Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Helping kids connect to their passions and become remarkable: SAVING money shifting to Project Based Learning

These are my notes from Steve Wyckoff’s presentation, “Crisis in the School: Budget Busters” at the iConnect, iLearn Conference in Colby, Kansas on June 2, 2010. The Ustream login in the room didn’t work but I was able to login with a different browser, so I was able to record/archive this session. (embedded below)

ESSDACK in Hutchinson hosted a summit titled, “Crisis in the Classroom: Turning Crisis into Opportunity for K-12 education” in April 2009. All the panels from that summit are available as free, online videos. This presentation is based on much of the content from that summit.

I think Erie, Kansas is one of the most innovative schools in the entire nation (USD 101)

Steve Wyckoff’s blog: What’s Become Clear – Real School Change: Questioning Assumptions About Education

– are we wasting a good crisis (post by Steve: Educational Reform: Are We Wasting A Good Crisis)

We need to change our focus in schools
– we should work to inspire every kid to identify what they are so passionate about that they become remarkable at it

The 3 words I focus on:
– inspiration
– passion
– remarkable

had 2 boys at their school who converted a truck to run on nitrogen
– a girl who worked with a geneticist in bovine science

Teachers validate student work
– kids keep track of the standards they are mastering

1st project kids do is teacher defined
– after that they are student defined

Lessons learned
– you can save a LOT of money if you go project-based
– test scores have remained stable (good)
– student engagement has gone way up

Students at Erie High School don’t say “boring” now when they describe school, if they are in the PBL track

If we keep doing what we’ve been doing the way we’ve been doing it, the only solution to move forward is MORE MONEY

Community reception of this change has been mixed

Good book: “The Innovator’s Dilemma”
– your best customers will drive you out of business

I have observed we are scared to talk about “the main course” in education today (changing the core of what we do)
– our focus on preparing kids for college makes no sense today (the Regent’s curriculum)
– we do it because we’ve always done it

Many of our “top kids” are getting PBL-type interaction at home from parents


Erie used EdVisions out of Minnesota

The focus of most schools today is just “how do we cut” rather than thinking creatively about how we can do things differently, better, AND save money

Thoughts on testing in schools
– think of driving
– you took two tests when got licensed: one was written and one was a driving test. Which one was meaningful to you?

PBL is about going through guided experiences with adults
– in Erie they are building a new high school
– team of kids
– consultant from Durango, Colorado is the identified expert the students are utilizing


I have spoken to every pre-service education student at KU in the past 9 years
– I share with them that “doing the same thing that was done to you in school” is the wrong thing
– never had more than 6% of kids report they regularly experienced “flow” in core content classes (were so engaged they lost track of time)
– then I ask them: how many of you had your teachers convinced you were authentically engaged? (lots of hands in response to that)

Kansas State Board of Education last month formed an “Education Commission”
– I was asked to serve on this
– my sole mission and message is: We should focus on helping kids become REMARKABLE, not focusing on test scores
– helping kids identify their passion

Our kids should be driving the car
– most faculty fervently believe we should “expose” students to their content

Our kids don’t need to be exposed to Shakespeare to be successful in life
– our kids need to be prepared for the workforce

If the GenEd curriculum is not relevant, then why do we mandate it?

Business world consistently says kids do the worst at COMMUNICATION
– we require that a lot of kids in schools, what does that say about how we teach?

What’s the difference between covering, studying, and learning in our schools
– most of our kids NEVER study (they might do that for their hobbies, like fishing)
– kids memorize, but we rarely see them studying and learning

Why I like the Kansas Career Pipeline:
– anything that helps kids self-analyze and identify their passion are good

Our teachers should help kids connect with their passions
– takes 10 years and 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an “expert” at something
– even if you change your mind, once you get those habits in place they can transfer elsewhere

Kids should leave school with a “life plan”

Lots of kids I talk with at KU are NOT passionate about teaching
– coaches are passionate about working with kids after 3:30, many are NOT passionate about working with them before that time

Many of my coaches when I was a principal had the skill set to REALLY

finish the sentence, “They need to know _____ in order to _______.”
– do that for Shakespeare
– something about math? building bridges

Many of our coaches teach kids things “in order to…”
– our role models stand and talk like I do / am now

I think we typically use tech
– to entertain kids
– to help them remember the stuff that doesn’t matter
– hope they will use it in the real world

Kids at Erie High School are REQUIRED to have a cell phone
– that is the way they communicate with their community mentors
– Skype is open to EVERY kid

Does this present challenges for their tech guy? Of course. But it’s not about the tech guy. It’s about the kids and their learning.

Every kid at Little River High School has a laptop
– we had every kid login to the Kansas Career Pipeline
– I started showing them some of the things they could find: salaries, occupational fields, more…. You could have heard a pin drop in the room (engagement by the kids was so high)

Technorati Tags:
, , , , , , , ,

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, subscribe to Wes’ free newsletter. Check out Wes’ video tutorial library, “Playing with Media.” Information about more ways to learn with Dr. Wesley Fryer are available on

On this day..



, ,