It’s About Doing More

How many hours did you spend in a classroom where you could barely keep your eyes open? Or had no clue what the person in front was droning on about?

Hundreds, maybe thousands of educators have banded around approaches that have domoreedustudents doing more. The maker-ed movement is one of these approaches. Design Thinking is another.

We need to scale. To go from scores of schools across the country to tens of thousands of schools.

We also need more approaches to #doing. Continue reading

It’s Not About Gender-Gaps. (Unless,…).

But it could be if you want it to be.

I personally feel the whole US STEM gender-gap thing overstates the case. I want to talk about boys AND girls being denied education, rights, full nutrition, dignity, limbs, and even life in places like Nigeria, Guatemala, Sudan. These are complex topics.

Yet that’s the beauty. If you want to focus on girls in tech, this is a way to do it. I love RailsGirls and GirlsWhoCode and GirlDevelopIt. Now, take it to the next level.

Beyond evenings or the odd weekend. Make it part of the regular academic school-day. For as many girls as you possibly can.

It’s Not Just About Ohio

The work here is for students (and teachers) everywhere.

The biggest aim here is to identify and develop really high quality connected learning experiences. We frame those around badges, and the badges are tied to high school credit, and some subtle details are tailored to fit Ohio’s Credit Flex approach, but… any teacher should be able to use these curricula with great groups of students.

Efforts are also underway to bring course choice to all states.

It’s Not About Badges

Oh, yes! We use badges. Open Badges. They’re core to how we organized learning for students, parents, and teachers to find.

They’re rallying points for diverse community-members to view, contribute to, review, aImagend design. They’re port-keys for connected learning.

Our badges will be extremely transparent. So you know exactly what learning has been undertaken. (Or will be undertaken.)

You’ll know, too, that our badges have real significance. They’ll map directly to credit needed for high school graduation. So not a worry at all if they’ll help you go to college or get a job. Absolutely.

Yet it’s not about badges. It’s about packaging up all kinds of extended learning experiences.


It’s About Transparency

What’s the entire testing thing about? Unless you’re into conspiracy theories (and many pundits are), the “testing mania” is really just about transparency.

A huge majority of Black and urban students (and plenty of rural southern students–and pockets of students everywhere else) weren’t graduating. Many were graduating, but were functionally illiterate, couldn’t calculate, couldn’t speak or write cogently.

There was lots of finger-pointing.

Testing was an attempt to sort out who was teaching what. Testing helped show who wasn’t learning the basics. It also showed some other weaknesses. It made much that wasn’t visible, more transparent.

Alas, what testing couldn’t show is, “Who is getting educated?” “Who’s ready for the world as it is?” (I think I borrowed that phrase).

Nothing can ever completely show that. Yet we can do much better. An entire set of tools are available; we should be creating more.

Meanwhile, we can also dramatically increase the options of what students learn, as well as how, how much, where, when, and from whom.

It’s About Everybody

We’re building on Ohio’s Credit Flexibility law. Most who know of the law (and they are few) think it’s something for a handful of students. The very brightest who will do some research and invent cold fusion. Or the most talented who will use it to join the world youth orchestra. Or the slowest who need saved in economics in order to make the football squad.

It’s about every student. Every student.

If they don’t take a credit flex option, they’ll benefit from the added time teachers have while the most aggressive students are doing credit flex options.

But we think every student will come to find several options that make high school much better, richer, deeper, and more fun.

Some Music, Maestro?

A ‘perfect’ example of a badge blueprint might just teach music.

Not playing jazz, or writing symphonies. Though many young people are indeed teaching themselves to play guitar and piano via iPad apps and other means.

Rather, might we see a blueprint for first hearing, and then learning an academic framework of, music?

How many students might choose to learn more history through music? Or study the biographies of some of the great musicians, and what they accomplished, and how?

I’m thinking a mash-up of the Rails Blueprint and SmArtHistory, only with notes and clefs and  Mozart’s and maybe a little bit of Winton Marsalis’ Jazz Master classes or the Jazz Academy video series? Should it include the Abyssinian Mass? Maybe!

What would be the connected learning component of this? Some large symphonies have digital outreach, of course. Who else could be tapped in to?

We Need A Hundred of These

They’re certainly not perfect. They’re not even in the sweet spot as far as number oBadgeBlueprintf students reachable, ease of reading,

Yet this badge blueprint is good enough to show us the way.


The way to what, you ask? Well, personalized learning. Relevant learning. Competency-based-; Connected learning.

Student-based learning.


We’ll talk later about some of the elements that make this a good-enough example to build a library from.

For now, know that it represents 60-75 hours of work: half a Carnegie unit in most states.

It’s pretty demanding work. Continue reading

Saving High School?

Keil School Ruins, courtesy of Leslie Barrie

Keil School Ruins, courtesy of Leslie Barrie

Is High School disintegrating?

I don’t think so. And yet, we know it’s the education sector most often mentioned as needing substantial change.

Mention high school to business leaders and it’s not uncommon to hear them say, “throw it out”.  And increasingly, students are throwing parts or all of it out. Before she’d even left elementary, my niece was already assured that she’d leave high school early to collect college credits. Both nephews spent half of their last two years in classes at the nearby community college. It’s an accelerating trend.

Charter or community schools have also been taking increasing numbers of students from the larger public schools. Meanwhile, we’re told that ‘gifted’ students and ‘hands-on’ students alike are not being well-served. And, as we’ve mentioned, over half of Black young men still leave high school before they are done.

Should sending young people to college early be the standard approach? Should community college be de facto mandatory Continue reading

Things Will Change. This Fall.

Late Friday, on the way to set up for the ribs burnoff, whilst polishing off fuel at the local charity hotdog stand, Twitter announced a change of everything.

Welcome, @mrwheeler, to the ranks of the just-slightly-underpaid high school transition team.

Mr Wheeler at EdCamp Cleveland

@MrWheeler at EdCamp Cleveland

He’s taken a leave, and he’s going to work MakerSchool full time.

(Well, when we don’t have him changing the other 825 high schools in Ohio).