About Frank Tipton

Greetings! I am taking a journey in 21st century education and discovering intersections of experiential ed, connected learning, and the cultivation of student character and leadership. I am inspired by student diversity and authentic expression in our intentional communities. When I'm not on campus, you can often find me enjoying the New England seashore or the Rocky Mountains with my family.

It’s All About Reputation Now.

Taking Info Literacy to a whole new level in high schools.

There is an underappreciated paradox of knowledge that plays a pivotal role in our advanced hyper-connected liberal democracies: the greater the amount of information that circulates, the more we rely on so-called reputational devices to evaluate it. What makes this paradoxical is that the vastly increased access to information and knowledge we have today does not empower us or make us more cognitively autonomous. Rather, it renders us more dependent on other people’s judgments and evaluations of the information with which we are faced.

Info Literacy + Positive Group Dynamics = Optimal Collaboration

We build a new theory here that the mobile device – which gives equal access to information– does not necessarily lead to effective reasonable fact-based discussions in small groups. Group interactions and informal roles are stronger than information equality, meaning that group dynamics outweigh information access, and thus impact discussion and decision-making more than the fact itself, even in such situations where all participants had equal information at hand. Simply put, it is not the information that makes a group work or perform better than others, even if all have same information available, the group dynamics and interactions are the major factors that decides about the group performance.

For education, it means, when teachers want to support cooperation among students, access to information is not enough, rather instructional guidelines are needed, e.g., supporting Group contracts clarifying input by each member. Also, not all group tasks need equal cooperation levels to be successful, however, for those where equality matters, access to information is necessary but not sufficient to support group performance.


Isa Jhanke and Michele Meinke Kroll. Heliyon. Exploring students’ use of online sources in small groups with an augmented reality-based activity – group dynamics negatively affect identification of authentic online information. (hat tip: NAIS Independent School Magazine Winter 2019).

The First

The ChoiceHappy January 1st!

What does it mean for something or someone to be the first? I’ve been thinking about this question ever since I watched Hulu’s production “The First” this fall. It’s a drama about a manned mission to Mars, but the mission is itself only the framing device for the show. In fact, almost the entire eight-episode season takes place on Earth prior to lift-off. The show itself is sometimes philosophical and metaphorical to the point of abstraction. It’s bound to frustrate some viewers who find it too counterintuitive and confounding. But I believe that it takes a deep look at raw family/social relations and the evolution of our emotional selves. It includes honest, hard moments of inequity and exclusion; it showcases humans in all their flaws and all their aspirations. It got mixed reviews, but I like how this critic summarized his take on the show:

It’s a bit strange knowing you can’t wholeheartedly recommend a show to people who you’d think would be its ideal audience — fans of technically realistic space adventures that are either drawn from history or set so close to the present day that they barely qualify as science fiction — but congrats to The First for being, well, the first series to create such a conundrum. It’s not what I thought it was going to be, and I have no idea how it’ll be received or whether it’ll get additional seasons. But it moved and impressed me to the point where I didn’t particularly care if a given scene or story line was “working” or not. It has a pioneering spirit.

“Firsts” are often framed in our heads as those “moon-shot” moments tailor-made for PR releases and radio/TV pieces. We’ve had a good share of those moments at Gann – elements of our program and practice that gleam in the sunlight – and we should be proud of them and continue to foster them. But I also think about our individual “firsts” – how we encounter ourselves and grow in our work as professionals. I think about the “firsts” for our students – how they come to understand themselves and evolve in non-linear, unexpected fashions. Those moments are individualized, bumpy, and rather non-cinematic. They are often unheralded – and I think that’s a shame.

I wonder if we might shine a warm light on this ragged edge of human growth. If I have a New Year’s resolution, it is to celebrate the scattershot nature of human evolution, both within myself and in others. After all, a mundane move for one person is a risky moon shot for someone else.

Flipping the Sequence

Today, on the day of Gann Academy’s Open House, I’m thinking back to my opening-of-school remarks at the start of September. I believe they speak authentically to our community culture and our aspirations. I’m proud to share them.

Gann exterior

“I’m flipping the sequence today – I’m going to do something that I am not supposed to do. You see, when you go to “Assistant Head of School” School, you learn what you are supposed to say at the start of the year, and what you are supposed to say at the end of the year. At the start of the year, I am supposed to tell you that are supposed to study hard, to put the pedal to the metal, to hunch over your desk and burn the midnight oil. At the end of the year, I’m supposed to tell you that you are now ready to go out to change the world, to make a difference, to do things.

But I’m going to flip the sequence today, because we’re Gann and that’s not how we work. I’m going to tell you, right now, that your job is to take action now – to make change now. It’s not to say that Gann students do not study hard. We do! But we do so with an immediate purpose.

The words in the lobby read “ready for tomorrow.” They don’t say “ready in four years.” They don’t say “ready after college and when I’ve got my first real job.” They say “ready for tomorrow.” Well, tomorrow is in 24 hours. (But don’t worry: it’s Friday, and tomorrow is Shabbat, and this is Gann, so you get an extra 24 hours’ reprieve!). That means that the change we need must start now, here, in this place, in this room.

Now, I have no question but that the Gann students of 2018-2019 are up to the task. After all, you win soccer games, climb mountains (literally), perform magnificent music, and publish op/ed pieces in the New York Times. And that, my friends, was in the first week of school. Mic drop!

But we also know that what’s facing us is something very serious. There’s a lot going on outside these walls. We can’t escape the headlines: climate change, divisive politics and fundamental failure of trust. When violence, hatred, racism in our world are hard reality, we know that there’s a lot of work to do.

So we better be sure that we know what it is about Gann Academy that is so special, because we need to keep it going; we need to keep drawing from that well of strength. In short, what makes this place tick?

When I ask a question like this one, I think of our four core values. These are so important to us that we post them in giant letters in the dining hall: Care. Connect. Strive. Create. Today I’m going to zoom in on “Connect.”

At Gann, we practice connection and collaboration and we never stand alone. We win games – as a team. We climb mountains – each looking after the other. We perform music together. And I dare you to find any recent New York Times op/ed piece with five co-authors. That’s how we do things at Gann.

As Rabbi Berkman said, we are imperfect and we grow, and we change, and we build our strengths – and we do so as a community. And, as our student presenters just pointed out, it is through community that we discover our individual passions.

Connecting with others starts right here, right now, at the start of the year.

So I offer you three challenges – I know that you know these things, but I am going to name them anyway!

First – a message not just to new students but to those who think they know this place … I challenge you to find someone you don’t know at all and establish a connection before the end of the day today.

Second – remember that the deeper connections are the ones in which you are asking at least as many questions as you are offering answers. Not judgment in the guise of a question. Not snarky questions. Open, honest, wondering, vulnerable questions. Yes, it’s risky. Yes, you’re up to it.

And “Level Three Connection” —  focus on listening. Good, hard, reflective listening. If you don’t know how to do it, don’t worry – you’ll learn here. It takes practice. It’s not just using your ears. You have to open up your eyes. You have to open up your heart. You have to open your spirit. I think the listening is actually the hard part, a lot of the time.

BUT you know this. You the striving artist, the caring athlete, the creative robotics leader, the hard-working scholar – you know this. We connect at the deepest level, we strengthen each other, and that’s how we create art that changes lives, we win league and state championships, we conduct the research that matters, and, I promise you, we bring human dignity to a world that desperately needs it. And yes, we might even build a national museum.

The change starts here. In this room. ALL OF US.

Happy New Year. Shana Tova.”

It’s Time for a National Museum of Disability

Gann students are at it again. THIS IS THE WORK.


Throughout the year, we researched and analyzed historical artifacts and subjectareas related to disability history. We learned about institutionalization and the reasons behind person-first language. We investigated the origins of polio leg braces, learned about advances in hearing aids and the invention of blind baseball. We also interviewed important figures in the disability community, like Matan Koch, a lawyer with cerebral palsy who served on President Barack Obama’s National Council on Disability, and Richard Robison, the executive director emeritus of the Federation for Children With Special Needs, who is the father of two children with Down syndrome.


We now know a few things. And we believe informing the public about the history of people with disabilities is necessary. We also believe that a major step in doing that means having a national museum dedicated to disability history.

Elianna GerutSarah LevinDaniel RabinovitzGabe Rosen and Ben Schwartz. New York Times. It’s Time for a National Museum of Disability.

Video Learning Outranks Printed Books in Survey

In a survey released last month of people ages 14 to 23—the so-called Generation Z group—YouTube ranked the highest as a preferred learning tool. Fifty-nine percent picked YouTube as a learning preference, 57 percent chose in-person group activities, 47 percent picked learning apps or games, and 47 percent chose printed books. The study—conducted by a global market research firm, The Harris Poll, on behalf of education company Pearson—examines the differences between Generation Z and Millennials—defined as ages 24-40—when it comes to their outlooks, values, and experiences in education and the use of technology. The Generation Z age group has a “specific brand relationship” with YouTube, said Peter Broad, the director of global research and insights for the education company. “When younger learners are looking for answers, they’re going to the most straightforward, familiar force, and for them that’s YouTube.”

Lauraine Genota. EdWeek. Video Learning Outranks Printed Books in Survey.


Ideology is the Original Augmented Reality

[Augmented Reality] mode is what makes Pokémon Go different from other PC games: Instead of taking us out of the real world and drawing us into the artificial virtual space, it combines the two; we look at reality and interact with it through the fantasy frame of the digital screen, and this intermediary frame supplements reality with virtual elements which sustain our desire to participate in the game, push us to look for them in a reality which, without this frame, would leave us indifferent. Sound familiar? Of course it does. What the technology of Pokémon Go externalizes is simply the basic mechanism of ideology—at its most basic, ideology is the primordial version of “augmented reality.”

Slavoj Zizek, Nautilus/MIT Press. Ideology is the Original Augmented Reality.