Hey Orville and Wilbur, you can’t fly!

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Today is the 110-year anniversary of the Wright brothers’ historic, first-ever powered flight.

Returning home from Philadelphia yesterday, where I delivered two workshops on results-only learning, the idea of jetting across America at 15,000 feet being impossible never occurred to me. After all, thousands of planes make similar flights daily.

via: eyewitness history.com

Reliving that century-old first flight vicariously through pictures and excerpts from Orville Wright’s diary, I couldn’t help but wonder about the skepticism the inventors faced. “Hey, Orville and Wilbur,” dumbfounded friends most certainly warned, “you can’t fly!”

The brothers must have been insane to even consider placing an engine in a mechanical bird and hoping that it would leave the ground and take flight, with one of them on board. How could it be possible? No one had ever done it, and it seemed completely illogical.

Neither worry of ridicule nor fear of failure, though, stopped Orville and Wilbur from changing history and vaulting society to a new technological plateau. Travel would never be the same, and distance could never impose insurmountable barriers to people living their dreams.

Hey Mark, you can’t eliminate grades

During my recent workshops, I told more than 150 educators that if we are to improve teaching and learning, we must stop grading our students.

The idea that measuring achievement with numbers, percentages and letters is as archaic as the notion that Orville and Wilbur Wright couldn’t fly. They knew that we could travel farther and faster, just as many teachers know that we can evaluate learning through observation, trial and error and two-way narrative feedback.

Sadly, most do not have the courage that the Wright brothers had. “Our administration demands grades,” some workshop attendees said. “The colleges and parents expect grades,” others added.

While some teachers seem open to alternative forms of assessment, the resounding notion that teachers can’t eliminate grades remains intact.

If they were teachers rather than engineers, I wonder what Orville and Wilbur would have said about that.

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Mark Barnes is the author of many education books, including Bestseller Hacking Education, part of his Hack Learning Series, books that solve big problems with simple ideas. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and student-centered learning. Join more than 100,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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