Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Reimagine Education Conference and Awards, Dec. 2017

Thank you Reimagine Education for inviting me to another inspiring event and for allowing me the privilege of presenting again The Bootstrapping Checklist, an open innovation program happening in my classroom in Toronto. The program is a grassroots online student social network centered around social entrepreneurship.

As a an educator in Toronto, I am heartened by the work being accomplished at University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. The Education Entrepreneurship Master’s Program is forging the alloy of Education Entrepreneurship with The Graduate School of Education, The Wharton Business School, The School of Engineering and Applied Science.

We need to attract the best and brightest ‘teacherpreneurs’ to help develop the next generation of teachers and support and inspire those who are innovating now in classrooms locally, nationally, and globally.

I have included the slide deck from my Bootstrapping Checklist 2017 Reimagine Education Presentation, but for ‘How to Run the Bootstrapping Checklist“, please click here.

Oh, and please check out my mention in Forbes – thanks Robyn Shulman!

Thank you,

Rich Baxter, December 2017





#opensource #openinnovation #BootstrappingChecklist #ReimagineEdu #socialinnovation #entrepreneur #artseducation #edtech #local2global #edchat #edtechchat #iterate2innovate #RE17 #RE2017 #bootstrappers #neverstopinnovating

Why Teach Entrepreneurship in Public Schools?


Entrepreneurial skills such as resilience, focus, commitment, people management, self-reflection, and a positive attitude are not intuitive skills. They take practice and dedication and it becomes a momentous event for a young student to begin to understand that just because they don’t have many of these skills, it doesn’t mean that they will never be able to develop them. This revelation for many kids lifts a weight for those that begin to grasp that skills are developed through dedication and practice, and that because these can be learned and taught, they become very much accessible to all students.

We are generally predisposed as humans to shy away from conflict, and so teaching kids to embrace change and challenge as opportunities is critical at an early age if they are to grow into adults who will be able to excel in our uncertain future workforce. So entrepreneurial and change management skills are important skills to teach in our classrooms.

One of the things I notice through the Bootstrapping Checklist is how students learn to relate to each other in a more professional way – they start to look at school as an opportunity to practice skills to help them relate to each other in a professional manner in order to try to realize their project visions.

Students learn to separate their behaviour from their personal identities, meaning if they behave badly out of frustration or anxiety during a tough team meeting, it doesn’t mean that ‘that’s who they are’. It means they behaved badly in a stressful situation and entrepreneurial education of this type teaches kids to recognize and respond to challenge, rather than simply and continually reacting to stress.

Thus students begin to objectively see how their language and the way they and their peers speak to each other can positively or negatively impact the group’s success. They also learn that problem solving is hard, that getting frustrated is normal, and that there are specific skills and strategies that can be applied to mitigate the difficulties of complex problem solving.

I claim that the Bootstrapping Checklist can produce ‘cohorts of students who are more than HigherEd ready’ – and what this really means is that students learn to understand what agility looks like in a constantly changing and unpredictable global and local employment market. A fundamental quality of the Bootstrapping Checklist is what I call guided iterative inquiry – it is very much process oriented design thinking, heavily influenced with the Japanese concept of Kaizen, or continuous improvement.

Teachers are fortunate in Ontario because we have a lot of freedom to plan curriculum delivery in our classrooms, and Ontario is a global education leader in inquiry and project- based learning, but we need to go further and normalize ‘cultures of innovation’ in our schools – and so teachers must take up the mantels of ‘teacherpreneurs’ and model this mindset for the students daily.

I go as far to suggesting that schools, especially middle and high schools, should be turned into ‘innovation hubs’, where the classroom is project incubator and the school/district is accelerator – cloud computing and iterative design thinking can practically support student projects over years – with the potential of student projects actually deploying in communities.

This is a paradigm shift of the purpose of our education system – to produce students who are not only skilled at change management, but who critically have not lost their desire to be imaginative, empathetic and creative people who are excited at the opportunities that constant change and uncertainty produce. We need to teach our kids never to lose their brilliance, and schools need to support this creative drive from the beginning to middle school, to high school, and beyond.


Rich Baxter is an educator and advocate for social innovation, the arts, and entrepreneurial education in our public schools. He is honoured to be a Judge for the 2017 QS Stars Reimagine Education Awards.


#opensource #openinnovation #TheBootstrappingChecklist #ReimagineEdu #socialinnovation #entrepreneur #artseducation #edtech #local2global #edchat #edtechchat

10 Notables Changing the Future of Learning and Teaching

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Education is merging with neuroscience, quantum computing, and AI, redefining what it means to be human and thus what it means to learn and to teach. Where does that put education as a human endeavor and what other factors do we need to consider in order to take full advantage of the present knowledge revolution?

  • The game changers that support 21st Century Technology and Learning are cloud computing, more connectivity, cheaper devices that enable social networks, and AI enabled extreme personalization. Online learning communities immersed in organized cycles of inquiry are an important aspect of the future of education – we need to promote the facilitation of these communities in our young learners.
  • Excellent teachers, along with AI, will support all of these technological interventions and more, but will we learn when to ‘turn the AI off’, or risk merging with the Neuralink – it will be there if you want it.  
  • Measuring success will be more shared, less quantitative, and supported by valued competencieswe give too many linear assignments – we need to balance these with cyclical inquiry holding unknown outcomes at the outset in order to allow students to practice the competencies that mitigate the stress of ambiguity of complex problem solving.
  • The arts are critical – art is the highest form of human expression.  Education is a human endeavor, and as such it must respect our nature as creative beings – cutting funding to arts and humanities makes no sense. Coding is important, but frankly, a lot of it will be automated by the time my students reach working age (BTW – there is no STEM, only STEAM – one has only to look at Hypercars as examples).
  • The process frees the mind – classrooms must do more extended cyclical inquiries to 5 hours, 5 days, 5 weeks, and eventually to 5 months. Evaluation and assessment can be deeper within a longer cycle, and the competencies practiced become just as/more important as the summative marks achieved at the end of the process.
  • Inquiry = deep questions to promote access + facilitated responses + critique and comment to encourage commitment to a mastery mindset. Deep Learning doesn’t happen without deep questions, and ‘siloed’ mini-lessons only serve to further fracture our students – students need longer, deeper, and more cross-curricular/interdisciplinary projects for context and relevance – service learning is a great way to solve local and global community problems, we should focus more on this.
  • Personalized Learning means a fundamental shift in responsibility on the part of students and their families who require more guidance and encouragement to curate knowledge, competencies and empathy in pursuit of future dreams, plans and realities in terms of education, employment and happiness – in a very uncertain but hopeful future.
  • Storytelling and blogging remain crucial for relevance and for sharing of student voice. Family curation of career goals will become more important, as will be the curation of social media legacies of individuals – that’s why blogging is such a relevant and authentic activity to teach in schools – it is their voice through curated narrative that gives relevance to these activities – they are forging their digital legacies.
  • Students need guidance to curate their own competencies to help them develop their own growth mindset. Teach kids what their strengths and needs are and how to communicate those to other people, how to collaborate with others, and how to manage projects and assignments, and have a future vision of happiness.
  • Engaging in collaboration and not knowing the outcome at the outset and being able to manage that ambiguity is important to teach our kids. Being able to feel comfortable with complexity and public speaking, pushing through the stresses of innovation – and realizing that none of these habits are necessarily intuitive — they take practice to master.   

Authentic personalized learning requires that 21st century schools are filled with students and families who are provided the opportunity to take on more responsibility for their learning, in response to the exponential increase in resources provided by the Internet. Excellent teaching and AI will guide this upward innovation movement, but ‘a shared leadership’ will facilitate more and more partnerships within communities and between them.

What would you add to this list?

Special thanks to Robyn D. Shulman for her support:

Rich Baxter is an educator and advocate for social innovation, the arts, and entrepreneurial education in our public schools. He is honoured to be a Judge for the 2017 QS Stars Reimagine Education Awards.


#opensource #openinnovation #TheBootstrappingChecklist #ReimagineEdu #socialinnovation #entrepreneur #artseducation #edtech #local2global #edchat #edtechchat #iterate2innovate #education #innovation


21st Century Project-Based Learning

img_4853-2I created the Bootstrapping Checklist as an entrepreneurial program for teens in the form of cyclical guided inquiry and because it is deeply simple and low-cost, it is immensely scalable.

Fundamentally, the Bootstrapping Checklist relies more on a cyclical philosophy of engaging with our world – this I borrowed from First Nations holistic ideals of sustainability, and also from Eastern philosophy (Buddhism primarily, and the Japanese concept of Kaizen, or continuous improvement).

There is also change management theory and social engineering mixed with business concepts, in the form of fully interdisciplinary project-based learning – which the kids love because they are practicing real business culture in a sustainable ‘service learning’ and socially innovative context – school is now ‘real’ for them.

The Bootstrapping Checklist is a shift away from too many ‘linear’ assignments for students, to a more holistic cyclical method of inquiry – and the Bootstrapping cycle lasts 5 months – we do it every Friday for 5 months (roughly 1 stage in the cycle/month). For the kids, they feel a sense of support knowing that they will have the time to work through a very deep inquiry, and still be able to work through the myriad of other assignments they encounter throughout the school year.

The program was put together with the hard work and commitment of myself and my students, and with support from global mentors with whom I constantly look to for guidance and support.  This means that the Bootstrapping Checklist (and guided cyclical inquiry, however the form it takes), is immensely scalable, as long as a community has access to WiFi, cloud-based computing, mobile devices/computers, and adventurous teachers.

The program will become a registered charity once a suitable investor is found, and will develop into an Artificial Intelligence enabled module that will very quickly allow remote communities to ‘self-learn’ project management to solve local challenges and engage with the global community – but the teacher/coach/mentor/elder must always be present to facilitate any community learning, this is always critical.

Rich Baxter is an educator and advocate for social innovation, the arts, and entrepreneurial education in our public schools. The Bootstrapping Checklist was presented on December 5, 2016 in Philadelphia at the Reimagine Education Awards and exists in the Creative Commons as an open innovation project.

*Special thanks to Kristan Uccello, Dr. Paul Kim CTO of GSE at Stanford, and Salar Chagpar and Marc Lijour at and of course the Reimagine Education community.


#opensource #openinnovation #TheBootstrappingChecklist #ReimagineEdu #socialinnovation #entrepreneur #artseducation #edtech #local2global #edchat #edtechchat #iterate2innovate #education #innovation

#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


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