When Fanny Passeport became the schoolwide tech integrator at Mercedes Benz International School in India, she might as well have been aiming for a moon landing.
There was no one in charge of ed tech. Teachers were happy hanging out in their comfort zone. Her task: Shepherd a technology vision that would prepare PK-12 students for the not-yet-known world.
“It was a real moonshot to take people on this journey with me,” says Passeport, winner of ISTE’s 2016 Emerging Leader Award. “It was going to be very hard to transform and innovate because people were in their comfort zone, doing their usual work and they could not relate to the vision yet.”
A lot of educators might have been satisfied with starting small — a few new tools here, a few tweaks to the curriculum there. But Passeport had read Esther Wojcicki’s book Moonshots in Education about having the courage to make radical changes. Inspired by the idea, she decided to shoot for the moon.
“Moonshot thinking is, for me, always allowing myself to think about wild and crazy ideas and create space for change,” Passeport says. “We’re often afraid to make big changes, but it’s not about being safe and improving a school by 10 percent. It’s about wanting to do 100 or 110 percent — pushing ourselves toward something that is wild and crazy.”
In less than two years, Passeport has already revolutionized learning at her school. The entire school community has adopted Google Apps for Education. Administrative tasks are now automated, leaving more time to work with students. Teachers are working on their own self-driven innovation plans, attending tech cafes and serving as tech mentors for their peers. Students are learning to code and discovering their passions through Genius Hour projects.
“No one would have guessed at the time that Fanny would be the explosive prodigy that she is,” says Maryln D’Souza, a teacher at MBIS. “In a mere six months, Fanny revolutionized the integration of technology across the board at school.”
Passeport couldn’t have accomplished so much without aiming for radical change. Here are some of the ways she incorporates moonshot thinking into her approach:
Ask killer questions. Provocative inquiry — asking potentially game-changing questions — is a method of sparking new ideas and new ways of thinking about old problems, says innovation expert Lisa Bodell. When you face resistance to ideas others deem dangerous, asking killer questions can challenge the status quo in a way that spurs the imagination and encourages people to dive deeper.
“In the beginning, all my ideas seemed to be disruptive,” Passeport says. “But I dared to ask killer questions and push my school forward with projects that we would never have thought we could accomplish.”
Killer questions are open-ended (verses closed-ended questions that prompt a yes or no response) and often include phrases such as:
What else/how else?
Recruit your “first followers.” It takes more than one person to spread a moonshot mindset throughout a school community. That’s why it’s crucial to spot the early adopters and put them to work sharing your vision for change with the more reluctant set.
“I had to make teachers connect to a purpose. I needed them not to comply, but to feel trusted and in control of their learning,” Passeport says. “The ISTE Standards encouraged our school to have a participative approach by creating the role of tech mentor.”
Enlisting teachers and administrators to model tech integration and help others learn was transformational, she adds. “Everyone felt valued and connected.”
Apply design thinking. Many educators are adapting the tech industry’s design thinking framework to guide innovation and tech integration in schools. Below is the step-by-step process Passeport used to lead change at her school.
STEP 1: Diagnose. Review your school’s current practices to identify gaps as well as areas of strength. Passeport recommends the ISTE Lead & Transform Diagnostic Tool. Engage a committee of stakeholders to complete the questions together, making sure to include teachers, parents, students and administrators as well as tech leaders.
STEP 2: Envision. Developing or revising your school’s ed tech vision should be a group effort involving stakeholders from all aspects of the school community. If you’re not sure what the final result should look like, you can use Mercedes-Benz International School’s as a jumping-off point.
STEP 3: Plan. Next you’ll need to define your goals and figure out how you’re going to achieve them. “This includes setting up a timeline of actions and reviews to prioritize and monitor the changes,” Passeport says. Pay close attention to teacher training, which can make or break your tech initiative.
STEP 4: Implement. Now it’s time to put your plan into action. As Passeport started working with teachers on tech integration, she rolled out training in three phases:
Inspiring teachers and getting them started with the basics
Encouraging teachers to collaborate and try out new projects
Helping teachers become tech leaders who innovate, fail and share
STEP 5: Monitor and iterate. Design thinking calls for constant assessment and revision on the fly. “You need to look at the micro and macro levels,” Passeport says. Breaking your long-term goals into achievable actions helps you see your progress on a day-to-day basis — but always keep an eye on the bigger picture.
Moonshot thinking is all about solving problems with radical solutions, using technology as a vehicle. As teacher educator Jackie Gerstein says, “Learning should be filled with epic wins. The idea of moonshot thinking is directly related to epic learning, doing and being.”
Nicole Krueger is a freelance writer and journalist with a passion for finding out what makes learners tick.
ISTE is celebrating Fanny Passport and all of our ISTE members in February, which is Member Appreciation Month!