Monday, February 1, 2016

Innovation Incubator Part IV: Building the Model

In real time, there is a huge gap in time between my LAST POST and this one. In September 2015, this group organized and discussed student insights  from interview with students. Between September and January 2016, the group began to decide how they wanted to proceed. The following is again quick and dirty, and definitely in need of editing. It is what it is.

When we started this process, we didn't know what was going to happen. We just gathered a team to focus on innovation, using Design Thinking as a framework to make decisions regarding what direction to go. We didn't really know if the teachers were going to set individual goals and choose different areas of innovation, or if the group would work on a single, combined effort. As it turned out, the teachers were mostly committed to a singular goal: Redefining the concept of school at Leyden.

Here's one of the first prototypes developed by Social Studies teacher Chris Lange (@Chrilange)

The goal, as described on the diagram is:  “Have students develop important life/soft skills while choosing and attempting to solve a problem that addresses all of the class standards in their research, design, and implementation."

Clearly, the group has been connecting with a version of student-centered Problem Based Learning leading to a final capstone "passion" project developed and executed by each student. This is certainly ambitious, and it's only the first draft. Articulating more details proved difficult for some time.

Off-Site Visits
However, our Incubator Teachers have had several opportunities to visit some unique schools in the Chicago area and beyond.

Science and Leadership Academy, Philadelphia
Note: The above video was created by an amazing student we met at SLA, who will be attending film school in 16/17. Check out his "Friday at School" video about a day in the life at SLA. 

"Most Likely to Succeed" is an accelerator

Completely separate from this process, and almost on a whim over the summer, I had applied to host a screening of the film "Most Likely to Succeed" for all faculty and staff at our January Institute Day. I had been introduced to the companion book by our Technology Director Bryan Weinert, and had our School Improvement Team reading it throughout this school year.

Premiering at Sundance Film Festival in March 2015, the filmmakers have been encouraging schools to host public screenings of the film all over the U.S. Arguing that a traditional model of education has outlived its usefulness, they show a profile of High Tech High in San Diego, Ca. Following the paths of several students and teachers over the course of a year, the film presents a powerful argument for using project based learning to help students become creative problem solvers and find their own voice while following their passions.

Following the screening of the film to faculty and staff, I split the faculty and administration into 46 completely chosen groups to discuss what they had seen. They documented their discussions in a simple Google Form, and I asked them to summarize their "Wows," "Wonders" and possible next steps.
I had a suspicion that this film would generate interest in Problem Based Learning outside of the Innovation Incubator group. We have scheduled two separate three-day "PBL 101" workshops for our faculty members who are interested in implementing PBL in their own classrooms. As of this blog post, we have 55 teachers, instructional coaches and librarians signed up to attend. That's a little over 1 in 5 certified staff members in our district. I had hoped "Most Likely to Succeed" would accelerate the implementation of these methods in our district, and I am frankly ecstatic about the response. 

Where does that leave the Incubators? 
At a structural level, I believe that film helped give clarity to the model they were looking to build. They had an actual, observable example of the kind of teaching and learning they were looking to cook into their model. After several months of uncertainty prior to the January Institute Day, the structure of their model came together almost immediately. 

On a more emotional level, the film provided tremendous validation for their efforts. The film is powerfully done and serves as a call to action to make student centered, project based instruction a centerpiece of any school's instructional model. The positive reaction of the staff was certainly an added bonus  Although quite by accident, all of this has crystallized the importance of their efforts, and has provided an opportunity for immediate staff buy-in once their model is more fully defined and presented. 

Next: Refining the Model 

I'm going to hold off on describing the model they've come up with. There has been a pretty large series of breakthroughs after the MLTS screening, and a couple subsequent meetings. We are going to provide subs for the team this coming week so they can concentrate on the prototype. 

As a side note, we have brought on three new members to the team: 2 math teachers (Matt Young @MattYoung212 and  Stephanie Zeppetello @SZeppetello) and 1 science teacher (Jamie Litzhoff @JLitzhoff)

As of this posting, the team is comprised of:
3 Science teachers
2 Math teachers
2 Social Studies teachers
2 English Teachers (1 gen ed, 1 Special ed)
1 Digital Literacy/Business teacher
1 PE/Health Teacher


Innovation Incubator Part I: Jump-Starting Innovation
Innovation Incubator Part II: Learning Design Thinking
Innovation Incubator Part III: Empathy Leads to Understanding
Innovation Incubator Part IV: Building the Model

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