gamification task force had gamified her high school physics class, and members of the PBL task force
were converting their traditional curricular units into Project-Based Learning units in the Middle and
Elementary Schools. The learning of the R&D staff team was driving new grassroots practices throughout
our school. Two years of an R&D Staff Team work were enough to let us know we were onto something
big. Since that first year, the Staff R&D Team at ASB has doubled in number. The impact of R&D work
and the potential to provide research based innovation and relevant meaningful learning for our
students led to the formation of our R&D Department.
R&D: More than a department - A new operating system
At its core, R&D in our school is a new operating system for sustaining innovation for relevant student
learning. In Accelerate: Building Agility for a Faster-Moving World, John Kotter (2014) frames the need
for this kind of operating system:
The world is now changing at a rate at which the basic systems, structures, and cultures built over the
past century cannot keep up with the demands being placed on them. Incremental adjustments to how
you manage and strategize, no matter how clever, are not up to the job. You need something very new
to stay ahead in an age of tumultuous change and growing uncertainties. The solution is not to trash
what we know and start over but instead to reintroduce, in an organic way, a second system – one which
would be familiar to most successful entrepreneurs. The new system adds needed agility and speed while
the old one, which keeps running, provides reliability and efficiency (pp. vii-viii).
Our R&D department functions as a flexible agile operating system focused on researching and
developing new practices, approaches, and systems for the future of our school. We do this by
networking with many volunteers from across our school. In this way we are able to incorporate diverse
perspectives across the school as we research and develop new practices, approaches, and systems for
our students while the traditional school operating system implements and embeds new practices that
impact our students’ learning.
Prototyping, a Core Competency
We believe Michael Schrage wasn’t exaggerating when he declared that “Effective prototyping may be
the most valuable core competence an innovative organization can hope to have” (Peters, 1987).
Prototyping allows us to develop new teaching and learning provisions that are informed and improved
to meet the needs of our students in our teaching and learning contexts. We recognize that we have an
ethical responsibility to provide thoughtful, high quality learning for our students. Therefore, “
Always-beta” development of our prototypes is a core value and methodology of our work that comes from the
software industry that indicates both a finished product that meets a need but also continues to
undergo further development (Hoffman, 2014, Wikipedia, 2013).
Our Day 9 Prototype illustrates how ‘always-beta’ prototyping enables us to research and develop new
provisions that impact student learning while continuing to improve those provisions through further
iteration. The prototype began when a group of our Elementary School teachers were presented with an
open day on the calendar, and a question, “What if you could design a new day of school, what would
that look like?.” The group identified these three key goals for the new day of school: