All posts by mistaboxta

About mistaboxta

I am a specialist in Educational Theory and Practice, Educational Leadership, and Educational Technology.

#RSSPS Arts Jam w TD Toronto Jazz Festival Groove & Graffiti

This week on May 26 we are thrilled to host the TD Toronto Jazz Fest’s Groove & Graffiti at Robert Service Sr PS with Toronto artists Mediah and Elicser and with mentoring from students at Central Tech and a dozen of our own Grade 8 students.

As a leadership opportunity for our students, this promises to be a great day of art and music and mentoring and we are grateful to our friends and sponsors for making this happen – particularly Mr. Evond (Mediah) Blake for his tireless support, and Ms Kathleen Moll, art teacher extraordinaire.

#TOJAZZ2016 #TorontoJazzFest #TDMusic #RSSPS #Groove&Graffiti #Graffiti #urbanart #arteducation #education #leadership #TDSB #Toronto #416 #littlegig #bigimpact


The Bootstrapping Checklist Infographic



My involvement as an assistant Project Manager for ‘Broadcasting Out Loud’, has been a great learning experience for me and has taught me many skills that I would use in the future. In the future if I ever decide to take the entrepreneurial route, I will always have this experience to improve on.                                                                                                                                  

Grade 8 student

On any given Friday if you visit my small classroom for Grade 8 kids in Toronto, you will hear conversations between students, teachers, mentors, and visitors, about project management, coding, UX, web design, marketing, data collection and analysis and more. Our five collaborative ventures, two of which have more than twelve group members, use Google Apps for Education to collaborate online in and out of school, and Edmodo as a central social networking space to validate each other’s projects by taking surveys and sharing results.

One project has fourteen active members and is continuing into its second year from last year.  In other words, the project was ‘dormant’ as a folder of work last June when the students graduated to high school, and was ‘picked up’ by a new group of students last September – what is exciting is the possibility that the project will actually be deployed next year.  Or maybe it won’t – it doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that by using The Bootstrapping Checklist (or ANY focused and guided iterative inquiry cycle), my students are learning what positive attitude and commitment really mean, not to mention all the other 21st CTL skills that will ensure their successful engagement in our future global economy.

As an infographic, The Bootstrapping Checklist serves as a reference for conversations between teachers, students, and mentors about student-led entrepreneurial and social innovation projects that occur in and outside of school. Thus, it facilitates online collaboration for students in my public middle school classroom, allowing student projects to carry on, grow, and develop, year over year.

The Bootstrapping Checklist provides a real and authentic reason to learn skills like coding and computer science at a younger age, and an incentive to keep at it. Student projects initiated in my public middle school classroom now have the potential to develop further than ever before – and the Checklist serves as the foundation to keep projects going.

The Bootstrapping Checklist as entrepreneurial education gives real authenticity to student projects and collaborations that break down age and ability barriers present for so long in our customary public education models. When students know their ventures have the potential to grow, engagement and achievement go way up.

Getting students at a young age to look at challenges in their communities as potential opportunities goes a long way to changing their attitudes toward seeing the benefits of lifelong learning and a mastery mindset.

This type of learning actually encourages innovation – and thus authentic STEAM design thinking and production – by having students produce practical and authentic solutions to their own real world problems – they are also preparing for their futures.

Because students can now use their ‘voice’ – validated by data – to advocate for resources to move projects forward, the potential for adding value to a school or board via acquired mentoring and community partnerships now becomes an important part of any school improvement plan – the school simply needs to make space, time, and money to support these projects year to year.

Its beauty of the Infographic lies in its simplicity, and although far from simplistic, The Bootstrapping Checklist provides the integration between pedagogy and technology to facilitate online collaboration for intermediate students allowing student project to carry on, year over year.

Are your teachers engaging students in iterative inquiry cycles where data collection by the students is embedded in the process?  All it takes is an attitude toward mastery learning and commitment – essential attributes of any 21st Century learner.

#entrepreneur #education #innovation #opensource #year2year #local2global #equity #edtech #edtechchat #edchat

More about the Bootstrapping Checklist:


OAEA Elementary Art Educator of the Year Award 2015


It was my great honour to accept the 2015 Ontario Art Education Association’s Elementary Art Educator of the Year Award on Thursday, February 25, 2016 at  As an art educator and advocate for the arts in education, I began my relationship with the OAEA as early as 2003 when I studied art education at OISE.  Since then I am proud to be associated with such dedicated educators that comprise the OAEA and I would to thank my wife, family, friends and colleagues for their support throughout the last 12 years of my teaching career in Toronto.  Particularly, I wish to thank Beryl Cohen, Lisa Sanders, and Jane Dewar for their nomination – I am humbled and honoured to receive this award and will continue to work hard to advocate for the arts in education.

OAEA provides leadership and advocacy for the development and support of visual arts/media arts in education in Ontario.

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From left: my wife Kumiko Baxter, me, my brother John Baxter, and art teacher Kathleen Moll

Here’s the Big Idea:


Public schools need to make available space, time, and $$$, for student online communities to grow within and between schools, in order to help generate social capital by using student data to advocate for resources from community partners. The only way to do this effectively is to teach students how to iterate through complex design problems and to teach them how to collect and use data to make sound design decisions. One way to do this is by using ‘The Bootstrapping Checklist’.

The Bootstrapping Checklist facilitates online collaboration for intermediate students by providing a real and authentic reason to learn skills like coding, digital marketing and technology, data analysis and analytics, and computer science – all at a younger age – and with an incentive to keep at it.

The Bootstrapping Checklist, which in my class occurs over a 5 month cycle, facilitates online collaboration which allows intermediate student projects to grow year over year. This is a massive shift in the way student projects are initiated and maintained, and when students know their ventures have the potential to grow, engagement and achievement go way up.

Projects are essentially open source and have the potential to generate ‘social capital’ – either in terms of relationships built (mentoring and volunteer recruitment to fulfill tasks to move projects forward), to cash and hardware donated to the school, again with the purpose of moving student projects forward. Because the design decisions are based on data, student voice is actually used to request resources, and I feel contributors are more likely to donate time or money if they know these resources have a defined purpose.

The social capital generated adds value to any school, board or community that makes space for this type of teaching and learning to grow. By engaging students more fully in their own community building, achievement actually goes up in terms of literacy and numeracy measurement for system accountability purposes, report card achievement, and soft skills gained, not to mention increased positive school climate.  

The Bootstrapping Checklist simply encourages schools to put a bit more emphasis on process, where the outcome of student projects is unknown from the outset, rather than with product, were generally very narrow success standards are used to measure student and school output.

School boards don’t need to measure The Bootstrapping Checklist the way they would measure literacy and numeracy in the ‘standardised testing for funds allocation’ kind of way.  As student online communities develop, these have the potential to add value to a school board by generating social capital in terms of relationships developed and fostered, and potential resources acquired – all using student data, or ‘voice’, to advocate for these resources.

As I know, open source student projects for social capital generation isn’t really being done in public schools – and I think this is a huge opportunity loss. We need to encourage this type of online collaboration using iterative cycles where social innovation, computer science and STEM curricular teaching and learning naturally flow from, and where student projects can potentially grow to generate social capital within and between school boards, year over year.

This slide show explains the Bootstrapping Checklist:

#entrepreneur #innovation #edtech #edchat #opensource #onlinecollab #education #year2year #local2global


Data Driven Design and the Process of STEM


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In order to create an environment which supports success in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in my small middle school classroom, the emphasis is on process, and not product, and iterative workflows are the key to continuous improvement.

Committing to any iterative inquiry or design cycle will help move students and teachers away from a performance (fixed) mindset toward a mastery (growth) mindset because students will learn to engage more with the process than the product – because it is the process that reveals the data that they need to continually improve.

Data Driven Design for middle and senior students is about getting kids to move away from caring so much about the products they make for school, to reflecting about what went well, and what didn’t so much, during the creative process.

It is about showing students how to apply the data that they have collected and interpreted to continually improve their products within an iterative workflow.

It is about getting them to see their products as what Pixar calls their ‘Most Recent Worst Versions’, and not simply a reason to ‘chase their marks’

Most importantly, it is about teachers showing students how to get data that belongs to them – and this changes the dynamic between teacher and student to allow for a growth mindset to occur for both.  This is how we will build an economy serviced by innovative and resilient people.

I have for many years been of the side of process versus product, and it was through this type of curriculum planning that I discovered that students need not be in control of the product, and that iterative inquiry cycles provide the structure needed to guide students through inquiry based learning projects where at the outset the products are unknown.

This is a paradigm shift for middle and senior students, parents, teachers and schools –  but it is a critical shift that needs to occur if we are to produce critically versatile thinkers and doers.  In this sense, the process frees the mind from a performance based attitude toward education (where normative standards are the measure of success) – to a growth mindset where the product is the student’s ‘Most Recent Worst Version’, and where the data collected to inform design becomes more important that the summative evaluation, or mark, given subjectively by the teacher.

In other words, formative assessment can and will override summative assessment in terms of importance once students see the value of it to inform their designs. Students can do this by becoming experts at collecting, organizing, and interpreting data to realize their visions and passions, and no longer get stuck on making something for the teacher. They will thus become ‘hungry for their own data’, because the data now serves their needs.

This is one place where entrepreneurial education and arts education intersect.  In DDD, the ‘bootstrapping checklist’ provides an explicit phase for data collection to inform the design process.  In art-making, ensuring that the critical analysis process is conducted during the art making process also provides students with valuable feedback to inform their works. And in all subjects, peer and teacher feedback occurs directly in the digital document that students are working in, and this feedback allows for these decisions to happen almost immediately.

Feedback actually leads to improvement, and a student who values this type of learning will exist in a growth mindset and will have the skills to navigate our ever increasingly competitive global marketplace.


“Following a structured approach to developing new ideas is critical for having a shot at actually being able to measure impact and value.”

Kristan ‘Krispy’ Uccello – software engineer at Google in CA



Chalkboard Drawing



I have been drawing most of my life, and I draw almost everyday in my classroom, especially at the end of the day to help me unwind.  These drawings are increasingly becoming interpretations of master comic book artists (this one is by Jim Lee, rather than just straight copies – which I think would be more than frustrating!

Because they are drawn in chalk, they are delicate and will eventually be erased.  The message to myself and to my students is to ‘not love your work too much’ – I believe this helps to promote more of a mastery mindset in my students.

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