TGIF! Sep 22 2017

TGIF!

Happy first day of Autumn!  Wipe the sweat from your brow and raise a glass of iced lemonade to toast the changing of the seasons. And after watching the kids play soccer tomorrow morning – assuming games aren’t cancelled due to the heat index – you can head over to the state park and drop your beach blanket down in between the snow fences! Tip: if you’re looking for ice cream, I know the Dairy Creme at Chinook Pier is open through Sunday.

But no complaining.  This is fuel for the soul before La Nina punches us in the gut in a couple of months.  (Get your skis tuned now!)

Real Innovation

From EdWeek (paywall) this week:

Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page aren’t shy about sharing the secret of how they came up with new products like Gmail and Google News: They allowed the company’s engineers to be creative. To be exact, they allowed their engineers to spend 20 percent of their work time on their own innovative passion projects… What if our K-12 schools believed in students the same way that Google believes in its engineers and universities trust their professors? What if we had that same faith in our students’ talents and capabilities?

Several years ago, as a middle school teacher at a Title I public school in New Haven, Conn., I told my 8th graders that for one period per day, they could spend time solving a problem they cared about instead of doing traditional schoolwork. Doing so changed my classroom: After years of teaching standards, I began teaching students.

We started by brainstorming students’ concerns about the world. They noticed that TV cameras rolled into the neighborhood when there was a murder, but not when good things happened. They were concerned about police brutality and a lack of trust between officers and teenagers. They worried about how the media portrayed young people, particularly young people of color like themselves, as uncaring rather than as the impassioned and curious people they are.

We then worked together to create standards-based projects that addressed those concerns. We developed the same skills students in other classes were learning, but we did so for real reasons. We built a website where they researched and reported their own stories for an online audience, responding to events in the news and paying attention to what the news overlooked. We designed a campaign to reduce stereotypes of officers and teenagers that students presented at the local police academy. We started a neighborhood museum at our school to celebrate the stories of our community.

… None of this was for a grade or because I, as their teacher, told them to. Instead, they did it because they could—and because they wanted to. Though I have since left the classroom, I still hear about the ways my students are making a difference at their high schools.

The traditional method of mass education starts with a curriculum and fits it to students’ needs. Too often, students’ interests exist separately from school, and they complete assignments for their teacher’s eyes only. Personal passion is too often missing from our classrooms.

As teachers, we should approach education the other way around: by starting with our students and then shaping a curriculum around them. When we give our students real responsibility to tackle problems connected to their interests, they flourish.

Learning Links

A few more pieces on innovation:

From Getting Smart, Why Factory-Model Change Won’t End the Era of Factory-Model Schools.  As Albert Einstein said, ““We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Shared on our Facebook page: Why more and more high schools are acting like start-ups: “Mission statements about innovation are a lot more common than the real thing. The most successful schools do more than get tablet computers in the classroom — they rethink instruction altogether. At Leyden High Schools in Franklin Park, Illinois, ninety percent of all tech-support tasks are now handled by high schoolers. Students are encouraged to develop business plans for startups and use school facilities to videoconference with mentors in the business world.”

In closing….

Find yourself some pumpkin spice sunscreen and go enjoy this crazy weather!

Kim

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TGIF! Aug 18 2017

TGIF!

If you don’t recall, or perhaps you weren’t a subscriber at the time, but our core purpose at Imagine! West Michigan is to help our students to gain the self-awareness and experience necessary to create a purposeful life.  That’s why we talk so much about how to create opportunities for kids to figure out who they are, what they want to do and try out paths to get there.  And while every high school will talk about career preparation (in the context of “college preparation” and sometimes with a nod to “life preparation”) we believe in young people living their lives now – not waiting for them to start.  Not only is this the best preparation anyway (“you can’t steer a ship that isn’t moving”) but figuring out what you want to do with yourself is not the “once and done” endeavor of our parents, but an iterative process our kids will find themselves managing through again and again.  I figure, learning how to do that young, and with support, is a great place to start.

So having said that, now I’m going to bash on STEM.  Apologies in advance.

 

A word about STEM Education from Teacher Tom

Teacher Tom is Tom Hobson, a teacher at a wonderful cooperative preschool in Seattle.  He blogs at teachertomsblog.blogspot.com, and back in March he wrote a post about STEM, a topic it turns out he is somewhat uniquely positioned to have an opinion about.  As it turns out, his wife is the CEO of a software company:

Earlier in her career she was an automotive executive and has held senior positions in several technology-based businesses. She is, as she realized to her delight not long ago, one of those much sought for rarities: a woman with a successful STEM career. That said, she studied languages at university. That’s right, languages, not science, technology, engineering or math, yet here she is today running a technology company.

Science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM as they are collectively called in the contemporary lexicon, has become an emphasis for our schools both public and private. The idea is that those legendary “jobs of tomorrow” will require STEM skills and so we are feverishly “educating” our children to be prepared for their future roles in the economy. Setting aside the hubris embodied in the assumption that anyone can predict what jobs our preschoolers will grow up to hold, science, technology, engineering and math are important aspects of what it means to be human and fully worthy of exploration whether or not one is going to one day require specific employment skills.

When my wife was a preschooler, no one envisioned computers on every desktop, let alone on every laptop. The internet hadn’t even made an appearance in science fiction novels. And we all carried dimes in our pockets just in case we needed to make a call on a public phone. Today she is the CEO of a software company by way of the automotive industry by way of the jobs that her study of languages made available to her when she stepped into the workforce. The problem with predicting what specific “job” skills our children will need in the future is that we can only guess, because it’s not us, but the children themselves who will invent those jobs, just as my wife has invented her own STEM career.

So the “bash” on STEM isn’t really against STEM, but against the hubris that teaching say, computer programming, is the be-all and end-all answer to prepare kids for a changing economy.  The truth is that we don’t know what the future will hold.  But it’s also true that every one of us has an amazing collection of gifts and talents, very few of which we get to express in traditional models of schooling.

Rather than guess at what the future might need, knowing we’ll most certainly wrong, I’d advocate for finding ways to apply what we are really good at today, then continuously adapt.  After all… if it turns out you hate programming, how much worse to also find out later in life that “guarantee” of a good career, wasn’t?

Too often, we spend years thinking we are “dumb” or narrowly defining our “skills” only to find out later on that our more quirky talents are often the most precious.

 

In closing….

As always, thank you for reading and for your support.

Kim

TGIF! Aug 11 2017

TGIF!

Last week was quite a long post. We’ll keep it shorter today by just sharing a few links from our Facebook feed over the past couple of weeks.

If you prefer not to use social networking, but are curious about the articles we share and post on our page, you can view all our posts publicly without having a Facebook account.  Just browse on over to www.facebook.com/imaginewestmichigan/.

College application insanity

“High schools need to realize that, while students amassing millions of dollars in scholarships and hundreds of college acceptance letters seems like an accomplishment, the outcome for many students is the total opposite. Too many students end up not going to a school that is the best fit for them, taking on piles of debt, and dropping out with no workforce experience. The goal should be that each high school student will graduate having a grasp on their career path (and experience in that field), scholarships to the school of their choice (full rides or little to no debt), and be confident in where they will be spending the next four to six years of their life.” https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2017/07/18/my-high-school-told-me-to-apply-to-100-colleges-and-i-almost-lost-myself-in-the-process/

Work-based learning for credit in Vermont

“I just thought it was really awesome to have the chance to explore your interests in ways outside the classroom setting and gain skills that may actually be useful in the workplace,” Eurich said. “Because it’s really hard to gauge that just by taking classes similar to a career.” http://hechingerreport.org/one-state-students-ditching-classrooms-jobs/

A lesson from preschools – how to prepare kids for an AI economy

“A big challenge — and one he said is essential to preparing children for a labor market in which routine and individualized tasks are being automated — is making sure this style of education is not lost in higher grades, when teachers turn to lecturing and standardized curriculums… learning to work in groups and be creative – and that this problem you’re facing today looks like a problem you faced in a different context a year ago – is a process that is very hard for artificial intelligence to replicate.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/upshot/how-to-prepare-preschoolers-for-an-automated-economy.html

In closing….

Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

Kim

TGIF! Jul 28 2017

TGIF!

Lots of good discussion about internships this week as we continue to talk with local businesses.  What kinds of preparation will 14- and 15-year-old students need to be ready to contribute at a professional level?  What kinds of jobs, roles, or projects could businesses see our high schoolers performing?  We hear the same things over and over again – employers need critical thinking, problem solving, and communication!

How can students prepare for internships?

It turns out, preparing for and acquiring an internship is a process with almost as much benefit as the learning that comes from the internship itself!  At Acton Academy, advisors support students to find and secure their internships on their own.  Here are some nuggets from their process:

1. Digging deeply into your gifts, activities that bring you joy and deep burning needs in the world to create a prioritized list of apprenticeship possibilities.

2. Writing a compelling introductory email to a business owner you see as a hero or role model, asking for a short phone call to explain the Acton apprenticeship model.

3. Crafting a phone pitch explaining how apprenticeships work, including a promise to show up early, work late and do whatever it takes to add real value, and asking for a chance to meet in person.

4. Creating an in-person pitch, where you ask for a chance to prove yourself.

5. Learning to manage a portfolio of apprenticeship possibilities, just in case your first choice runs into logistical problems.

6. Negotiating a contract with your employer and parents to make sure goals and promises are clear.

7. Having a plan to add value in the first few days and a way to capture the lessons you learn.

8. Following up with thank you letters and a request for a reference letter.

Learning Links

Elon Musk – the importance of Why to learning

Todd Rose – high school dropout turned Harvard professor on why no one anywhere is average – and why education needs to change to reflect that

Benefits of Social/Emotional Learning – in life and in academics too

 

In closing….

And today it begins… welcome to Coast Guard Festival everyone!  Get out and enjoy this crazy vacation in our own backyard.

 

Kim

TGIF! Mar 17 2017

TGIF!

It’s a mishmash today – there were some really inspiring stories and examples I’ve run across this week I want to share with you.  First, a shout out to our new subscribers!  (By the way, as soon as we finalize our logo I will be moving our newsletter over to MailChimp. As our subscriber list grows, I need something more robust than Outlook to manage it.)

So, two heartwarming stories below and then in the closing, a list of volunteer opportunities – please think about how you can help us make this school a reality!

OneStone – is it a school, or is it a charitable nonprofit?

Here’s an amazing school design I came across this week, OneStone, a tuition-free private independent school in Boise, ID.  At OneStone, “all learners work on One Stone ventures that provide real-world experience while helping to fund the school and its programs.”  Which is really an amazing idea – why couldn’t a school be organized as a “student-led and directed nonprofit”?  Why couldn’t it be funded by philanthropy not merely interested in creating a school but rather by those charitable organizations who are investing in the work of the organization?  And why can’t that good work – in addition to benefiting the community – be a basis for learning?  It gives me hope that one of Imagine’s signature program elements – to create a four-year class community service project where students use design principles to address a significant community need somewhere in the world – will be economically viable.  And, it just goes to show how many amazing, innovative ideas are starting to percolate around the country (more on that below)

Why now could be the MOST amazing time to be a learner…

Great video from Will Richardson (Will was at SxSW Edu last week) on the surprising truth about learning in [traditional] schools, a look at some alternatives, and why now, if we have the commitment and the courage, can be the most amazing time to be a learner in history.

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/sxyKNMrhEvY?rel=0

More Learning Links

From Pioneering magazine, a story by Hannah Bertram on her transition from a traditional high school to Iowa BIG, and how it transformed her previous connotations of education.  https://education-reimagined.org/redefining-comfort-zone/

 

In closing….

Have you been wondering how you can help Imagine! West Michigan bring this new high school to fruition next Fall (2018)?  Here are our current volunteer opportunities:

  • Participate in a parent interview
    • if you are the parent of a preteen or teen and we haven’t talked, I would love your input! Just reply to this email and we’ll set up a time.
  • Professional quality photographers
    • we are working on marketing materials – print and web – and professional quality photographs will be needed. Email me if you can help!
  • We also need photography subjects!
    • Looking for a diverse group of teens 14-19, email me if you know someone who would like to participate.
  • Copyeditors
    • If you have a talent for writing, are you willing to help review a section or two of our charter application?  Email me!
  • Promotion
    • This is for everyone… just keep spreading the word!  Forward, like, and share Imagine! West Michigan but more importantly – tell a friend!

Thanks, Imagine! West Michigan community – for your interest, inspiration, and generosity.

🍀 Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 🍀

Kim