Maintaining the Flame

Over the next school year, we continued the after-school program and helped launch another one at Madison High School, a nearby school. These programs were focused on creating projects that were important for the community in one way or another.

We aligned with teams coming from two other schools, and the next spring held a regional demo day where we again invited members of Portland’s tech industry to come and hear their stories. Around twelve or so student teams participated in that gala.

But something was wrong.

I knew that there was a magical energy surrounding what happened the previous summer, feeling that we were tapping into a powerful creative energy that could transform how students learned. Something we began to call Purpose Driven Learning.

But the administrators in the Portland school district didn't understand. They didn't even seem to want to understand it. Multiple times I would invite them to participate and they would never show up. There was little willingness to support teachers who were curious about what we were doing.

The administrators were putting us into a box – another after-school program for the special interests of a small group of students. A club.

If we were trapped in their box, our experiment would fail. Because what we were exploring was much deeper and more profound. It was about the very nature of the culture of learning – not about attending to special interests.

That was when Gary, a board member of the Technology Association of Oregon (TAO) Foundation and the CEO of a winery in Dayton, challenged me. What might happen if you took this aspiration to transform education to a rural community?

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