Although the hour went by much too swiftly, Suzie Boss, Brett Jacobsen, and I had a great time sharing our thoughts on the topic of Bringing Innovation to School today at NAIS AC 13

The slides are above.  If you are interested, you can click over to read Mike Gwaltney’s notes from the session.

In my remarks, I made reference to my presentation a year ago at NAIS on Innovative Schools, Innovative Students, which you can find here. 

My remarks also drew heavily upon a post I wrote last fall on about the power of peer networking and Steven Johnson’s new book, Future Perfect, which can be found here. 

boss book cover

Highly recommended for our attendees and everyone else interested in this topic is Suzie’s book,  Bringing Innovation to School.

As a part of our session, we invited attendees to answer themselves on sticky notes questions about how they are, or how they would, bring innovation to school– and as promised, I’m happy to share them here:

How might we innovate around…

Learning assessment?

  • Group/self evaluation of public speaking, collaboration, using rubrics and feedback
  • Have students design the assessments and rubrics
  • Build more assessments for learning
  • Include multiple assessors (members of community, parents, etc.)
  • Use of rubrics with the 4 C’s
  • Listen more
  • Project-based assessment
  • Always think about what type of human you’re attempting to graduate first. Then match assessment (and learning) to those desired transformative outcomes

Learning space?

  • Flexible
  • Make every classroom a makerspace
  • Cover walls with Idea Paint
  • Ask: If we had a blank space to create a new middle school, what would it look like?
  • Collaborate with other subject areas and other classrooms in different schools
  • Flexible space with flexible, comfortable furniture
  • Spaces for: 1 student, 3 students to work together, 5-8 as a group, 15-25 as a class, 30+ for group experiments
  • Think “outside” the box. Different types of learning require different spaces
  • Involve students in designing their school spaces; visit as many other schools as possible (from both your and other school “genres”) (more…)
  • Design, Engineer, Build
  • Personalize, Choose, Create
  • Access, Integrate, Engage
  • Curiosity, Interest, Passion, Joy

As regular readers may recall, I’ve written several times before about the extraordinary educational leadership of Dr. Pam Moran, superintendent of Albemarle County: first from a distance, and then from a close up and in person view.

Now readers have the opportunity to view her themselves by viewing this new TEDx talk from Dr. Moran, in which she shares her many ideas and concepts for educational transformation, as can be seen above, the titles of her slides.

In this talk, she calls upon all us to take learning from what NASA deems the limitations of low orbit travel exemplified by the space shuttle to deep space exploration of Moon, Mars, and beyond missions.    Standardized testing and test prep keep us in low orbits, but we need to take learning beyond to deeper understanding, greater mastery, creativity and production as opposed to consumption and regurgitation.

I especially appreciate her passion and commitment for not just STEM, but STEAM, because integrating arts and artistic/design sensibilities into STEM learning is so critical to creating tomorrow’s innovators.    She shares very engaging examples of students participating in Coderdojos and various Design/engineer/build and Makerspace labs.

CoderDojo-102033

Note: I am delighted to be co-presenting with Dr. Moran next month at Educon at Science Leadership Academy Philadelphia, on the topic of Performance Task Assessment & the CWRA: Better Goal Posts.

Just last week I was asked by a colleague for a readily accessible, engaging and stimulating short introduction and overview of 21st century learning he could provide his faculty, and, somewhat embarrassingly, I found myself a bit stumped.

I know of plenty of great books, but what the best single short and free resource?

One option, and it is a pretty good option, is the pamphlet from NAIS, A Strategic Imperative: A Guide to Becoming a School of the Future, (which I was pleased to be a small contributor to).   But it is written a bit more for school-leaders than for teachers, is a bit long, and is a little dry.     It is still a great resource though; I’ve embedded it at the bottom of this post [after “more…”].

So it was with great satisfaction that I scanned the above first publication of Brain Food for Education, which comes from the innovation firm Unboundary and was produced by my good friend and highly esteemed educational blogger and thinker, Bo Adams.

This is a great tool for the purpose I described, and as such, includes of course great links for those who want to dig deeper and learn more.

4 things I like especially: 

1.  The visual look and graphic design is tremendous: bright, appealing, professional.

2.  The Discussion prompts shared on page 19 are very helpful: they could be a great resource for schools working to generate more and better conversation among all their constituencies as they facilitate change.    (for an additional resource, see the discussion prompts included in the guide to becoming a school of the future,page 36).

3.   The schools selected as exemplars are inspiring– from the nation of Finland (and I was glad to learn of the RSA video about PISA here) to High Tech High and Nueva Schools in California.    As Bo writes, “just seeing even one example can help us raise our aspirations and trajectories.”   Indeed– and I’d underscore, try to go and see them first-hand.

(more…)

The Innovation Portal - Online Collaboration for the Creation of Engineering Portfolios   Online Collaboration for the Creation of Engineering Portfolios-100957

Two of my great interests and enthusiasms regarding 21st century learning have, until now, felt a bit divorced from and at odds with each other.   Yesterday, however, I learned more about a fascinating bridge developing for them.

The first is high quality, authentic 21st century assessment: if we are going to make new pathways in learning that is more meaningful for students, more preparatory for the futures they are inheriting and more engaging for the people they are today, we need to have tools that allow us to evaluate effectively their learning, both to provide meaningful endorsements of these learning paths for the skeptical and, more importantly, to correct our courses to keep doing so more effectively.

The second is the joyful messiness of open-ended and unstructured project-based learning that is found in Fab labs, design-build studios, design thinking centers, and maker-faire type spaces.   These places ought to be free from tight strictures– they should celebrate experimentation, learning by doing, trial and error, fast-failure, and never be stifled by narrow or miserable “testing.”

It might be cruel to introduce assessment to these labs and studios, but I want those teachers and students who want to find a way to build in more structure, such that they can better evaluate their own progress, get external feedback, and meaningfully improve their work to have quality ways to do so.

Clearly I am not the only one to think this (and I never am).

The Innovation Portal was launched in the last year or so, (with strong support from Project-Lead-the Way, itself also a valuable resource),and as you view the site you can see it is still developing and rounding out.  It provides a platform for

students to create, maintain and share digital portfolios. The portfolios can be used to meet a class requirement or they can be used to submit the portfolio to a scholarship or open contest. The contest owners – or anyone else invited by the student – can evaluate a student’s portfolio. (more…)

This free publication, dated to February 2012, is a valuable and economically efficient vehicle for enhancing the understanding of any faculty which is making the move toward PBL.   If it were me, I’d think about distributing it widely, making it available in a printed version for those who prefer reading that way, and use it as a faculty summer reading option or for part of a year-long faculty study of PBL.

Coming as it does as an addition to the existing literature on project-based learning, and most particularly the many resources available from BIE, both free and priced, the new book offers both reiteration, valuable as that is and well supported with examples, and a few new notes.  I thought it’d be most helpful to identify what it adds to the conversation, and most particularly where its emphases are different/additional to what BIE calls the 8 Essential Elements (and, of course, which I think are especially important).

These differences/additions can be best summarized with four C’s:

Currency, Critique, Collaborative Colleagueship, and (Traditional) Components. 

1. Currency: The booklet opens with a helpful commentary on why PBL now.

There have been two key shifts that have reignited teachers’ interest in project-based learning and helped it to shake off its stigma.

Firstly, and most obviously, digital technology makes it easier than ever before for students to conduct serious research, produce high-quality work, keep a record of the entire process, and share their creations with the world.

Secondly, we now know much more about how to do good, rigorous projectbased learning, and we can evaluate its effectiveness.

Surely all of us exmaining PBL would find many more reasons to add to the mix, most importantly that an embrace of PBL methodology follows naturally upon the previous embrace of teaching 21st century skills as our first and foremost “outcomes” priority.

2.  Critique.  BIE’s essential elements includes, importantly, one entitled “Revision and Reflection”  (though I’ve always been curious why in that order: wouldn’t one normally reflect before revising?). (more…)

I enjoyed a great day presenting at ISACS last week in Louisville.

Below you’ll find most of my materials from those presentations; thank you all who attended and thank you ISACS for inviting me.

Innovative Schools, Innovative Students:  A near identical version of those slides is available here.


Innovation is Iteration: the Marshmallow Challenge

After this highly interactive and energetic workshop, participants shared with me a set of great ideas they had for bringing the marshmallow challenge back to their schools.  One person spoke of being at a K-8 school with “family groups” composed of one student for each grade k-8, and using them there; another said she was at a PS-12 school where the pressure to be perfect and right all the time felt very strong and she wanted to do a school-wide marshmallow experience; another explained they were moving toward an iPad 1-1 implementation very slowly, concerned they needed to get everything in order just right before launching and that she wanted to do this to encourage people to jump in and start experimenting.

The slides above, which I used in a webinar I presented Monday for Simple K-12, is based on a post I wrote about a year and a half ago, entitled 15 Ways our Schools Can Prepare to be Relevant and Meaningful in 2015 and beyond.

The new presentation has evolved, of course,  a fair amount since that post, and it will continue to evolve, I am sure, in an organic way.     In this newer version, I made more of an emphasis on digital citizenship, added in some discussion of open computer testing, and expanded the conversation about personalized learning (via adaptive learning software) to include a discussion of recent fascination with student-centered learning analytics.

As I discuss in the webinar, this post/presentation/ongoing thinking can be seen as my response to or contribution to the work of others posing and framing the question: why school and how school should be in these fast changing times.   It is in part my tentative, still and always developing response to the subtitle of Will Richardson’s new book, Why School: How Education Must Change When Learning and Information are Everywhere.

It is also, in a sense, my take on Michael Horn’s article (co-written with Clayton Christensen), Rethinking Student Motivation, in which they offer their thinking on what students “hire” education for.  (For more about that, including a short dialogue I had with Michael in the comments, click here).  Using Horn’s metaphor of “hiring,” I am trying to answer what schools need to do to continue to be employed by students, and what they need to do to support their students in being employed in their future.

Let me unpack just a bit the two key descriptors.  By compelling, I mean learning which is engaging and attractive to students; it what they will find compelling them to want to come to school.   We want students to come to school not because it is mandatory nor because we offer them some vague promise it will prepare them for their future, but because they are eager to be there and to make the most of the environment.   In part, my intent is to preserve the bricks and mortar school-house, which I still think is a wonderful thing, but which is facing fast increasing competition from virtual learning environments, and so my argument for those situated in buildings is to determine what is it which will continue what brings students to school.

By relevant, I mean meaningfully and valuably preparatory for the world in which our students live today and, to the best of our ability to forecast, they will live in tomorrow.    What do they need to learn and what do we need to do to ensure they do?

Readers here can access and view the webinar at this link— but not necessarily for free.   If you are already a full member, you should be fine for free viewing; if you have not joined them yet, you’ll see a $17 price tag, but I think you can get a free basic membership, which then entitles you to watch a small/limited number of on-demand webinars for free.

I am seeking more opportunities to share this presentation;  readers who might be interested could suggest to your school, state or regional association, for instance, that I be invited to present at your next conference or professional development day.  This is a continually evolving conversation, which I think will be a little bit different each time I share it.

Below are some of the works cited in the presentation.