Notes from the Field: Field Day Celebrates the Launch of Rally Wisconsin

3 … 2 … 1 … Liftoff!

Field Day recently gathered an amazing group of educators, administrators, designers, and researchers to celebrate the launch of our current initiative in sponsorship with the Department of Public Instruction — Rally Wisconsin. Appetizers and drinks were had over conservations that floated above the tunes of Chicago House music. The heart of the event was hearing from David Krakauer, Sheila Briggs, Kurt Kiefer, and David Gagnon.

Each time NASA launches a new mission into space, there’s always a gathering — people coming together to witness and celebrate the beginning of something special, a voyage into the unknown (or maybe they just want to witness the blast, the spectacle). But really, every mission begins long before the launch. Every mission begins with a dream, a plan, anticipation, a curiosity. What would happen if we put humans on the moon? On Mars?

At Field Day we constantly ask What would happen if? This Rally Wisconsin endeavor started with a dream and we’ll continue dreaming as we journey along. What would it look like if students were in the driver’s seat … if inspired, risk-taking teachers had the resources and support they needed to make something really wild that breaks paradigms?

At the launch event, David Krakauer, Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, called Rally Wisconsin “an experiment.” And it is. With Rally Wisconsin we want to remove the barriers between students, teachers, and creativity. We want to take the incredible education research happening at the UW and put that into actual practice with Wisconsin’s K-12 schools. We are going to amplify teachers by teaching them how to teach students to design their own games. We will be doing this through entry-level workshops and deep-dives with select teachers who are willing to take risks with approaches on the bleeding edge of learning.

Schools and teachers don’t always embrace new technology with open arms. What if computers replace us? But Rally Wisconsin isn’t a personnel-reducing strategy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. As Sheila Briggs, Assistant State Superintendent of the DPI emphasized at the event, teachers will play an important role — this is just a shift from talking at kids to engaging with kids. She warned against current educational practices by saying, “Kids used to come to school to get knowledge, but they don’t need schools for that anymore. If we continue to operate in our schools the same way, we are going to have really disengaged kids. If the kids can get the answer to something on their phone, you shouldn’t be asking them to memorize it or write it down. I have no fear that computers could ever replace teachers unless that’s what teachers keep doing.”

As evidenced by the event’s attendees, Rally Wisconsin already has many of the right people on board. And now we are looking to team with the right teachers. Fearless teachers … hero teachers. Those who already dream big and simply need a support team to make their dreams a reality. Teachers who are ready to explore education’s version of Mars. Those who understand that while there’s always a risk of failure, that risk is worth it in exchange for chasing something big and thrilling. Teachers who, if they had the resources, would already be doing these things.

Gagnon and Halverson
David Gagnon, Field Day Program Manager, talks with Rich Halverson, UW Professor and avid champion of field Day.

The groundwork has been laid, but the real work is to come. We are going to champion the teachers we work with, their projects, and their successes. We will be documenting the journey, and we want you to follow along with the stories on our blog and on social media. Think of it as your own Mars Rover Mission tracker. Beyond our own blog, we want to see these stories spread like wildfire, to every school district blog and to every local news station. In our typical Go Big or Go Home style, this dream extends to national level impact. Look at what those cool kids in Wisconsin are doing.

Field Day’s Program Manager, David Gagnon, closed out the event by expanding on what this all really means. This is about learning through design. It is about working with prototypes, not products. Instead of working with vendors, it is about building things ourselves and seeing what happens. Students and teachers will be building experiences and inhabiting worlds.

So, 3 … 2 … 1 … Liftoff! We’ve launched, we’ve celebrated that launch, and this is the beginning of our mission. This may not be rocket science, and our launch event wasn’t exactly a spectacle with a loud blast! … but it is uncharted territory. It won’t be easy, but it should be done. We are ready for it, to find the answers and to explore the bounds of What would happen if…

–blog entry by Anda Manteufel