The Future is Here

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For the past four years, and even longer than that really, the year 2017 has been talked about as this mystical year in the future. This great year that we’ve worked so hard to get to. The year I turn 18. The year I graduate high school. The year I go to college. The year so much changes.

It’s always seemed so far away; a distant future. The end of the line and the beginning of a new era.

Now it’s only hours away.

2017, the year of my future is so close I can’t believe it. I can’t believe that I turn 18 in a mere two days and I graduate in a few months and I go to college in less than a year. So much is about to happen in my life, so much that has been talked about for all of the years of my existence.

Everything has always been “leading to 2017”- well now it’s here and not slowing down.

First semester has gone by so fast. Life has been crazy to say the least. Between home, school, work, and friends there has been a lot going on. (So much that I’ve not been able to blog nearly as much as I’ve wanted due to so many late nights…)

I’m told that second semester goes by even faster for seniors. After accounting for breaks, trips and events, and senior work days, there are hardly any school days left for seniors. Graduation is just around the corner and sometimes I feel incredibly ready, and other times I feel incredibly not.

But 2017 will come all the same. It is here. It is now. It is time. Image result for 2017

Time for 2016 to be over and time for things to start changing. The new year is here; class of 2017, good luck, because our future has arrived.

 

Senior Bootcamp

I’m officially starting to feel like a senior after our first Senior Bootcamp day of the year. I don’t know what that means quite yet, but I guess calling myself a senior seems a little less weird. 

There’s no exclamation point after either of those sentences because I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I actually really enjoy most parts of school, which not every student can say honestly. So it makes me sad in a way to be a senior because I don’t feel ready to leave just yet. I feel like there is so much more I’d like to do and contribute to the school community, but mostly I feel like so much of the excitement about some of what I do is just because I’m a high schooler. What happens when I stop being a high schooler?

Plus on top of that there is the whole application process, which honestly frightens me…

I know it shouldn’t be that scary, but it seems like I’m just constantly learning more things that I don’t know. I don’t like the feeling of feeling like I don’t know everything about what I’m working on. I definitely learned more today at bootcamp where we discussed everything from the nuts and bolts of how to use different websites to discussing the art of storytelling and how everyone has their own story for an essay.

In short, there was a lot talked about today from 8-3 with the class of 2017, and also a lot of laughs too which is good. Yet, there seem to be so many unknowns still.

I am excited for this next school year, but the whole “being a senior” part only kind of excites me. I am terrified for that moment when I start loosing my motivation. I know it happens to pretty much every senior because the end of the school year after being accepted just seems to stop being so important. As one of my friends who graduated said, “You’ll want to continue to do well but you won’t want to have to work for it.”

I’d like to say that I’ll be the person to not fall into that stereotype, but who knows. I already wish so much of school, and sadly a huge current motivator for half of it just has to do with getting into college; and I love learning, but that doesn’t change much.  I don’t want to loose motivation, but what if I do? What if my drive leaves? What is my motivator to do well in school? Not theater, ID, band, extra projects, or those kind of things, but just the nuts and bolts of school: classes.

These are the questions I wonder while going into my senior year after a day of learning about the college process.

Breathtaking

Ever have those moments when you see something so breathtaking that you just can’t quite describe it in words? Those moments where you realize that even when you try to frame a million words you still don’t have the full picture.

I saw a brilliant play tonight called, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime,” that left me speechless.

Fifteen-year-old Christopher has an extraordinary brain; he is exceptionally intelligent but ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. When he falls under suspicion for killing his neighbor’s dog, he sets out to identify the true culprit, which leads to an earth-shattering discovery and a journey that will change his life forever.

The show masterfully combined a compelling plot with a simple set that took advantage of the wonders of technology and people alike. The only actual set pieces beside 3 floor to ceiling tech paneled walls (I honestly can’t describe them much better than that), were about 10 blocks that were used to create different settings and could glow different colors when not in their neutral all white state. There were lots of scenes where there was minimal talking, but intricately choreographed stage fights and moments of confusion or “insanity” where people would appear to be walking on walls, flying, or even just imitating the chaos of a busy London street.

I don’t want to give much away about the plot itself, but the last line was something to the extent of, “So I can do anything, right?!” It’s such an intriguing question because as a optimist I might want to say, “Yes!”, but as a realist I might want to say, “Well, no there are somethings you just can’t do, but those are things no one can do.” But at the same time, I could also be a realist by saying, “It’s all just a matter of time.” Who knows what may someday be possible? Maybe there are things we can’t do now, but in years to come flying in a jet pack may be as normal as talking on a cell phone.  Who’s to say what can and can’t be done? Is it ever reasonable to say without first trying?

2 Years of Blogging Later

images.jpgWhat started as just a fun challenge to create a blog and post for 100 days in a row has now become an integral part of my life. Blogging may not be for everyone, but for me it has helped me clarify some of my observations and thoughts on different parts of my daily life, and the best part is that I’m able to track and record my reflections, insights, and key learning moments throughout each year. With it being about the middle of summer now, and with the fact that I won’t have access to much internet or phone service for at least the next week, I find that it’s a great time for me to zoom out and reflect upon my key learning moments from the past year as a whole about myself, utilizing the design process, and the future of education.

This past year I have significantly expanded my understanding of these 5 ideas:

  1. The need for flexible schedules  
  2. The role of teachers
  3. Prototyping and launching
  4. Sense of self
  5. The future of student voice

In the “real world” people do not work on a bell schedule that has obscure periods of time that go from 10:15-11:05. This past year I have started to do even more “real world work” where I’ve found myself struggling to find times to meet with people due to my odd school schedule. However, within my project based learning time, I have wider chunks of time where I’m able to get ample work done. I’ve written a few times this past year about how we’re often just waiting for Thursdays when we have so much flexible time- the first half of the day- to really get deep into our work by going off campus, interviewing people, working on prototypes with tools, etc: “Sometimes it feels like we’re just constantly waiting for Thursdays, because those are the days we always leave feeling like we actually were really productive and successful in making progress towards a bigger goal in our journey.” — Waiting For Thursdays 

And imagine with the amount of work that can happen during half a day, when given a whole week I got the opportunity to travel with other members of the MVPS Innovation Diploma cohort to San Fransisco to work with Stanford students at the d.School on design thinking challenges: ID at the d.School If we hope for students to be doing work with companies within our communities, than we need to support this type of work by having school schedules that are more flexible to allow for meetings, and off campus work, and time to really get into a flow of working.

The biggest adventure of this year for me has to have been the AP Lang Collab Course which has allowed me to take ownership of my learning in a way never before experienced. This past year a partner and I created and participated in the first ever student designed AP course which we called the AP Lang Collab Course. We created this course because we wanted to challenge the education status quo, have the opportunity to test project ideas we’ve had over the years, and have the freedom to take control of our learning as we explore our interests through the lense of language. For this to work we had to be the student, teacher, facilitator, coach, mentor, everything all in one, and with this newfound ownership of our learning I developed a better understanding for how I envision a 21st century teacher. “I can teach, mentor, coach, and facilitate, but when I’m in a class I want someone who can bring their past experiance in to help constantly change between all 4 of these roles and more when needed. I want a guide in the classroom. Someone to teach me skills, and mentor me through stress, and coach me to be confident, and facilitate me and my peers around common challenges. Most importantly though, a guide occasionally let’s it’s followers explore the woods and decide what path to turn down. A guide helps students along the path they choose and points out the important landmarks along the way.”— Taking Ownership 

Another huge project for me this past year was my work with the ReSpIn Organization which strives to Reduce waste, Spark conversations, and Inspire change around 21st century sustainability. Our team was formed because we observed that while MVPS teachers, students, faculty, and parents all observe the importance of recycling and being an environmentally sustainable school, more can be done to make MVPS a leader of environmental sustainability. So we explored the question, “How might we make sustainability a part of our DNA at MVPS?”

The first product to come from the ReSpIn team is called the RISE Sustainability System. This system is a learning tool for teachers and students to use in order to help facilitate conversations and activities around sustainability. The product is a space saving waste and recycling bin in one made out of PVC, wood, and zip ties in a way that allows for anyone, of any age, to set up the RISE bin on their own. This clever design allows for classrooms to set up their own RISE bin and use that experience to jumpstart the learning on sustainability. For this project we created dozens of prototypes, and had many moments where we struggled with taking the RISE bin to the next level. This struggle though, is truly what happens in the “real world” with product designs; they take time and lots of prototypes and feedback. The most inspiring piece of feedback that we were given was from a little 5th grade girl who told me, “This is the best design challenge we’ve done, because we never get to see a project like this get this far.”- RISE to New Levels. My work with the ReSpIn team isn’t complete yet, but after this year I’ve learned the true value of prototyping early and getting feedback from a myriad of people in order to push ideas forward.

Amongst the things that I’ve learned about school and design thinking, I’ve also learned a lot about myself over this past year. I’ve always been a person with countless interests, passions, and after school activities that have consumed my “free time.” I’ve often thought of this as a problem because I can’t make up my mind on how to spend my time because I get too interested in everything simply because I’m curious and love learning. Then I watched the Ted Talk, Why some of us don’t have one true calling, and it was possibly the most moving TED Talk I’ve watched yet, because Emilie Wapnick introduced me to a world of people just like me and helped talk about the positive side to being what she calls a “multipotentialite”:  

  • Idea Synthesis: bringing together seemingly different concepts together to find the intersections where great ideas come from.
  • Rapid Learning: getting deeply curious about one thing and learning a ton about it before moving on to the next thing to also learn a ton about.
  • Adaptability: being able to put on different hats in different situations where different roles are necessary.

I’ve been discovering a deeper sense of self which is an essential part of learning. I’m a person with many different interests, but I can also find the connections between these diverse topics easily which helps me to build project teams and relate things like gymnastics and education transformation.I’m A Multipotentialite 

Learning more about myself has also helped me learn more about ways that I can contribute to the movement to transform education. This year I served as an MVIFI (Mount Vernon Institute For Innovation) Fellow which opened up a number of opportunities for me where I would be leading all kinds of educators in conversations and challenges. In design thinking we highly value and work with our users. The main users of schools are the students. So it only makes sense that for us to re-design schools, we need to value and work with students. Not only is it helpful for students to provide feedback and be involved with ideating on projects, but it also is a huge confidence builder as a student to be talking with external mentors on “real world” issues such as education transformation—External Mentors Make Things Real 

All of these key learning moments from this past year have been made even greater in my mind because I was able to reflect upon them on my blog. Blogging has given me a place to share my story in a way where I can also easily look back and find trends and connections between my observations. Plus on top of everything, I’m constantly expanding my network and getting new opportunities. I know I’m not the best writer in the world, and I know it’s an area that I could most improve on, but since I’ve been blogging I’ve grown a new confidence and joy in my writing. Writing helps us think, reflecting helps us grow, sharing helps make the world a better place, and blogging is all 3 in one!

Power of Story-Typing

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That’s a wrap! Fuse16 is officially over after a jam packed week of design thinking, everyone has started to head back to where ever they traveled from around the world. In my opinion this year was the best one yet with prototypes and pitches that were clear, creatively, implementable, and meeting the user needs with flying colors!

What I think really made this year so great was the intentional focus on story-typing: prototyping the story. Story telling is at the heart of design thinking because it’s how we share empathy to a wide number of people! A good pitch needs to tell the audience about your user and why their needs are important enough to design for while also telling the story of your idea and showing why it’s a great solution to help your user. Everything is a story!

This year we made it really clear that the story is the most important part of your idea by giving teams ample specific time to craft and perfect the story component of their idea. This made for final pitches that blew us all away, especially the users! When a user asks if they can share their email with you to literally implement your idea as soon as possible, you know you’ve had a successful pitch– a successful story.

A good story can change the world, so it’s worth spending a lot of time crafting the best story you can. This final day of fuse16 proved that story-typing makes for some kick butt final pitches even for a group of mainly first time DTers! And I know that after fuse16, everyone will have some great stories to bring back home and truly change the world by transforming education for a better tomorrow.

No More Hesitation

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New faces, new stories, new possibilities; fuse16 day 1 is done and it was such a great hit!

For those of you that didn’t get to join in on the fun this year, here’s a quick summary of today’s flow:

We love to throw people right into the deep end by starting this morning off with a design thinking flashlab, where we went through an entire lap of design thinking in just a few hours. From there we had lots of opportunities to eat, question, and mingle and finished the night with some powerful MoVe (moment of visible empathy) talks given by our 4 non-profit partners and 4 people from MVPS.

One of the things I love most about fuse is the opportunity to meet so many new passionate people in one place at one time. I had so many MoVeing (I crack myself up) conversations with people today about all sorts of things from blogging, to theater, to foreign language, to gymnastics, and then of course many conversations about design thinking and how it’s impacted my life. (Especially after giving my MoVe Talk: Thinking Like a Designer— this is actually last year, but it’s the same talk minus one slide and a years more worth of public speaking and natural improv with the audience.)

I love the chance to network with so many people and I’m honored that so many people care about my opinions. What I’ve realized from today is that even in just the last year, I’ve grown to be so much more comfortable with design thinking and the language that accompanies it.

While coaching I’m not always turning to another to ask a million questions about it I’m going about things right; instead I’m being asked questions. In conversations people have caught me saying “design slang” terms like “I wonder” and “what if” and “discovery and empathy work” naturally in response to questions not necessarily about DT directly. Being one of, if not the only student, in the room has become normal to me; in fact, today I was actually pushing my little sister to go join in with the adults since this was her first time in a situation like that. (I also told her to get use to it since she’s joining ID next year.)

In my MoVe Talk I mention how there is no perfect designer, but the best we can do is to continually practice and you will find yourself more naturally feeling and acting like a designer. I wrote up this MoVe a year ago when I had first noticed myself subconsciously thinking like a designer, and now, a year later, I feel this statement is even more true. Last year I was just realizing that I am a designer and everyone else can be one too, and going back to freshman year I was just learning what design thinking even was. The year before that, I couldn’t tell you the first thing about what it meant to think like a designer. But now, in just 3 years, I don’t think I hesitate at all to say that I’m a designer. All that’s changed is that I’ve had more experiences to build confidence and competence.

It’s always nice to get a reminder that makes you look back on where you were to make you realize just how far you’ve come.

 

Present Future

imgres.jpgOver the summer is always a weird time with trying to say what grade your in. Every year you’re like “well I just finished 8th grade, but I’m not really a freshman yet,” etc. However, once you graduate junior year, it’s like that next second you all of a sudden become a senior. Poof. Abracadabra. Magic. Just like that you’re told you’re older with all of these new responsibilities that you have to start figuring out.

Now that I’m apparently a senior, I get asked all of the time “where do you want to go to college,” which seems like a seems like a simple enough question; wrong. It’s a question full of confusion and hope and stress and excitement and at this point just hard to answer. Yet today alone I think it came up 3 times for me.

Sometimes what frustrates me is that it seems like everyone’s always looking too far in the future. Yes college is a big part of some people’s lives and a big decision and all, but what about this whole year I still have in front of me? What about the more immediate future? I’m just as confused and hopefully and stressed and excited about my present future as I am about my future future, but one is much more right in front of me. Yet once you become a senior it seems that people stop asking about your present future and trying to help you plan for exciting things we can do right now in our life.

I mean just within this past week alone I’ve had my first MVPS Strategic Planning meeting, Kat and I are talking to a school taking first steps towards 21st century education about our AP Lang course tomorrow, and then fuse16 is Wednesday-Friday this week! There are so many exciting things right in front of me before college! And there are so many possibilities of things I can accomplish just next year!

High school, middle school, even elementary school students have amazing capabilities and potential just at the age they are right now. I think talking about college bugs me so much sometimes because some people seem to make it seem like we have to wait to have the “time of our life” until we get to college. I want next year to be amazing and big and exciting and impactful and I don’t want to spend all year just talking about the future future; I want to spend more time focusing on the present future because that matters too.

Independent

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It’s official, I’M AT NERD CAMP!!!!!!!!!!!! Today was a day of travel and ice breakers/getting to know you games.

I love how I can come to a completely new campus with completely new people, and yet everyone seems like they have known each other for years. (Or at least have met before.)

A common thing to do at Nerd Camp, when not in a classroom, is to play ultimate frisbee. From the moment I arrived there were already people playing. We ended up having so many that we had to have 3 teams and we rotated off if your team lost. (My team kicked butt, we stayed on about 5 times in a row before coming off once!)

In the syllabus of TIP they specifically say that they want all students to fully participate in both the academic and social experience that TIP has to offer. I love how this is a goal of the program because there really is a greatness of the TIP community.

Most people don’t know anyone when they arrive, but after even just 2 weeks you become submerged into a a group of people that you never forget. I still email my fellow TIPsters from the last 2 years. (The big times are on Pi Day and Perfect Day.) There is also a TIPwiki page that TIPsters use to talk about different campus and terms, and also to talk about things like TIPappreshiation day.

The cool thing about that day is that I’ve heard of several people who find out about other TIPsters at their school that they didn’t know about.

Summer camp in general is such a great thing for students because you meet people from all over. People in my class this year are from Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Florida, Louisiana, and some even right in Georgia like me. This goes back to my post about community, but also just learning to be independent.

Everyone in a field study is a high schooler, and we are all going to be living here for 2 weeks. Obviously there are adults around, but we really have to be fairly independent with getting stuff done and making sure we are on time everywhere.

Independency is a great skill for the future, but not everyone is as fortunate as I to get to go to a sleep away summer camp.  I wonder if learning to be independent could be more incorporated into school in a beneficial way. (I have more pondering to do I guess.)

Time is a Wonderful Thing

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Ah summer. Finals are finished, school is over, and you finally think you have a break with time to relax; then you realize that you really don’t.

For me summer is full of trips, camps, and lots of time spent at the gym so there isn’t much down time. Today was the first day of team summer practice, so there are a lot of new “little bits” which are the young girls that are now starting team for the first time. For them, and all of the other team girls, the summer will mainly be spent at gyms training for next fall and competition season.

Summer is thought of as the time when everything will slow down and life will be less stressful, but it seems like everyone is already thinking about the fall, and you haven’t helped with a summer camp if you think it isn’t stressful. Gymnastics, school, work, all of summer is just training and preparation to get back into the “normal” flow of things.

So much is going on all of the time, and every now and then it would be nice to just stop. But stopping takes up time, and if we take the time to stop then we are missing out on other things that could be happening.

All school year we think and dream of summer, then all of the summer we think and dream about the school year and what new things will come. I know I may not be the average kid since I enjoy school, but even those kids that don’t particularly like school think about the school year over the summer; even if they are bad thoughts.

I’ve noticed that humans just always need something to think about, so often times that means thinking about the future and what to look forward to. This is where motivation came from, because human nature is to constantly think, and when you can think about whatever your “prize” is that is waiting for you after the long journey is over it makes all of the work worth it.

Summer is the time of adventures, exploring what is out in the world that you really enjoy. Then you come back to the fall with a good basic foundation to start the school year ready for action. It is almost like the true beginning of the year is the summer because it is when you really start learning and preparing for the next year.

Summer will fly by, but if you spend your time correctly, then you will be all ready for the rest of the year. Make the most of your summer and remember, “carpe diem,” seize the day (ha to anyone that says that you never use Latin!) because time is valuable thing that you can’t get back.

Tic toc, tic toc…