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Minnesota #GAFESummit Keynote: James Sanders- A Resume of Failure


James SandersDirector of Innovation for EdTechTeam and co-founder of Future Ready Schools, was the keynote speaker at the 3rd Minnesota Google Summit.

He discussed the ways that he has failed in his life, iterated, and moved forward, learning and growing. There were 3 main themes:


  • Take resks
  • Reimagine
  • Put Yourself Out There


The first story of failure has to do with a "little green pill." To prepare for a long flight, he took a sleeping pill, and overslept because of it.


In high school, he learned that just because something was a certain way, didn't make it right. He often shared too much of his opinions, and ended up spending a lot of time in the principals office... Most of what he learned was "non-academic." A lack of adherence...

Tried becoming a professional golfer...failed.
Went to work in the mill in his home town for 3 summers. Learned how to drive a fork lift and bobcat, but not very good at physical labor...3 trips to the ER...

In order to find out who you are, you have to make mistakes...

He talked about the mistakes he made in the classroom, as a history teacher, he made several

The Butterfly Effect
In 2010, this happened...
For the first time in his life, he got to work at something he was passionate about. He was able to partner with a school in Prague, and connect with other schools around the world. Artifacts were assigned to teams of students to research who they belonged to. On KIVA, students made recommendations on who they should give loans too. Authentic learning...

But he forgot the basics....The Chromebooks started to break... "Chromebook Classroom," started. He put himself out there, and looked for ways that students could as well.

He had the students start "KIPP Student News," for students to create and put themselves out there:

Watching 12 year olds do the news is much more interesting..
Decided EVERY studnent should have a YouTube channel.

Unfortunately, on a class trip, students posted video that was a wasn't the most appropriate... One of the students had over 1,000,000 hits! The student asked, don't you make money from this? 

He was taking risks, and knew if he kept pushing, it would be ok. He had students create Web Portfolios. 

Put yourself out there. 
He created, "EduNationCast," to put himself out there and promoted it with the hashtag, "#penismightierthanthesword"..... #Fail

What if we push it further...
He went up to Google to share his vision for the future of Google and education.
Teachers need help, what can Google do...
Google Teacher, Google Classroom,...
Rather than telling people what to do, ask what YOU can do?

He went to work for YouTube, and started "ClassBadges." 
Then he went to work at the Whitehouse, as an "Innovation Fellow."
He helped create the Whitehouse Student Film Festival, as a way to allow students to share their learning, and allow students to talk about what is possible. 

Sanders talked about the problems that we have in the world today. the United States prison population has skyrockedted 400% in the last 30 years...
Prince Charming isn't coming. It's up to us as teachers to create new learning environments and putting the questions out there.
It's when you take risks and put yourself out there is when change happens. Sanders recommended author Austin Kleon, "Steal like an Artist," and "Show Your Work" as worth looking at.  
How big is your Dung Ball? As you fail, and try again, who knows how big it can get?!!

His next risks are "Future Ready Schools..."

He's also looking at bringing Breakout (Escape Rooms), and Game Based Learning into the classroom, with BreakoutEDU.

He'll be leading a session on BreakoutEdu here at the Summit later this afternoon, and I'm excited to be signed up!


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