A 2020 Success Story & Four Important Changes for 2021

I’m excited to share four important announcements as we begin the new year. Before I do that, I’m compelled to offer a few paragraphs of reflection on 2020. If you want to skip right to the news, please feel free to scroll to the bottom and look for the four bold items.

2020 was quite the year, wasn’t it? If you are anything like me, I will likely be striving to make sense of last year for a very long time. There were some aspects of the year that we might identify as shared experiences, but even more of 2020 was a distinct journey for each of us. We experienced varied calls to adventure, each struggled with with those calls in different ways. We found ourselves in unfamiliar places, facing often deeply individual tests, encountered various allies and detractors. For most of us, the journey has not ended.

For me, much of 2020 was joining the Goddard College community in what might be described as a battle for our continued existence, and an ongoing challenge to ensure that what we are doing continues to provide something distinct, if not truly unique, in the higher education ecosystem; being a champion for the significance and relevance of learner-driven models of higher education, ones where the educational practices flow from a celebration and cultivation of learner voice, choice, ownership, and agency.

And as many of you know, Goddard College remains on the journey, but with many incredible and positive achievements in 2020. When I arrived at Goddard in 2018, we were on probation with the accreditors, on track for over a million dollar deficit, struggling from multiple semesters of declining enrollment, and then in 2020 a global pandemic was added to the mix. Today, Goddard is no longer on probation, with a ten year accreditation renewal. We are operating from a balanced budget with a growing cash reserve, and we just welcomed the largest fall class since 2016. It has been the most challenging professional adventure of my career, risks remain (as they do in all of higher education), and there is more work to be accomplished. Yet, I am humbled and grateful to have been trusted to serve as President of this community as we navigated such times, and I am so proud of how the community came together to achieve such favorable results so far. I’ve shared this news in may other places, but for those longtime and loyal readers of Etale, which has obviously not received much attention during the last two years, I offer you this background to share a bit of what occupied my time in 2020.

Yet, writing and exploring educational ideas with readers like you is an important part of my life’s work and calling, and I’m resolved to return to some of that work in 2021, recognizing that my time is more limited while serving as a College president. With that in mind, here is what you can expect in 2021.

The digital world continues to evolve and while blogging is still valued by some of us, many more people in education are consuming content through video and audio. This is not an opinion. The data is undeniable. As such, I’ve decided to focus my content creation and rough draft exploration of ideas in some new forums this year.

Much of How I Used Etale in the Past is Moving to YouTube in 2021

Check it out and subscribe here: https://www.youtube.com/c/bernardbull

You will still find an occasional blog post on Etale, but for 2021, I launched a new YouTube channel, tentatively called Inspired Learning. In terms of content, it is very much the type of thing that I’ve written on Etale in the past, but with less on education policy and a greater focus upon designing hopeful, humane, and inspiring learning experiences (for both personal learning and in formal learning communities). These will be short videos of five to fifteen minutes, rough draft, exploring ideas that matter in education, and challenging us to move from idea to action. I pre-posted a few videos to launch the channel, but I plan to add one new short video each week. Please check it out and hit the subscribe button if you like what you see. I would be grateful for your help in spreading the word about this change, inviting others to subscribe as well, but only if it is something that you think others will find valuable.

The Edu Futures Podcast is Returning for Season Two

Check out season one and subscribe for season two here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-edu-futures-podcast/id1497857342 (This link is for iTunes, but it is on most other platforms as well.).

Amid the almost all-consuming but meaning-rich tasks at Goddard College this past year, I found brief evening escapes to enjoy a new endeavor, the launch of the Edu Futures podcast, interviews that explore forecasts, frontiers, and futures in education. Season one, which is already available online, included a delightful array of guests, people like Angela Duckworth, Tony Wagner, James Lang, Rohit Bhargava, Robert Pondiscio, Sarah Fine, Howard Rheingold, Ozan Varol, Bryan Alexander, Tom Vander Ark, Michael Staton, Thomas Frey, David Staley, Michael Horn, and many others. Season two is scheduled to launch in the first few months of 2021, with the goal of releasing at least 40 new episodes for the second season. If you want to be notified when the episodes for the new season arrive, just subscribe using the link above.

New Books

Thanks to many of you who bought and offered feedback on my last book, Breathe a Vison and Framework for Human-Centered Learning Environments. Yet, another part of my scholarship that was largely put aside amid the complexities of my work at Goddard was my writing. As such, I renegotiated due dates for several books, but I remain committed to finishing them in 2021, while starting a couple new project as well.

The book that I’ve been promising readers that I will get to this for years, will be finished this year. Learning Beyond Letter Grades, a call to cultivating cultures of learning over cultures of earning, is a top writing priority. I’m addition, I’m slowly working on finishing anther book that is specifically designed to help struggling private and faith-based schools work through their challenges, engage in honest and important reflection on their future, and create a path forward.

These days I commit to a daily evening/night habit of writing 250 words, nothing like what I’ve done in the past, but I’m getting closer and closer to completion on these two projects. Once they are complete, I’m venturing into two more book projects that I’ve mentioned in the past, The Lincoln Test: A Legacy of Learning Beyond Credentials, and Made by Measurement: Education Priorities Revisited. I’ve spoken to a few editors about these, but have not secured publishers. As such, chances are that you will not see these released until 2022, but 2021 is the year that most of the writing gets accomplished.

I’ve Accepted a New Challenge

It was a difficult decision, as I believe deeply in the learner-driven model and mission at Goddard college, but I recently accepted the call to become the next President of Concordia University Nebraska (CUNE). If all goes according to plan, I finish my time at Goddard August 1 and transition to CUNE soon after that. Lutheran education is my professional home, so when the call was extended, I found myself deeply honored to give back to the education system that has been there for me throughout much of my life, even amid challenges like the death of my father when I was twelve years old. I am sad to leave the Goddard community so quickly, but honored to take on this new opportunity for service.

Those are the four big pieces of news as I enter 2021. I have one other, but the timing is not quite right to share it. Of course, you will all be among the first to know once I am able to say more.

Until then, I wish you all a meaning-rich new year!

With grit and gratitude,

Bernard

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