Go, Speed Racer, GO!
…days until launch!

Hello, September.

I’ve been expecting you.

What an epic summer. Over 6,000 miles DRIVEN (not counting ~5,000 in the air) crisscrossing the country. Five conferences. Countless days of mind-bending interactions with inspiring educators, entrepreneurs and government / industry folks. National Maker Faire. The National Week of Making at the White House. Kids Design for Kids @ Jefferson. The occasional burger. Sleeping under the stars. All of it … focused on a singular objective: preparing for Digital Shop, Year Two. Let’s get started.


“What is the experience you are trying to create?” The true power of David Jakes‘ words, which I first heard months before our design charrette back in July 2016, is that the question can be asked at any time, at any point in a program, from the highest of the high levels, to the smallest, most minute level of detail. So, what is the experience we are trying to create in Digital Shop, in this, our second year?

  • We want students to become “noticers” – to see the human-designed world around them, to understand how it works [with the help of every other area of study – math, science, language, social studies, art, music, physical education], but most of all, to recognize they have the power to change it.
  • We want students to build competency with the toolset(s) they’ll need for that work, so they will be ready when the opportunity arises. Physical tools, including hardware, things you can touch and create with; virtual tools, like software, systems, and ways of thinking; and interpersonal tools, primarily the soft skills needed to design things that solve problems for others, with others, as part of a team.
  • We want students to be inspired by interactions with successful innovators and entrepreneurs of all ages, especially women and people of color, not only to learn, but also to envision themselves similarly, then make it happen.
  • We want to fuel students’ creativity by making them feel comfortable in Digital Shop, a unique, flexible learning space offering an environment unlike any “classroom” they’ve ever experienced.
  • We want students to share their work with the world, and do so, where possible, via salable goods, so they understand the value of their contributions.


We will, once again, be working together during six “Design Experiences,” successive 40-minute sessions over five days, six weeks apart. This is far from ideal; 40 minutes per day is NOT enough time. Compromise, and working within constraints, is part of life. We’ll do our best.

We will be working this year more closely with professionals in our community, the state and the country – possibly even around the world – as we leverage human experience in ways we only hinted at last year.

We will leverage our physical space in new student-centered ways.

We will be collaborating this year with Science classes during their Writing Block. I will miss my Math colleagues, they were terrific partners last year. The connection, however, between our work in Digital Shop and the Next Generation Science Standards is significant and powerful. Consider this, from the Next Generation Science Standards:

Source: Next Generation Science Standards
Source: Next Generation Science Standards

Design doesn’t get more “real world” than that. But wait, there’s more…


a6fdeThe Nueva Design Thinking Institute last June was everything I’d expected and hoped it would be. (N.B.: especially important when you’re paying for your own PD.) I am literally still synthesizing it, translating the methods and tools we used into elements of my Design Experiences. I came away from that institute in awe of their methods and toolkit, the people behind the program, the high school students who facilitated the week, and the gigantic three-ring binder of materials that I still carry around with me in my backpack. I also left the Institute feeling incredibly validated about our program, it’s structure, emphasis and approach. We’re not just ‘directionally correct.’ We are absolutely, positively on target.

epics_logoI spent four days at Purdue University learning about their EPICS middle school curriclum, which links human centered design and the Next Generation Science Standards. A match literally made in heaven, this massive collection of processes, challenges, questions and tools is going to be critically important as we proceed through the school year, as we challenge our “noticers” to identify projects like these, then use the ample resources in Digital Shop, plus their knowledge and creativity, to design and create real-world solutions.

It was a great pleasure to be invited to speak about our program at the US Patent & Trademark Office’s National Summer Teacher Institute. Giselle O., now an 8th grader, did a fantastic job telling our collective story via Google Hangout. As a result of that connection, and later meetings with USPTO representatives earlier this month, we now have a significant, ambitious and exciting plan to leverage their significant expertise and resources to support student work with innovation and entrepreneurship. Thanks to the JeffDESIGN collaboration with our 7th graders, we already have teams of entrepreneurs developing higher-resolution prototypes of potentially real products designed to make hospitals less scary for kids. They are also diving into the world of patents and trademarks. These students are the first of what we intend will be many Digital Shop entrepreneurs whose work will be informed by the best resources available anywhere, for free. Expect to hear more from us in the coming weeks.

“It’s not about the tools,” the saying goes, but sometimes, yeah, it is. We are incredibly fortunate to now have an Epilog Mini-18 40 watt laser engraver for use in Digital Shop. This device is going to transform our program and students’ learning by giving them the ability to quickly design and produce high-resolution prototypes and even salable goods. Student designers will be able to create products that solve problems and meet needs – at a profit. Combined with the knowledge they’ll be getting via the rest of the program, this tool will be, and I hate to use the term but I will, a “game-changer.”


This one is easy, because we’ve already done the work. The Manifesto is canon.


We want our students to be Life Ready, and with the help of the entire community, they will be.

Stay tuned, we’re just getting warmed up. This is the 36,000 foot view, so, more details are yet to come, like our potential role in and involvement with Don Wettrick’s StartEdUp, connections to speakers to inform this work both locally, nationally (think: White House), internationally, and more.

I’ll close with this thought. The road ahead is going to be anything but smooth. So:


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