Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Charting course for the Spring...

I've been busy planning for a Spring sabbatical. It's an ambitious jaunt.

Two changes from that original proposal...

1. When I first wrote this proposal, Chris Lehmann chimed in that I should visit Olin College of Engineering. After a quick look see at what Olin was doing, Chris' recommendation rang true. I penciled in a trip to Olin to explore their approach. Since then, I've explored Olin's approach in more detail. I'm hoping to visit... and then revisit the school again later. My questions will evolve, and as the trip goes on I have no doubt I'll soak in more. This is an approach I'll look to take with a few schools on the list if they see this as a worthwhile endeavor.

2. Attending the 2013 TED conference didn't work out. My application to attend was not accepted (it's by invitation only) and as I researched the potential trip to the nth degree... it was lining up to be an incredibly expensive outing. I felt I could leverage the money on this trip better toward spending more time in these great places I'm visiting and a new opportunity also emerged...

I've hooked on with a University of Vermont trip to New Zealand to explore some great schools there. Two weeks, immersive, exploring student learning. Looking forward to it already.

So, I'll be visiting all these great schools...

Here are the major questions I'll be exploring this Spring:

What is 'learning' and 'school'? The schools on my explorative list push the boundaries of typical 'institutional learning and curriculum.' They are doing innovative things. Project based ed, differentiated instruction, internship programs, travel programs, etc. Broad question there... but many of the schools I'll be visiting are challenging students in meaningful ways. How did they build these best practices? How do they maintain them? How do they refine them?

How can the 'the structure of school' be leveraged to foster and promote growth and collaboration? Schools often function in separate casts... Administration, Faculty, Staff, and Students. How do these schools step beyond these common pitfalls and move things forward? 

School Schedule/s: What should / could a school schedule look like? Why should all grade levels (in high school) typically have the same schedule? Internships, advisory, mentoring, courses, by appt, self-paced courses, online courses, there are many different approaches here... it's a long list.

Time in schools: Start time, end time, transitions times, why or why not 'bell based' schedules still exists, mentorships, school lunch, the concept of 'the school day,' and how schools orchestrate 'homework.' How can the 'school schedule' improve to promote learning, health, and connection to family and community... nd help students get some rest too.

Technology in schools: All of the schools on my list, for lack of a better term... use technology well. Learning is the key objective and the tech helps open doors to explore the world. Collaboration, exploration, creativity. How did they / do they approach PD? Some seem to do this formally, and some more organically through pedagogy and mentorship. What are the best practices and why?

Learning models: What are we challenging students to do and is it worthwhile? Who's doing innovative work out there, and why is it working? Internship programs, capstones, projects... another long list of approaches.

Most importantly, I'm hoping to conjure up chats with many great educational leaders, teachers, and students on my travels to ask one simple question...

What's next? 

These schools are innovative. What don't they feel they're doing well, why, and where are they headed next? What's their vision of what 'school' become?
I'll be blogging along the way and parsing all this down into what's working well and why. Ultimately I figure it will evolve into a school model I'd like to develop. 

It's my hope that many of these incredible educators and school leaders I'll visit can chime in on the blog here as I travel and offer up ideas and observations. Who knows what we all might just stir up.

So, my question to you is... are there other places I should visit? Most importantly... am I asking the right questions? What else should / could I be exploring here?


  1. Check out

  2. What about checking out the opposite types of schools? Schools that are underperforming, diverse, and high poverty on your travels? It might give you some good perspective on things you may not have thought of as being part of a successful and innovative school. Also the School Of One looks fascinating in NYC ( I have not been able to get into see this school in action though.

  3. Indeed, Seth. I've pursued all of the ideas you've mentioned. It's difficult to get some schools to open their doors. The School of One is on my list to pursue too. Haven't contacted them yet ; )