Our How: An "Open Source" Framework for Innovation
We fundamentally believe that everyone has the creative capacity to improve the world around them. It is with that belief that we use Open Design processes to boldly approach every challenge without necessarily knowing how it will be solved. Our work with schools is never based on cookie-cutter, one-size-fits all programs. Rather, we employ an empathy driven approach that is grounded in the following core principles - what we call the ingredients of learner-centered innovation:
Living Mission & Vision
The school understands its "why" and its "how" and is living them through the actions and outcomes one sees in every classroom, every lesson, every day.
Everyone is empowered to grow their skill, talent, and leadership capacity by exercising autonomy, mastery, and purpose in the work they do for and with students.
The default mode of every interaction and decision is collaborative - between students, between peers, and between partners in the larger community.
Open Source Sharing
The school is an authentic learning organization, characterized by collective efficacy through the open sharing, critique, and revision of ideas and resources.
The school uses a continuous improvement mindset to design, implement, and refine learner-centered strategies that better aligns with the Future of Work.
Some of the many examples of Open Way Learning's work with partners & schools...
Sprinting Towards Innovation
One of Open Way Learning’s primary support tools is the facilitation of Design Sprints using the principles and key features of the human centered design process. Starting with focus groups and empathy mapping, we help education stakeholders get the insights needed to define the problem, ideate and prioritize potential solutions, and then prototype and test ideas with their primary users - in most cases, students. Examples include a student-led design sprint to bring more authentic and equitable student voice to a middle school in Wilmington, NC; a district-wide initiative to “rethink time” (calendar, schedules, etc.) for it’s schools in Lincoln county, NC: a learner-centered effort to design the systems and supports needed as a school in Wellington, CO moves into a state-of-the-art facility; and work with principals in the Richland Two district (SC) to bring a stronger, learner-centered culture across more schools, for more students.
Making a Splash with Community-Facing Experiential Learning
Open Way Learning is proud of our work helping schools bake learner-centered strategies into their culture, especially when they align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. One such example is Union Academy in Macon County, NC - a school that has made a commitment to rethinking its model to leverage local assets to address local needs. The school serves students who have faced challenges in traditional settings and is finding tremendous success by using experiential learning as its primary mode of instruction. OWL is facilitating targeted coaching & co-design with teachers and staff as they help students not only work on issues relevant to their own lives, but also make a real difference in their local community. A recent example of an interdisciplinary project included middle schoolers electroshocking fish in a local creek to assess local water quality. Through high quality projects such as this, the school is seeing remarkable engagement by students and the community!
Making STEM Work...for ALL students!
Too often STEM efforts feel exclusionary to non-science, math, and technology educators and students. Many schools also find that makerspaces they have tend to be intimidating for students and teachers not proficient with technology and coding. Open Way Learning works to break down these barriers by helping schools design inviting spaces where creativity, tinkering, and failure are essential components that are integrated into all curricular areas. For example, we hold routine workshops in partnership with the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching to help all teachers embrace a “Strategies That Engage Minds” approach to STEM and makerspaces. This work has led to more intense, district-wide Maker Culture work in other schools and districts in North Carolina and beyond.
Pinch Points to Possibility
Open Way Learning was one of the sponsoring organizations (along with Transcend, Education Reimagined, HundrED, Next Generation Learning Challenges, PBLWorks, the Prichard Committee, and Student Voice) who led a series of virtual conversations hosted by Fielding International to share ideas and best practices with colleagues from around the world. The goal was to have an open forum that would help us all move from triage to transformation during the time of the global pandemic. OWL then replicated this effort by partnering with EdNC to facilitate a series of webinars that used principles of open design to allow education stakeholders in North Carolina a platform to highlight and address historical inequities in our education systems - ones exacerbated by COVID-19.
A Bridge to Deeper Student Engagement
Change can be hard, especially if you have never experienced what you are striving for. This is the premise behind Open Way Learning’s work with partner districts in New England to create “summer bridge” projects that allow teachers and students to work together in a lower-stakes environment to co-design and then facilitate engaging Project Based Learning experiences. By shrinking the change, we help stakeholders see the engagement and deep learning that’s possible when students are able to be difference makers in their local communities. One such example is a partnership with the Cohasset Center for Student Coastal Research, where OWL personnel are helping teachers in six local schools design summer experiences that are based on the HQPBL framework and can be leveraged and scaled in their own classrooms and schools.
Moving Towards Mastery
Competency-Based Education (CBE) is a highly effective way to address fundamental inequities with the traditional method of ranking, grading, and tracking students. But it’s not a trivial undertaking to move from a legacy A-F model to one aligned with the core elements of CBE. Open Way Learning has helped schools develop the localized, systems-level supports needed to make this transition possible. OWL has also leveraged their CBE expertise in support of the MIT Teaching Systems Lab develop and launch an on-line MOOC focused on "the Why, What, & How" of CBE. OWL is also a co-sponsor (along with Constructive Learning Design) of the Better Measures initiative, which aims to use PBL as an entry point to help a community of education stakeholders embrace the move to mastery.
The OWL Team
A passionate team of education stakeholders willing to disrupt the status quo...
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