Connections and Conversations: Getting Ready for Create Something Great

As a full-time education consultant, Allison Zmuda works with educators to grow ideas on how to make learning for students challenging, possible and worthy of the attempt. Over the past fifteen years, Zmuda has shared curricular, assessment, and instructional ideas, shown illustrative examples, and offered practical strategies of how to get started.

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create something greatI’m gearing up to head to Douglas County Colorado to be a part of a think tank: Create Something Great. Part of my duty is to serve on a panel to represent the educator viewpoint in conjunction with a handful of innovators in their own fields, including JobSnap creator Jeff Boodie and philanthropist Carrie Morgridge.

Personalizing learning starts with understanding what the goals are and who you are connecting with to create a meaningful experience for everyone. So I’m doing some advanced research on my fellow presenters to identify common threads: passion, connection, and action.

Passion

What drives you? What’s your story? What do you hope for the world? What problem or challenge are you committed to solving?

Jeff Boodie
JobSnap Founder Jeff Boodie

Passion feeds the mind and the soul. It nurtures new ideas, soothes when obstacles appear insurmountable, and buoys risk-taking in uncharted territory. One of Morgridge’s passions is to innovate schooling: “I would like to create a new, scalable model in education, in which a student’s curricula is relevant and aligned with her or his passions and future careers.”

Boodie is passionate about helping Generation Z (22 years or less) start their careers by matching them up with prospective employers. JobSnap focuses on helping young job seekers (22 years and younger) connect with potential employers. Job seekers create and post 30-second videos to describe their strengths and expectations. In an interview, Boodie described the vision of the company: “We’re basically creating a platform for the next generation of first-time job seekers who love technology and have stories to tell.” In another interview, he said “I consider myself at my core to be an encourager. I encourage people. I want people to go for it.”

In my work, I work with interested schools and districts on the challenge of how to design learning experiences that help our students uncover their passions, articulate their aspirations, and pursue their ideas. The relevance that Carrie described and the encouragement Jeff spoke to are essential in the design and development of innovative ideas that honor student voice, co-creation, social construction, and self-discovery.

Connections

How do you reach out to others to seek out information and guidance? How do you offer your expertise and insight? How do the people in your expanding network fuel your passion?

There is tremendous value in expanding your network to connect with fresh ideas, divergent perspectives, and alternate solutions to help broaden your worldview and clarify/move forward your passion. Carrie Morgridge was inspired by the concept of a Jeffersonian dinner. Take a look at this excerpt from Morgridge’s book, Every Gift Matters.

These are dinners where President Thomas Jefferson invited twelve people from different disciplines and viewpoints to discuss important topics of the day. Then he would ask three or four provocative questions that the entire table would discuss in depth. Jennifer and Jeffrey’s book had such an impact on me that I immediately set up two Jeffersonian dinners of my own. These really excited me, because I love to hear other people’s opinions and very different points of view about important issues. My ultimate goal at these dinners is to end with this question: “What is the next step?” Turning ideas into action is what great giving is all about for me: the hope and anticipation that something may happen the next day, or it may happen a year down the road. What’s most important is that these dinners can spark new passions and some dinners have the power to change our foundation.

Sometimes we surround ourselves with like-minded thinkers, people that typically agree and support rather than challenge our ideas. But growth and learning comes from being uncomfortable, being challenged to deepen an explanation, revise a strategy, or reimagine an idea. Especially when people have positions of power in schools, communities, companies, and families; hopefully we send clear messages on the value of each voice in contributing to something bigger.

Jeff Boodie also spoke about the power of connection:

“That’s the joy I get too as far as building relationships, connecting people to things that I believe in.”

That also stems from trust: “You have to trust someone and someone has to believe you.”

Every young person deserves to have mentors: an educator, employer, expert that offers opportunities to grow their skill set, passion, and ideas. But this is a reciprocal relationship. This is learning how to commit, to follow-through, to communicate even when — even if — things get hard.

Action

Action, connection, and passion feed off of one another. If you are really inspired, the most natural thing to do is act. The scary part for many folks is how those actions will be received.

Carrie Morgridge
Philanthropist Carrie Morgridge

Part of Carrie Morgridge’s philanthropic work is inspiring others to give. “Each person and every gift can make a difference. Whoever you are, no matter how much or how little you have, your gift matters. The smallest, seemingly unimportant, donation can transform a life.”

Jeff Boodie talks about the importance of the journey, whether you are just taking your first steps and making a good impression at an interview or taking a risk by having the courage to speak up or take action on a new idea.

In Douglas County, I have met with several teachers and administrators who are committed to innovation and action by re-imagining the role of students in their own learning and providing them the necessary supports to become more skillful and impact the world of their classrooms and beyond.

Looking forward to meeting Carrie Morgridge and Jeff Boodie personally and will do a follow-up post after the event is over!

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