Kevin Brookhouser has taught at York school for 15 years and during his tenure there he has taken the best practices from Silicon Valley and used them to transform the lives of his students. In 2008, Kevin worked with the founders of Google Teacher Academy to learn more about the culture at Google’s Mountain View campus. He thought about how he could prepare his students to be hired at a innovative company like Google; in effect how he could make them “future-ready”; Kevin’s focus on the future led him to being named a Teacher of the Future by the National Association of Independent Schools in 2008. In 2012, Kevin joined the founder of Google Teacher Academy’s new venture, EdTechTeam, as a contributor. He traveled around the world to help schools create both the best possible learning environments and future-ready education.
Kevin realized that traditional education’s use of extrinsic motivators, like rewards and punishments in the form of grades, did not effectively encourage the innovative thinking that is needed to solve 21st century problems. Kevin believed that learning to solve serious problems facing our world could only occur when children had the freedom to learn about topics outside the classroom of their own choosing. To accomplish this, Kevin again looked to the best practices at Google. Google allows their employees to spend 20 % of their work hours on the pursuit of independent projects and many of Google’s most valuable work comes from the 20% project. Kevin brought the 20% concept to his classroom. Students are allowed to spend one period each week on independent projects. His students must submit project proposals, and at the conclusion of their project they give community wide presentations. The presentations force his students to get their projects evaluated in the real world.
Two years ago Kevin founded the York Code and Design class, which takes place in York’s Design Shop, or maker’s space. This elective class teaches python, C++ and other high tech concepts but most importantly, his class seems like a lot of fun. His students have contributed to the community by building displays for My Museum, a children’s museum in Monterey. The real world problem solving that Kevin encourages is evident in his class. One student’s mother experiences headaches in cold weather. The student sought a therapeutic solution and created a headband with a heated element inside. The headband uses an external battery connected to a USB port and it is lightweight, comfortable to wear and it warms quickly.
At the Faire, Kevin’s crew will have sewing machines on hand so that the public can learn to make headbands. Other students will display their LED mushrooms made with an Arduino, show off their Raspberry Pi retro arcade and have lead free soldering stations set up. York’s Code and Design students will also set up LED lights that will change as event attendees manipulate the code controlling the lights.
Watch Kevin’s TEDxMonterey talk on the 20% project: