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  • Ben Weinlick

    Wow! This is inspiring! Thanks

  • Lou Pizante

    Wise words and insights from Lizz Brazen. How do you know where to place the fulcrum in balancing the pragmatic need for results that organizational economics demands and against the patient and flexible environment that innovation requires? I agree that the tension is the "secret sauce" to real progress, but getting the balance right (and keeping it right) is a difficult task.

  • Sean Hookano-Briel

    As a classroom teacher of 7 years in a Title 1 school and a current Educational startup founder, I found this an interesting read. This article definitely invokes an array of feelings as I completely agree that execution in education is a completely overlooked area and a lot of it has to do with poor leadership at the school level, which is a whole other issue. I do wonder though, why more money cannot be put towards supporting actual classroom educators that are innovating right now. There are an incredible number of educators who have created very effective approaches, but just do not get the leverage and/or support to spread their idea. Why can't we help spread those practices? I personally cannot wait to begin executing a PD Leadership Pipeline my fellow classroom teacher and I (DCT: Developing Critical Thinkers LLC) designed for Hawai'i that does just that. We identify teachers locally that are doing measurable practices and helps them to design PD classes that can be implemented locally. Saves costs of bringing in sub-par outside ideas as well as creating a local based culture of innovation that can organically scale out.

    • Viktor Venson

      Thanks for your thoughts Sean. All good points. No doubt, the programs you mention can be effective. We have found that a majority of teachers simply do not have time to innovate. It takes time and tremendous resources - two things that are very scarce in their day to day environments. Our partner Green Dot Public Schools, a charter organization that serves Locke High, serves the bottom 10% schools in Los Angeles. By focusing on these schools we hope to empower educators to co-create and co-own these innovations with us, to allow student to take leaps in learning. To us, that is a strategy to close the gap, by outsmarting the problem instead of outspending it.

      • Alex Furukawa

        Viktor, I think you may have missed a crucial part of Sean's point: teachers know teaching, and outside creative types, while awesome, are not on the ground, as is mentioned in the article itself. Educational practice and infrastructure is a beast of its own. You say that teachers don't have time to innovate, but they are innovating every day, under the radar. Fundraising and publicity are all well and good, but instead of "outsmarting" the system as you say, I suggest focusing on what's already being created, and giving that the spotlight, instead of focusing on too many new ideas with little traction.

  • Chelsea Spann

    It's amazing to see designer create a tool for learning while learning themselves. The process upon which ideas were created, shared, fine-tuned, built is just memorizing in and of itself. To see that empowers me as a learner, as much as it's inspiring to see the end product help learners. Amazing!! Can't wait to see what's next.

    • Viktor Venson

      Thanks Chelsea - glad to hear.

  • Lizz Brazen

    This is interesting for me because I'm a creative who operates 40 hours a work, sometimes more, in just such a system: state government. I went to MCAD, graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and, for about a year now, I've been working with the State of Minnesota as a Designer and Project Manager.

    I use my creative talent and design thinking skills to serve the citizens of our state, specifically I work in Child Services (early education and development, after school care for youth, etc). I more than definitely never foresaw this, if you'd ask me back then where I thought I'd end up after school, government was not on that list.

    Initially, the slow pace of getting anything done in government was more than a little frustrating. I strongly believe that there is important development to be made in technology and innovation that could save Minnesota millions of dollars, and at the same time better-serve its people.

    Innovation, not unlike creativity, is a force. Its needs to be tempered to be scaleable or even to be implemented in the first place. While I could do without the sometimes pointless bureaucracy and politics of government, those forces do temper technology and innovation, and as a system they demand solutions that are proven and not just prototype.

    The key for me is finding a equilibrium. If both sides respect one another, like the +/- sides of magnets, the forces won't interfere with one another, instead they complement each other. That balance is imperative for creativity to lead to more than just innovation for innovation's sake. The process that naturally occurs when innovation is tempered by constraints gives birth to the most elegantly simple solutions. Its a beautiful thing.

    These are exceedingly imperfect systems, giant at that, and not to mention...old. But innovation is new and often fragile or fraught with unforeseen consequences. Its the classic story of the wise elder and the rebellious up-and-comer. When they temper one another, progress is achieved, and the cycle begins again.

    • peter.d.mare

      Many people in government are usually sheep because they do not want to change things too much because, with more risk, there is failure or the door! If one does not try something new, there is no chance of doing something better! So, they accept a few changes --at best-- that others have to implement so that THEY can be blamed if it fails.

      A reform as big as a spelling reform, for instance, will be opposed by the very people who benefit from illiteracy or learning disabilities. The charitable org. want to maintain the problem. There are too many people who benefit from the status quo. It is a good gig, so let's make sure we make it last as long as possible! That is a huge problem.

  • bsbonus

    This is great stuff, I hope this can scale out to other neighborhoods

    • Viktor Venson

      Thank you - that's one of the next steps!

  • peter.d.mare

    Innovation? Start with English spelling!

    While a lot of people speak English, it is also true that it is not because they want(ed) to, but because they had to (Google colonialism)! English is a dreadful language to learn! With 4200 common words out 7000 needing a "linguistic shift" (and probably 100 thousands for the whole of the language), with 205 different ways to write/spell 42 phonemes (4 times as many ways as Finnish), English takes time to learn to decode (3 times as long as Finnish, Italian,...), shifts should have occurred. In 1568, the Secretary of State to Edward 2 and Elizabeth 1 suggested a reform of the Spelling system, but leaders did not shift! A few other attempts were made! In the early years of the 20th Cent., for instance, Shaw, Carnegie, Webster, Twain, T. Roosevelt,... tried to shift again. Here, Roosevelt was blocked by the press, mainly! Why would the people who make a living writing want a change of that nature? But, we think we have a solution for that problem. (BTW, China has had 2 language reforms in the last century ( and Many other languages have had reforms. Many saw the benefits. Not so surprisingly, many tended to simplify their spelling system by making it more phonemic (roughly: sound = letter). I wonder why? :) ) And while it is true that Canadian schools seem to do well, if one looks at PISA tests' results (a test that does not show that English-speaking kids lose ground after one year of instruction, Seymour, 2003*), how much does it cost to educate a kid in Canada? A lot! In the US? A lot! In Finland, which has the simplest spelling system of all languages? Much less, and they start school at age 7! Considering the appalling state of the English spelling system, more people should be demanding that it be regularized (at least)! A shift in this direction is needed, too! (And, no, we are not suggesting forcing everyone to re-learn a new spelling system! The shift would start in schools, one grade at a time.) If you want to know more about the shift we are proposing, go to .


  • Liz Dwyer

    I'm really looking forward to hearing more about what happens throughout the year at Locke. Having spent a lot of time on that campus, it's great to see this happening there. So many great learnings are sure to come from this and I imagine many other schools/educators are going to want to find out how they can be a part of this. I also imagine you'll have lots of folks reaching out to you wanting to give you a hand at Locke, so if you have time, let us know, what are the two or three biggest things you think you'll need help with?

    • Viktor Venson

      Thank you Liz! I think we'll be posting some DO items once that time comes. Concurrently to the development of this product, we're also working on re-designing the Locke High Library into an innovation hub, to be a pilot ground for all kinds of newness. That will certainly need some extra hands in the next few months. Stay tuned :)

      • Liz Dwyer

        Sweet. Looking forward to it. Thanks, Viktor!

  • Alessandra Rizzotti

    Really cool to see the brainstorming process. Would love to know what solutions this Maker Lab came up with. Is it through teaching these students programming that you plan to transform education, or are you using other tactics in addition to that?

    • Viktor Venson

      Thanks Alessandra. We'll be keeping people in the loop through our site, social media, and by posting here. We are still figuring out the details and viability, and are working with some very talented people in product design and engineering to hone that in. But no, it will not be programming only. Instead, we are looking at how we can create an interfact for students to interact with computers and educational software more collaboratively and creatively than they do with keyboard and mouse. That way, the educators are empowered to use whichever software they are comfortable with to teach their material. We simply make that interaction more fruitful and exciting.

      • Alex Furukawa

        Hi Viktor :) I'm curious about your background working with education, as it seems you are unaware of a movement already in the educational field, called blended learning: This is already doing with technology what you mention as an idea new to you. I'm worried to see that innovators are focusing too much on new ideas, without knowledge of the field and the great things that are happening in it already. Please consider teaming up with these educational teams! New ideas may be exciting, but they are more work than collaborating on an already nascent innovation.

        • Viktor Venson

          Hey Alex - thanks for your input. 2 things - you're assuming that we're not familiar with Blended Learning. Not sure how or why. BL is a buzz term that has quickly emerged as the 'it' to-do in education. There are theories of it that are certainly interesting, although not groundbreaking, and we are taking BL into consideration moving forward. Second - We don't claim to be educators. We are designers and problem solvers. What we do is listen for issues and empathize to bring our methodologies to the table. I did mention that we are looking to co-create with educators. That doesn't mean we're looking to steal thunder or undermine existing efforts happening in education. Some believe in what we do, others don't. One size doesn't fit all. Thanks for your thoughts. cheers,

          • Alex Furukawa

            Hi Viktor! Thanks so much for your reply. I respect your very diplomatic way of putting things. ;) I made a video to respond, in hopes of clarifying the feelings I expressed about your project. I hope you'll be interested in watching it: My thanks and props to you for standing your ground on a creative project. Here's hoping we can continue a dialogue about education as an institution, with both educators and others alike!

            • Viktor Venson

              HI Alex - thanks for making this video. Flattered :) It all makes sense. We have certainly heard our fair share of criticism and doubt around not involving enough educators, so yes that has been an emphasis. I'd just watch out for dismissing design as something purely creative and visual, as in essence, design is a problem solving methodology that uses tools unfortunately are not really available to anyone outside the design fields. Can we translate that thinking to educators to see problems from new perspectives with new solutions? Yes. And yes, with the right input from educators, I certainly believe in our teams' ability to create breakthrough solutions. Thanks again!

  • Adele Peters

    Great article. The hardest part of the design process is implementation, and like you say, people tend to just think about post-it notes. I've always been sad after a hackathon or brainstorm to think that some good ideas won't move forward—or to see that people's ideas aren't grounded in a real understanding of the problems they're trying to solve. It's great to see examples like yours of how innovation is becoming more informed...

    • Viktor Venson

      Thanks Adele. Yes, you're right. That was one frustration that we wanted to address.

  • Kadi Franson

    Right On! How about teaming those designers up with Locke students - transform education WHILE you are working to find solutions to transform education!

    • Viktor Venson

      Thanks! And yes, we are. We are co-creating our content and products with both educators and teachers.

  • Sheena Yoon

    This was an incredible project to work on with brilliant designers and thinkers! Hats off to Viktor & the team for facilitating a meaningful time of learning, hacking, & making creative education accessible to the rest of the students in LA! Looking forward to what's ahead for the students at Locke High.

    • Viktor Venson

      Thanks Sheena, was a pleasure. Good luck in D.C.!

  • Manasa Yeturu

    Viktor, VeryNice, Doris, Imagination Foundation - so many amazing people and organizations coming together on this project. Rapid protyping + creativity are two needed elements in the education system and it's inspiring that come together here. Congratulations to all involved - so excited to see what comes of the pilot program!

    • Viktor Venson

      Thanks Manasa. We'll be sharing progress as as soon as.