We kicked off a district-wide Innovation Design Challenge in Poway Unified School District yesterday. Here is a first report; I will continue to report on progress until we set up a #PUSDIDC web page for tracking and resources.
Poway Unified is a 35,000 student district just north of San Diego. Superintendent John Collins has set out a remarkably simple challenge to his district: “we need to do school differently to best meet the needs of each individual child in PUSD”. He recognizes that public schools are no more immune to the challenge of consumer/families seeking best value in education for their children than are tuition-charging schools. If public schools fail to adapt to rapidly changing consumer demands and new opportunities for 21st Century education, charters and other schools will draw away the traditional public school family.
PUSD’s first dramatic innovation was the opening of Design 39 Campus this year; I have reported extensively on this remarkable school and will continue to do so. D39C has received dozens of visits already this year from educators around the country who want to see how a large public school can offer a highly student-centered, truly progressive education.
Supt. Collin’s next challenge was this: how might we best allow other sites in the 39-school district to discover ways to “do” school differently that best suits their own individual community stakeholders and situations. My immediate reaction was to not re-invent the wheel, to turn to my friends and colleagues in Atlanta who last year kicked off the 12-school Atlanta K12 Design Challenge with both public and private schools. I received great guidance from team leaders Laura Deisley and Bob Ryshke, and on the AK12DC website. I also tapped into DT thought leaders Mary Cantwell and Bo Adams, and am using the Mt. Vernon Institute for Innovation DEEP DT Playbook, a powerful resource for education design challenges.
We kicked off the PUSD Innovation Design Challenge (PUSDIDC) yesterday with 67 educators, parents, community members (including a member of the Poway City Council!) and students representing five teams: one elementary school, one traditional high school, the district alternative high school, the district adult education division, and the district IT department. It was fast, noisy…and highly productive. Next week all teams will meet again to complete our training in design thinking; determine their unique “biggest challenge in search of the best solution”; and each team will plan a 3-month phase of observation and empathetic community engagement. The challenge will wrap up in the spring with an all-team day of prototyping, feedback, and finalization of team action plans.
Two additional elements that make this a program to follow: a district-wide cabinet of high school students will engage students at their respective schools, and open community events will bring in community stakeholder voices to the conversation. These will be open-ended opportunities to find out what these stakeholders see as the elements of “great learning”. The results are being compiled and synthesized by an outside expert on qualitative analysis.
Stay tuned for more!