Contact Albert Sykes for more information: asykes at democraticeducation.org
Learning Tours provide an opportunity for you - educators, young people, and community leaders - to see powerful schools and programs with your own eyes and bring back the learning to your community. Each site has valuable practices and stories to share about what is working and what has been learned through challenges and efforts over time.
“I didn't think I would find original inspiration after 20 years of being a teacher. I thank you for this experience to find more to bring back to my work."~ NYC Learning Tour participant
IDEA organizes both open tours available to individuals and groups, and custom designed tours, in which we work with you to create a tour experience tailored specifically to your community as professional development, youth development, or alongside ongoing organizing and change efforts.
Learning Tours bring together the best of educational site visits and hands-on workshops into one experience. Tours typically include groups and individuals of 20-30 participants visiting three to four sites over two and a half days. Here's what to expect:
IDEA hosts multiple tours around the country each year. Check out our upcoming tour schedule below and sign up as a small group or individual.
You tell us your goals, needs, and interests, and we work with you to design a tour for groups between 10 and 30 people that can help you move your work forward. We’ll discuss timeline, locations, types of sites to visit, and logistics. After deciding on a tour plan, IDEA arranges the site visits, provides information before the tour, facilitates the experience, and shares back documentation of the visit post-tour. We can also work with you and your organization over time to make sense of the visit, reflect with the full community back home, and implement ideas and change plans.
"Working with IDEA to design and facilitate a NYC Learning Tour for our site was a great experience. We were thrilled with the process, final product and ease of the working relationship.Their organizers were able to take our ideas and wishes for what our participants would experience and suggest schools to visit that helped us imagine what was possible at our own schools. They helped to facilitate connections with educators that can serve as resources moving forward. They nailed the logistics of touring a large group of students and teachers through the streets and subways of New York. And, the reflection activities they led helped us integrate the learning into our own context so we arrived home with tangible next steps for making positive school change. We would definitely recommend collaborating with IDEA."~ Lindsey Cox, Project Manager, Partnership for Change
We will work with you to determine a cost rate that makes sense for your school, organization, or community. Total costs include lodging, meals, ground transportation, and facilitator travel expenses.
“The NYC Innovation Tour was a highlight of my 33 year teaching career. I give it an A+.”~ Participant in tour designed for South Burlington High School, VT
Heart of Oregon designed tour to Eugene and Portland, OR - January, 2015
Storify feed collecting posts on Twitter about the tour
New York Tour - April, 2013
Storify feed collecting posts on Twitter and Facebook about the tour
Partnership for Change designed tour to NYC - January, 2013
Blog post about the tour by Dana Bennis
“P4C School Innovation Tour to NYC: Wait, I’m in a Box?!,” article by Partnership for Change tour member Benjamin Roesch
New York Tour - November, 2011
“City schools tour aims to spur democratic education elsewhere,” Gotham Schools article
“IDEA Tours NYC,” blog post by Ammerah Saidi
Twitter Feed from Fall 2011 NY Tour (PDF image)
“Reflections from NYC Tour” Blog post & pictures by IDEA Organizer Manauvaskar Kublall
New York Tour - April, 2011
Twitter Feed from Spring 2011 NY Tour (click graphic to enlarge)
For questions about Open or Custom Designed Tours, contact Dana Bennis at dbennis at democraticeducation.org or 800-878-5740 x. 4
Quotes from tour participants:
“Most of us exist in our small educational environments almost wholly in isolation, and rarely get the chance to go out and talk to people who are doing the same kind of work.”
~ NYC Tour Participant
“I was so energized by what I saw. . . It helped me to see that my vision is being accomplished somewhere.”
~ Participant in tour designed for Sisters School District, OR
IDEA Camp is a training and development experience for individuals and groups working for educational change rooted in equity and progressive practice. Camp offers change makers the opportunity to look deeply at the issues and challenges within the education landscape, gain tools for transformative organizing, and develop personal and group skills to move change forward while building capacity to address issues of race, power, equity, and privilege.
“Working at the Mission Hill School has taught me well that the only way to make meaningful change is to involve smart, passionate people in the process, give them ownership, trust them, support them and get out of the way! That is what IDEA is doing. The experience, knowledge, expertise, talent, passion, and determination of the people at IDEA Camp were astounding to me!”~ Jenerra Williams, teacher at Mission Hill School and IDEA Camp Minnesota participant
Over the course of several days, IDEA Camp builds a sense of community among participants and groups who come with a set of stories, challenges, and goals. We strive to create an open space for sharing, for exploring questions, and for learning. We go beyond the surface level narratives and don’t avoid the tensions and hard conversations that must be faced if we are to achieve equity with respect for all young people and communities.
We call it “Camp” because it’s more in-depth and intimate than a typical conference, and we often locate camps in retreat-style and natural settings that offer opportunities for outdoor time and after-hours conversations. You’ll experience a mix of structured full group sessions, small group discussions, individual time for reflection, and open space for topics that arise.
Camp is the only professional development that I have been a part of that really did feel like the building of a network rather than the imparting of information. I have colleagues across the country whose work isn't the same as mine, but is in the same spirit, and has enriched the way I look at my own. Colleagues that I root for, learn from, and rely on again and again.~ IDEA Camp Vermont participant
Something New: an article about the power of IDEA Camp by Jenerra Williams, teacher at Mission Hill School in Boston.
Discouraged from Dreaming: a story of how IDEA Camp helped Nancy Flanagan, educator and blogger at EdWeek, step back and have the opportunity to dream.
Quotes from Camp participants:
“It was heaven to be disconnected from the distressing running feed of education policy and practice for a few days—to have the chance to dream, unimpeded and nurtured, of what could be. And how we could get there.”
~ IDEA Camp Puerto Rico participant
“I cannot recommend IDEA Camp strongly enough. This work can be lonely and isolating… For a lot of us around the country that are education activists, the work can leave us feeling disconnected from others beyond our immediate circumstances… IDEA Camp is where it all comes together.”
~ IDEA Camp Minnesota participant
“IDEA Camp is a good huddle. You get to leave your community and connect with other people doing work similar to yours and you get to learn from their successes and failures. You get challenged. And you get to use your experiences to help other people who are at different stages of the process.
~ IDEA Camp Vermont participant
Major policy changes are taking place with little to no input or awareness of the people who are most impacted by them, though they often know the most about what changes are needed.
Conferences and professional development opportunities are abundant in the field of education, but too often they are:
"I used to think that we needed to focus on playing defense. Now, I'm thinking the best defense is a powerful offense. We need to generate the narrative, policies, and practices we need and want."
- Caitlin from Youth on Board, Boston, and participant of LBS
Pioneered by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in the health field, IDEA has been adapting this deep-dive action-based research model to educational change work.
Each Learning Breakthrough Series (LBS) is framed around a guiding question and topic faced by young people, educators, schools, and communities. Over the course of two years, three in-person Learning Sessions to identify innovations and solutions alternate with Action Periods when teams return to their sites to put their plans into action. The LBS concludes with a Final Summit where findings are presented, published, and shared with media and the broad public.
In more detail it looks like this:
Our first series launched in the Fall of 2013 with this guiding question:
What connections and approaches to practice, policy, public narrative, and strategy support the meaningful and sustained engagement of all young people and communities in education, while honoring the wisdom and differences of varying local contexts?
Seven teams are part of IDEA's initial LBS, including educators, young people, youth workers, and community leaders from Puerto Rico, New York City, Vermont, Minnesota, Oregon, New England, and Jackson, Mississippi. Coaching and support comes from IDEA's National Fellows. You can see documentation from Learning Session A and Learning Session B and follow additional links below.
1. Weaving local and national change. Organizing is at its most impactful when critical connections are being made between local place-based teams and national actors through story, dialogue, and collaborative actions. The first LBS weaves place-based actors with national content and research experts that have skills in the 4 drivers of policy, practice, public narrative, and strategy.
2. Generating knowledge. The LBS integrates a strategic cohort model with a values-aligned evaluation tool called Story Mapping that supports teams to monitor their progress while generating knowledge by linking deep dive research, storytelling, and continuous performance improvement.
3. Values and relationships. IDEA believes that change begins with values and by developing relationships with key organizations, individuals, and actors. Read more about IDEA's values and our strategies and relationships.
4. Building ongoing collaboration and mentorship across roles, organizations, and strategies. Teams engage in collaboration and receive mentoring through in-person gatherings and regular phone and online communication with national experts and other teams. The LBS is not a one-time professional development experience.
5. Conextualized learning about the four drivers of change based on the needs and realities of each participating team.
Efforts are underway to determine the focus for a second Learning Breakthrough Series, scheduled to launch in Fall 2016. Have ideas or want more information on how to get more connected? Contact IDEA Chief Learning Officer, Dana Bennis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IDEA’s Learning Breakthrough Series
Session A Documentation
IDEA LBS Learning Session A Documentation - Jackson, Mississippi | November 7-11, 2014
Collaboration Across Geography & Context: IDEA’s Pilot LBS - Session A Overview
Connecting Communities through Video & Online Collaboration - Action Period Overview
Networks and organizations connected in to the Learning Breakthrough Series:
NYC Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ)
Urban Youth Collaborative (UYC)
Annenberg Institute for School Reform
Providence Student Union (PSU)
Boston-area Youth Organizing Project (BYOP)
Youth on Board
Granite State Organizing Project
Chief Learning Officer: Dana Bennis
Organizing is most impactful when critical connections are being made between place-based and national actors through story, dialogue, and collaborative actions grounded in shared values and relationships. As place-based efforts and regional networks emerge, there's a need for national actors who have expertise in policy, practice, public narrative, and strategy to share amongst each other and make local, translocal, and national connections.
The National Fellows helps the IDEA community make sense of ‘nation-as-place’ by paying attention to what they see, sharing stories and learning, and connecting to place-based teams to both support their work and learn from the efforts of local educators, youth, and organizers.
1) Identify examples, research, and stories along the four drivers of change: education policy, practice, public narrative, and strategy that advance democratic education.
2) Make meaning together of emerging trends, campaigns, and strategies.
3) Learn about place-based efforts for use in each fellows own work with the goal of elevating the knowledge and impact of place-based work.
4) Support the learning, development, and sharing of comes through Learning Breakthrough Series.
5) Contribute to networking and relationship building efforts within and across the IDEA network, both formally and informally.
A too-simple narrative runs almost nightly across the airwaves depicting the supposed brokenness of our schools, their lack of accountability, and the failure of teachers. Sometimes this oversimplified narrative also offers up oversimplified, narrow, and seductive solutions that are far removed from the complex reality of today’s students, families, teachers and communities.
A Year at Mission Hill launched January 31, 2013 with Chapter 1: Why We're Here and ran just over four months. This series came together when filmmakers Tom and Amy Valens reached out to educator and news commentator Sam Chaltain. Sam brought Ashoka, IDEA and the NoVo Foundation together around the idea of making a series of short episodes to highlight a year in the life of Mission Hill. The concept grew under IDEA's leadership into a larger opportunity to share the story across an eclectic coalition of education organizations, schools, and nonprofits.
Here are just a few of the comments we’ve heard:
“The video series and publicity spotlighted an outstanding school and showed what is possible when staff and students truly respect and value one another. We were happy to affiliate the RC name and resources with such an effective school.” - Rick Henning, Responsive Classroom
“Gave people, both educators and especially non-educators--a look inside the life of the school showing the possibilities and the realities of quality education. I shared the series widely, and most people I discussed it with were astounded, as in ‘Wow, we could never have something like that here, could we?’" - Renee Moore, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
“I loved the conversations that were generated from this series and I really liked the way all the partner orgs contributed complementary resources. I loved the additional media that was created, seeded by this series. The Prezi was also a high point for me; what a fantastic idea and execution!” - Amy Erin Borovoy, Edutopia / The George Lucas Educational Foundation
“Broadening the conceptions of ‘successful school.’ Provided digestible video tool to accomplish this.” - Lars Johnson, Ed Evolving
“For SRI, it gave us another avenue of reaching out to our membership to discuss issues in education that are important. It also allowed us to align with other like-minded organizations around a common topic.” - Kari Thierer, School Reform Initiative
Report and Wrap of A Year at Mission Hill: If you missed the flurry of chapter releases, articles, and media connected to the film, or if you just want to watch them again and read some inspiring commentary about what education can and ought to be, this is for you.
A Year at Mission Hill - Official Website
Communications Manager: Shawn Strader
It can be difficult to stay "up to speed" on all the different things happening around educational change in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Many activists and educators have shared the challenge they face in making time to step back and make sense of how their efforts fit into a larger picture.
National Learning Calls provide an opportunity to more deeply understand an issue, learn more about an upcoming campaign, or to simply increase community engagement on timely topics and calls to action.
You can find an archive of our calls below.
Director of Learning: Dana Bennis
Reports about education are often full of findings and abstract solutions but lack the depth, stories, and sharing of learning that can nurture an understanding of how transformational change unfolds in different communities. Rather than linking across efforts, too often reports elevate a single best approach from the lens of one, rather than multiple, perspectives.
Each issue of IDEA’s Learning Reports shares the stories, connections, and learning from the educational change work happening across IDEA and the networks with which we are engaged.
The broad educational change community is invited to add to the documentation for future reports through online “story journals," and content is also gathered from online engagement and in person, phone, and electronic conversations.
The first audience of learning reports are the people engaged with IDEA with the hope that our learning is also useful for individuals, communities, organizations, and policy-makers around the United States and Puerto Rico working to advance meaningful learning to build a more just and sustainable society.
Chief Learning Officer: Dana Bennis.