Blended Learning Summer Institute

I’m excited to announce the launch of the UNIS Blended Learning Summer Institute. The mission of the Summer Institute is to foster new and effective ways, through best practices in blended and online education, to improve the personalization of learning and to inspire further innovation by connecting teachers and students with ed tech startups and developers.


The Summer Institute is comprised of several complementary facets.  As a part of the Blended Learning Lab, teachers work to build exciting learning modules (2-3 week units of study) for individual courses. Teachers are supported in this work by a Content Strategist (teachers and technology integrators with prior experience in blended and online learning).  The role of the strategist is not to build these individual elements, but to help the teacher determine how they should be combined to create a blended course that is more effective and compelling for students than the current course being offered.

The program is organized as a blended course with online and face to face meetings, peer coaching and peer review.  Teachers enroll in a blended Professional Development Course that will run before, during and after the Blended Learning Lab.  The course introduces teachers to the most effective teaching methods and activities in blended and online learning and model these approaches through its design and delivery.

Student technology leadership also plays a vital role in driving further innovation within the school.  Working to foster agency for their learning with technology, students work to develop various projects: IB tutorial program, genius bar/tech integration, student led technology conference.   

We open up possibilities for innovation and inspire student and teacher entrepreneurship and creativity by working with like-minded talented people in the same space. Twenty high school teacher and eight high school student participants will work out of the WeWork co-working space in NoMad. Stop by for a visit!


Nelson Mandela

MandelaAlthough delayed, I thought it was important to still capture this moment. In December, upon the passing of Nelson Mandela, I wrote to the high school community:

Everyone has that person…the one you say when asked who you’d most like to meet or invite to dinner. My person was Nelson Mandela. The emancipation of South Africa was the first international cause that I cared about in high school and, while other inspirational leaders have left their mark, I always knew that I would be particularly sad when he passed. Who is your person?

Nelson Mandela’s life epitomized the brave struggle for freedom, equality and justice, virtues that we celebrate at UNIS. Here are just a few of the many quotes that my friends have shared today over social media. Perhaps you have a quote that you would like to add to this email chain as a way of reflecting on our school’s important mission and remembering Mandela’s courageous leadership.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

“We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right”

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

Click here to read the UN press release and click here to the NYTimes article on Mandela’s death.

Here are some of the inspiring contributions from the community.  Some are favorite Madiba quotes, others are just appropriate for the occasion:

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it”

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

“As we let out own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” One of Mandela’s favorite quotes by Marianne Williamson

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”

“A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.”

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

”When the water starts boiling it is foolish to turn off the heat.”

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

“Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.”

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”

“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.”

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison”

“It is better to lead from behind and put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

“There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living”.

“The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problem.”

“We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

“As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself…Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.”

“All the happiness there is in this world comes from thinking about others, and all the suffering comes from preoccupation with yourself.”


Stephen Perse Foundation

foundationI had a great conversation yesterday evening about innovative learning with a team from the Stephen Perse Foundation in Cambridge, UK.  The Sixth Form College was named IB School of the Year in 2010 and 2013 with their students averaging 42.2 points out of a possible 45, very impressive.

Take at look at their vision for education and curriculum model which takes a nod from the IB and makes it specific to their school.  Take a look at their teacher recruitment PDF, Tumblr feed, and blog from their Director of Technology and InnovationFollow the school @SPFSchools and members of the SPF team @s_armitage @syded06  @JoannaShilton on Twitter.

TEDxYouth Day

Opportunities for extended learning are an important part of a UNIS education. Earlier this month five students from the Foresight Project were selected to attend the TEDxYouthDay at the Times Center in Manhattan. More than 20 scientists, designers, technologists, explorers, artists, and performers shared short lessons on what they do best. They dazzled the students with mind-shifting stories, inspired them with creativity and made them want to dive even deeper into this broad array of topics. Click here to watch our students introduce one of the featured speakers and share in this great experience!

World Innovation Summit on Education 2012: Day 1

This week I gathered with more than 1,000 innovators, social entrepreneurs, ministers, educators and business leaders from more than 100 countries for the World Innovation Summit on Education at the Qatar National Convention Centre in Doha to explore how collaboration in many forms and at many levels can become the driving force of efforts to inspire innovation in education and to design long-term strategies for its renewal.

The topic of the Opening Plenary Session was educations increasing prominence in the global political agenda.  Education is the answer to issues of globalization: mediating extremism, promoting peace, and encouraging sustainability.

Tony MacKay from the Centre of Strategic Education moderated a fascinating conversation on Education and Society: Listening to Learners.  This debate/conversation is worth watching (click here to view).

“There’s confusion when we don’t listen to the learner”–Tony MacKay, Executive Director, Centre for Strategic Education (Australia)

“We should ask students from the very beginning to be controversial.”–Dr. Jacek Strzemiecsny, Co-founder and Board President, Center for Citizenship Education (Poland)

Asking students to be controversial connects nicely to ideas expressed by David Rock, Founder of the NueroLeadership Institute, about training students to be provocateurs (click here to view).  Perhaps to often do we expect students to color within the lines, imposing structure (sometime needed yet sometimes unnecessary) and demanding conformity.

Children need opportunities of social importance (or the danger is that they become passive in their later lives)”–Dr. Jacek Strzemiecsny

Perhaps the most balanced and wise voice in the conversation was that of lawyer, writer, human rights activist and mother, Ms. Ayo Obe (Nigeria). Quoting Mark Twain, “You never let schooling get in the way of education”

The afternoon session Educating Cultures: Balancing Global and Local centered on the topic of language—English as a literary/poetic language but also a business/commerce language and whether we feel the makings of a new metaculture arising through a new language, “globish”. Panelist lamented the increasing popularity of “globish” by quoting Goethe and Wittgenstein, yet they saw its ubiquity as an inevitable outcome:

“Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.”

“The limits of our language are the limits of our world.”

In the final session of the day, Learning in the 21st Century–Policy Lessons from Around the World, Andreas Schleicher (Deputy Director for Education and Special Adivsor on Edcuation Policy to the OECD’s Secretary-General) provided a sweeping and rich assessment of the global status of education.  This presentation is a must watch (click here to view the presentation and click here to view the prezi).

Design Thinking Is A Failed Experiment. So what’s next?

Bruce Nussbaum, one of Design Thinking’s biggest advocates, is moving on to something new. Here, he begins defining “Creative Quotient.”

“Creative Intelligence as the ability to frame problems in new ways and to make original solutions.”

In one of the more critical responses a reader writes, “Creative intelligence, design thinking, cognitive articulation, prolific sculpting, magic beans… what other names can we coin that we then label ‘outside the process’. If people are leaning away from you over the table because of two words they hear, I suggest you find clients that aren’t moronic. The same messy rules apply now as they did 100 years ago, you cough up a quality product or service that does all the talking for you (will save you a packet on PR and Marketing, just ask Jaguar). Is the American market so fickle that execs will base decisions on what words they are told? (cue the Chinese laughter) I know you adopted our language over there, you are aware there are multiple words that have relatively the same meaning? A holistic, emotional, transparent, engaging and honest approach is the requirement, used as the fulcrum for ideas that importantly make sense and have a tangible narrative that leave behind the only footprint we want, success.”