Monday, October 19, 2015

Trying to Prepare Your Students to Be Global Scholars? Take a Trip to North Carolina

What does it really mean to be a Global Scholar?  

Minnetonka Public Schools (MN) is in the process of trying to define this term and show colleges and employers that our graduates are truly ready “to feel at home in the world.”  Of all the work that is currently happening in this space, North Carolina is a clear leader.  Helga Fasciano has built a model for other states, school districts, and schools to consider as they embark on this 21st century journey.  The following history, vision, and action plan are all lovingly borrowed from the website

In September 2011, the North Carolina State Board of Education (SBE) formed a Task Force on Global Education to assess the state's effort to produce "globally competitive" graduates ready to live, work, and contribute in an interconnected world. Based on feedback it received, the Task Force noted six major findings and made five commitments to take supporting action to ensure every public school student graduates fully prepared for the world. This effort focuses on assuring that students understand and appreciate other countries, languages and cultures.

WORK & WORLD READY (The Six Major Findings)
Entering the heart of the 21st century, North Carolina's workforce must be nimble, savvy and worldly if the state is going to continue to prosper and be a national and global economic powerhouse. North Carolina has developed into an internationally diverse economy and society.
·         207,000 North Carolina workers are employed by foreign-owned firms. 
·         309 languages are spoken in North Carolina homes of K-12 public school students. 
·         North Carolina is home to manufacturing facilities from 39 nations. 
·         $27 billion in North Carolina produced goods are exported by 9,000 companies annually. 
·         One in six North Carolina manufacturing jobs depends on exports. 
·         North Carolina ranks 3rd in the number of jobs created through international direct investment. 

It is the North Carolina Board of Education's vision to assure that: "Every public school student will graduate ready for post-secondary education and work, prepared to be a globally engaged and productive citizen."
In January 2013 the State Board of Education accepted the report from its Task Force on Global Education. To produce “globally competitive” graduates, the Task Force recommended:
·         Developing criteria for teachers and administrators to earn specific recognition as "Global Educators."
·         Implementing a plan for statewide expanded access to dual language/immersion programs;
·         Developing new school models focused on international education;
·         Establishing Global-Ready designations;
·         Working with the NC Department of Commerce,the State Chamber of Commerce, the NC Business Committee for Education and other business and non-profit partners to strengthen existing and develop new international relationships.

FROM PLANNING TO DOING (Data Points of NC Action)
The State Board of Education has agreements with public education systems in Spain, China, and France that support student and teacher exchanges, joint conferences and collaboration in classroom projects and professional development.  Students, parents and educators across the state have embraced the initiatives.
·         There are over 90 schools with dual language/immersion programs today – up from seven in the fall 2005.
·         North Carolina ranks 6th nationally in sending students abroad and 19th in hosting international students.
·         There are15 languages taught in NC public schools and seven represented by dual language/immersion schools.
·         In the 2013-2014 school year there were 250 international teachers in North Carolina on exchange programs while 300 North Carolina teachers and administrators were abroad on exchange programs.
·         Two dual language elementary schools are recognized by the Spanish Ministry of Education as International Spanish Studies Academies.
·         The first statewide network of Confucius Classrooms was developed to assist districts implementing Chinese language and culture programs in partnership with the Chinese Ministry of Education.
·         The Department of Public Instruction has established ongoing collaboration with the Center for International UnderstandingWorld View, and VIF International Education to respond to the State Board's strategic plan, including expansion of professional development opportunities for educators across the state.

Preparing students for jobs in North Carolina means empowering themto compete on the global stage. Workers entering the labor market with communication, analytical and technical skills that span international borders will make North Carolina and its workforce more attractive, place it in greater demand and enable the entire state to be more prosperous. North Carolina will be unique. Recognizing this, North Carolina's Board of Education and Department of Public Instruction are committed to:
·         Producing high school graduates who are prepared and ready to embrace the challenges of a global economy.
·         Providing teachers and administrators the instructional support necessary to meet the global educational objectives.
·         Taking a comprehensive approach to an international education that encompasses language, economy, history and culture.
·         Building partnerships between educators at all levels, business and industry, cultural and civic organizations, to take education beyond the classroom.
·         Providing there sources so global education is a seamlessly integrated component of daily classroom instruction.

N.C. State Board of Education Global Education Commitments
How the N.C. Dept. of Public Instruction Will Meet These Commitments
Making global education a priority means making teacher preparation and development a priority. To be effective in the global marketplace, teachers need to embody the global awareness, competence and engagement we seek to develop in our graduates.
Robust and Cutting-edge Teacher Support and Tools:
·         Develop content so global themes and problem-based learning flow throughout the curriculum.
·         Implement a State Board of Education-recognized certification process in global professional development for teachers and administrators
·         Require teacher preparation institutions to train future teacher to use global content
Compared to the rest of the world where multi-lingualism is the norm for all students, North Carolina students are not as globally ready.
Literacy, in any language, is best-learned young. Elementary World Language enrollment needs expansion, including dual language/ immersion programs. Students in dual language/immersion programs, when all else is equal, perform better in all subjects, and gain enhanced and critical skills such as creativity, perseverance and thinking “out of the box.”
Leading-edge Language Instruction
·         Develop statewide access to dual language/immersion opportunities beginning in elementary school and continuing through high school.
·         Partner with institutions of higher education to increase the number of skilled K-12 World Language teachers.
·         Broaden high school World Language courses to include the study of international affairs and the economies, societies and cultures of other nations along with practical survival language skills.
We must fully tap the potential of digital learning and public-private partnerships to help bring global initiatives to scale. Moving forward requires a comprehensive approach that embraces on-line learning and deploys multiple strategies, including themed schools, dual language/ immersion programs and experiential learning while using policies and structures that promote and support statewide progress.
New School Models
·         Develop new school models focused on international education that include: an internationally-themed residential high school; preferences for international themes in the charter school approval; transformation models for low-performing schools; virtual schools-within-a-school and, regional dual language/immersion schools.
·         Partner with businesses, non-profits and other non-governmental entities to aid school districts with implementation
Make global perspectives a part of the daily fabric of educators and students experience in school. Building networks of schools, districts, higher education institutions, third-party providers, and the business and governmental communities is critical to ensuring strong practice and innovative ideas go beyond the schools and communities in which they originate and make an impact on students across North Carolina.
District Networking and Recognition
·         Expand the NC Global Schools Network to support district implementation of global content, teacher development, cutting-edge language instruction, and new school models.
·         Establish a Global-Ready designation for schools and districts that provide a process and incentives for K-12 second language opportunities for all students, pathways for teachers to achieve SBE-recognized certification, career-ready employer requirements and more.
·         Collect and share lessons learned on international education.
North Carolina's economy is globally connected, from economic investment and employment to trade. A key drawing card for business operating in North Carolina is the availability of globally competent workers. Maintaining and increasing our economic prosperity requires our state to be more skillful, globally engaged and ready to take on the rapidly evolving global economy. Orienting our K-12 education policy towards the global economic challenge is a necessity, not an option, to secure our future.
Strategic International Relationships
·         Work with the NC Department of Commerce, businesses and other partners to: renew existing and develop new agreements with international partners and; identify other priority nations for international relationships
·         Name partner countries to be priority sources of information about skill requirements, K-12 curriculum and teacher professional development, as well as focus for educator exchanges and visits

Monday, September 28, 2015

Top Ten Myths about Innovation in Minnetonka Public Schools

Minnetonka's "Big Hunt for Ideas" is off and running.  Here is a list of the top ten myths about our innovation process that I hear from staff:

10. It won’t make a difference.

After four years spent hunting for great ideas, our Idea Champions have touched thousands of students’ lives with their ideas.  It makes a huge difference to our students.

9. I don’t have time.

This one isn’t a myth…teachers really don’t have extra time for these things.  That’s why we’ve identified an Innovation Coach at each site – they can submit the idea for you!  Just reach out to them and share your idea.  They’ll take it from there!

8. I don’t have any ideas.

Teachers are the most creative people on Earth!  Designing engaging lessons for students on a daily basis, chances are that you have innovated in some way in your classroom that could truly benefit others.  Give it a try…share it with the world!

7. The innovation process is only about increasing revenue and making the district look good.  It’s not really focused on kids.

Heavy bummer.  This might be the biggest myth of them all.  Great ideas tend to attract attention and publicity, but our motivation every single day is to improve the learning environment for our students.  Actually, it is one thing that truly distinguishes Minnetonka from other districts:  we celebrate innovation where others fear it.

6. I’m not comfortable with the public recognition.

It’s not easy to put your name on an idea and share it with the world.  It takes courage, that’s true.  But many people in other work environments only wish that their ideas were valued.  In Minnetonka, we don’t only value ideas from staff members, we recognize that these are the ideas that have the best chance of making a difference for kids.

5. I submitted an idea before and no one liked it.

Innovation is as much about timing as it is about quality.  A great idea sometimes needs a year or two before it finds an audience.  Try resubmitting a previous idea and see if the landscape has shifted.

4. I submitted an idea before and people liked it, but nothing happened.

As we get better at supporting innovation in Minnetonka, we get better at following through on the potential of each idea that moves forward.  We may have lost some good ideas in the past, but give us another shot!

3. It’s just a popularity contest.

The innovation process in Minnetonka is driven by those who log into the website and engage.  You might call it “21st Century Popularity” – but this process is really driven by those who log in and get involved.  Go ahead…be popular!

2. It’s too much work.

It doesn’t have to be.  Idea Champions can submit an idea and never engage in the process again.  Innovation Coaches can jump in and help, or others can support an idea.  Participants decide how much time or energy they want to contribute. 

1. It’s rigged.  The district just picks its favorite ideas.

Again, heavy bummer.  The only way that crowd-based innovation works is when the crowd is really making the decisions.  We trust the “crowd” in Minnetonka and we only test the ideas that receive the most support from participants.  It doesn’t take long, however, before we become very excited about the top ideas, and they become our favorites. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Other Side of Innovation

 Who doesn’t love a great “innovation” story?  You know the kind…the story about the creative entrepreneur who had a dream and defied all odds to create the amazing new product!  It’s breathtaking.  These people are like extreme mountain climbers, battling the harsh elements and defying human limits.

But most people who work closely with innovation will tell you about a different journey.  It’s affectionately called “the other side of innovation,” and it’s much less glamorous.  It’s about practical matters…getting the work done.  It’s all about execution.  Testing ideas, developing hypotheses, running experiments.

Authors Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble talk about these dynamics in their new book Beyond the Idea: How to Execute Innovation in Any Organization.  According to the authors, “Innovation execution is its own unique discipline.  It requires time, energy, and distinct thinking.  Unfortunately, few companies treat it as such.  In fact, few companies give it much thought at all.”

As Minnetonka Public Schools begins its fifth year as a district focused on growing a culture of innovation, it is important to emphasize the value of “the other side of innovation.”

Govindarajan and Trimble recognize Toyota for its understanding of the technical process behind innovation.  The authors explain that Toyota, for example, breaks its production steps down into small cells with crisply defined inputs and outputs.  This makes it possible for each cell to host an inexpensive experiment that delivers quick-and-clear results.

Toyota places such a high value on this level of ongoing innovation that they formally train all front-line supervisors in the mechanics of formal experimentation.  At high-functioning innovative companies, there isn’t a “Department of Innovation” – innovation is everyone’s job.  And there is training to back it up.

In Minnetonka, we may not be at Toyota’s level of innovation expertise, but we’re on our way.  We have developed an appreciation for “the other side of innovation,” and we understand that true success isn’t about our flashy and fun event (called The Big Hunt for Ideas).  True success happens behind the curtain, in the testing and experimentation room, where innovation coaches work with idea champions to develop hypotheses and to collect data.

Wish us luck as we kick off another year in our innovation journey!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Building the Team That Supports Innovation

Although Minnetonka’s innovation process is driven by powerful software and offers a fully virtual platform for staff engagement, the human element is a key aspect of our success.  There are several important roles in the innovation process, and each of these roles require specific skills and, in some cases, training and support.  At the center of this work is the Innovation Guiding Team - a name that comes directly from step #2 of John Kotter's eight-step change model.  

In addition to the Innovation Guiding Team, there is also an Urgency Team, a Leadership Team, a Project Leader Team, and other ad hoc teams that form in support of different ideas.  In this week's post, I've provided some description of the different roles that are required in our model to keep the innovation work moving forward.

Innovation Director
The Innovation Director convenes the Innovation Leadership Team, the Innovation Guiding Team, the Innovation Project Leader Team, communicates regularly at Principal Meetings and Executive Cabinet meetings, and manages the budgets that provide the necessary resources to drive the innovation work.

Communications Lead
A key element of the ideation process is the District’s ability to tell a compelling story about a new idea and to gain support for the innovation as it moves through the early stages of validation and implementation.  The Communication Lead must work closely with the Innovation Coaches to learn about the various tests that occur at host sites and partner sites so that he/she can either capture the successful tests on video or so that the Innovation Coach can send video footage that can be assembled into a short video.  The Communications Lead provides video segments for Innovation Coaches to use at faculty meetings throughout the year, allowing each coach to communicate effectively at their location while also allowing other coaches to share the video-stories in an effort to gain traction at partner sites during the advanced stages of testing.  Eventually, if an idea continues to successfully pass through the testing process, this original footage can be incorporated into updated video files that can have broader use. 

Another key function of the Communications Lead is to work with local media outlets to share success stories that may be suitable for public viewing.  Small and medium ideas typically do not require School Board approval and are therefore appropriate for this level of sharing.  Big ideas that have received Board approval and are in advanced stages of testing or staged implementation may also be suitable for public viewing.  Access to local media provides a positive frame for the larger community to see the positive things happening inside the innovation laboratory.

The Communication Lead sits on the Innovation Leadership Team and is a member of the Innovation Guiding Team.

The Webmaster provides important support to the ideation process throughout the year.  The event at the beginning of the year requires intensive website supervision, including daily monitoring, updates, and data analysis.  The Webmaster must be accessible to all members of the innovation community and provides quick response to web-based questions or concerns.  The Webmaster works especially closely with Innovation Project Leaders so that their project sites are maintained and working well.  The Webmaster also works closely with the Innovation Coordinator to track important analytics and to adjust the process when data suggests that a mid-course correction is needed.  The Webmaster sits on the Innovation Leadership Team and is a member of the Innovation Guiding Team.

Innovation Coordinator
The Innovation Coordinator works closely with the Webmaster to ensure that content on all locations within the site is fresh and that Idea Champions and Innovation Project Leaders are providing the necessary information and are interacting in a timely fashion when there is traffic on a project’s site.  The Innovation Coordinator watches the traffic throughout the three stages of the ideation process, connecting with members of the innovation community, providing reports at monthly meetings, and constantly monitoring community analytics for emerging trends. This person takes ownership of the data that is produced within the various stages of the process and makes sure that all members of the team have the most recent data results.  The Innovation Coordinator also manages the annual staff survey and offers an analysis of the data as well as recommendations for improvement based on comments submitted by those responding to the survey.  In addition to an all-staff survey at the end of the year, the Innovation Coordinator also surveys the group of Idea Champions and Engagement Specialists to study their end-user experience.  The perceptions recorded by the all-staff survey provide a helpful comparison to the targeted end-user-experience survey.  The Innovation Coordinator sits on the Innovation Leadership Team and is a member of the Innovation Guiding Team.

Innovation Coaches
An Innovation Coach is stipended at each site.  This person provides the face and the voice of innovation for the staff at the school.  A successful Innovation Coach is able to build positive relationships with staff through faculty meeting presentations, after-school events and gatherings, classroom visits, email communication, and other forms of interaction.  Innovation Coaches follow up quickly when staff members submit ideas during the early stage of the idea hunt, and they stay connected to Idea Champions throughout the process.  As ideas move forward, Innovation Coaches help the Idea Champions understand what is required as the idea moves to the next stage; conversely, Innovation Coaches pay special attention to the fragile emotions of Idea Champions who find out that their idea is not moving forward in the process.  At each stage in the process, Idea Champions often require a high level of attention; therefore, Innovation Coaches must not only be accessible for questions and support, but they must also be proactive in connecting with Idea Champions and over-communicating on the status of the process.  In addition to the work that an Innovation Coach does at their school site, this group must also build relationships within the Innovation Guiding Team so that they can work collaboratively to test ideas at partner sites.  Innovation Coaches are evaluated based on the following metrics:

1   1.    Number of ideas submitted during the two-week submission window
2.    Number of ideas that advance in the five-stage event
3.    Number of successful tests at host site
4.    Number of successful tests at partner sites
5.    Number of successful scaled tests
6.    Quality of relationship with Principal and Site Staff
7.    Quality and quantity of site events and overall engagement
8.    Annual staff survey results

Innovation Coaches work closely with the Communications Lead to ensure that the proper storytelling occurs based on the individual ideas that are advancing through the process.  The “3-Tap Video” process allows coaches to be agile in capturing video that can be used to tell an idea’s story as it moves forward.  The Innovation Coordinator provides important site-based analytics to Innovation Coaches so that there is an understanding of specific traffic that is being generated at the site.  This data is shared at Principal Meetings by the Innovation Director so that principals are aware of the effectiveness of site-based efforts to engage staff.  Various incentives are made available to Innovation Coaches in an effort to make the position attractive to staff, and there position is listed as a yearly assignment that is posted every June.  This allows principals to consider reassigning the position to another staff member for the following year.  The annual staff survey provides an important data point for principals as they review the effectiveness of their coach with the Innovation Director at the end of the school year.  Principals have the option of adding an Assistant Coach at the site if they determine that the work at the site requires additional staffing.  Principals commit site resources to cover the stipend of the Assistant Coach.

The group of Innovation Coaches forms the foundation of the Innovation Guiding Team, a group that meets monthly to offer feedback from the sites about the ideation process as well as receive direction from the Innovation Director and other members of the Innovation Leadership Team.

Foundation, Community, and Principal Representatives
The Innovation Guiding Team consists of Innovation Coaches, Foundation Trustees, At-Large Community Representatives, and Principals.  The role of the Foundation Trustees and At-Large Community Representatives is to provide community perspective during the team’s discussion of internal processes and the reporting of various results throughout the year.  The principal-representatives on the team offer an administrative perspective and ensure that the principals have a voice in the ongoing work of the team.

Innovation Project Leaders
Once a big idea has received School Board approval, it moves into the incubation phase of the ideation process and an Innovation Project Leader is assigned to assemble and lead the Design Team and to work closely with the Innovation Director.  The Innovation Project Leader provides leadership to the idea and assumes the role of lead-evangelist for the idea as updates are provided at School Board meetings.  The Innovation Project Leader is a stipended position, and the compensation for this work is based on an assumption that the Project Leader will invest approximately 100 hours into the development of the idea over the course of the school year.  A key function of the Project Leader is the development and ongoing engagement of the Big Idea Design Team. The Innovation Project Leaders work closely with the Webmaster to ensure that the “Project Central” website has the most recent updates from the Design Team and that the crowd is fully updated on the developments of the project.  The Innovation Project Leaders also meet monthly with the Innovation Director to provide updates as well as to discuss specific innovation topics and to provide a network of support for other Project Leaders.

“Big Idea” Design Team
The Big Idea Design Team is a group of engaged supporters who may have been attached to a big idea from the very beginning or who may have jumped on board more recently.  As noted above, the Innovation Project Leader makes important decisions about how to organize the Design Team, sometimes opting for a tiered approach that creates a core group of advisors while also keeping a larger group engaged in the ongoing discussion.  The Innovation Project Leader

Idea Champions
Staff members who submit ideas during the two-week submission window automatically become Idea Champions.  Although there is never an expectation that an Idea Champion will continue to invest time and energy into the development of the idea as it moves forward, energized and engaged Idea Champions can play an important role in the success of an idea throughout the process.  In the innovation website, Idea Champions can build a team of supporters who may be instrumental once the idea advances and is in need of a Design Team to support prototype development and subsequent testing.  Some Idea Champions re-engage annually in the process and in therefore become “Super Users.”  This unique sub-group within the Idea Champion community are especially important to the ongoing success of the ideation process.  Efforts should be made to embrace Idea Champions and to celebrate their contributions to the process.  Without a healthy community of Idea Champions who feel valued in the ideation process, nothing good could happen.  The feelings, thoughts, and impressions of this group is essential to the future development of the innovation program; therefore, a special survey is conducted at the end of the year to collect the input of this group as well as the Engagement Specialists identified in the next section.

Engagement Specialists

During the five stages of the event, the website will receive traffic from end-users who are not Idea Champions but who nevertheless have an interest in following the process and offering some level of support to the ideas as they move forward.  This group is referred to as Engagement Specialists, and they provide an important metric at each site.  The level to which innovation leadership at each site has effectively engaged the community can be partially determined by the traffic produced by Engagement Specialists.  Both the quantity of this engagement as well as the quality of this engagement can be measured.  The Innovation Coordinator works closely with the Webmaster to quantify and measure the engagement footprint at each site, and this data is shared with Innovation Coaches, Principals, and the Innovation Leader.  Engagement Specialists provide important information about the end-user experience, and this data is collected at the end of the year and is essential in the overall program evaluation.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Understanding the Infrastructure Behind Crowd-Based Innovation

Six years ago, Minnetonka Public Schools launched an effort to expand strategic planning in support of a new culture of innovation.  After years spent growing this culture, staff members understand and support the District’s efforts.  In addition, the quality of the process has produced a number of excellent new programs that directly benefit student learning in many different ways.  These improvements range from big ideas that draw prospective new families to the District, to smaller ideas that improve the day-to-day operations for staff and students.  There are three phases of innovation in Minnetonka Public Schools: event staging, idea testing, and idea evaluation.  Each phase represents an important element of the ideation process.  In the next several blogs, I will outline the various processes that form the foundation of our crowd-based innovation efforts.  Today’s blog will focus on the first phase of our process: Ideation.

Part 1: Big Hunt for Ideas

The first of three phases of innovation is the phase where ideas are submitted into the innovation platform.  The platform is driven by software from Mindjet called SpigitEngage.  The basic mechanics of the software is a combination of social networking and gamification. 

To fuel this first phase of the process, the District needs a healthy level of participation from staff.  Therefore, in September Innovation Coaches and principals utilize faculty meeting time to announce the upcoming “Big Hunt for Ideas.”  The event launches in early October with a two-week Idea submission window.  During the submission window, staff log into the website and post ideas into one of the following three categories: Big ideas ($5,000 or more to implement), Medium ideas ($1,000 to $5,000), and Small ideas (less than $1,000).  These ideas are also grouped by school level (E-5, 6-8, and 9-12).  Overall, there are nine submission groupings (three levels x three categories).  Staff are encouraged to estimate the resources required for implementation but can reach out to Innovation Coaches if assistance is required.  If an idea spans multiple school levels, Idea Champions are instructed to post the idea at their level so that they can support the initial test if the idea moves forward. 
The fall season is a time of high energy and enthusiasm for the innovation program.  Innovation Coaches host events and use email, faculty meetings, as well as stuffing small surprises in teacher mailboxes in an effort to get staff focused on the series of events that take place in the fall.  Software analytics produce data that shows the level of traffic that is happening at each school site, and this data is used (in part) to measure the effectiveness of the Innovation Coach.  On occasion, an idea will receive enough support from staff and site leadership to move directly into an early stage of testing at the host site. 

The “Idea Submission” stage (Round One) is followed by a Pairwise stage (Round Two) that features head-to-head competition for ideas within each specific grouping.  During the Pairwise stage, the software tracks the preferences and opinions of “the crowd” and force-rank-orders all ideas based on its algorithm.  This ranking of ideas allows the District to send a reasonable number of ideas into the third round of the process: Expert Review.  In addition, ideas are expected to garner a minimum number of “Team” members to be eligible for Round Three: three team members for Small ideas, four team members for Medium ideas, and five team members for Big ideas.  Team members can be recruited from the individuals posting on the website or can be a product of the Idea Champion and Innovation Coaches efforts to find support for the idea.  Ideas that lack team support can participate in Round Two (Pairwise), but will be challenged during Round Three to locate supporters if the idea lands in the top tier of the category.

The Expert Review stage (Round Three) provides the opportunity for the Innovation Guiding Team (see Personnel section below) to consult with experts (both internal as well as external) who may have input, suggestions, or questions about the specific details of the successful ideas.  During this stage, the Guiding Team discusses whether or not certain ideas have been overlooked or incorrectly categorized.  These discussions may lead to changes in the force-rank-ordering that the software has produced.  Any changes to the crowd-based list must be posted and a high level of transparency should drive this stage of the process.  If the crowd believes that the Expert Review is negatively interfering with the process, then there will be a loss of credibility and trust.  Any changes made during Round Three must be thoroughly explained and the Idea Champions must be directly involved in the discussion.

At the end of Round Three, the Innovation Guiding Team confirms the list of Small ideas that will move into the Idea Testing phase of the innovation process.  The number of Small ideas moving forward is based on the overall capacity of the team, and is typically set at four ideas per coach – or forty Small ideas.  The number of Big and Medium ideas moving forward to Round Four (Advanced Pairwise) is twelve Big ideas (four per level) and fifteen Medium ideas (five per level).  Each of these Big and Medium ideas is captured in a brief video based on three key questions:  What problem are you trying to solve?  What is your solution?  What are the potential benefits?  These brief videos are posted on the innovation website, and staff are directed to this location to gain a higher level of familiarity prior to voting in Round Four’s Advanced Pairwise. 

Round Four works in a manner that is similar to Round Two, but the field is significantly reduced making each Pairwise vote more impactful in the final tally.  The field of fifteen Medium ideas will be reduced to six (two at each school level) for testing and potential implementation.  The field of twelve Big ideas will be reduced to six as well (two at each school level).  Big ideas move into a more rigorous process that includes a formal presentation to the School Board with the expectation that these ideas will potentially require more resources to implement compared to Medium ideas.  All ideas have the potential to impact student learning in a positive manner, but Big ideas are held to a higher level of scrutiny because there is a larger investment required by the District to produce the anticipated results. 

The four criteria that are included in the Big idea analysis are as follows:

1.       Financial Realities: The proposal must acknowledge that the District has limited resources and therefore must demonstrate fiscally responsible practices while testing and scaling to full implementation.

2.       Changing Nature of Students: The proposal must recognize that the needs of students are different today and that they learn in ways that are evolving.  One example of this evolution is the shift toward learning in a technology-enhanced environment.

3.       21st Century Skills: The proposal must align with the demands of an evolving world where graduates must demonstrate high levels of competency in critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration as well as global competency and leadership. 

4.       Student Achievement: Every investment made by the School District must be supported by an expectation that student achievement will be positively impacted.  In the area of innovation, however, Big ideas must make a case for dramatic increases that exceed the expectations of the traditional program.

At the conclusion of Round Four, the top six Medium ideas and the top six Big ideas move into the testing phase.  In both cases, Innovation Coaches collaborate with the Innovation Director and the Innovation Leadership Team to develop strategies for testing and for the development of the proposal for School Board review.  The results of Round Four are shared at the annual Idea Champion Celebration in mid-January.  This event is a recognition of the value that Idea Champions bring to the District’s innovation work as well as an opportunity for the Innovation Guiding Team to bring together key Engagement Specialists at the site to join in the celebration.  This event is important to the development of the culture of innovation, and it is one of the rare moments during the school year when key leaders from all school sites mix in a largely social environment. 

Round Five is specifically focused on the development of the Big ideas and runs concurrently with the Idea Testing phase (January to March).  During Round Five, the entire crowd is reengaged in the discussion and design process, offering new thoughts and insights into the ongoing process via the Project Central page on the District’s innovation website.  Prior to the spring School Board presentation of the year’s idea hunt results, the slate of Big ideas is subjected to a range of internal analyses that result in a final determination as to whether or not each of the six ideas are ready to be organized into a formal proposal for further development.

Next week’s blog: Idea Testing