We often make the mistake, as educators, of going to community and industry partners with our hands out. We ask, "What can industry do for my students? How can industry help" It wasn't until I was talking with a team member at an Adobe field trip that I realized that I tend to swap that request around.
My first question, whenever I meet anyone in industry is, "How can my students help you with your business?"
It was in the asking of that question, with a team of people from Adobe who happened to be touring my school, that I began what has been a powerful relationship with their company. It turns out that Adobe often wants the feedback of students on product that is in development. They want students who can speak up, are not afraid to offer clear opinions, that are interested in making beautiful images with their products, that understand the basics of project management, and who are generally mature enough to work with a team of adults to communicate clearly what they want and don't want.
To that end, a group of my students were invited to come visit Adobe Headquarters this week, to work with a team of researchers and developers on product. Students got to show the team how they use the product, discuss what they like and don't like, review marketing preferences, and answer a whole host of questions. To some students, it would be intimidating to meet with 15 adults and to be put on the hot seat, but because we concentrate on building collaboration, and oral and written communication skills at New Tech High, these students were up to the task.
After having a great working session with the crew and speaking with their research folks, we has an incredibly powerful career panel, where a small team of people with varied job titles at Adobe, spoke to the students about their path from high school to Adobe. They talked about their trials and tribulations, as well as where they chose to pivot to pursue their interests instead of staying on whatever path they thought they were supposed to pursue. The general message was one of supporting students to think about following their bliss, considering design your own majors or double majoring in seemingly disparate subjects, or choosing minors that support their creative passions.
The entire trips was eye opening for all the students. They were super grateful to have the time and the special connections they made with folks at Adobe. Surprisingly, the Adobe folks were also super grateful to have the students there. I think that in making industry partners, the relationship has to go both ways. We can not just take, take, take, but also offer added value to our partners, such that we help companies in some way, by offering insight into a demographic they don't normally hear from, or by creating great product that can help companies in their endeavors.
What an incredible day. I know it has helped my students gain confidence, gain more clarity about what their next steps are in college and beyond, and it's opened doors for them that would not normally be open. I hope all teachers are on the lookout for ways to partner with industry. Just remember, ask not what your industry partner can do for you, but what you can do for your industry partner!
Externships can give you some of the biggest payoffs in terms of time spent. I KNOW teachers need their vacations to regroup and recharge. However, if you invest a few days or a week of your time during winter or spring break, it can really change the way you bring your game to the classroom and change the support that you get from outside businesses. In the long term, I'll work during a break any time to get that kind of support from outside business! I'm a better teacher and the opportunities it has opened for my students are amazing. Read on to find out why it's worth it....
A crew from Adobe walked through my classroom last year, wanting to see what we were up to in Digital Media. I had just read an article about externships, where teachers work at a business for a period of time to get outside of the classroom bubble, and happened to ask one of the visitors if Adobe ever did anything like externships. The response was, "Not that I know of, but if you do some research and get back to me on it, we can keep exploring that idea."
Fast forward a year and I've had the privilege of externing twice as Adobe, once during Spring Break for a week and then for another week and half this summer. Needless to say, it was a huge success and one which I can't speak highly enough. Bottom line, both teachers and students can benefit greatly from teacher externships.
So what was it all about and why should you explore your own externship possibilities?
Externships are defined as a set amount of time that teachers work at a company, usually a few days to a week or two. On-site tasks for teachers can include attending meetings, shadowing a variety of jobs, doing research, providing support that college-aged interns might provide, and just being a useful employee. Externships can be paid or unpaid, depending upon the business, the district or the pre-created externship program. I was lucky enough to get some grant money as a stipend for my first externship and was then invited back by Adobe on their dime for a second externship a few months later.
For both externships, I was embedded on a product development team, worked on providing valuable insights into the education community, what teachers and students need, gave feedback on product iteration, had conferences with heads of various product teams to talk about what is most important for students, met with people whose focus was on forward-thinking educators, met with designers, coders, marketing people and more.
I observed what types of physical environments in the workplace support creativity, problem solving and productivity, learned about how teams collaborate in the real world, learned what tools people use to communicate remotely and in person, and was steeped in project management approaches in the professional world.
And because I was embedded at a company that uses the very skills that I teach my digital design classroom, I got a chance to connect and geek out over digital design concepts, such as font choices, color choices, use of hierarchy, and design thinking as it is applied to product creation. I saw, in action, how to conduct user interviews, user testing sessions, conduct my own research and create user profiles and more. I helped my team better understand the very students, teachers, creative professionals and business folks they are developing product for. It was beneficial for both me and for Adobe. I got to see how the sausage is made and they got unique insights into what really happens in a digital media classroom.
How my experience changed what and how I teach
The amazing things is that I have now brought best practices back to my students in all areas of learning, including how to best collaborate on projects, how to use more elevated and practical knowledge of design principles and how to best manage workflow. I can speak with confidence to my students about why certain things that I teach are important and where they come into play in the day to day operations of a tech company. I have a much clearer idea of what sorts of jobs are available to them once they leave school and how to direct them toward those opportunities.
Once you are in the door, the possibilities are endless
There were all sorts of outcomes that were completely unexpected that came out of being in the Adobe office.
NONE OF THE ABOVE THINGS WOULD HAVE HAPPENED WITHOUT PHYSICALLY BEING AT THE COMPANY.
If you want to make things happen for your school and open up opportunities for your students, you have to show up and get some face time with the business people who can make that happen.
The truth is, businesses are wanting to help us in the classroom and with our students. But in order to forge those relationships, you have to go where the businesses are, and not the other way around.
That means getting out of your classroom, pushing yourself to make some calls to businesses that align with what you are doing in your classroom and asking for connection and help.
And even without all these amazing connections that I've made, if I did nothing else, I've learned about how business operates, how adults use the skills I teach every day, and how students can plug into that adult world, once they enter the workforce. That, in and of itself, makes the externship experience worth while.
(The secret truth about externships)
I was worried that I would be exhausted after giving up my vacation time to work outside of the classroom. It turns out it was surprisingly energizing. It's not like working at school with students. I worked with adults, had real hour long lunch breaks, had time to think and complete my thoughts without interruption, and generally marveled at how adults outside of the education field work every day. It's all very civilized.
If you have any questions about externships, just comment below and I'll be happy to answer them!
I'm teaching a workshop right now on blog portfolios and how to promote blogs online so they get seen. Teachers are learning great stuff. Hey blogosphere, let's show the teachers that they can get their writing seen. Comment below or share this on twitter and Facebook and prove why blogs rock!
1) Not enough time!
2) Too personal and I worry that my students will read it!
3) I don't know how or where to start
4) I don't want to be too honest or offend someone in the public space
5) I don't think my ideas are good enough
6) My interests are so varied, I don't know how to narrow my focus down
7) I only have one interest and it's school, and who wants to hear about that?
8) I'm not sure if it will be fun, or more like another work thing to do.
9) I don't have the discipline to do it regularly.
10) I'm hiding out from the law. Shhhshhh.
Tony is a rockin' 10th grader in my Game Design class, who, amongst his classmates in American Studies, created amazing thoughts about Frankenstein and the modern day problems of our times.
New Tech High: Blog Portfolios had been selected to be a part of HundrED 2017, as one of the most inspiring innovations in K12 education. This means New Tech had been through a rigorous research process carried out by HundrED’s own in-house research team, been analyzed by educational expert advisory boards, and had also been reviewed by student advisory boards too!
The core goal of HundrED is to help good practices in education spread, as education is the key to a happy and healthy future. HundrED hopes to inspire people in education all over the world to improve education where they are. HundrED’s findings are always shared with the world for free.
For me the Summit was an incredibly affirming event that let me know that the work New Tech does fits in well with the rest of the innovators out there around the globe. The educators at the Finnish schools we visited agreed that we could easily be sister schools in that we are wrestling with the same issues in education these days. How powerful it is to know that what we are doing with the New Tech Network is right up there with one of the leading education nations of the world!
Besides the nice pat on the back, the most powerful part of attending was making new relationships with other like-minded people around the globe. I already have plans to take a new astro-physicist friend in Whales up on his offer to have students play with his 20 networked telescopes across the globe and plans are in the works next year to do a joint video project with another authentic PBL school based in Cambodia.
When the education narrative in the U.S. is one of despair and divisive politics, the Summit painted for me, a much broader and hopeful picture. If you are interested in exploring, you can find the selected innovations at hundred.org. There are opportunities to become a hundred school, to try innovations, to become a hundred ambassador, and to nominate new innovations.
For the fourth year in a row, I have spent part of my summer teaching high school students up at Camp Newman in Northern California. In the past, I have concentrated on teaching video storytelling in the Arts-based camp session and also in the Social Action-based camp session, alternating between the two. This summer I decided that I wanted to bring something different to the campers, something that would marry head, heart and hands together to engage the whole camper. So I decided to enlist my friend Hillary Homzie to help me create a new class called "Poetry and Claymation" You can read all about what we did in the article "Fearless Campers Use Clay and Poetry to Express Emotions."
Both of us decided that it would be best to split the 90 minute sessions by using the first half of each class to write poetry and the second half, working with clay and cameras. Having this nice balance between head and hand-based work really worked for the campers.
Mental Note to Self: When working with students, use two seemingly different activities happening at the same time to balance out left and right brain engagement.
Campers were surprised at how two very different activities could complement each other so well. They felt that when they could move freely between the two activities, depending upon their mood, or their process, it really helped to keep them engaged. Once we got them going with a few days of splitting the class in half, time-wise, we let them decide how they wanted to spend their time thereafter. Some campers chose to spend 90 minutes one day focusing totally on claymation and then the next day, totally on poetry. Other campers chose several days of just claymation and then poured out their poetry on the last day of class. They seemed unsure at first about writing poetry, but seemed to grasp the concepts on their own time, and then, really surprised us at the end!
Natural Differentiation: Having two simultaneous and intertwined activities gave each learner the chance to engage in each activity when they were ready and at their own speed.
Even when we, as teachers, worried about a camper missing out on one activity, they all came through in the end because it was creative, it allowed them to find their own voice, and ultimately, they saw value in balanced end product. It took trust on our part, as teachers to allow that unfold. I will be taking this dual-activity concept into the school year next year, for sure. I may even have to do this project with my Video Storytelling class. It would be a great way to start the year off!
I'd had my eye on taking the Innovative Learning Master program for several years now and got my chance to attend, thanks to a generous grant from NapaLearns and a scholarship from the Napa Valley Retired Teachers Association. I finished by degree in 18th months because Touro gives some credit toward the degree through the work already done by teachers when they go through their credentialing process. Finishing my degree in December of 2016, I've had the remainder of the 2016-17 year to apply some of the great knowledge I had attained through the program.
The time and money was extremely well spent. I had time to explore new technologies, study educational models and theory, connect with motivated and wonderful teachers from around the district (K-12) and explore what innovative and successful education looks like across our nation and around the world. We were asked to create an action research paper to study how to use qualitative and quantitative practice to deepen our teaching and solve problems for our students in our classrooms. We had the chance to really understand what a rigorous inquiry cycle of learning looks like, both for us as teachers and also how to apply that to student lessons.
Pedagogy Shmedagogy, What's that all about?
After having gone through this process, I can truly say that I feel so much more rooted in pedagogy and theory. It's one thing to instinctively know when you are succeeding in the classroom, and another to take the time to explore all the data points, triangulating as needed to verify what you know intuitively, and to be able to apply new approaches to the problem when that data gives you the clarity you need as a teacher. It means that I'm not just shooting from the hip as a teacher, but have backed up my teaching practices with known strategies of success AND I can measure the success of my students over time with student work, observation, survey data and more.
Expectations that Touro grads will take on leadership positions
I feel much stronger as a leader, both in my school and in my district. After graduating, I became a PLC (Personal Learning Community) leader for a group of five teachers who met on a regular basis to help examine student work and deepen teaching practices. When faced with a lot on our plates to do as teachers, there is often push back from teachers when they are asked to conduct an inquiry cycle. And, as expected, there was pushback from my PLC, even from myself. But I knew, having done several inquiry cycles in graduate school, that the work is worthwhile and really does get results. If I had not had those experiences and understood the value of doing that kind of work, I would not have been able to effectively lead my PLC team toward the findings and learnings we came to. I felt that, in some wonderful way, that I helped other teachers to also find the value in data-backed inquiry learning. At the end of the year, we all agreed that the work we had done was exciting, useful, fulfilling and got us some great results with student outcomes.
I've also had the opportunity to serve on the Deeper Learning Team at New Tech High, exploring ways that we can continue to innovate as a school. We are the flagship New Technology school, the first of over 200 across the country and abroad and we continue to innovate and looks toward the future of education. I didn't feel like an imposter on that committee, but instead felt a sense of pride that I could contribute my knowledge and experience to the team after going through the Innovative Learning program. It felt as though my master education prepared me well to serve on that committee as I will continue to serve next year, both as PLC leader and committee member.
Lastly, I took a lot of my newfound technical skills and turned around and taught what I had just learned to other teachers through the Digital Innovators program sponsored by Napa Learns. I hope that many of the teachers who attended my workshops on the Start-up Classroom decide to also get their masters in the Touro program and that we continue to build a strong community of engaged and excited teachers who understand best practices as we move forward in innovative learning.
Surprises along the way
As a Digital Design teacher, I was unsure as to how I would be challenged in the program, since I work with some high level software and am very comfortable on the computer. Although it was true, that often times, I already had the technical knowledge being taught, I do not always get the time to explore the apps and processes that I would like to. The class gave me the time and structure to explore some new apps, try on skills that I often teach, but do not have time to practice myself, and to see what other teachers and other grade levels need and want in the classroom. Often working in teams, I got better insight into what would work and not work for other teachers who don't have the same level of technical knowledge I have. This in turn helped me to create workshops for the district that better met the needs of ALL teachers at all different levels of technical comfort levels.
The other learning that touched me deeply and really surprised me had to do with the educational models such as TPACK, The Pebble in a Pond Model, Design Thinking, and The Gap Model. I am a practical person who does not always like to think in abstract ways. I struggled, at first, to find the relevance of such models in my classroom. But once I realized that these are just tried and true structures upon which one can hang lessons and curriculum, it became clear to me how valuable they were. They provided the much needed teaching templates for me to structure some really big programs I had been working on. These models guided me as a developed a whole school eportfolio/blogging program for New Tech and helped me to organize and clarify my thinking about a huge project.
I'm in the process of working with the Digital Innovators program to leverage the work that we as Touro Fellows have learned in our program. We envision graduates getting together in more informal, relaxed settings to share ideas and concepts that are working in the classroom, while providing some basic structure for continued engagement. I am also working on leveraging the success we've had at New Tech with our school-wide blogging program to bring this concept to other schools throughout the district as well as on a national and international level. I like to think big and have a big impact when the innovations are really showing results. If it's working, others should know and be able to harness the newly tested strategies and my focus next year will be on refining those innovative practices and then sharing with the world. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to have gotten my post-graduate degree at Touro and would recommend the program to any teacher considering it. It will only continue to strengthen our district and ultimately, our students.
In our PLC, (Professional Learning Community) we are working in a new cycle of inquiry.
Our question is:
How can we better support students to document their growth over time?
We are finding that some students just DO NOT like to write reflection pieces, or planning documents, or documents that show what they are learning. We believe there are several factors at play in these situations.
1) Students can have resistance to writing no matter what
2) Students just want to learn, but not document their learning.
3) Students feel that writing about their learning is just a thing that needs to be done to appease the teachers.
We have a theory that if we make documentation easier for those students who resist, that are percentage of participation with increase. We will be mining our data from the last two progress reports to see what percentage of participation we got for past reflections and documentation activities. We will then provide video blogging as an alternative to writing and compare percentages of participation again. This will be a 2-3 week research action cycle.
We are in our second year of blogging in order to document work, connect with community and teach others what we, ourselves have learned. Staff is beginning to understand how to use the blog as a means for students to document and reflect on their learning and my fellow colleague who teaches Chemistry went for it and had her students blog about a recent PBL project. She then shared one of the student blogs on her twitter account, which was then retweeted by a local Administrator at another High School, which was THEN picked up by another person in the Napa Valley School district. Within one day, this students reflection post was read by over 300 people on the internet.
This is just one of so many examples of how having a digital presence can be so wonderful. How powerful that experience was for the student who wrote the blog...and for the chemistry teacher....AND for our whole staff here at New Tech!
Here's the blog post. Feel free to leave a comment for the student directly on your website.
With this case study in mind, let's talk about how I view transformational leadership. I firmly believe that leadership through example is the best way to make real change happen. If we want to effect change, in any arena, it's a constant job of building value. Blogging and talking about the value of blogging, making that value visible to staff, students and teachers throughout my personal learning network, is a way to change the way we do things in the world of education.
Lead by Example
Before I came to the teaching profession, I built a high successful video production company by blogging on a regular basis. I built a name for myself as an expert in my field and opened doors that would normally be closed. This is my hope for blogging at New Tech and I know that if I, myself, want others to establish a digital presence, then I need to do so for myself first.
Bias Toward Action
I understand that we are just at the beginning of the portfolio transformation process, and that this is a process of experimentation, iteration and refinement, but we must start somewhere. Even in it's infancy stages, our school wide portfolio process is off to a great start. We do not know what the outcome will be, but we have jumped into the activity of blogging with both feet. We are willing to try, willing to experiment and willing to get feedback and continue in the iteration process.
Working as a team
One of the most critical pieces to transformational leadership, beyond the willingness to lead by example and the willingness to jump right in, is the ability to reach out to stakeholders and get buy in. Last year, we created a portfolio committee made up of two teachers and 8 students. We went through the design process in order to come up with the very best process, taking time to do empathy interviews with students and staff and getting feedback from future end users.
If there is one thing that I have gained in this process, it's the understanding that although the process took a lot longer than I would have liked, due to the design process, the results were that we had great buy-in, clear reasoning as to the choices we made as a group, and a clear vision for what is possible with blog portfolios. Often, the choices our committee made were choices I would have made on my own, but the true power came in arriving at those choices together.
Three Key Elements to Transformational Leadership
In summary, what I have learned is that transformational leadership is most powerful and full of ease, when it includes these elements.
Our lives have changes so much in the last 5-10 years due to changing and disruptive technologies. We can not think that we can continue to educate our students in the same manner as has been done for the last 100 years and expect positive and useful outcomes. My personal goals as a teacher include using the classroom as a lab for teaching in innovative ways that speak directly to the needs of 21st Century students. I would like to then take what I have learned to other teachers and administrators, so that others can deepen their practices and better serve the students they teach. I get so much satisfaction out of using the Design Thinking process to improve my own teaching. If we live in world where iteration is the keystone of our new technology-based world, it's imperative that we not only teach Design Thinking, but use it in our daily practice as teachers.
I love the hands-on, on-the-ground application of teaching ideals, by being in the classroom at New Tech High on a daily basis. I am given a great deal of freedom to try new ways of teaching and often involve my students in the process of improvement. This is the norm at New Tech, for all teachers and administrators to collaborate. Collaboration between staff and students is one of the biggest strengths of our school.
In that vein, I am working on establishing a robust curriculum and library of resources to teach students and staff the value of blogging and social media. Using the Design Process last year, a committee of two staff and ten students redesigned what used to a brochure-like academic portfolio. We opened up the concept to blogging and, instead of asking students to jump through hoops to create a portfolio that no one every looked at, we decided that it would become a living and useful document.
Students are now allowed to write blogs on anything that interests them. They are also expected to use the blog as a public forum to teach others what they have learned, to document their work and to reflect on their learning practices. Blogs can then be shared within the learning community and with the community at large. Last year we began the program with some basic tutorials on how to set up their blogs, as well as some videos explaining the value of blogging and the history of what we have done with portfolios and how we arrived at our new blog-based portfolio.
My goal this semester is to fill out the curriculum for portfolios more fully, while having those lessons be informed by learning models and theory, including Baggio, Clark and TPACK. I will be creating more tutorials, both written and recorded, so that different learners can access the information in different ways.
Having a digital presence on the web is so essential these days if you want to get a job, find professionals to network with, or to create a following for businesses purposes. Having every student understand how to use their portfolio to be successful as an adult allows ALL students access to valuable and incredibly useful skills in the 21st Century. In order to compete in the marketplace, either for jobs or as entrepreneurs, one has to understand how to use one's digital presence to create credibility, show proficiency and to show a sense of agency.
This has led me to, what in my mind, is an obvious inquiry question: How can students effectively participate in and contribute to a learning community through blogging?
Originally my inquiry question was: What is the effect of Digital Tools (Nearpod) on Reading Comprehension, Focus and Engagement?
Interestingly, these seemingly different inquiry questions are related, in that I have an active presence online and use my digital presence to keep my professional network informed about my work in the classroom. Last semester, I posted an article on my blog about my first inquiry question, and the news of my work got to the VP of Marketing at Nearpod. He contacted me about my action research paper. From there, he and I agreed that Nearpod would publish my paper on their website. I am excited to say that it looks great and will soon be made public. It has helped me make important relationships with folks in the education software field and will now further establish my credibility in the field of Innovative Learning. Powerful stuff.
So, although I did not stick with my first inquiry question, I do believe, that ultimately, my current inquiry question addresses a more broad and pertinent question that has a strong relationship to the first question. I have shown, through the process of my first inquiry paper being published, how critical it can be to success to know how to participate in the greater community through blogging. If students can harness the power of blogging, there will be no stopping them, as they go out into the world to get jobs, create businesses, and ultimately, to make a difference.
Lisa Gottfried is a CTE teacher with 20 years experience as CEO of her own Video and Motion Graphics Production house. She currently teaches Intro to Digital Media, Video Production and Game/3D Design. She loves her job and her students!