Bold School

Every school looking to make a change needs to read this book by Weston Kieschnick! It is a powerful book to remind us that with the right strategies we can start to make this shift in education. Travis Lape

In Harrisburg South Dakota we have taken on some BOLD changes to meet learners where they are at. With this BOLD move has come some mountains we have had to climb to get our community on board. I have learned very quickly in my new position as the Innovative Programs Director that it is super important to be transparent, and willing to sit down with parents to talk about this BOLD change. The one thing that is hard about this change is that we all have had an experience with school. This experience could be good or bad, but we have it. 

I still remember sitting in class very similar to the image to the left. The teacher stood at the front and taught a lesson to everyone. Sometimes she would sit at the front as we read out class story out loud. I struggled in reading and dreaded reading the class story out loud. I spent more time reading ahead to make sure when it was my turn that I knew the words. Fast forward a little in my day and I would get pulled out to get reading support by our title teacher. By about 4th grade I knew I was different. I knew I was not able to read the same books as my class. Math on the other hand I was decent at, but my passion was more social studies and science. I enjoyed the hands on experiences that I had in science and social studies. What I remember the most of my elementary experience is that even though I felt different in 4th grade I was still expected to do everything at that level. As time went on and I got to high school that same feeling was there. I was reading better, but not like my peers and I knew it. I somewhat used it as an excuse rather than embracing it and striving to make it better. I was a good student I turned in my homework on time. I very rarely missed school because of being sick. I was quiet in class so that I did not draw attention to myself or my learning struggles. I wanted to fit in and I wanted to make sure I did not look different. 

Where did it all go wrong in this school structure?

Somehow we made school a competition. As soon as school became a competition that is when I stopped focusing on learning and rather just surviving. I did not want to be different nor did I want to be the one who caused our class to not move on with content. I learned very quickly if I sat back and was quiet and did not advocate for myself that I could blend in. When I got to college I had to learn the hard way. I had to learn to advocate for myself and what I needed to make sure I was successful. I had to learn time management and how to use my time correctly. All through high school I was told everything and the time management piece was done for me. I don’t even want to talk about my organization skills. Those skills were not developed in High School because again everything was given to me. Those three skills I feel were the hardest for me to figure out in college, but once I figured them out I was able to be successful. 

I wish my school experience would have had a BOLD school feel to it. I would have learned a lot more because of the structure of the teaching. One of the educational leaders in research John Hattie says 

We know so much about the optimal learning strategies that students can be taught to make major differences to their enjoyment, involvement, motivation, and outcomes.

In the book BOLD School by Weston Kieschnick he lays out some powerful strategies that not only can enhance learning, but can empower learners to drive their learning. Here are the strategies that he lays out.

1.) Interactive Video – .54 effect size
2.) Questioning/Socratic Seminar .48 effect size
3.) Vocabulary Programs .62 effect size
4.) Direct Instruction .60 effect size
5.) Peer Tutoring .55 effect size
6.) Concept Mapping .64 effect size
7.) Worked Examples .37 effect size
8.) Self Assessment 1.33 effect size
9.) Reciprocal Teaching .74 effect size
10) Problem Solving .63 effect size
11.) Spaced and Mass Practice .60 effect size

When you think about the above strategies for teaching these are all items we have been told for years that are best practices. The problem is that our curriculum is typically not structured to allow for these practices. Our classrooms have a learning spectrum that is sometimes above and below the grade we are teaching. That is why we need to think BOLD and change our mindset on this. I think back to sitting in the classroom during reading time and just trying to survive. What if instead of sitting in my class feeling that way, I was in a room with like learners getting what I needed. 

In Harrisburg we are striving to put these into practice.

Direct Instruction: This type of strategy is not bad if you have the right learners at the right time for that instruction. This is a great way to kick off what they need and then break it down into small group instruction.

Interactive Video: Another great strategy that we use to deliver instruction to introduce our learners to the learning targets. This can be done through using Edpuzzle and building in questions to check for understanding. This is a great way to collect information that will support your teaching in the small group lesson time.

Questioning/Socratic Seminar: This strategy can be used in several places in a personalized learning environment. I see it used a lot during our coaching sessions as well as our literature circles.

Concept Mapping: This is something that we continue to work on with our learners to get them to map out their learning and what they are learning. This can be done during their interactive video as well as during their other subject times.

Problem Solving: One of our favorite things is watching our learners problem solve when they get stuck. Thinking back to my growing up I never really had to problem solve because I was told everything. Here is what will be on the test on Friday. Study this and you will be fine for the test. I did what I was told and was successful. This was all fine until I went off to college.

Spaced and Mass Practice: This strategy is something we are problem solving right now. We need to make sure in our personalized learning environments that we are coming back to concepts that they have already mastered so they can keep applying it.

Overall to have a BOLD school feel you need to make sure that you are using the best instructional practices to meet the learners needs. This can be done, but you have to be intentional with what you are doing. We have taken those best practices and said we are going to not focus on grade levels, but the learners and what they need. I am so thankful that we have a BOLD school that is thinking about each learner. 

Here is a glimpse into a learner’s lens into personalized learning.


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What If…. Changing Learning Spaces Part 2

I am going to take a few blog posts to get through this entire What If series, but it is meant to give you a picture on how you can start to change your classroom practices to a more personalized look. 

Change Learning Spaces

We need to move away from classroom design that is “Pinterest pretty” and use research/design thinking to guide the work.” – Eric Sheninger and Tom Murray

I couldn’t agree more with this quote from Eric Sheninger and Tom Murray more. A couple of years ago I had the honor of going to the Stanford D School and it was an incredible experience.

Every classroom in this space was a blank canvas. When a professor walked in they had the flexibility to create and environment that would meet the learning needs for the day. What a powerful way to look at a classroom. In our district our personalized learning classrooms are referred to as learning studios. We have taken the teacher’s desks out and opened up the spaces to be more learner focused and centered. If you would like to read more of the research behind changing up spaces check out Eric Sheninger blog post titled “Research-Influenced Learning Spaces” 

In our elementary environment we have created learning zones with our learners that they use based on what they are working on. It is important to have the same spaces in the four learning studios so the operating procedures are all the same. This is sometimes hard for facilitators to let go, but if we are truly learner centered then it is not about us anymore.

Our middle school has gotten creative with spaces as well. They have used a lot of homemade tables with whiteboards in the hallways. They use whiteboards on wheels to allow for learners to collaboration anytime anywhere.

Our High School had the opportunity to add onto it a few years ago and create open spaces for learning to happen in a middle area with learning studios around the outside. This space has been designed with the purpose of learning to look differently.

The biggest take away from the trip to the D. School and Eric’s post on spaces is that you don’t need to go out and spend a ton of money. Think about what your learning outcome is and what type of space supports that. Currently stuffing 25-30 desks in a room is not getting to the learning outcome we all want so what can we do to adjust that and support our learners differently?  Start small and remember stay focused on the outcome rather then if things match or if they look “pinterest pretty.”

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What If… 2018 we changed our school system? Part 1

I am going to take a few blog posts to get through this entire What If series, but it is meant to give you a picture on how you can start to change your classroom practices to a more personalized look. I have started to ask this more and more about our educational system. I am blessed to be working in a district where this question is embraced and in my new role as Innovative Programs Director it is expected to be asked. After reading several books on this topic I am more then convinced that our school system needs to change. Change is not easy I get it but it needs to happen. In the district that I have had the pleasure of working in has taken some bold moves to start and change this system. In the next several posts I hope to give you a more clear look in how we do this for our learners.

Empowering learners to drive their learning

In our Elementary Schools we have created unique learning environments where we have taken age levels of what traditionally would be 2nd thru 5th graders and put them all in a community together with four learning facilitators. In each cohort their are roughly 85-95 learners. Our whole goal here is to support them where they are at in their learning. Empower them to drive and take a hold of it. It is incredible to see the ownership they take in their learning when they have control.

“This has happened because we have worked hard to take the competition out of school and focus it on learning.” Lape

The learners as young at 7 years old know what they need and can advocate for it. Now this takes a lot of practice and modeling with our learners, but with the correct supports they can own it. Our learners are craving to learn we need to get out of the way and support them in their journey.

At the elementary our focus is a lot on voice and choice in how they show their learning as well as focusing on supporting them where they are at in their learning journey.


In our Middle Schools they use a scheduling software where learners schedule their day based on their needs for Math, Science, Social Studies, and English. This allows for the facilitators to put the learning in the hands of the learners. Darren Ellwein (@dellwein) is an incredible leader in this building constantly pushing for more innovative practices that allows for learners to drive their learning.

In our High School the learning is put back on the learners, but more on the lines of what are their goals and aspirations are for their future. Learners work still on their core classes, but are given the time to master the material and move at their optimal rate. This can be sometimes be a struggle for learners to navigate right away and that is why they have structures put in place to support those learners. Learners drive their learning through a module schedule that allows flexibility in their day.

At each level we are all about empowering our learners to drive their learning and own it. We have seen at all three levels that behaviors have gone down and engagement has gone up. We credit that to learners being in charge of their learning and knowing they are being held responsible for their learning.

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Personalized Learning Passion Coming To Life

One of my favorite things to do is work with educators who are passionate about making school different.

I have two passions that I get to live out everyday in my job as the Innovative Programs Director.  My first passion is this idea of making and creating in schools. This started about four years ago when I saw the work Laura Fleming @LFlemingEDU was doing in her school. Laura and I have become close friends even though we have never met in person. She challenges me and pushes me to think differently about our spaces and how learners are showing their learning. My second passion came after visiting Mary Perrine @MaryEPerrine and her team at Pioneer Ridge Middle School in Chaska Minnesota. After this visit I started digging deep into this idea of Personalized Learning through my master’s work and how could it work at an elementary level. You can read more about our learning pathway here and  

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Book Creator + Google Chrome

Have you heard that Book Creator is now on Google Chrome? This is incredible news because now so many more learners will be able to create their learning through this powerful app. I have been talking about the power of book creator for some time now, but if you did not have an ipad you were out of luck!

All you need to do is visit this link and sign up for the beta testing. They plan to release the full version just in time for the 1st day of class! The app online acts very similar to the app on the ipad.

I can not tell you how much of a game changer this can be for your classroom.


Teachers you can have your learners put together a math book showcasing their understanding for all the learning during a certain unit.

You can use the comic book feature and have learners make comic books.

Check this wonderful link out to get more ideas Resources for Schools

Please reach out to me if you need ideas. I love this product and believe we should be using this to empower our learners to showcase their learning.

Twitter @travislape

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Power of the iPad

I am always asked why the ipad? Why do you like using the ipad in the classroom? My response is easy WHY NOT? You have a device that can take pictures, use several different applications to bring together into one project and it is user friendly. One of the my favorite apps to use as the house that holds everything is BOOK CREATOR. This tool continues to get better every year and now they will be releasing over the summer the ability to use this app with Chrome.

Here are some ways to use Book Creator in your Classroom: 

How to Books

Collaborative books

Non-fiction books

Photo books

App Smashing Geo Board app with Book Creator 

Research Project and use of Book Creator

Kdg Learners teaching each other about Book Creator 

Learn more here 

Book Creator Session:

Google Summit Book: Google Summit

Shapes around our school Shape Book
(This is just a sample of what you can do with younger learners. You could easily turn this learning into a lesson for older learners by having them find pictures and then explain their thinking through using the recording feature.)

Samples to download and review:

How to make your own templates Book Creator Tutorial created by Kyle Knips
(This is made with keynote, but can be used with google slides, and powerpoint. Just follow the same steps on designing slides. You will just want export the slides as pictures so you can air drop them to your iPad) 

The ones designed below were made by Kyle Knips Technology Integrationist at Freedom Elementary. 

EPIC Daily Goals

Finding Patterns

Four Square Vocab

Math Glossary


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Our Family Story

As my wife and I start to share more about our adoption journey I thought it was fitting to share a little of my personal journey. My wife has been very open from the time we got married that she would love to adopt, but I on the other hand had other plans. I wanted to start our family and had no desire to adopt at that time. As the months went on and we were not getting pregnant I became disappointed and frustrated with God. Why wasn’t this happening easier for us? Why was my plan of our family not coming to life? These were all questions I had about our situation. Throughout all the challenges we continued to pray for God to show us the way and show us his will for our family.

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Everything we have learned about Personalized Learning~

It is crazy to think about our journey down this road to personalized learning just started a little over a year ago. We loaded up four facilitators, three administrators and headed off to Maine to observe some schools. Professionally this is one of the best years of my life. I get to empower and support four amazing facilitators that are trying to do away with grade levels.

My biggest celebrations have to be our amazing team and looking back at what our learners have created and how they’ve grown as individuals.  As a team I feel we’ve grown so much and really work to better one another, support one another, and step up when it’s needed. In many instances help was provided without even being asked! I don’t know how I functioned as a one part teacher before now that I have this team! ~Krista Hansen

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Parent Shadow Day

During the week of November 28th, 2016 we hosted times for our parents of the program to come in and observe their learners. It was an incredible week of having parents come in and visit with us about the different opportunities that are happening in our studios. This dialogue that we had with our parents will help us make changes that will enhance the program moving forward.

Here is a parent perspective on what they saw and think about the program:

Some great quotes from our parents after their visit.

My kiddos are absolutely loving the EPIC program!  They are so excited about their learning and about the new things they are doing.  I’m very pleased with what I’m seeing and hearing from them at home.  EPIC Parent

I’m very pleased with the language and passion for learning that my kids are coming home with. Their understanding of their own learning has been amazing and I’m pleasantly surprised at how much initiative they take with what they are working on. I’m so happy that both of them got in. EPIC Parent

My student has had a very positive experience with the EPIC classes this year. I would recommend this to anyone. Great job by the facilitators with the program. I especially appreciated the way kids help each other. I think a child has a comfort level with his peers and does not feel intimidated to ask questions to his friends that they maybe would not ask a teacher. Great job! EPIC Parent

We still have areas we need to improve on to continue moving the program forward, but we are excited to what the future holds.

We are currently setting up school visits for the spring. If your school would like to visit and see this learning in action please visit our website Schedule a Visit Today! and click on school visit tab.

Our local news did a story on our program and on how we are trying to change school. Watch it here  Keloland News Report

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Breaking Down School Walls

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 12.42.37 PM

~We all have a unique fingerprint. It is time that we make school unique for each learner~ 









As we enter week 5 of school, we step back and reflect on where we have been and where we are going. This year we have set out to do school differently at Freedom Elementary. Last spring we spent a lot of time preparing and planning for this year. You can read what we envisioned to do this year with our learners from an Edsurge article. (Article Edsurge)

The first ten days of school we spent a lot of time developing SOPs (standard operating procedures), building relationships, and working on Habits of Mind. These ten days were vital to our program’s success because it is the foundation that we work on each day. You can see what videos and lessons we used with these activities.

Habits of Mind Videos 

Habits of Mind Lessons

We will continually visit SOP’s and Habits of Mind all year long. It has started to stick with our learners. You will now hear them talking about the Habits with each other when working on assignments. One of the best ones was a group of learners were out in our personal flex area, and they were getting frustrated with the technology. One learner came over and said are you “thinking flexibly” right now. Boom that is a learner helping another learner through a problem by applying the habits of mind.

The true strength in our classroom lies in the collaboration of our learners, not in the knowledge of one expert! 

csugbtuwiaa0zpwOur program is focused around a lot of voice and choice for our learners. With this comes a need for an LMS that can help our learners stay organized. We are currently using Buzz to help our learners stay organized. With any LMS there are hurdles we must overcome, and we are working through those, but overall this platform is allowing us to make playlists for our learners. These playlists are set up in the following order:

1.) Must Do’s
2.) Resources
3.) Artifacts

Must Do’s
These are the items learners must do for the learning target. To start the year learners must attend a seminar. This is a whole group instruction where the learning facilitator is sharing the concept in the large group. They must also attend one or two coaching workshops depending on the week and what they need. After that our learning facilitators have taken a little Daily 5 spin on the other must do’s for the week.

The resource folder has videos and other items for our learners that will support them when they are working on creating their artifact to prove mastery of this standard they are working on.

Here are a few examples of our learners sharing what they know about Decimals and story structure. Benjamin Franklin said “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” This is important to our program is having our learners decide what is the best way to show their learning. Some of our learners choose to take a test. Some of our learners want to make a video or a poster. The choice is up to them they just have to make sure they prove their understanding to the standard of learning.

This is the structure and how we set things up. Now let us tackle how we are going to break down the grade level walls. It all started with the NWEA as a baseline assessment. This assessment allowed us to group learners based on what they need for each instructional focus area. For example, some learners are excellent at Geometry and are ready for more advanced concepts. That same learner is in need of help with number sense. We can support this learner by moving studios and giving them what they need right now. We are using a software scheduling system to communicate with our learners what studio they will need to be in for the next few weeks. In time we hope our learners will be able to start to schedule different choices that fit their need. For example, our technology integrationist is coming down 3-4 times per week to teach and support our learners with the iPad. Our learners can schedule a 30-minute time slot with him to learn about the new creation app they can use to show their learning. By using the software, we can set room limits and know where learners are going. This has been another huge tool to help us stay organized throughout the day.

Personalized learning provides critical preparation for students and keeps them engaged and excited about learning. ~ Jenni T

cr31hrpukaaavohWe are learning every day about what we can do better the next week for our learners. One of our facilitators said it best “This kind of shift has been so overdue, and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of the team that is putting the KIDS first and not the teachers or testing.” We look to grow and learn more with our learners this year.

I would be totally mistaken if I did not take a little time and talk about our amazing learning facilitators. These educators have taken on the challenge to change the school structure. Whenever you decide to change such a old system it is hard, but these four educators are dedicated to making a difference for our learners. They spent the summer writing curriculum to only throw most of that out in the last two weeks because what we thought would work is not working. Instead of being negative and upset about the time they spent on the old stuff they took on the new stuff. We have revised our practices and always make sure we are viewing this from a learner lens and not a teacher lens. I am so honored to be able to support, coach, and help them through this process. This is not an easy process, but you could not tell that from the attitudes and positivity that these learning facilitators give off. If you can connect with them please do! They are incredible educators and will add value to all PLN’s.

You can follow our Learning Facilitators at @Mr_Muth, @MsGottsleben, @Mrs_wagers, @mrshansen84

We don’t plan to schedule any visits until after the first of the year. This will give us time to get a good foundation set so that we can help as many schools that want to go down this path.

You can follow us at #epiclearners
You can follow me at @travislape

If you are interested in having me speak to your district about personalized learning, please reach out to for schedule details and dates.

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