Innovate to Educate Entry

Brookwood School, Manchester, MA

Rich Lehrer, Innovation Coordinator

What innovative technology initiative or project are you most proud of, and how has it improved teaching and learning in your school/district?

A project that I did in 2013 with 12 eighth grade students in which we became one of the first schools to build a 3D printed prosthetic hand for a child – my son Max – propelled me to become a leader in an “empathy through authentic 3D design and making” movement. I am also now become the Enable Community Foundation’s Education Coordinator and have been breaking wonderful ground in the use of authentic 3D printed solutions projects to engage and empower students at Brookwood School.

What were some of the biggest challenges to your initiative, and how did you meet those challenges?

Initial attempts to pilot this work at my school were met with some resistance, a sense that students’ “academic plates” were too full to accommodate “extra work” such as this, and concerns that engaging my students in this work might be too risky and fraught with “land mines”. I began to use informal meeting times with students as a “proving ground” to engage them in truly innovative digital work without “ruffling any conventional feathers” in our community, and create allies and supportive colleagues who now work with me on these initiatives.

What are the three biggest components that need to be in place for tech innovation to succeed are:

A supportive school community and culture that encourages teachers to be risk takers, bold innovators, and audacious problem solvers - All in the name of inspiring students.
Opportunities and tools for student to produce authentic products that solve real problems, and that provide students with clear sense that what they do MATTERS
A realization that ed-tech is a key component of 21st-century character education initiatives such those that produce effective communicators, more empathetic individuals, and more empowered collaborators …it is critical to the success of these efforts. Ed-tech is tools. Tools that facilitate communication, creation, and problem solving efforts…the same tools that have allowed societies to flourish, improve, and produce enlightened individuals for millennia…what should schools be any different?

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