Monday, December 17, 2012

Elevator Pitch Tool from HBS

Just stumbled upon this great tool from the Harvard Business School for creating Elevator Pitches.  I love Elevator Pitches as a focusing tool to help people get clear on what they are working on and why. There is something incredibly powerful about the notion of having one-minute in a confined space to share your idea with someone who could potentially make it come to life.

As a tool in PBL, an elevator pitch makes for a great benchmark or portion of a final product.  A common early stage benchmark in a project involves groups choosing a topic or direction for their project.   While this is an obvious step in any project that involves choices around topic, medium, audience, etc, we often miss opportunities to engage students in deep critical thinking by allowing them to pass through this step without doing the real comparative work that making choices involve.

Having students work through a full elevator pitch using the HBS tool focuses their critical and comparative thinking, scaffolds the writing process, and gives them some really neat features for analyzing the quality of their potential pitch.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Project Idea? Granted!

In the constant quest for authentic project ideas and contexts, one potential direction is the use of grants.  Despite challenges in public education funding, there are always numerous small-medium sized grants floating around the educational world.  Often, teachers simply don't have the time to set aside to pursue these grants, or they "need something now" and can't wait until the grant kicks in to begin the project. 

What if writing the grant WAS the project?  In purusing the wonderful set of Grant Resources our good friends at Edworks put together on their Facebook page, I ran across several that would not only fund great projects, but that the grant application process itself could be an opportunity for a great scenario as well. 

Verizon Innovative APP Challenge - "provides the opportunity for middle school and high school students, working with a faculty advisor, to use their STEM knowledge, their ingenuity, and their creativity to come up with an original mobile app concept that incorporates STEM and addresses a need or problem in their school or community." $10,000 for school plus Samsung Galaxy Tab phones for winning team!

Lowes Toolbox for Education Grant -  looking for a great "space design" project for geometry?  Why not connect it to the grant and make it happen?

InventTeams -Looking at a Global Challenge?  Now you can fund your solution! "InvenTeams are teams of high school students, teachers, and mentors that receive grants up to $10,000 each to invent technological solutions to real-world problems. Each InvenTeam chooses its own problem to solve."

Disaster Relief Grants - many classes and schools have responded to and been impacted by recent natural disasters.  This grant program could allow you to channel awareness raising and concern to a project context and funding to make a difference.

Sodexo Foundation - Taking Hunger Personally - several New Tech schools have done projects on Global Food Security.  Sodexo has a grant that aligns with Global Youth Service Day.

Got more ideas - post them below or hit me up on Twitter @edutwitt

PBL to Close the Opportunity Gap

Just read a nice post from my KnowledgeWorks colleague Michelle Timmons about the Opportunity Gap.  As a general rule, I am a fan of moves that help us change the conversation in education.  I like this idea of the opportunity gap in particular because it implies a focus on both access to resources and also to the mindset we have for students and that students have for themselves.  

On the resource side, I agree that thinking about an Opportunity Gap is a great way to think about creating powerful schools and learning environments for students.  Additionally, I think the degree to which our schools embrace personalized learning opportunities emerging through more distributed channels is a way of directly addressing the notion of a digital divide.

While I think access to technology gets a lot of public attention - maybe because it involves easily quantifable factors like student/computer rations, budgets, and 1:1 initiatives - I think the idea of expectations may actually be much more powerful to address.  Part of the purpose of education should be to expose students to a variety of "future selves" and give them opportunities to interact with the different ways adults live and work in the world. This is especially true for traditionally undeserved communities where we have an even stronger obligation to provide a wide view of future pathways which may not be as available outside of school.

I am always struck by the limited sense of future pathways students often have.  Educators often make the "Rip Van Winkle" joke  , but I think an equally jarring comparison could be made between the list of future careers that a student might have come up with in 1912 vs the list they would come up with today.  While video game maker and graphic designer might make it onto a few lists these days, my own experience with students tended to hear a great deal of "doctor, lawyer, teacher" type responses.   There is nothing wrong with these, but as the face of work is increasingly dynamic, it feels like our work to help students imagine their own futures has also failed to keep pace with the times.

At a very practical level.  I love the idea of an opportunity gap as a way to stay continually motivated around creating highly rigorous projects and PBL experiences for students.  One of the core attributes of a quality project has to do with authentic role and adult connections.  We tend to think of these as being motivating factors, ways of getting to greater rigor through increased engagement.  I would encourage us all to think about the extent to which creating projects that allow students to try on emerging work roles and to interact with adults outside the school are powerful ways to help young people have a greater sense of themselves and and their own potential and opportunity.