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Announcing the Winners of “Imagine the Future of Swarm Vision!”

FutureOfSwarm_2400x900

While we are still waiting to be able to dispense prizes for several campaigns late last year over which we have no control, we DO have control on the Future of Swarm Vision prizes. So with no further ado, here are the winners of the latest campaign.

As you will recall, there are both “Swarm Visionary” prizes for the best entries describing what Swarm Vision should become, and “Best Poster Child” prizes for the best innovation self-portraits.

 

Screenshot 2016-06-09 16.07.35Swarm Visionary:

The metrics were:

  • Community Benefit (The idea would deliver value to our SwarmVision community)
  • Innovativeness, (The idea enhances the uniqueness of SwarmVision)
  • Business Benefit. (The idea would enhance the value of SwarmVision

The 5 winners are:

 

Winner

Idea Title Comments

Kimaina

Expose member profile as a digital CV

This is an idea we can readily implement that will give members a way to showcase their innovation profile, accomplishments and training.

Zeina

Volunteering/Donating This is a simple but powerful idea to enable more members to afford innovation training on Swarm Vision.
Patrick Koggu Client and Community Partnerships

This entry identifies numerous tasks that Swarm members can undertake to serve clients and even generate extra cash.

Denise Kiseka

Swarm Vision Mobile App – Ideating on the Go

This idea will broaden the reach and engagement in Swarm Vision.

Kimaina Swarm Vision Authorized Resellers, Partners, Agents and Distributors

This well-thought out entry provides a way for qualified members to help build the community and share innovation training in their country.

 

Visualizers Ideator-2 Visualizer2

 

Best Poster Child (Innovation Self Portraits):

 

Our guiding principles were:

  • How well the entry described your journey as an innovator
  • An engaging narrative with heart and rich detail.
  • A clear example of a Swarm Vision Skill Type

There were so many great stories, we have decided to award a 6th prize and two Runner-Ups!

 

Winner

Portrait Title Comments
Galarmo My story now and then
Galarmo is BOTH our Poster Child for Optimizer, AND he is a symbol for all innovators who continuously seek to grow. Finally, he tells a charming story about winning the “Most Improved” prize.

Randolph M

My road of innovation

Randolph M is our Poster Child for Ideator, and tells an inspiring story about using his prize money toward his tuition.

Zeina

My story

Zeina is our Poster Child for Visualizer. She tells a moving story of her journey to master visual skills and gain confidence in her thoughts.

Fayrooz

Innovation through slave roots Zaina is also an Ideator and shares an uplifting story of her lifetime of innovations ranging from poetry to founding a university, while overcoming a host of barriers.

Paul Talliard

My story: humble beginnings

Paul is our Poster Child for Influential and shares a moving story of new beginnings and success.

Oliver Fomunung Born to conquer

Oliver is wins for his moving quotes about the role of Swarm Vision in the lives of those born without privilege.

 

Runner-Ups (will receive certificates only):

Kimaina

Abasiama Akpan

 

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL WINNERS!

 

We already distributed a total of 136 licenses to the Swarm Innovation Profiler for Enterprise to all of you who participated in the Future of Swarm Vision campaign.

Our Roadmap

Next up? We are acting on many of the themes we heard from you in this campaign:

  1. Training:
    Our first innovation training will be on the art of Concept Writing. We have been busy creating this training in three forms: to read/print, to listen to, and to interact with. We will initially offer this training to about 5,000 Swarm members in late July!
  2. Going beyond ideas:
    We will be running a Concept Writing test in August. The above Concept Writing training will be required to participate in this test. Based on your test results, you will have a chance to participate in real Concept Writing Challenges!
  3. Enhancing your career:
    This Fall, we will work on enhancing the existing Member Profile on Swarm Vision so you can share your innovation journey and accomplishments with employers, investors, friends and family!

The Swarm Vision crowd has spoken, and we are taking your input very seriously. It is exciting to feel such a direct connection to you, to feel that we know so many of you more intimately now, and to be traveling on this road together!

 

 

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Your Vision….Our Road Map!

Screenshot 2016-06-09 16.29.58
We learned SO much from the Future of Swarm Vision campaign which is now closed. We took the themes that emerged in the campaign and quantified them in a survey. If you haven’t see it yet, this infographic shows key survey results (Click HERE to view on Slideshare; Password :“totem”)
 
So what’s next?
 
We heard you say, your main needs from Swarm Vision are:
  1. You want SwarmVision to provide more innovation training
  2. You want SwarmVision to provide real world, career-enhancing opportunities 
  3. You would like a way to make some supplemental income from SwarmVision
 
I am happy to announce that our TWO NEXT STEPS address all of these wishes!
 
Screenshot 2016-06-09 16.33.26
 
1. CONCEPT WRITING CHALLENGE:
First, we are creating a Concept Writing Challenge. We plan to invite about a quarter of the community into this challenge so we can manage the process efficiently.
We will provide training on how to write top-scoring new product Concepts. 
 
The big news is…one of the largest research companies in the world has agreed to test the SwarmVision concepts against existing concepts to benchmark us. If SwarmVision generates a significant number of high-scoring concepts, it could be transformational for all of us, opening a stream of on-going, paid Concept Writing Challenges to SwarmVision!
 
 
 
How is the Concept Writing Challenge different from past SwarmVision challenges?
 
It’s the same in that are working on new product innovations for a specific topic or brief. But it is also different in 6 ways:
 
a. Instead of writing open-ended Ideas, you will write your ideas in the universally used Concept Statement format.
 
b. When you login to SwarmVision.com/campaigns, and join the Concept Writing Challenge, it will NOT take you into IdeaScale, but into a new platform we are building for capturing Concept Statements. 
 
c. The Concept Writing Challenge will only be 2-3 weeks long, vs 6-8 weeks long. So less effort for you, and faster results!
 
d. You will receive training in both a printable PDF format, AND a short video. 
 
e. There will be no cash prizes for this first Concept Writing Challenge. Instead, based on the Challenge, we will select the top 25-50 Concept Writers to go into this initial paid test. 
 
f. In each future paid test, only 25-50 SwarmVision members will collaborate at a time to produce only about 25 concepts and/or 150 variants (we’ll explain these in the training). 
 
IN FUTURE, EVERYONE WILL EARN A BASE AMOUNT FOR CONTRIBUTING CONCEPTS AND VARIANTS. We will split the remaining prize pool among those who contributed to any concepts that surpass benchmarks. For example, you could earn $25-50 just for participating, and another $500 or more for contributing to a winning concept.
 
2. ENHANCED PROFILES
Second, we will be working on an existing but un-utilized feature on SwarmVision.com, your SwarmVision profile: https://www.swarmvision.com/profile/edit/
Right now, this is pretty standard info, like your user name, profile picture etc. But we will enhance this profile so you can show:
  • the campaigns you have participated in
  • number of ideas, comments, votes you have submitted
  • any prizes won
  • number of top-scoring concepts
 
You will be able to share this profile on Facebook, LinkedIn etc. or a link in your resume/CV, to advance your career as an innovator!
 
Thanks to the Future of Swarm Vision campaign and survey, we have a clear idea of your needs which will drive our development roadmap!
We will build these things in “low resolution”, get your feedback, then continue to enhance them. That’s how we grew from an idea at a kitchen table to a global community in 106 countries. And how we caught the attention of one of the world’s largest research houses!
 
These are exciting times.
 
Megagirl
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On SwarmVision and Our Mission

1: Is Swarm Vision Focused on Africa?

We started SwarmVision with a series of 4 campaigns sponsored by an African financial service company. So naturally, we grew in Africa first. But we care just as much about undiscovered innovation talent in Chile, or in Colorado, as in Cape Town.

Sometimes talent goes undiscovered for reasons other than geography.
It can be life circumstances, or stereotypes. I will share with you 2 real life stories that inspired me to create SwarmVision:

A: When a mail man in a huge French insurance company won first prize for his original animation series. Before this, no one even knew this guy’s name. He was the nameless one who slowly pushed his cart of mail around an office tower, delivering unwanted paper mail to 1000s of cubicles. He had talent that no one could see, because of his job title.

B: When a stay-home Mom in Mississippi (USA) with only an 8th grade education, won first prize for her original idea for a household cleaning product. She lived far, far from the big innovation centers in the United States. She had no fancy education about making prototypes. But because she lived in a small town, had little education, and was staying home with her children, the world over-looked her.

Multiply the prize money + the confidence the winners gain in themselves + the example they set for others (for all of the other talent we tend to just not see). And BAM! We can create a lot of change, in 100s of countries.

Once you have experienced stories like these, they become quite addicting!

2: Now why do we look for commercial sponsors for Swarm campaigns? Why can’t Swarm just run any topic we want?

We have to be able to afford to run these global competitions, which are costly. So we focus on connecting undiscovered innovators around the world to large corporations, because these huge, lumbering institutions have a burning need to get better at innovation. And like Swarm, they are global, so they need us.

We don’t rule out non-profits or NGOs as sponsors, and we’d love to have an on-going campaign to empower Africa. But we think that:
(i) By connecting African innovators to innovators around the world, it will be a great equalizer. Africans will prove their innovation might.

After all, we don’t display your skill type, or your country, in your profile.
Because we are 100% dedicated to the notion that your ideas be assessed on their own merits. We LOVE busting myths about where great ideas come from.

AND

(ii) By connecting innovators to real-life, commercial innovation challenges, you will acquire valuable skills faster than in a theoretical challenge. You can then apply that innovation knowledge to any domain you feel passionate about.

This is why we have real life experts on the topic comment on the ideas in the Optimize phase. Experts choose the ideas that advance based on their deep knowledge of the domain. The Sponsors choose the winners based on their intimate knowledge of the problem area and their judgment of an idea’s feasibility. NOT where you come from, your education level or gender. ALL Swarm members can learn from these experts equally, as the process is 100% transparent.

Along the way, someone may just get discovered by a global employer. (I can’t wait to tell the story of a Fortune 500 company offering an internship to a member of SwarmVision!)

So stay tuned. We may not be African in our founding mission, but we can do a ton to lift up innovators in Africa, and everywhere. If you want to collaborate with undiscovered talent from around the world, learn from global sponsors, and compete on an even footing, please click here.

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Innovation talent is not a socio-economic class

Tonight I drove from Silicon Valley proper (the original valley near Stanford from which it all sprang) to San Francisco. The clouds were spilling over the mountain range that runs along the Pacific coast. It felt godly in some way that even an atheist would likely recognize.

silicon-valley-clouds

There, I attended an event called “The Future of Growth Hacking” about how tech companies are driving growth through customer acquisition and retention. Pretty interesting. The speakers were mostly Japanese or Japanese-American (most of Silicon Valley is foreign-born).

Speakers at The Future of Growth Hacking, San Francisco.  Most of Silicon Valley is foreign-born.

Speakers at The Future of Growth Hacking, San Francisco. Most of Silicon Valley is foreign-born.

And I recalled my many amazing travels through Japan when I was a fashion designer. I remember looking out the window in a bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, and noticing that even the way the Japanese pile grain into perfect haystacks is artful and attains beauty.

Finally, tonight on my way home, this feeling of a connection to some higher order happened for a third time. It was a full moon, and on the radio came the most incredible story.

The story was told by a Native American woman, Bonnie Jo Hunt. She was born on a Sioux Indian reservation in Montana. She chanced to hear opera music at age 10, and decided she wanted to become an opera singer. No piano existed, let alone voice coaches, on the Indian reservation. Yet she succeeded.

Bonnie-Jo-Hunt

Bonnie-Jo-Hunt

Much later, she was approached to perform on a soundtrack of….wait for it…..crickets. That’s right. Jim Wilson, an experimental director and playwright, had recorded crickets in his back yard, slowed it down and stretched it out to the proportions of a human life to a cricket’s life. The result is celestial. Enjoy it here

How does this story relate to Swarm Vision?
I think it relates profoundly, in two ways:

One, Native American Bonnie Jo Hunt is evidence of our core belief here at Swarm Vision: That innovation talent is not distributed along socio-economic lines. It exists in every town and village (and Indian reservation), but it is not given to everyone. If you have it, it is a gift to be developed and treasured. We hope to help in some small way on that journey, by encouraging you, helping you to develop and hone that talent, and by connecting you to opportunity.

And two, that there really is such a thing as swarm intelligence. Crickets (like crowds) work in harmony…without central control. They sense each other. (If crickets are let loose in a room, it takes them mere seconds to establish their beautiful, pulsating music.) We can’t recognize their humanity until someone records them and slows the pace. Nature and humanity are more alike than people think.

We always knew that crowds are more intelligent than experts. And we have proven that Swarm Vision is more intelligent than any other crowd. So one thing we are going to be working on in the future here at Swarm Vision is using machine learning and data visualization to capture the beautiful patterns in your wisdom.

I don’t understand the math of swarm theory (anyone?), but I can recognize a higher power when I am in its presence. And it is you.

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How A Cello Changed Everything

I’ll be honest. A few years ago, I reached a place where raising 4 children and working for 25 years had kind of sucked a lot out of me. I have always been driven by my passions, and I didn’t feel a burning vision.

Then one day, I remembered that I had always wanted to play the cello. I was scared to try because I couldn’t read music and the cello is particularly hard to learn. (It has no frets to help you place your left hand, and it is tricky to get a rich sound with the bow.) But I found a cello teacher and rented a used instrument.

A year later, I could play several songs of increasing complexity. Cello used my brain in such a radically different way. I could feel the neurons struggling to deal with the challenge of touching the instrument, right and left hands doing totally different things, my ears hearing and adjusting the sounds, and my eyes decoding the notes, all at once. I felt like I was developing new brain tissue or something!

The experience of even acquiring a tiny bit of a new skill gave me an outrageous thought. That maybe I could do something else that terrified me even more: hiring an engineer! I mean, here I was in the tech capital of the world, and I didn’t feel I could even tell a good engineer from a bad one. But I took baby steps toward that, ended up hiring a phenomenal engineer, and a year later, we had created SwarmVision together!

Recently I had the amazing experience of visiting Khan Academy… the real headquarters here in Silicon Valley, not the website. The founder, Sal Khan, was in the office next door to where we were meeting, recording his infamous videos. Sal is so famous for his free online educational videos that millions of students use around the world. I felt giddy… like I was in the presence of rock star. Sal believes you only need to know one thing: that is that you can learn anything. I think you’ll enjoy his video.

Maybe some people are lucky to be born in more innovative places, or grow up around innovative people. But I think innovation can largely be learned.
Who knows, maybe SwarmVision will one day inspire as many people as Khan Academy?

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My Innovation Story: Self Portrait

My name is Suzan Briganti and I grew up in Silicon Valley before it was called that.

My father was a physicist at Stanford Research Institute and he loved to tell stories at the dinner table about the challenges he faced at work and how he overcame them. They all had the same plot. He was faced with a bungling bureaucrat and managed to cut through the red tape or other stasis with a brilliant and (to him) obvious solution.

dad-cropped

I grew up in the country about 5 miles from Stanford. Our school was kind of a test lab for Stanford School of Education and as a result, it was pretty experimental. At home, I had plenty of space and free time, which I filled with making whatever came into my head.

Looking back, I guess I was steeped in the methods and mindset of innovation before these all became fashionable.

I have always been very impatient with the status quo and filled with creative ideas. As a child, I couldn’t sleep at night if I hadn’t been able to make something. I would cry myself to sleep in frustration!

I have been lucky to have three careers: one in advertising working with some truly brilliant writers and art directors. Another as a fashion designer. And a third career running my own innovation company, Totem. I tend to approach problems by designing a new (hopefully simple and delightful) system that solves a problem. And nothing makes me happier than seeing people use what I have designed.

On SwarmVision, I test as an Ideator, Visualizer and Influential, but I identify most with the Ideator persona. This is because I have a lot of ideas and kind of see things differently a lot of the time (something called Boundary Breaking in innovation parlance.)

My father had a couple of sayings: “It’s better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission,” And, “There’s one thing they can never take away from you: Your capacity to have the next idea.” These quotes speak to the heart and soul of an Ideator.

Swarm has changed my life because it showed me that I could still invent something and realize it in the world. Something that others really love, and that has become part of their lives.

But before Swarm went live, I was terrified that no one would register! Now with 18,800 members in 106 countries, I truly feel we have just begun. I can’t wait to read and hear your self-portraits, and get to know you!

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Early Childhood Education Winner Announcement – Finally!

Early Childhood Education Winner Announcement

 

It is a great day here in Silicon Valley. At last, we can announce the winners of the Early Childhood Education campaign on SwarmVision!

The judges deliberated and it was a very tough call, but we are pleased to announce the winners of the Best Idea prizes:

 

Best Idea (1st Prize) . . . . . . . . . $1,000 – Furniture that gives children the power to create

Best Idea (2nd Prize) . . . . . . . . .$850 – Calm Classrooms

Best Idea (3rd Prize) . . . . . . . . . $650 – Angel Book nook

 

And the Best Visual prizes go to:

 

Best Visual (1st Prize) . . . . . . .  $3,000 – Furniture that gives children the power to create

Best Visual (2nd Prize) . . . . . . . $2,000 – The modern interactive learning environment

Best Visual (3rd Prize) . . . . . . . .$1,000 – Angel Book nook

 

Best Influential:

  • Rodwell Tapiwanashe Harinangoni ……$500
  • Judges Comments: ‘Rodwell has been most active in both commenting and voting in this campaign.  His comments have been so consistently supportive & nurturing.’

 

Best Optimizer:

  • Sunday Kokette…….$500
  • Judges Comments: ‘Sunday Kokette has consistently offered substantive questions/suggestions/critiques on this campaign’

 

Out of some 436 ideas, it always comes down to the most transformative, feasible and cost-effective ones. As you know, when deciding on winners, it is our job to uphold the metrics posted in the campaign brief, and we do stay true to the judges’ scores on these same metrics.

This time around, one idea won both Best Idea and Best Visual. This is not unprecedented, but is not very common. As a result, we have decided to also give special citations to 4 other strong entries. (These Runners Up will be acknowledged with a frame-worthy citation but no monetary prizes):

 

Best Idea Runner Ups:

CapeHood: the fun playground for children

Alphabet Dominoes ( in multiple languages)

 

Best Visual Runner Ups:

Personalized Chair

Under The African Tree

 

Our Judges wrote their praise about the Best Idea winners:

Furniture that gives children the power to create – “It is simple, and gets to the heart of the ‘how to’ in nurturing children’s creativity. I would definitely go for it as a basic essential if I had a preschool.”

Calm Classrooms – “Aimed at older children but it can be easily adapted to preschool children who don’t sit at desks. It is original and would go a long way to helping young children and teachers get into a creative zone.

Angel Book Nook – “Well thought out. A folding book corner is not new but they have added to it (benches, blackboard).”

 

Big congratulations to the entire community on a very successful campaign!

You have told us that you really want to see your ideas actually produced in the world.  We are confident the sponsors of this campaign have the will to realize the winning ideas. We look forward to sharing this process with you as it unfolds, and know that we all have made an impact on young lives in Africa!

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Strap on your seatbelts!
Update and view into the future

Hello beloved Swarm agents! It has been too long since we talked and I wanted to give you a brief update and a view into our shared future.

Winner Announcements

First, I am deeply embarrassed that we have not yet been able to announce the winners on the “Future of Early Childhood Education (ECD)” “Banking for Digital Natives” or “Banking for Entrepreneurs” campaigns.

What’s the hold up? We are still waiting for all of the judges to rate the shortlisted ideas and are chasing them daily.

What’s the fix? Going forward, Totem will reserve the right to appoint substitute judges so winner selection can proceed on time, every time.

We should know the winners for ECD in the next week and announce them shortly thereafter. Thank you for your patience – we are behind, but will NOT let you down!


Upcoming Campaign

We are planning a really fun campaign, asking “What is the future of SwarmVision?” What’s this all about?

As you know, we started SwarmVision on our kitchen table, on the belief that there are innovators in every town and village. So far, we have 18,800 registered members in 106 counties, so we think we are on to something.

But before we get ahead of ourselves (and while there is a bit of calm) we want to take this time to get to know you better. We want to understand your aspirations, what innovation is to you, how it feels, what else Swarm can become to you. This ought to be a very stimulating conversation!

In addition, we will be offering a cool mix of prizes for this campaign, including $5,000 US in cash prizes, a chance to be nominated to our MVP/ Founder leadership team, and 50 free licenses to our enterprise grade innovation profiler ($100 US value each).

Look for this new campaign around March 21st.


Potential Future Campaign Topics

Our first string of campaigns has been around banking, and education. You have proven that our model of crowdsourcing is far more effective than the standard approach. And this is attracting attention among new clients in additional industry sectors.

We don’t want to jinx anything, but we are in talks with potential sponsors around some astonishing campaign topics, from:
Interactive beer packaging
to
Re-designing everyday objects with aluminum
to
The future of intelligent fluids
(yes, fluids with sensors that can monitor machines, like wind turbines).

We think a variety of topics is essential to keeping you engaged, your growth as innovators, and to growing the community. Needless to say, we are not getting a lot of sleep here, but we are having fun.

Here’s to supporting your growth as an innovator, to some very exciting new campaigns this year, and to growing SwarmVision together!
It’s our privilege to be on this journey with you. Strap on your seatbelts!

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Interview with Sandra Kent, Executive Director of Oklahoma A+ Schools

We had the honor to chat with the inspiring Sandra Kent, an influential leader in the field of education. Sandra shared her thoughts on education, creativity, and their implications for our ‘Future of Education’ campaign

sandra kent

Please tell us a little bit about Oklahoma A+ and its significance in Early Childhood Education!

A+ began in North Carolina 20 years ago as a research project. It was brought to Oklahoma in 2002 by the DaVinci Institute, a think tank that was particularly interested infusing creativity and the arts into education.
Today, we provide professional development, a network of support, and an active research component to all our partner schools by preparing teachers, principals, and parents to think more creatively about curriculum, learning environment, and education in general. The mission of Oklahoma A+ is to nurture creativity in every learner. We want to help schools think, plan, and behave more creatively.
What really differentiates us is that we look at the ‘big picture’; meaning teachers, parents, and the principal are all committed to achieving the same goal, which is how to make the school work well for all of the learners through the 8 essentials of A+.

What are these 8 essentials and how do you implement them in practice?

After years of independent research on how to infuse arts into education, teachers, leaders, and researchers came together to discuss and concretize the findings. As a result, they came up with the framework of the A+ essentials. These 8 essentials are Arts, Curriculum, Experiential Learning, Multiple Learning Pathways, Enriched Assessment, Collaboration, Infrastructure, and Climate. These 8 essentials all have to be in place in order to make a change and transform how schools educate the next generation. It is a common misbelief that Oklahoma A+ is solely focused on arts. We believe that without tackling the issues of these 8 areas, we will not achieve sustainable growth.

To fully integrate these essentials, schools begin their journey with us in a 5-day training session in the summer, where a team of fellows begin to immerse the school in these 8 essentials. Throughout the training we introduce the educators to several activities, so they can experience a so-called “two-way integration”. They begin to learn how to integrate the arts into science, math, and social studies, or how to integrate science and reading into the arts. We believe in the integration of different disciplines and finding the connections between the seemingly unrelated fields.

How can creativity be infused into subjects that we may not traditionally think of as creative?

Just think about it: in the past, science and math have always been really creative. Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein and many other scientists were very creative souls. I think creativity is a must no matter what subject we teach for our students.
There are many ways of introducing kids to creativity, even starting from an early age. Using abstracts, shapes, colors, and patterns can definitely help with integrating arts into the natural curriculum.

Whatever age students you are working with, you just have to look for the connections, and combine the concepts of the arts and the creative side of things with the concepts of traditional subjects. Math and science are very problem- solving oriented, so allowing students to find their own ways to attack the problem and encouraging them in that process is really the key. If you look at history, it very much calls for infusing arts and creativity. Show them how many times songs were written in response to political events or get their interest with political cartoons. There are so many amazing ways to engage kids by bringing creativity and arts into those traditionally dry, boring subjects.

How do you resist the fact that less traditional learning methods tend to receive less traction?

Well, this is why I do what I do. For me education was never about hierarchy, it was always about kids. And unfortunately, I think in a lot of cases the hierarchy is taking precedence as well as trying to force kids into that hierarchical thinking. But if you really pay attention, most schools and teachers that get the accolades are the ones doing something creative and unique. One of the most important things is that you have to have your research and proof of achievement to demonstrate student improvement. You have to be able to back it up, be prepared, and be ready to show that this is where we started and this is what we achieved. And even then, there will always be skeptics. Sometimes it’s hard for people to understand that allowing students and teachers to be creative can actually result in something amazing.
We believe in creating a path of learning versus following a path. And that is what begins to break down that hierarchical thinking.

How does infusing creativity into multiple subjects even the playing field?

I have a great story regarding that. We had a 4th grade student in one of our schools who couldn’t read, but when we started bringing visual art pieces into the classroom, he was really amazing at interpreting them. He started grasping the concepts in all of his subject areas and then because he was able to have that understanding and had more interest, it began to help him improve his reading skills. He had more interest in what that picture meant, and what he already knew about it, and how he could interpret it, he had more interest in reading about it. It is truly amazing to see those things and experience them. That not only evens the playing field, but I would say from there it gives everybody the opportunity to be valued, honored, and respected. The scenario becomes, I value you, because you understand that picture, or you can help me write some music. It begins to be about value and honoring of learning, versus kids and teachers getting into “who is smart and who is not”.
Please give us an example of how the A+ essentials could be reflected in physical designs and learning tools, not just curriculum and research.

Being a principal in a school, I experienced that we didn’t always have the resources to buy new things. We had to be creative. So, I definitely see it reflected, and that is why I love this Swarm Vision campaign. What are the things that would enforce creativity just by sitting in a room, or just by being in a building? I think designing spaces, places, and furniture that allow students to be creative is definitely key. For example, why don’t we design furniture that allows students to stand and put their feet on a swinging piece so that they can have some movement while they are thinking and learning? There are so many kids that need some sort of movement so they can focus better. Unfortunately, in a lot of schools you have to sit down properly which leaves no room for experimenting and creativity. Why don’t we create seats and chairs that are counterbalanced, so kids can move around? These are the sorts of tools and equipment that could help to stimulate their thinking, their learning, and allow them to be more creative.

How do you see the future for Oklahoma A+?

I believe that we will continue to grow and impact the education field within our state. We also love to be able to expand beyond our state borders. That’s one of the reasons why we find working with Cape Town, South Africa, such an amazing opportunity. We want to make sure that we are supporting our partner schools and network to be able to help other places, states, even other countries to launch their own A+ network. We want as many kids as possible, to have this opportunity and to be in a school that really believes that all can truly learn.

What is your vision for the “Future of Education” campaign and what advice would you give to the community submitting their ideas?

My vision for the Future of Education campaign is to leverage the Swarm community’s wisdom to create a learning environment that is inspiring and makes kids want to learn. To create something beautiful, something unique that makes kids wonder.

My advice is for all the innovators out there: Be creative! Don’t let anything stop you! Think about what furniture, equipment, spaces, or tools could inspire the minds of the little ones! Be that modern technology or old technology; pencils, crayons, paint, whatever it is – the sky is the limit! Do not think about how most typical schools look. Actually, think about the opposite -what schools don’t look like and don’t have…and that is where you should get your inspiration!

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On a Journey to Design a Better Future for Education from Oriole Bolus

 

oriole

Oriole Bolus, Design Researcher, Cape Craft & Design Institute (CCDI)

 

 

Challenges and opportunities that arise from pre-schools in South Africa

There are endless challenges for South African schools that are proactively involved in ECD education. In fact, challenges are what makes them so exciting. Facilitators are constantly having to deal with the limited resources that are available to them.

Visiting a number of schools around Cape Town, it was interesting to discover how the dynamic contextual environment influences pre-schools. The rationale behind getting significant insight from the schools came from our need to understand how we could redesign ECD education to foster creativity in learners and teachers.

With this in mind, I approached the schools with an inquisitive frame of mind, encouraging those I met to focus their thoughts on the built environment, learning tools and the use of technology.

Space does foster particular behavior

There is always room for improvement when it comes to the use of space in schools.

Everyday Zakieyah, a teacher from ABC in Athlone, has to plan and set up her classroom, aligning it to the theme they are doing that week. She finds the small space they have to work with difficult especially since, working with 4-6 year olds, they have a great deal of resources and learning tools for each activity. The ABC pre-school was built from a residential house foundation which limits the school grounds because it was not designed with a learning environment in mind. The extra room they have at their disposal is incredibly useful for different functions, with its ability to be transformed and adapted to creative activities, unlike the other rooms. The room is used for music and movement and even as a computer classroom. The main theme arising here is that the classrooms could be more effective if it could accommodate different learning modes and changing class sizes.

The one thing that was standard at most of the schools was the furniture, which is very standardized. Your square desk and steel chair, which does accommodate for group work and interaction between the kids, fails to allow for easy configuration in different learning situations. Also there is a clear distinction between soft and hard spaces – hard spaces by means of those that are more formally designed for posture and focused activity and soft areas that foster passive or active behavior.

Learning through play and creativity is a must

At the ABC school in Lansdowne, they do a vast amount of different creative activities. Zakieyah said, “We’ve got painting, and huge box of materials – I am telling you in my classroom, material gets cut up, it gets worn, its gets everything, they will use it for anything. That’s why I was saying; we’ve put the resources in everywhere. It’s up to them to explore how to use it. I’m not just putting it in the dress up area, I am putting it in the art area to cut and paste – it’s up to them to use it.”

This gives a visual of the use of space and how there are no boundaries in the classroom area – the kids are encouraged to do any activities and play.

It was slightly different at other schools, where they have a less integrated approach in terms of creative activity. Debbie from Lea pre-primary school feels it is important that they don’t miss out on certain motor skills. They believe that the child should go through each activity and if there is no structure in evaluating each activity, then they can’t monitor if the learner is lacking a skill. The ethos lying in the school’s foundation was learning through play – involving activities such as water play, Lego building, and your typical wooden building blocks. At the Lea pre-school the themes changed week by week. The teachers would promote working from concrete to abstract.

Engaging through technology and communication

Technology is not that important on the grounds of the learners themselves, but rather its potential from the teachers’ and parents perspective. The teachers could use their smart phones to quickly source information online to develop a task or theme. Some of the schools didn’t feel the need for technology at all, but they still used organizational communication methods such as emails. One opportunity that arose is that communication tools could be developed to enhance current communication between administration and teachers to give everyone a voice. Central to the school is an information board for parents and visitors.

Expect the unexpected

There are a consistent set of challenges that schools face on a day to day basis. These are centered around the design of the learning environment which applies to the use of space and the objects within; the learning experience which applies to tools and creativity activities; and lastly the functional experiences which applies to processes and technology tools which can be used operationally by the schools.

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