On Wednesday, October 18, 2017 a group of students, parents, teachers, administrators, and a board member boarded a Southwest flight from Ontario to San Jose for a day at Google. It was Andre's first flight! He is a middle school student who is very articulate, curious, and sharp. We all clapped as the flight attendant announced "welcome to San Jose first time flyer Andre." Then Andre proceeded to join the captain in the cockpit for a post flight tour!
After a short ride, we arrived at Google, got checked in, and visited our first "MK." That's Google lingo for micro-kitchen. It is said that Google employees are never more than 150 feet away from food. The team from Val Verde USD quickly agreed that this should be a new policy.
Our next stop was a conference room where we were introduced to 10x thinking and an opportunity to try it out for ourselves. The goal was to come up with a way of increasing innovation in our classrooms through daily routines. The first step was a complete brain dump. We were told to get all our ideas on the whiteboard regardless of cost or feasibility. The idea here is to come up with crazy, farout possibilities. After all, it was 10x thinking that led to self-driving cars, contacts that read sugar levels, and balloons that carry small computers and wifi.
Does classroom innovation fit in the same realm? It might be more challenging! After the brain dump, we were told to illustrate 3-5 of our best ideas. This proved a difficult task. We drew our best stick figures. We would have been in big trouble if it wasn't for Brenda, a high school student. She could draw! All of a sudden, Brenda was an integral part of the team. After a few minutes of stick figures and rudimentary signs and symbols we were told to pick one idea and develop an implementation plan.
Our plan to build in daily innovation routines includes exposure to art, music, and brain teasers. We imagine 15 minutes a day where students draw, make music, dream, and work towards solving a "wicked problem" in their community. We think a wicked problem is one that seems insurmountable. Students will work in STEAM labs where they can focus on the 4Cs: Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking. We still have some work to do on the planning and implementation phases of our 10x thinking project but it was an awesome experience.
The purpose for the trip to Google was to expose a very limited number of students, parents, teachers, administrators, and a Board Member to an authentic 21st Century workplace. This was my third trip taking a team from Val Verde Unified School District. Each time, I choose parent leaders and cutting edge teachers and administrators to experience life at Google. This trip included the parent president of our African American Success Committee and a parent leader from our District English Learner Advisory Committee. While the numbers are limited, I am careful to invite people who have an impact and influence within their groups.
We always return home from our trips to Google inspired and ready to continue the work of transforming teaching and learning in Val Verde. Life at Google reinforces the need to provide students with ample opportunities to practice and become comfortable using the 4Cs and facing ambiguity.