I, Aatash Parikh, started my journey as an educator in 2016 in San Diego, California at High Tech High, a K-12 school network and pioneer in project-based learning. I had recently left my job in technology to pursue a desire to make an impact in education. After a period of self-guided research and visiting schools, I had stumbled upon High Tech High (HTH) and found its model an inspiring and compelling vision of what education could be–one in which students learned not through one-size-fits-all curriculum, but through real world projects that connected them to their communities.
I was fortunate to get to spend a year at the HTH Chula Vista campus as a "school resident" while studying at the HTH Graduate of School of Education. While observing amazing educators at work, I wondered what would help more teachers everywhere incorporate these student-centered practices into their classrooms. I saw the painstaking work that went into (1) designing these learning experiences for students and (2) convincing outside stakeholders that this model was effective. The initial version of Inkwire–this site–was built during this time as a way for educators to use digital sharing tools to asynchronously support students' creative projects and visually document the process as evidence of deep learning.
For the past two years, I have been a teacher at a traditional public middle school in Oakland, California. Working in a school and district without all the structures and supports of High Tech High, I have found my own ways to create rich, community-connected projects for my students. Most recently, my 8th graders worked in teams to design mobile apps to solve specific problems in Oakland–such as illegal dumping and food distribution to the homeless–all while working a closely with a group of professional mentors, ranging from engineers and product managers, that worked at the company Square. When I am able to create such opportunities for my students to step out of the walls of the classroom–physically or digitally–to create, to present, to share, they show up and shine in ways that school does not normally permit them to.
Freeing up students to be creative in their learning paths and share their work with others comes with many challenges, from building up the students' creative confidence to organizing a messy learning process to finding an audience of adults willing to give students' kind and helpful feedback on their work. Inkwire was designed to leverage the power of technology to support these process.
If you're an educator, I would love to hear your story and what has helped you along the way, technology or otherwise.
Inkwire in its current form is a tool to support the teaching and learning process. The "secret" long-term vision, however, goes a bit deeper. One of the biggest forces working against true student-centered learning is our current systems of evaluation, assessment, and high-stakes testing.
Technology and social media have the power to amplify our students' voices in new ways and to showcase the skills we know they possess but aren't captured by traditional measures. What if we could build that new system in which our students get to develop and show their individual strengths rather than conform to an outmoded average standard? If you're interested in working on this together, I would love to hear from you.