It's time to chase Innovation instead of reacting to the status quo.
As I was working on preparing for this year's project, I gathered a ton of different resources to help me craft a semblance of a path toward a 20Time project. One resource that I have found really valuable is 20time.org. This website by Kevin Brookhouser takes it's readers step by step through the process with simple instructions, videos and reactions.
How it worked for us...with 8th graders
I always had it in the back of my mind that the bad idea factory would work. The videos make it look easy, students are inspired, and ultimately these life changing projects will come from a pretty cool idea.
And then I remembered... we are working with 8th grade students.
The maturity level, though similar, between 8th and 10th graders is quite a gap, and as teachers we started to see this in the bad ideas that were coming on our papers. But I'm getting ahead of myself
Our 8th grade class is approx. 92 students. (I say approximately because within international school there is always an addition or subtraction) Fortunately we have an "art gallery" aka big open space that we were able to use for the bad idea factory. We used large pieces of butcher paper on 9 different tables to divide the students up. I prepped them with a quick single message as a challenge, "What's the worst idea you can come up with? We then had students divide on the tables and start writing. Every 6 or 7 minutes we would have the students switch tables so that they would see other's bad ideas, which would inspire MORE bad ideas. Again Bad Idea FACTORY.
In the end, we didn't have enough time to set up the gallery (which I will talk about later in this post), and the students left the remnants of their bad ideas all over the the once clean butcher paper.
Our Students are really Bad at bad ideas...
This was an interesting encounter for all of us involved. Our students were really bad at bad ideas. That might sound like a bad play on words, but as students were beginning to work through this factory idea, they struggled with the ability to come up with bad ideas. So what we did is unleashed the teachers on the papers as well and allowed them to write down bad ideas to inspire the bad ideas. In the end, you can see our results, but it was an interesting beginning to what was assumed to be a easy, stream of consciousness activity.
Some of the Results of the Bad Idea Factory
Next steps toward #GeniusFair2017: Bad Idea Gallery
The next question we had to tackle was:
"How to we take all of these bad ideas and inspire students to have really good ideas?"
The answer was not totally clear, but we had the information and the willingness to try something and see where it would take us! This is one characteristic of this teacher team that I am really thankful for. We are essentially stepping of an educational cliff, like Wylie coyote, with great intentions, but a clear lack of experience to succeed. And yet we push forward, knowing full well at the end of the day, what we learn is far more important than what expectations are met.
Enough of the feels...back to the process.
The bad idea gallery was simply a gallery walk of all of the bad ideas that were written down. Students were given a brainstorming tool that we created that would help them filter their good ideas and then go deeper with the great ones. (See the sheet here).
Overall, this process has been an interesting one. I feel like we are trying to go to California by driving through Beijing. I believe this process is going to surprise us though. Ultimately I remind myself that the teachers I work with and the students that are going through this process are way more intuitive and creative than we give them credit for. And because of that, our #GeniusFair2017 is going to be epic!
Coming Next time: Students Pitch to get their projects approved
"We are about to embark on a journey of learning unlike anything you have done before. It's going to be strange at first, but you will find that you have a greater ability to influence HOW you learn, understand WHY we learn and be able to CREATE something incredible by the end...Welcome to Genius Fair"
Who I am Working With?
As I began to think through the possibility of doing a 20time project at my current school, I never considered massive endeavour that it would be guiding 92 students and 10 teachers through this process. As I was to about to "pitch" the idea to the students, thinking about what could be, I realized that for our school this would be different.
Being in an international school there is a level of "we've always done it this way" that we need to push up against. Thankfully, within the middle school there is a principal who understands the importance of innovation. When we had previously talked about doing this project last spring, our idea was to have the entire middle school participate (approx. 270 students). The principal had the mindfulness to have a Beta Test year on the GeniusFair...so let's test it on the 8th graders!
Historically, the 8th grade has had a science focus during the annual middle school academic fair. Ultimately as the Technology Coach I don't have the authority to decide what the students are doing for this project. That had to come from the teachers. I think I sat down with them for 10 minuets before it was decided they wanted to go for a 20time/genius project model, to travel into the unknown.
Henry Ford is quoted saying, "Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently". I really believe that our team of teachers and advisors have this quote as a part of their teaching mantra. They see a burnt out system that needs to be revamped. A failure that has become an opportunity. They are all willing to go through this process for the experience, knowing that the end result is unknown.
The Greatest Question: Why?
Is there a program that....
This is probably the question i am asked the most. Teachers are wanting to know if there are different apps or abilities for ideas that they have in their classroom. I enjoy being able to sit with teachers and brainstorm their ideas with them. I am constantly on the lookout for new ideas, strategies (and yes apps 😎) that teachers can bring into their classroom on a daily basis.
As I have been within this position though I have started to realize that "Technology Coach" is pigeon holing me into a very limited range of education consulting. Technology is huge, and technology in education will never stop growing. There will always be the "new app". But as a Technology Coach, I have found that I have become different types of coach when working with teachers and administrators.
Instructional Design Coach
Recently I was asked to sit down in a discussion about the combination of two levels of language class into a single room with one teacher. Each section of each level averaged between 3-5 students, which is not enough for the school to let the course happen. Because of this students are not able to get this extra level of language learning. The solution was to create a hybrid multilevel course that would accommodate both levels under one teacher. What an opportunity to sit down and use some instructional design skills to help mould a pseudo-flipped/blended learning experience for a language that I cannot speak! The discussions have been great, I hope to move forward with this project if the school approves
20 Time Coach
Taylor currently serves as a Coordinator of Innovative Learning for a mid-sized school district in Texas. He is a speaker, writer, and coach for all who are in conflict with the status quo.