Social Contracts

Are you a teacher who has wondered about the best way to create a classroom environment in which students felt safe to take risks in their learning?  Have you struggled with discipline issues? Have you wished that students could help to monitor each others’ behavior? Many teachers develop class rules at the beginning of the school year, but in my experience even when rules are co-created with students, they are not always effective. There may be too many rules for students to remember, or students might have multiple teachers who have different expectations. So what is a teacher to do? One solution is to develop a “social contract” for a specific group of students who work together frequently.

My introduction to the idea of a “social contract” came from a previous colleague (instructional coach) who was helping Innovation Institute teachers understand how to help students build healthy relationships with each other and encourage a trusting, empathetic environment in which students could more effectively collaborate. The social contract comes from the Flippen Group, which at the time had resources for the social contract online. However, this work now seems to be encompassed in their Capturing Kids’ Hearts professional training offerings (which look amazing). The social contract encourages students to manage their own (and each others’) behaviors by providing a shared understanding and clear structure for what is – and what is not – acceptable.

The social contract should be developed with a group that has newly formed, although it helps if the group has has had some time to get to know each other prior to creating the contract. How it works:

  • Seat students in small groups of 3-5. Students can be assigned roles such as time keeper, scribe, spokesperson, etc.
  • Introduce the idea of a “social contract”, and ask students why it might be helpful to have one.
  • Have students individually answer these questions on paper:
    1. How do you want to be treated by the teacher?
    2. How do you want to be treated by each other?
    3. How do you think the teacher wants to be treated?
    4. How will we handle violations of the contract?
  • After students have had individual ‘think time’, have them share their thoughts in their small groups.
  • Next, ask each question one at a time, and have each group share out to the class.
    • Encourage all ideas to be shared, and record every idea (as single words or short phrases) on a large piece of paper. Ideally, the social contract should be kept posted in the room.
    • If any ideas are repeated, use a check mark to indicate that it was stated more than once.
    • Students should be as specific as possible. For example, ‘respect each other’ is perhaps not specific enough. What do they mean exactly? What does respect look like? sound like?
    • Ask for clarification of any terms and/or ideas that may not be universally agreed upon or understood. However, as much as possible, the ideas shared should be written exactly as the student shared them.
  • Once all ideas are recorded, it is important to agree upon how to hold each other accountable. Students can call ‘foul’ on each other – or a teacher – if someone says or does something that is deemed to go against the social contract.
  • Everyone needs to sign the contract, including the teacher. 
  • When can someone call ‘foul’? Whenever they perceive that someone has said something or acted in a way that goes against the spirit of the social contract – either towards them or another classmate.
  • What happens when someone calls ‘foul’? A foul cannot be questioned or negotiated. If someone has ‘foul’ called on them, they cannot argue it. They must offer two ‘put ups’ to the person they have been deemed to have mistreated. The ‘put ups’ must be something positive about that person’s character – it cannot be about their appearance or anything superficial. Teachers may need to model genuine, quality ‘put ups’.

In my experience, students came to the realization that the answers to all four questions are very similar. Everyone really wants to be treated the same way. Although there will be many ideas recorded in the social contract, it starts to become apparent that everyone should follow the ‘golden rule’ – treat others the way you want to be treated. This is what makes the social contract easier to follow than a list of specific rules. ANY behavior or words that are deemed harmful in some way can be called out as a ‘foul’.

What could cause the social contract to fail?

  • Inconsistency. Teachers need to hold students accountable and encourage students to call foul on both students AND the teacher, if necessary.
  • Sarcasm. Teachers should be willing to be called out for using sarcasm.
  • Students have already been together for a long period of time. My team first implemented the social contract with students in their second year of a program. We were new teachers for these students, but they had already spent an entire school year together and had built a dynamic without us. It felt almost impossible to have students ‘buy in’ to the idea of a social contract.
  • Multiple teachers. All teachers must ‘buy in’ to the social contract. If your students have multiple teachers, ensure that they are involved. Ideally, they are a part of the process, but students could also share and explain with other teachers after it is created. All teachers should sign the contract.



Ideation (Brainstorming)

Do your students need help to effectively brainstorm? Perhaps they default to sharing out ideas in an unstructured, open discussion? If so, they would likely benefit from being explicitly taught some useful strategies for brainstorming (ideation). This will ensure students are aware that there are a variety of ideation strategies that they can choose from, depending on their team needs at a particular time.

Innovation Institute at Shanghai American School relies on ideation as part of the design thinking process for each interdisciplinary project. However, it is not always easy for adults – let alone 9th or 10th graders! – to come up with great ideas as a collaborative team. I’ve been doing some prep work with other instructional coaches at SAS in order to help guide some discussions around choosing specific ideation strategies to be a focus in the Innovation Institute program.

I was thrilled when an Institute colleague shared several great sites with me that she has used on occasion when ideation strategies were needed. The Interaction Design Foundation website, which is very useful, says that ideation is the heart of design thinking. That article, in addition to MindTools and this Wrike article, list numerous ideation strategies. I combined strategies (predominantly from these three sites) to make a useful overview that lists the what, why, when, and how of 17 ideation strategies. I would never share that many strategies with students, but I appreciate having so many strategies in one place in order to make easy decisions about which strategies are most appropriate to teach students at a specific time. The image below is of a document that summarizes some fantastic ideation techniques, predominantly from the sites mentioned above. As an instructional coach, it will also be helpful for me to refer to this overview if I need an ideation strategy for a meeting or workshop that I am facilitating.

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 6.00.41 PM

Are there other useful sites for ideation strategies? Are there any great strategies that are missing from this overview that should be included?

How can NGSS practices transform science teaching & learning?

Have you ever heard someone unfamiliar with NGSS ask “Don’t good teachers already know how to teach science well?” Yes… and no. Adopting the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) should lead to a transformation in how students learn science, as outlined in Appendix A of A Framework for K-12 Science Education.  It is crucial that students are applying their knowledge of the disciplinary core ideas through the science and engineering practices. But what exactly does this look like in a science class?

3-dimensional learning means that both the crosscutting concepts (CCCs) and the science & engineering practices (SEPs) are as important as the content – also known as disciplinary core ideas (DCIs). I recently wrote a blog post focusing on incorporating CCCs, but it is equally important to consider how students engage in the SEPs. Teachers may think that science class already naturally incorporates the practices, but that is not necessarily true. We should be asking ourselves whether students are acting like SCIENTISTS. Are students doing what scientists would be doing?

Check out this Teaching Channel video about NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (6min). Traditionally, learning science often involved the teacher acting as a knowledge authority to provide content, then students would be given a lab activity in order to confirm results that they are expecting based on what they already know to be true. The shift with NGSS is that STUDENTS should be the ones DOING science – asking questions, designing and conducting investigations, analyzing data, finding relationships, etc. Students should be given more experiences to think deeply, and have more opportunities to think like a scientist. These NGSS parent guides include a table that outlines what there should be ‘less of’ and ‘more of’ in a science classroom. This is a good starting point for thinking about how science classrooms can be transformed.

What are the NGSS science and engineering practices? They are listed below, and are explained in more detail in Appendix F of A Framework for K-12 Science Education:

  1. Asking Questions (science) and Defining Problems (engineering)
  2. Developing and Using Models
  3. Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
  4. Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  5. Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
  6. Constructing Explanations (science) and Designing Solutions (engineering)
  7. Engaging in Argument from Evidence
  8. Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

How can teachers begin to understand what they are already doing well with respect to the SEPs, and where they might improve? The article Assessing Science Practices: Moving Your Class Along a Continuum by Katherine L. McNeill, Rebecca Katsh-Singer and Pam Pelletier is incredibly useful. First, it has a ‘Science Practices Continuum Assessment Tool’ which allows teachers to assess where their students fall for each practice – Not Present, Emergent, Proficient, or Exemplary. This can help teachers to plan instruction that helps students to move along on the continuum. Second, the article also groups the 8 practices into the following categories:

  • Investigating Practices
    • Asking Questions
    • Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
    • Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
  • Sense Making Practices
    • Developing and Using Models
    • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
    • Constructing Explanations
  • Critiquing Practices
    • Engaging in Argument from Evidence
    • Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating Information

This makes it easier to envision how to incorporate the practices when designing a unit. Ideally, a unit should start with introducing students to a phenomenon, so that they begin by asking questions. A few years ago I came across the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) from the Right Question Institute. However, at NSTA this year a couple of sessions referred to Questioning for the Next Generation (QNG), which is QFT adapted for NGSS. Love it! Using QNG is a great way to get students to help make sense of a phenomenon and perhaps even having students help to craft a driving question. Near the beginning of the unit, students should often develop a model to explain the phenomenon. Ideally, students’ models will be improved throughout the course of a unit as their understanding deepens through engaging with other practices, such as planning and carrying out investigations and analyzing and interpreting data.

For teachers new to NGSS, what are some simple strategies for incorporating the SEPs in a way that honors the intention of the K-12 Framework and NGSS?

  • Posting medium size posters of the SEPs means teachers can easily refer to them during class. (These are from @paulandersen’s amazing site The Wonder of Science.) It is helpful to post cards for the main CCC and SEP (practice) with the content learning target(s) for the day.This helps students to understand the 3D focus of the lesson. Refer to these both at the beginning and throughout the lesson.
  • Teachers can refer to more than one CCC and/or SEP during a lesson, even if they are not all assessed. In fact, at times it can be difficult to refer to a CCC &/or SEP in isolation. (See link for STEM Teaching Tools Practice Brief 3 below.)
  • As you plan a lesson or unit, be sure to plan in advance for incorporating at least one practice each lesson. You can find the continuum mentioned above AND instructional strategies for ALL practices on the Instructional Leadership for Science Practices. Very useful!


Here are some other useful resources:

Matrix of Science and Engineering Practices

This translates appendix F from NGSS into teacher friendly language. It breaks down each practice by grade band K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. 

Appendix F: Science and Engineering Practices

The intent of this appendix is to describe what each of these eight practices implies about what students can do. Its purpose is to enable readers to better understand the performance expectations.

Appendix I: Engineering Design in NGSS

STEM Teaching Tools Practice Brief 3

Practices should not stand alone: How to sequence practices in a cascade to support student investigations

NGSS Crosscutting Concepts (CCCs)

I was fortunate to have recently attended the 2018 Atlanta NSTA Conference.  It was so inspiring! I was able to hear from amazing presenters and speak with educators, instructional coaches and district curriculum coordinators who are doing amazing work implementing NGSS. As a 6-12 Science Instructional Coach hoping to support teachers, I focused on attending sessions that would provide tangible tools and strategies for ensuring that instruction and assessment is three dimensional (3D).  I was not disappointed!

Perhaps the simplest and most high leverage takeaway for ensuring instruction and assessment is three dimensional relates to the crosscutting concepts (CCCs). The NGSS crosscutting concepts are:

  1. patterns
  2. cause and effect
  3. scale, proportion and quantity
  4. systems and system models
  5. energy and matter
  6. structure and function
  7. stability and change

In general, the DCIs (content) are what students should KNOW, the SEPs (science and engineering practices) are what students should DO, and the CCCs are how students should THINK.

Why are crosscutting concepts important? Karen Whisler is an NGSS Solutions Leader for Measured Progress. In her #NSTA18 presentation, she said that CCCs:

  • are applicable across all science disciplines
  • facilitate comparison and connections
  • provide an organizational framework and way of thinking
  • support understanding of disciplinary core ideas
  • enrich use of the practices

In multiple sessions, I heard both presenters and participants say that CCCs are often the most difficult of the three dimensions to include in instruction and assessment. It is not necessarily new for teachers to refer to the crosscutting concepts (perhaps previously known as themes or overarching concepts), although traditionally many teachers have not been explicit about teaching &/or assessing CCCs. However, there are some very manageable steps that teachers can take to ensure that the CCCs are being taught and assessed:

  1. Asking at least one question related to a CCC in each lesson helps to ensure 3D lessons. Plan for this in advance of the lesson using these small cards created by @paulandersen.
  2. Posting medium size posters of the CCCs means teachers can easily refer to them during class. It is helpful to post cards for the main CCC and SEP (practice) with the content learning target(s) for the day. This helps students to understand the focus of the lesson. Refer to these both at the beginning and throughout the lesson.
  3. Teachers can refer to more than one CCC and/or SEP during a lesson, even if they are not all assessed. In fact, at times it can be difficult to refer to a CCC &/or SEP in isolation.
  4. Modeling ‘think alouds’ for students helps them to understand how to use the CCCs as lenses for asking questions, making sense of phenomenon, etc.
  5. Aim to have all assessment questions (formative or summative) at least “two dimensional”, and ensure that summative assessments are 3D overall. STEM Teaching Tool 41 has a wealth of prompts related to all 7 CCCs. Ensure that some student responses are required to explicitly refer to CCCs. Some teachers have students highlight work in green if it explicitly refers to CCCs.
  6. Keep posters on the wall that have questions for each of the CCCs. Students should be encouraged to refer to the posters to help them think of questions they can ask during instructional activities, small group and whole class discussions, etc. This will help students to build an awareness of the different ‘ways of thinking’ that they can draw upon when doing science. Students who are more aware of ‘how to think’ can apply this in other disciplines and start to see more connections as well!
  7. It is very important to connect the CCCs to the “sense making practices” which are: developing and using models, constructing explanations, and arguing from evidence.

The following framework by Brett Moulding was mentioned in more than one session, and I find it to be an incredibly useful way to organize the CCCs. Those in blue are used for explaining CAUSES, while those in green are related to SYSTEMS.

Screen Shot 2018-03-30 at 8.04.01 PM

Here are some other useful resources:

Matrix of Crosscutting Concepts in NGSS

This translates appendix G from NGSS into teacher friendly language. It breaks down each crosscutting concept by grade band K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12.

NSTA Webinar Series: Crosscutting Concepts

Appendix G: Crosscutting Concepts

The purpose of this appendix is to describe the second dimension— crosscutting concepts—and to explain its role in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Crosscutting concepts have value because they provide students with connections and intellectual tools that are related across the differing areas of disciplinary content and can enrich their application of practices and their understanding of core ideas.

— A Framework for K-12 Science Education, Appendix G

Together We Are Brilliant

“Alone we are smart, together we are brilliant.” Steven Anderson

I have been so inspired in the last week to actively reach out to other educators – to learn from them, but also to share innovation that I have been a part of. I also want to encourage sharing within my school so that we create an environment where risk-taking is encouraged.

In my experience, it is true that when you are trying to do something new (and hopefully better!), it is very easy for others to criticize. ‘Pushback’ from parents and colleagues can be discouraging, but not if you know to expect it as part of the process. It is important to have a good support network to help you continue forward until people start to see the benefits of what you are doing. It is also important to focus only on what you can control, and to try not to let negative talk or criticism get you down. It will pass. And, it helps to remind yourself and others that “our thinking must focus on what learning truly can be, not what it has been.” George Couros #IMMOOC

I’ve decided that I need to really commit to using Twitter more regularly. First, I want to start by sharing amazing things that are happening in our school. We have an incredible open learning environment for our science department and our Innovation Institute program, so it should be easy for me to take pictures and post them to my twitter account so that we can appreciate and recognize each other’s efforts. Second, I want to share out important parts of our the final project for the year in the Innovation Institute. I want to share what we are doing in the Institute beyond the walls of Shanghai American School.

Here is my first item to share (already posted on twitter @foley_amy) about the Innovation Institute:

This week, 9 student “project managers” determined the groups for their final project. All 37 students shared their top strengths, preferred role (art or tech in this project), as well as students they would prefer not to work with (often that they have worked together several times on projects) and students who they would really like to work with. The main rule during this process was that project managers could only discuss students’ strengths – no negative talk. We gave the project managers a few tips, and they ended up determining groups in a very similar manner to what the teachers have done to make project groups this year. I was so proud watching these students through the process. They have grown so much throughout their two years in the Innovation Institute. It makes all of the hard work worth it, and I am so excited to see where this final project takes us. What a wonderful journey this year has been…


Innovation = New & Better

Educators are so much more likely to be innovative if they work together with their colleagues. At a recent workshop – Math Specialists in Internationals Schools (MSIS) with Steve Leinwand and Erma Anderson – it was inspiring to create a new and improved lesson to introduce students to calculus that is connected to the real world (skateboard ramps) and first develops a conceptual understanding. This is not a huge mind-boggling innovation, but it is something new and better for students. I’ve said in earlier blog posts that these 5 MSIS workshops have been transformative for myself and the other math educators who attended.

I love that Katie mentioned in the live session this week that often teachers’ innovations are not shared and do not leave their classroom. I feel fortunate that my high school (Shanghai American School) has embraced the PLC at Work™ model. It is powerful to be able to plan instruction and assessment as a group of teachers. I think some teachers may feel more comfortable ‘taking risks’ and implementing change as a PLC instead of on their own.

I do not tend to see myself as a risk taker in life (no plans to go bungee jumping any time soon!), but I do like to constantly reflect on my teaching practice and I do love to try new things if I feel confident that there could be an improved outcome for students. I would like to work on being more networked. Hopefully this #IMMOOC #IMMOOC2 will help!


Innovation Institute

Earlier this school year, I read Innovator’s Mindset but I did not have time to keep up with #IMMOOC. Why? Because I’m in my second year as a teacher in the Innovation Institute at Shanghai American School, China. In other words, I’ve been busy innovating! It is amazing and challenging and inspiring and messy and wonderful. We are so fortunate to have the use of a recently renovated space and wonderful resources. However, multi-disciplinary learning based on design and incorporating the 4C’s can still be done – we did not have this phenomenal space last year and the program was a bit more challenging but still successful. Check out a video of our program in the newly renovated space that is our new home this year:

Innovation Institute at Shanghai American School

I previously wrote a post on Chapter 1 and 2 (What is Innovation?) so I will keep this post short. However, I really want to finish blogging about Innovator’s Mindset, which I find so inspiring. I will try my best to stay involved in the conversation this time!

Ultimately, I think education needs to produce students who can change the world for the better. From politics to the environment and everything in between, our students need to be able to solve problems and empathize. They truly do need to have not only a growth mindset, but an innovator’s mindset. If I were starting my own school, I would make sure that students truly have an opportunity to explore their passions and that they would spend a LOT of time outdoors.



Transforming my Math Teaching

I can’t believe that I have not written a blog post since September. I suppose this is evidence that it has been another busy year.I’ve been busy as the mom of three boys since August, as we are fostering a toddler. It has been such an amazing experience, but of course it is difficult to fit in everything (eg. writing blog posts). At the same time, I’ve been learning so much teaching for my second year in the Innovation Institute (an integrated PBL program), as well as being Innovation Coordinator for the program. And this year I’ve finished the final two of five workshops for Math Specialists in International Schools (MSIS).

I am not exaggerating when I say that the MSIS workshops with Erma Anderson and Steve Leinwand have helped to transform my math teaching. I am teaching biology and IB Math Studies this year, so unfortunately I am not teaching Common Core at present. However, there are still so many strategies from the MSIS workshops that I can incorporate into my math teaching – and sometimes in my science teaching as well.

What do I now do differently?

  • I keep my lessons as simple as possible.
  • I provide images/prompts/questions and ask students ‘What do you notice?’ and/or ‘What do you wonder?’
  • I plan for gradual release (PPTs) of information for problems and rich tasks.
  • I try to be intentional about eliciting student explanations of thinking (Why? How do you know? Convince us. Explain that please. How did you “see” that?)

There are some strategies that I used previously, but continue to reflect on and improve:

  • providing descriptive feedback (not a grade until summative)
  • opportunities for self- and peer-assessment
  • encouraging collaboration
  • using rich tasks whenever possible
  • having students (not only the teacher) model their thinking for each other
  • encouraging use of multiple strategies
  • fewer questions for homework

What does every good lesson need? It is obvious that a good lesson starts with the goal or objective; should have a task, problem or activity; and some sort of evidence of success. I have been more focused on also planning key questions in advance. This has helped me to elicit student thinking and student discourse in a more intentional and effective manner.

If you would like to have a better understanding of Common Core and how it can transform teaching and LEARNING in your classroom (and ultimately ensure students are excited, engaged and confident math learners) I highly recommend the MSIS (Math Specialists in International Schools) workshops with Erma Anderson and Steve Leinwand. One of the best professional development experiences I have had in many years!

What IS Innovation?

This is the second year that I have been teaching students in a new program called Innovation Institute at Shanghai American School. I couldn’t help but reflect on this program as I read Part 1 of The Innovator’s Mindset. In fact, I actually read this book previously, but I am reading the book through a different lens now that I am teaching in the Innovation Institute. I am so grateful that my colleagues and I seem to be on the right track with this program…. our Institute is something “new and better” for students who want to learn in a collaborative, integrated, project-based learning environment.

I completely agree that we need to prepare students for jobs that do not currently exist, and it is our job as educators to help learners become confident creators, effective leaders and CRITICAL THINKERS. I love this short film (11min) The Adaptable Mind that says the skills people need to flourish in today’s world are creativity, curiosity, initiative, multi-disciplinary thinking, and empathy. Students have access to so much knowledge that what they really need to know is what to DO with this knowledge. ‘Soft skills’ such as those mentioned in The Adaptable Mind or the 4C’s (collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking) are becoming more and more valued. These ‘soft skills’ are often what set students or prospective employees apart from everyone else.

The following quote in Chapter 2: The Innovators Mindset really resonated with me:

We need to move beyond the idea that an education is something that is provided for us and toward the idea that an education is something that we create for ourselves. – Stephen Downes (2010)

Today, I shared the above quote with my Innovation Institute students before they spent time finalizing their ideology, mechanics and dynamics for a game that they are creating relating to stimulus material about competition. They will create their first prototype this week. I reminded them that they will get out of this project what they put into it; the depth of thought and how much they challenge each other will determine how much they learn and grow.

Another aspect of this week’s reading that resonated with me is the idea of the innovator’s mindset. I have long been a fan of Carol Dweck and have encouraged a growth mindset in my math classes in particular. In fact, I have shown this amazing video A Math Major Talks About Fear to my high school math students for the last three years and I have had my grade 9 students complete the free online course from Stanford called How to Learn Math: For Students. I have also spoken to my students about the importance of resiliency and grit in the context of having a growth mindset. However, I love that I can now take this a step further with the innovator’s mindset – students need to CREATE something with the knowledge they have acquired. I often intentionally plan units and lessons around students creating in order to demonstrate their understanding, but I have could do a better job of making sure that students are aware of WHY creating something is so important. If students create something ‘new and better’ – which they certainly have the opportunity to do frequently in the Innovation Institute – they are certainly pushing themselves to deeply understand concepts and think critically about what they have learned and how to demonstrate their understanding.

So why do I feel more confident that the Innovation Institute at Shanghai American School is on the right track after #IMMOOC Week 2? Students in the Innovation Institute are focusing on the 4C’s, visible thinking strategies and design thinking. Students are learning about empathy as they collaborate and work through conflict with their peers. Students have many opportunities to learn to be comfortable with uncertainty or ambiguity, sharing ideas, accepting criticism, and taking risks. The students who have opted to participate in the Innovation Institute are taking a risk simply by choosing to be educated in a way that is new and different from their previous experience.

I have been inspired by my students and colleagues in so many ways this year. I have never before described myself as ‘innovative’, but now I hope to challenge myself to find NEW and BETTER ways to demonstrate an innovator’s mindset.



Innovators Mindset #IMMOOC

I am so inspired by the concepts in the Innovator’s Mindset, by the Week 1 #IMMOOC discussion with @burgessdave and @gcouros, and by the very idea of this MOOC. I have completed quite a few MOOCs previously, but this particular MOOC really resonates with me. I think this is partly because for the first time, I can feel that I am legitimately doing something innovative in being a part of an integrated PBL program called the Innovation Institute at Shanghai American School (@SASchina). It is also because this #IMMOOC really models what we want our students to be doing – taking control of their own learning!

What do I see as the purpose of education? Why might innovation be crucial in education?

I think that the purpose of education today should be to help students develop into learners who are confident problem solvers. They need to be able to collaborate, find information, and think critically. I honestly think that our students will need to be able to solve some serious problems in their lifetime, and they need the skills to be able to think creatively, apply what they know, and work with others to make connections. If teachers are not modeling innovation for students and giving students opportunities to be innovative, then we are not preparing them for a future that could be very different than it is now. In his book Critical Path (1982), Buckminster Fuller estimated that in the 1900s, knowledge doubled every century. Recently, it has been said that knowledge has been doubling every 13 months, but that doubling soon may be as fast as every 24 hours. There is so much information available to students now that education needs to adjust so that the focus is not on what students know, but how well they ask questions, how they apply their knowledge, and what insightful, interdisciplinary connections or solutions they can develop.


“Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.”

I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a teacher in relatively new HS program at Shanghai American School called the Innovation Institute.We have a flexible schedule and an amazing new learning space in which to continue to build a program that focuses on 21st century competencies (4 C’s)  through problem/project-based learning (PBL) and the integration of Biology, English, AP Seminar and a newly-created Innovation & Design course that has a brand new Maker Space and Fab Lab at its disposal. I am thankful for the opportunity to help students make connections between their disciplines and have the opportunity to design innovative products to represent their learning. I will post more about this program as the year progresses.


This quote is also timely since I have just spent the weekend at a PLC at Work conference here at Shanghai American School. Change can be overwhelming at times (sometimes it is others’ negativity and resistance to change that discourages us), but I love this reminder that amazing things will not happen without change. I also loved the snowball analogy that @burgessdave shared in the Week 1 #IMMOOC discussion. We have to start small to build a snowball, just like we must start with a small group of like-minded educators to build the foundation for a culture that does something different.

It really stands out to me that both the PLC at Work conference and the introduction to #innovatorsmindset remind us of two important things:

  • schools too often reward student compliance, which prevents creativity and innovative thinking; and
  • schools need to ensure that teacher collaboration and innovation is valued by making time for it during the work day and minimizing irrelevant staff meetings, requirements, etc.

I am so inspired and excited to dig into The Innovator’s Mindset #IMMOOC, and also to dig into the work that needs to be done for our Innovation Institute Professional Learning Community (PLC). Looking forward to committing to regularly self-reflecting and documenting my learning journey on this blog. See you soon 🙂