes that lead to dramatic improvement in quality.

But to a large extent, schools have been an exception to this
information revolution. Indeed, education is the only business still debating
the usefulness of technology. Schools remain unchanged for the most part despite
numerous reforms and increased investments in computers and networks. The way we
organize schools and provide instruction is essentially the same as it was when
our Founding Fathers went to school. Put another way, we still educate our
students based on an agricultural timetable, in an industrial setting, yet tell
students they live in a digital age.

The problem is not that we have expected too much from technology in
education - it is that we have settled for too little. Many schools have simply
applied technology on top of traditional teaching practices rather than
reinventing themselves around the possibilities technology allows. The result is
marginal - if any - improvement.

I believe that the business world, along with other stakeholders in public education, need to take the lead in driving this change, and that this can be done through the intelligent and conditional application of resources (grants, volunteers, etc.) - and then a sharing of best practices and results so that others can learn from successes earned in other places.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

IBM creates an innovative program

On Friday, IBM announced a new program called the IBM Transition to Teaching program (details found here). This program will encourage IBM employees who meet certain criteria (minimum 10 years of service, manager approval, degree in math or science, experience volunteering or teaching) to leave the company and become math or science teachers. Not only will those employees be encouraged to follow this career path, but IBM will reimburse them up to $15,000 in tuition and stipends and provide online mentoring services as they get started. The program launches in pilot phase, accepting up to 100 future teachers.

This program furthers a substantial to commitment to education; go here to see some of the other things IBM does. IBM, along with a few other tech companies like Intel, are at the front of the pack in terms of philanthropic and community relations-based support of education.

I would like to hear (and will do some digging) a couple things from IBM and other big corporate supporters of education. First, how have they integrated this support into their stakeholder relations efforts? They deserve recognition for their efforts - how is this work benefiting the company in terms of customer and employee relations, for example? And second, even with all of their resources, IBM cannot singlehandedly support every school in the country. What are they doing to make these programs replicable and showing others how to build/manage similar initiatives?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Presenting education to business

The National Alliance of State Science and Mathematics Coalitions (NASSMC) identifies articles of interest regarding education (normally focused on science and math, of course) and forwards links and summaries to its list (visit the site – – for a free subscription). I'd like to share a recent brief in its entirety:

News Brief #3247
Category: Postsecondary Education
TITLE: "Stirring the Local Economy Into the Mix"

As public dollars for higher education dwindle, more institutions are
trying to prove their worth by issuing studies measuring their economic
contributions. The University System of Georgia recently issued a report
concluding that its campuses contribute nearly $10 billion a year to the state
economy. A study from the University of Texas valued its contributions to the
state at $12.8 billion.

California State University is taking a more proactive approach, asking
regional business leaders for their input, as well as their support. The
university system is holding a series of forums for industry leaders as part of
what they call an "impact tour."

At one such forum in Pomona, business leaders dined on a three-course meal
prepared by students at the university's Collins School of Hospitality
Management. Cal State Chancellor Charles Reed told the 110 attendees that the
system enrolls more than 400,000 students a year, more than half of whom are
from minority groups. Cal State, he said, produces the majority of the state's
graduates in teacher education, tourism and natural resources.

After lunch, business leaders were invited to offer suggestions on how Cal
State can better prepare students for jobs in local industries. Among the areas
of student preparation identified as shortfalls at this and other forums are
proficiency with the latest technologies, writing and critical-thinking skills,
and the ability to work in teams.

SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education, 02 September 2005 (p. A33)
The NASSMC Briefing Service (NBS) is supported by the National Security
Agency (NSA) and ExxonMobil Foundation. Briefs reflect only the opinions,
findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the source articles.
Click to SUBSCRIBE, COMMENT, or FIND archived NBS briefs.
Click for information about NASSMC. Permission is granted
to re-distribute NBS briefs in unmodified form, including header and

I have not read the article being summarized (CHE is a paid site), but the brief provided by NASSMC offers plenty to chew on for anyone interested in business-education partnerships.

My first question: what could this type of activity do to nurture the relationship between Cal State and the businesses it courts? These businesses get better insight into the importance of the university system, have the opportunity to develop face-to-face relationships with representatives from the university, and best of all, are given a forum to showcase their needs from the university system (and, I would assume, the promise of action).

What happens when the university later asks the business community for donations, sponsorships, internship opportunities, guest presenters, and the like? It’s a much easier “ask” once there’s a relationship in place, I would imagine. And are these businesses more inclined to recruit at the university? And when recruiting, consider Cal State grads in a more positive light? The answer is certainly “yes” to both questions.

My next question: why couldn’t K-12 schools or districts do this exact same thing?

(Paying for events like this, by the way, should not be a deterrent. Costs could be covered by the local education foundation, or perhaps by a business already committed to education – they wouldn’t have to be covered by the schools themselves.)

Imagine the opportunity to highlight the importance of public education to the community. These are, after all, our own kids. They make up an important portion of the labor pool, both in the immediate and in the long term (I don’t have statistics at hand, but I believe that a fair percentage of people choose to live in the communities in which they grew up). Local business should certainly have an interest in them.

Following Cal State’s lead, you educate business about the importance of education. You develop direct relationships with local business leaders. You provide them with a forum to share their concerns and identify top issues, and promise to address them (ideally with an active role identified for those businesses).

What do you think would happen? Would businesses be more forthcoming with resources? Would they be more inclined to provide volunteers, internship opportunities and the like? Would they be more inclined to support bond initiatives and find other ways to support schools?

Is anyone doing this at the K-12 level, and if so, what have been the results? I’d love to hear about it.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Launching a new business

DeHavilland Associates, my new consulting firm, opens its doors on September 16, 2005. I thought I’d start this blog by answering a variation on a question I sometimes ask my son: What do I want this company to be when it grows up? (Hopefully my answer won’t change as frequently as that of a three year old.)

Let me start with some background. I believe (as do many others) that there is a crisis in K-12 education today. We are in the midst of a fundamental societal shift from a manufacturing age to an information age, and our public education system has not changed at the speed required to accommodate the needs of today’s students.
Paul Houston (Executive Director of the American Association of School Administrators) said at an EdPress conference a few years ago: “Our schools continue to make incremental improvements in a time of quantum change.” We’re still focused on doing the best job we can, but the definition of “best” has changed without our fully realizing and responding to it.

We need to remember the overarching goal of education: to help kids build the skills and obtain the knowledge needed to become good citizens and workers in contemporary society. (It’s not an official definition, but I think it’s a reasonable approximation.) With that as our target, we can put into place the practices needed to accomplish that goal, making sure that we don’t allow existing practices to stand if they‘re no longer relevant just because “we’ve always done it that way.”

Seems pretty simple in theory. So what’s holding us back?

I believe that, at its heart, the problem with education today is a communications problem. Because the education system has not made proactive, substantive stakeholder communications a priority, its stakeholders do not understand public education, do not feel a part of the system, and do not see how they can support education in ways that relate to their respective short-term and long-term self-interest.

Further, just as these stakeholders are not able to receive vital information from the education system, the education system is not receiving guidance from these stakeholders: the people who fund education and have a vital interest in education’s end product. For the education system to succeed, it must put out a product that its customers desire. To do that, it must be told what its customers want, and it must listen and respond accordingly.

DeHavilland Associates pursues a great goal: clear away the communications fog between education and its stakeholders, allowing participation and support to increase, and allowing education to respond and adapt to the clearly stated needs of those stakeholders. In a word, DeHavilland strives for clarity, to the benefit of all stakeholders in this critically important market.

I want DeHavilland to make a positive impact on the quality of education – and ultimately, the quality of life – for children in our schools. Where I believe DeHavilland Associates can make a difference is in the relationship between society and education – opening the lines of communication between the two, so that education can clearly hear what it is that society wants and needs, and society can learn what education needs and how to provide it.

“Society” is a pretty tall order right off the bat – as DeHavilland gets moving, I’ll focus initially on one segment of society, specifically the business community. Why business? Because that’s the segment that can move the quickest and, given the resources they can bring to the table, it is the group that can make the biggest impact when those resources are intelligently applied. After all, if education hears the right voices and receives targeted resources, it can move that much more quickly towards producing the engaged, rounded thinkers that we all would like to see coming out of our public schools.

DHA will start with direct counseling to businesses interested in education outreach: helping them identify the right opportunities for them and developing strategies to help them leverage their resources for maximum reach and effectiveness (and return on investment, if you consider things like community relations and employee morale to name a few). Once we have traction there, we’ll start to look for other ways to open the lines of communication: sharing results of surveys and research, highlighting best practices, hosting conferences and roundtables, and building various communities as needs and opportunities for information-sharing are identified.

Beyond business, there are clear needs for schools to begin communicating with other stakeholders: parents, communities, local/state/federal government…..there’s no shortage of need out there, and DeHavilland will continually work to help education establish a dialogue with all its stakeholders.

So that’s the plan. For anyone reading this blog, please a) wish me luck, and b)
visit the site to learn more about the intersection between business and education through the links and the resources I’ll be publishing as time goes by. And please do comment here or drop me an email – reinforcement, disagreement, and any and all perspectives will always be welcome.