Designing Personalized Pathways with BWA

This post was written by Allison Lavey, an iZone team member.

During our first three Personalized Pathways Challenge workshops (“Collaboratives”), I had the distinct pleasure of working with educators and administrators from Bronx Writing Academy (BWA), a middle school located in the South Bronx.  BWA is a veteran iZone Challenge school; iZone Challenges engage educators, edtech professionals, and other stakeholders in the process of designing and testing solutions to real learning challenges in schools.  Staff members have participated in both the Kick-Off Challenge (summer 2013) and the Essential Allies Challenge (school year 2013-2014).  The BWA design team members working on the Pathways Challenge, however, are all involved in iZone Challenge work for the first time.  Their enthusiasm for learning and tackling each stage of the design process was contagious.

Although all of the Personalized Pathways Challenge design teams are incredible, I have to admit that I have a special place in my heart for BWA.  After all, teachers Meg, Maddie, Juliana, Cristine, and Principal Kamar were all members of my iCamp group this summer!  I was thrilled to reunite with them at the Challenge Collaboratives.  The final member of the BWA design team is experienced teacher Alberta, who brought years of knowledge to the conversation.

BWA was interested in the Pathways Challenge because they sought to design new and/or more opportunities for Response to Intervention (RTI) and socio-emotional learning for their students during the school day.  While analyzing data from their low-barrier research process during the first Challenge Collaborative, they surfaced several inspiring insights.  The team knew that they wanted to encourage students to take total ownership of their learning, and uncovered that teachers needed more support and training in order to effectively implement socio-emotional learning strategies.

During the ideation, or brainstorming, session, there were two creative question prompts that seemed to spark many new ideas in the design team.  One was the forced analogy questioning method, in which BWA team members supplied answers to prompts like: “What if BWA was more like a museum?  What if BWA was more like Whole Foods?” as well as many other analogies.  The second prompt that unlocked great conversation and ideas among the design team was “How might we…?”  They completed this prompt with several scenarios like “How might we leverage technology to support our students for RTI?” and “How might we help teachers learn more about SEL strategies?”  The resulting conversation, flurry of Post-Its, and boundless energy around their ideas was so exciting to witness.

As Personalized Pathways schools gear up for Round II of the Challenge this fall, I look forward to working with BWA more and seeing which ideas they choose to prototype, refine, and share with the iZone community!