CEO: Collaborative and Enterprising Opportunity
By: Patricia Ragan and Susan O’Neill
Patricia’s Mission: To bridge the gap between the classroom and the corporate room.
Susan’s Mission: To bridge the gap between her classroom, other classrooms and the world of work.
Cooperative Mission: To bridge the gap between regular education and special education classrooms and to provide the opportunity for creative teaching.
Students at Canastota Jr. Sr. High school, in Central New York, have embarked on a journey to make connections with business executives outside of the classroom. Patricia Ragan designed, developed and implemented a new learning program titled “CEO” (which stands for Collaborative and Enterprising Opportunity. ) The plan was to have business students collaborate with CEO’s from across the country via Skype as they developed their business plans in her class.
Many teachers and administrators have posed the question to Patricia, “How did you come up with this idea?” The inspiration to design this program came to her while participating in the Microsoft Partner’s in Learning Forum this summer in Washington State. According to Patricia, “I was certain that I wanted to continue to push boundaries as I did with The Canastota Apprentice. I realized that I wanted to explore use of a new technology and as I toured the Microsoft Campus, I noted Skype logos. I decided during one of the professional development sessions at Microsoft PiLUS that I wanted my students in Canastota, New York to collaborate on their business plan development with CEO’s from across the country using Skype. I started with the title of CEO and after much deliberation decided the name of the program would be Collaborative and Enterprising Opportunity.”
Patricia continues, “I wrote the design for the program in my business classroom in three phases:
- Phase one included prior-knowledge assessment and introduction of the business plan curriculum.
- Phase two implemented the Skype process including a “meet and greet” between CEO (executive mentor) and student (future entrepreneurs), collaboration and feedback on the business plan created by the students, and a thank you/closing session.
- Phase three consisted of reflection of the project and evaluation by the instructor. Students successfully communicated in a professional manner for a period of five weeks with CEO’s from across the country. I am beyond thankful for the donation of valuable time from the amazing business owners who acted as the teacher for the first time. For five weeks they dedicated a half hour of time to provide students with feedback and guidance.”
Patricia had the idea to initiate this collaboration with CEO’s while developing a partnership with another teacher at Canastota Jr. Sr. High School. Patricia approached Susan O’Neill with her idea and the two started working together on the project. Throughout the implementation of Patricia’s high school business program, she would meet with Susan who was designing her own program to accompany Patricia’s. The two served as each other’s sounding boards constantly bouncing new ideas and approaches to learning off each other. The fact that neither of them have a common planning period made this short of miraculous!
SUSAN’S FUTURE EMPLOYEES AND ENTREPRENEURS
The program in Susan’s classroom looked much different. Susan states, “The students in my classroom are students, who by nature, have not had great success with traditional learning. This is due, at least, to the fact that every one of them is dealing with some sort of significant disability. These students’ disabilities or “different abililties” as I like to call, them have excluded them from the mainstream classrooms, robbing them of valuable social skills. In the “real world” jobs, from a CEO right on down to a manual laborer, require social skills.”
Susan continues, “Furthermore, in my classroom I am expected to accomplish three things. The first, and most important, is to meet each student’s specialized goals on their IEP’s or Individual Education Plans. Second, to follow and modify the 7th and 8th grade curriculum. Third, to introduce meaningful life skills to the students.” Part of these skills included technology for them, which can be used in the classroom and in the real world to make a disability less of an issue. Several years ago our special education department was given the use of Apple technology products such as ipods, ipads, and Macbooks. Up until this time I had not really had the opportunity to integrate these tools into my curriculum. Here was an opportunity! I teamed up with Patricia to accomplish this within the confines of her CEO program. For my students, I created their role in the program around the following goals:
- to allow the students with different abilities to collaborate with older regular education students
- to expose the students to different careers
- to introduce different technologies to students in order to communicate (ie. reading, writing, speaking and research) more meaningfully
SKYPE IN THE CLASSROOM
Armed with Skype and a dream, Patricia, with some help from Susan, started networking to enlist a group of executive mentors to collaborate with the high school students. Many hours were spent on the phoning, emailing, and making connections with Facebook in this networking process.
CEO’s from Oklahoma, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Texas and New York bravely signed on to participate in this learning experiment. One of the CEO’s, Jackie Bernardi, owner of Personal Skin Solutions, said “this is the future of education.”
Mike Woloszyn commented about his work with his future entrepreneur saying “I enjoyed working on this and I feel that I learned far more than I taught.” Mike is the CEO of Lune Chocolat and was paired with a student planning to open a bakery. His executive mentor continues to modify her business plan and is preparing to present to FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) this Spring.
Mary Reina, Independent Consultant for Mary Kay Cosmetics, reflected by saying “Being able to collaborate and offer ideas to others and hear their willingness to consider other options is part of growing and critical thinking. Watching these young men believing in themselves and thinking big is a huge step in entrepreneurial success!”
Patricia stated, “When one student lit up like a Christmas tree after his first Skype call with CEO, Dick Lowell of WestBrook Homes in Oregon, I knew I was onto something amazing. Most CEO’s literally said that they learned right along with the student. This was an unpredictable bonus to the program.” At the end of the Skyping, Susan received a Facebook message from Carey Joliffe, owner of Carey Jolliffe Graphic Arts, in which he stated “It was enjoyable. I actually looked forward to the Skype each week.”
WHERE IN THE WORLD?
While Patricia’s class Skyped with CEO’s, Susan’s students designed and developed the “Map of Success” showing our collaboration from East Coast to West Coast. Her class used the Macbooks, ipads, and Google earth on their classroom Smartboard to research and identify where the CEO’s were. They printed out a puzzle map from the website Mr. Printables, pieced it together onto cardboard, and pinned the logo of each business to it. They visited Patricia’s classroom and witnessed a Skype session in progress, then used the word processors and Macbooks to write their reflections. One student stated that the best part was “Being able to work with high school students!” BINGO! One goal accomplished!
COLLABORATION WITHIN OUR SCHOOL
This phase of the project is currently underway. Patricia and Susan decided to have Susan’s students evaluate the business plans and apply for the jobs that the future entrepreneur’s were creating. In preparation for this, her students have been researching the “available jobs” and exploring the world of resumes and applications. Susan’s class has been inspired by participation in this program. Two of the students in her classroom took the initiative to write a business plan on their own time. One for a candy shop and another for a trucking company. Bravo to Susan’s class for taking initiative! This project has made her students think about setting goals in life and to dream big!
A FLY ON THE WALL
As the teacher of this program, Patricia was in the position of facilitator. Typically, teachers are in control of most aspects of learning, but in this instance, Patricia states, “ I found I had to take a step back and observe the teachable moments take shape. The moments that were most compelling to me were the interactions between future entrepreneur and executive mentor. Weekly, we would sign in to Skype and the conversations would begin. I found that the goal of this program was not about creating the most fabulous business plan, but to learn how to communicate professionally with a business leader outside of the classroom.” One of her high school students said “I was dreaming about this last night” in anticipation of meeting his executive mentor (CEO). This same student has now decided to write a second business plan because he is inspired to develop a business for a technology company to open after graduation.
As the project unfolded and reality set in, both teachers found that they had to adjust their expectations. Patricia’s new focus was to simply have the students communicate with business executives outside of the classroom. This shift occurred quite honestly because weekly it was controlled chaos in her classroom as Patricia navigated technological issues and scrambled to get kids connected. Patricia’s personal cell phone was necessary for back up to make conference calls. In the field of education, you must be flexible and know your goal is a moving target. Once students started communicating, the program took on a life of it’s own. On the other hand, Susan found that her students were lacking in the basic vocabulary and geography skills necessary to complete the project. For example, words like “CEO”, “Skype”, and even “business” were completely foreign to them. In addition, Texas might as well have been a country in the Southern Hemisphere instead of a state in the Southern United States! Adding new vocabulary to their schema turned out to be an added bonus.
WHAT LIES AHEAD
This program has proven to be a great success at this point. The capstone project for this program will be to have Patricia’s students pitch their business plan to Susan’s class, as practice. Susan’s students will give Patricia’s students feedback on their presentations. The plan is for Susan’s students to be able to connect what they learned about the businesses from the presentations and the job research in order to make a decision on which business they would choose to work for. Resumes and applications will be filled out. Patricia’s upcoming CEO’s will accept their applications and conduct interviews with them. Eventually, Patricia’s students will pitch their business plans to a panel of local CEO’s in a face to face presentation in the classroom. Patricia says, “My students are currently preparing their ‘elevator pitch’, something I learned for my presentation at Microsoft PiLUS.” Wish ALL of our students luck as they are given feedback regarding the investment potential of their business or if they are hired for the job they applied for!
The CEO project is proud to be collaborating with teacher Patrick Armstrong and his class in Belfast, Ireland. Patrick is a business instructor at Methodist College Belfast. The CEO students will be presenting their business plans to his class after the holidays. Mr. Armstrong’s class will then be pitching a business product idea to my students to determine if the product is well suited for the United States. In preparation for this, Susan’s students are in the midst of creating a computer video slideshow entitled “A Day in the Life of a Canastota Student”. We are looking forward to this new phase of the program. It’s as if the stars have aligned for us!
Finally, Don Wettrick, a Microsoft Partners in Learning Educator, is featuring CEO on his ground breaking show “The FOCUS: Finding Outstanding Classrooms Using Social Media.” His show is produced by his Innovations class. Patricia met Don in July at the Microsoft Partners in Learning US forum and was inspired by his use of Skype in the classroom. They have been collaborating since the forum.
Fabulous opportunities await the participants in the CEO program, executive mentors, future entrepreneurs, and potential job holders alike. Let’s plan to initiate a movement to bridge the gap between the classroom and the corporate room.
Patricia Ragan’s Webpage: http://www.canastotacsd.org/education/components/scrapbook/default.php?sectionid=27&
Susan O’Neills Webpage: http://www.canastotacsd.org/education/staff/staff.php?sectionid=57&
Don Wettrick’s school with “Innovations” class: http://fcsc.k12.in.us/Page/9
Methodist College Belfast: http://www.methody.org
Executive Mentor Websites:
Carey Jolliffe Graphic Arts: http://www.cjolliffe.com
Personal Skin Solutions: http://personalskinsolutions.com/
WestBrook Homes: http://www.westbrooknw.com/
Chris’ University Spirit: http://www.chrisuniversityspirit.com
Wags Pet Center: http://www.wagspetmotel.com
Sunna Sunless Tanning Salon: http://sunnasunlesstanning.com
Lisa Rossi Photography: http://lisarossiphotography.com/
ES On Demand: http://www.esondemand.com
Lune Chocolat: http://www.lunechocolat.com/Welcome.html
Mary Reina, Independent Consultant, Mary Kay Cosmetics: http://www.marykay.com/
Mr. Printables: http://www.mrprintables.com/printable-map-of-the-united-states.html
Microsoft Partner’s in Learning: http://www.microsoft.com/education/ww/Pages/index.aspx
Skype in the Classroom: https://education.skype.com/