How might we…?

Guest writer: Leslie Garner
EdTech Workshop #2: March 19, 2011

It’s often really easy to think about the numerous ways something might go wrong.  We often check our locks twice, make sure we’ve turned the oven off before we leave the house, and do other slightly paranoid things to make sure that “What might happen…” in a worst case scenario doesn’t happen.  We create worlds and spaces where disaster is mitigated.  At this Saturday’s Ed Tech workshop, instead of mitigating disaster, our teams considered how – through optimistic, human-centered answers – we might solve for some social problems we’re facing.

 The group I joined was looking to enable innovation within schools.  Commonplace questions like “How might we create project-based assignments with roots in the community?” and “How might we make learning experiences relevant and meaningful everyday?” led the group to consider bolder questions.  “How might we engage local businesses in developing our curriculum?”  “How might we give the community a role to play in selecting a school leader and teachers?”  “How might we redefine the role of teacher to encompass the community issues his/her class is working to solve?”  “How might we redesign schools?”

There were dozens more of these “How might we…” questions, but the ideas didn’t stop there.  Through a series of brainstorming activities, the group came up with a solution that was bigger and bolder than just innovation in teaching.  It was a brand new design for schools.  The school became less of a “place we send kids” and more a hub of “community”, a place where the neighbors came to share their complaints and problems – and where students solved them.  It became a place where student research and reporting didn’t just make the front page of the local paper; it was the very story on the front page of the paper.  There were commissions and committees, and kids, in partnership, not direction, of their innovative, empowered teachers, were making their community one of equity and excellence.  

It was unbelievable to think that in less than 90 minutes, a new vision for schools came alive. And that there were 100s of other ideas they came up with!  That’s one of the rules, after all, of the brainstorm:  “Go for volume.”  The many other ideas the entire cohort came up with were just one part of the day…and perhaps the easiest as they moved from a morning of idea generation to an afternoon of idea selection.    

Leslie Garner (St. Louis ’04)
Managing Director, Alumni Affairs
Teach For America –  Bay Area

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