Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Innovating in an Era of Standards

Antero Garcia just posted a Q&A about Bringing Innovation to School on his blog, The American Crawl. As he points out in his intro, he's included in the book as an example of an innovative teacher. I first heard about him when he was launching The Black Cloud, an alternate reality game that he introduced with his high school students at Manual Arts High in L.A. He has just moved on to Colorado State University--but not before helping to open the Critical Design and Gaming School in South Central L.A. Can't wait to see what he does next.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

What's Your School's Terroir?

What a pleasure it was to have Pam Moran, superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools in Virginia, Skype into my ISTE session about making innovation teachable. Innovation gets special attention in her district, which has established a “seed fund” to encourage teachers and administrators to test promising ideas. No surprise that Albemarle County PS is one of the districts I profile in my new book, Bringing Innovation to School.
While Pam joined my session via Skype, four of her administrators were there in person. She teed them up to join the discussion by highlighting something unique about each school’s approach to teaching and learning. Patrick McLaughlin is principal of Henley Middle School, which has built its own renewable energy resource center. He showed us the real-time web interface that lets students track the energy produced by solar and wind installations at their school.  It’s a great set-up for inquiry-based projects for innovators-in-training.
Meanwhile, Tracey Saxon from Sutherland Middle School told us about the nature trail that her students have built for their community. It features interpretive signage that invites community members to take part in citizen science activities via mobile devices. Students have documented the building of Hollymead Nature Trail on their school blog.
Principal Gwedette Crummie from Crozet Elementary described how her students use social media to connect beyond the classroom walls and learn engineering principles to help them become better problem solvers. Kathryn Baylor from Jack Jouette Middle School explained how her students tackle inquiry and service projects in their community, using the Expeditionary Learning model.
Clearly, this is a district that doesn’t shy away from innovation, and the superintendent doesn’t look for cookie-cutter approaches from her principals or teachers. Instead, Moran invites each school to figure out its own answer to the question, “How can we teach students to innovate?"
An innovative thinker herself, Moran explained that each school should develop its own terroir. That’s a term she has borrowed from agriculture. Terroir is the sense of place that comes from the earth, giving coffee or wine grapes their distinctive character. I’ve never heard it applied to education before, but I like where she's going with this.
Innovators often think in metaphors. It’s one of the five thinking strategies I highlight in my new book. How serendipitous to have it demonstrated, right before our eyes at ISTE!
Thanks to Pam Moran and her team of innovators for enriching the conversation with their good ideas.
Slides from the session are available here.