Computer Camp Wrap Up

What a week for Build Your Own Computer Camp! We learned that working with computers can be challenging, but that the maneuvers we can make with our own machines can be utterly rewarding, as well. Our campers had such an array of experience with programming and computing, and by the end of the week, we all advanced our understanding and abilities.

Here’s a quick rundown of what we accomplished during BYOC.

Monday: Assembling the Pi-Top & Introduction to the Using the Terminal

Tuesday: Modding Minecraft with Python & Rigging LEDs & Buttons to the Raspberry Pi

Wednesday: Snapping Photos & Videos with the PiCamera

Thursday: Individualized Projects for Scratch, Python, & Sonic Pi

Friday: Can You Hack It? Experimenting with Accessories for the Raspberry Pi

The most exciting day was Friday, when each camper chose from an array of Raspberry Pi accessories rated at three levels of difficulty. I was impressed that each camper was able to attach, program, and run at least one accessory on Friday.

On Friday, we also showcased an array of resources we could use to continue our learning of Python and Raspberry Pi. Below you’ll find a list resources we recommend as next steps.

Screenshot 2016-08-17 11.11.40

A screenshot of the Resources page at RaspberryPi.org

*The Raspberry Pi Foundation is the nonprofit organization that sells the Raspberry Pi, using the proceeds to further teaching and learning of computer science in the UK and throughout the world. Their website features a variety of tutorials and projects young learners can undertake with the Pi. We used parts of their tutorials on the PiCamera and Physical Computing during the camp. Some campers even rigged up a Parent Detector!

adventures-in-raspberry-pi_1024x1024

*Adventures in Raspbery Pi, by Carrie Anne Philbin. Each camp participant received the companion kit to Philbin’s book, and we completed one full adventure and parts of several others during the course. One camper also made serious headway into the final adventure, the creation of a Raspberry Pi Jukebox. Since campers already have the supplies necessary to complete each of these adventures, and since the book itself is so user-friendly, it’s one that I would highly recommend.

51ifgfknmgl-_sx258_bo1204203200_

*Python for Kids, by Jason R. Briggs. For further learning in Python, this text is great for a variety of ages, and we’ve even found it perfect for adult learning, as well.

adventures-in-minecraft

*Adventures in Minecraft, by David Whale. Many of our campers loved tinkering around with MineCraft and code. Whale’s new book on programming for Minecraft is a great resource. Pimoroni also sells a kit that supplies all the parts needed to complete these adventures, although our campers already have many of the parts necessary for the book’s projects, and several of the projects need no parts at all.

40_cover_small

*MagPi Magazine is the official publication of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and each month’s issues provides project examples and tutorials for Rasberry Pi users of all levels. MagPi also produces MagPi Essentials, which are short chapterbooks focused on particular Raspberry Pi features, such as Code Music with Sonic Pi or Learn to Code with Scratch. Their website also features a variety of tutorials.

*PythonRoom, CodeAcademy, and Treehouse are all great digital resources for learning to program in Python and other language. Our preferred resource is Treehouse, although PythonRoom and CodeAcademy are free, and they are even more supportive for younger learners.

Any questions about Raspberry Pi, Build Your Own Computer Camp, or resources to extend your learning in Computer Science? Drop the library team a line and we will be more than happy to support where we can.

 

Tagged , ,

Build Your Own Computer!

For some time, the AWS Library Team has been smitten with physical computing, a mode of computer science that looks to leverage computers to change our tangible world. We love computer aided gardens that only water when the weather forecast doesn’t show rain. Or embedded devices that send text messages of images when wildlife appears. We also love these ideas have never been easier (and less expensive) to create. In the past, the world of computer science can seem oblique, unwelcoming, or inaccessible, but our ability to access and express our voices in this world is rapidly increasing.

This summer, the AWS Library Team is sharing our love for physical computing by offering a specialty course through Annie Wright’s Camp Wright during the second week of August in our Build Your Own Computer Camp. Any student entering grades 4 through 8 are welcome to enroll.

Screenshot 2016-07-12 11.00.28

During the course, we’ll provide our day by day curriculum. In the meantime, check out the supply list that forms the foundation for what’ll be a great foray into physical computing for the 11 campers we have enrolled.

Pi-Top CEED (with Raspberry Pi & Pi-Top Proto)

A Wireless Keyboard & Trackpad

Companion Parts Pack for Adventures in Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi Camera

PIR (motion) Sensor

Pi Cobbler

 

Tagged , , , ,

The 2016 Summer Reading Challenge

Dear Families,
Summer provides such wonderful moments for discovery. With extra time off or just a few more hours of daylight in our evenings, most of us use the summer months to discover new hobbies, travel to new places, and dive into stacks and stacks of books.
Let’s make this a summer for discovering books. One of our favorite moments in the reading process is the hunt: searching for new titles and asking family and friends for their recommendations. This leads to surprises and great conversations. This quest to find books is an invaluable part of the reading process, a part that we help cultivate each week in our Lower School library sessions.
For the past several years, the Library Team has issued annual summer reading recommendations. These lists provide several great options, and our recommendations from 2014 and 2015 are still available for your enjoyment. The New York Public Library and the Association for Library Service to Children provide a wonderful selection of suggestions, as well.
In lieu of our usual recommendations, we are issuing a call to action: discover new, enchanting and surprising titles that we might not otherwise encounter within our normal range of reading interests. Below, you will find a list of ‘reading challenges’ that are shaped to help you and your child find new titles.

2016 Summer Reading Challenge

Any student starting the fall with a list of eight different titles that cover the eight summer reading challenges will be invited to a special Summer Reading Reception during the first full week of school.
We’ll sip lemonade. We’ll dive into the library’s famous homemade cookies. We’ll share our lists, recounting our favorite discoveries. And we’ll also offer first access to the hundreds of new titles that we’ll add to our collection over the summer.

We hope these challenges bring you a summer’s worth of reading interests and surprises. Below, you’ll find a list of local libraries that offer such great reading resources.

Tacoma Public Library

Pierce County Public Library

Kitsap Regional Library

Timberland Regional Library

While we are closed for regular library service over the next two months, do let us know if there is any other support we might offer you and your family. We wish you the best adventures from now until August, and we’re excited to see how your child takes on the 2016 Summer Reading Challenge.

All the best,

Joe Romano

Library Media Specialist

 

 

Tagged

9th Grade Humanities & Mission: Learning at the Service of [ ]

Over the past two years, our library has taken a prominent role in helping to develop our 9th Grade Humanities curriculum. The course itself is fairly traditional: we close read literary and informational texts for themes and concepts. We write argumentative paragraphs and essays. We perform research on historical events. We develop the skills necessary to excel in the study of history and literature. We even complete a few group projects, too.

Yet, we’re iterating Humanities into a interdisciplinary study of literature and history that supports individuals in skill development while situating learners into real world challenges that ask them to put their growing body of knowledge and ability at the service of our greater community.

If you tailed off, spun out, or otherwise crashed somewhere in the crags of that sentence, you’re not to blame. We’re building quite a bit into this course, and each component shows commitment towards creating learning experiences that fully embody our mission.

After all,  what steers our institution should drive the learning we undertake with our students, too:

Screenshot 2016-02-16 12.39.28

The course still needs to mature to more realize and measure the ideals, yet here’s a rundown of our progress thus far.


 

Individualization: Content & Skill

Our approach to course content with aspirations towards individualization? Balanced. We believe in the necessity of discussing, analyzing, and developing ideas within a safe intellectual community, so our students share texts such as Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns. Yet, we’ll use such texts as launchpads for individual explorations: we’ll create annotated bibliographies (and, eventually research essays) on topics and questions of individual interest that we unearthed while exploring the texts. While such inquiries are highly individualized, they emerge from a collective experience, and the skills we cultivate challenge each student to become even more effective literary scholars and historians.

Our individualization continues to emerge within the realm of assessment, as well. We collect and distribute data sets from our assessments to showcase individual learning accomplishment and also target areas for growth in future units, lessons, and tutorials.

CVuOTiIUwAAwaT0.jpg_large

The learning target students receive at the end of each project. This model is inspired by Mike Gwaltney, a history department chair at Oregon Episcopal School and one of the leading experts on project-based learning.

Screenshot 2015-12-08 10.10.34

The data we collect on each learner’s ability to comprehend and process texts, using the digital reading platform, ActivelyLearn.

 

Screenshot 2016-02-16 07.50.57

A bar graph displaying a student’s performance on a short oral presentation from last week. We’ll use these forms to create goals for another short oral presentation we’ll complete this week, and we’ll track the changes as we go.

We are using our data sets to provide detailed feedback to learners so they can create very targeted goals, developing individualized action plans for students who want to improve and extend their abilities. As our system solidifies, we want to empower each student to articulate their strengths and weaknesses, and we want each student to carry a personal toolkit for becoming even more effective scholars and performers.


 

Knowledge: A Conceptual Approach

As a learning environment that supports the principles and aspirations of International Baccalaureate programmes,, we forefront conceptual understanding ahead of any particular topic, issue, or text. We want our students to transition from one historical event or literary text to another equipped with frameworks to question, understand, and build knowledge.

Currently, our unit focuses on investigating how varying how varying perspectives and identities create conflict within the communities, and what factors influence the resolutions of such conflicts.

We look into the Abolitionist, Suffrage, and Civil Rights Movements. We unearthed the parallels between the the “Declaration of Independence” and the Seneca Falls Convention’s “Declaration of Rights and Grievances.” We investigated the rhetorical structure of Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman,” and we dived into the rhetorical strategy of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

We also read Sue Monk Kidd’s Secret Life of Bees to see how our considerations of race and gender intersect.

Even though we leap through space and time, these concepts are the threads that sew our understanding together.


Creativity & Citizenship

But our learning doesn’t stop with developing skill and understanding.

Instead, we want our students to see how they can set their knowledge towards the service of something–to put their knowledge into action.

A focal point of each unit of study in Humanities is a community focused action project.

For our unit on identities and perspectives, we are collaborating with Tacoma’s Reconciliation Project Foundation, as the 1885 expulsion of 600 Chinese workers from their residences on the Tacoma waterfront has been a human rights violation of local significance, and the city’s relatively recent actions to reconcile that event is perfect fodder to continue our investigation of communities, perspectives, and identities.

Screenshot 2016-02-16 16.19.21

On a recent visit to Chinese Reconciliation Park, we took photographs of aspects of the park that embody the foundation’s values. Here is a photograph of the Fuzhou Ting for the value, ‘inclusion.’

Currently, we’re mid-project. Our class has listened to board members from the Reconciliation Project Foundation who have presented on their aspirations for the project. We have toured the nearby Chinese Reconciliation Park. We have used these experiences to discern the values the foundation is striving to build within our community. Such activities have deepened our close reading abilities. After all, one should analyze a presentation or a space just as one analyzes a poem or a story.

We have created Opportunity Statements to recommend which values we feel should be amplified, and we have written Historical Studies to showcase how these values are embedded in the concepts and events surrounding the Chinese Expulsion.

We have also employed a toolkit of ideation methods, from the Impact-Effort Matrix to the NUF Test to develop plans to help the Foundation amplify the values we see the foundation aspiring to achieve.

In the coming two weeks, we will pitch both our understanding and ideas to foundation members. The feedback we’ll receive will be used to iterate our plans, and we will eventually create full-on presentations, some of which will be given to the entire board of trustees during their May meeting.


 

In future posts, we’ll showcase a few in progress or unrealized goals for the course as well as investigate why the library team is so involved. But for now, we’re excited to report some of the strong steps we’ve made towards transitioning our 9th Grade Humanities class into an even greater realization of Annie Wright’s mission, and we’re searching for  even more opportunity to amplify how we individualize learner interest and growth while building a body of knowledge that is then employed to engage and impact our wider community.

Tagged , , , , ,

Visiting Author: Stuart Gibbs!

The Library & Learning Commons is excited to announce that New York Times best selling author Stuart Gibbs will visit Annie Wright Schools on April 14 from 1:30-2:30.

3040652

Gibbs is the author of several series, from his FunJungle Books and the Spy School series. He is currently touring the United States to promote his newest release, Spaced Out,  the second book in the Moon Base Alpha series.

Stuart Gibbs will speak to our 4th and 5th graders about his life as a learner, adventurer, and writer.

Stuart’s books will be available for purchase through our Annual Book Fair, and Stuart will then stay after his talk to sign books.

Below are some of the titles that will be available. Prices already include tax.

Moon Base Alpha #1: Space Case | recommended for ages 8-12 | paperback | $8.76

Moon Base Alpha #2: Spaced Out | recommended for ages 8-12 | hardcover | $18.62

Spy School #1 | recommended for ages 11-14 | paperback | $8.76

Spy School #2: Spy Camp | recommended for ages 11-14 | paperback | $8.76

Spy School #3: Evil Spy School | recommended for ages 11-14 | paperback | $8.76

FunJungle #1: Belly Up | recommended for ages 11-14 | paperback | $8.76

Thanks to Secret Garden Books for facilitating this great author visit!

 

Tagged , , , ,

Picademy & Raspberry Jam! A Journey into Connected Learning

Over the past few months, you might have stopped by the library and seen me fiddling with the following:

CaZB-7QUcAAMQpy.jpg_large.jpeg

A sound sensitive bulletin board. When finished, each letter should light up at 3 second intervals, so long as there’s little to no noise in the vicinity. If there’s noise? The lights will cut out, and the timer will begin again.

And for the past few months, you’ve probably noticed that I’m not *yet* finished with my sound sensitive library sign. For someone who has no experience with electrical engineering, programming or, frankly, making bulletin boards, this stuff is tough!

But it’s also a blast, and throughout the process of researching and developing this sign, I’ve discovered entire communities who create, make, hack, develop, and share knowledge around microprocessors, tiny computers that can control electronics.

While I’ve written about Connected Learning here before, the impact of diving into such communities has never felt more visceral, especially given my relative ignorance at the start of this process.

Again and again, I’m reminded: learning has never been easier. There are communities and collaborators both locally and globally willing to help us learn in one way or another.

So, my sign is controlled by an Arduino, but my learning journey with these internet communities led to me to a device that I feel has even more potential: Raspberry Pi.

pi2modb1gb_-comp

Plug in a power source, keyboard, mouse, television, and SD card, and you have yourself a fully capable home computer.

A UK Charitable Foundation, the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s mission is to accelerate learning in computer science in the UK and throughout the world. They fund their educational efforts by selling a $35 computer called, well, a Raspberry Pi. The Foundation then turns around and creates learning resources and educational experiences for students.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation also puts on Picademy, a free professional development opportunity for teachers. While there have been numerous Picademys based in the UK, last March featured the first ever Picademy USA, hosted by the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA.

I applied, and I was grateful to be awarded a coveted spot. I was also lucky enough to receive travel support from AWS to be able to attend the event.

And what an event it was.

My journey with Arduino taught me the power and possibility of ‘physical computing,’ where we use the tools of the digital world to impact the physical world. An example of this might be my READ sign, but there are many, more sophisticated uses of physical computing. These range from equipping clothes with lights, speakers and sensors that respond to a wearer’s movements, to, well, self-driving cars.

But Picademy? It showed me even greater potential for such work. Not only will Raspberry Pi operate as a computer, but its price and features has accelerated my ability to think about turning anything into a computer. My garden? Let’s get a moisture sensor and automate its watering cycle. My bicycle? Let’s have it send me text messages if anyone nudges it (or, at worst, steals it!). My library? Let’s take something I gleaned from our visit to MKThink and use motion sensors and digital trip wires to see how displays, furniture rearrangements, and other changes might cause patrons to increase or behave differently (This is also why WeWork’s presence is skyrocketing!).

Most importantly, Picademy taught me just how amazing forays into physical computing can be for kids. After all, the software in a $35 computer can be easily changed, hacked, and even broken, but since the operating system lives in a micro-SD card (just like you put into your digital camera), the Raspberry Pi can easily be fixed. Plus, there are so many cool projects for young learners to undertake, like this Parent Detector!

While attending Picademy, I learned how to program my Pi so that an accelerator to change an image on an LED screen:

And how to connect the Pi to switches and lights:

And, I learned a variety of different teaching and instructional strategies to get others interested and engaged in physical computing. I left the weekend officially titled a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator:

And I also met so many incredible, experienced, and thoughtful educators dedicated to helping kids learn computer science, so much so that I left the weekend emboldened to learn more. Thank you, Matt, Phillip, Carrie Anne, Ben, Marc, David, and Courtney, and James for the experience.

Next up?

Raspberry Pi is best controlled through the programming language, Python, so I’m taking on the modules served up by Treehouse, which I highly recommend.

I’m diving into the Pibrary Project, an incredible resource around how libraries are using Raspberry Pi with their patrons and in their own operations.

And, I’m planning to teach kids physical computing and how to use Raspberry Pi during my Build Your Own Computer Club this summer at Camp Wright.

Even more immediately, I’m unearthing a great local community of Raspberry Pi enthusiasts. On April 10, Tacoma’s FabLab has graciously agreed to host an informal gathering of Pi users called a Raspberry Jam:

raspberryjam

In the process of reaching out to potential sponsors for the event, the folks at the Pi Foundation pointed me towards C4Labs, a Tacoma based (!) group at the forefront of manufacturing cases for the Raspberry Pi:

 

Dustin, their owner, has agreed to sponsor, and he seems as equally passionate about sharing his work with younger learners, as well.

All this so exciting, not just for unlocking the potential for physical computing and Raspberry Pi in my life or for kids at AWS, but even more so for the energy and zeal involved in discovering new communities and learning the ropes.

Coding and computer science is hot, for sure, but I’m even more so struck by the impact of connected learning. Several months ago, I had met with Cynthia Tee, Executive Director of Seattle’s Ada Developer’s Academy,  and she echoed this sentiment, telling me that the most promising employees aren’t the ones who know x, y, or z, but the most exciting employees are the ones who are willing to learn how to navigate any system, or, the ones who are willing to open to learn how to learn new tools or use new knowledge

And the Raspberry Pi, among many other options, provides such and wonderful computing playground and a vast, supportive community to do just that.

On that note, check out one more of the Pi’s incredibly capabilities, in this TEDxNewcastle presentation by Sam Aaron:

So cool.

 

 

Tagged , , , , ,

Results! The First Annual Adelaide Preston Grande Olde Reading Bee

Library Patrons and Library Fans,

This year’s First Annual Adelaide Preston Grande Olde Reading Bee was a fierce competition that the headmistress herself would have been proud to preside over.

The Reading began heatedly from Day 1, with 2nd and 3rd grade jumping out to early leads. But the Bee became even more intense as 1st and 5th grades battled back within minutes of our early reading leaders.

FullSizeRender

We tracked progress for our Reading Bee by giving each participating class their own box to zip line across the library bulletin board. The reading was so vast and expansive, we would need a wide angle lens to capture all the action.

At high noon on Wednesday, March 23, the First Annual Adelaide Reading Bee concluded, and the sheer numbers are astounding.

Our Lower School amassed 83,527.76 minutes over the span of 10 days.

83,527.76 minutes. That’s the equivalent of 1,392 hours. 58 days. 8.2 weeks!

Those are numbers of would have caused Adelaide Preston herself to yawp a resounding, “Huzzah!”

In the lower division, 2nd Grade took the victory by amassing 12,920 minutes.

In the upper division, 5th Grade nabbed a late lead to finish with 19,270.

In the coming weeks, 2nd & 5th Grade will receive their plentiful reward:  a Party-in-a-box ziplined to them from atop our school.

Congratulations to all our young readers. Each and every class posted such impressive numbers. We’re already plotting next year’s First Annual Adelaide Preston Grande Olde Reading Bee, so stay fit for competition by keeping your eyes on those books.

 

Tagged , , ,

The Book Fair Returns!

Students, Parents, Teachers!

During the week of April 11 through April 15, we invite you to the Library & Learning Commons for our Annual Book Fair. The Book Fair will open on the afternoon of April 11, and we will run from 7:30 to 8:00am each morning thereafter and from 3:00 to 4:30 on each afternoon of that week. We will also extend the book fair hours to 5:30pm on Wednesday, April 15 in celebration of Annie Writer’s Tea.

This year’s Book Fair also coincides with a visit from New York Times best-selling author Stuart Gibbs, who will speak to our 4th and 5th graders about the adventurous and imaginative life of a writer. 4th and 5th graders will have the opportunity to have their copies of Stuart’s books signed by the author himself. Click here to learn more about this opportunity.

As in years past, we are excited that Seattle-based independent bookstore Secret Garden Books will be organizing our book fair. They’ll stock the fair with classic, eclectic and contemporary selections for any reading level and interest in our community. We particularly appreciate Secret Garden’s commitment to high quality books that resist commercial messaging.

Students are welcome to shop during their morning recess with a teacher’s permission or before and after school with a supervising adult. You can pay for your purchases with cash, a credit card, or a check payable to ‘Secret Garden Bookshop.’ Unfortunately, we cannot charge purchases to your Annie Wright Schools bookstore account at this time.

Our book fair provides a wonderful opportunity to excite readers young and old with wonderful selections, and proceeds of the fair contribute to maintaining our library’s expansive collection. If you have any questions, please contact Joe Romano or Carla Clark regarding the book fair.

And! Our book fair runs the smoothest with the generous help of volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering for our book fair for an afternoon (or for the week!), do let us know, and we’d be happy to have your help hawking books.

Happy Reading. And we’ll see you at the fair!

Tagged , ,

Announcing: The 1st Annual Adelaide Preston Grande Olde Reading Bee

Tradition holds that our young Day School readers shall spend one week per year competing in a challenge that promotes, provokes, and motivates close, intensive reading of the wonderful works we hold in our classroom and library collections.

This year is no different, and we in the Library & Learning Commons are proud to announce the commencement of this year’s challenge, named after one of the most important figures and champions of reading throughout our school’s exemplary history:

Screenshot 2016-01-29 16.42.11

The 1st Annual Adelaide Preston Grande Olde Reading Bee

Ms. Preston began her tenure as principal at Annie Wright School in 1913 and she spent sixteen years at our helm, providing the vision and effort necessary to transition Annie Wright into its current iconic building.

Of her many passions and abilities, Principal Preston was an incredible advocate of reading; thus, we are launching a reading bee in her honor.

The Rules

Our Reading Bee is a quest to see which Day School grade level can team together to complete the most total minutes of reading within a single week.

At 8am on Monday, March 14, students from Kindergarten to 5th Grade may begin tallying the minutes they spend intently reading each and every day of the week (please note: our Kindergarteners may include minutes they are read aloud to). Each afternoon, teachers will provide the library with the total amount of time their students spent reading throughout the day. Our young Day School readers may continue to accrue minutes by reading at home, and parents can record their children’s efforts on the form at the bottom of this bulletin.

The Library will continue to tally contributions until 12:00pm on Wednesday, March 23.

Whichever grade level accrues the most reading minutes throughout the week will be rewarded with a prize Adelaide Preston herself would admire.

The Prize

We have named our Reading Bee after Adelaide Preston, as reading was a primary passion for this principal. We have also designed a prize worthy of this esteemed school leader’s second passion: ziplines.

zipline

Given our principal’s zest for ziplines, the grade level that reads for the most minutes throughout the week will be awarded with a Party-in-a-Box. And this Party-in-a-Box will be no ordinary box. Instead, it will be ziplined down to the winning grade level, as so:

None of the eight pizzas ensnared in that net were harmed in the making of this video.

A post shared by Joe Romano (@romano47) on

We will be offering two Parties-in-a-Box, one to the Grade K-2 champions, and one to the Grade 3-5 champions.

The winning grade levels will be announced after the March break. Look daily for updates on how this event unfolds!

Parents and Teachers, Please Submit Reading Minutes Here:

 

 

 

 

Tagged , , ,

Low-Definition, High-Definition, & Re-Definition: Constellating Stars Along I-280

Among the many hobbies we here in the Library & Learning Commons share, tracking shifts and evolutions in the landscape of education is one of our favorites, and Twitter serves as our central hub to peer into these developments throughout the world. Given the medium’s frenetic pace, we often feel situated in a camera obscura, catching emerging shapes and moving figures without much chance for the fullest clarity, so any opportunity to get on the ground in one of the most exciting environments for education is an opportunity for a high-fidelity view.

This past week marked the second occasion we have sent a team of educators down to The Nueva School’s Innovative Learning Conference. We’re incredibly fortunate that Annie Wright commits to immerse its educators in the zeitgeist shared by so many in the Bay Area. Worldwide, there is no higher concentration of people and organizations committed to transformation outside of the I-280 corridor. Even as whispers of another tech bubble continue their crescendo, it’s almost impossible to imagine that area becoming unseated from its dominant position. That place, like no other, has built itself on learning, and such learning will ignite rapid resurrection. Excess capital might take a sabbatical, but it will always return to this environment’s infrastructure of fervent thought.

We see this learning in major Silicon Valley tech firms, start-up incubators, world-class universities, and, for our purposes, the many schools committed to honing best practice in progressive education.

Aside from the conference itself, our trip featured visits to The Hillbrook School, Stanford’s d.school, and MKThink. The learning spaces of these places are so easily alluring.

Hillbrook has its I-Lab.

The d.school is the gold standard for formal education’s move to make space for critical collaboration and creative thought.

MKThink holds incredible expertise in shaping such spaces, and their own headquarters features a makerspace and small collaborative hot seats within a historic roundhouse that sits along San Francisco’s Embarcadero.

Round out our Thursday visits to these three organizations with a Friday dedicated to orbiting around the Nueva School’s triple threat of i-Labs, and we received a front seat to education’s most interesting furnishings and technology features.

We can easily depart SFO with airline napkins and hotel stationery filled with scribbled blueprints and quite a set of shopping lists. But to do so would be to miss the Bay Area’s most important lesson: transformation occurs by examining the ecosystem of evolution, not its tools. Not the makerspaces. Or the sticky notes. Or the furniture. Or iPads. LCD screens. Dream Director position descriptions. Centers for Teaching Excellence. Service learning projects. Internal start-ups. Online classes. Global education. Coding. STEM/STEAM/STEAMS/SHTEAM. Makerspaces. Group process toolkits. Meditation techniques. Assessment practices. Pedagogical approaches. Even delicious salads served at school lunch. Design Thinking as a proper noun. All and all and all: the tools and deliverables so easily seen from the camera obscura. It’s wonderful to realize the expanse of tools at our disposal, but what might we put them in the service of?

What constellates Hillbrook, the d.school, MKThink, and Nueva among the many, many stars along I-280 are their commitments to modes of thought that shape their learning ecosystems, ecosystems that are poised to evolve exponentially and infinitely.

Hillbrook was an early adopter of 1:1 iPads. This enabled the school to transform their computer lab into the iLab. The school performed in-house research on how the iLab affected learning outcomes, and this research motivated educators in Hillbrook’s community to adopt the features of the iLab in individual classrooms. The iLab has since morphed into a makerspace. This makerspace will soon move to a yet unbuilt hub at the center of their campus. Their engine of further evolution is fueled by an in-house researcher and a teacher in residence program that will continue to measure the impact of their prototypes and prepare their community for whatever they choose to scale out next.

We can take Hillbrook’s shopping list and their how-to guide. What’s more challenging, and what I-280 does so well, is maintaining thoughts on higher aspirations with each incremental shift and assuring each development arrives with contrails that ask everyone to interrogate how that development might impact the next step, even if that next step has yet to be imagined.

The d.school advocates and educates towards mindsets and practices that enable organizations and individuals to navigate their evolutions with the intellectual elegance that is on display in ecosystems like Hillbrook’s. Stanford empowers professional and personal transformation, launching those that connect with their mode of design thinking well into the future.

MKThink is increasingly involved in constructing conceptual frameworks for identifying problems within problems and quantifying the impact of solutions in order to ignite continual iteration.

Nueva showcases standing evidence of a school very experienced in such evolutions, and their decision to expand into educating high schoolers displays their evolving savvy in thinking towards these next steps.

This year’s lineup of speakers and workshops at the Innovative Learning Conference also presented such maturity. Almost every presentation we attended focused on the process of evolution. Here is how we aligned a community around a set of values. Here are the many levers we have at our fingertips to drive us towards fulfilling those values. Here is how we measure our effectiveness. Here is how our measurements motivated pivots along the way. Here is the ecosystem we created. Take it in. We’re set to evolve.

But don’t copy us or our direction—it’s truly about the messy work of developing the ecosystem that will sustain your community’s values, not ours.

Umberto Boccioni: “The City Rises”

All in all, It’s easy to get wrapped up in the aggressive futurism embedded throughout I-280. Credos abound:

At its face, we might easily be turned off by such aggression that harkens back to F.T. Marinetti and Company:

“Do you, then, wish to waste all your best powers in this eternal and futile worship of the past, from which you emerge fatally exhausted, shrunken, beaten down?”

We know the environment is also competitive and cutthroat, and extremely problematic are issues of race and class, which also makes the Bay Area a central node for both social innovation and social unrest to the extent of outright riot (ex 1., ex. 2.).

We can also point towards other stars outside of the valley, from the transformative Mount Vernon and Shattuck St. Mary’s to the upstart Iowa BIG, Watershed, Big Picture Learning, Nuvu Studio, the latter allowed the luxury of developing an ecosystem from scratch.

But it’s the thoughtfulness, warmth, and calculated elegance with which organizations dedicated to learning employ empathy driven design thinking and lean methodology to engage in the messy process of transforming ecosystems along I-280 that makes a visit there so thrilling, as the area offers such a concentration of schools and school partners prepared shape the continued brilliance of the Bay Area for years to come.

Thanks to community members at the Hillbrook School for the warm welcome, Durell Coleman of DCDesign for an engaging tour of the d.school, Signo Uddenberg for exposure to MKThink and its work, and everyone who worked so hard to put together the Innovative Learning Conference at Nueva. And thanks to Annie Wright for dedicating the time and resources to make this experience happen.

Tagged , , , , ,