Wonder: Kennedy Center Arts Summit today

I’m spending today at the Kennedy Center Arts Summit presented in association with the Aspen Institute Arts Program and Citizen University.

“The Arts Summit is an annual spring convening, hosted by the Kennedy Center, designed to bring thought leaders from the arts and related fields together for conversation and connection. Set to be held in Washington, DC on April 25, 2016, the 2016 edition of the Summit will focus on Citizen Artistry, the idea of using the arts to influence positive change in people’s lives. Together, we will examine this idea, and its application in today’s society, through the lens of ideals John F. Kennedy set forth for our country during his Presidency: courage, service, justice, freedom, gratitude, exploration, and innovation. The program will serve as a blueprint and launching pad for both the Kennedy Center’s celebration of JFK’s 100th Birthday during the 2016-17 season, and for new collaborations and initiatives among participants.”

There are many ways for you to participate today, even if you can’t be at the event in D.C.

The agenda for the day can be found here.
The livestream will screen here.
Follow along on Twitter via the hashtag #artssummit.
I’ll be sharing what I’m seeing and hearing here.


Wonder: Project Rubeus and the beauty of small solutions

small_better_small“The problem with history is that it usually doesn’t go back far enough.” ~Reverend James Forbes

We have a lot of great big problems in this world. Sometimes I think they’re getting bigger, more numerous, and more complex because we think that all big problems need big solutions. Lately, I’ve been challenging myself to find the smallest solutions possible, solutions that are simple, easy, elegant, and inexpensive.

Project Rubeus is a perfect example of this. I’m trying to solve the problem students face having to sift so much history to make sense of the world around them. And because time waits for no one and history is being made every day, this problem will only get more complex with each passing day.

I could develop an enormous, expensive solution that boils the ocean in search of the most distal shreds that build a cohesive story with multiple perspectives. I want to focus on finding the smallest slice of a solution that works, and then go from there. Step by step, piece by piece, word by word. That’s how all great travels start, how all great works of art get made, and how all great books get written.

Just focus on the next and smallest step, see what you find there, and proceed with love. That is enough.


Wonder: You can build the door to your own future

door-to-heavenSometimes, you happen upon a door that leads you down a path you never knew existed. And sometimes you have to build a door for yourself and then pave the path you intend to walk. Yesterday, the latter happened to me. I built a door to my future and then walked through it. On the other side of the door was Notion Theory.

I’ve been kicking around my idea for Project Rubeus, a history-based ed tech product, for about two weeks and I met with Notion Theory, a development team who could actually build a small working prototype for me. The guys at Notion Theory are kind, whip-smart, and passionate about their work. They get the purpose of the project and its many applications. In under an hour, we all walked away over-the-moon excited about its potential. It involves heavy lifting in algorithm development, computational math, and machine learning, and it can be done in about 3 months for approximately $50,000. Those are very rough estimates, and now I’m working to find a way to piece together that money.

Sometimes we’re lucky enough to have our future find us. And if that’s not happening, then we have to go out there and build our future the way we want it to be. I’m rolling up my sleeves. This is going to get interesting.


Wonder: Find your tribe – A lesson from Teach for America

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 11.50.50 PM
At the main event for Teach for America’s 25th anniversary summit

There are so many things that I will say in the coming days and weeks about this weekend celebrating Teach for America’s 25th anniversary summit. I feel more hopeful – for the world, our children, and myself – than I have in a very long time. I also feel an urgency to speak up, show up, and never give up on the causes that matter most to me. One of those causes in ensuring that all children – particularly those like me who are low income and high potential – have an equal shot at building a life they love through obtaining a high-quality education. I spent the weekend surrounded by 15,000 people who have this same passion and drive, and it was nothing short of exhilarating to talk to them, hear from them, and be united with them.

My education saved my life. I am not unique in that. Education saves children all over this country every day. And it also loses them. It falls short and disappoints them. Significant gains have been made, especially here in D.C. which is the fastest improving urban school system in the country, but they are not enough. We still have so much to do.

We are only part of the way through our climb. This weekend I found people who can help me keep climbing, and whom I can assist in their climb. Find your tribe. Together we rise.


Wonder: Teach for America Turns 25

1445010500“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” ~Sydney J. Harris

Starting today, I’ll be spending the weekend celebrating the 25th birthday of Teach for America (TFA) at their summit here in D.C. I’m attending the summit for my own professional development and to spend the weekend with 17,000 other people (literally) who are as passionate about education as I am. I could use a healthy dose of inspiration (couldn’t we all?!), and I’m sure it will be around every corner this weekend. I’ll let you know what I find. Bring on the windows. Happy 25th, TFA!


This just in: Innovation Station takes another small step forward

Innovation Station
Innovation Station

This weekend, I had the great privilege to work with a team on Innovation Station, a design for a new middle school design that marries storytelling and the product development process to teach core subjects and career-based skills.

The startup competition was sponsored by 4.0 schools and CityBridge Foundation in Washington D.C. I had the seed of this idea in 2007 and I’ve left it untouched in a file on my computer for many years. It was really an honor to be able to devote a weekend to it with a talented group of people, and see what we could craft together.

Though my team didn’t win, the experience was invaluable and I met a number of wonderful and passionate people who care as much about education as I do. And it’s got the wheels turning in my head. Maybe this is a new beginning…


This just in: Educating young hearts

Educating hearts and minds
Educating hearts and minds

“When educating the minds of our youth, we must not forget to educate their hearts.” ~Dalai Lama

The other day I ran into someone I used to know. He’s always had a bit of a melancholy personality, but he seems to have gone even further down that sad, dark tunnel. Though I felt badly for him, I also recognize that there’s nothing I can do for him except hope that someday he digs himself out of it. It’s the tough thing about loving and caring for adults: they make their own choices and we can only influence them through example.

Kids, however, are different. We can have a much bigger impact and impression on them as they grow and develop into adults. And this is why education in the most holistic sense is so critical. A moment in a child’s life, good or bad, can completely change the trajectory of his or her life, and often does. While there’s no doubt that we need to focus on growing their knowledge base, let’s also remember that educating their hearts—letting them know how much they are valued and that they need to value others—is at least as important.

Love can, and should, be taught.


This just in: Planet3 launched with $10 million investment

I’m so thrilled to announce that my ed tech startup has launched a new name, branding, and website:

Planet3 is an exploration-based learning company. We present the entire Earth as a living laboratory through an immersive game-based environment. We’re crafting a digital platform with a compelling game-based narrative that utilizes real-world data and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to deliver better learning outcomes. Our curriculum, woven through immersive 3D experiences, will inspire teachers and students to understand the intricate connections between Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) subjects and our changing planet.

Click here to check out our press release and all the details. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Here’s to adventure!