Design Thinking with Parents

posted Jun 10, 2015, 11:42 AM by Jo-Ann Fox   [ updated Jun 10, 2015, 11:42 AM by Tom Borer ]

On June 3 and June 8 the Quantum Academy team met with parents at an optional meeting at the Escondido Public Library. The purpose of the meeting was to begin the discussion about how parents can be involved at Quantum Academy. During the meeting, the parents experienced part of the design thinking process.

Here is the Quantum Academy Design Thinking resource:


We began with a brief overview of the Quantum Academy vision for student learning. We discussed the importance of developing a growth mindset and what a student centered project based learning environment looks like. We reviewed these two images:

Growth Mindset:

Image from Sylvia Duckworth

School vs. Learning:
Image from Sylvia Duckworth


After discussing what learning will look like at Quantum Academy and reviewing the concepts behind the growth mindset and project based learning, we needed to define the focus. The focus that we decided on was: How might we have parent involvement while staying true to developing a growth mindset and maintaining a student centered project based learning environment?


Ideating happens in two phases, individual brainstorming and group brainstorming. Parents (and some students) began ideating on their own for 5 minutes, writing down all of their ideas onto Post It notes. After the 5 minutes were up, parents shared their ideas in small groups and grouped similar ideas together. Here are some images of their ideas:

insert images

Here is a list of common themes that came out both nights:

  • After school activities/clubs

  • Bringing in parent expertise such as coding, music, gardening, sports, cooking, etc

  • Sharing about careers

  • Book clubs

  • Helping with bringing in the arts

  • Help to build community connections

  • Fundraising and grant writing

  • Organizing a parent community such as PTA, PTSA, etc

  • Field Trips

  • Help gather materials for lessons

  • Tutoring/mentoring

  • Helping to create school traditions

  • Support book clubs

  • Learn about project based learning, growth mindset, design thinking, etc


We will continue the design thinking process to create our prototype for parent involvement based on the information we have gathered from parents (and students). The testing phase will begin next year as we continue to develop our Quantum Academy community.

Meet Our Principal

posted Mar 23, 2015, 2:29 PM by Jo-Ann Fox   [ updated Mar 23, 2015, 2:29 PM by Tom Borer ]

It is with great excitement that we announce the hiring of Ted Kirkbride as Quantum Academy’s first principal. Mr. Kirkbride has been in the Escondido Union School District since 1996 when he started his first position teaching bilingual math and science at Rincon Middle School. He has been a Teacher-on-Special Assignment, Project Specialist, elementary teacher and coach at Felicita, Central, and Oak Hill. Most recently Mr. Kirkbride has been the assistant principal at Oak Hill School.

Here are some questions we asked Ted:

What do you look forward most as principal of Quantum Academy?

"There are so many things I look forward to at Quantum Academy.  I look forward to building a community where learning is a passion for each student and empathy guides our problem solving.  I look forward to students learning to solve relevant math problems that affect them. I will love seeing how our students can use visual and performing arts to express themselves.  I am excited about the endless possibilities each child brings to be creative with all of the science, technology, and engineering tools we will have at Quantum Academy like 3D printers, iPads, Sphero Robots, and much, much more! Most of all, I can’t wait to see all of our students, teachers and families reaching new heights in learning at Quantum Academy."

What do you hope for students at Quantum Academy?

"I hope each student feels that they are in their element at Quantum Academy.  We want each child to come home excited about what they are learning because they are choosing to learn about what excites them. I hope our students learn that F.A.I.L. means First Attempt In Learning and that it is a necessary part of the process. I also hope that each child is driven to create solutions to extremely complex tasks that will benefit the community of Escondido.  I hope that by the time students leave Quantum Academy they are more motivated to serve their community and better prepared to meet the challenges they will face in the decades ahead.  Finally, I wish for all of our students to feel empowered to initiate their own learning and create their own future jobs instead of waiting for someone else to teach them or to give them a job."


Quantum Academy is proud to have Ted join the team. Ted will hit the ground running as he closes out his last two weeks at Oak Hill Elementary. Some of the first jobs he has to do is hire a teaching staff and an office manager. In addition he will help finalize the purchase order for all of the furniture, technology, and materials for Quantum Academy.

It Takes Collaboration to Build a School

posted Jan 21, 2015, 11:09 AM by Jo-Ann Fox   [ updated Jan 23, 2015, 10:14 AM by Tom Borer ]

At Quantum we believe in the power of collaboration. Successful schools thrive when collaboration is the central focus. Here is why:

  • Collaboration requires empathy. When working in collaborative environments, it is important to understand what other people are thinking and feeling to fully understand how to work together. Everyone approaches situations and problems with their background, point of view, and life experiences. Being able to stop and listen to what others are saying and not saying, helps to feed a positive collaborative environment.

  • Collaboration also requires patience. When working as a team, it takes time to make collaborative decisions. That is okay. Taking time to make the right decision is always better than rushing to a decision just to be done.

  • Collaboration brings about a well-rounded understanding of how things work best. “Together we are smarter.” This is so true!

  • Collaboration requires flexibility. Sometimes things don’t go the way you want them to in a collaborative environment. But that is okay. Knowing everyone had a say and much thought was put into a decision is just as important.

Building and creating a new school requires collaboration. Here is a list of people we have worked along side during this process:

  • District Superintendent, Dr. Luis Ibarra

  • Deputy Superintendent, Leila Sackfield

  • Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, Michael Taylor

  • Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, Kevin Rubow

  • Escondido Union School District Board Members

  • Director of Technology and Innovation, Kathy Shirley

  • Edtech TOSA team

  • Technology Services Team, to ensure the infrastructure is ready

  • Health and Wellness Coordinator

  • Nutrition Services

  • Maintenance and Operations

  • Purchasing

  • Language Acquisition Department

  • Escondido Elementary Education Association

  • Current school office staff

  • Site Parent Liaison

  • Innovative schools in the area like Design 39 Campus, Vista Innovative Design Academy, Del Lago

  • Escondido Union School District school sites

With many more opportunities for future collaboration with:

  • Members of the Escondido community

  • Parents of Escondido children

  • Students

  • Local business owners

  • Future staff members

  • ELD TOSA Team, for future planning of English Language Development for our students

We may have unintentionally left someone off of this list. 

But as you can see…

It takes a community to build a school.

It takes collaboration to build a school.

Hour of Code

posted Dec 12, 2014, 2:03 PM by Jo-Ann Fox   [ updated Jan 23, 2015, 10:14 AM by Tom Borer ]

The Quantum Academy team set out to bring coding to students all around Escondido during the second annual Hour of Code. Last year began the Hour of Code movement to take place during Computer Science Education Week, and it was a worldwide success! The Hour of Code is a one-hour introduction to computer science, “designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics.” 15 million students participated last year and more girls tried computer science than in the last 70 years! This year’s Hour of Code has over 77,000 events planned around the globe, including many events taking place right here in Escondido.

Red dots represent Hour of Code events.

One of those Escondido events included the Quantum Academy team visiting schools throughout the Escondido Union School District. Here is where the Quantum Academy team visited during the week of the Hour of Code:

  • Monday- Reidy Creek Elementary

  • Tuesday- Miller Elementary

  • Wednesday- Bernardo Elementary

  • Friday- Rose Elementary

The Quantum Academy team introduced students to vocabulary words such as coding, programming, algorithms, and debugging. Students learned about some of the many languages of code such as HTML, Java, and binary.

In addition, the Quantum Academy team used an “offline” lesson where students program using arrows and red cups. Students were given the opportunity to write code to program their teacher, as a virtual robot, to create a cup tower.

Mrs. Camejo’s students programmed this cup stack!

Following that lesson, students then transferred their new knowledge of coding with arrows to experience the iOS app Lightbot.

Students at Reidy Creek collaborating.

Here are the resources we used:

Learning beyond the code:

Coding is creative.

The possibilities of coding allow for a variety of ways to solve a problem. This inspires students to think creatively.

Coding is collaborative.

The Quantum Academy team brought only enough iPads for students to share. The result of this was a murmur of discussions happening all over the classroom. Students were helping eachother troubleshoot, think, and debug their codes.

Coding is communicating.

The murmur of noise that happened in the room during the Hour of Code consisted of on task discussions. Not only were students discussing the best strategy for their code, they were also using effective communication skills. They were learning to relate to each other better on an academic level. In addition, they were creating a code language that needed to communicate to a computer. This was an added bonus!

Coding is using critical thinking and reasoning skills.

Coding and critical thinking go perfectly together. Programmers are always searching for a better or more efficient way to write their code. In addition, when the program doesn’t work, one must dig through the code to find the bug. Students quickly discovered their mistakes are what make coding fun! They loved putting on their “detective goggles” and searching for the place where they made a mistake so they can get their code to work accurately.

Coding honors perseverance.

Sometimes coding isn’t easy. But that is where perseverance comes in. Rather than thinking, this is impossible, students quickly took on the attitude of this is challenging, but with hard work I can do this!

Coding impacts the community.

Coding impacts our daily lives. That is just life in the 21st century. After experiencing the Hour of Code, students understand this far better than before. When once they simply opened up their favorite game on their iPad, now they are wondering, “What code lies underneath this app?” When once they simply went to their favorite website, now they are wondering, “What does the HTML look like?” Now the Quantum Academy team is wondering...

“What will our students one day be able to create with their new understanding of coding and programing?”

“How will this lead our students to making a positive impact on the community?”

Here are more resources for students to enhance their coding skills at home:

iOS Apps

  • Kodable

  • Cargobot

  • Scratch Jr.

  • Hopscotch

  • Tynker

  • The Foos

Web Resources:

Quantum Academy Seeks an Innovative Principal

posted Dec 4, 2014, 2:18 PM by Jo-Ann Fox   [ updated Jan 23, 2015, 11:26 AM by Tom Borer ]

Quantum Academy is looking for a founding administrator to work in a collaborative manner with the planning team to complete the planning process and open the school.

Interested administrators must be creative, innovative and collaborative. They should be skilled communicators and critical thinkers who can establish relevant and productive relationships with students, parents, staff, and community partners.

The ideal principal should have a "how might we" attitude, a growth mindset, be passionate about working with children, and be willing and able to harness the power of social media. They should also understand and be able to implement concepts regarding 21st century classroom operations and the latest leadership models and instructional practices.

The job is currently posted on Edjoin until December 17th. Please help spread the word!

Here is the link to read more about the job description and qualifications.

Growth Mindset

posted Nov 12, 2014, 4:22 PM by Colin Hanel   [ updated Jan 23, 2015, 11:26 AM by Tom Borer ]

Have you ever experienced failure? 

Everyone has.

It is how you respond to failure that is critical.  There are two main responses to failure:

  1. This is too hard for me. I give up.

  2. This is challenging for me, but I will keep trying.

This has everything to do with mindset and mindset seeps into every aspect of our life. Especially the classroom.

Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (2006), studied the effects of mindsets on learning and intelligence. Dweck’s research focused on the idea of fixed mindset versus growth mindsets. A growth mindset, according to Dweck is a belief system that a person’s intelligence can be developed with persistence, effort, and focus. On the other hand, a fixed mindset is a belief system that suggests a person has a predetermined amount of talents or intelligence.

Dweck studied the effects of praise on student performance. In her study of 400 children, all students were given a non-verbal test. Upon completion of the test, some students were praised for how smart they must have been to have completed the test so well. The other group was praised about how hard they must have worked to do so well. The difference in the praise is critical. One group was praised for intelligence while the other praised for effort.

Then Dweck and her colleagues gave the same students another test. This time they were given two options:

  • Take an even harder test for a challenge.


  • Take an easier test, that is similar to the first and the students were told they would surely do well on the test.

The results of her study was astonishing! Of the students who were praised for their intelligence on the first test 67% of those students chose the easier test. While those who were praised for their effort, 92% of those students chose the more challenging test. Dweck continued with other tests and to learn more about this research watch this quick summary video about it:

What does this all say about learning? Students who are often praised for their intelligence tend to lean toward fixed mindsets. Students with fixed mindsets, when faced with a challenge, may stick to “playing it safe.” Their reaction to failure often leads to giving up, withdrawal, and losing interest. However, students who have a growth mindset understand failure leads to new innovation, hard work, and understand that failure is a part of growth. Students with the growth mindset find value in the power of YET. I might not know this… yet… and with hard work I can learn this.

Can you imagine if Michael Jordan had given up after all these failures?

Helping students understand how the brain works will also help students to understand what it means to have a growth mindset. Neuroscientists explain how the brain is actually malleable. They call this neuroplasticity. Watch this quick video to learn more:

What can we do to help our children have a growth mindset about school and learning?

  1. Help our students to recognize their own mindsets. Have students reflect about how they react to challenges and failures.

  2. Help our students understand what a mindset is. Teach them about the brain and how the brain can change with practice and determination.

  3. Continue to reflect about our "fixed mindset voice." Begin to understand the power of YET.

These tips were found in this video:

Just for fun:

To learn more about Growth Mindset, see the research Jo-Ann Fox and Colin Hanel have put together:

What is STEAM?

posted Nov 12, 2014, 4:19 PM by Colin Hanel   [ updated Jan 23, 2015, 11:27 AM by Tom Borer ]

Many of you have heard of the the acronym STEM, which stands for the integration of science, technology, engineering, and math into the classroom curriculum. The White House has been making a strong push toward the STEM movement. In 2010, President Obama said, “leadership tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today -- especially in science, technology, engineering and math."

But how many of you have heard of the acronym STEAM? STEAM also emphasizes the sciences, technology, engineering, and math while at the same time acknowledging the importance of integrating the arts in innovation.

Innovation and creativity go together!

Here are some interesting facts found in an article written by Erik Robelen in Edweek:

  • “Nobel laureates in the sciences were 22 times more likely than scientists in general to be involved in the performing arts.”

  • “Albert Einstein was an accomplished violinist.”

  • Leonardo da Vinci was a sculptor, painter, scientist, engineer, and an inventor.

To learn more about the STEAM movement here are some resources LINK.


Sphero Visits Mission Middle School!

posted Nov 12, 2014, 4:15 PM by Colin Hanel   [ updated Dec 3, 2014, 1:15 PM by Tom Borer ]

Sphero is our newest robot at Quantum Academy and as such, he has been named Quantum. You may be wondering, what is Sphero?

Sphero is a robot designed to help students learn coding in a fun and interactive way. Sphero connects to your iPad via bluetooth technology. Orbotix, the company who designed Sphero, has many free apps in the AppStore that allow you to control, program, and even play augmented reality games. Sphero is also able to be controlled with Android devices.

As Quantum Academy researches ways to integrate STEAM into our curriculum, we found Sphero to be a great tool to not only teach coding skills, but also to integrate science and math.

When we first received Sphero we started tinkering by using the Sphero app that allows you to drive Sphero around using the iPad as a joystick. Although this app is super entertaining, it isn't all that educational. It is a great tool to use when introducing Sphero to students for the first time.

To bump up the educational value of Sphero there are apps such as MacroLab and OrbBasic that teach students how to program Sphero to perform tasks. This is what we wanted to do with middle schools students at Mission Middle School. Vanessa Miramontes was kind enough to open her doors to Colin Hanel and Jo-Ann Fox and allow them to try out a lesson with her 2nd period students.

When you visit the Sphero website, they have created lessons that are STEM based. They call these lessons SPRK Lessons (this stands for Students, Parents, Robotics, and Kids). They have CORE lessons that focus on teaching the important basics of coding with Sphero and they also have STEM Challenges (these are great to use when students have a better fluency with Sphero and coding). We chose to do lesson 1 in the CORE lessons that focuses on Speed, Time, and Distance.

Students were tasked to create a simple code that moved Sphero in a straight line to understand the relationship of speed, time, and distance. In the first task students programmed Sphero to travel for 3000 milliseconds (or 3 seconds) at 20% speed. Students measured the distance then made predictions about how far Sphero would travel if we changed the code to have Sphero travel for 6000 milliseconds. After measuring that distance, students changed the code yet again to have Sphero travel for 9000 milliseconds. The one thing that stayed the same through this portion of the lesson was the speed at which Sphero travelled. Students were able to figure out that when the speed stays the same but the time changes, Sphero travelled farther. Also, students figured out that if Sphero travels for two times the amount of time, Sphero would also travel two times farther.

The next part of the lesson challenged students to keep the time the same, at 3000 milliseconds, but change the speed. They again determined that when Sphero travels two times faster, he will travel two times farther.

Here is an example of what the code looks like:

Our favorite part of the lesson is the STEM challenge at the end. Students were tasked to write a code that sent Sphero out at 40% for 5000 milliseconds. Then then needed to have Sphero return to the exact (or approximately) the start point. Students were guided to change Sphero’s heading to 180 degrees and his speed to 20%, but they had to figure out the distance or (delay).

The group of Mission Middle School students were reluctant and quiet at first. We were new faces and we brought new toys and they were timid to participate. But once the lesson began, students began to come out of their shell. They began to surprise each other with their predictions. The smiles on their faces when they were in control of writing the code and testing the code to see if it worked was priceless. In fact, these students opted to stay in class during their nutrition break to continue the lesson!

We were so excited to share Sphero with these students we decided to leave Sphero in their classroom for the rest of the week. We can’t wait to hear what else they have learned with Sphero driving their learning.

Our Logo

posted Nov 12, 2014, 1:22 PM by Colin Hanel   [ updated Dec 16, 2014, 12:43 PM by Tom Borer ]

Introducing our logo!

Our logo represents our founding philosophy of Quantum Academy. California’s Common Core State Standards are based in the 4 Cs: create, collaborate, communicate, and critical thinking.

Why the 4 Cs?

These are exponential times…

We have to ask ourselves what will the future look like for our students? In these exponential times it is hard to predict what type of jobs our children need to be prepared for. If we help develop universal skills such as being creative, confidence in collaborating, an ability to communicate effectively, and using critical thinking skills to problem solve our children will be able to adapt to the vastly changing world around them.

In addition, Quantum Academy redefines school as a place where the community drives creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking. Students at Quantum Academy work together to better the school community while also helping to impact the community at large. It is fitting that our logo has the 4 Cs surrounded by the community.

Everyone Likes to Have a Choice

posted Nov 12, 2014, 1:07 PM by Colin Hanel   [ updated Dec 5, 2014, 2:48 PM by Tom Borer ]

Would you go to a restaurant that only had one item on the menu? No, you go to a restaurant that has choices that fulfill the requirements of your friends and family. 

Students are the same way. If they are told what to do and how to do it, they tend to resist and say they are bored. Give them a choice and the same activity, will be more engaging. Just like the restaurant with one item on the menu, that one item may be something you really want, but because it is the only choice you might not go there. Instead, you go to a different restaurant and order the same thing, not because it is better, but because you had a choice.

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 12.02.04 PM.png

As educators we hesitate to give students a choice because we know if they do it “our” way, they will have success. We lay it out in front of them and they put it together to get a tried-and-true finished product. We are afraid the choices students make will not work out and they might fail. And failure is considered a bad thing. However, we need to let them experience failure every now and then so they have an opportunity learn from their choices. That is when real learning happens.

        Teachers tend to micromanage students’ decision and choices. We do this because we have been in the classroom and know how things tend to work out. We need to remember, we know how things work out because we learned from doing it and seeing what happens after choices are made. Students need to be given those same opportunities to learn from their choices.

        Giving students choice can be easy. Start small. For example let students choose to do their math on lined paper or plain paper. Does it really matter to you what kind of paper they use? Then take it a step further and give them a choice of color paper to use. You will find that most will still choose white after a while, but it is their choice and that is what matters. 

        Choice can work its way into every part of the classroom from room design, to assignments in class. Another example where choice can make a big impact is the seating arrangement. Have you ever considered letting your students choose where they sit? Not for a period of time, but everyday could be different? No assigned seats at all.  It sounds scary, but it actually isn’t.  Students will choose a place that best fits their learning style. Let them change their seat every day allowing for open seating. You will be amazed with the choices they make. Gone are the complaints from students about who they sit next to. If they didn’t work well with someone near them, the next day they chose to sit somewhere else. They just come in to class and choose a seat, just like you would if you walked into a meeting.

At times do their choices get them into trouble? Yes. That is how learning can be even more powerful.

1-10 of 14