Archives For May 2013

Who is innovating?

Don Wettrick (Google+, Twitter, YouTube) is a high school teacher on a mission and has spawned the Innovations class. He is getting kids to hack their education and he’s getting some high profile thinkers to act as mentors. I spoke with Don about his hacker class and this is my distillation of our high energy, fast paced, intense conversation about hacking and hands on learning with teens.

What is the Innovations Class?

Don is reaching out for opportunities and helping his learners find and develop their entrepreneurial spirit. The Innovation course is by application only and spans 9 months of the school year. His current class has 9 enrolled students and 3 auditors. He admits that scheduling has been a challenge and some students have selected to audit the course without academic credit as a work around for joining the class when it really didn’t fit their schedule. I call that hack one! Below is a video created by students demonstrating one project from the class:

The secret ingredients are mentorship and sponsorship.

Hack two is that Don has realized what many are missing in the conversations about hack education: the need for mentors and sponsorship.  I do not mean sponsorship in the NASCAR sense, I mean in the learning sense. We both realize that the social aspects of learning are still paramount to success and he is executing this point. Don is helping his students find mentors and sponsors to deepen understanding, broaden their reach and participate in what David Weinberger calls networked knowledge. Don Wettrick is not a name dropper, so it took a little bit for him to spill the beans on the big wigs he’s brought to his school. Have you heard of Ryan Porter? (No, I hadn’t either, but if you are a screenager, your answer would likely be different). But, I know you have heard about Daniel Pink, right? The YouTube interview can be viewed here. He admits that some mentors provide a “one-and-done” experience, which is fair, Mr. Pink has other things to do.  Don points out that the real value is having kids reach out and build rapport with their own mentors instead of having teachers fanboy and fangirl out on their own thought-leader-superheroes.

Who wins? Who loses?

How are students responding to the elective Innovation class? Okay, quick pause: predict what student profile would do the best in this classroom.  Who might demonstrate the greatest success in the Innovation class? Picture the student in your mind including their grade point average, work ethic, organizational skills and so on.  I will provide Don’s observations in 3 seconds:








Answer: Students who are comfortable with freedom, openness and uncertainty did best. Don observes that students chasing high grades are the lowest achieving in his class. They apparently struggle in the absence of a syllabus and assignments.  I wonder if this is because these students are good at school and bad at learning? He also notes that students who are not motivated and who appear apathetic get overwhelmed very quickly.  Having freedom to exercise your own creative spirit is a scary thing and requires some scaffolding. I wonder if the profile of the successful student will change over time as more students develop problem solving, networking, collaboration and HOMAGO (hanging out, messing around and geeking out) skills.

Hands on Learning: What does this look like in the classroom?

There is a structure to his class to support his learners. The innovation cycle begins on Mondays as Don drops the inspirational bait or bomb to get the thinking moving. He tracks trends online via Forbes, You Tube, Twitter, and Stumble Upon. The students latch on to ideas and the class moves forward from there. The Next step is to research and find mentors. Students share their research on the topic followed by a day to themselves to let the ideas congeal. Friday is the day of reflection and blogging and wraps up a week of innovation.

Who else is an educational hacker?

Since speaking with Don Wettrick I have also found others that are offering hacks within their schools. David Preston is hacking the curriculum at his high school too. Howard Rheingold interviews Dr. Preston below and DML has written this blog post.

So what? Now what?

So, somewhere between kindergarten and a post doc, learners are asking their own questions.

Now, how do we hack mainstream and required high school courses? How do we hack elementary school? Passion projects, genius hour, problem based learning, gaming, gamification, hack the classroom? Should we hack the classroom? Why would we want to do such a thing?

Why? Because there should be more than two sweet spots (K and PhD) in education where a learner’s wonderings are taken seriously.

I am taking a course with Howard Rheingold called Introduction to Mind Amplifiers. One of our missions is to blog within the Social Media Classroom about our learning. This is pushing me to discover some important things about myself as a learner, thinker and writer. I am also learning about you, the public. And **you** the public begins with me. I am my first public. This blog is first and foremost a place where I spit out my words onto the screen and watch my ideas congeal into something I can actually hold and take with me into the future.

Part 1: Bloom’s Taxonomy for the Reflective Learner

As a thinker, I am learning to think on more than one level. Here is a Prezi by Peter Pappas titled “The Reflective School.” He says right up front that when we don’t have time to think about our thinking, we are just retelling the days events. He suggests using Bloom’s taxonomy for jacking up our reflection. Thank gawd it was not Gardner’s multiple intelligences, because that makes me throw up. There, I said it, I don’t like Gardner’s model of multiple intelligences.

Back to Bloom: remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, create. I need this tattooed on my arm because I can never remember this model. <insert ironic laugher here>.

The full blog post “A Taxonomy of Reflection“included this picture:

Peter Pappas Taxonomy


For my own reflection here on my blog, I can think of these processes:

Remember: Blog as recount of events

Understand: Blog as recount with links to other blogs and articles

Analyzing: Blog as connecting several events or posts to understand larger pattern in my thinking and work.

Evaluating: Blog as a place to admit to success and failures with qualitative and quantitative data.

Creating: Blog as venue for media texts that tell stories about all the above. Blog as planning platform for next steps.

Part 2: Blogging with Rheingold U

Howard Rheingold suggested watching this video to stretch my thinking about blogging. Andrew Sullivan’s video is more than worth watching. Bad for my blogging ego, good for my mind.

I admit that this is not a blog, it’s a website. Fine. But it’s where I am growing and that’s what really counts. If you are growing with me from reading my work and chasing hyperlinks I set down before you, that’s great too.


**This page has been updated in order to share the video. Sorry the link was broken earlier.**

Lisa Morris and I are at TLLP and we are struggling with going GAFE and Googly or going with a paid for ePortfolio product like Pathrite.

The problem is simple:

1) Go google and accept that google is data mining kings and queens. Enjoy the upside that it is free and available. This allows for us to use Google beyond the life of our TLLP. It also makes sharing knowledge with other teachers easier because most will have access to the same tools for free.

Basically, if you are not paying for the product, you are the product!

2) Use a platform like Pathrite for ePs. Data may (or may not) be more secure. Students may not have access to their content after the course ends. It may be harder to scale and share with other teachers because costs and access to other platforms.