Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Time is one of the most valuable commodities that most of us tend to take for granted.

What happens when a group of High School Seniors are given time?
Add to that Freedom and Choice to the mix.  Two very valuable aspects of our lives.

For some that time and freedom becomes a pathway to an amazing journey of self discovery and production.  For others those jewels become a frustration highway for reflection and recognition of weaknesses.  While still others become handcuffed by the lack of regiment created in most aspects of their lives.

The time of our Innovations Journey is quickly passing and we are up against the deadline of 63 days until final presentations which translates to only 17 class days in our block schedule.

For Seniors in the Innovations class the reality of first quarter grades, SAT/ACT testing, college apps, homecoming, winter formal etc, etc... has begun to takes its toll on the enthusiasm that drove the beginning.

Motivation now must be at it's peak as these innovators begin to produce the pieces of their creative endeavors.  Energy is at a premium as these students are weighed down by the burden of six other periods that demand that they follow directions, meet deadlines, take tests and read the book.  A class based upon the FREEDOM of CHOICE and TIME is easily the sacrificial lamb for the relief of stress.

The most critical aspects of this course thereby become the possible weapons of destruction as students try to balance the expectations of a college prep world based upon chasing GPA.  However, it is these very aspects that will be the deciding factors for these very students when they are asked to be productive members of the community at large.

FREEDOM, CHOICE & TIME, tools for success or creative destruction.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

LSHS Innov8tions Pitch Days

Peers Can Be Amazing Resources

Our first Innov8tions Pitch Day was a day of anxiety and excitement as students unveiled their project plans to their fellow innov8tors.

The students did not disappoint in my expectations for their presentations. There were those that were of course over-prepared and captured the attention of their peers, there were also those who came  in and underwhelmed their classmates.  This of course is not a surprise and I could have predicted each case as It was very apparent that those who had used their first month of brainstorming and work had truly embraced their concept and were either ready to take off on their project or were already well involved.

The true value of the Pitch Day did not actually come from the presenting of the project itself but in the questions and critiques provided by classmates as they focused on generating ideas to take each project further.  It was amazing to see the willingness to share information, websites, contact, possible mentors and growth ideas.  The genuine focus on encouraging students to take their projects further and possible methods to grow them was an incredible by-product of the process. Quite often presenters downplayed the value and importance of the project not wanting to set expectations for themselves too high.  But with the energy generated from their peers it seems that these artificial barriers and reluctance can be reduced if not altogether eliminated. 

I hope the outward encouragement of others manifests itself in self promotion of their own Innovations projects as we continue through these pitch days for the next couple classes. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Student VLOGS: Sharing with the World

Enhancing the Possibilities for Collaboration

As part of the Innovative process, students in the @LSinnov8tions class will share their projects, processes, failures and successes with the world through a variety of mediums including, Social Media, Twitter (#LSHSInnov8), Blogging ( and Vlogging on You Tube (

Today, students created their initial Vlogs to introduce their Innovations Projects.

Innovation students are always looking for opportunities to partner with experts, who can mentor them in their Innovative Endeavors.   By sharing their Genius Hour/Passion Projects with the world it is their hope that the LEARNING pathway may be enhanced.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Scratching the Surface

La Salle High 5 Club 

@alvisolance0228 and @bettinal10024 get the first @LSinnov8tions project up and running as the inaugural meeting of the students in the High 5 Club and the 29 Day Challenge held their first meeting.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

This is Genius - Freedom with Expectations

I share the YouTube video This is Genius with my classes as an invitation for my students to demand more from their education.  To expect the opportunity to stretch their minds and think beyond the basics set by the standardization of the alphabet world of acronyms set byDepartments of Education and the Educational Testing Service, CCS, NGSS, HSPT, ISEE, SAT, ACT, LSAT, GMAT, etc....

"It seems that high school is about putting you in a box so someone can tell you what to think and how to think it."  A quote from one of my @LSinnov8tions students as he worked through brainstorming his project to 3D print and build a drone.

The problem, meeting the expectations of a system built on controlled compliance built on an industrial model efficiency comes from standardization. The model of efficiency often mimicking a militaristic model of lines, rows and columns to keep order. Leader in the front and response compliance as the expected outcome.  Don't think react based on what you have been told to think.

What happens though when the course provides for thought?  What are the expectations that come with freedom?  This is the struggle that most students have the most difficulty with.  It is so much easier to simply follow directions, do what your told and repeat what you have been told.  The responsibility is with the teacher or leader and the possibility for success and failure are directly related to their control.

The FREEDOM that is provided in the @LSinnov8tions course comes with expectations that are so much more demanding than the standard academic course. To quote Ben Parker from the Spiderman franchise, "With great Power comes great Responsibility." Likewise with great Freedom comes great Responsibility. Responsibility to use time wisely, to meet deadlines, to utilize your talents, to share outcomes, to create in order to share and to make a difference. 

This innovations course and the ability to work on a Passion Project comes with the expectation that this is a endeavor that you would doing if you had the time outside to get it done.  The focus is not about accumulating scores or checking off the steps of a rubric, but in the actual LEARNING that takes place when you do something you enjoy.  Seek your Motivation, Discover you Drive and Unveil your Passion and allow the ingenuity, and creativity that have been boxed in by courses of compliance.  

The choice is yours, value the freedom and the demands of greater expectations, because the LEARNING is yours. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

A Challenge from the Past.

In 1962 President John F. Kennedy challenged the country with the immortal words, "We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too." (Speech Text)

This current push to include genius hour, maker-spaces and innovation courses in the curriculum of today's educational landscape serves a similar purpose of challenge to todays' youth to tap into their ingenuity and produce ideas that will invigorate their present while changing their future.

The gauntlet throne down that October Day in 1962 at Rice University in Texas served as a spark that lit a firestorm of technological development of which we are still reaping rewards. Computers, Cell Phones, Satellite/Cable Television, Clothing, Safety Equipment, Velcro, the list is endless. (Products List)

We have an incredible opportunity to challenge our students with that same freedom of innovation. To tap their youthful ingenuity and creativity in an attempt to open a floodgate of concepts and ideas that only youth can serve before they become anesthetized by an educational system that rewards compliance and test scores rather than creation and imagination.

The innovative process lends itself naturally to process and problem solving. Valuing questions over answers and encouraging students to embrace failure as an acceptable part of any truly educational endeavor. Teaching students to measure their success not by a set of organized rubrics and standards but by the idea that one can grow each day and the better today than yesterday is an acceptable measure of achievement.

Challenge students to venture outside the box or remove the box altogether. To not wait for the knowledge to be passed down to them but to seek the knowledge for themselves. To make choices that  encourage ownership and value increasing their engagement and thereby increasing their opportunity for LEARNING.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Swimwear, Airfoils and E-zines Oh, My

Ignorant of what can't be done and unencumbered by the fear of failure, @LSinnov8tions students continued the brainstorming process for their passion project/genius hour/innovations concepts.

For some the projects are locked and loaded and already in process, while others continue to try to match their passion for an idea to the idea of actually taking the first steps toward the unknown aspects of the possibilities.  And still others are still juggling ideas waiting for divine inspiration or just some one else to blame for the choice they are about to make.

The energy is still extremely high and peer to peer discussions lead to AHA! moments that seem to help narrow the focus and eliminate the excess baggage.  Twitter outreach still remains a mystery as students who thought their follow lists were automatics are finding disappointment and still others are getting follows they never expected from around the globe.

Momentum has increased for @bishar_amell and @izzybish1998 and their surfable bikini line Amarabikinis ( The coding process for the 3D print skeleton continues for @bp90041 and his stability glove for Parkinson's patients (  Random Acts of Kindness are the focus of @bettinal10024 and @alvisolance0228 for improving the emotional support of the community ( or

Documentary film makers are monitoring the water conservation project in order to document their progress and share information. App developers are brainstorming with iBook developers to bounce ideas off of each other. An antique car is being restored under the possible mentorship of car collectors from England. An E-zine is under development while a documentary on bringing change to the educational landscape is being produced.

I am continually amazed by these students and how they have embraced the process thus far. I realize that the newness of this concept has yet to wear off and the stress of college applications and College Board testing has not yet set in, but I hold out hope for the creativity and ingenuity that these students continue to demonstrate each day we come together.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

No, I did not Script the Skype with Don Wettrick.

This morning our @LSinnov8tions class had the good fortune of Skyping with Don Wettrick, The Innovation Teacher and author of the book Pure Genius. I have been very fortunate to have Don mentor me through the process of getting this Innovation class off the ground. I am even more thankful that he took the time today to share his expertise with my students.

Don and two of his Innovations students from Noblesville High School in Indiana shared a great deal of valuable information about the Innovative process, the use of social media and the pitfalls of this type of course. Information that I could have parroted from reading Don's book or sharing a PLN on Twitter, But there is something magical about the process of Skyping some 2000 miles across the country that bring more value to the message.

Don (@DonWettrick) and his students Hunter Stone (@HunterStone1446) and Saul Garza (@_Saul_Garza) shared some key points throughout their virtual visit with my students:

  • It is wonderful to talk about what you want to do, but then DO IT!
  • How fortunate my students are to have this opportunity, but it is their responsibility to make the most of the class and their situation. 
  • Make every project two weeks.  Breaking up the project into reasonable steps to keep accountability. 
  • Don't be afraid to shoot for the stars in finding a mentor but be realistic in expectations of who will actually have the time and ability to be a mentor. 
  • Whiteboard everything and log everything to keep churning out ideas, but also to search for peer feedback. 
  • Use social media as a means of connection using the concept of six degrees of separation. 
  • If students don't take advantage of this opportunity to explore their passion projects, it only serves to justify the opinion of most adults that teenagers can't handle freedom.   
Many of this ideas were things that I had already shared with my students and I couldn't help but think that some of them may have thought that I had scripted Don's points.  But, the reality is that they need to find their passion in themselves and that no matter how much passion I generate or they see Don's passion in his delivery, it still comes down to their responsibility to themselves. These students have a very unique opportunity to create their own path of education and to develop whatever ideas and projects they can dream up, but the outcomes lie on their shoulders alone. 

I am passionately excited to see what these wonderful young men and women bring to the forefront of their passion and experience as we journey together through this wonderful experiment called Innovations Class at La Salle High School. 

I truly cannot thank Don Wettrick enough for the opportunity he has provided me by mentoring me through my own innovations project of bringing this experience to the students entrusted to my care. 

Thank you Don 
and all of your inspirational students at Noblesville High School in Indiana 
Specially Hunter Stone and Saul Garza 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

13 TEDTalks to Enhance the MOTIVATION for INNOVATION

Sometimes a little extra MOTIVATION for INNOVATION can be created by bringing experts into your classroom through the world of TED.

Sir Kenneth Robinson - TEDTalk Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Dan Pink - TEDTalk The Puzzle of Motivation.

Steven Johnson - TEDTalk Where do Good Ideas Come From?

Aimee Mullins - TEDTalk The Opportunity of Adversity  

Elizabeth Gilbert - TEDTalk Your Elusive Creative Genius

Derek Sievers - TEDTalk How to Start a Movement

Julie Burstein - TEDTalk 4 Lessons in Creativity

Diana Laufenberg - TEDTalk How to Learn from Mistakes

Kathryn Schulz - TEDTalk On Being Wrong

Sir Kenneth Robinson - TEDTalk Bring on the Learning Revolution

Gever Tulley - TEDTalk Life Lessons through Tinkering

Gever Tulley - TEDTalks 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do

John Wooden - TEDTalk The Difference between Winning and Succeeding

Parroting brilliance is one thing but hearing it from the source provides an amazing opportunity to expose our students to the perspectives and understanding of some of the most amazing people on the web. Invite them in to your classroom and let them exude their brilliance upon the students entrusted to your care. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Blogging: Connection, Creation, Inspiration, Reflection

"By three methods we may learn wisdom. 
First by REFLECTION, which is noblest;
Second by IMITATION, which is easiest;
and Third by EXPERIENCE, which is the bitterest."
Ideas cannot be processed until they have been scrutinized under the lens of reflection. But they cannot come to fruition until they are shared with the world. This process will be accomplished by the Innovations student through the art of blogging. Each student is responsible for creating a blog and sharing their innovative process through that medium. Students are required to blog a minimum of 10 times during the semester which equates to about one blog per block cycle. 

The Blog Will Be Used To 
  Share Work with the World
  Create an Online Presence for Digital Brand 
  Locate and Attract Mentors
  Accountability to Self and Peers
  Reflect on the Innovative Process
  Communicate with other Innovators 
 The student blog list will be compiled as page of this blog.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Twitter Thursday

"Treat Yourself Like a Professional"

The third day of class was known as Twitter Thursday.  The goal was to begin students on the path of creating their professional image in their digital brand.

Students began by giving up the egg and presenting themselves to the world with their Twitter Profile image.

Although these students are digital natives, this does not guarantee technological literacy. The Teach 2 Learn Mentality was apparent early as students found peer experts to guide them through the process of changing out their profile picture and developing their profiles. 

The one requirement to their profile was to "Treat Themselves as Professionals" and include information about being an Innovations student at La Salle High School. 

We then conducted a brief Twitter Chat using TweetDeck so students could learn to use the proper #'s and experience the real time possibilities for Twitter interaction. 

Then the fun began as students began their Project by Creating their Twitter Follow Lists.  The first person I suggested all of my students to follow and then Tweet was of course The Innovation Teacher Himself, Don Wettrick.  

Don did not disappoint as he began to follow students back almost immediately. Hoots around the room followed by "This guy is the Boss!" made other students  check to see if Don had followed them back as well.  

The researching possible followers and the discussions that ensued created friendly competition as students tried to include the most and best Tweepers to follow.  Culminating when two students challenged each other to see if they could get Ellen Degeneres to follow back for their project. This challenge was met by a student quoting the Great One, Wayne Gretzky, "You mill 100% of the shots you don't take."  This exchange led to a great discussion on the possibilities, expectations and realities of who to follow, who to request to follow and the best way to request that an individual follow back.  

Overall, Twitter Thursday continued to fuel the energy for the course an students are beginning to see even more possibilities beyond their original basic ideas for the course. I continue to be amazed by my students in a way that I have never been inspired by the classes I have taught for over 30 years.  
I can't wait to see the possibilities become realities on this Innovative Journey. 

Passion Hearts.

"Passion can be found where what you love intersects with what breaks your heart. "

Day two found us brainstorming using a technique borrowed from Angela Maiers (@AngelaMaiers) through a blogpost on the Choose 2 Matter website, What Breaks your Heart? There's Your Passion!

Providing students with two hearts, One for what they love and one for what breaks their heart, students began self reflection on where their passions are.

Table Discussions and Post It Notes soon had students finding their common areas of Love and Heartbreak as they searched for the area of Passion that could drive their Innovations Projects.


The brainstorming as fast and furious and allowed students to rethink the concept of an innovative concept.  With our Lasallian motto of Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve, it became apparent that doing something innovative must include who is going to be affected by the outcomes of these projects. Students realized quickly that while projects can be done that are for individual personal growth and learning, the possibilities can mean so much more when the projects are focused on positive change for others.

@LSinnov8tions: The Journey Begins

In June 2014 I began reading Pure Genius by +Don Wettrick  and immediately knew that I had try to create the same type of learning path for the students entrusted to my care at La Salle High School. The Journey began about midway through the book when I began also taking in everything I could from his website The Innovation Teacher and then tracked Don down on Twitter @donwettrick.  By the end of the book I was completely hooked and already planting the seeds with administrators that this was in our future.

Now Don is an amazing individual and within 48 hours of my first email to him I was in a phone conversation picking his brain for ideas on how to get this thing going. A couple of email follow ups and some Twitter contact and I was selling the concept to our new Vice Principal of Academics, Edgar Salmingo (@mrsalmingo).

By January 2015, I was in our Junior classes selling the idea to students.  The pitch was, that this class was going to be amazing and that this was going to be their opportunity at a little academic freedom in order to pursue their passion projects in a Google 20% Time model 100% of the time.

By May2015, I had my class roster set and began meeting with students to set up Twitter accounts for @LSinnov8tions and assign the Summer Reading book list for students to choose  which author's  brilliance they would bring into our classroom. People like Dan Pink (@DanielPink) , Drive, Jonah Lehrer Imagine and Tina Seelig (@tseelig), inGenius were just some of the possibilities for students to learn from. (Innovations Summer Booklist)

In July I hosted our first two Twitter chats #LSHSInnov8 to begin learning to use Twitter and sharing ideas.  I was surprised at how many students were not familiar with Twitter and learned quickly not to assume anything about students previous knowledge and understanding.  Only four students attended that Wednesday morning Twitter but the exchange taking place was full of anticipatory excitement of the what this course was going to be about. One student was immediately followed and retweeted by several coin Tweeters as he had mentioned he wanted to learn coding as part of his project. The immediacy and reach of Twitter was definitely on display.  While I was disappointed that only four students joined in I simply chalked it up to the morning time and student avoiding the idea of school. I was even more disappointed when only one student appeared for the second chat forty-five minutes late.  I realized that even though the students were excited about the class they were not excited enough to give up their summer yet and think about school.

I did host a third Twitter the Sunday before school began and my excitement was raised once again by the twelve students who joined in and shared their summers, some of their reading commentary and beginning plans for their innovations projects.

And that brings us to Day One the start of the Journey.

The first day of school always has a certain air of anticipation and excitement as students share their summers, figure out what classes they have income and renew friendships.  However in my thirty years as an educator I have never experienced the energy that these students exuded as they talked about the possibilities ahead of them.  The excitement level was palpable and these future INNOV8TORS were ready to begin our journey.