Part 2: How can we encourage innovation in the education sector? Louis Ianniello shares experience with the NxJ Innovation Challenge

We introduced the Teaching Challenge Initiative this year to support teachers and to help encourage thinking about education in a new way. We asked teachers to think outside of the box and improve teaching, and received a number of entries from both PS119 (New York) and Netley Primary (London).

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One of the PS119 winners, Louis Ianniello, focused on visual literacy. We asked Louis what he thought about the competition, and the opportunities that this it had created:

 

What inspired you to participate?

The idea of sharing innovative practices with schools in our district or throughout the city is always an exciting prospect. This collaboration provides much-needed opportunities for teachers to exchange ideas and strategies, address mutual concerns, and arrive at new realizations about the nature of their work. However, the idea of sharing teaching practices with educators from another country was an avenue that just had to be explored. Continually, we hear of the challenge of having children to compete globally. Given this reality, it would have been more difficult not to participate. The exchange was refreshing, novel, and unique, but at the same time, quite familiar. Teachers are teachers, and regardless of locale, share many of the same concerns. Having the time to share a representative view of teaching practices was a privilege. This type of opportunity should be offered more frequently and to a greater number of teachers.

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The particular lesson that my co-teacher and I instructed was centered on visual literacy – skills that children can use to interpret photographs, illustrations, or any type of graphic imagery. While this type of lesson has been used by many teachers, this lesson exercised an innovation in its elaboration. The image analysis did not end the lesson, rather, it opened up conversation between individual students and among groups of students. This workshop helped teachers utilize primary sources, photo analysis worksheets, and common classroom art supplies to create a multidisciplinary, fun, and interactive thematic unit on a “secret” location of New York City. Children were able to use quadrant frames, participate in the creation of a visual timeline, debate each other, and exercise teamwork as the product of the day. Lessons were aligned with New York State Social Studies and Common Core Standards, while necessarily reaching outside the box of the New York City Scope and Sequence. The students were fully engaged and active throughout the lesson, especially when it culminated with the accuracy of their visual timeline. Teachers take away quite a bit from this lesson in terms of innovation:

  • Students turning and talking became groups turning and talking
  • Questioning is exercised through debate and DOK Level 4 associations
  • Management is self-directed; students quickly realize that cooperation is the key to success
  • Small group teamwork turns into whole group discussion with a common purpose
  • Multiple entry points allow for students of different abilities and strengths to participate

The end result is a lesson that purposefully allows for students to work on individual and small group tasks and then take those lessons to the class to accomplish a single goal, similar to corporate work strategies. They learn that teamwork is the key to their success.

How has your teaching changed as a result?

I believe my practices/approaches to teaching have not changed so much as they have been validated and appreciated through the associations made with the teachers from Netley. We had an honest conversation about teaching practices and educational environments in general.

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As per innovative practices, we first established that innovation is not invention. Understanding that innovation is taking existing technologies, strategies, relationships, etc. and expounding on them to make them more reliable, efficient, and most importantly, effective. We also acknowledged that innovation takes place on a daily basis – almost continually. Teachers need to be trained on how to recognize their own innovations and then be given time to share their original ideas with other pedagogues. This is the only way teaching will evolve to become more reliable, efficient, and effective.

As per educational environments in general, the 119x teachers were mightily impressed with the staff and students’ approach to the educational day. All school members participate in a wake-up activity that sends everyone to their classroom with a smile. The grounds are a vision, surrounded by Zen-garden type structures which offer students the opportunity to relax in a truly serene setting. Character building is cleverly disguised as a music class and helps to reinforce manners, politeness, and respect for one another. The school building was adorned with masterful artwork, designed with deliberate thought and purposeful intent. Their novel take on the arts is what I termed the “pay it forward through art” approach in which students research their art projects for a majority of the year, and then produce the art- which remains on display for the entire next year. Graduating classes leave a legacy of beauty and grace in their wake for the school to enjoy.

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Netley shared their concerns for improving parent relations. We shared our successes with parents through frequent contact and casual get-togethers that help to break the wall down between parent and teacher. We agreed that improving the quality of parent relationships is always a challenge, simply because we have a continuum of new parents each year. Having proven practices that facilitate the parent-teacher connection is key to addressing that annual challenge. My co-teacher and I shared our “Coffee and Cake Sessions” idea with the Netley teachers. We had tremendous success with parents just having casual, dare I say normal, conversation over a cup of coffee. Once parents and teachers realize that we are both here for the same reason- to ensure the safety, nurturing, and education of their child- the tension lifts and real conversations can occur. When that anxiety is removed, parents can (and have) become a rich resource of ideas, assistance, and in many cases, guidance, that can help even the most seasoned of educators.

 What do you think is the future of business-education collaboration and how it could evolve?

 To accurately answer this, we must distill education down to its core and ask the question – why do we teach? Hopefully, the answer comes back that we are training and preparing children to become respectful, responsible citizens who maximize their potential and in some way, contribute to the greater good. While that sounds poetic, we have to understand what is required in order for that to happen. Students need to understand what is really needed to succeed in local and global communities. Business, in its infinite forms, is an integral part of that journey.

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The business-education collaboration is not only necessary with today’s students, but should be required. We teach students most subjects through high school, with a great emphasis on reading, writing, and visual literacy, as well as numeracy. However, there is very little in the way of financial literacy. Some schools participate in stock market games, while others have school stores, but few if any, show children how business influences the world every minute of every day. Students need to be exposed to the inner workings of real businesses and how they impact the community, be it local or global. This can only be accomplished through the business-education collaboration. This collaboration, though, cannot exist in isolation. Teachers need to be brought on board to partner with businesses because teachers provide the educational foundation and environments of respect that are vital for the sustenance and proliferation of successful businesses. Perhaps the sponsors of schools can follow students through to their high school career and guide them into college through internships and modeling of business practices and ventures. It should be noted that internships should be started at a much younger age and should occasionally be a substitute for a portion of the school day. These ideas are just that – ideas. But we have to remember that if we stay on this current path, we are limited and we are not offering our students the real-world experience that most people agree is vital.

I truly believe our foundation is strong – but to grow, we need to change. This exchange opportunity offered a first step into what may become a new future for teachers, students, and parents.

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We’re happy that we’ve been able to help make these changes happen and thank these hard-working teachers for educating these youths. At Next Jump, we’re committed to helping others and we hope that many other businesses will also be inspired and collaborate with educational institutions around the world.

Watch interviews with the teachers at Netley School here: https://youtu.be/UYvTodr4MFA or follow us on LinkedinFacebook and Twitter to stay up to date with the things we’re involved in.

 

 

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How can we encourage innovation in the education sector? Michelle Ainley shares experience with the NxJ Innovation Challenge

We introduced the Teaching Challenge Initiative this year to support teachers and to help encourage thinking about education in a new way. We asked teachers to think outside of the box and improve teaching, and received a number of entries from both PS119 (New York) and Netley Primary (London).

 

One of the Netley winners, Michelle, created a program that helps parents support children with homework after noticing the correlation between children who weren’t able to complete their homework and the level of interaction between teachers and the students’ parents. We chatted with Michelle about the competition, and the opportunities that this competition had created:

 

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What inspired you to participate?

As teachers, we often try new things in our classroom to improve our practice or to benefit the children in our class in some way. However we very rarely share it with anyone, nor do we have an opportunity to share it. This seemed like a great opportunity to try something and share it with not only people I work with on a daily basis but teachers who teach in a completely different country. There are very few teachers who can say they’ve done that, therefore I felt very lucky to be offered the opportunity and for that reason I felt the need to take part.

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How has your teaching changed as a result?

My teaching, hasn’t changed much, however my approach to the relationships I have with the children in my class and their parents has evolved. I am far more empathetic towards the parents in our community, I have a greater understanding of the challenges they face and we face on a daily basis. I would like to work on more strategies and projects to educate parents in skills which ensure they can effectively parent their children and ultimately offer their children the best start in life.

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What do you think is the future of business-education collaboration and how it could evolve?

I hope the next few years will be exciting for business-education collaboration, I would like more partnerships to be established. There are so many ways in which businesses can work with schools. It is no secret that budgets are getting cut and schools are having to think more creatively about where funding comes from and how it is best utilised; I think businesses could make a small contribution to support schools with budgeting. Even if this isn’t possible, I believe the skills of employees within businesses can provide young children with key role models who may not feature elsewhere in their lives. Just 30 minutes of reading each week with the same child has shown to boost confidence and provide much needed support and recognition. I also think there is scope for businesses to develop STEAM workshops which go beyond coding and focus on engineering and specialist career-orientated tasks.

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I think the biggest hurdle we have is schools and businesses acknowledging the different scheduling, processes and logistics they experience to complete an average day or working week. As schools have a duty of care to hundreds of children and a responsibility to ensure the curriculum is fully covered, we plan ahead, our diary becomes full very quickly and so a timetable is a common way to manage this. We also send emails, but we don’t read or respond to these in lessons as our attention is on the learning and children in our care. Whereas businesses, are often more fluid, they can organise a meeting in minutes, change their appointments daily, respond to emails very efficiently and move their lunch hour to fit around what may need doing that day. I’m sure finding a happy medium is possible- it will just take some planning!

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We’re happy that we’ve been able to help make these changes happen and thank these hard-working teachers for educating these youths. At Next Jump, we’re committed to helping others and we hope that many other businesses will also be inspired and collaborate with educational institutions around the world.

Watch interviews with the teachers at Netley School here: https://youtu.be/UYvTodr4MFA or follow us on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with the things we’re involved in.

 

 

 

 

 

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Innovation Challenge

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Next Jump’s Adopt a School program originated with a survey of our employees that asked what cause they would like to help most – the answer came back overwhelmingly as children’s education.  One day not long after the results were compiled, the CEOs sent an email to the management team entitled “Crazy or Awesome – Lets Adopt a School” … the responses came back fast and furious (crazy, crazy and awesome, awesome).  Within six months we announced our first adoption – The Dr. Emmett W. Bassett School in New York.  A year later we announced the adoption of Netley Primary School and Centre for Autism in London.  We intend to continue expanding the program both within Next Jump – next up is our Cambridge Massachusetts location.  Our long term intent is to create a movement that will inspire other corporations to adopt schools and create a private/public partnership unseen in education to-date.

 

What is Adopt a School?

 

The program is meant to serve four groups:

 

Students: the program aids students through mentorship and motivation from industry professionals.  Next Jump staff visit the school to give inspiration, conduct academic tutoring and offer enrichment programmes in health, business, and engineering.

 

Teachers:  Schools benefit from support and mentoring for the faculty, resources like computers and supplies, and financial donations. Additionally, schools will get access to Next Jump’s cutting edge fitness and nutrition programs.

 

Parents: Parents at schools are recipients of benefits through mentorship and support, as well as skills-based training programs.  In New York, Next Jump helps to fund an afterschool program that helps parents from targeted income households save on childcare, which benefits the whole family.

 

Company employees: Employees are given the opportunity to volunteer at the school and work with children both as teachers and mentors.  Each Next Jump employee goes to the school once every four weeks (the equivalent of approximately 5 working days per year).

 

Overall, Next Jump’s mission is to change the world – if the children at these schools get inspired by their own potential we can see them giving back and helping to build better communities.  Better Me + Better You = Better Us

 

Innovation Challenge

 

This year we introduced an exciting new program called the Teaching Innovation Challenge.   The intent of the program is to support teachers and help enable them to bring their teaching to the next level.  Teachers and co-teaching pairs developed new curriculum, tried experiments, and generally had a go at raising their own standards and adding innovations to their schools.

 

I’m proud to be a part of the Adopt a School Program and to lead the Teaching Challenge Initiative.  As the son of two teachers, this program has afforded me an outlet to help schools in a way that my day to day business role could never do.  Growing up I saw how my parents struggled in the face of shrinking school budgets and an atmosphere of uncertainty within inner city schools.  In fact, my father ended up leaving the teaching profession entirely.  I’ve always wanted to give back in some way beyond just writing a check.  The AAS program and this contest have helped make that a reality for me.  Our long-term goal is to help other businesses form public/private partnerships that will help change the world.

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The Problem: Wanted to give teachers more opportunity and incentive to innovate on curriculum + ways of teaching that engage students from the bottom up vs. the top down.

 

The Idea: Create a competition. Teachers submit ideas and then create a project or lesson.  The senior leadership at each school judges the teachers and teaching pairs with criteria for top innovations.

 

The Prize: The teachers behind the top two best innovations from each school win a trip to visit the other school as part of an all-expenses paid trip to the other city.

 

Each school held its ceremony and announced winners a week ago.  The engagement level we saw from teachers at both schools was inspiring – as were the outcomes!  You can see some of the innovations created by teachers at Netley here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYvTodr4MFA

 

Netley Winners

 

Claire created a program that uses singing to improve children’s behaviors and language skills.  With 50% of school population having English as a second language, many of Claire’s students often had language and behaviors difficulties.  Her discovery was that those same children could sing brilliantly.  She developed a way to use singing to help develop and improve children’s language skills.

 

Michelle created a program that helps parents support children with homework.  When Michelle joined Netley last fall she noticed that she was having very little interaction between herself and parents (even at pickup).  This often correlated with children who were not able to complete their homework effectively.  She came to know that parents were not able to help their kids even though they wanted to do so.  She created an invitation only class that helped bolster confidence.  Michelle says the reason she changed schools this year was to find an environment that encouraged more innovation.

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PS119 Winners

 

Lou and Nicole created a visual literacy project.  Their three-part mini-unit uses image analyses to enhance visual literacy.  Students are given the opportunity to discuss and examine an image in a small group and determine the image’s correct placement on a visual timeline. Student observations, inferences, and questions guide students to the conclusion.  The lessons are designed for fourth or fifth grade students, may last up to 90 minutes, and will leave students with the skills necessary to systematically deconstruct any image they see.

 

Jennifer created a rainbow sight word obstacle course.  Designed for Special Education/kindergarten students to help prepare/check for understanding before reading and spelling assessments, Jennifer’s lesson is tailored to the academic level as well as the physical abilities of her students to maneuver through an obstacle course. This obstacle course incorporates multiple types of learning and engagement, such as kinesthetic, academic (ELA), social-emotional, audio, and visual.

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Creating Competition: Pushing Teaching To New Heights

Our vision for Adopt A School is for companies around the world to partner with public and state run schools to build long lasting relationships that serve and support students, teachers, and parents, starting without ourselves here at Next Jump. Our learning tracks for students are well underway as we teach regularly at PS119 in New York and Netley Primary School in London.  We decided it was time to focus on another group that matters just as much– the teachers.

When Charlie and Meghan, our co-CEOs, asked Michelle, PS119’s principal, what she would change if she had a magic wand, her answer was simple – create an environment that fosters teacher innovation. The teachers at PS119 have a new reading and writing curriculum this year and are currently preparing grades 3, 4, and 5 for testing in March.  When we posed the same question to Bavaani, Netley’s head teacher, the response was to get teachers to think outside of the box.

Our co-CEOs worked with Michelle to fully understand her world and how we might help. The result? A teaching competition. The purpose of the competition is to encourage all teachers to think outside of the box, to improve teaching and outcomes in addition to give them a platform to raise their opinions and ideas.

 

All the teachers at each school will have the opportunity to compete for four winning spots (two per school) –  Next Jump is offering the opportunity to win an all-expenses paid trip to swap places for a few days to share their learnings with the other schools.

At Netley teachers are presenting on innovative teaching approaches with their various methodologies and the desired outcomes. The approach will be focused on a target group of students, but will also be transferable to other year groups.    At PS119 teachers are signing up to be observed by Michelle and her leadership team (a process that Michelle already does regularly, but with an added incentive).

We are very excited to see what the teachers in PS119 and Netley will come up with and we are looking forward to sharing their inspirational ideas with teachers around the US and UK.

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Netley Primary School Takeover

Netley Primary School places a great emphasis on UNICEF’s children’s rights – childs right to have views and be heard, covenants 12 & 13.

At school, the students have a chance to take over the classroom for a day. On the same day in our UK office, we had the opportunity to contribute in a similar manner, the AAS takeover! We had five bright and energetic young ‘uns come into the office to take a look around and see what working life is like.

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Our lovely young visitors and their teacher were treated to a mini culture tour, where our young guests showed boundless curiosity with regards to how the company had grown and were very impressed by Charlie’s beginning ethos. They saw pictures of NY’s PS119 and were ready to be similarly displayed on our walls, and even gave us some great tips for the office! Some interesting improvements included a room of puppies!

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One student, Gustavo, helped us run a webinar for our clients, reading out live questions as the Q&A session went on. It was also great to give our clients a chance to see Adopt A School at work and spread the message about what we want to achieve here at Next Jump.

They then got to meet a member of every team, learning about who we are and what we do, and how each department is connected. They had lots of questions on how we work and by the end of it, were ready to become Next Jumpers themselves!

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We enjoyed having them round and building a stronger link with Netley – we loved having the chance to be a part of these youths’ education and to show them a part of our world as much as we will be a part of theirs. They left with lots of new office friends and admiration for what we do, and we can’t wait to see them again soon at Netley.

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Adopt A School Kickoff – UK

The Adopt A School program began with a bang in the UK – we closed up office for a day to head over to Netley Primary School and begin our new partnership with their wonderful staff and students.

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On our way

We were welcomed raucously during playtime, with lots of curious kids already introducing themselves and guessing why we were there! We were split into several groups and given a tour of the school by some very friendly and informative Year 5s, who we’ll be working the most closely with throughout the program. It was a great way to get to know the school and get the students’ perspectives on day to day life in Netley.

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A warm welcome

 

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Tour of the school with our student guides

Next, we headed to the auditorium, where Kevin introduced the three tracks we’ll be running; Business, Health & Fitness, and Engineering. As keen Minecraft players, the Engineering track was met with extra enthusiasm, and all the students received their t-shirts, which they quickly pulled on, ready to adopt the Next Jump orange for themselves!

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Each track had a mini-taster lesson prepared for the students, and they all participated with lots of positive energy and openness. We finished with a lot of ideas for the future and are ready to challenge ourselves to make this a truly great experience for everyone involved. It’s so exciting to be part of such a collaborative effort to make a difference in kids’ lives, and we’re really looking forward to our next visit to Netley.

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Adopt A School Program Launch – 2016

In May of 2015, Next Jump’s New York office announced the launch of our Adopt A School program. Two months later, we officially adopted PS 119, a title 1 public school in the South Bronx where 75% of the students live below the poverty line.

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PS119 Kickoff 2015

Through this program, Next Jump will partner with public schools to build long lasting relationships that serve and support students, teachers, and parents. The program is part of Next Jump’s broader Better You giving back platform, and joins other successfully established programs such as Adopt-A-Nonprofit and Code for a Cause.

Now, we can proudly announce that our UK office has adopted a school on London: the Netley Primary School and Centre for Autism.

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“Adoption” certificate

After meeting with a number of schools, our leadership team was especially inspired by Netley’s passion and engagement with their students. We felt that their leadership and mission most aligned with Next Jump, and that Netley was closest to helping us accomplish our ultimate goal of setting up a model for other corporations to adopt public schools.

As part of the program, every Next Jumper will visit the school at least once a month to teach, learn and share with the children at Netley. We hope to inspire both teachers and students alike, as well as join them on their journey of their development and growth. We envision a day when every one of the 100,000 US public schools and the 22,000 UK public schools are adopted by a for-profit company, to create better, connected communities.

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Introducing the Program to Netley students

We’re intensely excited about the chance to get directly involved in helping these young people and in a way that is so core to our values here at Next Jump.

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To learn more about Next Jump and our Adopt-A-School program, follow our blog.

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