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Wharton QS Stars Reimagine Education Awards 2016 and the Bootstrapping Checklist

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Dinner Gala at the National Constitution Centre, Philadelphia, Dec. 6, 2016

The following was posted on the Information and Communications Technology Council website as a guest blog:

http://www.ictc-ctic.ca/wharton-qs-stars-reimagine-education-awards-2016-and-the-bootstrapping-checklist/

I had the honour to present The Bootstrapping Checklist at the Reimagine Education Awards in Philadelphia on December 5, 2016. I am a Teacher for the TDSB and this program for my Grade 8 students, the result of over 10 years of research and experimentation in the classroom, was Shortlisted to the Teaching Delivery Category.

The power of guided iterative design such as The Bootstrapping Checklist is that it provides the seamless integration between pedagogy and technology needed to accelerate technology adoption by students and facilitate sustained entrepreneurial and socially innovative student projects. It is inherently mobile, social, and cloud based, and it demands that students use validated data to make design decisions.

I have been innovating education for over 20 years, and in that time have learned that a school board (i.e. district) has many jobs to fulfill, and helping teachers innovate at the classroom level is one of them.  Part of my job is to interpret global trends and deliver these as a service that satisfies my students, their families and me – this is real accountability, and three-part lessons or standardized tests just aren’t going to cut it anymore.

I know that guided iterative design (or guided iterative inquiry) is likely the most important pedagogy teachers should be doing to successfully blend ICT and good teaching in our classrooms.  I understand why it might be hard for teachers to grasp that very soon we won’t be ‘marking’ anymore, and that machine learning and extreme personalization (the automated solution to what teachers like to call ‘differentiated learning’) will accomplish these tasks with the speed and accuracy impossibly achieved by any teacher.

Closing the gap between the ‘system top’  and the ground, where the Teacher is social entrepreneur, and leadership is shared among innovative Teachers, Principals, District Supervisors and the rest of the EdTech Innovation Ecosystem, as described by UPenn’s Bobbi Kurshan here –  http://bit.ly/2gOO816 –  is one critical challenge to overcome if we are to balance automation with our humanness in education, both locally and globally.

Teachers should now practice Project Management skills more to facilitate schools as innovation hubs (the classroom as incubator – the school board as accelerator), where guided iteration like The Bootstrapping Checklist will help students to glean the data needed for capital and resource acquisition specific to their community needs, using a truly constructivist learning model. The data can be used to build public and private community partnerships, and turn public schools into hybrid remote/physical community innovation hubs.

By properly combining pedagogy like The Bootstrapping Checklist and ICT, we can accelerate technology adoption and collaboration by middle and high school students to produce cohorts of students that are more than HigherEd ready, and we can start now to try to alleviate a projected year 2030, 25 million global teacher shortage by attracting the best and the brightest to the teaching profession.

We live within a dualism inherent to our physical universe, and the EdTech universe works the same way – we will never fully automate, and perhaps for global regions that are desperately in need of educational interventions, bringing in automation to initiate a support level of literacy and numeracy is an amazing idea, and I hope it does happen.

But these interventions are not the end goals, and will lay the foundation necessary to incite and produce teachers who can integrate the arts, entrepreneurialism, and social innovation to facilitate the human interactions needed to balance and sustain any system that we create.

The EdTech Innovation Ecosystem is rich and vast and will require participation from many varied players – but one thing I have learned is that any future reality is possible – we can build systems where technology fully automates education to the service of an oppressive few  – of this I have no doubt.

Much more suitable is the coexistence of extreme automation and human participation – this is the brave new world that excites me and my students. Good Ed/Tech Innovation occurs at the intersection of sound pedagogy and technology, and are thus critically complimentary.


Rich Baxter is an educator and advocate for social innovation, the arts, and entrepreneurial education in our public schools. The Bootstrapping Checklist was presented on December 5, 2016 in Philadelphia at the Reimagine Education Awards and exists in the Creative Commons as an open innovation project.


Special thanks to Kristan Uccello, Dr. Paul Kim CTO of GSE at Stanford, CTO at TDSB Peter Singh, and Salar Chagpar and Marc Lijour at Prepr.org

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The Bootstrapping Checklist Shortlisted to the 2016 Wharton Reimagine Education Awards

reimagine-education-teaching-delivery-awardWe are proud to know that our work is engaging the most innovative educators in the world, and momentum to see our program scale has increased since we have been Shortlisted for the Reimagine Education Teaching Delivery Award 2016. My students know that their work is being considered internationally, and they are empowered to continue working hard to address issues that affect our community – this is our greatest success.

The power of guided iterative design such as The Bootstrapping Checklist is that it provides the seamless integration between pedagogy and technology needed to accelerate technology adoption by students and facilitate sustained entrepreneurial and socially innovative student projects. It is inherently mobile, social, and cloud based, and it demands that students use validated data to make design decisions.

Graduates keep visiting to receive updates about projects that they used to work on.

One project in particular, Broadcast Out Loud (BOL), is in its third year. BOL is a media service for the school community that will engage students on their mobile devices to keep them connected to school events. Over the past three years, about 30 students have worked on or are currently working on BOL – with the ultimate goal of actual deployment to classmates and the community.

The Bootstrapping Checklist is excellent training for students who need to practice the entrepreneurial ‘soft skills’ and 21st century competencies, as they learn to construct and to connect with each other in an impassioned and respectful way, fully anticipating the problems that lie ahead, and yet with an attitude toward committing to the process for the benefit of themselves, their families, and their communities.

Check out the program here:  https://bootstrappingchecklist.org


“We believe that the The Bootstrapping Checklist allows us to expand our knowledge and skills in mathematics (analytics, data management, graphing, etc.) and literary skills, while also creating a larger sense of independence, and giving us a taste of real world problems and entrepreneurial business. It is vastly different from what we have been doing for most of our school lives so far, however we see it as a positive difference and a new and interesting learning experience that improves academics while still being interesting.”  Grade 8 students, October 2016

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Check out the competition here:   http://www.reimagine-education.com/

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