Prisma is the world’s first Connected Learning Network preparing kids for the ever-changing world of the future. Our team of educators have a diverse background of experience on the cutting edge of teaching and learning, whether they’ve worked in brick and mortar schools or dynamic online environments. In our Meet the Team blog series, you’ll get to read more about the innovative thinkers behind Prisma.
Next up is Claire Cummings, one of our new Learning Coaches joining us for Winter Session starting in January 2021. Claire is based in Detroit, Michigan!
Tell us a little bit about your background in education.
I started out as a newspaper reporter covering education. I was in schools and writing about policy when I realized I actually wanted to be teaching the learners instead! I moved to Las Vegas where I received my master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. I taught grades 3-5 and coached fellow teachers for 10 years. The bulk of my time was spent in my neighborhood school but I also taught for two years at a technology magnet school where we focused on learner-centered and personalized instruction. Most recently, I served as a specialist teaching computer coding to grades K-5 and delivered webinars for teachers as a Digital Engineer for the state of Nevada.
You’ve worked as a lead teacher at Synthesis School, which uses an online game to teach critical thinking and collaboration skills. Next session, we’re going to be bringing Synthesis to Prisma. What’s exciting to you about Synthesis?
Synthesis School is all about dropping kids into complex, ambiguous situations and having them find the best way to win, which mirrors life in so many ways. There are the overt skills that students learn like working as a team. But there are also these hidden skills like how to make a decision when you have two great choices ahead of you. Plus, there are elements of the game, such as score multipliers, maps, teammates, and number/length of rounds, that are constantly changing so it never gets old. I can’t wait to see our Prisma learners in action!
If you could pick one skill that all kids should master to prepare for the world of the future, what would it be?
Critical thinking. Our learners have vast amounts of information at their fingertips but they need to know how to find and sift through multiple sources quickly as well as analyze them for accuracy, bias, and usefulness. If you have this skill, you can teach yourself nearly anything, and it will help you make better decisions as a voter, consumer, and all-around citizen of our world. I never purchase an item without researching it first.
What was middle school like for you?
I lost some friends in elementary because they said I had been too much of a “teacher’s pet.” So I started to rebel a little in middle school to become more likeable. I would crack jokes while the teacher was talking and tried to slack off on my studies a bit. I had some wonderful teachers who recognized the shift in me and made time to explain that I could still excel academically and make friends. It wasn’t either/or. So I embraced my inner goody two-shoes but in a more relaxed manner that allowed me to attract a great group of core friends.
You have experience leading learning experiences both online and in person. What do you like about teaching in a virtual environment?
I love teaching online because learners are able to set up and respond to their learning environment in ways that make them most comfortable. They can wear what they want, have their camera on or off, and communicate via chat instead of audio, if they prefer. There are also far fewer distractions (like fire drills!) and I love that learners can go at their own pace.
Looking ahead to starting in January, what are you most looking forward to?
I cannot wait to meet the learners and families and find out what is important to them! I am also looking forward to facilitating the dynamic and engaging curriculum that the Prisma team has developed.
What do you love to learn about? Or, what’s something new you learned recently?
I am a futurist so I love learning about emerging technologies. I recently took a deep dive into cryonics — preserving human bodies at low temperatures — and even toured Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona last year. There are 181 people who are “frozen” there with the hopes of returning to life when technology is able to revive them. It’s fascinating!