WorldStrides Summit on Global Awareness & Leadership

globe

Last week, our global programs director Brian and I spent two days at a WorldStrides-sponsored event in Philadelphia, at which we studied questions about optimal program design and student experience. The presenter lineup featured organization and school experts in global travel, providing a rich range of perspectives and wisdom on the topic.

Some highlights:

  • What is the overall purpose of your program? Curriculum, experience, or service?
  • What does your school community value? Is your global program aligned?
  • How much is global education represented in the rest of the school curriculum? Do students see the travel program connected to the rest of their school experience?
  • Has your school thoroughly studied student health and safety preparations and plans?
  • Do groups travel during or outside the school term?
  • Where does student leadership live in your travel program?

We have returned with a decent list of outstanding school travel programs of different types:

At UPrep, we are implementing the first large shift in our signature Global Link program in 10 years. Our new Intensive terms allow Global Link to travel during an intensive term rather than over spring break. So far, two trips have migrated into the January intensive, with plans to continue moving trips next year.

Adding a specific subject’s curriculum to the trip is a new feature of Intensive Global Link. Our first three examples are Human Rights in Colombia, Global Link American South, and Storytelling in Samoa. As a result, schools that have established strong curricular connections for global travel are of specific interest to us right now. From the above list, these include Ideaventions, Lawrenceville, and Trinity Palmer, at a minimum.

Finally, Global Education Benchmark Group (GEBG) Executive Director Clare Sisisky presented three times on insights gleaned from GEBG’s 250 member schools, including broad perspectives on global program outcomes, school partnerships, conceptual frameworks, assessment instruments, and examples from model schools.

[Photo by Juliana Kozoski on Unsplash]

A Watch App That Goes For It

Why are advanced smartwatch apps so limited in their function and options? Have app developers tried too hard to imitate fitness trackers, even though the watches are capable of so much more? A year trying multiple running apps led me to wonder.

Then, Workoutdoors released its “massively improved” version 3.0 this past August, blowing the doors off every other app I tried. This app fully flexes the capabilities of GPS, maps, text displays, buttons, heart rate monitor, and more.

  

The app is infinitely customizable to one’s display preferences and comprehensive in its fitness activities. Multiple layouts, over 160 available data metrics, skillful use of text sizes and colors, split alerts, and live maps take this app to a new level.

I use different Workoutdoors screens for easy runs, tempo runs, events on an unfamiliar course, and even cycling. The hiking screens look intriguing. I’d like to try them. Remarkably, you can even create custom screens on the watch, although they are easier to create on the phone app.

  

Battery management, signal strength, and auto pause are all cleverly managed. Over 100 different metrics are available to suit one’s specific information wants. Workouts are automatically saved to Apple Workouts. Extensive summary data is available when you finish your workout. You can import GPX files to pre-load a workout course. This team thought of everything.

I hope that apps like this raise the bar for developers in other spaces beyond fitness, so that the smartwatch can become a truly useful digital companion, not just a limited accessory.

The Busy UPrep Blog

The UPrep blog has been very active in the past week, thanks to the great work of student and staff authors and the Communications team. Check out these recent titles, including one by yours truly.

Seeking Engineering Intensive Teacher

The Engineering Intensive Teacher will join two UPrep teachers to deliver a three-week, full-time, hands-on, introductory engineering course to high school students who have signed up for this January elective course. This is a fantastic opportunity for an engineer interested in working with youth or an aspiring teacher seeking classroom experience.

Position description and online application

Visiting Teams and Professional Learning

[I am trying a new, compact format for blog posts so that I share here more often. Let me know what you think.]

ClassroomI just finished serving for on a NWAIS Accreditation visiting team for four days. These teams perform a vital function in supporting the long-term viability of independent schools. They provide every school with an outside perspective and targeted feedback to help improve their programs. They also represent powerful professional development for visiting team members. Over three and a half days, one dives deeply into the values and functions of a school, touring the campus, interviewing community members, reading the school’s self-study, and poring over supporting documents. The school is asked to provide full transparency into all of its processes, so conversations go deeply quickly.

A Visiting Team is comprised of professionals from peer schools that cover the diverse functions of an independent school. This team included two heads of schools plus experts in academic program, student life, technology, enrollment management, teaching, and experiential programs. NWAIS designs the teams to cover the breadth of school functions and provide the school with feedback targeted to its particular character. Collaboration is strong, as team members work closely to share observations, discuss findings, and review each others’ writing.

Serving this year was intentional, as I am leading our self-study process starting later this year. The new NWAIS Demonstrations of Success and Generative Questions focus much more on values and practices than the old format. This is much improved over the old format, in which the school documented all aspects of its programs, a time-consuming process of questionable, long-term value. Principles and practices are easier to capture and review and arguably better support the long-term success of a school. Since this is a big change from the old format, it is quite helpful to live the new process on a visiting team before leading it at one’s own school.

If you would like to serve on an accreditation visiting team, tell your head of school, who will recommend you to the NWAIS director of accreditation.

Faculty Summer Reading 2018

UPrep faculty and staff chose from these four selections during our close meetings last Thursday. The books speak to the learning initiatives in our strategic plan, particularly Social Justice and Educational Equity, Social and Emotional Learning, and New Models of Time.

The Self-Driven Child: Neuropsychologist Bill Stixrud and tutoring provider Ned Johnson explore the problem of high stress and low motivation, particularly in high-achieving students. Informed by practical experience and research, they argue that kids need to gain more control over their lives to become more healthy. Directed to parents, this is a good selection if you are interested in student stress or anxiety, would like to better understand parents who worry about their stressed students, or are a parent yourself! As an added bonus, the Parent Education group is planning to schedule Stixrud and Johnson to speak with our parents next year.

The Gender Creative Child: Diane Ehrensaft, developmental and clinical psychologist at the University of California–San Francisco guides us through the spectrum of gender identity and expression, using a gender affirmation model. This is a good selection if you are interested in better understanding our students who are expressing fluid gender identity.

For White Folks Who Teach In the Hood: 2015 Multicultural Educator of the Year Christopher Emdin, from Teachers College Columbia University, begins by exploring why some teachers connect with urban youth, and others don’t. He explains his theory of Reality Pedagogy, built on respect for urban youths’ culture, students as experts in their own learning, and communities in the classroom. This is a good selection for teachers seeking to shift their minds about our students of color who come from urban backgrounds.

A More Beautiful Question: Nationally recognized journalist Warren Berger discovers a common trend among successful leaders of big companies: they ask great questions. This book examines the types of questions that prompt inquiry, creativity, and innovation. This is a good selection if you are interested in a business perspective on the overarching questions that organize your course, as well as the questions you ask every day.

 

One book only! Clipboard if we run out.

New Courses and Intensives, Explained

These new videos help explain our new course offerings and intensives to UPrep families. In addition, you may visit pages for the Course of Study (MS, US), Intensives, and Senior LaunchPad. Enjoy!

Communicating Intensives

The communication plan for our rollout of Intensives has attempted to balance the internal work to develop the new term structure and courses as well as the need for students and families to stay informed in a timely manner. Publish too early, and the plan could change significantly. Publish too late, and families and students would feel late to the party.

In January 2017, we announced the new school schedule in two parts, the new day schedule to launch in August 2017 and the new term schedule to launch in August 2018. The new day schedule stole the headlines due to its immediacy, and when school started, we hosted Denise Pope and shared more blog posts to reinforce the principles that supported the new day schedule.

In October, we revisited Intensives by publishing a blog post and holding three parent meetings to reinforce the program overview. Concurrently, teachers worked hard to wrote new course proposals, and department heads and program directors coordinated course approval and program scope and sequence. As that process drew to a close, we published the Intensives overview to a static web page and published on the blog an interview about Intensives with two UPrep parents who are also education specialists.

It is currently March, and later this month, we will take the next step toward course requests by publishing the full Course of Study, holding a series of advisor, student, and parent meetings, and sharing similar information in a web site video. We do this every year to prepare for course requests but anticipate that these meetings and posts will gain special interest this year due to the launch of Intensives.

The course requests process itself will serve as a vital communication moment, as everyone’s focus will be sharper when they are designing student course plans for next year.

Similar to the September events with Denise Pope, we plan to hold a speaker panel in October to reinforce the principles underlying Intensives and address questions in advance of the first courses in January. The panel will include an instructional leader from Hawken School, a UPrep Intensives teacher, and our director of college counseling.

Communication, one might argue, is equal in importance to design for program innovation to be effective. Messages of thoughtful consideration, planning, and student development must reach as many community members as possible and become part of word-of-mouth dialogue.

Rethinking School for Today’s World

This is a desktop version of my PechaKucha presentation at the NWAIS Educators Conference. I discuss how belief inspires purpose, which in turn suggests program change initiatives.

 

Developing Our Best Ideas

Originally published in the Leadership+Design Monthly Recharge.

“How do we provide students with the most powerful, lasting learning opportunities? Where do we do this well? Where might we do more?” A learning organization is always asking these questions. Today at University Prep, fully half of our faculty and staff voluntarily serve on research and design teams that produce our best new ideas for enhancing the students’ educational experience. How did we get here?

To develop our new strategic plan, we asked the school community to answer these questions and thereby set our course for the upcoming years. We held focus group discussions, conducted internal research and design workshops, administered community surveys, and consulted with national experts. Along the way, we found that the seeds for UPrep’s future had already been laid. We just needed to create the conditions to help them flourish.

This is one example of what Ito and Howe term “emergence” in their book Whiplash. They write, “emergent systems presume that every individual within that system possesses unique intelligence that would benefit the group.” Doesn’t that perfectly suit a school? One of our teachers commented, “I have had ideas for student learning for years. Now, I feel invited to share them, because they actually get adopted!”

The ideas collected during this listening phase coalesced around five themes. We may have predicted some of these in advance, but others were unanticipated. In emergent systems, Ito and Howe write, “decisions aren’t made so much as they emerge from large groups of employees or stakeholders.” As an added benefit, each project started with the advantage of existing community support, because the community had generated the ideas.

Next Generation Learning at University Prep

New Models of Time

Social and Emotional Learning

Social Justice and Educational Equity

Interdisciplinary Learning

U Lab: Student-Directed Learning Connected to Community

We then invited leaders from outside the administrative team to facilitate each team. Ten teacher leaders and program directors stepped into this leadership role. John Kotter describes this as “a dual operating system” in his book XLR8 (Accelerate). The first operating system, hierarchy, is expert at efficiently managing ongoing operations but also tends to maintain the status quo. The second, network operating system, is creative, divergent, and connects ideas across disciplines and departments. In the organization with only the hierarchical operating system, decisions are made at the top and handed down to uninspired employees. With a dual operating system, both the hierarchy and network play to their respective strengths.

Ubox, a product of the student-led Social Entrepreneurship class

By inviting many voices and broadly distributing leadership, we created a dynamic innovation engine that continues to create great ideas, promote involvement, and cultivate its own support. Within the first year, we designed and adopted a new school schedule, added social and emotional learning activities to advisory, ran our first Senior LaunchPad (an enhanced senior project), launched the first two entirely student-led courses (no teacher needed), and committed to design intensives (single courses that run full-time for a three-week term, borrowed from Hawken School). We have also joined other national networks that uphold emergence, such as Independent Curriculum Group, Mastery Transcript Consortium, and Global Online Academy.

How does UPrep prepare students for a world that values emergence over authority? It’s easy when we value the ideas of every individual. Students serve on research and design teams, propose new courses and independent study projects, take risks when designing their Senior LaunchPads. Valuing emergence means supporting student voice, choice, and leadership in the classroom and school life. Community partnerships create opportunities for students to pursue their passions through online study, internships, social activism, and entrepreneurship. The principles that have made Next Generation Learning a successful strategic initiative have also made the school more responsive and celebratory of student needs, wishes, and dreams.