Taking Ownership

Today was the official last day of school for everyone at MVPS, which also means that we have officially finished a full year of the first ever student designed AP course!!! The Collab Course adventure has come to an end in some ways, but in other ways our adventure has only just begun. So for my final assignment I have created the MoVe Talk (Moment of Visible Empathy) below to capture a snapshot of what I have taken away from this experiance. I didn’t get feedback on this talk (which is a rare and nerve racking thing for me to do), because I just wanted to share my personal raw thoughts about the opportunity to own my learning in a way unlike any other. Without further ado, I hope you enjoy my reflection of this glimpse at the future of education:


Disaster Plan

85b8117b-ebb5-4470-8d4c-74063446e9ea.jpgToday was preview night for our winter show The 39 Steps and it went superbly!!! The entire cast was really happy with tonight’s performance and can’t wait to keep up the energy and fix those last few tweaks for our shows for the rest of this week.

You know you’ve put on a good comedy show when the audience is cracking up the whole time, and that’s exactly what happened tonight! Everyone said they loved it and it was a hilarious joy to watch.

This ensemble has been working so hard (and for only a month at most) to put on this show, and I’m so happy to be a part of the process because it’s just been such a pleasure!

Between theater and the gymnastics competition season starting up, I’ve made a recent observation about myself: I’m pretty decent at pre planning disaster plans. When ever I choreograph a routine or memorize for a new show, I always try to memorize everything correctly, but then I also think about a few scenarios about what could potentially go wrong to try and figure out what I would do in those situations. In both cases that means how can you best make up for what ever you missed by tweaking your normal flow a little.

So, maybe add a little more dance, or tweak a later line to make up for something important that was missed (by you or another stage mate), or shoving a prop into someone’s pocket in order to get it to the other side of the stage.

This is one of those random skills that I wouldn’t normally think of when thinking about  skills, but I’ve realized that this can be applied to other situations as well. Mainly when you give any presentation because you need to make sure you hit on everything that’s really important, so even if things don’t go in your exact planed order, make it happen; the show must go on!

Clearly you want to try to memorize and do things the intended way, but it’s kind of nice to practice some disaster plans because that way you are more prepared to think and act quick for when something inevitably doesn’t go exactly as planned.

It’s just a funny fail-up skill I’ve noticed this past week that I thought was worth sharing.

Not All at Once


I’ve been starting to notice this year how we have really been trying to incorporate aspects of design thinking into even the more “traditional” classes. Which is great! I mean it’s nice to know that teachers recognize the value of using design thinking as a tool and want to use it in their classes even if only portions at a time.

However, design challenges can really get intense; they are a lot of hard work and you are often exhausted when you finish one. Even just having Innovation Diploma time all Thursday morning can sometimes leave me pretty pooped afterwards because you build up and use a ton of energy mentally and even physically some of the time.

Now I’m that person that loves to get involved in tons of things; I’m a multipotentialite as I say. So it’s really easy for me to get curious and want to be involved in new design challenges when they come. (Just today in ID I was having to make a difficult decision as to what path I want to take for ID now that officially our design challenge module on healthy living  is over; however, I decided to continue working with a sub set of my design team on our challenge but now as an official coVenture.)

The problem is, that due to the nature of design challenges, you can’t work on a ton at once because each requires a great deal of focus and time commitment.

With this all said, I love how teachers are starting to incorporate design thinking and design challenges into their classrooms, but I’m also a little worried. If I was trying to work on a separate design challenge in each of my 7 periods, then none of them would really be all that great. It’s just not possible to spend the amount of time necessary to do a meaningful design challenge on that many different challenges at once.

So as we grow as a school and community of learners, I wonder how in the future classes might start to collaborate more so that students can maybe be working on 1 or 2 design challenges at once, but they explore aspects of their topic through the lens of different classes. Then students could focus their energies more specifically on challenges, and maybe it would also help teachers to have someone else to help plan with for facilitation purposes; I’ve rarely seen a design challenge facilitated by just one person.

A great example of something like this in action is a redesign the bike challenge created by 3 MVPS teachers combining the Engineering and Tech, AP Physics, and Algebra 2 classes. While I’m not in any of these classes myself, I’ve been reading some of the teachers blog posts about it and was a little more than jealous of the students that did get to participate. From what I’ve heard, there were definitely some struggles with it as expected with any first iteration, but it was a great start that I hope to see iterations on for the future that maybe even involve different classes for new challenges next time.

I wonder what the future of designing thinking in classrooms looks like. I imagine a future where one day there doesn’t even have to be the division of “classrooms”.

A 2nd Renaissance


I saw a musical today called Bullets Over Broadway. It was really good!!! It was a great cast and crew along with a great script. I was especially impressed with the dancing in the show. Often times the leads aren’t as talented in dance, which makes sense since they often have more training in the theater side of things, but even the leads in this show were able to hold their own in complex dance numbers.

This show made me start thinking about a few different things: 1. my work yesterday with some of my teachers on the humanities course brainstorm 2. the TEDTalk I watched on multipotentialites 3. my blog post on history being involved in everything we learn.

These different thoughts together made me think about the Renaissance. A time of rebirth, discovery, and exploration. A time known for great scholars, artists, and inventors. A time when science and art were considered to be foundational connected. A time when it was considered the norm to be trained in many different fields.

It’s often said that history repeats itself. If this is true, then I think that we are about to enter a new Renaissance period. I mean I almost feel like “education redesign” is more like going back to what it once was system wise, as in the Renaissance time, the difference is we now know more than we once did. By this I mean that people are realizing how closely connected courses are and how it’s becoming more desired for people to have experience in multiple fields in order to find connections and create innovations.

I love the time period of the Renaissance, and I’m excited and curious about the potential future Renaissance, that maybe we already entered even.

Forks and Spoons


I think I’m actually going to keep this post short for once.

Today in ID we had some discussions on design thinking based on the pieces we had read and watched over the past few days. In the discussion today we made the typical big point about what makes design thinking special: it’s all about empathizing with a user.

However, this idea was actually challenged by someone in the discussion which lead to an interesting moment where we discussed an important misnomer, in my opinion, about design thinking versus problem solving. They are related based on the square rectangle theorem as I call it, so all design thinking is a method of problem solving, but not all problem solving methods are design thinking.

This got me thinking, if design thinking has several generally accepted defined processes, do other types of problem solving have distinct processes? If not, why not? Would it be helpful to create distinct processes for different styles of problem solving to better understand each kind and when they should best be used?

All different methods of problem solving have their own time and place, just like a fork and a spoon: they are both silverware, but they are both distinctly different, and trying to eat soup with just a fork or spaghetti with just a spoon doesn’t work too well. Because we know how to use both, we know when it is better to use which type of silverware.

Starting a Design Sprint


Today was a pretty cool day for ID because we started our first big design sprint on “healthy living”. The idea of a design sprint is that you rapidly go through the entire design process in a limited time, typically just a few weeks. The best part? We have no idea what we will end up with!

Today we started with blog post observations that have been made in the past few weeks by various ID members. We did an “I See, I Think, I Wonder” activity to try and figure out what to make of these observations. My group specifically ended up exploring an abandoned garden on our campus behind the football field, and we came up with a ton of questions and list of people to interview to learn more about what the real problem even is.

We also had some people on campus today that were observing and interviewing us while we worked to learn more about what ID is and what it means to us. It was fun getting to talk to them, and I also enjoyed hearing more from the Jobs cohort today in general. It’s funny how much I can feel the beginner-ness. This isn’t a bad thing- everyone has to start somewhere- it’s just interesting to be in a new place this year in ID. In the groups we were broken up into, there was me and one other Disney cohort member and then 5 Jobs members, and I observed Margaret and I from the Disney group often helping to lead the Jobs cohort with how we should be tackling the challenge.

For example, one thing we tried to do was make sure the team wasn’t trying to jump to solutions too quickly. It is quite possible that the problem isn’t that we need to just build a new garden in the same place. We need to first start with users, real people, and discover what they actually need to discover what it is that we need to solve for.

I can’t wait for our work on this challenge to continue tomorrow because I think we got off to a great start with our questions about what use to be in the area and if the challenge is correlated to the way students take ownership of school spaces.

Debuting New Learning Adventures


Well it has come; the last true night of summer before I must be concerned with getting up the next morning at an annoyingly early hour.

It seems like the summer has just flown by. Fuse15, then Nerd Camp1 at Duke East for TIP, then acro camp, then Capon, then New York, then Yale, then soccer, and now school.

I spent today at school for my siblings orientations even though mine isn’t until tomorrow. I even got to see the new Studio(i) on the Lower School which is a fantastic new makers space! During the middle school orientation I almost just started laughing because they mentioned student led conferences and my first thought was “I was just reading about those for our new AP Lang course!!!”

For our collab-course, Kat and I will not be taking a final exam in the spring, and instead we will be doing what is sometimes referred to as a passage. We will be presenting to a panel of mentors about why we think we deserve to pass from this class into our senior year. It’s a neat concept we read about that really requires students to understand what the purpose of a class was and show how they met the learning outcomes. My hope is that by demonstrating our work in this way we will also be more proud of our “final exam” then if we were to just study and then sit down for a long test probably consisting of lots of multiple choice questions.

In the same article (sorry I don’t have the original still because I copied it so I could annotate it) that talked about passages, it also talked about student led conferences. The purpose of the conferences is similar to the purpose of the passage in the sense that the goal is for students to take ownership of their learning and be able to clearly articulate what they’ve been doing and learning at school. Rather than just parents coming in to talk to their child’s teacher about the child’s behavior and participation at school, the student is also present and serves as the person informing the parents with the teacher their for help and guidance if needed. From what I’ve read, it seems like this way of having a conference would be much more powerful to the parents because they’re getting to see for themselves how their child is growing as a learner. Not to mention this conferences hold teachers to a new standard because they also have to help make sure their students are prepared to lead a conference. Over all I’m really excited for both passages and student led conferences to be making their debut at MVPS this year!

Speaking of AP Lang, the course is still a go!!!! I can’t wait to get this syllabus sent off to the college board as soon as we can so we can make edits if need be! I’m even excited to start our first book during Chapter 2: The Art of Innovation, which to me almost feels like us going back to the start of ID when Kat and I read “The Falconer” because now we are going to read Grant Lichtman’s second book “#EdJourney”! I’m super excited to read what he has to say in this second book and can’t wait to start discussing the topics that he brings up!

I keep thinking about AP Lang because I was working on my summer project for it. To take it straight from our handy dandy syllabus, this is what the task we created for ourselves is:

Over the summer students will be required to find and read at least 10 articles of their choice. (Videos and podcast are also acceptable.) The students will then take these 10 sources and create a Hero’s Journey story board poster by finding connections between the different topics. When they get back to school the students will have a discussion based on what they learned from the articles, the struggles that they faced with creating a story with them, and the ideas they got from thinking about the cross pollination of ideas. In addition these articles will serve as the first pieces of writing for students to dig into in terms of style and rhetorical strategies. 

One of the big goals we are trying to achieve with our course is to take advantage of the work we already do and want to be doing and to showcase this learning in a way that demonstrates how we are meeting school standards as well as enjoying ourselves. We wanted summer to be no exception, so rather than reading a set book, we thought we would take advantage of the fact that we would be reading lots of articles and add in the idea of The Hero’s Journey while thinking like a designer about it by building connections between stories. It all just blends together to make a nice kick off to our year in this course!

I’m just so pumped to really get this ball rolling, and since I co-made the course, I also know that the work isn’t even close to over yet.

It’s the last night of summer, but I feel like I’ve barely left school, and somehow that feels ok. I’ve been realizing more and more that I really enjoy going to school because at MVPS we have some pretty cool stuff going on that you can’t find in most places, and from talking with so many other students, I know they’re jealous and think it’s awesome stuff too. 🙂