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INSIGHTS • Invention Program • Phillips Brooks Summer Institute 2019

Lane Young, Director of Educational Technology

INSIGHTS is an ongoing series of blog posts published by members of the PBS faculty, providing a lens into how the PBS faculty thinks about curriculum development, teaching and learning, professional development, and other topics central to executing the school’s mission every day. In this multi-part series of INSIGHTS articles, PBS faculty will share updates on important school-wide initiatives, including the annual Curriculum Deep Dive and Phillips Brooks Summer Institute projects.

“How will we create and nurture invention at PBS?”

This was the exciting question that the Phillips Brooks Summer Institute on Invention contemplated for our work. We began by examining the work of other leading schools in design thinking, innovation, STEAM/STEM, and entrepreneurship. Through an examination of their programs and missions, we were able to identify which areas aligned with PBS’s culture and pedagogical approach and what would be necessary to build a distinctive program focused on invention, as distinct from those other frameworks.

The group is very excited with what we’re putting out into the world, some of which we’re sharing here. We also know that our work is just the start, and we have plans to iterate our thinking with the community. We’ve crafted a model of invention, a mission statement, and a vision for what the experience will be like for students, teachers, and parents. We also know that all of this could change, perhaps even in substantial ways, by the time we’re ready to launch the program. This, too, is the nature of invention.

Draft mission statement for the Invention Program

In an ongoing effort to improve our communities, students will envision possibilities that meet the needs of people through meaningful investigation, knowing that any solution is an opening to further exploration.

The student experience with Invention

Throughout their tenure at PBS, students will take ownership of their inventions, learn to build a team to solve and tackle complex tasks, and strive to make a difference by clearly articulating the problems they see in service to themselves and others. Students will know that this work does not exist in a vacuum, seeking help from each other, their community, and experts.

The teacher experience with Invention

Teachers will guide students to make informed decisions by igniting curiosity through collaborative problem-finding and -solving and by turning this into a plan of action. Knowing that this work will be messy, they will help students experience hands-on, project-based work. By working with their colleagues and members of the community they will make this work accessible. While we want students’ imaginations to be limitless, teachers will help guide students through the real-world limits of effective invention.

The parent experience with Invention

Parents will have the opportunity to support and witness their children engaging in the PBS Invention Program. Parents may engage their children in conversations, activities, and experiences in school and will have the opportunity to participate through volunteer and leadership opportunities. Parents can support the inventor’s mindset at home by guiding their children to learn and to accept mistakes, feedback, and failure as opportunities for learning and growth.

Draft model of the Invention Cycle

The model below illustrates a cycle of invention as we’ve initially identified it. It consists of four, non-linear, iterative phases:

  • Sense it out: problem-finding, understanding (empathy), question-asking
  • Think it out: Imaginative thinking, divergent thinking, convergent thinking
  • Try it out: Experiment, prototype (draft), pilot
  • Gauge it out: Define (the problem), informal research, formal research

These areas cycle one to another and interact through reflection, feedback, and revision. There is a fifth step, Get it out, which involves sharing, publishing, and generating buy-in once the iteration process has been completed for a time. However, after you send something out into the world sometimes that offers the spark to start inventing once more. We believe this model builds on the best thinking of experts in the field in a way that is PBS-distinctive and truly ground-breaking in this field – especially among primary schools.

Iterating this plan with the PBS community

Now that we’ve completed this preliminary work, we are excited to move forward with plans to gather feedback from the community through several focus groups aimed at evaluating this model, finding ways to efficiently implement it, and assessing the ways we’ll need to support the program once launched. Parents and faculty who are interested in exploring this topic further are encouraged to join us for these focus groups, which will be scheduled for October and early November 2019. More details will be published in the Gazette, along with a signup form.

Lane Young has been PBS’s Director of Educational Technology since 2017, responsible for both the infrastructural and pedagogical approaches to technology implementation at PBS. Lane came to PBS with 13 years of experience as an educator, curriculum developer, and technology integrator. Despite being from Chicago, Lane has been a 49ers fan since he was 7.

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