Tag Archives: education

Education MVP 2.0 . . . or is it 3.0?

A New Direction (For Education and For Me)

As with any good startup, the time has come again to pivot.

Photo Credit: carnagenyc via Compfight cc

I have been throwing up random ramblings. Sometimes about education. Sometimes about entrepreneurship. Sometimes not really about either of those. I didn’t have a direction. Then I spoke with Ellen Leanse. She used exciting words like “brain hacks” and “nanospark”.

After explaining my perspective on education, and my efforts to be more deliberate in including women in entrepreneurship education, she said “you should be the voice of inclusion in entrepreneurship and education”. I hesitated at that opportunity – it got real deep real quick! Ellen then shared these words with me, from Lao Tzu:

Watch your thoughts, for they become your words.

Watch your words, for they become your actions.

Watch your actions, for they become your habits.

Watch your habits, for they become your character.

Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

Photo Credit: spacepleb via Compfight cc

 A New Beginning (For Education and For Me)

I’m going to focus my ramblings through this platform. I know, I’m sure I’ve said that before. But Ellen kicked me in the ass and now I really mean it! I will write about and invite others to write about:

  • Successes and failures at entrepreneurial approaches to education
  • Principles and theories and such surrounding how to construct a meaningful education system that is inclusive above all else
  • How to engage students (methodological perspective)
  • Tactics in the classroom (assuming the goal of guiding young adults toward a career)

All of this I undertake with a basic assumption: Our higher education system was originally created out of the need to create efficient cogs in a big machine. It thus focused on forecasting and planning and similar activities.

Today is not a world of big machines that need cogs. It is not a world of forecasting and planning – at least not in the way it was hundreds of years ago. Our education system has not adapted. I want to expose how it hasn’t and how it has.

What are your thoughts: how should our education system adapt to prepare students for today’s career marketplace?

The good and the best about being an educator … there is no ugly here



Note: I am using voice to text for this post so if there is anything offensive or ridiculous here I blame my phone not my fingers.

The beauty of being an educator

I spend a lot of time bashing my profession recently have had caused to smile about my profession. Actually I always have cause to smile when I am engaged in with my students. I do what I do because I love giving back and helping my students find their passion and with their passion.   the other day one of my students, are young woman, told me that she is graduating in a couple weeks and is completely unsure of what she wants to do after college. She is getting an HR degree but when talking to her I pulled out of her that the things that she’s really passionate about and loves to learn about in practice have to do with beauty and makeup. No this is not one of my areas of expertise I know this is shocking, so I started reaching out to colleagues of mine in Chicago who may be able today introduced this young woman to people in the beauty industry. Lo and behold instantly the number of my colleagues in Chicago we’re willing and able to introduce this young woman to people in the beauty industry.I believe that this process will help to change this young woman’s career path from something that she would settle for to something that she could live for. That’s an impact. That’s why I’m here. That’s the beauty of what I do. It doesn’t usually happen in the classroom during class time. Sometimes it does, when those light bulbs pop on. But more often it happens outside the classroom, during deeper discussions about purpose, passion, and uncertainty.

Educator’s impact is outside the classroom

I have had these discussions with many students in the few years I have been teaching. I have students who have found their way, on my urgent, to Boston. They ventured out on their own because they wanted something new, something exciting, something challenging. They were willing to face uncertainty and to take full advantage of what it offers. I have other students who are working their dream jobs in the Chicago area. They did not find these jobs with a resume, a cover letter, or any other vehicle that would make them seemed like every other robot coming out of college. They found these jobs because they were willing to stand up, speak up, and take a chance that somebody would be willing to help them figure out where they wanted to go and how to get there. I was willing to help.

Educators should do more than educate

I get excited when I see students excited. I rarely see students as excited in the classroom we’re talking about class related material as when I am talking to them trying to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives.it does not take anything very special to make a dead in these young men and womens futures. it takes listening to them, asking difficult questions, supporting their fear, in their passion, and being there champion. Is that so hard? Even if it is I would argue it is the most meaningful experiences an educator can have.

The best part of being an educator, in my humble opinion, has nothing to do with education per se. it has to do with supporting our students in their search for meaning, for challenge, for security, for fun, and for the future that is fulfilling. That cannot be accomplished through traditional means of education and in a traditional formatted classroom.

My challenge to educators

I challenge all educators to change their view of what our role can be and should be in the students lives. And to think through how we can have an impact and be responsible champions for our students in their pursuit of a meaningful future.

what are you doing? What could you do better? How are you impacting your students in lasting waves? If you are not, shame on you. If you are, please share how you do that so the rest of us can learn and can be better at what we should do.

New Structure in Education = New Results in Education

Education Isn’t All It Could Be

Let’s say you walk into any big box electronics store. You’re not quite sure what you’re looking for but know you want some kind of media device. Remember: you’re the customer. One of the “experts” approaches you and starts telling you about this huge TV.  It’s waaaaaaaaaaay too big for your apartment.  He’s giving you all the details, all the background about how it was built. Lots of big words you don’t understand. You have no choice but to buy that TV, take it home and put it on your wall.

Crazy? Of course it is. But this is what we expect our students to deal with. Students who are the customers. Students are expected to come into a classroom, to listen to an “expert” give them information (that often times makes no sense to them because the “expert” doesn’t help them understand how to apply it,) and to take that information without doing much questioning. Oh yeah, and they have to pay for it.

A New Approach

What to do? We (teachers and administrators) need to let the students investigate what they want to learn. They come in with a general idea of their interest, their passion, and a potential path forward. We need to give them a lot of tools to do investigate, to question, to challenge, to apply and try. We need to take a back seat in their learning process and be their champions in finding experiences to apply that learning.

Can You Take a Back Seat?

Questions, Not Answers: A Re-Framing of Education

As I prepare for my first TEDx talk in a few weeks, in which I’ll talk about creative disruption in education, I find myself thinking about re-framing education. I reflect on my experiences in my educational journey – what impacted me and what didn’t – and on the broader purpose of education. Now the education system is built around answers. But that can’t continue.

Inquiring Minds Want to Know: Questions and Power

 Why do teachers control the knowledge?

Why can students only “receive” an education inside a building?

Why are students only allowed to answer and not question?

Questions are powerful. In education, questions threaten the status quo. In a classroom, they challenge the information being shared by the “expert”. Some teachers even see questions as threatening. That is a good thing as far as I’m concerned; let the students threaten so they gain confidence and ownership over their educational experience. The classroom structure is backwards. Typically speaking, the teacher provides information on the topic of the day. The teacher is giving students answers to questions they haven’t asked. Questions they often don’t care about, to be honest. A simple tweak can make all the difference int he classroom:

Instead of teachers presenting information 1st and then inviting questions from students 2nd, try inviting questions about a topic 1st and present relevant information 2nd. Or even better – don’t provide any information, but guide them in finding their own answers.

Questions are power. In our current system, the teachers have all the power because they control (if not kill) the questioning. It’s time for a new dynamic.

Teachers – let your students ask questions, and don’t be afraid to said “I don’t know”

Students – take charge and ask your questions. Don’t lose the opportunity.

And the Purpose is . . .?

My purpose here at Illinois State University is to spread entrepreneurship across campus. I’ve struggled to engage young women students and women business leaders in the community in the classes and programs. The more I talked to colleagues and looked into research regarding entrepreneurship, startups, and innovation, the more glaring became the gender gap. This always bothered me, but around the holidays, I decided to do something about it.

Purpose is Central

Since the holidays, I’ve been a networking tornado – blasting through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and any other outlets possible to connect with women who have experience with entrepreneurship and innovation and wouldn’t be shy about sharing their honest feedback. It has been extremely easy to get hundreds of women to spend 20 or 30 minutes chatting with me. My secret? I let them know I want to empower young women through education, and that since I’m a dude I am clueless about how to do that effectively, so I need their guidance. That vulnerability and humility and transparently sharing my purpose seals the deal. These women have all sorts of perspectives, from different industries, roles, generations, geographies, and any number of other differentiating factors. A few things are common to most of the feedback I have received.

The one thing every single woman has urged me to do is to focus on purpose

They urge me to get young women to think about their purpose (generally and specifically to any number of slices of life’s pie)

They urge me to encourage young women to own that purpose, and to share that purpose with anyone and everyone.

They urge me to facilitate young women connecting with others around their purpose.

Purpose has been on my mind lately, and I couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities that presents me.

The Purpose of Education

Education needs a purpose. Administrators could be so much more effective if they focused on purpose first and outcomes second (and less on quantitative results and more on qualitative results). We as educators need to re-examine our purpose.

Why are we in this career? Research? Teaching? Service? A paycheck? Seriously think about it. I’m here to impact young people and help them uncover and get started down their desired career path.

Students could improve their experience if they explored their purpose for continuing their education. They choose to be in college, they choose which college. They make daily choices to engage with their educational experience. To what purpose? Owning that purpose would create much more impactful moments. I’ll bet that would leak into the educators’ experience and the administrators’ experience, and would begin to infect these stakeholders’ purpose.

What About You?

What’s your purpose? Think about it. I mean really think about it. Think beyond specific roles in your life (as a parent, spouse, employee, boss, leader, whatever). Think holistically. Why are you here? What, really, is your existence about? Think beyond the “what do you want you epitaph to be” sort of exercises. Dig deep. Get uncomfortable with yourself; be vulnerable. Own your purpose, whatever it is. Then live it. The world will be better for it. Your world will be brighter for it. The impact will be awesome!

I’d love to hear what your purpose is, and to help you accomplish your purpose. Share by commenting here, or by emailing me at dwinkel@ilstu.edu.

Experience Can Save Education

Experiences have been in the forefront of my mind lately. I am working to roll out the Startup Showcase student startup event at Illinois State University. I just attended and participated in the #BOOM event in Columbia, Missouri that binds education and economic development through entrepreneurship.

entrepreneurship experienceI have been helping ISU alum Obi Agbo plan the Ignition Weekend student startup immersion event at Illinois State University. These experiences make sense in the entrepreneur role in my life; entrepreneurship only happens by doing. After a father-son weekend with my son, I was reminded that education needs to be about experiences as well.

The only thing I remember from my early schooling is field trips. I don’t remember the classrooms, the playgrounds, the teachers, the material. I don’t remember anything about the school. But I can remember some of the sights, sounds, smells, and knowledge from field trips. I remember the experiences.

We celebrate the experiences. Milestones such as weddings, births, deaths. We share experiences. Concerts, sporting events, roadtrips, hobbies. We remember experiences; I’d wager that anytime you start the sentence “Do you remember . . .?” it has to do with an experience.

Where Are the Experiences?

My son is in 2nd grade, and he has yet to take a field trip. At the beginning of the year, I offered his teacher to coordinate and pay for a field trip anywhere, anytime for his entire class. That offer happened in early September. It’s now late February and nothing on the books!  I thought perhaps I wasn’t getting anywhere due to perceptions of favoritism if one class got a field trip and others didn’t. So I offered the principal of his school to coordinate and pay for a field trip for the entire 2nd grade. I was told they couldn’t do that because it would cut into too much of the reading and writing time in the Common Core curriculum. Seriously? Seriously?!? 

After cooling off, I returned to offer to bring an experience to the students. I offered to bring an experience to my son’s class, then to the entire 2nd grade, then to the entire school. No, no, no. I don’t understand how these “educators” don’t understand the power of experience and want to bring that power to the children they’re charged with educating. I don’t understand how they don’t remember the sheer joy and wonder of a field trip. Shame on them if they do understand the power and remember the joy and actively decide to not offer their students the same power and joy.

The Experience That Is Left

So I am left to create experiences for my son. I’m happy to do it (although I’m not nearly as diligent or imaginative as I should be – I readily acknowledge my hypocrisy here!) But I growl internally because I shouldn’t have to make up for lost time – he should be having experiences during his school day. The saddest part of this is that he cannot share any experiences with his friends. He cannot digest any experiences with the classmates he’s learning with. He cannot see school as a source of the wonder and joy experiences hold. I am saddened, for my son, for all children who can’t experience learning beyond the walls of schools, and for a system that has turned its back on the power and wonder of experience.


The Unimaginable is Not Only Possible but Likely

This is a guest post by Gary R. Tipsord, Superintendent of Schools, LeRoy IL

Almost 60 years ago, the Russians put Sputnik into space and instantly the United States had a perceived crisis in Education. From that moment to present day, our government and the reformers have been trying to “fix” our nation’s schools.

Fast forward through numerous reforms to NCLB in 2001. This was a bipartisan piece of legislation designed to make schools more accountable for positive student outcomes. These outcomes were to be measured by multiple-­choice tests with results posted for all to see and potentially tied to school funding. While the premise of legislation was promising, the actual metrics of the administration of the assessments led some schools to be designated National Blue Ribbons Schools one year and then not meeting AYP (annual yearly progress) the following year.

It has always been clear that the measures of NCLB would ultimately be unattainable.  It would be wonderful if we could legislate away cavities in the teeth of our children, but a variety of factors beyond the control of the dentist probably make that impossible. Likewise it is impossible to say that all students will achieve to a standard unless that standard is set low enough to in essence make it meaningless.

It seems that every reform begins with the presumption that our system is inadequate or failing in some form or another. So, why not ask those who have identified the gaps to express their desired state for education? Why not embrace the conversation about education coming from the corporate world? Why not listen to the manufacturers and the construction trades? Why not engage with higher education for a conversation beyond ACT scores?

The change in perspective for our district’s thinking came from authors Sir Ken Robinson and Tony Wagner. Robinson challenged our current state of thinking about creativity and the ways that public education can either stimulate or suppress those skills and Wagner challenged our thoughts on essential skills, not just the knowledge that students need to be successful after they leave our doors.

We are charged with preparing our students for a world of unknowns that we cannot imagine. This is unknown territory and the fact that knowledge and technology are increasing at an exponential rate, we cannot possibly assess students abilities to cope with changes five, ten, especially fifty years from now with multiple choice, essay, or Scantron evaluations.  With the current economic realities, it must be acknowledged that the students of today will likely be working and required to learn new skills even decades after graduation.  This is unchartered territory for society and yet schools are charged with the initial preparation for this ability to cope with change.  So, how can K-12 education possibly remain stuck in a 1950’s model of teaching and learning.

We began to look for partnerships everywhere we could, with an emphasis on information and ideas rather than money and things. We wanted to hear the desired state for our students from those who would employ our students. We wanted to know what they needed our students to know and be able to do. This journey has involved conversations that ranged from Google and State Farm to our local flower shop and city hall.

These conversations have led us to make three very intentional leaps:

1.) Listen and engage with everyone we can about what they desire from education,

2.) Engage specifically with our students about their desires,

3.) Consider nothing as impossible if we believe it better for the future of our students.

We are endeavoring to create an environment that endorses risk and celebrates failure as a critical learning opportunity. One that capitalizes on the passions and talents of our students and our staff, and one that gives our students the opportunity to experience the real world application of their learning. While Sputnik may have led to a manufactured crisis and NCLB an ill-­fated effort to solve a perceived problem, to ignore the flattening of the world economy and to resist the evolution of a 1950’s model of education, the failure to innovate in education may lead to the first real crisis in education. We desire to selectively forget the past, in order tobetter define the future.  We choose this statement intentionally, “We are at a place in time where the unimaginable is not only possible but likely.”

So what is different, maybe nothing, maybe everything, in time we will know the true fruits of our labor?

Please visit: http://vimeo.com/72110555 and http://www.leroyk12.org

Learning Is . . . #!%$#$!

I’m Learning, They’re Learning, We’re All Learning Together

I spend a ton of time learning with students. Let me make sure you heard me: I spend a ton of time learning with students. I’m not paying lip service here, I learn so much every semester as a new batch of my students create their own learning experiences. I talk to them at length to unearth their feelings about previous time in the education system.

Learning Has Not Been Positive

The kinds of words I hear as my students describe their previous experiences in education:

Learning Sucks

pointless, boring, sucks, dry, OK (with a shoulder shrug), typical, awful, irritating, flat, hollow, unproductive, false, f**ked up, annoying, a waste, nonsense


The kinds of words I don’t, but long to, hear:

Loving Learning

fun, invigorating, challenging, awesome, killer, fantastic, orgasmic (OK, maybe that’s a little bit of a stretch but it would be cool!), addictive, brilliant, epic (I hate that word, but the kids sure do love it), useful

Peeling the Learning Layers Back

We need to change the vocabulary.  The best way to do that is to talk to students.  Don’t let a bunch of old folks continue to develop and deliver a model of education that was meant for a society over 100 years old.  We live in the 21st century and our education system needs to reflect that.  Do administrators really understand how students today learn?  I sure as hell don’t, and I spend my time with college and high school kids, and with an 8 year old at home.  Their brains develop in a different age than anything I could have comprehended as a kid.  It’s digital.  It’s flat.  It’s magical.  It’s overload. It’s plugged in. It’s opportunistic.

How absurd, ignorant, and egotistical of those of us who design learning experiences to think we know what that experience should be for a generation of kids that we never take time to understand? Giving the students a voice can’t make it any worse! It would by nature create more relevant content, more relevant tools, more relevant experiences.  And the vocabulary would change. Instead of “yeah but” we would hear more “yes, and”.  Instead of silence in classrooms, we would hear cacophony.  Instead of defending education and learning systems, we could all focus on building them.  Together.  With students.

I’m so tired of the negativity.  Of kids counting down to the last day of the school year.  Of teachers celebrating as much as students for snow days. I want the potential of impact that I see in the students and in the system to be blatantly obvious to everyone everywhere.  Wishful thinking, perhaps.  But I do know one way to start down that road is to let the young guns have more control and put the old thoroughbreds out to pasture.

Stakeholders in the Education System

In a previous post , I shared my thoughts about the “insiders” who can and should help reshape our education system.  As many readers and friends pointed out, there are also “outsiders” who need to play a part.

Parents and Education

In most cases, for better or worse, parents are the most influential person in a child’s life.  Parents need to play a direct role in their child’s education.  We need to monitor and join in their learning.  We need to communicate with teachers and other school folks who all play a role in our child’s education and work as a team.  Our children need to develop their skill set.  They also need to develop the mindset that will be necessary in the future career force – creativity, imagination, collaboration, failure, hustle.  Where the schools fail (in cultivating that mindset and also in exposing them to digital literacy and things like that) the parents must fill those voids.

Entrepreneurs and Education

Entrepreneurs should inject themselves into the education paradigm.  They know how to make something from nothing, how to rebuild something, how to hustle.  We desperately need them to engage in this conversation.  They have the resources that people listen to.  They have the experience people listen to.  They can be the perfect champions; as Brad Feld illustrates, entrepreneurs are the proper people to put and the heart of building and developing such a program.

Organizations and Education

All of our communities have many organizations interested in education, economic development, innovation, entrepreneurship.  There are government agencies, local corporations, small businesses, NGOs / non-profits.  It is critical to have the support of organizations, for field trips, for mentors, for internships, for some larger resources (although I hate to feel indebted to someone)

Combining these folks with the teachers, students, and administrators on the inside would create a phenomenally powerful education force.  It doesn’t have to be that hard.  It’s about finding someone who doesn’t seem to have an agenda and that person coordinating discussions to get things going.

Creativity and Passion: Ingredients for a Cure

As last night unfolded, two things happened simultaneously that created some connections I couldn’t ignore.  One was the Grammy Awards.  The other was that my son’s school district cancelled school today, and then my university cancelled school today and tomorrow.  Seemingly unrelated, right?  Bear with me while I tie them together to form the basis of a new education approach that I will expand upon later.

The Music Never Stops

Why are we as a society infatuated with musicians?  Sure, part of it is jealousy and fantasy – wanting what they have that we never could.  But look and feel deeper than that.  Their music inspires us, is the thread that weaves through the stories of our life, connects us to each other.

creativity and passion

Imagine a world without these musicians and the music they produce?  So why are we so engrossed with it?  I think it is because these individuals are showing us a raw mix of creativity and passion.  They are passionate about the music they create – as passionate as anyone could be about anything (watch an old Jerry Lee Lewis clip).  Have you ever really watched the facial expressions of musicians?  In any other setting, those facial expressions would be seriously awkward, would be ridiculed.  But for a musician, we expect it.  We permit it.  We embrace it.  Why?  Because it is their passion resulting from their creativity coming through in it’s purest, rawest form.  It’s not just passion – we all have that for something.  It is the passion for creative expression.  That, to me, is the key.  That is what is so infectious, so contagious about music and musicians.

music passion storytellingThey are sharing their experiences through creativity and passion-laden stories.  That we all can understand and identify with.  We want to know more.  We want to share more.  We want to feel more.  Shouldn’t education be the same way?  Shouldn’t learning evoke the same glorious reactions?

The School Does Stop

My university and my son’s school district cancelled school.   I’ll give you one guess what the students’ reaction to this was.  Elation!

ElationCan you guess what the teachers’ reactions were?  Scanning through social media, emails, etc. I see teachers who are equally as pumped about school closing as students.  This is for another soapbox moment, but that reaction from teachers tells an awful lot about the state of education.  Back to the issue.  Why are students not mad about missing school?  Because they don’t like it – they have a better alternative.  Why don’t they like it?  What is their alternative?  It is creativity and passion – the things that we provide at home or elsewhere away from school.  They can use their imagination, they can explore their surroundings, they can develop their own stories.  They have the opportunity to engage their creativity and to feel and share their passion.  The students don’t miss anything about school because they can’t be creative, because they can’t explore or express their passion, because they cannot share and explore their own experiences.  That doesn’t fit in a box or map onto some standardized test, so the school don’t let them (for the most part – of course there are some that do).  Some will argue that students can do this within the framework of the common core nonsense.  Yes, but they have to do it within that box.  If we took the box away and allowed them to explore, to be creative, to share and live their passion, I think students would be pissed when school was cancelled.  How happy would we be as parents if our children were upset when school was cancelled?

AngerHow happy would we be as educators if our students wanted to engage in class, and were telling us how pissed they were when class was cancelled?

Creativity and Passion

As with most problems, the path to a solution doesn’t have to be difficult.  It just takes a little bit of innovative thinking, creativity, and passion.  Look at musicians.  As we’re cutting funding for music and other self-expression outlets in schools, let’s think about what we’re doing.  Are the people who fit into boxes contagious, infectious?  Are they telling stories we want to hear and share?  Are they the role models that effectuate positive social change?  A resounding NO!!!!  Musicians hold part of the promise for education.  In their passion and in their creativity.  It is through that mixture that children can once again love learning and the environment where they learn.  Think about the last time your children were truly engaged, were being thrilled, were laughing contagiously.

JoyI’ll wager those moments had something to do with being creative and had something to do with something the child is passionate about.  We need to get back to the power of creativity and the power of passion.   I’ll explain how I see that happening in a future post.