Indigo’s Theory of Change Explained

Indigo’s Theory of Change Explained

May 5th, 2016, written by Nathan Robertson


 How do you change schools when educators are at their breaking points, students feel disconnected with the school, and administrators feel like their Masters in Education Leadership did nothing to prepare them for operating a school well?

Some schools seem to change with ease. They bob and weave with the trends and are always launching new programs with forward-looking agendas. The parent community always rallies behind them with support. Students are writing their own publications, starting businesses, and spend off periods pursuing passion projects.

Some schools are like that. Some.

Some schools are struggling to make it through each day. They can’t bob and weave – they get hit hard by each changing trend and policy. New ideas and initiatives get lost in subcommittees and inner-school politics. Parents are sullen, unhelpful, and often are only a source of complaints. It’s a struggle to get students in desks, yet alone see them learn anything they will apply to their lives.

Many schools, I fear, are more like that.

There is a bevy of big ideas in education – and a countless number of school models – trying to make schools nimble, quick, and agile when it comes to change. But which ones do you pick? How do you prioritize what resources to use when changing a school? How do you make teaching kids social emotional learning or training teachers in lean launch techniques relevant? How do you deal with financial limitations?

Where do you begin?


Often times, it is unclear. Schools don’t know where to begin, and the resources do nothing but overwhelm them even more.

At Indigo, we have developed a working hypothesis based on our work with dozens of schools. We are getting a clearer sense of what is needed to equip a school to change its culture and self-sustain transformation towards a safe, positive environment focused on personalized learning.

How do you change a school? First, you change the people in your school.

 

The Three Pillars in a School

Change begins with aligning the three main constituents of education: students, leadership and teachers. Successful change only happens when these three groups are aligned. If students aren’t onboard, no new ideas stick. If leadership isn’t onboard, the best ideas are stifled. If teachers aren’t onboard, then the classroom experience won’t change – no matter what ideas students and leadership push forward.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “A house divided against itself will not stand.” If a house divided against itself cannot stand, what makes anyone think schools will fare any better when divided?

That’s why it is so important to engage these three pillars. It’s the key to successful change.

Students – Bottom-up, “The Groundswell” 


Students are the reason why the education industry exists. If society ever reverted back to parents teaching their children, then teachers, principals, policy makers, and think tank education researchers are all out of jobs. We are employed out of an obligation to develop this nation’s youth.

However, it is not uncommon for students’ voices to go unheard. This does not just happen at struggling, financially strapped schools. I have been at successful college-prep academies where students feel they have no choice in their education path.

Students need to be met not only “where they are”, but also as “who they are.” By meeting students where they are and as who they are, schools pave the way for student-centered and personalized learning.

It’s easy to write off the ideas of a 15-year-old high school student. But the best innovations come from people on the ground level. Factory workers can identify better improvements than an engineer who has never stepped in the plant. Servers see better ways to please customers than a manager who sits in the back office.

Just think about what sort of insights educators could get if they really took time to understand who students are, what they are passionate about, and then change the way they teach.

 

Leadership – Top-down, “The Gatekeepers”

Principals, headmasters, and CMO directors are shaping the landscape of education. They choose school models, handle hiring, start initiatives, and control the direction of schools. Sometimes it is a leadership team – sometimes it is an individual who rules carte blanche through force of personality. Regardless of structure, leadership choices cascade down to affect our teachers and students.


Some leaders struggle with the idea that their school needs to change – to admit the need is to admit failure. They close off to new ideas from their faculty and students. Other leaders are under pressure from their board or community and feel they can’t change – even if they want to change.

Principals and high-level administrators must understand what needs to be done and “buy in” to innovation.

Different leaders have different motivations. Some will be convinced through data. Some will be convinced by arguing with them that change will do good for the students. Strategies vary. Once leadership is onboard, however, resources can begin to move to gain momentum for change.

 

Teachers – Pivot Point, “The Go-Getters”


Teachers are the true change makers in schools. They run the classrooms. They have meaningful relationships with students. They are training, coaching, and evaluating every young person that comes into their rooms. The modern teacher is part content master, part assessment expert, and part personal Sherpa.

Teachers stand as the intermediary between students and leadership. Without them, neither side would be heard by the other. If a school’s teachers simply stayed in the classroom and didn’t mind the rest of the school environment, then schools would fall apart into pieces. Culture cannot be built without the support of teachers.

Teachers must be the pivot point in bridging communication, idea generation, and implementation for students and leadership.

Many administrators I speak with groan about “the one time the school tried to do such-and-such professional development program, but the teachers didn’t respond well to it.” Imagine if you could get teachers excited for a shift that is part of the long-term vision. What would your school look like?


                                                                       It’s Not Easy, but Easy Work is Boring


All of Indigo’s work centers around bringing these three pillars together. We are the catalyst that aligns these key stakeholders and drives them towards culture change and personalized learning. We have seen that when schools begin to get all three groups on the same page, change occurs organically and is sustained from within the school without support from Indigo.

Schools thrive when students are engaged, leadership is motivated, and educators construct the bridges for change. Our vision is to create a world where those schools exist in every county, city, and state in the country. At Indigo, we work everyday to make that a reality.

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Indigo Moves to Niwot

Indigo Moves to Niwot

April 29h 2015, Written by Marie Campbell


Niwot, CO  The Indigo Education Company moves today from their current office on Pearl Street (Boulder) to Niwot Road.  At their new location, Indigo plans to offer student workshops and community events geared toward college and career preparedness.

Indigo’s relocation to Niwot fits with the company’s goal to positively impact local communities. Niwot’s small-town feel makes it the ideal location, as do the personal company connections – Indigo’s current President, David Kalish, is a Niwot resident, and Indigo’s office manager grew up in the town.

Indigo’s new office will take on the title “Indigo Advising” and will focus on supporting the local community, while the Indigo Education Company will continue to offer support to schools and educators. Starting in June, Indigo Advising will conduct free workshops covering topics such as:

  • How to select a good college fit,
  • How to choose a major, and
  • How to channel your child’s unique strengths.

Additional upcoming events include an Artwalk Open House, a Free Cupcake Day, and a Mother’s Day Tea.

Indigo’s mission is to teach students the skills they need to succeed in all of life: at school, at home, among friends, and one day in the workplace. Through personalized, non-academic data analysis and advising, Indigo equips students to uncover their unique passions, motivators, and behavioral styles. Indigo then helps students apply this knowledge to major life decisions, such as college and career choice.

“We need to look at education from a different perspective,” CEO Sheri Smith wrote in a recentblog post. “What matters in the real world generally has little to do with book knowledge. Creativity, resourcefulness, grit, kindness, and passion … they constitute true brilliance,” Smith says. Indigo’s Niwot workshops are just one manifestation of this vision, as students learn to harness and apply their individual genius.

Indigo anticipates an official opening date of May 26th. Their new address will be:7960 Niwot Road Suite B-9, Niwot, CO, 80503. To view upcoming events, visit the events page for Indigo Advising.

About the Indigo Assessment

The Indigo Assessment is a 45-minute online questionnaire providing students, parents, and educators with non-academic data often missing from traditional education. The assessment was originally developed by Indigo’s technology partner Target Training International and has been used by CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies for over 30 years. In 2013, Indigo adapted the assessment to apply to students 9th grade and above. Thanks to the Indigo Assessment, students are equipped to understand their unique strengths, motivators, and learning styles.

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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. 

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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).

 

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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 info@beonboard.org.

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. 

 

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Indigo’s Pick for ACT Prep

Indigo’s Pick for ACT Prep

February 19th 2015, Written by Jahla Seppanen


For high school students with college on their minds, springtime means one thing: SAT/ACT season. This can also make spring a time of stress for many students, as they worry about test-taking strategies, scores, and the weight standardized testing has on their future academic careers.

Indigo is here to remind students that success is possible, and there are tools that can help. This week we are spotlighting Magoosh’s new ACT Blog, a resource for student guidance compiled from Magoosh’s best test-prep advice. 

If you are a student preparing for the ACT or a parent helping your child through the process, you probably know that the key to success is using the right resources. Now, before you randomly search the net for whatever free resource is out there, slow down a bit—Indigo has done the hard work for you. You can find plenty of thorough (and free!) ACT prep material on Magoosh’s ACT blog, including pre-made study schedules, tips for tackling each individual section of the test (math, reading, science, writing, and English), and tried-and-true strategies that will improve your score.

Before letting negative self-talk get the best of you, visit Magoosh’s ACT Blog and gain confidence in your ability to rock the test!

Magoosh is an online resource for GRE, GMAT, SAT, and TOEFL prep. Magoosh was founded on the belief that test prep should not be expensive, inconvenient, or outdated. For more information visit them online at magoosh.com.

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