Jo-Ann Fox, #caedchat, and the Quantum Academy

Part 1 of 4 in a series of Stephen Davis’ Guest Editor Blog Posts

I recently reached out to CUE member Jo-Ann Fox and asked if she could answer a few questions about #caedchat and the new Academy she has founded, Quantum Academy.

What are the origins of #caedchat? What is next? How will it grow and continue to benefit teachers?

#Caedchat began not long after #edcampLA in 2013. Actually, #caedchat was born on Valentine’s day two years ago! We began with a tweet:


From this came a conversation between what we now call the #caedchat team! Those include Jessica Pack, John Stevens, Karl LS, Lisa Dabbs, Holly Clark, David Theriault, JR GO, Ryan Archer, Sam Patterson, and myself. That is the power of Twitter! Tweet an idea, and something amazing like #caedchat is born. Here is a blog post I wrote about it.

The goal of #caedchat has always been to connect teachers across California to discuss issues and pedagogy related to education. However, we have participants from all over the world. We hope to create a community of connected educators who can lean upon each other when needed and be a positive resource for new and experienced teachers.

We are excited to announce the next step of #caedchat is infiltrating the conference circuit! This year at #cue15, the #caedchat moderators will be hosting #caedchat Live on Thursday, March 19 at 2:00pm in Primrose A. We hope to bring the twitter chat live to the audience and allow an opportunity for everyone to have a face to face conversation without the limits of 140 characters. The theme of the live chat will be “How to be more Ed than Tech in an Edtech world.”

How did Quantum Academy come about? Can you talk about some of the positives and negatives in Quantum Academy’s journey? What would you say to other CUE members about starting their own academy in their area?

Quantum Academy

This year I am out of the classroom helping my district (Escondido Union School District) to design a new innovative school called Quantum Academy. This journey began last year as my district brought together a group of administrators and teachers as a think tank to brainstorm what a new future school might look like.

We met twice a month to discuss, research and brainstorm new possibilities. The concept of Quantum Academy was born. The think tank group presented the idea to the Board of Education in the spring of 2014. The board approved the concept and approved for two Teacher on Special Assignment positions to be opened for 2014-15 school year.

I applied and got the position and in August I boxed up my classroom, stuffed those boxes into the garage and moved into a cubicle at the district office along with another teacher, Colin Hanell. We were both excited, nervous, and a bit out of our element as we were not used to life inside a cubicle.

But we quickly dove into more research and began to narrow the focus of Quantum Academy. We knew we wanted to challenge what traditional education offers and began to build the concept of a school that honored student voice and student choice. We believe if we focused on the 4 Cs (create, collaborate, communicate, and critically thinking) that our students would be prepared for any type of situation life may offer them.

We also believe that powerful learning is the type of learning that impacts others in a positive way. Learning is not only for yourself. So we added the 5th C, community. We hope our students will impact not just the school community, but also the community at large. The 5 circles represent the 5 Cs. Read a blog post about it here.

Our research led us to discover what we call the sweet spot for education. The sweet spot is where these 5 concepts come together:

  • Design Thinking
  • PBL
  • Growth Mindset
  • Content

Student learning at Quantum Academy will focus on CA standards but also integrate real world connections to content through experiences with STEAM, Design Thinking, and PBL. We also want to help our students develop a growth mindset. In Mindsets in the Classroom by Mary Cay Ricci, she notes that 100% kindergartners enter school with a growth mindset, but by the third grade 42% of students have developed a fixed mindset. We hope to help our students recapture the spirit of the growth mindset in grades 4-8.

Quantum Academy will be an upper elementary school serving students in grades 4-8. We are starting with grades 4-6 in the first year and slowly building our community by adding grade 7 the following year and grade 8 in 2017-18. We are bringing together the best of elementary and middle school. All of our classes will be self-contained, so students will have an assigned grade level teacher.

Because our school is so small, having only two teachers per grade level, teachers will collaborate together to help meet the needs of all the students in each grade. We also want to provide choice in student learning. So after lunch students will get to take choice based classes, like electives in middle school. These classes will be cross grade level classes allowing our students in grades 4-8 to collaborate together. Here is what they are:

  • Elements Class– This class is named after Sir Ken Robinson’s book The Element. We hope to help students find their element in these classes. These classes are designed to be STEAM based. Elements classes last a trimester and help students to dive deep into a concept.
  • Explore Class- This class is designed to be only 6 weeks so students can have a chance to try something new. These are STEAM based classes as well.
  • Genius Hour– Students will all have an opportunity to explore a topic of personal interest.

Positives about this journey:

  • The ability to spend time to research and rethink traditional education.
  • Being able to collaborate with so many people! Here is a blog post about that.
  • Being able to visit other innovative schools in the area like Design 39 Campus in Poway, VIDA (Vista Innovative Design Academy) in Vista, and Del Lago a new high school in Escondido. We also visited an amazing school called Preuss School which is a charter school located on the UCSD campus who is among the top schools in California and who serves students from all over San Diego. This school is unique in that all students who attend this school are on free or reduced lunch and their parents have not attended college.
  • We have the time to explore new innovative tools like robotics. We have purchased a Sphero and an iRobot and are learning how to code.
  • We are also learning about Sketchup and 3D printing.
  • Researching furniture and classroom design.
  • We are learning a lot about PR for schools. We have created a Twitter and Facebook page for our school. We also have our own hashtag #QAlearns. We have done about 20 presentations to the community about Quantum Academy.
  • I’m looking forward to being a part of the process to hire a principal and teaching staff. Imagine being a part of a school who all believe in a similar vision of student centered, project based environment.
  • Learning from others. This is truly a collaborative event and I have learned so much this year. I love being pushed to think more by the people around me.

Negatives about this journey (and these aren’t really negatives but rather the challenges):

  • Life in a cubicle is rather different. It really has me contemplating how hard a sedentary life is on your body. It makes me think of how much of the day students are sitting in a typical classroom and how this needs to change. Researching furniture and classroom design has become an important part of our journey.
  • When you are doing something innovative, it can sometimes feel scary. It is really easy to think of the big picture stuff, but it is the small details I worry the about the most.

Thank you Jo-Ann for sharing with us!

unnamed-1Jo-Ann Fox is a 4th grade teacher in Escondido, CA who strives to seamlessly innovate with technology in her classroom. She is a Google Certified Teacher and was a semifinalist for 2012 California Teacher of the Year. Jo-Ann is a co-founder and co-moderator of California Edchat and a co-planner for Edcamp San Diego. You can follower her on Twitter @AppEducationFox or visit her blog at AppEducation.com.

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Stephen Davis

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