New Berlin High School: Entrepreneurial Skills Accelerator

The School District of New Berlin has partnered with UWM’s Lubar Center for Entrepreneurship and our friends at The Commons to give high school students a taste of the world of start-ups. Through a series of pop-up classes and guidance from outside mentors Students teams will take on challenges in one of four areas: Technology, Healthcare, Engineering, and Global.

You can view the full press release here:

and coverage of the story in The Patch here:

Shorewood Visual Journalism Capstone Projects – wow!

visual-journalismA great approach drives engagement and high quality work.

Tuesday night Joost and I attended the presentation of capstone projects by Shorewood High School’s Visual Journalism class. We were blown away by the quality of work.

The class developed by Mike Halloran and Jeff Zimpel “combines the principles and practices of graphic design with those of modern broadcast and print journalism. Students in this class explored the notion of Face Value in their community and expressed their findings telling these stories through video, audio, and online media.”

What we saw and heard on display Tuesday exemplifies an approach to learning and engagement we’d like to see Milwaukee embrace.

  • A school administration that asked the teachers what they needed to make the class a success.
  • The freedom to send kids out into the community to understand and collect stories from people from very different walks of life.
  • Near-peer mentorship provided by MIAD students.
  • Student defined, collaborative projects which engendered such a sense of ownership and passion that students were surprised by how much energy and focus they brought to the work.
  • Presentation of high quality work to the wider community which was a delight to hear and see.

Hats off to Mike Halloran and Jeff Zimpel and their students!

The Projects

You can see the results of their here:

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One Mountain One Story

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South Milwaukee’s Fab Lab featured on Lake Effect

Monday’s Lake Effect show on WUWM features a piece on South Milwaukee High School’s Fab Lab. We connected Rachel Morello, WUWM’s education reporter with Erik Wolbach, who’s been the driving force behind the effort as part of our work to raise the visibility of the innovative work Milwaukee area schools are doing.

You can listen to the story here:  http://wuwm.com/post/high-school-students-learn-creating-south-milwaukee-fab-lab

Doing great work at your school you’d like others to know about? Let us know and we’ll help get the word out.

Collab Lab 6: Notes from our breakout groups

Thanks all for a great discussion last night at Collab Lab 6 (actually, a bunch of great discussions). To recap, we framed the conversation around three questions:

  • What can your makerspace/FabLab offer teachers?
  • What problems does this solve for them?
  • What keeps them from taking advantage of it/how might those issues be addressed?

Here’s what we noted:

What can your makerspace/FabLab offer teachers?

Group 1

  • “Blood in the mouth” how do you get teachers really excited about the possibilities?
  • Take content & make it physical
  • Get students to go beyond their textbook
  • Learning to play → playing to learn
  • Relevance, rigor, application
  • Practicing Failure
  • Space designed to fit needs
  • Can become epicenter – pivotal point
  • Authentic, relevant problems to solve
  • Bring content back to experiment

Group 2

  • Additional capacities to help kids express ideas
  • Expands the pallet of tools & opportunities for teachers
  • Limited understanding of what it is
    • Ideas → ideas II → ideas III
  • Safe place
  • Capture & share stories of success
  • Show different ways of learning
  • Develop and share culture of makerspace
  • Set up to enable students pursuing passion → no mandatory activities

Group 3

  • Tools for:
    • artists to make art;
    • business classes to make a product
    • community service projects to make something useful
  • Hands on professional development for PBL
  • Support for elementary school
    • South Milwaukee: elementary school students working on symmetry design snowflakes.  Students are then paired with high schooler who helps them 3D print their designs.
  • Ad hoc opportunities to put something together
  • Attractive for students
  • It acts as a “send kids here to do that” space/ a place that allows groups of students to take on work that isn’t done easily inside a classroom
  • Provides crafting opportunities for teachers (who are then better able to generate ideas for how they could leverage the space for student projects)
  • Real world relevance
  • Provides a platform to do different (from traditional lessons) things
  • Provides a chance for students and teachers to bump into something new/exposure
  • Helps produce a change in mindset/change of pace
  • Provides a way to engage kids in a different way
  • Provides opportunities for kids to interact with students that would interact with elsewhere in the school
  • Provides application/support to teachers
  • Is able to draw funding and resources to the school
  • Provides flexible space
  • Becomes the place to address 21st century skills development
  • Makerspace lead handles prep for projects (so teachers do not)
  • The equipment is maintained and ready to go
  • It a fun space
  • It produces engaged kids

What problems does that solve for them?

Group 1

  • Amature meets expert
    • Promotes mentorship
  • Redefines learning process
    • Who are the learning for?
    • Learning how to learn

Group 2

  • A way to develop empathy
  • Instill a mentality/culture
    • Ideation
    • inquiry
  • Invest in professional development
    • Teachers are professionals
    • Lifelong learning
  • Incrementalism

Group 3

  • A way to meet requirements for PBL/development of 21st century skills
  • A new point of entry/cheap way to start with PBL
  • Allows teachers to break out of silos
  • Can attract outside funding which reduces pressure from budget constraints
  • Costs of space can be shared across multiple departments
  • Remove overhead from teachers (makerspace lead puts together projects and materials)
  • Teachers aren’t sure what they could do, makerspace lead can help frame projects
  • Shows teachers a path into PBL
  • The teacher does not need to know everything– they can rely on tech staff/students to help with equipment
  • It’s a way into learning (as opposed to educating)
  • Test scores improve among kids engaged in problem solving
  • Produces engaged students
  • Provides a change of pace
  • Provides an opportunity to model creative thinking/problem solving
  • Provides both teachers and students a safe place to fail
  • Teaches teachers 21st skills
  • Having a tech lead that can set up projects reduces stress/risk for teachers that want to take on PBL

What keeps them from taking advantage of it?

Group 1

  • Must provide learning outcomes/goals/assessment
  • Needs continued reward
  • Broken 3D printers
  • Who started it???
  • Incorrect definition of “maker”
    • Creative Space
    • Genius Bar
  • Not knowing what can be done
  • Fear
  • Needs a facilitator
  • Permission from administration
  • Parents
What would help address these issues?
  • After school volunteer club for teachers
  • Customer discovery
  • Sleeper agents → referrals
  • Having an Idea person that helps connect teachers (Librarian)

Group 2

  • Competing priorities
  • Lack of culture to stimulate risk taking
    • What is “risk” taking
  • Lack of technical skills
  • Early vs late adopters
  • Lack of development of “grit”
  • System promotes end-point learning
  • Focus on experiences, not on “things”
  • If you can see it you will want to use it
  • Absence of design drivers (shared)
    • Visitation later in the design experience.


Group 3

  • Teachers need hands on professional development
  • Feels risky
  • Lack of control
  • Funding
  • ROI on time
  • Teachers aren’t sure what they can give up to fit something new into schedule
  • Change is seen as a threat
  • Change is seen as “We’ve seen new ideas before, this too will go just like the rest of them”
  • Focus on equipment
  • Mentors don’t know how to work with kids — kids have kid issues
  • Focus on learning to use the equipment (technical skills) rather than an opportunity to learn in a different way
  • Self selection to participate is missing from school makerspaces, which makes it more difficult for the space to become self regulating
  • I already have my lesson plans set and they work for me.  Why would I want to give that up to try something new.


What would help address these issues?
  • Visibility of student work
  • Visible credit given to donors of equipment (so it is not viewed as cutting into the school budget)
  • Shift resources from equipment acquisition to developing the mindset of teachers
  • Staffing — endowed mentor/tech position
  • Mentors — Lead off with small doses so they have time to figure how to work with kids
  • Figure out how to allow users of the space to come and go on an ad hoc basis (after school?)
  • Shift the mindset of funders from equipment to professional development

Makerspace/FabLabs Workgroup

We’re planning a working session for the end of January to talk through where collaborative efforts could be deployed to make it easier for schools to achieve the goals they have set out in developing their Makerspace/FabLab. Have some thoughts on where working with others would help most, or hurdles that could be more easily overcome with a group effort? We’d love to have you join us.

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