This month the Inspired Learning Project Team interviewed Don Wettrick - innovation educator, author, podcaster, and CEO of StartEdUp. The interview reflected the aspects of Don's work that we most appreciate in that it was thought-provoking, reflective, transparent, and generous. The conversation encouraged inquiry into some the most important questions educators need to grapple with in order to evolve our schools. Included below are ten of the questions that Don answered in the discussion. Listen the interview and a look at the questions below. Then, take a stab at answering them yourself.
By John Clements, Principal of Nipmuc Regional High School
With a name like The Inspired Learning Project, it was only a matter of time before we featured Don Wettrick on our blog. As a teacher, author, CEO of StartEdUp, and educational adventurer, Don has become a source of excitement and encouragement for educators who are interested in evolving school to take advantage of modern learning opportunities.
Through the StartEdUp podcast he regularly shares moments of inspiration by highlighting the work of students, sharing the ideas of influential educators, and connecting with leaders from the world of business as a way to bridge the gap between schools and the professional world. Beyond that, he has also infused all of his work with an entrepreneurial spirit. His podcast is an example of how great ideas continue to evolve through reflection and dedication. From “Monday Motivation” episodes to features of his students to a series of interviews with thought-leaders, the StartEdUp podcast provides a public and transparent example of the power of iteration.
In this resource share, we’re excited to highlight one of StartEdUp’s Young Entrepreneur Spotlight (YES) episodes. This podcast shares the story of Manu (Swish) Goswami, a 19-year-old who turned his experience as a student into an entrepreneurial endeavor. The themes that arise in this spotlight are a reminder of the power and potential of the journey toward modern learning. Check out the podcast to learn about the following:
We want our students to come in and feel really welcome and to feel comfortable in their space. We want them to be running into school, not running out of school. So part of that is also making sure that they have some say in the classroom environment and they have some say and how they can move around in the space… It made sense to also then look at how we can support educators in the classroom to change the furniture and therefore change the learning environment.”
The design of a learning space tells a story about the type of learning that takes place in that room. Teachers recognize the negative impact of a cluttered or drab learning space. They have replaced the isolation of desks in rows with groups or pods that encourage collaboration. They value spaces that encourage curiosity rather than compliance. They ensure that the whiteboard is not the only way to share ideas by providing tools and resources that encourage expression and building and creativity. Fueled by the ideas of their colleagues - whether across the hall or via social media - they are constantly looking for ways to upgrade their learning spaces for students.
The challenge of this work is redesigning on a dime. While we embrace the idea of creating classrooms that embody our beliefs about learning, the reality of school budgets can’t be avoided. Creating an innovative learning space with decades-old furniture can seem daunting.
In December’s digital conversation, we had the privilege of speaking with a leader who created a practical, innovative, and inspiring solution to the challenge of redesigning learning spaces. Nicole Bottomely, Principal of Holliston High School (MA), spent some time with our team, sharing the design challenge that she provided to her faculty, practical strategies to empower student voice, the impact of this work on teaching and learning, and the culture of learning that defines her school.
Check out the interview and feel free to add your thoughts, ideas, and resources to the comment section.
The work to build schools that inspire requires innovative approaches to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of change. Through our monthly digital conversations, we highlight educators who are leading the work to reimagine school and the practical, actionable ways they have turned these obstacles into opportunities.
In this month’s digital chat, we took on one of the most formidable barriers to change: time. As a lead-in to our group conversation, we interviewed 2018 Massachusetts Principal of the Year and Principal of Monomoy High School (Harwich, MA) - Bill Burkhead. Principal Burkhead shared his school’s use of “Jawsome Hour”, a practical way to embed opportunities for students to pursue their passions as a part of every school day.
In this interview he shares the following:
We hope you enjoy this conversation and that you can join us for our next discussion on December 6 at 8pm EST. Join us as we build a network of learners and leaders who are committed to building schools that inspire!
Each of our digital conversations begins with a short interview with educators who are walking the walk to reimagine school. After the interview, we shut off the recording and engage in ~30 minutes of group conversation which is not recorded. Our hope is to provide a safe space to inspire you to consider new ideas, connect with a network to support your work, and encourage you to be a lead learner for your community. Join us on December 6 at 8pm EST for our next discussion!
By John Clements (A cross-post with NipmucPrincipals.com)
Last week I had the chance to give the keynote address at the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) annual Showcase of Model Schools. It was exciting to be part of this event which highlighted programming from some of New England’s most innovative schools. The audience was filled with educators who are inspired by the capacity of teachers to create schools that prepare students for the modern world.
I focused my comments on “Building Schools We Believe In” and was excited to share the work that Nipmuc has undertaken in building learning experiences that promote student agency, deep inquiry, and real work that matters.
When addressing this group of teachers and leaders, I encouraged them to be clear about our job as educators by asking them to share their definition of learning. As you might expect - even for some of the most talented teachers in New England - providing a single, cohesive definition of learning is a challenge.
Learning is complex and messy and difficult to describe - even for learning professionals. What’s easier to define is what learning is NOT. With that in mind, I asked the audience to share their answers of what learning isn’t. While it was challenging to build consensus about what learning IS, defining what learning is NOT was simpler. Check out their answers in the image below.
What’s exciting to me about these answers is that all of us, whether students or teachers or parents, can agree about what learning isn’t.
We agree that learning is not memorization or regurgitation of ideas.
We believe that learning is neither passive nor standardized.
We support a definition of learning that moves beyond lecture or skill-and-drill or busy work.
If we can agree what learning isn't, can we take the next step and build a shared definition of what learning is? The answer to that question is yes. Let's build that definition together!
3. Questions. Not answers. Our conversations focus on exploring questions together. You don’t need to have expertise… just curiosity.
4. Interviews first. Conversation follows. This year we’ll be hosting short interviews (approximately 10 minutes) with educational leaders who are doing the work to reimagine school before transitioning to full group conversation. The interview segments will be available - podcast-style - for sharing after the convo.
5. Safe space to learn together. The interviews are the only parts of the conversation that are recorded. After the beginning interview, we shut off the recording to allow for open discussions.
6. Change your tomorrow. New ideas shared by a community of professional learners help us to get actionable in shaping the future of our school. Join the discussions to expand your thinking and find ideas that will change your tomorrow.
The first Inspired Learning Conversation of the year takes place Thursday, November 8 from 3:30pm - 4:15pm (EST) as we explore reimagining the use of time in school. We’ll kick-off this new season with a short interview with Phil Conrad and Bill Burkhead. Mr. Conrad is Principal of Andover High School who has shared Andover’s reimagination of the school schedule with audiences across New England and the nation. Mr. Burkhead is the 2018 Massachusetts Principal of the Year and Principal of Monomoy High School where their “Jawsome Hour” has injected agency and personalization into the traditional school schedule.
Click this link on 11/8 from 3:30pm - 4:15pm to hear the interview and join the conversation.
By John Clements, Principal, Nipmuc Regional High School
Where do you go when you want to push your thinking? Do you have a reliable resource that can challenge the way you frame your ideas? If not... welcome to Akimbo. Akimbo is a podcast from Seth Godin - an entrepreneur, author, and thinker whose ideas sprawl across a range of topics from marketing and business to leadership and education.
Godin describes Akimbo as a podcast "about our culture and about how we can change it. About seeing what's happening and choosing to do something." Sound familiar? That mission resonates with an ever-growing audience of educators who spend each day in a similar headspace, reflecting on past practice and creating actionable solutions to build schools that inspire. Any of the Akimbo episodes are worth a listen. They are brief, tightly organized, and thought-provoking. Beyond that, they're told with simplicity, honesty, and closeness that makes the content feel more like a conversation than a lecture.
The episode I've featured here makes a case for doing the work - simply, persistently, and purposefully doing the work necessary to make an impact. It's worth a full listen; however for the sake of this blog post, I focused only on the Q &A section at the end of the episode. Each week Godin takes questions from the audience about the previous week's episode. In this Q & A wrap-up, one listener asks the question, "What is school for?" Using the embedded podcast above, feel free to scan ahead to the 20-minute mark of the episode or read the transcript below. Let Akimbo push your thinking with the question, "What is school for? "
Read the excerpt from Akimbo below and see how you would answer the question, "What is school for?".
Q: “How might a large organization like a public school district scale up efforts to make the system fit its students.”
A: Yeah, this is a great question and the idea is how do we use the bureaucracy we've got now - the efficient powerful bureaucracy - to make school what it needs to be, which is personalized and individualized education about leadership about making change happen. Well, I think if we think about it a little differently you'll see the problem. Let's say you ran a really efficient division of the army - the division of the army that shaves the heads of all the people on their way into boot camp. That on a good day you can shorn 400 people, no problem. Well, that's super efficient, and I understand how you would organize a squadron of barbers to end up with 400 haircuts done in no time. However, if you're going to take that approach and try to build a chain of beauty parlors and hair salons, you're going to fail. And the reason you're going to fail is not because you're bad at shaving the heads of 20 year olds. The reason you're going to fail is that's not what the public needs or wants from you.
And so the wrong answer would be “Here’s how you take this squadron you’ve got that was good at the old job and turn them into people who are good at the new job.” The right answer would be “What's the new job? Let's build something around that.” So the challenge of adjusting the bureaucracy of school is there can be no effortless, easy, top-down solution to this problem. That the problem is going to be solved the different way. It’s going to be solved by parents asking a simple question, “What is school for?” And if we can be clear with each other about “what is school for?”, we will no longer tolerate wasting time and money doing things that school isn't for. And organically - with a lot of dislocation and pain and suffering and discomfort, but yes organically, day-by-day, classroom-by-classroom, student-by-student, the school system will begin to change. But it will only begin to happen when we ask the question, “What is school for?”
Add your answer in the comments below. "What is school for?"
By John Clements, Principal of Nipmuc Regional High School
Across the nation this month, students and teachers have made their way back to classrooms with a mix of excitement about the new year, anxiety about the work and expectations in the year ahead, and - let’s be honest - a sense of sadness about saying goodbye to vacation. There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of vacation-mourning. Who doesn’t love the relaxed pace of the summer, the adventures of day trips or travel, and the chance to set our own agenda? Think of your own vacation. Did you read a book that’s been on your bedside table for months? Did you have summer days when you woke up excited about visiting a new location? Did you tackle a project at home that you’ve been putting off? The joy of summer isn’t about not working… it’s about doing the work you want to do.
The challenge for educators is to take these aspects of vacation and build them into the experiences we create for students. It’s about finding a way to make learning more than the curriculum, standards, and assessment prep. More and more, we are connecting with educators who share the excitement to move beyond traditional practice. They’re willing to recognize that the job of a teacher isn’t to cover material but to create lasting moments of learning… to inspire their students.
The Inspired Learning Project provides a resource and community that support educators in the challenge of reimagining school. We are believers that everyone is a learner. We are believers that cultures of learning are more powerful than cultures of teaching. We are believers in the talent, heart, and importance of teachers. We are believers that a community of like-minded professionals can support small changes that make a dramatic impact. Welcome back to the Inspired Learning Project!
The idea that small steps lead to big change is one of the key ideas shared by Ted Dintersmith in his recent book What School Could Be: Insights and Inspiration from Teachers across America. In the book, Dintersmith - a former venture capitalist turned education disrupter - shares the work of inspiring educators that he collected during a year of visiting schools across the nation. The book is an exciting call to action for parents, students, and educators to pursue an aspirational vision of school.
We’ll be sharing more from Ted Dintersmith (including some thoughts about his film Most Likely to Succeed) throughout the year. In this post, we encourage you to listen to his conversation with Will Richardson and Bruce Dixon from the Modern Learners podcast. (Always a reliable source of thought-provoking ideas!)
Check out the podcast to learn about the following:
Additional Resources Worth Checking Out
Click here to access the Modern Learners blog, podcasts, resources, and more.
Learn about Modern Learners' Change.School here. A powerful community dedicated to reimagining school. Each of the ILP team members is a graduate of Change.School. Cohort #6 is starting soon. Let us know if you're interested!
Check out What School Could Be by clicking here.
“When Mrs. Hough gave us the project I thought it was just another engineering project, I never thought we would actually design and create products that would be in Laos. Plus the project has grown so much, it is like a school wide project with cooking the food, making the movie, so many people are involved.”
Empowering Students to Globally Connect is a two-year project that started with three teachers who saw an opportunity for students at Mashpee Middle High School to connect with an Australian Professor and help the people of Laos. Our goal was to make a technology and engineering class project that connected to the real world. The students would be able to apply their engineering skills and see a global impact from their work. The outcome has been a global project that has impacted students not only in the Technology and Engineering class but many students throughout the school with the creation of a student produced movie. The original student movie has allowed for additional cross curricular opportunities within music, art, and culinary.
Empowering Students to Globally Connect started as a way to make technology and engineering have a real world connection. Students were initially tasked with researching the country of Laos with the end result creating a product that would improve the lives of its people. Initial research led to misconceptions that were clarified by Australian Professor Rachel Sheffield, who participates in mission trips to the country. Some of the information that Profession Sheffield shared included:
Mashpee High School students use their engineering skills to create products to better these students’ lives. Initially the ideas the students had and the products they created weren’t used for the original creation. For example, a student designed a strainer/colander assuming the Laos students would use it for noodles but he didn’t realize most of the foods the kids in Laos eat are soup. Instead the strainer is used to carry soap to and from the Mekong River for bathing. Other items were also created but we ran into a roadblock as we were not able to ship the products to Laos. Importing and exporting is not allowed by the Laos government which prevented the students from producing some of the items they thought would be helpful. We had to come up with an alternative way to help the Laos children. This roadblock was not obstacles for the students, as they decided to use PTC CREO Parametric software to design the strainer, shower caddy, and tic tac toe boards that could be 3D printed by Dr. Rachel Sheffield while she visited the country. The Laos children and the Monks that support them, enjoy playing with the boards and using the strainers.
None of us could have imagined how our meeting and connecting at a conference could lead us to this two year project and its far reaching impact on all of us. Our students showed their world to the Laos children who intern thought of our world as magical because of the advanced technology. The Mashpee students realized how lucky they are in the US and how easily they take for granted the basic things they have in life that the children of Laos do not have access too. The Mashpee students have come to realize the simple products they designed will have a far reaching impact which has changed them more than they realize.
Students involved in this project come from all grade levels and all abilities.
It allowed students who might not engage in a project typically because they feel it didn’t have meaning the opportunity to apply their skills in the real world. Many times your most reluctant learners are those that don’t see a purpose for doing the assignment, this project gave purpose specifically through the skyping sessions. The Mashpee students were able to see the effects their efforts in the classroom were having on the people of Laos through speaking with them and Rachel while she was there. Also, the core group that started the project were high school aged students in a Technology and Engineering class but the group has grown exponentially. We have included students from across grade levels and subject areas. Students involved in the project range from grade 8 through 12 and come from Culinary, Techsperts, Music, Art, Drafting, Engineering, and Technology. We have included students to film aspects of the project, Culinary assisted in creating a traditional Laotian meal for our culminating project, a music student is creating original score for the film the Techsperts are creating about the project, Art students are creating a special logo for our presentation at the International Society of Technology Educators (ISTE) Conference being held in June. These students don’t typically connect with each other but reaching across disciplines and interests has brought these students together in a way that may not have occurred otherwise.
The greatest challenge we had was the time difference. Dr. Sheffield lives in Australia and the time difference is 12 hours, this was true for when she was in Laos too. Trying to coordinate times to connect and skype was difficult. Also, in Laos they experience rolling blackouts so skype sessions were often interrupted or could not occur. Another issue was the temperature in Laos. Due to the heat and humidity the 3D printer often malfunctioned. The technology and engineering students also designed products that would fit the dimensions of our 3D printer only to find out the 3D printer brought to Laos was about half the size. They had to redesign their prototypes and adjust to product assemblies when designing in PTC CREO Parametric in order for the products to be printed. Although we had some challenges and some were completely out of our control we just kept at it. We rescheduled time to skype, changed printing days, and worked with the issues we were faced with. It would have been great to see more students but with our time difference it wasn’t possible.
Culminating experience, eating Laotian food and skyping with Dr. Sheffield while she was in Laos.
If you are thinking about a project to connect your students globally, here are some first steps to get you started:
Teaching Global Competence: https://asiasociety.org/education/teaching-global-competence-rapidly-changing-world?utm_campaign=crowdfire&utm_content=crowdfire&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter#61863287-tw#1516933155223
Amanda Hough is currently the Technology and Engineering Teacher at Mashpee Middle High School in her thirteenth year. Along with teaching Technology and Engineering she teaches High school Robotics and Engineering the Future to 8th graders. She holds teaching licenses in General Science 5-8, Technology and Engineering H.S., and has her Masters Degree in Administration K-12 Education. She is a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator, Competitive Robotics Coach, and avid Maker. She is a member of MassCue and ISTE. She is presenting at ISTE and has partnered with International Professors to create collaborative learning experiences for her students. She was nominated as one of the top five STEM teachers of the year in Massachusetts by the Hall at Patriot Place in 2018. Amanda truly believes in cross age student teaching and collaborates frequently with teachers within her school district to create authentic learning experiences for all students.
Colleen Terrill is currently the Director of Instructional Technology for Mashpee Public Schools after being a 6th grade teacher for 15 years. She provides ongoing professional development for teachers in her district where she focuses on the importance of balance between technology and curriculum. Colleen is a regular presenter at regional and national conferences such as MassCUE, ACTEM, Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference, CoSN, Tech and Learning Live and ISTE. She was a Keynote Panel Presenter for the New England 1:1 Summit. She is also an Associate Professor through the Extended Campus Program at Fitchburg State University where she teaches Explicit Instruction as well as Technology Integration in the Classroom. She is currently pursuing her Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Educational Leadership from Curry College.
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