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    180 Days of Making by Michelle Carlson, Foreward by Dale Dougherty

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    180 Days of Making is the real-world application of a teaching philosophy we know works; with the full detail of how we made it happen:  Lesson plans, teacher insight, coach's notes...EVERYTHING  
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    Our vision is that all students experience the joyful and relevant education they deserve. 

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Testimonials

“As an international school curriculum coordinator, I appreciate Michelle Carlson’s coaching. Her insight has been extremely useful in my thinking and planning for school change. Indeed working with Michelle has made a positive impact in my leadership role.”

Marlon Ng
Marlon Ng, Curriculum Coordinator American International School, Hong Kong

“Michelle is part of a revolution, and an early contributor to it as well.”

Ken Gracey
Ken Gracey, President, Parallax

“Michelle Carlson is a technology wonder woman. She bridges the tech and education worlds, saving teachers time. She listens to staff ideas, provides options to bring projects to life, and helps both students and teachers learn the technology together to make it happen! Dependable, friendly, inspiring, positive, and an infectious spirit, her influence impacts the classroom long after she’s left. Students and staff are eager for her to return stating, what can we learn next?”

Felicia Ross, Principal, Evergreen Middle School

“As someone that found himself neck deep in the Maker Movement and realized how much today’s kids were being cheated on exploring different things, I wholeheartedly support what this amazing lady is doing. While we may kid her about being “naturally caffeinated” (she is) she uses her powers for good. After helping endless schools build their own Maker Spaces, she is writing a manual that shows anyone, anywhere, how to put together a space that allows our youth to discover their natural talents. Trust me, your school NEEDS a Maker Space!”

Scott Chandler
Scott Chandler, Leadership Team, Expect More Tehama

“When I first met Michelle Carlson I was teaching fifth grade at Olive View Elementary in Corning, CA. I had just been given a set of chromebooks and was trying to figure out how to manage 30 kids with computers. Michelle came in and was a breath of fresh air. She had so many ideas and resources for me to try and use. As a result of her help, I gained the confidence and ability to not only successfully implement chromebooks in my classroom, but became a go to resource for other teachers dealing with computer issues. With her encouragement, I decided to accept the position of Curriculum Support Provider in Technology for Corning Elementary School District. In this last year I have worked with Michelle closely at our Makerspace at Maywood Middle School. Michelle transformed a classroom into a beautiful, positive, safe place for students to bring their ideas and have them come to life. I have also seen her energy transform people. She is nothing less than inspirational. When working with Michelle you will get fresh, new ideas. Many words come to mind: ambitious, passionate, reliable, positive, enthusiastic, hard-working and creative. She has been an amazing mentor and positive influence in our community.”

Noelle McDaniel
Noelle McDaniel, Curriculum Support Provider, Corning Elementary

Michelle Carlson at Future Development Group is a true pioneer in the Maker Movement for rural communities and is positively impacting education across the country, from right here in Red Bluff!”

Melissa Mendonca
Melissa Mendonca, Leadership Team, Expect More Tehama

“Michelle is one of the most pivotal people in my life. She’s truly one of those people who said she was going to change education and is actually doing it. So proud of what you’ve accomplished so far michelle. 🙂 Proud to be one of the original makerspacians “

Ericka Navarrete
Ericka Navarrete, College Student

“Imagine a place where students of all ages are glued to their projects. Learning graphic design, computer science, story writing, and the practical career skills prepping them for the future. Applying school knowledge and learning to interest specific projects. Makerspace is this. A room inspiring the thinkers, tinkerers, writers, scientists, and explorers of tomorrow! This is the next step in education to create people who are capable to tackle the unique problems this world now faces. Support the students of tomorrow :)”

Maryn Spangler
Maryn Spangler, High School Valedictorian and College Student

“Michelle is one of the visionaries that ‘gets it.’ In every project we collaborate on for our students, Michelle’s expertise, vibrance, and creativity abound and is contagious with the staff and students alike. She is amazing!”

William McCoy
William McCoy, Superintendent, Red Bluff Elementary School District

We Are

Joyful learning is more than just a job for us, it’s our passion!  We’ve seen firsthand how this work changes lives and we’re grateful for the opportunity to support rural schools in expanding opportunities for rich, real-world learning.
Read about our company’s core values 

What We Believe

We’re a progressive company operating on a social enterprise business model, which means that we’re mission driven, not profit driven. In addition to offering consulting, professional development and other services, we also believe strongly in the importance of giving back to the community and in volunteering to support the issues which align with our core values and vision.

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Data Directed, Not Data Driven

We love data just as much as the next person, but it’s not the only tool in our toolbox. It’s one piece of a powerful set of tools we use to guide our work. We believe It’s important to remember that a toolbox is FULL of useful tools – data is only one of them.

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Rich Learning Experiences

At FDG, we know that every day is an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of students. For an inside look at what we do, check out our various social media channels (left).

Fresh News

Inspiration served regularly on our blog!
Coaching Leadership

Normalizing the Paradigm Shift

February 3, 2017
This post is meant primarily for school leaders, ed tech coaches, support providers,  and other individuals working in schools to establish innovative programs which are sustainable beyond your tenure. All of us in leadership positions know this is the truest measure of a leader and something many of us grapple with every day. Great professional development is like a really fine concert or event – it’s thrilling when we’re in the moment, and it may even feel life changing. The reality is, once the moment has passed, most of us go right back into our life the way it was before. I’ve attended events and classes where I learned new things – things I wanted to come back and use. Achieving success with this, however, lies in whether or not the larger system and culture are poised to support and sustain new ways of doing things. Coaching is another place where this challenging dynamic exists.  Although a longer lasting event, it’s still just an event – unless steps are taken to normalize the changes into the larger system. As someone who is deeply committed to normalizing a paradigm shift toward engaging and joyful learning which incorporates hands-on learning and technology in our schools, I’ve learned some things along this journey which are worthy of sharing. Although these types of challenges exist in every organization, they are especially prevalent in education, and even more so in educational technology. It’s important to note this because the very nature of education with it’s rapid and repeated shifts over decades make normalizing a massive paradigm shift even more challenging due to the fact that getting buy-in is ever more difficult here. Teachers have seen change upon change upon change, and many have said to me over the years that they hesitate to dive into something new, no matter how enticing, as it will likely be gone in no time, to be replaced by something new they must learn. In the realm of educational technology, we add insult to injury with the fact that ed tech companies rapidly come and go, tools switch from free to paid, and the focus of the overall school system itself seems to be stuck in a never-ending loop of shedding it’s skin to become the “latest and greatest” thing. In my work with teachers to create engaging, joyful learning experiences, we face these challenges together every day.  From day one, I have maintained an unwavering dedication to the notion that I will never push or pull or “leverage” teachers into using a tool or learning something new. Instead, I take the “take my hand and we’ll do this together” approach, which has never failed. Examples of the aforementioned approaches always land flat. While that grassroots work is very exciting, for me, personal fulfillment can only be enjoyed if the programs and initiatives I launch have the ability to last beyond me.  Sustainability makes starting the journey worthwhile. As I ponder and experience these challenges firsthand, some thoughts surface which I believe will help others doing similar work – launching programs and initiatives which
Education Education reform Leadership

The Education Treadmill

January 27, 2017
Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to see, participate in, and experience our education system on a very deep level; spending much of my time in classrooms, admin offices, with children and their parents and I think the best way we can describe it is this: Everyone in education – teachers, kids, administrators, staff at every level – have been on a treadmill with no exit for a very long time. In the last several years, the speed of that machine has been slowly increasing via new mandates, tests, tests to support tests, etc. Those who suffer the greatest effects of the never-ending sprint are teachers and kids, because they have no real down time, and they have very little control over any of it. Teachers have no office to escape to for five minutes of peace, no ability to say, “I just need 5 minutes to gather myself” and no real power in the decision-making process which, has resulted in the way this profession is taking shape. The more time I spend really “seeing” things, the more I see so many educators who are doing their very best to keep going, to keep adding, to keep growing, to keep teaching, to keep doing it all…and getting to the end of their rope. So many people think teachers have it easy, that they have short work days, lots of breaks, and long summers. And you know, much to my own embarrassment, I once thought that too. Now that I’ve spent years working in education, I know that it is simply not the case. Here’s what it really looks like: teachers are on stage all day, with classrooms full of kids who are challenging. Kids who are brilliant, kids who are abused, kids who are struggling with learning disabilities. When they are at recess, they are keeping track of all these kids, and then they go back into the classroom and work to support them all. Then they have a short lunch with their colleagues, use the restroom, take a breath, and keep going. They are running. They rarely get sick during school, because getting subs is a challenge, and when they do get sick, they feel guilty for staying home. When they have a break like the one we had a Christmas time, they get sick. Instead of spending their break refreshing and feeling like they’re on vacation, they deal with having a fever, feeling crummy, and eating soup. Some work during their breaks to learn new things and plan engaging activities that take more time so when they get back to school, they can do amazing things with their kids. The treadmill continues to quicken. People don’t want to talk about these things because they are not sunshine and rainbows. They are reality, and that reality is reflected in data showing extraordinary rates of attrition in the teaching profession, along with many other measurable factors illustrating that we have a problem. It’s hard to talk about a problem which has

A Month of Giving

November 30, 2016
In the early days of my work bringing maker education to North State schools, I received a huge boost of support and encouragement from the folks at Maker Education Initiative.  That support played a wonderful role in helping me to drive forward here.  Maker Ed’s passion and dedication to their mission of creating more opportunities for all young people to develop confidence, creativity, and interest in science, technology, engineering, math, arts and learning as a whole through making continues to support and inspire people like me all over the globe. We need incredible organizations like this and when we find them, I believe it’s important to not only ask what they can provide us, but also how we can support them. Support comes in many forms, from sending a note of thanks, to sharing messages on social media, to donations. I’m excited to announce that FDG is donating all of the proceeds from our t-shirt and mug sales to Maker Ed this December, in support of the outstanding work they do! So, shop your hearts out this December, give a gift to a friend or a teacher, and smile because you are also giving a gift to our friends at Maker Ed.  They’ve been hard at work adding new resources to their website, along with some other pretty cool stuff, so check them out today to see what you’re supporting when you buy a shirt. We’ll update this post at the end of the year so you can come back and see exactly how much you helped us to donate to this very worthwhile cause. Until then, may your holidays be extra special and filled with joy! P.S. there’s a sale starting tomorrow: 10% off everything Promotion (Dec 1st – Dec 5th // Code: CHRISTMAS16)

Guest Post – Kate Murray: To make, to fix, to tinker, is to actively resist and preserve

November 22, 2016
It is an honor to share with you a post written by a friend and maker movement champion, Kate Murray.  Kate is on a multi-continent trek with husband Alex, which began in Austin, Texas in August, 2o16.  Her journey has allowed her to take in and learn about makers all over the world, and from that perspective, she shares her thoughts here on diversity, cultural history, equity, and how, ultimately, we are all connected as one people who make things.   I am absolutely in love with her ability to tell rich and inspiring stories about the people she meets and hope this post is but one of many that we get to share with you here. On a tiny island off the eastern coast of Panama, an old woman named Oti sits fused into a couch. She is small and frail by all accounts, and disappears among the folds of fabric that are so accustomed to her presence. In front of her stands a TV whose display crackles with grey, behind her an array of colorful goods, and between her hands a creation she has been working on for eight months. In the detailed movements of her fingers, amidst needle and thread, all thoughts of feebleness dissipate – they are expert, skillful movements. My Spanish was poor as I asked her questions about her life and craft – the two of which are intimately intertwined. Despite my simple words, Oti communicated clearly about her process and her motivations for creating. Layers of fabric and intricate stitching take on various forms – headbands, patches, wall hangings, hot mittens, molas (blouses) – all depicting her various interpretations of the life that surrounds her. A bird represents the spirit of the human heart, an octopus the plenty of the sea and ability to provide. The intricate and colorful designs are all based on the patterns which the indigenous Guna Yala women used to paint on their bodies, before textiles arrived with the Spanish conquistadors in the early 1500s. That’s right – these beautiful, geometric designs sewn together in reverse application have been a part of the Guna traditions for over 500 years. Oti learned her craft and style from her grandmother – and her grandmother did the same. At 77, Oti is now teaching the very same techniques to her own grandchildren. The creations of all the Guna women and “algunos hombres” – some men – carry the stories, perspectives, and traditions of a people that have persevered through numerous attempts at subjugation… but who have prevailed independent time and time again. Oti is a maker, though she’s never heard the term. And she’s not the first or last to say so. Oftentimes the mindset around “making” as a culture seems unfamiliar to many true makers that I meet. “Maker” is a word strongly associated with high-tech gadgets and surrounded by proprietary information and limited access. The “maker culture” itself is, in fact, commonly considered a technology-focused branch of the DIY movement.
Coaching Education Leadership

Do you want my job?

November 21, 2016
Over the past couple of years, many teachers have come to me, saying, “I want to do what you do.”   At first, I wasn’t sure how to respond to this, but as I processed it more, I saw it as an incredible opportunity to grow the work in ways that also align with my mission to support schools and make education a better place for all. Today, I am excited to announce that we are launching a national coaching network which provides an innovative and groundbreaking way to address some of the most critical issues facing education: teacher attrition, shortages, and a lack of enough support in the classroom to keep up with the complicated and ever-changing landscape. Recent reports have shown an alarming rate of teachers leaving the profession every year – 8% to be exact.  NPR writer Eric Westervelt calls the education system a “…leaky bucket, losing hundreds of thousands of teachers each year — the majority of them before retirement age.”  This is a huge portion of education’s brain trust walking out the door, and no one has been able to figure out how to stop the bleeding. Many of the teachers who have left will tell you how much they love kids, and how they’ve always wanted to be teachers, but just can’t stay in the face of how education looks today.  A quick web search reveals articles and research reports galore echoing a common plea: we need to create a solution, because this is just the beginning of an issue which is going to get worse before it gets better. What if we could offer these passionate educators with years of experience and wisdom a way to support teachers and kids from a different angle?  That’s exactly what I thought when I founded Future Development Group, and nearly two years in, I can say proudly, and with a huge smile, that IT’S WORKING! After years in the system working to innovate and support, the constraints and mandates made it clear I would never be able to offer the kind of support I knew was needed.  From that vantage point, it just wasn’t going to happen, and it turns out, leaving was the best thing I could have ever done – for myself and the teachers and school leaders who have become like extended family to me.  This partnership between education and industry has given us the ability to boldly and successfully innovate inside the school system, while also giving me the freedom I need to do the work I was meant to do.  We hear all the time about education-industry partnerships and this is a beautiful example of that concept in action.  Now, I’m not saying I think more teachers should leave, I’m offering a way to remain involved and engaged for those who’ve left, or are seriously thinking of doing so. In the coming months, we will be opening up opportunities for skilled teachers to join us in supporting classrooms across the nation, become their own boss, and work in education on terms that honor what they have

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This isn’t just a job for us, it’s our passion!  We’ve seen firsthand how this work changes lives and we’re grateful for the opportunity to support schools in expanding opportunities for rich, real-world learning.

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