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Five strategies to get your student's work outside your classroom walls

A film studio in a garage

On an early Sunday morning, probably three years ago, one of my students started filming out of his garage. He painted the back wall green, got some cheap camera equipment, gave his hair a quick comb over, and pushed record. His goal- Get people fired up about physics.

He had no idea of his audience, his concepts for each week, or his ensuing slogan. All he knew was that he wanted to share his passion out to the world as soon as possible, and that’s what he did.

Fast forward to today. This same student has close to 500 subscribers, over 5,000 views, and a regular episode that makes you fall in love with physics each week.

Without even knowing it, three years ago, Jeremy began “shipping his ideas.” They weren’t perfected. Hell, he didn’t even have a professional camera, but he knew he had something of value to share.

The term "shipping" refers to the action of sharing an idea with an authentic audience. Steve Jobs famously said “Real Artists Ship”, referring to the fact that everyone has ideas, but real artists deliver, or ship them. Seth Godin, who many regard as America’s top marketer, has spent a lifetime writing books that explain, and unpack the term. And the writer Aston Kleon’s book “Show Your Work” uses this same ideology to explain ways of adopting this mindset, and practical ideas on how to get your work out there. IDEO founder David Kelly calls this entire process “creative sharing”. He argues that we all harness creative power, and that through the process of shipping, we develop creative confidence. Students can build their creative confidence by seeking out new experiences, asking investigative questions, and through interacting with people knowledgeable in the area of interest.

What if as educators, we valued “shipping” student ideas as much as we did test scores?

What if a platform existed to connect student work with the broader community?

What if our students learned how to find their purpose?

There’s a group of educational innovators trying to accomplish exactly that.

Meet “Real World Scholars.” This ambitious and unrelenting organization provides schools with the tools and funding to start “shipping” student ideas right away. All the school needs to do is show interest.

Some classes they support have created incorporated soap companies. Others- tasty treats to sell in local markets. And even more, fidget toys to help keep students engaged during more tedious tasks.

RWS gets it. And it’s not just a hunch. They know that the future economy demands freelancers like young Jeremy who are adaptable, able to work remotely, and aren’t afraid of sharing their ideas with the world.

Did you know?

The freelance economy is taking stride all across America.

According to Forbes, Freelancers now make up 35% of the U.S. workforce.

More specifically, out of young adults ages 18-24, 47% are freelancing.

Finally, 50% of freelancers earn more than they did before in traditional jobs.

See entire Forbes Post Here

A starting point for schools?

So how do you create more freelancers in schools? Where do you start with a curriculum that demands rigorous coverage of standards and skills? Where does freelancing fit in with an educational culture built around fixed assessment measures that often restrict opportunities for significant, real world work?

Below are five simple ideas to get you started. Don’t sweat all the minute details. Just start shipping!

Strategy #1: Create Youtube Channels:

Like it or not, youtube is a platform that has changed the world. But don’t take my word for it. Take it from the online gamers who are part of a $107 Billion Dollar industry.

Their connection to a global audience involves nothing more than the purchase of a webcam and a willingness to engage in their favorite activity.

Your students don’t have to be gamers.

They could be cooks, musicians, artists, athletes, or programmers. Their interests are secondary to the platform they use to share their ideas with the world. Take ten minutes to get each of them set up with their youtube channel and provide 30 minutes each week to share something with the world. Students can also comment on each other’s work, and start building their audience right away.

Strategy #2: Start Online Blogs

This strategy supplements strategy #1. Despite our highly visual economy, blogs are still one of the greatest ways to communicate ideas. They are the place we go when needing a tutorial for our latest software upgrade, or to complete a DIY project.

And while many schools have started instituting online blogs, the scope of their audience is far too limited. They usually run on school internal servers, and serve more as “digital portfolios” of work, rather than dynamic deliverers of content.

We need to start optimizing the use of student blogs to ship their ideas to a greater audience!

The #1 question to ask before setting up student blogs should be, “Who is the audience for their work?”

As you engage students in school work, keep this question at the forefront of everything you do. It doesn’t have to be a complete off- shoot.

If it’s technical work, perhaps the best platform is an online publication. If it’s more personal work, perhaps Wordpress is best. And if it’s political and anecdotal in nature, try “Medium.” Below I have referenced a site that provides a breakdown of the best blogging platforms and how to choose the one that is right for you.

Strategy #3: Twitter Posts

If we are going to ship student ideas to the world, we have to find out who cares. There is perhaps no better way to find an audience than through Twitter: one of the most socially connected networks in the world.

Twitter’s platform helps users consolidate information in short tweets and tag the necessary experts to better engage in their work.

Evelyn McCullough, the Innovations Coach at Park Maitland School in Florida gets this idea.

She "ships" student work nearly every day. Her posts help inform others of the real work students are engaged in. It has helped her students build an audience, and more importantly, provided them with a window to the world outside of school. Here’s an example of one of her tweets:

Through Twitter, she has been able to connect students to local doctors who need help constructing medical devices; as well as local computing technology firms in search of smaller, more robust CPUs.

You don’t need an advanced degree in social networking to get started. This site teaches you how to create a Twitter site in 13 easy steps:

Strategy #4: Exhibit student work at local maker fairs or markets

Imagine your students creating fire breathing dragons, or robots that can align rubrics cubes in less than one minute.

These are some inventions that made it into the top 10 coolest inventions to be exhibited at Maker’s Fairs this past year. (Link to Maker's Fair Top 10)

Maker’s Fairs are locally run events that bring in makers from all walks of life to celebrate and share work normally reserved for the garages of middle class suburbia. They also represent a great opportunity for your students to ship their work!

Last year, I brought a few students to a local fair in Beijing, China. One student exhibited a small robot he built using arduinos and cardboard. Another, a small prism that acted as a 3d hologram for his iPhone. Below you will see them each displaying their work.

I suggest doing a quick google search for major events and exhibitions in your local neighborhood/ city. Many of these events will have open registration that involve only a nominal fee. Registering for these events is easy and will get your students excited about “shipping” their ideas to the local community.

Strategy #5: Ship ideas across your campus through LCD screens

If the four ideas above scare the hell out of you, than start small. Start by becoming more intentional about the work you exhibit at your school site.

When walking through the school hallways, what do you see on the walls?

Are they bare? Do they include tag lines about school values or inspirational quotes?

While these may help in ensuring your school communicates what it is about, it’s not nearly as impactful as exhibiting your student's work! Students and teachers need to see what is going on inside other classes.

To get the ball rolling, I suggest submitting a purchase order for a few LCD screens and portable USB sticks. Encourage your supervisor to get a stick for each grade level and rotate its content on a weekly basis. This simple “shipping” strategy will create greater incentive for student work and start building their audience right away!

In Closing:

You don’t have to have the entire “shipping” process laid out before you begin. Remember, perfectionism is the enemy of progress. You, and your students will learn as you go!

As students begin shipping their ideas, they will be provided with instantaneous feedback. They will discover what people find most compelling through the iteration, re-iteration, and refining of their ideas.

Take it from Jeremy, our amiable young student from the beginning of this post. His success is a direct result of his unrelenting tenacity to share his ideas with the world. So far, it’s got him 433 subscribers to his youtube channel.

If you would like to be his 434th, his youtube channel is linked below: Square Physics To your success!

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Kyle Wagner
School Transformation and Project- Based Learning Coach

I coach school leaders on how to lead change and improve student learning through simple, innovative srategies and teaming structures.

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