News / Community Voices

Moonshot Thinking

  • Germania Solorzano and Julie Koslowsky

Moonshot thinking — a type of thinking that aims to achieve something that is generally believed to be impossible.

Moonshot thinking motivates teams to think big by framing problems as solvable and encouraging “anything is possible” dialogues around how to solve the challenge.
- Macmillan open dictionary definition

I remember Robert Friedman rolling out the idea of moonshot groups with a photograph of the moon landing, the astronaut in his uniform, feet planted on the moon’s surface. Those days we met in the basement of the Harold Washington Library at round tables where we started off with coffee, pastries, and conversation. Then there were posters with sticky dots, presentations, lots of walking around and meeting new faces, and figuring out what everyone was working on. I don’t remember how we formed groups, but the School-Hive Moonshot working group was very active.

I dug into the archives and found a statement of work from the School-Hive Moonshot working group at a meetup in 2014: “Our goal is to develop a better communication system with teachers that can create a “Hive Affiliated Teacher Network.” Over the school year, we will attempt to create a “PD track” for existing Hive programming, including the upcoming CCOL Destination Maker Events (Winter and Spring).” This goal came about across those round tables and over those pastries, from multiple conversations with different individuals from organizations across the city. Some of the faces at the table changed every month, some remained the same, and yet, we continued to work towards this…” aim(s) to achieve something that is generally believed to be impossible.” “Anything is possible” dialogues did unfold and they led to ideas.

Many, many ideas, like:

  • Surveying the network organizations about their PD offerings for teachers, if any.
  • A PD Hotline. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just call a number and get the information on the latest PD?
  • Hosting a small Teachers Lounge during a Chicago City of Learning event.
  • Inviting teachers to participate in conversations at Hive Buzz.
  • Nate Phillips dressing up in a bee costume and literally buzzing around a Hive Buzz event.
  • Collaborating with high school students around ways we could connect their teachers with the network, its members, and opportunities for more connected learning in their classrooms.

We didn’t create the PD Hotline, but we did create the HIve PD Calendar.

We didn’t connect a large group of teachers to the network, but we did connect individual teachers to the organizations in the network.

And we led multiple focus groups with teachers about the calendar, about a maker fair for teachers, about connected learning, and what it would take to make it happen in more schools.

Did we change the CPS school system? No, but the teachers we worked with took steps and sometimes leaps into Connected Learning. Some changes were seemingly small. A teacher changed the set up of her classroom after multiple visits to Harold Washington Library Center’s YOUmedia lab. Some changes were more momentous. The same teacher organized a working field trip where her students recorded themselves performing an original rap at YOUmedia.

We hyped each other’s programs, picking up flyers at Hive meetups to distribute within our own organizations.

We worked together, sometimes on multiple funded and non funded projects. As a result, we changed the way we did our work. Practices we’d picked up from Hive began appearing in our home organizations. I have pulled out the sticky dots and poster-sized post-its. Teacher focus groups became a regular thing. But one practice that has greatly shaped my work and probably others is this desire to reach out to find partnerships, to collaborate on projects, to bring in other’s expertise.

The impact of the School-Hive moonshot group was bigger than our individually funded projects. Through our monthly meetings, we made life-long connections and collaborations. Many of us continue to support each other’s work and learn from one another. We have brought the practices and ideas that started in the basement of the Harold Washington Library Center out to all the corners of the city and into the regular practices of our organizations. We believed in those “anything is possible” dialogues and gave space for each other to take risks and to continue reaching for that moon surface.