In order to embrace technology in education, we need to step away from it.  This notion, at first glance, appears to be the antithesis to my style of educating in the 21st Century.  Step away from technology?  Yes, I am saying it because I am realistic.  I see teachers flinching at the requirement to use technology when we have professional development, I hear horror stories of failed attempts to apply the tools of technology and I experience the crash of the tech savvy lesson when the device selected decides to quit and reboot.  Remember using control-alt-delete buttons to reset the PC? I think we need a control-alt-delete to reboot our vision of technology in education.


What is the “why” behind implementing technology?  In my view it is to prepare my students to be hired or accepted into the college of their choice.  For example, I expose my students to as many types of communication that I can muster including: face to face, written, e-mail, telephone, video conferencing and social media.  If I keep my driving purpose in mind, to get students hired, then I am able to prepare them to reach their goals while recruiting the technology that best fits the mission.

Abandoning pen to paper and books is a mistake in my humble opinion.  Pen to paper, chalk to board and marker to poster are all using technology.  Using technology in the classroom to engage critical thinking means engaging the mind in higher order thought process through the use of a tool.  Students solving a problem on the board (whether it is chalk or smart) is a process that engages their mind in critical thinking.  In 2014, most technology tools are on a device such as a tablet, cell phone or the desktop computer.  But technology exists all around us, open your eyes, think about what engages your students and remember that you are already using technology.

Teachers are feeling lost in the black hole of technology.  The last thing we need is for teachers to be lost, so let’s be found and help each other in an authentic way.  Implementing technology into lesson plans is fabulous, but how does one go about implementation? How are teachers inspired to take their lessons to the next level?  This blog is my attempt to answer these questions.

Show me the money Isaac

Students raising funds for local charities- pride in their success

The 21st Century is here, matter of fact we are in year 14.  Instead of creating new standards, let’s share earth shattering ideas that will engage student minds in deep learning.  Then select the technology that would be a good fit.  For example, I model the show The Apprentice in my Marketing class, creating an immersive learning experience that is risky as students are literally “fired” every week.  It is a process that is experiential and harsh but I find that the students are obtaining employability skills that yield dream jobs and college careers.  Taking a risk in the classroom feels like jumping off of a cliff, but it is incredibly rewarding.

What is a teacher to do?

Start with a wild idea:  Yes wild.  Design the dream.  For example, I am helping a teacher design a lesson using time travel as the theme to create equations that describe numbers or relationships.  The capstone project for the unit aims to pair students with NASA to literally round out the lessons taught.  Inviting experts into the classroom is an approach that empowers students and validates what is being taught.

Technology selection

Get out your tool box and select a tool that fits for you as a teacher.  Peruse the variety of resources available to help you teach the concept.  Think big but make the lesson resonate with you as the teacher and it will resonate with the student.  If you enjoy using minecraft, then try using the program to teach students how to build a solid structure in your design and drawing course.  If you enjoy reading from an e-reader, then compare and contrast paper books with e-books.  Take a few minutes and browse your desktop at school for programs loaded that you have never used, then play around.  Take a look at inspirational resources such as the Microsoft Educator Network where learning activities are loaded by expert educators for review.

Design the dream

Determine the following:  Where am I going?  How am I going to get there? And how will I know I have arrived?  These are fundamentals to Instructional Design.  When I decided to use Skype in the classroom, I made the choice based on my goal.  I wanted my students to collaborate with entrepreneurs from across the country via video conferencing for expert feedback on writing the business plan.  I then made my technology selection of Skype to help realize my goal and make it a reality.  The lesson plans unfolded seamlessly after answering my key questions about designing the learning environment.  Create a vision for yourself and it will be realized.  Anything is possible in school, the sky is the limit.  Model that frame of mind through designing the dream classroom.  Then sit back, grab some popcorn, and watch your students take on the world.

CTRL ALT DELETE = reboot the vision of technology in education


Winning Gold? No. Building Bridges Through Education? Yes.

Am I a winner?  A professional goal was realized when I was selected to represent the United States as a Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator in Barcelona, Spain.  As the date closed in, I found that I was terrified.  Terrified of failure, terrified of going overseas and terrified of not being able to stand on my own two feet.  I suddenly realized the enormity of being selected to attend and to present at the Microsoft in Education Global Forum. My goal was to win gold for the United States.  I meticulously prepared and rehearsed my elevator pitch for judges and packed two weeks before the forum.  I talked incessantly about my project and my upcoming adventure and now officially apologize to friends, family and colleagues and thank you for listening and for lifting me up.

I discovered during my first “dance” with my  judge  from Finland, that my purpose was to share, not to win.  This sage advice had been provided to me by countless mentors, friends, colleagues and family.  But until I had the experience of sharing my program and meeting educators from around the globe, I had blurry vision.

I spent months planning, organizing, leading, controlling  and executing my program and I was completely obsessed with the Microsoft rubric and on winning gold. I had absolutely zero sense of my impact on other educators leading up to the event; only focused on my performance and winning gold.  Unfortunately, I was so completely enthralled with the rubric and judging aIMG_2207spect that I lost sight of what was about to occur.  I became unsteady and uncertain of my own abilities.  One million people could exclaim from rooftops that I was an expert educator and that I had an impact.  In fact, Microsoft had already made this exclamation, but still, I was uncertain.  My new goal became to get on the plane and to present professionally at the forum.  I literally needed a virtual push from friends to get on the plane to Spain. And so I boarded the flight and my life changed.  I was greeted by my cohorts Don Wettrick and Doug Bergman (two Expert Educators I met in Seattle at PiLUS 2012) on the flight and my nerves started to turn to excitement.  The Microsoft Partner’s in Learning Network of educators are not just the best PLN on the planet, they are also friends and honestly, family.

I arrived in Barcelona ready to take on the world.  Practiced my elevator pitch on the flight with my neighbor, much to his dismay, but I am proud to say he gave me quality feedback and reminded me to show my passion for education.  On TuIMG_2581esday March 11th,  the hour of judgement had arrived.  I am grateful to my first judge, a leader in education from Finland, who literally joked with me and put me at ease immediately.  I laughed with him and started to share my “digital story” with pride.  I do not know his name, but intend to find out through one of my fabulous managers on the Microsoft in Education team.  That is the beauty of this network, as an educator, you can ask any question anytime, no matter how big or small, and a response is provided within hours.IMG_2478

I presented my program, CEO:  Collaborative and Enterprising Opportunity, and suddenly found connections opening up all around me.  My world literally opened up before my eyes.  Turkey, Japan, Egypt, Sweden, Germany, Thailand, United Kingdom, China, France, Spain, Mexico, The Netherlands, Ukraine and so many more all embraced me as a Microsoft Global Expert Educator.  And so my journey truly begins…

My greatest take-away from the Global Forum was the connection I made around the world.  I found that our goals and barriers as educators is inherently similar globally.  Microsoft, in their infinite wisdom, put the Expert Educators into International teams and then provided a global problem for our teams to solve through education.  Sustainability, poverty and hunger or gender equality.  I had the great fortune of being teamed up with Aly Khalil from Egypt, Mikael Bondestam from Sweden, Dr. Holger Frohlich from Germany and Khadia Armanakun from Thailand.  I quickly learned that I had to adjust my approach  to meet the needs of our team.  I feel a strong breakthrough occurred between myself and Aly from Egypt.  AlyIMG_2736 was skilled with regard to communicating with me when I needed to change speed or adjust course and even brought in another member from his team Egypt to translate.  Mikael and Dr. Frohlich provided clear feedback and helped me re-design our activity all while reminding me to have fun above all as wIMG_2733e worked up until the last hour before our presentation. After several hours of making connections, Aly and I had coffee and discussed his culture and the role of women in his country.  He was kind enough to bring in a female from his team to connect with me and join our discussion.  She gave me a beautiful hair piece and I am eternally grateful.  Overcoming cultural and language barriers was a key ingredient to our process for the Learn-A-Thon.  Our team name was “The Marshmallow Connection” in honor of our melding together and our launch activity provided on day one of our professional development. Our team designed a program that uses Chronozoom to create a timeline of events in the future that impact sustainability.  We created a company called “Global Solutions” with each countries teacher acting as the “boss” to departments including Math and Music from Germany, Technical Drawing in Egypt, Computer Programming in Sweden and Economics in the United States.  The goal is for students “hired” in each department to collaborate with departments from around the world to solve sustainability for a given topic on the timeline. See our presentation here.

It is my hope that our project will be implemented in our classrooms over the next year as we continue to collaborate.  Aly, Mikael, Holger and I are all friends on Facebook and continue to discuss our project today.

IMG_2826All of my trepidation, angst and goal setting to win gold was replaced by a goal to build bridges through education.

Aly from Egypt expressed that he would be honored to have me visit his school one day, and I told Aly that it would be my honor to have him visit my school in Canastota, New York.  He replied that this would be “just a dream.”  I replied  “I believe that if you can dream it, it can happen.”  Aly said “then let’s keep dreaming.”


So let’s continue to dream…build the dream…and watch it unfold in front of our eyes.  This my friends is winning.



Dream Team

The 2013 school year is cruising along at the speed of light and the CEO:  Collaborative and Enterprising Opportunity program is preparing to launch in November.  This year, I am proud to have an all star team of students who arrived to my classroom in September motivated and eager to learn.IMG_1024

This year, I will continue the collaborative effort with business leaders who bravely joined my classroom including Jackie Bernardi, Owner of Personal Skin Solutions in California and Carey Jolliffe, owner of Carey Jolliffe Graphics in Colorado.  These business leaders will act as the executive mentors for five weeks to guide students through the arduous task of writing the business plan. This year I will invite CEO’s from major corporations to join the collaborative conversation.

My “all-stars” are looking to create a dream team of CEO’s to meet with as a class over the course of the year.  In my business classroom, I encourage my students to take control of their learning in a project based learning environment.

My CEO students are inspiring me as a teacher and students have ideas that go beyond thinking outside of the box.  Based on student feedback, I am going to invite a dream team of CEO’s to Skype with the entire class periodically throughout the year.

The companies we will contact via Twitter and telephone include, but are not limited to:  Nike, Google, Ford, The Trump Organization, Coca-Cola, Facebook, and Twitter.   Students frequently have a vision that is nothing short of inspirational.  I hope we can connect with some of the “dream team” the students created.  If anyone reading this blog has an idea of a company that would be interested in participating, please tweet me @PatriciaRagan1.

In the design phase of  the CEO program, my overriding goal was to have students learn from business owners from across the country and globe via Skype regarding how to write the business plan.  I utilized the business owners as content experts to teach the student, aka future entrepreneurs.  Entrepreneurs and students alike were working well outside of comfort zones creating a dynamic learning environment where literally anything can happen.  Two of my students were sent business books for Christmas last year and one had an offer to expand to the West Coast.

CEO will be presented at the 2014 Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum to be held in Barcelona, Spain in March.  Company logos that participate in the program will be represented on my project display as they were at the Microsoft Partner’s in Learning NorthEast Forum held at The School of the Future in Philadelphia.  Publicity is a major asset to companies that contribute to our success.

Wish the CEO students luck as we embark on a new journey with the CEO program!


* Special thank you to Canastota Apprentice student Sam Clark for helping me re-design my EduBlog

High School Students on a Mission for Donald Trump to Judge Final Task


The Canastota Apprentice has been at it again and the teams are on fire this year.  For task six, students were asked to create a proposal for Donald Trump to guest judge our final task.  To date, students are blowing up Mr. Trump’s Twitter to gain his attention before sending their proposals via snail mail. I have often joked as a teacher of The Canastota Apprentice that our ultimate goal is to have Mr. Trump land his helicopter on our football field.  I dream big and I teach my students to follow this advice often given by Mr. Trump.

Dressed to impress! #gocanastota

The proposal is simple:  guest judge the final task for The Canastota Apprentice, stay in the luxurious Turning Stone Resort, even play some golf at the Turning Stone’s championship golf course.


Ratings?  Yes, ratings.  What better way to gain viewership of The Celebrity Apprentice and conduct public relations simultaneously than to visit our little piece of heaven in Canastota, New York?  As the teacher and designer of this program, I am officially offering to pay for Mr. Trump’s stay as a thank you for acknowledging our achievements in the past.  Mr. Trump has kindly sent our class books signed personally and a  photograph containing the sage advice “work hard.”  These items are proudly displayed in the classroom;  what an honor it would be to show Mr. Trump the display face-to-face.  The Canastota Apprentice program had the good fortune to be selected as a project to share at the Microsoft Partners in Learning US Forum 2012. This experience was paramount to my initiative as a teacher to think big.  I was honored to present at the forum and continue to collaborate with many of the fabulous educators I met while at Microsoft Partner’s in Learning Forum.


Canastota, located in Upstate New York, is a short drive from New York City and would be absolutely beside ourselves to have Mr. Trump visit and judge this final task.  Students have worked tirelessly for the last two months to complete tasks including fund raising for local charity and collaborating with a fifth and sixth grade classroom in Kentucky to promote their website for Hurricane Sandy Relief.  Apprentice students used Skype to meet with Mrs. Bottom’s class.
These high school students are intrinsically motivated to work hard and apply the Marketing concepts taught to the real world.  One student had the courage to call Mr. Trump’s offices for the fund raising task.  When he approached me with his idea, I encouraged him to go for it, and that he did.  Andrew made that phone call and faxed The Trump offices a package describing the Canastota Student Scholarship Fund for which he is President and his team, TitleTown decided to raise funds for this worthy cause.  I am beyond proud of my students for consistently taking risks in the classroom, even if they do not succeed, they learn a valuable lesson on how to communicate professionally and go for gold.

Raising funds for charity

At this time, students are using Twitter to gain Mr. Trump’s attention and we will be sending a package on Friday of the final proposals.  Students will be judged this week on the professionalism and effectiveness of the proposal.  As to whether or not Mr. Trump is available, we shall soon find out.

I can personally think of no better way to bridge the gap between the classroom and the corporate room.

Follow me:  Twitter @PatriciaRagan1

Email:  pragan@canastotacsd.org

Students Smashing Boundaries

By Patricia Ragan

How can we bridge the gap between the classroom and the corporate room?  Invite the business leaders in…

Students at Canastota Junior Senior high school have been participating in a new program called “CEO: Collaborative and Enterprising Opportunity.”  This program paired my business students with business owners and leaders from across the United States via Skype.  Students in Canastota, New York collaborated with business leaders from California, Oregon, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado and New York as they developed the business plan in class.  Business students met weekly with their assigned business leader and discussed various phases of the business plan.

As the capstone project, I decided to have students present their business plans to a panel of local business owners, or local investors.

A panel of local business owners provide feedback to students pitching the business idea

On January 29th and 30th, business students smashed boundaries by presenting their business plans to a group of local business owners for feedback, Shark Tank style. Students were instructed on how to prepare an “elevator pitch”, something I had to prepare for as a presenter at the Microsoft Partners in Learning US Forum this summer.  The plan was to pitch their business within a 2-5 minute time period and to gain feedback from local business owners.  The following is a summary of the learning I was proud to witness as a teacher…

Cheyanne and Rosa- Lhasa Breeds, Inc.

Cheyanne and Rosa kicked off our presentations and were brave enough to be the first to present to our esteemed panel.  These business partners have a plan to open a breeding business that focuses on the good temperament of Lhasa Apso’s.  They presented their poster with pride and focused on finance.  The paws on the poster were eye-catching.  These students did a nice job and deserve recognition for being the first to stand up and represent our classroom.

Randy presents a web page that inspired his idea

Randy- RMB Aircraft

Future entrepreneur Randy pitched his airplane repossession business with confidence and passion as he displayed his model airplane and helicopter.  Local business leaders from Nice and Easy Grocery Shops and Sandy’s Flowers were impressed with Randy’s passion for airplanes.  Randy even made a demonstration using his model airplane and helicopter to bring his idea to life.  Nice job Randy!

Connor and Isaac- Hounds Grill

The dynamic duo presented  their business in fine fashion.  Isaac and Connor spoke with enthusiasm and described the idea of Hounds Grill that pairs the restaurant business with dog owners.  Their rock solid plan was developed with the help of Jackie Bernardi, CEO of Personal Skin Solutions in California, got the attention of local business owner Rick Stevens, owner of ZEMS Ice Cream.

Hounds Grill captivated the panel and student audience.  Rick commented that the idea of capitalizing on the pet industry with treats is lucrative.  Todd Cutrie, owner of Titletown Fightclub was dually impressed and felt these students were on the right track.

Brandon and Dallis- Wiggin’ Out

As Brandon and Dallis presented their idea to open a wig business to help cancer patients, MaryKay Cosmetics Independent Consultant, Mary Reina, marveled at their bravery.  She noted that these students are to be commended for designing a business idea to a help those struggling with cancer.  The confidence displayed by Brandon and Dallis was palpable and Rick Stevens specifically said that Brandon has a gift.

Hafeezah- Harmony Bakery

A true treat, Hafeezah brought samples of one of the cakes she will sell at her health conscious bakery.  Hafeezah has the vision to create baked goods that are safe for diabetics.  Her presentation was flawless.  Hafeezah came in during her lunch to set up for her presentation and dressed up for the affair.  Fran Duskiewicz of Nice and Easy Grocery Shops commented after tasting the sample saying “good, very good!”  What a compliment from an executive from the food industry, way to go Hafeezah!

Trisha- Blue Water

Trisha literally smashed boundaries.  Trisha was reluctant to present but persevered and decided to go for it and present to the panel.  Trisha hit the ball out of the park with her Blue Water idea.  Her water is the color blue and is filled with vitamins and nourishment.  She plans to compete with Pepsi, dream big!  Fran Duskiewicz, Senior Executive Vice President of Nice and Easy Grocery Shops, commented that this might be an interesting product to see on their shelves.  I am beyond proud of Trisha’s accomplishment, her water company is inventive and I am thrilled that she was able to share it with the team.

Joel- Adrenaline Rush

Joel presented his idea for Adrenaline Rush, a business that brings the outdoors and adventurous activities to his patrons.  Joel stepped up to present with confidence and impressed the local business owners.  Joel’s enthusiasm was infectious, the crowd loved his idea and he even got a few laughs!  Fabulous job!  Rick Stevens said “this presentation was the winner overall.”

Konnor and Aaron- K.O. Fruits

Konnor and Aaron are business partners who plan to harvest and sell fruits nationwide.  These confident future business owners had a solid plan to accompany their idea and emphasized to “start small, but think big.”  As an added bonus one of the business leaders in attendance was their mentor, Mary Reina, Independent Consultant for Mary Kay Cosmetics.  Mary guided these two future executives via skype as they built the business plan.  It was a full-circle moment for Mary to be one of our guests to provide feedback after their pitch.  Mary was impressed. Additionally, Konnor and Aaron were honored to meet their executive mentor face-to-face.

Jacob- JB’s Combo Juices

Jacob has the fabulous idea to compete with large scale fruit juice and smoothie companies.  Jacob plans to provide juice drinks and smoothies in a variety of flavors with reduced sugar.  Jacob really had the interest of some of the executives in attendance with his fabulous pitch.  During the feedback portion, Todd Cutrie, owner of Titletown Fightclub, pointed out that if he could make a drink with less sugar and more protein, he could corner the market for sports enthusiasts.  In a fun twist, Jacob plans to have a working relationship with K.O. Fruits mentioned above for production.  Way to go Jacob, we can’t wait to see your store in every shopping mall in America!

Jakob and Jeff- Buck Wild

Business partners Jakob and Jeff presented their hunting business to business leaders with ease.  These two entrepreneurs are risk takers and push boundaries consistently.  I was impressed with their overall presentation and proud to see them answer questions from the panel, nice job guys!

Under the guidance of Wendy Dunn, a teachers aide, Susan O’Neill’s 7th and 8th grade classroom observed both days of presentations.  These future high school students were literally in awe of the ideas being brought to light in the classroom.  It is my hope that these budding minds decide to take some risks of their own in the classroom.

Mrs. O’Neill’s class listens intently to presentations

The Business Analysis Business Computer Applications students are now learning about how to make good investments.  These students deserve kudos for stepping outside of their comfort zones and collaborating with business leaders all year.  Thank you to each and every business owner and leader from across the country including California, Nevada, Texas, Oregon, Oklahoma, Colorado and of course, New York.  This was truly a Collaborative and Enterprising Opportunity.


CEO: Collaborative and Enterprising Opportunity

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!


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:

  1. to allow the students with different abilities to collaborate with older regular education students
  2.  to expose the students to different careers
  3. to introduce different technologies to students in order to communicate (ie. reading, writing, speaking and research) more meaningfully


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.”


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!


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!


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.


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.

Related links:

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/

Educational Resources:

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/