InnovateK12 Cohort Update: February 12, 2020
It’s February, and that means InnovateK12’s members are deep into the Design phase of the toolkit, and many are currently testing lean prototypes. It’s an exciting time of the year, but it’s not always easy to keep the momentum you had in the fall. Remember the words of innovator Thomas Edison who famously said,
“The reason why innovation is so rare is because it shows up wearing overalls and looks like work!”
This newsletter features some great examples of promising practices, including videos and podcasts that can support you in your ongoing efforts. Hang in there, friends. And don’t hesitate to let us know if you need help.

Also in this newsletter is a link to our blog post on Dr. John Tanner's efforts to reframe educational accountability from the typical punitive approach to a more positive focus on organizational effectiveness - and the InnovateK12 toolkit is the perfect way to act on Tanner's important message.

Finally, if you're ready to join our network of engagement, empowerment, and equity for all, act now ! Space for the 2020-21 school year is limited, and membership rates start as low as $3,250!

Save the Date!

Join us in beautiful White Bear Lake, MN for our 3rd annual Innovation Summit! The Innovation Summit is an annual gathering of InnovateK12 member districts as well as districts who are interested in joining the network. Celebrate top ideas, enjoy our fast-paced IGNITE sessions, discover best practices, learn from veteran districts and connect with new InnovateK12 members! The Innovation Summit will take place Monday, June15 and Tuesday, June16 2020 (earlier than the past two years!)

Share InnovateK12 Love! Build Your Local Network and Earn a Discount

Hello Network Friends! It’s “new member” season, so current InnovateK12 members can choose from a $300 discount on a renewal or choose two free registrations to the 2020 InnovateK12 Summit with every successful member referral. 

Membership for 2020-21 will be limited to 60 districts, so take advantage of this limited opportunity. Share the good news about crowdsourced innovation with your regional colleagues, expand your local network for increased collaboration, and enjoy a discount on your 2020-21 membership! Everybody wins!
Where are we in the innovation cycle?
Design Workshop   - Take the top ideas from your fall challenge and run them through the Design Thinking process with the InnovateK12 design sprint. These live workshops build engagement and excitement and foster a culture where everyone owns the solution!
Design Thinking Resources
These are guiding documents created by two well known and respected organizations (IDEO and d.School) that can provide a deeper understanding of the design process.
Using the InnovateK12 Toolkit
Sitka Alaska’s “Leave Your Print” crowd-sourced strategic planning effort is an excellent use-case for the InnovateK12 toolkit because it not only offers an on-ramp for all stakeholders to engage in the discussion, but it also provides opportunities for community members to join staff and students as they socialize, vote, and co-design the solutions.

With prom otional videos posted on local discussion boards, interviews on Sitka's local Raven Radio station, notifications announcing Chamber of Commerce speaking engagements, and QR stickers placed strategically on pizza deli very boxes, Sitka Superintendent Mary Wegner has her entire community engaged in a discussion about how to bring organizational effectiveness and systems transformation to Sitka Public Schools. Click here to read more about Wegner's efforts to lead strategic transformation in Sitka.
EPHS’s first student event has exceeded EPHS Principal Robb Virgin’s expectations, resulting in 260 ideas submitted in the December/January event. One of the top voted ideas in the event? Keep Eagle Voice open all year long! 

Watch the Eagle Voice video and feel the positive energy that Virgin and his student leaders have created. You’ll want to get started right away on a student innovation event! Click here to read more about Principal Virgin and the “What If?” culture he is building at Eden Prairie High School.
It may be helpful during this “hard hat and lunch-pail” phase to step back and see the bigger picture. In the recent white paper produced by Dr. John Tanner, The Critical Need for a True Educational Accountability - A Call to Action, Tanner encourages educators to pivot away from the punitive, “feet to the fire” definition of accountability that has consumed education for decades. Tanner encourages educators to embrace a new, healthier version of accountability grounded in continuous improvement cycles and a focus on organizational effectiveness. Click here to learn more about Dr. Tanner's research and how it aligns with the InnovateK12 vision.
One of the most interesting ways to offer the InnovateK12 toolkit is through a consortium (e.g. ESD, BOCES, etc.). These collaborative organizations are always looking for new ways to support their members, and InnovateK12’s toolkit is a powerful service option. In Bend (OR), the High Desert Education Service District is a shining example of how an ESD can provide this kind of cutting-edge program. Click here to read more about High Desert's Director of Innovation Anna Higgins' efforts to offer the InnovateK12 toolkit to HDESD's members.
Waseca’s (MN) Technology and Innovation Integration Specialist Clint Link brought his own flare to the Blue Jay Idea Party innovation event this fall, starting with a high-energy, DJ-hosted kick-off event. Throughout the fall season, Link and Waseca Superintendent Tom Lee made all the right moves, engaging staff in meaningful ways and inspiring innovative ideas for improvement.

Link and Lee hit a new level of awesome during their Design Workshops in January, however, by inviting business leaders and community members to co-design solutions with district staff and School Board members. The energy in the room was electric, and it was clear to all 40+ participants that Waseca Public Schools is serious about innovation and committed to stakeholder engagement. 

Link’s podcast series is a great place to hear the insights and reflections of the Waseca team. In Link's podcast series "Communicate to Innovate," his Episode 3: Post Design Thinking Workshop Reflection with Brooke McGuire, he discusses how the Design Thinking Workshop went, what prototypes were developed and where they are going from here. The podcast features many interviews with participants on what their thoughts were as well. Nice job, Clint!
Innovation Leadership
Do Your Principals Know How to Empower and Inspire?

Eden Prairies's (MN) Robb Virgin Is Setting the New Standard

Principal leadership is the secret to success with the InnovateK12 toolkit. Need proof? Just listen to EPHS Principal Robb Virgin on the Education Excellence podcast linked below. As noted in this month’s cohort spotlight on EPHS’s Eagle Voice student challenge event, it is clear that Principal Virgin brings a set of core beliefs grounded in empowerment and inclusion to his leadership role in Eden Prairie.

Virgin's co-authored article titled “Crowdsourced Innovation” in the December issue of National Association of Secondary Schools Principals' Principal Leadership journal (with EP Superintendent Josh Swanson ) offers a deeper look into his leadership efforts with the help of the InnovateK12 toolkit.

In a recent podcast from Education Excellence: Engaging Teachers through Crowd-Sourcing host Kristina MacBury talks with Virgin and Eric Schneider, President and Co-Founder of InnovateK12, a platform built to include teacher and school staff involvement in identifying solutions and cultivating ideas for school improvement. Listen to the podcast and learn how Virgin uses the InnovateK12 toolkit to increase collaboration among students and staff as he strives to bring 21st leadership in everyday education.

Carnegie Foundation’s 2020 Summit
Celebrates Improvement Science

Join like-minded colleagues in San Francisco in April for the Carnegie Foundation’s Summit on Improvement in Education. In previous newsletters, we’ve promoted the book Learning to Improve: How America’s Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better. The Carnegie Foundation has supported the “Learning to Improve” movement, and its annual conference is a great place to learn more from those who are at the forefront of this important effort.

In a recent KQED MindShift blog post , author Katrina Schwartz asked the question, “What Does Improvement Science Look Like in Real Classrooms?” What follows is a fantastic behind-the-scenes look at the BetterMath network and how foundations like Gates and Carnegie are supporting this new and very organic approach to school improvement. 

Here at InnovateK12, we are BIG fans of improvement science, so you can expect to see more about these efforts in future newsletters. In the meantime, check out the Carnegie Foundation’s event site and consider attending their Summit in April. 

Design Thinking:
It’s Not Just for Designers Anymore

The team at Sidebench published an article a couple years ago that continues to ring true regarding the growing impact of Design Thinking across the spectrum of private industries. Most notably, the authors maintain that smart companies are using Design Thinking to drive continuous improvement in all aspects of the organization - not just within the walls of product development.

Educators take note : the students that will graduate from your high schools will need to have a working understanding of Design Thinking to be successful in today’s job market. So what are you doing to ensure that students have this essential skill?

According to the team at Sidebench, “Design thinking is a key component of any company looking to regularly introduce innovative ideas. It follows a proven, repeatable process that puts the end user front and center of every decision you make. This comes naturally to a seasoned product team, but is a strategy that needs to be embraced across the entire organization.

“More than just aesthetics, design thinking is a process through which human-centered solutions are crafted.”

Here at InnovateK12, we couldn’t agree more. Putting the end-user front and center is the definition of empathy, and the methodology gets even better when we co-design with the end-user. As educators, we have the opportunity to engage our students in this kind of process every day. Principals, you can benefit from using this approach as you build an ownership culture across your employee group. 

At InnovateK12, we are ready to help you get started.
The Redesign Network

A National Network of Design Thinking Leaders Convene Meetings in Boston (MA) and Austin (TX)

A collection of influential design thinking leaders from organizations such as Stanford’s, UC San Diego’s Innovation Lab, the Center for Secondary School Redesign, The Big Picture, InnovateK12, Urban Discovery Academy, and many others are convening regularly in an effort to provide collective support for this emerging school change model.

One important thread that runs through all of these member organizations is the seminal work of Ted Sizer and the Coalition of Essential Schools. If you or your organization is interested in joining the ReDesign Network, please contact Eric Schneider ( and consider joining us in Austin in early May.
Lean Prototype Implementation  - InnovateK12 integrates the Lean Startup methodology into the Design Thinking process to ensure that all prototypes are lean. Manage your prototypes and find the innovative solutions that really work! Don't forget the InnovateK12 Webinar series. As you move into implementing LEAN prototypes, take 10 minutes to review  Design Workshop - Part 2: Leading the Prototype and Test Segments!