In early October the ASFM Tech Action Committee gathered to discuss innovation at ASFM. Most of the committee, comprised of our Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Principals, Assistant Principals, Directors, Coaches, etc, had just returned from the annual Tri-Association Educators conference in the Dominican Republic. As a result we asked, “what are you curious about?” The responses were varied yet interesting. From there we shared out, partnered up, and committed to plan the next steps to explore. I shared for example, was that “I’m curious about authentically published learning platforms,” but that isn’t the focus of this post.
What I want to share is the journey we have started as a result of Sheldon Guenther and Jonathan Chenier’s being curious about an alternative education program which starts with our students as the designers. I am proud and honored to say that this week, less than a month after the spark was lit, we started with just that, students. We created an invitation to a journey to think differently about school with the video below. When the 9th grade generation met for an assembly, we took five minutes, pressed play, and walked away. We wanted to be as faceless as Daft Punk and let the idea move them.
As you can see, we started with “Why” and were purposefully unclear as to the direction we are headed. We also shared this out with students before we pitched to teachers. We are not sure to what extent that is a good idea but we wanted to emphasize our commitment to students being the focus.
On Thursday, November 1, we waited to see who this message resonated with enough to move them to take the first step. To our surprise, 15 grade 9 students felt compelled enough to explore the better plausible future. And so it has begun.
One non-negotiable aspect of this project is that we are going to follow the Design Thinking process and cast ourselves as designers and therefore relinquish, as much as possible, our biases admin, principal, teacher, adult. Those are layers of self which we want to inform but not influence. This an experience we are designing with students. As we move forward, we want them to be advocating to their parents, the board, teachers, community members, peers, etc, for a more personalized and autonomous learning experience.
The first step of our ASFM L2E2 Design Thinking Process is Discovery. We need to know how students feel about their current learning experience, understand how they want to feel, and explore alternative mindsets and challenge the current model altogether. Everything is on the board to be redesigned. When we shared this with our Explorers, their posture changed. We have lift off.
What has been most impressive has been the extent to which our students have been able to express themselves with precision and articulateness. They have been able to express that they understand the structures and needs of education but also state why and how it doesn’t maximize their potential, time, or abilities. I have summarized the findings from our first sessions below.
How we feel about school?
Emerging Driers: Tired. Stressed. Unmotivated
How we want to feel?
Emerging Constraints: Inspired, Happy, Excited
If you were given a day to learn about anything, what would you choose to learn about?
What amazed me here is that what they chose to learn about wasn’t all that exotic but learned towards the practical. First aid was definitely not what I expected. The group also very quickly decided to increase the frequency of meetings from once to twice a week, with some also looking to extent the Discovery process beyond their grade level by connecting with Elementary students. In their words, “this may impact us in the short term but will mean more to them in the long term.” I’m going to let that breathe and wait to see where it lands.
The journey continues.