Think Global, Act Local: How to Embed SDGs in your school and Community

On September 23rd, 2019, Greta Thunberg gave a speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit that would send chills down the spines of anyone bold enough to hear it.

“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope? How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are at the beginning of mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”[27] “You are failing us,” Thunberg stated. “But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.” (Source)

Greta brought the voices of an increasingly disillusioned band of Gen Z activists (who make up 26% of the world’s population) to the doorstep of older generations at the world’s largest collective forum. Schooling would have to wait. Climate change was now the most pressing issue. Greta reminded all of us that climate change cannot be solved with watered-down proposals, abstract rhetoric, and empty talk; but only through taking immediate action as if our very existence depended on it. Greta’s plea was for all of us.

As innovative school leaders and educators, how will we take action? We’ve already been provided a helpful blueprint:

In 2015, the United Nations established 17 lofty goals for sustainable development to help reverse the damage done by climate change. Goals include more sustainable cities; an elimination of poverty; healthier waterways; and affordable and clean energy (pictured to the left). Each lofty goal includes concrete and specific sub-targets to help reach them. Courageous schools have already taken the first steps.

Through meaningful, real-world projects, these schools are providing time for students to take action on each goal within the context of their own curriculum and communities. This article will explore 8 models from 8 innovative schools and programs leading the charge. As we explore each model, consider which aspects might work in your school’s context.

The ‘ChangeMaker’ Passion Project Model: Addressing SDGs through student-led passion projects at The Green School of Bali

Imagine students coming up with the concept for a personal passion project around a community need, partnering on it with local NGOs, working through several iterations with the help of a mentor, and exhibiting their work in a public community-facing exhibition.

This is the grade 8 ‘ChangeMaker Quest Program’ The Green School of Bali uses to help students address SDGs and discover passions. In the program, each year 8 student is matched with an adult mentor and provided regular time in the schedule to develop their idea. For example, one student, after learning about how human footsteps can generate renewable energy, saw the potential for its use on the stairs within the school. After meeting with his mentor, they worked together to create a prototype for the ‘electro stairs:’ an invention to capture motion and convert it to energy every time a student took a step. Ustay’s mentor helped him create project goals, generate tasks, investigate and conduct research, and plan out the project calendar. Learn more about Ustay’s invention here.

Questions for Reflection/Implications for Action:

  • How might you build in time to help students connect their passions to a greater purpose?
  • How can you transition from the role of a teacher into one of a mentor? What structures might help students explore their passions through SDG-related goals?

The ‘Experiential Learning’ Week Model: Addressing SDGs through Meaningful Experiential Weeks at Yew Chung and Yew Wah Schools in Hong Kong

Imagine your entire school going off the traditional timetable for a week to address deep questions around sustainability on a local level. This is what learning looks like during ‘experiential learning week’ at Yew Chung International School in Hong Kong. Here are some of the questions:

  • How can we get involved in promoting sustainable tourism in Hong Kong?
  • How can we create and market more sustainable fashion?
  • How can we gamify sustainability to increase environmental awareness in Hong Kong?

Each deep and meaningful sustainability question was coupled with a relevant project to anchor it. In the sustainable tourism project, students created tours with the most minimal carbon footprint and advertised via a website to incoming HK tourists. In the sustainable fashion project, students created a fashion show of upcycled old clothes and apparel to make sustainability more ‘trendy.’ In the gamification project, students created ‘choose your own adventure games’ around important ecological sites in Hong Kong, and delivered them via student-designed apps.

Questions for Reflection/Implications for Action:

  • How might you use deep and meaningful questions around SDGs to empower your students to take action?
  • Where is there existing flexibility in your yearly schedule? How might you use this time to offer deeper learning experiences?

The ‘Enrichment’ or ‘After School Program’ Model: Developing Citizenship and Social Responsibility through community-driven and student-generated projects at The Medford Center

Imagine your students working with older and younger peers to address issues of equity and environmental awareness within the community. Imagine these students sharing their findings and projects with both the community and the 2,000 plus students engaging in similar projects across the entire district. Imagine how big their IMPACT footprint would be then.

This is the work being done at the Medford Center for Citizenship and Social Responsibility. The Center started with a modest grant as an after-school program for civic-minded students and now has grown into a district-wide program integrated into the core fabric of each Medford School’s mission. Each Medford campus has a program coordinator who helps mentor students, secure funding, and connects projects to the wider community. Projects are clearly making a mark. After seeing the damage and destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas, two high school students in Connecticut took it upon themselves to gather needed goods/ supplies, rent a U-Haul Truck, and drive them 1,800 miles to the church they coordinated as the ‘point of contact.’ Projects of this magnitude aren’t just reserved for High School Seniors. After learning about Medford, Massachusetts’ troubling history with slavery, two third graders wanted to do something to remember forgotten slaves. After careful primary and secondary research, they picked a site, erected a beautiful marker, and even held a ceremony for the community to pay tribute to these forgotten men and women. Explore more Medford Projects here.

Questions for Reflection/Implications for Action:

  • How might you build in time for community projects in your existing timetable?
  • What NGOs, B Corps, and charitable organizations are within walking distance of your school? How might you partner students with them to make an impact?

The ‘Pilot Program’ Model: Using TIDES (Technology, Innovation, Design, Enterprise, and Sustainability) to address SDGs and develop global citizens

Imagine a cross-curricular, collaborative, and community-linked four-year program for students to develop the autonomy and aptitude required to change the world.

This is the TIDES program developed for year 7-10 students by Kim Flintoff, TIDES Coordinator at Peter Carnley Anglican Community School in Western Australia.. Each year aligns to a trans-disciplinary SDG theme. In year 7, students learn the design thinking process and use STEM to address a school-related need. In year 8, students expand their green footprint to address issues within the local community. In year 9, they move deeper into the ‘adult world’ through the STEM4Innovation initiative, where they partner with public and private health providers, and other community organizations to develop solutions ranging from the obesity crisis, to pandemic prevention and awareness. And finally, in year 10, students synthesize insights and skills gained from past projects into the ‘Balance the Planet Program,’ where after choosing an SDG area of focus, they develop and design relevant solutions with a variety of stakeholders. Rather than document the experience through written exams and cumbersome paperwork, students curate portfolios to capture evidence of their work to share with future employers, universities, training institutions, and to forge new business partnerships.

Questions for Reflection/Implications for Action:

  • How might you connect learning for students as they pass through each grade level?
  • How might you use the SDGs as the starting point for trans-disciplinary projects and learning goals?
  • How can backward design ensure learning targets are aligned?

The ‘Lab School’ Model: A circular mini-village living lab to learn about sustainability through building a zero-carbon campus

Imagine being given a one-acre plot of land in which to build a zero-carbon footprint mini-village. Imagine also working side by side with students to build eco tiny houses, set up water-efficient aquaponics systems, create food forests, set up forest fire warning systems, set up solar arrays, and even feed guests with on-site grown bio foods.

This is the work already started by ‘Starbase 18’ in Portugal, a circular mini-village for students to experience carbon neutral sustainable living. Learning modules are designed to help students explore each concept including, ‘How to Coop with innovations and change,’ ‘Sustainability in your Profession,’ and ‘Agile Craftsmanship.’ Nearby schools are able to dip in and out of ‘Starbase 18’ or participate in longer residencies and internships. Their mission is to help create the blueprint for how other schools might set up their ‘Rural Living Labs.’

Questions for Reflection/Implications for Action:

  • Do you have an experiential site for your school? How might you develop it into a ‘rural living lab?’
  • How can immersing students in sustainable practices help develop more sustainably-minded global citizens?

The ‘Advisory/Service Learning’ Model: Addressing SDGs through mixed grade-level advisories and connection to local NGOs at The American International School

When CoVid 19 sank its teeth in this past year, The American International School of Hong Kong had a choice to make regarding its yearly service-learning trips; cancel them, or re-imagine them on a local level. Given their strong commitment to developing thoughtful, global citizens, they chose the latter. Using the SDGs as a guiding framework, they empowered their year 11 students to partner with relevant local NGOs and community organizations to co-develop meaningful, three-day service-learning programs to address each goal. For example, one group worked with an NGO called ‘Rooftop Republic’ to learn about the values of urban gardening and how they could create a community garden at the school. In addition to the co-development of the service-learning program, these new student leaders also developed advertising videos, campaigns, and meeting frameworks to pitch each program to their grade 9-12 peers during Advisory.

Unfortunately, because of tighter restrictions around CoVid-19, the 3-day programs have been put on hold until next year.

And while the programs have been put on hold through this student leadership model, students have already shown greater engagement with service learning and developed a stronger connection to their community and personal passions/interests.

Questions for Reflection/Implications for Action:

  • How might you use the SDGs to empower your students as leaders? How might you support students in developing community partnerships?
  • How might a model like this work into your existing mixed grade Advisory program?

The ‘Empathy to Impact Model’: Supporting SDGs through trans-disciplinary courses in the IDEATE Program at Beijing City International School

Imagine your students spending half of every school day diving deeper into SDGs through trans-disciplinary courses that uncover the underlying people, systems, and complexities driving them on a global scale. This is what the Beijing City International School has accomplished through its innovative ‘IDEATE’ program. A hybrid diploma program for year 11 and 12 students, the IDEATE program runs cross-curricular courses like ‘Global Issues,’ and ‘Systems and Scientific Thinking.’ Each course contains modules to help students better understand the people and dynamics at play. For example, in the Global Issues course, students explore the power of ethics, systematic inequalities, the concept of global oneness, donut economics, and true cost. Through exploration of each sub-topic, students develop EMPATHY and understanding of global issues, as well as providing provocation for the personal IMPACT projects they might take up to help address it.

For example, one student is addressing issues of inequality by exploring Asian hate crimes in the united states and creating a rap music video to help eradicate it. His big question: ‘What would happen if the world was exempt from racism?’

Another student is addressing fragile family relations by exploring how photography can change attitudes through an online photography exhibition. Her big question: ‘What if I conducted a photography exhibition that could change the attitudes young people have towards their family?’

Each personal project lasts 1-2 years and is accompanied by a mentor who meets with the student 2-3 times a week, and helps support the development of their project through the ‘Empathy to Impact’ framework.

For more on the ‘Empathy to Impact’ framework and other frameworks to support SDG delivery, check out “Inspire Citizens.”

Questions for Reflection/Implications for Action:

  • What trans-disciplinary courses might you develop out of the SDGs?
  • How might you help students uncover the complexities of each global issue through a similar framework?
  • How can you support student project ideas through mentorship?

The ‘Academy’ Model: Addressing SDGs through school-wide ‘Micro-Academies’ tied to specific goals

There is a phrase in the business world for ideas that are so audacious, so bold, and so visionary that you cannot help but get excited envisioning the possibilities if they are fulfilled. These ‘BHAGS’ (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) can easily be applied to the world of school.

Here’s a ‘BHAG’ related to the SDGs to get excited about: A comprehensive, trans-disciplinary, 4-year ‘academy/ studio’ program for students built entirely around making their communities and planet a better place to live. Students would spend one full year in each academy listed in the white space to the left. Within each academy, students would complete 3-4 deep and meaningful projects to explore relevant concepts and connect to the global SDGs. For example, in the ‘well-being academy’, students would explore the impact of urban farms on well-being by planting and cultivating their own community gardens. In the ‘equity/ society’ academy, students would work with local lawmakers to introduce and undo unjust and discriminatory legislation. Each academy would be run by a team of trans-disciplinary ‘guides’ who could mentor students through the projects, build partnerships, and infuse their subject-specific curriculum. Finally, academies would not be isolated by grade level, but instead, allow for mixed-age groupings to allow for student leadership and co-development.

Questions for Reflection/Implications for Action:

  • What is a ‘BHAG’ (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) related to the SDGs that might work in your context?
  • Most standards and curriculum documents are written as guides, rather than ‘prescriptions.’ How might you organize your academic curriculum around this framework?  

Where’s the Starting Point?

The models above are in no way meant to be prescriptive. We all have unique contexts, communities, cultures, and learners to serve. A four-year, interconnected and trans-disciplinary program like ‘TIDES’ may not be feasible in places with tight restrictions around timetabling, curriculum, and mandated minutes. However, an ‘experiential learning week’ like the one introduced by Yew Chung might be feasible.

The starting point for the integration of SDGs is aligning a few stakeholders within your school to a common vision.

Once you find a few like-minded people; generate momentum first within your classrooms, electives, or after-school programs; build clear curricular links and design a few SDG-related learning experiences; exhibit student work publicly; and watch as the rest of your school begs to get on board.

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Cultivating An Innovation Mindset in the Classroom

As the landscape of the work environment changes, the Generation Do-It-Yourself (#GenDIY) campaign provides ideas and resources to young adults who are looking to identify what is important to them and turn their passions into a rewarding career. Developing an innovation mindset is a common theme for #GenDIY. According to GenDIY, people who have innovation mindsets possess qualities such as “perseverance, initiative, collaboration, tenacity, and curiosity.” How can classroom teachers give students opportunities to develop an innovation mindset and build these important skills?

Model an innovation mindset in your classroom. In our social media focused world, we often see only pictures or posts that reflect perfection. In reality, innovation is messy. Our students need to see examples of the mess. Are you trying something in class that is innovative, yet outside your comfort zone? Tell your students! In my experience, students get excited when they hear they are part of something new. Did you work through any failures? Tell your students! They need to hear that ideas don’t always work the first time. When issues arise during class, ask the students for input on how to fix the problem. Last year, I created a 3D printing project that required students to design and test the strength of an object. Student designs went in a different direction than I expected, and testing became difficult in the limited time we had for the project. My students took the testing issues in stride and came up with some helpful suggestions for next year to prevent issues with testing. Because students were part of the innovation, they took ownership of making the final product better.

Implement Project-Based Learning (PBL) or Challenge Based Learning (CBL) in your classroom. Many students are interested in a career that enables them to make a positive impact on society. PBL and CBL are perfect frameworks for projects that give students an opportunity to apply material they are learning to solve a societal problem. Short on time? Running even one PBL or CBL project each year provides an important opportunity for students to collaborate with their peers, gather requirements, use design thinking, design, and test solutions, make revisions based upon testing, and present to an audience. If your school has a makerspace, further spark student innovation by working on the projects in that space. If the project impacts your school or community, ask school officials or community members to provide requirements and constraints, invite them to the presentation, and ask for their feedback at the end of the project. A wonderful extension that hits on entrepreneurism would be working on how to get the solution to market.

Share news about innovation related to your subject area. One of my math classes took a very quick look at topology this year. When I see an article related to an application of topology, I share it with my students. We may all decide that we don’t have enough knowledge of the workings of topology to understand the details, but we brainstorm where to find videos or resources that could provide additional information. It is important to point out how long the innovation was in the works, if that information is stated in the article. Students are often surprised to find out that researchers, especially in math, have been working on the same problem for years.

Create opportunities for students to talk to professionals at various stages of their careers. One of my school’s student groups recently toured and participated in a career panel discussion at a prestigious research institution. The career panel consisted of recent graduates and more experienced employees. The students were impressed by the potential societal impact of the research of each panelist. They were both amazed and relieved to hear that most of the panelists took non-traditional paths into their current roles, gaining experiences along the way that contributed to their success. The panelists gave tangible advice to the students to consider as they embarked on college and career decisions. What a testament to the innovation mindset qualities of perseverance, initiative, collaboration, tenacity, and curiosity!  Of course, adults at school may be giving students the same advice, but the stories of the panelists captured the attention of the students in a different manner.

A final word of advice: however you decide to bring innovation into your classroom, make sure it is authentic. Students will benefit most from authentic opportunities to experience or hear about success and failure as they learn how to cultivate an innovation mindset.

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Four Keys to Success at the Most Innovative Schools in the World

Recent visits to renowned centers of innovation such as AltSchool in San Francisco and the Dalton Academy in Beijing have got me thinking about what it means to wear the label “one of the most innovative schools in the world.”

There are many such lists, so I spent a day reviewing all that I could find. I built a spreadsheet to capture the adjectives used to describe the innovations present in these schools and then mapped them into broader categories.

Here’s what I learned:

Use of space

Innovative schools such as Ørestad Gymnasium in Denmark and the Green School in Bali adopt a flexible attitude toward walls, classrooms, open areas, community and workspaces. There is a heavy focus on the implementation of sustainable practices in construction, design and use.

Pedagogy

Invariably, students in such organizations as the Kosen Network in Japan and Blue School in New York engage in project-based learning. The projects vary in duration, from one-day engagements to the long-form expeditions favored by schools that adopt the Expeditionary Learning model. Instruction in innovative schools is described as student-directed or personalized, often using technology to accomplish that goal. Accordingly, it is quite common to see flipped or blended strategies.

Grouping structures

The composition of learning cohorts is a fascinating feature of innovative schools. At Digital Study Hall in India, there aren’t enough teachers to support the large number of learners so the organization records teachers’ lectures and sends DVDs of the recordings to poor and rural areas for mass consumption. At Brightworks School in San Francisco, the teachers personalize learning by using a mixed-aged approach that tries to break down the walls between school and community.

Authenticity

There is a continuum of authenticity in place here, but schools such as the Met in Providence, Rhode Island and Sra Pou Vocational School in Cambodia require students to interact with the community or local businesses via apprenticeships, internships, service learning, or projects that have an action component. In fact, Sra Pou brings the local economy into the school itself, providing training for all members of the family.

This list is not comprehensive. We can all think of other innovative schools in the U.S., such as High Tech High in San Diego or P-Tech in New York, that are inspired by these same features of innovation or take the work in a new direction. The rest of the world has its exemplars, too, notably the Steve Jobs School in Amsterdam and the Innova Schools network in Peru.

But is what they are doing new or innovative?

I needed a little perspective so I went back to examine the policy, funding and implementation in support of the experiment that was the New American Schools program authorized by President George H. Bush in 1991.

Here are some the innovative strategies that the 11 grantees experimented with in that decade:

Pedagogy: Project-based learning, inquiry, curricular themes, teachers as curriculum designers, interdisciplinary units, tech integration, integration of skills and knowledge, tutoring and student choice.

Grouping structures: Elimination of tracking, homogeneous and heterogeneous grouping, small-group instruction, block scheduling, looping, multi-age cohorts, flexible scheduling and reduced class and/or school size.

Governance: School-level leadership teams, student advisory teams and committees, appropriate autonomy, parental choice, budgetary control, teacher team meetings, parent teams, integration with social services at the community level, community audits and surveys and peer review.

Assessment: Performance tasks, elimination of standardized tests, portfolios, public presentations and multiple assessments.

Meet the new innovation, same as the old innovation.

Is there is a well-defined path away from the industrial-model school to the innovative schools of the future we all crave? It seems to look like this: From rigid use of space and traditional instruction to experimentation with inquiry-based learning and tech integration and from there to personalized and competency-based models in flexible space and flexible time in multi-age cohorts that place students in the real world for all or part of their day.

Innovation for innovation’s sake, and certainly innovation that ignores the past, is not going to elevate education. Innovation must have a purpose and that purpose is mostly governed by what each neighborhood, city, state and country view is the outcome of education.

Some schools seek success on college entrance exams. Some schools seek to increase attendance or diminish bullying and provide an equitable education for all learners. Some schools focus on instilling a set of values that cherish the local or global community, the environment and service learning. And some schools try to develop the skills needed for success in college, career and citizenship.

What decisions will help create the most innovative schools, even if those innovations have the distinct flavor of their locale or borrow heavily from the past? I take inspiration from the model of Dalton Academy in Beijing, which has received tacit government approval to establish a renegade position as a paradigm-breaking model for educational reform in China. I liken their approach to the way the developing world installed telecommunications. The U.S. and other developed economies had to build a vast infrastructure of landlines before migrating to mobile. The developing world skipped that stage and went straight to mobile.

Are there schools out their following a similar trajectory of innovation? Help me find them and celebrate their work.

David Ross is a global educational consultant who works on large-scale implementations of project-based learning and 21st-century skills programs in the U.S. and abroad. He is the former CEO of the Partnership for 21st Century Learning as well as the former Senior Director for the Buck Institute for Education. You can follow him at @davidPBLross.

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Innov8: Summer is Here!

It’s that time of year again – the weather is beautiful, graduation parties have begun, and students (and teachers) are counting down their final days in the classroom.

But before you put down your #2 pencils and run for the door, check out these eight stories featuring the latest education resources and innovations in learning!

#NewSchools & #EdTech Tools

1) CBE Toolkit

This should be a great new resource with some useful example for those looking to lay the foundations for Competency-Based Education.

2) CBE Landscape Report

The landscape for Competency-Based Education is vibrant and far-reaching (see our piece on what New Zealand has been up to).

#STEM Gems

3) STEMvest

Financial Literacy is an Important Component of College, Career and Life Readiness.

4) Cloud Cluster

 #AskAboutAI

5) AI in HigherEd

https://twitter.com/smart_sparrow/status/864580004457455617

AI is one of the things that excites us most out of everything that’s coming next in HigherEd.

#GlobalEd

6) Following Finland

Empowered educators lead to better student outcomes, and this looks like a great way to give teachers the motivation they deserve.

Deeper, Further, Faster #HigherEd

7) Microcampus Potential

Have you been keeping your eye on upcoming trends in higher education?

#Teachers & #EdLeaders

8) Engaging Parents Webinar

If this webinar piques your interest, we have some ideas that can help you reduce barriers to parent engagement.

Have a news item you’d like us to consider for next Wednesday’s edition? Tweet us @Getting_Smart using #innov8 or to email [email protected] with “Innov8” in the subject line. For more ideas on what type of stories we run, check out the full Innov8 series on our blog.


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Innov8: Student Support

It was good to see hundreds of you at ASU + GSV in SLC. We discussed the modern Montessori school including a student-centered and student-led high school. We appreciated ASU President Crow’s vision for HigherEd.

This week’s stories share a variety of ways EdLeaders are supporting student learning as well. From working to transform education through data interoperability efforts to partnering to create pathways to college, it’s clear so many of us are working toward the same goal: supporting students for a successful future.

Dollars & Deals

1. MSDF + $1 Billion Dollars

We’re big fans of what the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation do with their grants. Have you been keeping up with Project Unicorn?

#SmartPlanet

2. We Have Liftoff

The payload of this rocket will help bring broadband to poor and rural regions of the world, which will go a long way for improving access to information and learning.

It’s A #ProjectBased World

3. PBL Chopped Challenge

Do you think your PBL is the best PBL? Time to put your money where your mouth is and enter this challenge–and then lend your voice to the High-Quality PBL Project!

#AskAboutAI

4. Feeling All the Feels

Are you prepared for life with smart machines?

Deeper, Further, Faster #HigherEd

5. CZI Boosts College Pathways

The percent of low-income high school kids enrolling in college is decreasing. This is a pressing concern, and we appreciate every effort to reverse this trend.

#Teachers & #EdLeaders

6. Summit 2017

We had a great time at the ASU GSV Summit last week. Wondering what you missed? We covered some of the highlights on the blog, including a great keynote from Michael Crow on the future of Higher Ed.

7. UDL & Accessibility in #K12

WEBINAR TODAY! Be sure to register for this webinar on Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a framework that creates learning environments designed to be open and accessible to all students, especially those with disabilities.

8. Save The Date: #DLDay 2018

Next year’s Digital Learning Day is officially scheduled! It’s never too early to start preparing.

Have a news item you’d like us to consider for next Wednesday’s edition? Tweet us @Getting_Smart using #innov8 or to email [email protected] with “Innov8” in the subject line. For more ideas on what type of stories we run, check out the full Innov8 series on our blog.


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Innov8: Teacher Appreciation Week

It’s National Teacher Appreciation Week (which, by the way, we think should be celebrated year round), so from our team to all of the educators out there spending your time (and often your own money) to ensure that all of your students graduate high school and go on to be successful in college, career and life, we say THANK YOU!!

We agree with Ellen – teachers really do make the world a better place, and this week’s stories share tools and resources that can help teachers continue to do a great job of inspiring their students.

And don’t forget to tell us why you think teachers are superheroes by 11:59pm PT on 5/12 and be entered to win one of two $150 Donor’s Choose gift cards!

#NewSchools & #EdTech Tools

1. Digital Learning List

Don’t forget to be keeping up-to-date on your Digital Learning engagement strategies!

Digital Developments

2. Student Data-Driven PD

It’s important to keep in mind the relationship between student outcomes and teacher PD.

3. Education Unicorns

Have you been keeping up on our latest series that looks at EdData interoperability through case studies on a number of different companies?

#Teachers & #EdLeaders

4. Learner-Connected Framework

Real-world learning experiences empower and engage students. These resources can help you do it right.

Dollars & Deals

5. $110M to Grammarly

Grammarly can help with your (and your students’) 21st-century writing projects.

6. Epiphany learning acquires My Learning Collaborative Solution:

#STEM Gems

7. National Day of STEM

This day should is well-placed to remind us all of the importance of keeping students engaged in STEM over holiday breaks.

8. Destination STEM

Few things inspire students’ creativity like a good STEM competition.

Have a news item you’d like us to consider for next Wednesday’s edition? Tweet us @Getting_Smart using #innov8 or to email [email protected] with “Innov8” in the subject line. For more ideas on what type of stories we run, check out the full Innov8 series on our blog.


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Innov8: Human-Centered Design

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology and the requirements for business success.”

~ Tim Brown, President and CEO, IDEO

During our team’s recent school visit to the Design39Campus, we were able to observe first-hand the success of their human-centered approach to learning (a design thinking pedagogy we also discussed recently on our podcast). Watching students thrive in this environment left us feeling inspired and more motivated than ever to help create empowering learning experiences for students.

This week’s top stories celebrate this collaborative, human-focused approach with everything from a new collection of social and emotional learning resources curated from school districts, to the launch of a cohort for teachers looking to transform education from the ground up.

#STEM Gems

1. Celebrating Tech With Purpose

Congratulations to Mouse, one of the early leaders-by-example of the “Cause + Code” mindset.

It’s A #ProjectBased World

2. Remaking Learning

We recently shared some insights from Gregg Behr about how Pittsburgh’s EdLeaders are innovating their education system for a project-based world.

Dollars & Deals

3. $190M to EverFi

4. GoFundMe Funds Teachers

If there’s one thing teachers need and deserve more of (aside from time), it funding. On that note, have you signed up for our Teachers are Superheroes Sweepstakes?

Planting a #SEAD

5. SEL Resource Center

These resources should help educators and administrators with embedding SEL across their curriculum.

Digital Developments

6. Windows to Education

Deeper, Further, Faster #HigherEd

7. HigherEd Online

We always love a big next step towards reinventing HigherEd.

#Teachers & #EdLeaders

8. Teacher’s Guild Fellowship

Have you heard? The future of professional development is collaborative professional development.

Have a news item you’d like us to consider for next Wednesday’s edition? Tweet us @Getting_Smart using #innov8 or to email [email protected] with “Innov8” in the subject line. For more ideas on what type of stories we run, check out the full Innov8 series on our blog.


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Innov8: Teacher Resources

Teacher Appreciation Week is almost here, and we’ve got a couple of exciting things coming down the pipeline to celebrate–keep your eyes peeled, as next week we’ll be releasing details about a teacher sweepstakes!

Of course, we here at Getting Smart always appreciate teachers (consider this a virtual polished apple if you will, teachers). Since we know that one thing teachers appreciate is a tool that makes their lives easier, this week’s top eight news stories highlight new teacher resources that can help them save time or improve their practice.

Let’s Get Personalized

1. Competency-Based Education Contributes To Personalized Learning

Competency-Based Education really can be a great tool for achieving personalized learning.

#NewSchools & #EdTech Tools

2. Panorama Student Success

https://twitter.com/nibletztweets/status/856508292620800000

Whole-child development is important, but challenging. This new tool looks like it will help.

Dollars & Deals

3. Frontline Buys Teachers-Teachers

#Teachers & #EdLeaders

4. Coming This Summer: ISTE’s Refresh of Its Standards for Teachers

Have you been keeping up on your teacher PD?

5. Teacher-Powered Schools in Minnesota

Empowerment matters–all teachers should have a chance to take leadership and power their schools.

6. Competency-Based Education for Education Leaders and Teachers Webinar

Looking to get started with Competency-Ed? We recommend checking out some of our resources, then attending this webinar.

7. Teachers ARE Innovators:

Movers, Shakers & Groundbreakers

8. U.S. News Ranks Top 100 Schools

If you can’t get enough, check out our lists of 100 Middle & High Schools Worth Visiting and 85 Elementary & Middle Schools Worth Visiting.

Have a news item you’d like us to consider for next Wednesday’s edition? Tweet us @Getting_Smart using #innov8 or to email [email protected] with “Innov8” in the subject line. For more ideas on what type of stories we run, check out the full Innov8 series on our blog.


Stay in-the-know with all things EdTech and innovations in learning by signing up to receive the weekly Smart Update.


Innov8: The Future of Learning

This coming Saturday, April 22, is National Earth Day–a day to celebrate the world we live in by getting outside and enjoying our surroundings, while also working on improvements so future generations can enjoy them as well.

This is similar to what many of the schools we’ve featured in our Place-Based Education blog series encourage their students to do no matter their location. From the rural beauty surrounding Teton Science Schools to the urban landscape of downtown Tucson’s City High School, students have the opportunity to get out and enjoy where they are in any given moment, and learn something new no matter where they are.

Today’s eight stories celebrate the many ways education leaders are working to improve education for today’s students, as well as for future generations.

Data Developments

1. New Online Report Card Tool

New ways to use and visualize EdData are small steps towards one of our favorite moonshots in education.

#STEM Gems

2. NGSS Activities

We’re excited to see the NGSS inspiring new ways of teaching science.

#AskAboutAI

3. Chatterbot

AI is coming, and it demands project-based learning. Are you prepared to lead in a project-based world?

4. Voices Travel

This could be a great new option for virtual field trips.

Deeper, Further, Faster #HigherEd

5. College Aid

We always welcome ideas for new ways to close the opportunity gap.

Let’s Get Personalized

6. Future Ready Rural Schools

It’s good to see people talking about giving rural America better schools and better opportunities.

#Teachers & #EdLeaders

7. I Did It MyWays

8. Math Chat

This webinar should be a great resource for those seeking to personalize math. Bear Creek Middle School in Fulton County, California, can also provide a good example.

Have a news item you’d like us to consider for next Wednesday’s edition? Tweet us @Getting_Smart using #innov8 or to email [email protected] with “Innov8” in the subject line. For more ideas on what type of stories we run, check out the full Innov8 series on our blog.


Stay in-the-know with all things EdTech and innovations in learning by signing up to receive the weekly Smart Update. This post includes mentions of a Getting Smart partner. For a full list of partners, affiliate organizations and all other disclosures, please see our Partner page.


Innov8: Library Love

When you think of libraries, do you picture an older building with stacks of ancient books, a towering card catalogue cabinet and a stern librarian watching your every move?

Today’s libraries are very different from those of the past (although that librarian is probably still watching you.) Libraries offer access to tools, technology and training that is essential to the economic and cultural lives of communities. They are places of creativity where students can meet to use a 3D printer, edit a video or use software to record their own music.

So in celebration of National Library Week and its 2017 theme “Libraries Transform,” here are eight innovative education resources also created to transform and support 21st-century learning.

#NewSchools & #EdTech Tools

1. Math Stepping Stones

We here at Getting Smart love a good math app, and are happy to highlight this development.

Digital Developments

2. Fake News Fighters

We’ve all needed a little help recognizing fake news at one time or another.

Dollars & Deals

3. Data Pitch 

This is an interesting new initiative in line with Cause + Code that should make a real difference for many Europeans.

Planting a #SEAD

4. SEL Panorama

Assessing SEL can be a real challenge, but there are a number of reliable strategies that can help.

#EdPolicy Pieces

5. ESSA Report

We recently highlighted 6 Ways States Can Redefine Student Success and Transform Education Under ESSA.

Let’s Get Personalized

6. Personalized Learning Journey

#Teachers & #EdLeaders

7. Personalized Learning Shift Webinar

This is an important conversation, just as it’s important to get family and community support for personalized learning.

Movers, Shakers & Groundbreakers

8. Readiness Bootcamp

Soft skills and SEL are important for everything from building career readiness to leadership skills.

Have a news item you’d like us to consider for next Wednesday’s edition? Tweet us @Getting_Smart using #innov8 or to email [email protected] with “Innov8” in the subject line. For more ideas on what type of stories we run, check out the full Innov8 series on our blog.


Stay in-the-know with all things EdTech and innovations in learning by signing up to receive the weekly Smart Update. This post includes mentions of a Getting Smart partner. For a full list of partners, affiliate organizations and all other disclosures, please see our Partner page.