The final day of our visit to Silicon Valley was packed with activity that filled my brain with questions that I know will impact my practice and result in future conversations, both offline and online. In this final post, I’ll highlight the activities of the day and share the questions these experiences generated for me.
Brightworks is a maker/tinkering school developed from the work of Gever Tully. (Watch his intriguing TEDx talks.). Assistant Director, Anthony Consilio summed up the work of the school, “The reality…it’s just learning to learn.” Anthony talked to us at length about the importance of the elementary experience where the children discover their learning styles and figure out “what their tools are” as humans and learners. There is lots of focus on self-awareness in the early years. Learning is truly personalized around student passions, and content is woven organically throughout the projects learners make. I asked Anthony how they track student competencies. He explained their use of portfolios and how the portfolio contains so many iterations of a project that it makes the process of finding points of growth and strength relatively easy. There is also a “huge emphasis” on student reflection and self assessment.
- How are we providing our learners with opportunities to iterate?
- Is our obsession with efficiency in assessment practices actually working against us?
- What elements of Brightworks have a place and transfer to a public school context?
ImagineK12 is an edtech accelerator – they work with emerging edtech startups to get on their feet by providing support so they can find investors. Companies that have started their work with ImagineK12 include Remind, ClassDojo and Padlet. We had a very interesting conversation with co-founder, Tim Brady, and partner, Karen Lien.
- The school leader conversation – Why does it seem as if school leaders have been left out of the edtech conversation between startups and educators? Tim shared, “If i wanted to test a product I had to go through the principal and superintendent. I came upon a roadblock. So I went to the teachers.”
- Aren’t most of the start-ups developing products that reinforce a teacher-centered model, focusing on some point of efficiency? At one point, Tim mentioned the phrase “scaling great teaching.” Shouldn’t we be scaling great learning?
- How do start-ups balance the need to make money with the need to create a product that makes a difference?
- Which technologies get beyond simple productivity and making work more efficient? Which ones actually promote a change in the system and not a reinforcing of a teacher-centric model? Answer: This is a problem….how do developers find the sweet spot that meets the user needs as well as is investible?
- How can we as leaders help mitigate this challenge? What if leaders were involved in this process? Would engaging leadership in the edtech conversation compel startups to create products to assist in reimagining the current model and not reinforcing it?
- How do we get tech startups to think about reimagining education rather than perpetuating the current content/teacher driven model?
This was an opportunity (compressed in a very short period of time) to experience the design thinking process. The workshop started with several fun and engaging activities to get the participants relaxed and able to think creatively. I learned that the brain is used to thinking in certain ways that can stifle the creative process. It’s important to be self-aware, especially when you want to be open to all possible solutions to a problem. The workshop was taught by students who had just gone through the 4-day intensive design thinking course at the d.school. We focused on two stages of the process: ideate and prototype.
There is a lot to unpack from this experience. It was so much fast-paced thinking in a very compressed amount of time. But I can see how this process, once more fully understood, can have a positive impact on creativity and the development of solutions to problems.
- What other opportunities are available to better understand this complex process?
- Who are the experts in PA? What schools embrace design thinking?
- How might we impact learners’ creative thinking through an understanding of the design process?
Traveling around town earlier this week, our trip organizer, Joe Mazza, discovered a business called Doze, providing opportunities for people to take naps during the day in a safe environment. With a curiosity in how the brain works and an understanding of the importance of sleep and rest to cognitive and creative work, Joe reached out to make a connection with the owner, Brandon Smith. We learned that the business closed in February. Despite this, we met up with Brandon who showed us the napping pods and also talked to us about his interest in this area. It was an interesting conversation from the lens of both a startup and brain research on sleep.
- What do we know about sleep needs of teens and children? Most studies seem to be on adults and their needs.
- How do we find opportunities for students to disconnect during the day, to take brain breaks?
This was an awesome week of learning! Thanks to our trip organizer, Joe Mazza and the people that made up our team!
- Glenn Robbins
- Pam Greenblatt
- Christy Brennan
- Hadley Ferguson
- Jennifer Williams
- Bryan Miller
- Christine Mahady
- Julie Torres
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