'IDEA Swarm' Program Launch Establishes Idea Pipelines at Saline High School, Heritage School

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 02/21/2019 - 02:35

Staff at Saline High School and Heritage School have until March 1 to submit their ideas for the "IDEA Swam" pilot program that was launched this year to crowdsource ideas from within the district and distill the best ideas from them via a digital referendum system.

As of last week, staff had submitted a couple dozen or so ideas, but the idea is to expand the program out to all Saline Area Schools buildings and departments.

Perhaps even students will one day inject their ideas into the district's IDEA Swarm initiative, if the engagement levels from staff continue.

Once this year's IDEA Swarm collection period ends, staff at Saline High School and Heritage will sift though the ideas and enter them into the program's pairwise voting system, which will take voters through a process of being presented with two ideas at a time from which they will pick their favorite until only the best ideas are left standing.

Saline Area Schools staff attended a summit on K-12 education innovation last year where the concept of collecting and distilling ideas from within the district and linking those ideas up with personnel and funding was presented to attendees, Heritage School Assistant Principal Alex Schukow explained.

"After we came back from that summit we wanted this year to really be about piloting that K-12 program in Saline Area Schools," he said.

SAS Assistant Principal Theresa Stager said she sees this as an opportunity to improve the district and the buildings in a way that's responsive to the concerns of the people using and inhabiting district programming and facilities. 

"These are the things that everybody is talking about but don't necessarily know how to get started," Stager said. "This is a way to collect all of those in a non-threatening way in an online format and voting form."

Initially Schukow and Stager thought that IDEA Swarm would best be focused on building staff, but peers they talked to at the Minnesota summit said they get great ideas at the district-wide department level from people in food services, transportation, and other departments.

As a result, Saline Area Schools departments were given access to IDEA Swarm as well this year.

Those submitting ideas can describe their idea, designate what part of the district it pertains to, and set a size level indicating the amount of human effort and money the submitter believes their idea would require. Submissions can be anonymous if the submitter wishes.

After March 11 the pairwise voting will begin and from there the winners will be announced.

Stager said that some winning ideas would be sent to the Foundation for Saline Area Schools, the Saline PTO/PTA, or other district-supporting organizations that have volunteers and/or grant money to fuel initiatives if they so choose.

"The great thing about this type of process is that you can utilize funding from different kinds of sources," Stager said. "Some ideas we might just pull out and do without going through the voting process."

Those ideas that win the vote will be vetted by district staff during design workshops, where implementation will be hammered out by a group of volunteers who discuss what problem the idea can be used to remedy.

Schukow said that the main goals of IDEA Swarm going forward are getting all staff submitting ideas, having staff district-wide see other people's ideas and being encouraged to submit their own, and linking actionable ideas with funding sources.

He added that students could eventually be added to the mix, but for now IDEA Swarm is purely focused on idea aggregation from staff while the program goes through its growing pains and those running the pilot have a chance to separate the bugs from the buzz.

"In the future we feel that (student inclusion) is the way to go," Schukow said.


Sean Dalton's picture
Sean Dalton
Sean Dalton is a veteran of the Washtenaw County journalism scene. He co-founded WeLoveDexter.com and WeLoveAnnArbor.com and also worked for Heritage Newspapers.