Author: Marcy Barton

Ventana A Case Study
On / by Marcy Barton / in Novare

Ventana A Case Study

Why Novare Works for Us

We are an independent, Reggio-inspired Episcopal school in the heart of Silicon Valley serving children in preschool through fifth grade. Our mission states, in part, [we] ‘value innovation and tradition.’ And in our quest to educate the ‘whole child, we inspire children to have an inquiring mind and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, and the gift of joy and wonder in the ever-changing world.’ (c.2010)

Early adopters of Novare’s Authentic Assessment Tool, we began to use it as our assessment and reporting platform in 2013 as our elementary program was beginning to take shape. We have found that Novare’s Authentic Assessment Tool provides crucial flexibility as we align our assessment and parent reporting needs with the philosophy and growth of our organization.

An example of this versatility can be found in the recent upgrade of our semester report (i.e. report card). As an independent school our curriculum is guided by, but not strictly tied to, state and national standards (e.g. Common Core, Next Generation Science, C3 Frameworks). Previously, when attempting to assess student progress our educators found these sets of standards ponderous and overwhelming, and our parents found our ‘standards-based’ report difficult to interpret. We determined to simplify both the standards and the assessment scale. We synthesized the standards documents by combining critical ideas, simplifying the language, culling all but the essential learnings appropriate to our student population, and reducing the assessment calibration scale from four to two (i.e. developing, consistent). That done, it was a simple matter to insert our new, home-grown sets of standards into the Authentic Assessment platform. An added plus are Novare’s artifact archive and digital portfolio features. Teachers and parents appreciate this multi-media corroboration of student learning and the dynamic repository of student growth over the years.

With our in-house refinement of standards into developmentally appropriate and meaningful benchmarks, then making them accessible to our teaching staff, we have remained true to our Reggio-inspired philosophy of teaching and learning, and have prepared a parent reporting document that clearly communicates student progress.

We have found that Novare has the breadth, depth, and flexibility to serve our (indeed any) school population.

Turn Your Classroom Into a Design Thinking Studio-20 tips for first-timers
On / by Marcy Barton / in Novare

Turn Your Classroom Into a Design Thinking Studio: 20 tips for first-timers

Often times I am asked, “How do I go about turning my classroom into a Design Thinking Studio?” and while it’s a much bigger process, here are 20 tips to get you started:

  1. Make way! Clear out any and all teaching materials you have not used in 3 years. New teachers will be happy to take your cast-offs!
  2. Open up! Find a way to provide abundant workroom/studio space. Find collapsible tables or card tables. Slide desks toward the outer walls. Reserve and work outside on picnic tables.
  3. Waste nothing! Start collecting recyclable materials, building materials, and art/construction materials. Organize these materials onto those freshly cleared out shelves. Students love to do this organization.
  4. Start simply! Get a basic toolbox with hammer, saw, screwdrivers, mat knife, fasteners, and measuring tape. Buy, or have a parent donate, a hot glue gun.
  5. Know your content! Study your school’s curriculum and find a topic that interests you. Science and social studies/history topics are rife with “human centered” challenges that invite design.
  6. Integrate! THINK about building, construction, or model making activities that may enhance this topic and engage students in deep thinking. (See suggestions in tomorrow’s post.)
  7. Select a challenge! Determine an age appropriate, curriculum-inspired design challenge. Ask, “How might we…[fill in the outcome].”
  8. Be ready! Plan ahead! THINK contingently. Prepare guidelines and gather materials for the multiple directions students will go as they respond to the challenge.
  9. Make connections! Plan ‘teachable moments,’ when direct instruction of specific skills, within the context of the design challenge, emerge. (e.g. Scale model building usually requires coordinate plane, ratio, and/or proportion mathematics.)
  10. Hang on! Reconcile your teaching style to accommodate increased noise and studio-like chaos. Evolve your curriculum delivery style to that as a mentor, questioner, and guide.
  11. Execute! 1 EMPATHY: Teach or have students research background information that will be required to define the human- or user-centered difficulties outlined by the challenge.
  12. Execute! 2 DEFINE: Help students understand the challenge in terms of the “human need” embedded in the topic. Help them determine the users’ point of view.
  13. Execute! 3 IDEATE: Provide time (class periods) for students to sketch several designs and to choose the one they wish to construct.
  14. Execute! 4: PROTOTYPE: Provide time (days/weeks/multiple class periods), tools, guidance, and ‘just-in-time’ teaching and questioning while students build, test, and experience their design solution. Question the viability and quality of the design. Does the design fit the challenge?
  15. Take a breath! Step back. Enjoy the students’ enormous engagement.
  16. Call a halt! Prototyping cannot continue forever. Provide a clear deadline date and for collaborative clean up. Play music. Remind students if they put things back where they belong, they will be able to find materials for their next design challenge. (Yes, there will be another.)
  17. Execute! 5 SHARE: Have students share their designs in some open forum. A 90-second elevator pitch works well. Teach the vocabulary and techniques of critique. Allow students to re-work the designs one last time after feedback from classmates.
  18. Reflect! Listen to (or read) what kids have learned or discovered about the topic, and about themselves. Listen to yourself. Share with colleagues what have you learned or discovered about yourself.
  19. Broadcast results! Contact parents, administrators, and colleagues. Invite them to view student presentations and/or designs. Enlist their help in refreshing recycled materials bins.
  20. Smile! You did it. And you are ready to try it again.