26 Jan, 2015
by Jake
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Victoria Circus Festival, April 2016

Victoria is ripe for a circus festival.  I am dreaming big but starting small.  This is just an initial call to artists, organizers and enthusiasts – let’s make this happen for April 2016!

victoriacircusfestival

Since the moment I was thrown off the Russian Swing, I have been fully committed to the circus arts.  Among all the other craziness that has happened to me over the last ten years, it has been the one constant in my life.  I will never stop doing it.  It makes me happy.  I want to share that love by building a strong circus community.

So, here is the tentative plan (please feel free to contact and tell me what else I need to do – I would really appreciate the input!):

Gather the circus community in Victoria.  Looking for professionals (artists who are currently working or have done important gigs).  I would like to organize a meeting just to get the ball rolling and start to hammer out some initial ideas and support.  I am trusting that this will lead to an explosion of scintillating concepts for the festival as well as provide a tremendous amount of stoke and motivation for all those involved.

I am thinking that an entire weekend might be too much to begin with the first time out, so I was thinking of making it as simple as possible by doing the first festival as a one day event – an afternoon of workshops and an evening show.  Victoria has shown a lot of support for the arts and circus, but I would really like to sell out something small than go big and be half full.  If all works well and Victoria loves it, of course, we can go way bigger the following year.

Beyond just putting on an awesome little festival, I am very interested in gathering the professional circus artists in and around Victoria in order to establish a strong, dedicated team.  Once the team has solidified, I would like to begin to offer summer camp programs in 2016.  Again, looking for a small team to sell out the sessions.  Keep it tight and make it funky.

The big goal is to step by step gather the infrastructure necessary to open a small circus school in Victoria.  I think the process of starting a small festival, then offering summer camps to gauge community support is a great way to create a minimal viable product and build along the way thereby taking a lot of risk out of just opening up with a “build it and they will come mentality.”

Ultimately, I would like to have a dedicated space that combines a circus school with high school.  As a teacher at the mighty Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII), I am in a very unique position to make this happen.  We could be the first high school circus arts diploma program in Western Canada.  And it could happen in relatively short order.  PSII is growing like wildfire and a circus arts diploma would attract a lot more students.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  First things first – a circus festival in Victoria and gather the team.  The people that I have spoken to are already madly excited about the prospect and are surprised that it does not already exist.  Well, let’s bring it into existence.  Please contact me.

 

11 Jan, 2015
by Jake
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Tech Apprentice Program

Victoria has some incredibly talented youth who are highly technically skilled with large ambition.  As a teacher at the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII), I personally know some of them.  They are doing incredible work through mentorships with VIATeC and Limbic Media; developing, creating and iterating projects that have potential commercial applications.  Truly, they are learning the direct skills needed for the tech industry in Victoria: engineering know-how, content knowledge, critical thinking and problem solving all the while creating things of value for the world.

Keeping top talent must be a priority.  If even one of these future apprentices strikes it big with an idea and goes onto create hundreds of jobs, I truly hope that they do it here in our backyard. In 2014, 884 tech companies in Victoria brought in 3.15 billion in annual revenue (see VIATeC report). According to Linkedin, these were the hottest 25 skills that got your hired in 2014.  Notice the tech jobs.  I see a very bright future for Victoria’s tech sector.  The number one thing that we need to ensure is that we attract and retain the top talent.

Things are evolving rapidly, and the knowledge that computer programming students learn in first year is obsolete by their fourth year. These students don’t necessarily need university, rather, they need an apprenticeship; directly learning hands on daily, evolving with the industry in real time.

For example, one of my students is a dedicated programmer – it is his passion and it is what he wants to do with his life.  He has already been programming for years, and he definitely knows what he is doing – especially when he practices 6-7 hours everyday.  He is already working in a startup team using Agile Engineering to design, make and implement a product for the real world.  You can see it here.  He still has 2 more years of high school where he will continue to code everyday for real-world projects.  He will have 6 years of experience and practice. In my estimation, he does not need to do 4 more years of undergrad work.  He is good to go.

What he does need though is an opportunity to break into the industry.  He needs to be mentored one-on-one with a local entrepreneur to get the skills necessay to be savvy enough to run his own show.  He needs to learn to pursue life-long learning which includes a mixture of both theory and practice that make him industrious and scrappy.  He needs to be working in a startup to really know what is going on and form strong interpersonal relationships and connections in the community. He needs to learn strong work ethic in a vibrant setting using the very best practices on hand.  He needs to take important people out to lunch and ask them questions on a weekly basis.

We need to make this happen.  There is an example.  It is working.  In fact, they are expanding. I have found no one else who is doing this but them.  They are called Enstitute and are operating in New York, Washington, DC, St. Louis and Miami.  Take a good look and ask them questions.  I have found them to be delightful and open.  Take a look at what their apprentices are saying here.

We need this for Victoria.  Are we a truly innovative city or what?  Tech is our largest industry – why do we not have this kind of system in place yet?  It is doable – requiring only an incredibly talented impresario to connect the pieces.

I would love to do this.  Currently, all of my energy is being funneled into starting up PSII and changing the school system.  It is so exciting!  It hasn’t been changed in 150 years and it looks like we will be the first to do so.  Wow! I just do not have the time required for the initial set up.  But I would love to help you in anyway possible.

On behalf of the tech sector of Victoria, I call on an impresario to step into the fray and lead this initiative.  You already have one super loyal follower.

Guest Blogger for Enstitute

Thank you Enstitute for inviting me to be a guest blogger.  Check it out.

29 Nov, 2014
by Jake
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The Greatest Reward

The greatest reward a teacher can receive is to no longer be needed.  The learners that I have mentored since last year have taken off.  Of course, this does not mean that I am not still part of the team, which I most certainly am as Scrum Master.

However, they have learned to become independent of me: making plans, getting on radio shows, communicating with local companies and getting interviewed for TV (see video above).  All of these things are happening without me in the loop.  I did not even know they had made it on to the radio until they told me the following day.

Again, this is the greatest achievement for a teacher – to no longer be needed – which frees up my time to build other learners to this level of independent learning.  Is this not the learning that we all want to see?

19 Nov, 2014
by Jake
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Starting up PSII 2.0

It has been exciting.  No, make that exhilerating.  We have been inventing every single day. It is  a rare and unique opportunity that I have been relishing.  We are in a totally different place at this time than where we were last year.  We have figured out so much more, continuing to develop a model of open, personalized, interdisciplinary inquiry.  It is not easy.  There is much unlearning to do.

Our plans are beginning to take off  and it is happening fast. Next month, we meet with the Ministry of Education to facilitate launching the Innovation Zone.  We, with a few other places around the province, will be pioneering a new way to do school that is competency based rather than outcome based.   This is what we have been pressing for since the day we began last year and it is actually happening!  Yes, system wide, educational transformation is on the horizon.  It is possible to change the system!

I have been focusing hard on breaking our learners out of status quo thinking to the principles of the school: interdisciplinary  inquiry and co -creation of curriculum and assessments based on evaluating competencies that intersect at big ideas.  Writing report cards are very challenging at the moment as we are having to translate from inquiry back into a course based on learning outcomes.  There are things that are going on at the school that the traditional model cannot capture.  Like the collaboration and leadership that is happening. Or the creative and critical thinking. It is phenomenal:

  • A role playing game entitled, Rift of Time, that involves  7 learners are working on so many different levels, from digital art to probability factor.  They are building a website and writing the History of the worlds.  They have got themselves into the largest gaming conference in Victoria, for beta testing.
  • We have also been rehearsing major films that has involved tremendous teamwork from so many different people (think of the credits that roll at the end of a movie).  We are actually going into production for the film, “A Light in the Forest” this weekend.  It is a very emotionally challenging film and the lead actor has been doing an incredible job in rehearsals.
  • Another team of learners have been designing and building an art installation for TEDxVictoria this weekend.  It looks amazing and has also involved so many learners on so many creative levels while collaborating together as a team to accomplish something that is far bigger than any one of them could do on their own.

The totality of that learning is difficult to represent back into an outcome, course based model.  It is however, very easy to report upon competencies, like collaboration and leadership.  And really, isn’t that the learning we truly want?  We do not need to be regurgitating facts back on tests.  Personally, as an entrepreneur, teacher and a parent, I would much rather have a report on how my son is learning to collaborate and build things for the betterment of the world rather than some unimportant number in Science 10 based on how many facts he can memorize.

The time to change is now!  I will save you the rant.  There are many others who have said it more eloquently than I.  If you want to understand how we need to change education, you must read:

SethGodin

Roger Schank

Yong Zhao

And of course, Jeff Hopkins who is the principal of the mighty Pacific School of Innovation and inquiry.  This is his vision of what high school needs to look like now, in 2014 and it is what we are proposing to the Ministry of Education next month:

It is looking very promising that we will get to do this starting next year.  In my mind, I am already there.  The revolution has already happened.

13 Oct, 2014
by Jake
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Inquiry: Question/Quest

After following the education debate for numerous years on twitter and doing my utmost to effect change, I have grown tired of the conversation.  Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly passionate about education change, I am just tired of hearing about it and people saying what “should” be done rather than actually demonstrating what can be done.  For me, it comes back to the cliche – actions really do speak louder than words.

An inquiry can be a big question or a quest.  This is an excellent example of a quest.  It involves numerous different competencies, most of all being collaboration.  This particular quest was so big that it required a team to accomplish.  That is the mark of true collaboration – something that is so big that not one person could possibly do it on their own:

So, please watch the video above as I feel it demonstrates what learning should look like now.  The video itself was another collaboration from a different team of talented filmmakers at The Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry.  They call themselves: PSII Productions.  Here is another incredible example of what true collaboration in school can look like:

3 Sep, 2014
by Jake
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Inner Harbor, Victoria BC, Summer Season 2014

inner harbor fire circle

I did about 40 shows in the Inner Harbor this summer.  It definitely made me tougher.  I was hoping to do 80 shows, but I had an old flare up of a hernia injury that took me out for a couple of weeks and limited my show numbers after that.  Next season…

Here is a photo essay of this experience, documented by the budding, professional PSII Production Team.  Photographers: Teagan Gosling, Jasmine Wong and Avery Stefanson.

Continue Reading →

2 Jun, 2014
by Jake
3 Comments

collaboration + creativity through the arts = accelerated learning

kate's leg

 

It has been a phenomenal year of facilitating the arts at the awesome Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry.  I have learned so much – especially about making films.  We humbly began here, and within one iteration, we have taken off (see films below).

Of course, there is still so much learning to do.  Overall though, these students worked incredibly hard to put together high production value art on almost no budget.  Indeed, the goal is to make it to the pros and generate revenue.  This will take various forms next year and the skills that we have acquired making these productions has us on the right trajectory.  I can only imagine where we’ll be in a few years time.

Working on a giant production with so many moving parts is a tremendous vehicle for learning important cognitive processes and competencies as well as a great deal of professionalism.  The key to a successful future is being able to accelerate learning and build a team of incredible talent who are super nimble that can stay ahead of the giant changes that are happening in the world.

Please watch these films below.  They are proof of how far students can push and accelerate their learning if given the opportunity.  I am honored to have been embroiled in the creative and collaborative process of making art with these talented young artists.

Recently, The Bag made it as a finalist in the Highway 61 International Film Festival. Congratulations!

The Bag:

Hey Blondie:

24 Apr, 2014
by Jake
0 comments

The Chief Learning Officer

The Chief Learning Officer.  I love the ring to it.  I am convinced that this position is going to be the number one leadership role in organizations in the very near future.  The world is changing so rapidly, it is exponential (especially in tech).  The key to success will be how an organization can accelerate learning for its people; A fine-tuned, talented, diverse team of people who are in an accelerated learning mode that is effective at all layers will be the champions.

As a teacher at the awesome Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII), I have set out to create a very entrepreneurial mindset in our students.  Not that that necessarily means business, but just the attitude of, “Get out there and make something happen!” It has definitely accelerated their learning.

The brilliant John Seely Brown, one of the world’s top innovators, has co-authored a paper entitled, “Lessons From the Edge: What Companies Can Learn From a Tribe in the Amazon“.  It is a fascinating example of a group in accelerated learning.  The paper stresses that it is imperative to “Re-think the way you learn from and adapt to the world or risk vanishing forever.” The authors outline 3 specific lessons to ensure that an organization remains on the forefront of innovation and change:

1. Cultivate Talent

2. Leverage Resources

3. Stage Your Moves

These 3 lessons, I think, will form the backbone of the Chief Learning Officer’s role.  Of the 3, I believe that the most important factor will be the development of talent which will be the focus of the remainder of this post.

Talent

What a computer programming university student learns in the first year becomes obsolete by their fourth.  The pace of change is just too rapid.  The internet has leveled everything and the pace is only going to quicken as more and more people throughout the world gain access to tools that enable them to create.  Indeed, it is an exceptionally exciting time as innovation can come from anywhere.  And I mean anywhere.  The world is only getting more and more connected and with initiatives to bring the internet to remote areas of the world (Google blimp), it will be amazing to watch the products that get developed.  This in turn puts tremendous pressure on old, stodgy businesses that have enjoyed “First World” advantages for years.

Thus, it is essential to not just find talent, but develop it from the ground up and then ensure that the organization maintains an accelerated pace of learning.  This is a monumental task and the key to survival.

Specific strategies to accelerate learning and develop talent:

Continue Reading →

1 Apr, 2014
by Jake
7 Comments

Limbic Media, VIATeC and PSII steering education onto the forefront of innovation

IMG_3966 (1)

Every single book, article, excerpt or quote I have read over the last few years on innovation in education includes entrepreneurship, technology and creativity.  There is nothing more exciting in education than being embroiled in the creative process making things of value to better the world.  There is no reason for students to have to wait to enter the pro ranks.  This is especially true when it comes to tech.  The gatekeepers are down and students can lead and push limits right away.  It is an incredibly exciting time.

Limbic Media and VIATeC are providing tremendous opportunities for our students and helping me steer education onto the forefronts of innovation, technology and creativity.

The team at Limbic are awesome and have been providing professional mentorship through building projects that the company needs.  My computer team at PSII are stoked and grateful to be receiving cutting edge engineering technology training and directly applying it to real world situations.

Limbic Media’s objectives

VIATeC is, “the one-stop hub that connnects people, knowledge and resources to grow and promote the Greater Victoria technology sector.”

Adam Foeller, the facilities Manager, is such a nice guy and is providing our students with a ton of opportunities.  Currently, we are working on a project for them that when finished, will tour to hundreds of conferences and events.  Not bad for our budding computer engineering program.  Adam says that he has basically endless projects for us to do, so we are very excited to see what can be created as we evolve in skill and talent.

VIATeC’s s objectives  

A huge thank you to Limbic Media and VIATeC for helping the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry facilitate these experiences for our students.

From this work, I was selected as Tectorian of the week.  Read the article here.

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