Podcast with Mark Botros

Check out our CEO’s podcast with Mark Botros!

Watch a preview below, or listen to the whole podcast on YouTube or iTunes.

More from Mark Botros:
Facebook ~ Twitter ~ LinkedIn

Book Recommendation: The Future of Smart

We’re so excited! Long time friend of Indigo, Ulcca Hansen, just released her book, The Future of Smart. It’s a must read for anyone interested in education reform. See the review from our CEO below.

From Indigo CEO Sheri Smith:

“I work in schools across the US and can personally attest to the failures of the current education system. This book really delves into how education must be changed to better support students now. A great read to better understand the issue and become a part of the solution!”

For more information about Ulcca Hansen and The Future of Smart: 

     Facebook: The Future of Smart

     Twitter: @ulcca @edfunders #FutureOfSmart


Personalizing School Culture Causes Radical Transformation

Personalizing School Culture Causes Radical Transformation

March 14th 2016, Written by Nathan Robertson

Your School is Struggling? Tacking on a New Computer Lab is not the Answer

I remember when my district began introducing smart boards into my high school. Teachers fought for a classroom outfitted with the new technology. Educators began to build lesson plans around the boards, excited as they imagined how students would gape in awe at the digital equivalent of a whiteboard.


However, as a current high school student at the time, I remember how my friends and I actually responded. A lackluster comment here, a raised eyebrow there, and any interest the smart board may have initially garnered dissipated within a matter of weeks. Math was still math, whether you wrote it with a dry-erase marker or a digital marker (we frequently mixed up the two types of markers, much to my teachers’ chagrin).

In college, the same trend continued. I remember how bullishly the journalism school fought for students to get iPads. The professors felt like rock stars handing out 100 iPads in a lecture hall – their class had now been validated as a “cool” place to learn because of 1:1 hand-held technology in the classroom. I am remember looking quizzically at the fresh iPad with a university branded cover, tossing it in my bag, and then opening up my computer where all of my files were stored. The majority of students followed the same behavior. 

Technology in schools is a boon for innovation – new tech brings new applications and options for educators. However, smart boards and iPads are not the solutions – they are not the independent variables that drive educational outcomes. You need to go deeper than surface-level tech plugins to impact schools in meaningful ways.

Put simply, technology needs to be married with personalized learning. Schools need to be using more applications that facilitate tailoring pedagogy, curriculum, school culture, and even the school environment to students. Any technology that doesn’t contribute to personalizing learning holds little to no value in improving the quality of education.

Personalized Learning – Why it’s Important, Why it’s Hard, and What We’re Doing About It

Personalized learning means diversifying academic instruction, strategies, and experiences to meet the unique strengths and needs of individual students. In short, it’s the transition from a one-size-fits-all teaching approach to inviting students to help co-create their own education. It’s the power of listening for how students actually want to learn, and building a path that makes sense for each individual.

Although the modern wave of personalized learning is still nascent, schools that take on personalizing learning are seeing tangible impacts in their classrooms. Schools that are taking personalized learning are seeing major shifts such as 20% more students pursuing college and 14% more satisfactory grades across the board. Personalized learning isn’t just an interesting trend, it’s something that is unlocking student potential across schools.

In reality, however, personalized learning is difficult to implement because educators cannot copy and paste successful initiatives from one school to another. Since successful personalized learning is tailored toward an individual school’s culture and students, there’s no guarantee of repeated outcomes from any schools attempting to mimic them. While there are models that exist to help guide schools through the conceptual path, there is no easy solution. Because of this, 78% of teachers say meeting the personalized learning needs of students is too difficult.

So how does technology come into play with personalized learning? Schools are in need of technology that gives them more avenues to reach students. Cloud technologies and products that track meaningful student data provide new, innovative, low-cost avenues to make personalized learning possible in all types of school – from upper-end private schools in California to inner-city public schools in Detroit.

Technology that helps schools personalize education is what we need– but what does that technology look like? How do schools avoid throwing EdTech products at their teachers until something works? How do education leaders cobble together a series of ideas and philosophies that actually fit their students without getting frustrated by trial and error?

At Indigo Project, we believe that the most crucial piece of any personalized learning initiative is knowing the answer to the following three things:

  1. Who are the administrators? How do they like to work?
  2. Who are the teachers? How do they like to teach?
  3. Who are the students? How do they like to learn?

We help schools find the answers to all three with the Indigo Assessment, a corporate-level assessment that measures the Behaviors, Motivations, Skills & Strengths, and Social Emotional Health of each individual. We test everyone – from the youngest freshmen to the most tenured administrator – and use the data to paint a picture of the school body. Once you understand who the administrators, teachers, and students are, how they operate, and what they want, you can start effectively personalizing the school to fit its people.

We’ve worked with more than 30 high schools and universities – more than 8,000 students and teachers. Below are three stories from schools that began to personalize their schools based on Indigo’s data and saw their schools begin radical, positive transformation.

Pinnacle High School – Identifying Leaders

In Pinnacle High School in northern Denver, Principal Todd Bittner and his teachers are using Indigo to identify potential leaders who may otherwise go unnoticed. Teachers are pulling in “problem students” into their office hours to talk about their strengths, skills and passions, and connecting them to clubs and opportunities where they can put those strengths to use in a positive way. For example, one teacher looked up the Indigo Report of a student causing issues in his class and discovered one of his top skills was leadership. Instead of shutting him down, he decided to give him a leadership position in the classroom and it transformed the entire dynamic of the class. The student went from being a “problem” to being an engaged, positive example of a leader.

“It’s giving students confidence,” Principal Todd Bittner said. “They start thinking ‘maybe I can go to college’ – Indigo is giving us hope.”


The Academy – Change School Culture

Indigo has the potential to change the whole culture in a school. At The Academy, Principal Cody Clark is giving students control of clubs and activities and watching the community thrive. The Indigo test identified that his students want to give back and make a positive impact in the community – and so he started providing opportunities to do just that. As a result, coat drive donations went up, food drive donations went up, the student council doubled the attendance at the homecoming dance, and classroom behavior referrals went down 50%.

“This has been transformational for the school,” Clark said. “It breaks down barriers.”

Peak to Peak – Building Strengths Improve Grades

Helping students understand their strengths improves academic performance. At Peak to Peak High School, Counselor Kimberly Gannett ran a 10-week group with failing sophomores. They all took the Indigo Assessment before beginning the group. Each week, they focused on the different strengths in their Indigo Reports and how they could use them in their school and in their futures. As a result, at the end of ten weeks the number of failing grades in the group went from 30 grades to only 3 grades.

“I really do feel it was the first time for those kids in their entire lives where we focused on what they were good at instead of what they were failing,” Gannett said. “I’ve never seen a change like that in my 20 years of education.”

The common denominator of change wasn’t new technology; it was creating opportunities for students that let them take charge of their education. If you give students the opportunity to connect their strengths to your curriculum, leaders emerge, referrals go down, and failing grades disappear. It’s all about leveraging your resources to create learning opportunities that make sense for students.

Indigo does use technology in our process – our assessment and online cloud-based platform are key parts of how we execute. Although they are key parts of what we do and help catalyze change, educators don’t walk away praising the tech. They walk away in awe that they found answers to the three questions Indigo solves when we begin working with any school – they discover who are their students, who are their teachers, and who are their administrators.



Nathan and Student.JPG

Indigo is pushing our schools into new territory. We’ll be launching a long-term personalized learning plan that will use our data as a base to guide schools to the next level of personalized learning; students and teachers will be working together to set school culture, seniors will be teaching social emotional resiliency to freshmen, and all students will be advocating with their community and school to find opportunities that enhance and push forward their studies in impactful ways.

As we continue to grow and add tools to our arsenal, however, we fight to make sure we don’t lose sight of why our work is important. It’s not because of the tools, the gadgets, and the plans. It’s important because of what that helps schools accomplish. We don’t celebrate Indigo’s accomplishes – we celebrate the accomplishments of schools like Pinnacle, The Academy, and Peak to Peak.

Indigo isn’t another EdTech thing to slap on the wall next to the smart board. It’s a process that engages with the one thing in school that’s not going out of style anytime soon – people. 

Homeboy Industries – A Story of Redemption

Homeboy Industries – A Story of Redemption

February 28th 2016, Written by Nathan Robertson

I’ve heard it said before that one of the most humbling human experiences is to meet someone who may have less than you materially, but who possesses joy and hope beyond your personal understanding.

This past week, I spent some time in Southern California doing workshops and meeting with a few clients. Friday morning was free, so I decided to head north up the 405 into Los Angeles to visit Homeboy Industries. For me, it was a humbling human experience.

HBI provides help, support and training to gang-involved or previously incarcerated men and women. Services range from college and technical courses, counseling, case management, and a tattoo removal center that has removed more tattoos than any other institution in the world. They put people on an 18-month program to prepare for integrating back into the community. That’s all I really knew going into it. I wanted to avoid scraping Google beforehand so that I could experience HBI with as little bias as possible.

When I walk in, it’s unclear to me if I am in an office space or a pep rally. The staff has gathered 75 or more of their walk-ins for morning announcements. Every single staff member that will be working with the walk-ins is introduced to sound of applause. An Irish-American Catholic gives a quick anecdote on the health benefits of laughing often. Where I am at is standing room only, and more people are coming in the doors throughout the announcement.

What was interesting to see was the diversity in the staff. Some of them were Caucasian, corporate, with buttoned up shirts tucked into slacks. Others looked like they came from the community – not just because of their skin color, but also because of how they dressed and looked. It’s not just a multiracial team, but also a team that clearly comes from a range of backgrounds.

The morning meeting breaks, and then the place turns into organized chaos as everyone moves to a class, meeting, or to take care of the community garden outside. I’m quickly passed on to my tour guide, Jimmy.

Here’s where the humility begins to kick in. I spent an hour with Jimmy touring the building and walking through the gardens outside, listening to his story. If you ever meet Jimmy, he will tell his story to you as freely as he did to me: he was incarcerated at 16 for killing a man in an act of gang violence. Despite the fact he began to reform and change during his sentence, it would not be until 30 years later that he was released. The woman he married during his sentence, who was waiting for him to be released, died less than a week before he was free. He came back into the world in June 2015 with his wife gone and her son in need of a guardian.

Now, this level of trauma is enough to shut most people down. Some may be able to power through, but they would do so with gritted teeth and a jaded outlook on the world. They would numb themselves to the pain in order that they may cope.

But not Jimmy. Jimmy is a man of hope. Even if his wife’s 14-year-old son is not his biological son, he said he must be an example for him to follow. Even if two-thirds of his life has been spent behind bars, he said he must be an example for his community. That’s why he came to Homeboy to start his 18 months, and that’s why he volunteers to lead tours. That he may share not only his story, but his excitement and vision for the future.

During this conversation my mind is reeling. As Indigo continues to grow into more inner-city schools, we are beginning to run into this undercurrent of gang culture. I was all questions with him, but the biggest question I had was, “Jimmy, how do you connect with someone if that person feels like they have no value, if that person thinks they can’t succeed?”

Jimmy looked at me levelly and just smiled. “It’s about compassion, brother. It goes beyond just understanding where they are at, it’s connecting them to people that have been where they are at, and can show them the way.”

I sat with my notebook afterward at Homegirl Bakery (a spinoff company next door that employs incarcerated women and helps fund the services provided at Homeboy Industries) trying to process everything. What does this mean for how Indigo approaches education, I wondered? How can I translate this back to what we do for students?

I suddenly recalled the words of an Assistant Principal at a Denver inner-city school with which we work. “Education is important. Sometimes, however, we as educators need to step back and realize that life is more important than education.”

Indigo as a company stands for expanding how schools and educators can interact with students, but this takes things to another level. How can Indigo support boots-on-the-ground staff in servicing not only students’ educational needs, but also life needs through Indigo? If life is more important than education, how can we help students conquer the problems in their lives so that they can move forward to excel in their future education and career?

A day at Homeboy Industries answered questions, but also created many more that need to be explored. However, it is the pursuit of answers to these types of questions that will make Indigo more and more relevant in schools.

If we are designed to be partnering with the schools to help them push students forward, then we have to meet them on all fronts. But when I meet guys like Jimmy, I know that any student, regardless of their background, beliefs or situation, can unlock their strengths and find an outlet that allows them to become fully realized in the person they are uniquely designed to be.

In short, it reminded me why I do the work that I do.

National Education Week: 7 Lessons from America’s EdTech Community

National Education Week: 7 Lessons from America’s EdTech Community

January 14th 2016, Written by Nathan Robertson

Right before the Christmas season, I went to the National Education Week conference hosted by the EDGE EdTech Accelerator in New York City. As one of the directors at Indigo, I spend the majority of my time serving as the boots on the ground in schools throughout Colorado, Arizona and Nebraska. This was a rare opportunity for me to take a break after the 50 workshop I did last fall and see what else was going on in the EdTech world.

The conference exposed me to the heart of action in NYC’s education-entrepreneurism space, and here are the 7 insights with which I walked away.


1. The Education World of Today is Not the Education World of Tomorrow

Chancellor Carmen Farina pointed out that in her 20 years of working in education people spent too little time innovating and too much time reacting. There are great EdTech companies out there, but are they providing services that equip students for the world they live in today or the world they will graduate into tomorrow?

Farina challenged us to think more critically about the schools we serve. Based on your students, and their interests, and technology’s advances, and where the economy is predicted to be in five years, what are the best things you can pass on to your students that will prepare them for the future?


2. Students are “Digital Ready”—Use Those Skills

88 percent of teens have access to a cell phone, and 58 percent of them to a tablet (Growing Wireless, 2016). Some children carry in their pockets more computing power than my entire 5th grade computer lab possessed—and they know how to wield it. We need to see curriculum that leverages that skillset.

Last week I was in a school where the teacher commanded students to put up their phones before the class could move forward. Instead of suppressing the desire to use technology, imagine if we could find ways to redirect it through coding classes, research projects, or even incorporating apps in a blended model.


3. Teachers are – Surprise – Still Important

One of the startups I saw at the conference was an early-stage company that is building an artificial intelligence math tutor. That’s right, despite all the movies about AI taking over the planet, in the real world they are teaching Algebra I. Many companies are looking for ways to remove human interaction from education (Coursera, Khan Academy) by teaching online or removing teachers from the equation.

But General Assembly CEO Jake Schwartz brought up an interesting point. “We’ve have had the technology to spread knowledge for 500 years since the Gutenberg Press—and it still has not replaced our teachers.”

EdTech startups should spend less time thinking about how to work around teachers, and more time thinking about how to work with them. They are the true difference makers in students’ lives, and the ones with power to innovate in the classroom. We need them for successful, long-term change.

At Indigo, we see teachers as the pivot point that bridges administrators and students to communicate, generate ideas and implement new initiatives in schools. Teachers are not just important– they are absolutely critical.

4. We’re Forgetting about Community College Students

Imagine the stereotypical college student. Who do you see? 19-year-old frat star? 17-year-old coding genius? 22-year-old student council president?

How about 28-year-old mother who is working two jobs and taking night classes?

According to Dr. Gail Mellow, President of LaGuardia Community College, 50 percent of all undergraduate students are in community college, and most of them don’t look like they stereotype we imagine. Most of the time EdTech companies want to partner with Ivy League universities or similar to boost their prestige—as result 12 million students in community colleges are not getting solutions build for their problems.

For me, this was one of the biggest questions in my mind. How do you create a product that works for community college? How do you create a personalized education that can meet people who, while they may go to the same community college, are in all different phases of life?

This is one area that I think could be incredibly exciting for Indigo in the future. Since we are a strengths-based organization that focuses on the individual strengths of each student, we have the potential to help these non-traditional students find their voice. There will definitely be things to learn from them about the best way to deliver, but being able to impact students that other EdTech companies may be ignoring gives me a thrill.

5. Many Programs Give Only the Illusion of Learning

I have an app on my phone for language learning. I’ll spend 15 minutes jabbing buttons and repeating back words into my iPhone’s speaker, and just like that I’ve got 30 points and have passed the animals and pets lessons. Congratulations, you’ve just pass your fourth German course!

Many education programs take pains to make students’ progression very visible. Tracking points, multiple levels, badges and stars. How many of these types of programs are actually facilitating the learning they claim to provide?

Companies working with schools possess an ethical responsibility to test their products and really understand the impact it has on students. Did students really become better leaders? Are their writing skills truly better than they were last year because of what EdTech companies sold the school?


6. Students > Your Newest EdTech Idea

In an earlier point I mentioned the need for teachers to be involved in education innovation. Another fact that must be emphasized is that students need to be involved in change as well. Too often I wonder if companies are building products that meet the needs of the gatekeeper—an administrator, a district official—and miss the needs of students.

The reality is that students possess the power to drive demand in schools. Not only are there tax dollars associated with each student that chooses your school, but they deserve the highest standard of holistic education that an institution can provide.

If we want to look toward the future of schools, it’s not just in listening to the big picture from administrators. It’s listening to the every day problems of students who are living and learning in the system we have built for them today.

At Indigo, it’s not about the technology. We have technology, and building out our Indigo.Fathym platform will be one of the major developments for the company this spring, but that is not the focus. The focus at Indigo has always been, and always will be, the students. If we aren’t reaching and changing them, then we aren’t doing our job. It’s that simple. 

7. Implementation is Everything

I heard a lot of great ideas while I was at this conference. Seriously, the best and brightest of EdTech entrepreneurs and education leaders were present. However, I think the most poignant quote came from Wendy Kopp, Teach for America Founder:

“Technology is not the answer. Implementation is everything.” –Wendy Kopp

It doesn’t matter how great our solutions are, how innovative our models, how competitive our teams, if we are not going into schools and doing something. Without action, all of our efforts just amount to more tools on shelves that do nothing for education.

The more time I spend in schools working with administrators, teachers and students, the more this truth resonates with me. Schools don’t just want another platform. They want a partner who works with them to help begin the kinds of changes they want to see in their school. It’s one of my favorite parts about the job. When I can look at a school and know that Indigo played a roll in impacting their culture and how they treat their students, it reminds me how much I love my job.

For me, this conference taught me a lot. It gave me a better sense of where Indigo fits in the world of education, and why what we are doing in schools is important. Indigo is not an EdTech product—we’re an EdTech process that can transform schools and spark changes that schools can sustain.

It’s been so encouraging for me to see the impact and hear the stories of changes that are happening in schools. I will go back to that conference one day—and when I do, I want it to be because my CEO is talking about how we’ve changed the way one million students receive education in this country by shifting school culture away from test focus and toward a holistic, student-centered education.

Catch you next time, New York.


Hanging with the Timberwolves

Hanging with the Timberwolves

November 5th 2015, Written by Nathan Robertson

It’s hard not to like Pinnacle High School. We started working with 200 Pinnacle juniors and seniors right in the heart of spirit week; somewhere between watching four very public ask-the-girl-out-to-homecoming stunts in the cafeteria and having the Timber Wolf mascot itself come into our workshop, we knew we were going to have fun at Pinnacle.

What really draws us into Pinnacle are the stories we heard from students who stayed after our workshops to talk with us. Everything from one junior deciding he was dead set on pursuing culinary school, to a senior who recommitted herself to finding a career in the outdoors so that she wouldn’t get stuck in a desk job. While Indigo is all about scaling this mission to reach hundreds of thousand of students, we still get amped up by these individual stories.

What’s next for us and Pinnacle? They’ve already started using version 1.0 of our curriculum with students, and we’re looking ahead to see how we can integrate our Indigo Advisement Plan into their required ICAPs. One thing is for certain– you haven’t seen the last of us, Timberwolves!

P.S. A big thanks to our sponsors at KIND Bars– I think it’s safe to say the students are enjoying the snacks 🙂

Indigo’s Alternative Education April Winner: The DO School

Indigo’s Alternative Education April Winner: The DO School

April 24th 2015, Written by Jahla Seppanen

Indigo chose The DO School as its Alternative Education April Winner because we believe dreaming and doing is the future of education. The DO School has successfully allowed young people to make a difference, turning school into a space for real change and impact. 

The DO School offers excellent educational programs that empower individuals and teams to turn ideas into action. Participants learn how to create social innovation hands-on, learn from passionate peers, engage with current experts and create impact for leading organizations.


Do you learn better when someone explains how to do something or allows you to try for yourself? Would you rather think about the next great idea that will change the world or go out and create it? 


If you chose action, it could be the traditional college model of education will not fulfill your intrinsic goals and motivators. You might find yourself sitting in class wondering, ‘why can’t we put these ideas to use!?” Let’s call you, the Do-ers. You garner knowledge through application, dream big, and enjoy seeing the fruits of your labor come to life. For all you Do-ers, The DO School  might be your perfect post-secondary path. 

Students at The DO School are empowered to turn their great ideas into solid actions. Real action means real impact, and for all you Do-ers this sounds too good to be true. It can be difficult for young people to understand that post-secondary education is not reserved to the pre-req, sit-in-a-desk, take-notes, write-papers format. Shield your ears college professors but as they say at The DO School, “it’s not what you know, but what you do with it.” The DO School method enables students, or “Fellows,” to become innovators and have real positive social impact.

That’s why, during time on campus, the Fellows solve a real-life Challenge – a hands-on group task given by a company, governmental agency or NGO, next to preparing their own start ups. Recent Challenges have been the Green Store Challenge for H&M Germany or the Sustainable Cup Challenge given in collaboration with New York City’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability.

Florian Hoffman, Founder and President at The DO School says,

In today’s quickly changing world, innovation and social progress will come from individuals that reflect on their values and talents and learn the skills that are needed to seek opportunities and turn ideas into action. The DO School’s hands-on programs empower these leaders to create impact in the world.”

It doesn’t take long to realize The DO School might be on to something. Ask yourself why you go to college? To get a job. To survive in the “real world.” Students at DO have already created their “real world” job before their traditional counterparts start applying for post-grad positions. The DO School method, used in their One-Year Program, teaches Fellows how to focus their passions and talents to create positive and sustainable change in their communities. Past Fellows have created amazing projects including: a social enterprise called OneLamp, providing safe and affordable solar light bulbs to rural Ugandan families, a mobile ride-sharing app called Raye7, connecting friends and co-workers for easy and safe ride-sharing in Egypt, and an eco-brick manufacturing business “My Dream Home” to address the housing shortage for low income families in Cambodia. Take that college essay!

Read about other DO innovations here.

The DO School’s One-Year Program is open for enrollment to passionate social entrepreneurs between the ages of 21-31. Their admissions process is selective, only because applicants must be highly determined and willing to use DO to start or grow existing ventures. For more application information read on here. Other programs offered at The DO School include Leading for Impact with the Scoll Centre of Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Oxford, and the Intrapreneurship Program.

The DO School is supported by global organizations such as H&M, Newman’s Own Foundation, PlaNYC, EY, and more, and partners with other alternative education programs across the world including H&M Germany and EY. 

Bringing Humanity Back into Education: Thoughts from the ASU/GSV Summit

Bringing Humanity Back into Education: Thoughts from the ASU/GSV Summit

April 13th 2016, Written by Sheri Smith

“So you are bringing ‘humanity’ back into the education process?”  quipped Jamie Moran from the Florida Online School during the opening keynote of the ASU+GSV Summit.  “Yes, can I quote you on that?” I replied.  “That is exactly what Indigo is doing – and we are doing it in a scalable way that connects each student’s genius to something practical in the greater world.”

The ASU+GSV Summit (April 6-8) brought together some of the greatest innovative minds in today’s educational landscape, all addressing the question: “What is best for students?”  Despite our deepest efforts to create an education system that empowers students, however, we have not been able to change the tragic fact that 20% of high school students have contemplated suicide. Somehow, we have been unable to communicate to these students the enormity of their potential impact – the difference one life can make in a community, a country, or the world. 

Consider my friend Eric Gulstrom, who founded Educate at age 17. He has literally transformed the entire education system of Uganda with the simple idea that you can lift people out of poverty by incorporating social entrepreneurship into education. 

Or what about Roberto Rivera, self-proclaimed “dope dealer converted to a hope dealer,” who found a way to inspire and engage inner-city youth through music, art, and self expression? There are countless stories of ordinary individuals literally changing the world, and it’s all possible for America’s youth. Yet the only thing many of them can see is an SAT score that won’t get them into a top university. 

Where have we gone wrong?

When we reduce education down to academics, we inadvertently feed the children of America the lie that “if you don’t have straight A’s, you aren’t going to make it in the world.”  However, the exact opposite is true: what matters in the real world generally has little to do with book knowledge. Creativity, resourcefulness, grit, kindness, and passion – these elements and many more are the defining characteristics of humanity, and they constitute true brilliance. 

Throughout my work with Indigo, I have found that the “problem” students are often the most talented.  At a recent teacher workshop we used one such individual as an example to help the teachers see students from a different perspective.  When I revealed this young woman’s report to the teachers (she volunteered to share her information), I described her wildly creative mind, her capacity for futuristic thinking, and her extreme independence.  I could see the teachers’ heads nodding; they all agreed that she was a bright light. 

Then they began to voice their frustrations.

“. . . but she won’t read my books in English class.” “She won’t do her homework.” ”Her mind is always someplace else.”

I couldn’t help thinking, God bless her for being someplace else!  I want to know what she is thinking about, imagining, and believing in, because it is quite possible that this high school student has answers to problems we haven’t even conceived of. What if her teachers’ goal was to harness her genius instead of corralling her into reading the “right” book in English class? That would be integrating humanity and education. 

Like many at this month’s Summit, I believe that we need to look at education from a different perspective. Indigo makes it possible to incorporate hard science and measurable data into the education system, thus uncovering the specific qualities that constitute human brilliance. Since Indigo’s genesis in 2013, I have seen students once labeled “problems” begin to understand their own value, utilize their innate strengths, and take an interest in their education for the first time. It is my profound hope that by integrating non-academic skills with traditional educational structures, we can harness the human elements of an entire generation.   

The ASU+GSV Summit is the Knowledge Economy’s Mecca of conversation and activism devoted to accelerating learning innovation around the world. The 2015 Summit brought together many of the greatest minds in education technology as well as innovators like Sir Richard Branson and Howard Schultz (CEO of Starbucks).


Indigo’s March Pick for Alternative Education: On Board

Indigo’s March Pick for Alternative Education: On Board

March 7th 2015, Written by Jahla Seppanen

On Board’s Educational Travel Program

For many students, college is not the only post-secondary option. Although it has become the norm in our culture, many alternative education programs offer more applicable learning opportunities and teaching styles.

Considering a path different from traditional university? On Board might be just the ticket (literally).

On Board is an alternative education travel option focusing on the tremendous power of life experience and self-knowledge as education. The program blends four pillars of experience education that result in a learn-by-doing approach. The four pillars are:

Learning: The world is your classroom. Every experience and every person you meet is a potential mentor and teacher. Discover how to learn better and faster. Explore how to be your best self and develop the skills that will move forward your career and life. Every On Boarder becomes a student and a teacher; these trips are about what you bring to it.

Traveling: Traveling is one of the most authentic ways of learning, and we believe that traveling shouldn’t become a way of escaping from reality but an opportunity to understand it and shape it for the better. As a bonus, students have a great time together while trying new experiences and connecting with the local culture.

Doing good: Apply your skills and talents to solve real life challenges of local communities. Teachers will help you avoid the “philanthropy traps” in which you could end up doing more damage than good. Their “do good” actions are non-paternalistic, they reach the root of the problem to translate them into opportunities that don’t create dependency.

Connecting: Connect with yourself, with your life legacy, to an amazing group of travelers, and to a global community of purpose-driven explorers, experts, mentors, leaders and communities.

For more details about the pillars watch On Board’s video here. 

If On Board is beginning to sound like an opportunity you might be interested in, check out these slides to get a better understanding of how it works. 

For many students, travel-based learning can be the greatest education they receive. However a block which may be holding someone back from pursuing this type of alternative program is the fear of “pausing” life to fulfill a dream. It can be nerve wracking to think about what happens after you return home. What happens next? 

On Board experiences are designed for participants to be able to continue work remotely while you travel. Even better, the experiences are not “just traveling.” They are designed to boost career success, increase enjoyment of life, find the intersection of meaning and profit, and develop a powerful network around the world.

If On Board is beginning to sound like your pathway to post-graduate success and fulfillment, keep an eye on their next trip scheduled to take place in Colombia near the end of March 2015. Track feedback and events by staying in the On Board loop, or send questions to

Indigo is always excited to discover alternative means of discovering your intrinsic life motivators. Don’t buy into the hype that traditional education is for everybody. We are all unique and our options for continued education should be also.

Tune in next time for Indigo’s April Alternative Education Pick of the Month. 


Indigo Points High School Seniors to College Fits

Indigo Points High School Seniors to College Fits

February 26th 2015, Written by Marie Campbell

“Have any of you ever been told you should be something?” Heather Clark of the Indigo Education Company asked a room of 12th grade students. The group responded with a resounding “Yes!”

As part of a large-scale implementation funded by the Colorado Department of Education, the Indigo Education Company conducted an all-day training for high school Seniors this Monday at Peak to Peak Charter School in Lafayette, CO. The students had already completed their Indigo Assessments online, and Monday’s training walked them through the major sections of their Indigo Reports.

Clark, one of four Indigo trainers, asked students to share expectations other people may have placed on them. Students shouted their responses:

“I should be less lazy!”

“I should be quieter.”

“I should be a lawyer.”

Clark encouraged students to write a list of “shoulds” imposed on them by society, parents, teachers, etc. Then she pointed students to their Indigo results. “These pages have the puzzle pieces of you who are, how you think, how you interact with people, and your top skills. At Indigo, we’re here to tell you that the only thing you should be is … yourself!”

Clark divided students into six groups based on their top Motivators, as measured by the Indigo Assessment. Students discussed how their Motivators could affect their choice of college major. Next, Clark divided students according to their DISC scores, which explain the four major Behavioral Styles: Dominance, Influencing, Steadiness, and Compliance/Conscientiousness. Students were encouraged to seek college professors who would support their unique methods of communicating. For instance, students scoring high on the Influencing scale tend to be talkative, optimistic, and friendly.

“Does this describe you?” Clark asked a group of high-I students.

They responded with laughter. “Not at all,” one girl joked.

In general, Influencers need to process ideas through other people and tend to be highly social. The Indigo team urged these high-I students to find college professors who prioritize class discussions and encourage verbal responses.

“In college, it’s like you have a super power,” Rachel Thor, Indigo Curriculum Designer and Workshop Trainer, told students. “You get to pick which classes and professors fit you best.” Many students expressed surprise; they hadn’t realized they could choose professors that teach to their unique learning styles.

Throughout the day, Indigo members stressed the idea that there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ when it comes to your personality blueprint. All temperament types can have an impact when they work from their strengths. At the end of each training, Clark asked students to write a new list of “shoulds” for themselves—“But this time,” she said, “make sure your ‘shoulds’ fit who you truly are.”

A student scoring high in the Aesthetic Motivator wrote, “I should spend more time in nature.” A passionate Theoretical—motivated by knowledge and truth—added that she “should continue to learn new things.”

One Peak to Peak Senior, Zacahary Nix, expressed his gratitude for the Indigo Assessment: “It’s helping me communicate with my classmates on a deeper level,” he said excitedly. Zach explained that he has been paying attention to his classmates’ Indigo Reports and discovering how they may think or communicate differently than he does.

Indigo will continue working with Peak to Peak in the months to come, helping students and teachers incorporate who they really are into all aspects of their education. To learn more about Indigo’s work with high schools and colleges around the nation, click here.

Scroll to Top