Please Share My Passion For Education!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

iPads for Autism: Students Changing the World

iPads for Autism: Students Changing the World

"Everyone wins when we all join together"

Joining together a Community:iPads for Autism

During our most recent unit we explored whether technology has been good for society.  We had a number of experts come in to discuss the pros and cons of technology.  Obviously technology has brought forth millions of innovations that have made our life better, but it was interesting to see some of the negatives that come with technology such as loss of local jobs, a decrease in person-person communication, and fewer people exercising as much as they should be.

At the end of the project we decided to focus on one particular benefit that technology provides:  iPads for students with autism.  Over the course of a week the Communities program at Oshkosh North High School brought in experts in the form of therapists, autism teachers, counselors, parents and siblings of children with autism, and others.

Our class learned a LOT about autism and how it affects people who have it.  We learned a lot about what a spectrum disorder is and what the different levels of the spectrum mean.  We also learned a lot about how technology, specifically iPads, could help children with autism to learn and live better lives.  There are many apps that exist for children with autism to use that help with communication, expression, organization, learning to overcome stressful situations, and many more.  After talking with the experts, and those who have lived with children with autism, it became clear that iPads could greatly improve the quality of life for those who received iPads.

For our project we partnered with our local Mid-Morning Kiwanis club.  They were doing an "iPads for Autism" program and had already secured 10 iPads for students with autism.  The problem, however, is that there were still 20 children still on the list.  Many students and teachers agreed that we would love to have the ability to pull out the money and fund the purchase of these iPads, but this was obviously not possible.  We decided, though, that we could make a difference and help out this cause.

The students planned a fundraiser in which they will run a raffle at the biggest varsity basketball game of the year:  crosstown rivals, Oshkosh North vs. Oshkosh West.  The students began brainstorming and filled the boards with excellent ideas.  It was official.  Our Communities students were bound to make a difference and help out this cause.

We recently wrapped up the prepare and plan phase and fulfilled some solid work days of the action phase.  There were 13 different groups that all had different responsibilities ranging from advertising, contacting radio/television/newspaper, planning the raffle, calling local sponsors for donations towards the raffle, a t-shirt designing group, another group that reached out to partner with the other high school (Oshkosh West) in town to help out.  The group chose the theme "Two Teams, One Community" because of the need for us to put our differences aside in trying to help our community.

This blog post is simply an update on one of the most magnificent projects I have seen.  Students are extremely passionate, hardworking, eager to learn, and eager to make a positive impact in the world.  This is ComPassion Based Learning, interdisciplinary, differentiated, Project Based Learning and education at their finest.  This is all while inspiring students to be altruistic, learn 21st century skills, and learn about how to organize and execute events.  The future is bright!  These students are amazing!!!

This is a video that the students put together as an introduction for the "WHY" behind the cause.  They have more specific ones created for local showing, some for in-game announcements, radio advertisements, etc... 

Our staff has always believed that if you give students the opportunities, resources, and support to change the world, they will do amazing things.  I have never felt more confident about that then I am right now!

Communities at Oshkosh North High School
Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Please reply with any questions, thoughts, suggestions, opinions, or ways that you would like to get involved.

Please visit our website at:

Follow us on Twitter:  @communitiesonhs

ComPassion Based Learning -

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Do not be an umbrella to the sun.

We live in a world in which we have an endless amount of problems including pollution, diseases, depression, and the extinction of many species.  We also have an incredible amount of BRILLIANT minds sitting in our classrooms every day doing worksheets, writing down notes about irrelevant information that they are not yet excited to learn, following lab recipes, and disliking it all.  Why?  If the goal if conformity and obedience, I can see why the system is set up this way, but even that isn't working.  I believe that most schools would say that they goal is to TEACH students and prepare them for their futures.

Wake Up!

Kill two birds with one stone.

Try this:


= (equals)


Empower these students.  Allow them to reach their potential and prove to you what they are capable of.  Over the course of the past four years I have seen some absolutely incredible learning going on while students are working with community partners (experts & authentic audiences), in the community, in order to make the community a better place.  When students can sense the authenticity and relevance they reach that level of "FLOW" which Csikszentmihalyi has so eloquently written about.  In the end, when students finally understand they are capable of having a positive impact on the community, city, state, nation, world......their eyes open up and a whole new world is revealed.  They matter.  They realize they can change the world, and it is addicting. 

I spent almost every day over the past summer and given up almost every lunch hour and free time I have ever had to help students with projects that they are going above and beyond on, just because they have that desire to learn, innovate, and make a difference.

Give it a try.  You will not be disappointed.

Oliver Schinkten
Communities at Oshkosh North High School
Twitter:  @schink10

You Are Free! Run!

To whom it may concern:

When explaining to students that you are going to give them 20% time, which we call Compassion Based Learning, you would think that they would be filled with joy.  Essentially, you are telling them that they are going to have about 20% of their week to learn about a topic that they are passionate about.  Do not worry about an assignment, concrete directions, seats in rows, sage on the stage, etc...  Students constantly express their frustration with these confines of traditional schooling.  For this reason, shouldn't they be excited to bolt out of the gate once they are allowed to begin?  Surprisingly, the answer is NO for many of them.  One reason is that many do not understand how to come up with questions on their own and be self-directed enough to investigate the topic.

I have also been absolutely shocked over the past 4 years at the number of students unable to determine something which they are passionate about!  This blew my mind.  I have about 100 things I am passionate about and my only difficulty is trying to narrow them down.  I think of friends that I have and feel as if they all have things they are passionate about.  Why are there so many students who do not have a passion?  In my opinion, the answer is ....... School.  I have had the opportunity to sit down and talk at length with many of these students.  I have found the following to be a common thread:

  • They wake up, go to school, go to practice or club, get home in time to eat, do homework for a couple hours, and then go to bed.
  • They have been told in every class they have had since they were five years old, exactly what they should be doing, how they should be doing it, and eventually whether or not they obtained the correct answer.
  • Nobody has ever asked them what they are passionate about.

This seems like a GIANT RED FLAG 
We have a problem!!!!!!!!

At what point do we consider the fact that maybe the extreme lack of engagement students have in their classes, the high drop out rates in high school and college, the high suicide rates, etc, may be caused by the education system in the first place.

At what point doesn't it become more important to realize that these are young human beings that we are teaching and that we owe it to them to help "find themselves" and their passions and give them time to enjoy them.  If I approached most of my friends and told them that they had to put in more hours after working hard at their 8-hour job, they would laugh, yet we have students going to school for 8 hours, practice for 2+ hours, working, and then doing an excessive amount of homework.

At what point doesn't it become more important to nurture students and give them a chance to grow, while just being a "Kid" instead of cramming more equations, facts, and pointless books down their throats?  At constantly evaluating them on how "intelligent" they are using useless testing methods that test one type of intelligence (and not even well).

We have a group of kids in our room.  These kids all have feelings and futures.  They all possessed a curious and creative mind at one point.  Please, do not drain this out of them and create a culture of obedient robots who do not understand their purpose or passions in life. 

Oliver Schinkten
ComPassion Based Learning
Communities at Oshkosh North High School