Our second cohort was highlighted today in the Savannah Morning News. What an incredible group of thoughtful educators ready to transform education from the inside out…
The story in this morning’s Savannah Morning News
Our second cohort was highlighted today in the Savannah Morning News. What an incredible group of thoughtful educators ready to transform education from the inside out…
The story in this morning’s Savannah Morning News
Innovation occurs at the edges of disciplines. Over the course of the 2015-16 school year, 20 fellows from 12 different schools (public and private) have come together with innovators and entrepreneurs in our community to explore ways in which we can build these bridges to transform our classrooms and schools into relevant environments that promote change and entrepreneurship.
Working with a myriad of innovators, technology experts, and entrepreneurial organizations, we began our year by considering the real purposes of education and why there is a pressing need to transform schools and classroom environments to meet these purposes more fully for our students.
We embarked on an openminded exploration of the ways in which we might learn and integrate an entrepreneurial process for achieving this transformation and how to utilize this process with our own students. This exploration took us to Geekend and makerspaces at The Guild Hall, Fast Pitch and 1 Million Cups at the Creative Coast, as well as reflective sessions that included resources and other voices in the conversations around innovation and education.
In our second to last session of the year, we joined together at Miskatonic Labs at The Guild Hall on Wednesday, April 6, to reflect on what processes we saw at work in all these explorations and how we can use those to address a problem in our own classrooms or schools. Fellows worked in small groups with educators from other schools to identify a problem worth solving. They chose an innovator to pull into their work for the day to provide critical feedback and insight into developing their problem or proposal and apply the design process to develop a solution.
In this work, fellows have gained a deeper knowledge, exposure, and appreciation for the frameworks of design and iteration that promote innovation in technology and entrepreneurship. They are equipped to bring this back to share with their students and their colleagues. Our collective dream as we end our first year (officially) is that this cohort creates concentric circles of optimistic change and transformation.
In reflecting on their work, one fellow compassionately shared, “I am so inspired by all our work thus far. This fellowship has been a true godsend for me. I am thankful for the opportunity it has given me to build new relationships as we strive to make Savannah a better place for our youth.”
Many thanks to the fellows who have committed to this conversation. I have much gratitude for our community innovators in our work and especially The Guild Hall and The Creative Coast in our work. Our advisory board has been amazing.
You can learn more about the fellowship and the dedicated participants at our website: www.teachthefuture.co How can you get involved? You can become an innovator, share your space, refer an educator, or provide a partial or full scholarship to help us continue this important dialogue and work.
This article in Savannah Morning News shares the work of our inaugural class of fellows. Applications for the fellowship class of 2016-17 opens February 1.
In response to their experiences at Geekend, two of our inaugural fellows wrote reflections on their learnings and insights. What makes these two reflections so great are the different backgrounds and perspectives from which they come. One is written with fellow educators in mind and one is crafted as a letter for parents of current students. The first from an educator earlier in her career and the second from an educator who has dedicated decades to teaching in our public schools. Interestingly, Amanda Fox did part of her student teaching with Ron Phillips a few years ago. You never know where your connections might resurface!
In a reflection from Amanda Fox:
“If you haven’t attended Geekend, a conference that boasts bringing together “the brightest designers, coders, innovators, artists, technology mavericks, and forward-thinking entrepreneurs” to Savannah for workshops, networking and inspiration, then I recommend getting in on the 2016 conference (Creative Coast, 2015). This year in October 2015, I attended my second Geekend conference here in Savannah, Georgia, and it’s impact is being carefully woven throughout my curriculum in the form of community experts, promised Skype sessions, gained knowledge and direction, and sustained relationships that are beginning to resemble more of a friendship.
From an educator’s initial impression, a teacher may feel like they don’t quite belong at this conference from it’s description. I mean we do have a host of our own educational technology conferences tailored for our specific profession: GaETC, FETC, SC Midlands summit, and all within driving distance! I surmise that even some teachers that do attend are daft to the power of networking that ultimately results in a missed opportunity due to our myopic professional glasses, and the continued questions of “How does this relate to me and what I teach?”
If this is the case, and you found yourself wondering these things, you simply aren’t doing it right. Like the average educational conference where a few nuggets of valuable strategies or the next big app will be absorbed through passive listening, this conference requires participation: and that doesn’t mean conversing with the teacher friend you came with! You must take off your teacher hat. Forget your teacher goggles. Stop the silent drone of standards, content, and trying to find a way to relate to the sessions.
Now listen. Interact with these professionals genuinely. Ask questions about what they do. Share what you do when asked, and don’t be too eager to force a connection. Be present in the moment, and stop planning for tomorrow. The conference is about tomorrow! Through genuine engagement with professionals that are defining the jobs of the future you are doing exactly what you need to do to make this conference a meaningful experience.
To share my first year experience, Erik Reagan Co-Founder and CEO of Focus Lab, LLC, and I shared a brief conversation in the atrium area of the Coastal Georgia Center (venue for 2015). It was not content related. It was a simple genuine introduction, followed by light hearted conversation that led to further connecting on Twitter (which is a whole other topic of discussion on the power of a virtual PLN!). This sustained relationship led to the sponsorship of my school’s first ever STEM Film Festival in May of 2015, and a promise of a 2016 sponsorship.
Erik and I, moving forward, have several irons in the fire that extend to a mentorship for students, and some secret do good “WhatisWatson.com” that I hope to learn more about in the coming days (something he recently reached out to me about with ninja like intrigue). And that was just one connection amongst many that resulted from a casual, genuine, conversation. To name a few others: Jason Premo, venture capitalist and another repeat attendee this year, offered to judge our shark tank category for our film festival and offer scholarship money; Oh Heck Yeah, a video game design duo that believe in uniting the community through play have Skyped with our school–and I’m currently trying to help them come back to Savannah through the Pulse festival to do an outdoor arcade in our Savannah streets; Juno Young has been an ongoing contact I reference for building app protypes; Creative Coast allowed me to guest blog about STEM Film Festival which resulted in sponsorships; Harry Delorme, of the Telfair Museum, helped us with a Film Festival Venue… Should I continue? I could…
But sometimes the best connections are more subtle, and do not present themselves until later. Don’t let missed opportunities happen, because at the moment you fail to see how this person, or topic could connect to you, or your students. Remember earlier when I said “Now listen. Interact with these professionals genuinely. Ask questions about what they do. Share what you do when asked, and don’t be too eager to force a connection.” I wasn’t just filling up space on this page. Talk to everyone…
Post Geekend, I challenge you to look around at the networking opportunities that occur within the community and put yourself out there. Sometimes interacting as a member of your community will offer the richest connections. Most people who are out attending these functions care deeply about local preservation, economics, and have a shared interest in advancing education within our beautiful, historic, gem of a city. Creative Coast, the sponsor of Geekend, is a great place to begin this journey. “
From a letter to parents from Ron Phillips:
“With a full Geek-End Conference and a day of processing using a 1950’s brain, here are my thoughts on helping students prepare for future technological advances. I will address the topic within the confines of teaching mathematics at the middle school level. Georgia has made great strides in developing the state curriculum in mathematics. Embedded within the standards are concepts of “Real World Application.” One of the problems is the “real world application” standards are just another set of standards to be met by an already overburdened curriculum. In my opinion, what should happen is have the “real world application” be the standard and the present standards within the unit be the concepts that are required to show mastery of problem solving. Students would develop a project or solve a problem throughout the unit that demonstrates their understanding of the concepts of that unit.
With the appropriate curriculum in place, the next step would be to re-examine the classroom environment. At the present time, teachers deliver content while students take notes and then use their new knowledge to solve like problems in a multi-choice formatted test. Again, the state of Georgia has made steps to improve this format with the new Georgia Milestone Assessment. The assessment requires students to solve some multi-choice questions that show content or process knowledge. Embedded in the assessment are opportunities for students to solve problems and explain their reasoning using knowledge they obtained over the course of the year. The information presented at the conference tends to lead to a different type of preparation for the new state test. Classrooms need to become active learning environments. Teachers need to present problems and allow students the freedom to explore solutions to those problems. The environments need to be in isolation and within groups. Students need to learn how to use social media and distance learning to embrace different learning environments. Students need to be placed in situations where they have to communicate over the internet to express their ideas and solutions for different problem solving requirements. While communicating with ease daily on their devices at home to friends, students found it quite difficult to express their ideas and solutions in situations where they needed to communicate solutions with a required outcome.
One might ask, “How would students get the curriculum content knowledge?” Teachers would prepare videos on-line of what would normally be presented in class. Students would learn how to access the information and process that knowledge. It would be the student’s responsibility to watch and solve basic problems using that content. Students would also learn how to research additional information on the internet to help with misunderstandings and increase their knowledge. Teachers would be available to help individual students with content difficulties.
The problems presented to students could also be designed to prepare students for the future technological advances. Problems could be designed around global themes of health care issues or environmental concerns. Every effort should be used to prepare students how to think when solving “real-world” issues. Within the problem-solving classroom students should be allowed to fail and experience how to process and learn from that failure. Students should be taught how to process failure in a constructive fashion and how to use the information and data from that failure to solve the problem. Students also need to learn how to work in an environment that allows movement but requires adherence to meeting deadlines and working together to accomplish goals…
Again I reflect, “How do we use the tools of state curriculum and the IB program to prepare students for the technological advances of the future?” I believe the Coastal IB program is the tool to begin discussions on how to transform current methods to prepare students for the future technological advances. The discussions should turn to the entrepreneurs, designers, civic and business leaders who will depend on those students to lead the community in the future. Parents, students and educators will need to discuss the impact of new student outcome designs and develop new classroom designs to meet the requirements of the future. As ideas are discussed and put in place, all stakeholders need to acknowledge and embrace failure and learn from it while being aware of disruptive innovation and its effect on the current method of teaching students. At this time I do not see any wholesale changes to Coastal’s IB program or even my classroom. What I am proposing is for you to look around and think about how your child is being prepared for the future technological advances and how they will use their skills to interact with that world. I ask that you send comments by email, call me, or even stop by my room to discuss the ideas above. If interest is generated, a group discussion or two about the various ideas and how my class might experiment with some new content delivery methods could be held. I always want my classroom to be innovative in preparing students for the future, but sensitive to parents knowing what is going on, having an input into the methods and my expectations. “
Teach the Future Fellowship – Transformational Education 2015 A Recap by Eric Nauert
Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!
“Do you have any scissors I can borrow?”
“Where do the washers go?”
“What should we use for ballast?”
“Do I get to make the sling?”
“I didn’t make it through Cub Scouts!”
Wham! Wham! Wham!
What might sound like a group of high school kids chatting during shop class is actually a room full of educators, innovators and entrepreneurs, intent on building model trebuchets, as part of the first gathering of the Teach the Future Fellowship, spearheaded by Kelley Waldron, the Assistant Head of School at St. Andrews School and Peter Ulrich, the Principal at The STEM Academy at Bartlett Middle School.
First things first, what’s a trebuchet?
A trebuchet is a machine used in the Middle Ages for hurling large stones at enemy targets by means of a long pivoting arm with heavy ballast on one end and a loaded sling on the other. When the ballast drops, the sling launches its payload, and the castle falls.
In under an hour, all the groups finish building their 18-inch tall trebuchets and start fine-tuning the instruments. For a while, a friendly battle ensues. But finally the group settles down to the serious business beneath this rather lighthearted exercise.
“I think we’re putting ourselves in our kids shoes a little bit, what they go through when they problem-solve,” says Allyson Morgan of the STEM Academy.
“I think it’s also making sure we understand the importance of hands-on learning as opposed to pencil-and-paper type of things,” chimes in Daniel Welch of St. Andrews. “This has been a ton of critical thinking and collaboration and cooperation and communication—which builds a lot more than doing something with pencil and paper.”
Allyson continues. “We need to prepare our students to collaborate and problem-solve in order to prepare them for the future, tinker a little bit here, and fix something that doesn’t work and make it better.”
“What we see in our school is…” Daniel pauses for a moment. “A lot of times kids are being prepared for jobs that exist, and we know that a lot of jobs that kids will be applying for in the future don’t exist yet. And so we’re trying to create problem-solvers and critical thinkers, so whatever job that they might be interested in, they’ll be able to do because of the skills that we’re building now.”
Other teachers reflect on the trebuchet paradigm, as well.
“I’m just glad I didn’t have to do it myself ‘cause I don’t enjoy following detailed directions like this,” says Lauren Brantley of the Savannah Arts Academy.
Jeremy Stringer of Savannah Country Day School concurs. “Yeah that’s true. Like, I shied away from the knot-tying, because I’m just not good at that, but I’ll go cut things because I can measure and cut.”
“I think delegating and dividing and conquering played a big part,” says Amanda Fox of the STEM Academy.
Jeremy examines the trebuchet box. “The box says it’s supposed to take two hours, and I suppose it would, building it by yourself, but with the three of us—one person building the box, one person measuring and cutting—it went quicker. In the classroom I think it’s the same way. Some complicated things can take a long time by yourself, but you throw a group together and you break it down into individual tasks, you get it done.”
The Teach the Future Fellowship is designed to establish connections among Savannah community educators, innovators and entrepreneurs. Held at Savannah’s The Guild Hall, the fellowship provides an opportunity for teachers of several schools to come together and share their ideas and experiences, and it offers them insights into potential community resources they may not have otherwise known about. The first gathering raises some rather challenging questions:
What are the purposes of education?
Why are you here?
Why is there a pressing need for transformation in education at this moment? (In your classroom, in your school, or in education as a whole)
What will you contribute?
Participants ponder these questions within their groups of three, and then the discussion broadens to an open forum. Educators ask entrepreneurs what qualities they look for in a new hire. Although answers vary, they all agree on several major characteristics: curiosity, creativity, adaptability, good communication skills, and the ability to think and to learn new technologies. Some proudly admit that they themselves are college dropouts; others are pursuing careers far afield of their college majors. All agree that it is essential for students to “learn how to learn.”
Kelley Waldron points out that technology is changing jobs, and the jobs of the future are not being taught in schools today. And so, in addition to baseline skills, it becomes imperative for educators to teach students to become aware of resources in the community, and to learn how to seek them out.
Clegg Ivey, CEO of The Guild Hall, stresses the importance of experimenting and trying out new ideas without fear. His career takes him regularly to China, where he has the opportunity to observe a very different style of education. There, he notes, students are taught to fear failure. He thinks this stifles their learning process. He believes students should have “a really comfortable relationship with failure, and an understanding of failure and how failure gives you data.”
Ivey looks for this comfortable relationship with failure in potential employees. “If I’ve got somebody who’s never failed, I’m like, well thanks. Good luck. Sorry, I can’t use you.”
He explains his reasoning. “If you’re too afraid to fail, then you won’t be comfortable trying out new things, one of which may turn out to be your secret gift. Failure is data! Collect that data!”
Bethany Armstrong, a graphic design professor at Savannah College of Art & Design agrees. On the first day of every class she tells her students, “I hope you fail a lot in my class. I don’t hope you fail my class, but I hope you put yourself out there and make a lot of mistakes. Take chances.”
Several other teachers agree, but point out the obstacles to radically transforming education in the classroom. Publishing companies fuel the policy of standardized tests. Parents have high expectations for their children. School administrators and state officials expect certain standards. All of these factors play a part in the teaching that takes place in the classroom.
“We know what we want,” says Peter Ulrich. “How we get there is why we’re going to be together this year.”
Kelley Waldron continues the conversation with a discussion of the difference between transactional and transformational education. ‘Transactional education’ refers to a kind of exchange in which the student contributes a certain amount of effort in order to receive a particular sum of knowledge. ‘Transformational education’ suggests a dynamic change within the student, a transformation that can lead to long term success. Waldron hopes this is the direction education is heading.
“Think of an educator who changed your life,” Waldron says. “I’ll bet what you remember most about them has little to do with whatever grade they gave you.”
Amanda Fox describes transformational education in terms of process. “The learning is actually happening during the process. And if you’re lucky, the lightbulb goes off at the end. There might not be that final project that’s amazing. Not all kids are going to get there, but the expectation’s still there. I still have checkpoints along the process, assessing and making sure they’re trying. Not everyone’s going to create a fantastic final product. What helped me was, at the end, always embedding in a self-reflection and peer review.”
Kelley Waldron hopes the Teach the Future Fellowship brings about a richer experience in classrooms across Savannah. With sessions and events scheduled to continue throughout the year, she feels the connections between educators, innovators and entrepreneurs will become stronger, but she realizes she may never witness the full extent of the transformation.
“These are just seeds that we’re planting today, and they go out and they’re going to grow in so many different fashions because of the different contexts in which different people work. And so it’s going to be interesting to see the way in which this is constructive for different people. There’s going to be this trickle out effect that we’re never going to be able to see. It’s like when you drop something into a pond, and the wakes circle out. If you’re right there in the middle where it’s dropped, you can’t see that.”
One thing is certain. Everyone in this room cares deeply about the education of young people. And they hold great hope for the future.
September 25 is our inaugural meeting of Teach the Future Fellowship. We have 20 educators from the city to share ideas, connect with innovators and entrepreneurs, and work together to move education forward.
Meeting at The Guild Hall, local leaders and educators warmed up with some introductions and jumped right into some Trebuchet building. Later in the afternoon, we’ll be brainstorming on what transformative education really means for us and our students.
So what happens?
What will happen? Who knows? Great things for our schools, our students, our city, and our world.
Our column in the Savannah Morning News on June 16, 2015!
(Savannah, GA) St. Andrew’s School announces plans for Teach the Future Fellowship, an inaugural fellowship program created for educators in our area from K-12 schools, public and private. Through a one-year commitment, accepted educators will attend a series of events focused on connecting schools with the growing technology and entrepreneurial community in the Coastal Empire. Fellows will establish a network of entrepreneurs who are able to open up the possibilities of what school can and should be to prepare our students for their present and future potential. The program’s founding members include two educational leaders in the area alongside two tech leaders in the area and board members from The Creative Coast.
“The ‘Teach the Future’ concept is brilliant and creative in its own right,” said Howard J. Morrison, an early supporter of the program. “What an incredible way to connect our teachers to the community and help them prepare our students for whatever is to come.”
Chris Miller, local social and economic entrepreneur, is excited about this program in our community, “Your Teach the Future idea is fantastic! It is so forward thinking and as means of connecting students to curiosity and real world problems, ranks up there with the best I’ve seen.”
Bi-monthly sessions for those accepted to the program begin in late August and run through May 2016. Scheduled events include speakers, a tech crawl, breakout and brainstorming sessions, community to school connections and participation in Creative Coast events designed to seed entrepreneurial efforts in the area.
Through the fellowship, educators will connect with local resources and individuals that they can access as guest speakers and facilitators back in their school and classroom, connecting students directly with experts in technology and innovation.
“At St. Andrew’s, we are asking our students to make real-world connections in the classroom, so it makes sense to encourage local educators to do the same to help move our schools forward together,” said Kelley Waldron, founding leader of the program and Assistant Head of School.
Interested participants may apply here for the program or at www.teachthefuture.co by June 26, 2015. Organizations or individuals who would like to support or partner with the program are welcomed at the website as well.