The 21st Century Educator: Teachers As Co-Designers

At the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME), we are changing the face of professional development training for the 21st century educator by collaborating worldwide with educators, administrators, and students.

The three areas we focus on include:
  • Developing the professional skills of educators to strengthen their abilities as researchers, designers, authors, leaders, and collaborators in their education communities and beyond;
  • Supporting the implementation of innovative ideas for teaching and learning in the work of educators;
  • And facilitating the documentation and sharing of inspiring projects these educators are conducting with their students and colleagues.

We view learning as a process of creativity, collaboration, and sharing and as part of this process, we are building pathways for student ideas to inspire teacher-created Open Educational Resources (OER) -- freely available teaching and learning materials that can be remixed and shared.

ISKME first created the OER Design Lab at Maker Faire, a two-day family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness that takes place in San Mateo, California, as well as in Detroit, Michigan, and Queens, New York. For the past four years, students in our OER Design Lab, ages three to college age, conduct research, brainstorm, prototype, and present new ideas for teaching and learning. Each student designs a project that is shared on OER Commons and with teachers during the Teachers as Makers Academy.

The OER Design Lab at Maker Faire supports idea sharing among educators and learners. In 2010, the design challenge we created was to "Make the School of the Future." Students wasted no time in letting us know their learning preferences! They sketched ideas for the structural design of their imagined school of the future, as well as a plan for how they would run the school (classes, subjects, teachers, etc.). Once they had a school concept they wanted to move forward with, they used prototyping materials to create a 3-D model of their idea. They then gave their completed prototype model a title and description, and made a video presentation of their school.

Lexi and Lily, two high school students, worked together on their School of the Future design. Their love of science inspired them to create a school with a living roof, which could be used as an area to study biology and as a playground.  Their prototype included other features such as a glass floor to view a river flowing underneath the school and solar panels on the roof to power touch-screen technology devices that would be used in the classrooms.

In the video presentation below, the team walk us through their prototype and describe their vision for the role of teachers at their school: "There aren’t really teachers, but supervisors so you can basically do it yourself, as long as you are learning and doing stuff," say Lexi and Lily.

That year, during the two-day Teachers as Makers Academy, in which teachers partake in a design thinking activity, similar to the process that the Design Lab students experienced, this and other student presentations were shared.

During the Academy, Lexi and Lily's design inspired a group of elementary school teachers to create and share The Living Canopy Design Challenge Activity, which has students use design thinking to create a garden that provides protection from the sun. The result? Teachers created and shared their own project based OER to use in their classrooms -- inspired by the students themselves.

The result for me? As Education Program Manager at ISKME, I am continually inspired designing and creating OER with teachers and students. If you'd like to join our network of collaborators, there is still time to register for the New York Teachers as Makers Academy next month. In addition to our Teachers as Makers Academies held earlier this summer in San Mateo and Detroit, we’ll be at Hyde Leadership Academy in the Bronx, New York August 13-14, 2012. Please contact me at if you are interested in attending the New York Teachers as Makers Academy or learning more about our OER Training and Design Lab offerings. The Academy is offered free of charge for up to 25 teachers.