Learning

Jumping Right into Design Thinking – Part 1

Jumping in Pool

I have always been someone who likes using defined processes groups. Probably the most useful workshop that I ever attended was David Langford’s Quality Learning seminar. I have used his tools for problem solving as an individually and with groups for years. For several years now I have been wanting to learn more about design thinking because the concept seems sensible and interesting. Instead of solving problems this focuses on finding solutions by learning about the  stakeholders. So, instead of taking the time to attend a workshop I decided to jump right in and learn by doing. Thankfully, IDEO has a free online toolkit to guide me through the process and my colleagues are game for trying something new.

For several years we have struggled with our annual week long trips in the high school. For one week in September the entire high school travels to four different locations in Brazil. The groups are organized by grade level and there have been two objectives.

To gain a deeper appreciation and knowledge of Brazil – The trips provide students with real life experiences within Brazil. Trips may focus on…

  • exploring various cultural aspects of the respective community.
  • environmental issues in the community.
  • sustainable development and the economic environment in the community.
  • fun activities that are representative of the community.

To develop relationships within our community – The trips are an excellent opportunity for students and teachers to start the year off by learning about each other in a non-classroom setting. In doing so, students and teachers can build an appreciation for others and a respect for differences. Relationship building may occur in the following ways: 

  • team building activities
  • discussion groups focused on objective #1
  • group projects
  • informal dialogue throughout the trip

We have also been working, with mixed success, to link the trips to course curricula. Each year we get mixed reviews from students and teachers and we feel like we just haven’t gotten them right yet. The factor that tipped the scale is that for two years in a row we had a large number of seniors decide to not travel with their classmates. So, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to give the design thinking process a chance.

After reviewing the trips from this year and that past we have defined our challenge, set a timeline and gathered the information that we have on hand.

“Redesign the experiences to make them indispensable and unforgettable so that the mission and core values come to to life.”

We’re now in the research phase where we define exactly what we need to learn from our students and teachers and look for inspiration from various sources. With that information we’ll work in teams to develop prototypes of trips for review. There is still much work to do but we all seem to feel that there are plenty of possibilities for making the trips “indispensable and unforgettable”

I’d love to hear ideas and suggestions from design thinking experts that are out there. We’re definitely going to need support throughout the process.

This photo, “8579 S jumps into pool” By WoofBC under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, modified slightly from original

1:1 in the Classroom: Learning to become mindful

From The Church of Facebook by Jesse Rice.

While our middle school has been 1:1 for 3 1/2 years last year was our first in the high school. The roll-out went smoothly and students and teachers settled into the new environment with very few issues. I will admit that I would occasionally hear teachers complain about students being distracted and off task while on the computer.  Often I hear 1:1 advocates respond to this issue with, “If the learning activities in a 1:1 environment don’t change, the students will lose interest and become distracted.  Students can’t just use the laptops for note taking in lectures.” This was certainly not the case with many of our classrooms. I took the grumbling seriously since it was coming from educators who I respected. I’d seen other classrooms where the laptops were only being used for taking notes during lectures and these settings were ripe for off task behavior, but this was not the case.

At this same time I noticed a change in my habits and behaviors online. I was having trouble focusing and I was spending way too much time sorting through e-mail. One example is that I’d open and e-mail, click on a link, return to my e-mail waiting for the link to load and keep moving on. Before long I had 20 tabs open and I hadn’t really focused on any of the resources. As I work on this post I frequently find myself yearning to check my e-mail. Sure, I’ve read Nicholas Carr’s, The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains (which Rheingold  so I was aware of how technology was changing the way my brain works, but I my mind was slowly changing. This is the exact issue that our students face when it comes to the internet and distractions.

Pamela Livingston’s in her post 1:1 in the Classroom – Digital Distraction gives teachers practical tips for dealing with this issue in the classroom.  I’d like to also suggest the ideas that Howard Rheingold offers in NetSmart: How to thrive online. While Rheingold is an avid user of the net and a staunch supporter of technology, he promotes the skills and habits of “mindfulness” which is one area of his concept of  “Infotention”.  In the book, Rheingold quotes Maggie Jackson, author of Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming of Dark Age.  Jackson states, “If focus skills can be groomed, as research has begun to hint, the important next question is whether, and how, attention should be integrated into education. Will attention become a 21st-century ‘discipline’, a skill taught by parents, educators, even employers?” I believe that we do have to teach these skills in our classrooms. Rheingold offers the following strategies for becoming mindful, and paying attention.

  1. Meditation
  2. Plan blocks of uninterrupted time to focus on a task.
  3. Creating short-term goals and focus on meeting those within defined periods.
  4. Practice working on a single task for 15 – 20 minutes at a time.
  5. Create a diary of your online behaviors to be used to reflect on habits.

These ideas can certainly be incorporated in the classroom and Rheingold also has examples of what he does in his classes. For those of you who would like to learn more about these I ideas I encourage you to read Net Smart. I believe that we owe it to ourselves and our students to become more cognizant of how the internet is changing our lives and habits.

I’m alive and well professionally but my blog has been dormant

Graded High School Blog

The 2012 – 13 school year has been a fantastic one for me professionally. You wouldn’t know if from looking at my blog. The main reason that Creative Tension has been dormant is that I have been focused on curating the Graded High School Blog this entire year. I’m pleased to announce that we had 103 posts and over 11,500 hits. While our primary audience is the Graded community, the Graded stories reached a worldwide audience. The concept is that the HS Blog is “where the Graded high school community shares information and ideas on education.” This has been an excellent first step to creating a venue for members of the community to share stories about learning at Graded. With the school year over it’s an excellent archive for school community members to look back on the year.

While we also have the traditional weekly newsletter that is sent out to parents each week this blog has received more viewers, given community members the chance to comment and develop a dialogue, provided the community with timely information, and opened up our school to a more global community. We have tried to limit the number of posts that are just informational in terms of upcoming events and instead tried to focus on student and teacher learning. I look forward to building on what has been done this year and improving in the following ways.

  1. Increase the number of authors. Aside from my posts, there were a handful of others who contributed during the year. I hope that we can create a culture where teachers, students and parents will contribute whenever something happens. By reminding community members that the posts don’t have to be lengthy and that they can include photos, text, audio and videos I hope that we can increase authorship. While I’ve spent a considerable amount of time curating this blog, I look forward to it becoming a place where the community shares stories.
  2. Increase the number of comments that readers contribute. Aside from a somewhat controversial post on the changes to our grade weighting policy (6) and a post asking students to comment on a draft of our self-study Executive Summary (14), there were very few comments submitted. Hopefully we’ll continue encouraging people to comment and it may require more provocative topics.
  3. Increase viewership – I’ve been promoting the blog through e-mails to the community, links in our weekly newsletter, announcements at meetings, and Facebook and Twitter announcements. Hopefully it will help to increase the number of subscribers so that they get announcements whenever new posts are made. We have a ways to go to catch our the Talonline Blog that is student focused. They have had over 78,000 views.

Image from Flickr by martin.canchola

It’s now time for me to get back to blogging and sharing the learning that I’ve been doing throughout the year. It’s certainly been a productive one for me.

2012 in review – Creative Tension Report

Just recently I posted my thoughts on blogging and how it has helped me with my learning.  I then received the 2012 annual report on Creative Tension from WordPress. It’s amazing how easy it is for them to track data on each blog. I have been celebrating that I’ve generated 80 total posts, last year there were only 16. This gives me a good benchmark to strive to improve on for 2013. I’m confident that I can go beyond that. Of those 16 posts there were over 9,900 views, which equates to an average of 618 views per post. Not too shabby if I do say so myself.

My big question – What does it take to generate comments which lead to discussions on the individual posts?

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 9,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 17 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

As educators, we can learn from the Jeremy Lin story

Jeremy Lin on the cover of GQ Magazine

I have been wanting to write this post since I read this New York Times article, entitled, “The Evolution of a Point Guard” in February. Now that I have some time over the holidays I’m able to finish this post up. The article describes the 18 month transformation of Jeremy Lin. Since then Lin signed a 3-year, $25 million contract with the Houston Rockets. This makes his story even more legendary. As an educator, I find the story to be inspirational.   The article by Howard Beck explains how Jeremy Lin went from being undrafted and cut twice in two weeks to an NBA superstar. Over 18 months and hundreds of hours working with assistant coaches, Jeremy Lin, reworked his jump shot, bulked up his body, strengthened his legs and developed a “sharper view” of the court. He did this through deliberative practice and hard work.

Howard states, “What scouts saw in the spring of 2010 was a smart passer with a flawed jump shot and a thin frame, who might not have the strength and athleticism to defend, create his own shot or finish at the rim in the N.B.A.”  While the article highlights his “perseverance, hard work and self-belief”, I was inspired by the entire story because it was a team approach. Lin was certainly dedicated but without the help and support of coaches and trainers, his success would not have been possible. For me there were three important takeaways.

1. Recognizing the potential in each student – Coaches along the way recognized that Jeremy had the potential to be a talented player in the NBA. Lin was known for getting into the paint off the drive and being able to see the floor well. These were two key skills that are essential for point guards and the coaches felt that he could build upon these areas of strength.

2. Clearly identifying the skills, knowledge and attributes that students need to improve on – For Lin, he and his coaches determined that his real issues came from not being strong enough to maintain balance and direction and he lacked the strength to explode and raise up into the air when getting into the lane; his ability to shoot the outside jump shot; and his ability to read different situations and then deliver the correct pass. It was in these areas that Lin spent hours on the court, and in the weight and film rooms working on. He was deliberate in his approach to improving and the coaches helped him monitor his performance along the way.

3. Finding the right people and/or resources to support individual students –  Lin worked with several NBA coaches and each one had their specialty areas. He found a Bay area high school coach to help him with his shooting and he sought out strength coaches to help him develop the right types of muscle mass. There wasn’t one individual who helped him develop in all of these areas. He relied on specialists who had access to the appropriate knowledge, expertise, and resources.

When these three things happen the results can certainly be powerful and transformational for all parties involved.

What ideas do you have for engaging the school community in the discussions on learning?

This year I’ve embarked on a project to promote the work of our teachers and students through the Graded High School Blog. The blog was inspired by Patrick Larkin’s Learning in Burlington  and George Couros’s work with the 184 Days of Learning in Parkland Schools. The blog is designed for the Graded high school community to share information and ideas on education. To date, the blog has 5,717 hits which is more than the total number of hits that the high school articles in our weekly Gazette have gotten. It’s an excellent start to sharing learning with our community. It has not been a place where members of our community have engaged in dialogue. Aside from the What’s our stance on weighted grades? (a total of 6 comments) post there have been very few comments. The challenge now is to increase engagement so that teachers, students, and parents use the tool for online communication.

Anyone have examples of school blogs where the community is actively participating in the discussion? If so, I’d love to see them. Also, what ideas do you have for increasing community participation?

Seth Godin Keeps Me Blogging

I have always been an infrequent blogger, but this past year I’ve been pathetic about sharing my thoughts. It’s sad because I know that my blog posts are an important part of my learning. As Seth states, “the humility that comes from writing it. What matters is the meta cognition of thinking about what you’re going to say.” While it’s always nice when someone comments on a post, I stopped worrying about that a long time ago. Over the years I’ve come to realize the importance of organizing my thoughts and ideas into these posts. It took me awhile but I now understand how valuable it is for me to share my ideas with a wider audience and to expose myself. It may seem like a bit of a risk, but I think that the benefits outweigh the potential negative consequences. As a school leader I think that it’s important for me to model this type of learning.

I write this as I begin to prepare for a workshop on how leaders can use social media to promote learning in their school communities. The workshop is part of the Innovate 2013 Conference. I’m going to be promoting blogging even if you’re not one of the Edublog Award Winners. I’m going to share this short video from Seth Godin and Tom Peters at the session. In my dreams I keep thinking that I’ll get better at blogging so that others will see it, but in reality, that may not happen.

How do groups work in your learning environment?

Fairly early on in this MOOC we had to form teams. I’m very interested in how this process works because it seems quite different than how we typically assign groups in the classroom. Note that I used the term “assign”.

Below is detailed information on the assignment, team formation and suggestions for teams. Are you using any of these during your team or group work? Do you provide the groups/teams with detailed information? Can the kids self -select? Are the students coached on selecting teams based on interest and complementary skills and knowledge?

The Following information was taken from the Designing a New Learning Environment, Professor Paul Kim, Stanford University

  • There is no deadline to form a Team, but it is an important step to complete so that you can begin meeting, working, and innovating together!
  • Anyone may create a team. When you create a team you are the Team Leader.
  • The Team Leader can add new members by contacting classmates and asking them for their registered email addresses.
  • When creating a Team, use detailed descriptions and information so that others will be able to thoughtfully consider whether your Project idea and interests may be a good match.
  • If you have started a Team and are looking for members, you should use the Students menu (under Community) to find recruit your classmates.
  • If you are looking for a Team to join, you should use Teams menu (under Community) to search for different teams. Use the contact button on the team page to contact all Team Members the Team Leader to join the team. Every time somebody invites you to their Team, you will receive a new invitation under your Conversations, Team notifications tab. That message contains links to accept or reject an invitation.
    • Team formation has a very open dynamic, at any point you can decide to leave a Team and join a new one, without penality. The Team Leader can decide to remove inactive or uncooperative members from the Team. (In that case the member will receive a team notification about this decision, and if you think that the Team Leader has made a mistake, you can appeal Team Leader’s decision. If half of Team Members agree with you; you will be added back as a member of the Team. If a Team Leader chooses to leave his/her Team, he/she can assign Team Leadership to another user. Continuity among Team Members will be important to successful execution of the Team Project, however all users have the option to switch a Team that is not a good fit for them.
    • The recommended Team size is 4-7 people.
    • You may only be a member of one Team at a time.
    • One of most important variables in Team composition is shared passion about the project idea / topic area. We suggest that Teams be made up of people with a range of backgrounds and technical skills, but ultimately a shared interest in the idea is what will support project momentum and involvement. It is useful to think about geographical considerations in a variety of ways: if you are considering an educational innovation for primary education in Tanzania, for example, it would be very useful to have a team member from, or knowledgeable Tanzania, to help inform analysis of needs, barriers, implementation, and sustainability. However, geographical considerations, such as time difference, may also come to play when collaborating or scheduling Team Member tasks. We encourage you to think and be transparent about these in terms of what is important for your project and for your working style, while also demonstrating the flexibility and generosity of spirit that will help us grow from each other’s perspectives and experiences.

Getting Started with Your Team:

    • Start communicating about your Team Project idea. Complete and maintain your Team Profile with an up-to-date (brief) Project Description (these may start simply as general interests, and may change or evolve over time).
    • Every Team has a Team Journal. You should feel free to write on it about your Team activities, post pictures of your meetings or collaboration strategies, and write about your new ideas or progress for the Team Project. The Journal can also be used as a discussion tool. Your classmates will be able to follow your team blog and receive updates.

Team Project:

    • Teams will design a new educational technology or learning environment catering to 21st century environments and learners. Designs should include interaction activities and learning support features in ways that are effective and appropriate for today’s computing and communication devices, and that consider the classroom, school, and community ecosystem in which it will operate.
    • Presentation of your design should include details about the users, environment, and educational objectives of your design (the “who? what? when? where? why? and how?” questions).
    • Your presentation should also address how your designed innovation would implemented and sustained, including considerations about idiosyncrasies with various learning devices (e.g., web, iOS, mobile devices, and Mac/PC) and infrastructure requirements (e.g., cellular network, wi-fi, Bluetooth).
    • Your team should create and defend a business model (non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid) for the launch and scale up their solution.
    • You will not need to conduct an actual needs analysis or develop an actually functioning technology or solution. You may describe a hypothetical solution in detail through text, visual mock-ups, and prototypes.
    • Additional consideration will be given to teams that come up with system feature ideas presenting meaningful learning interaction and performance analytics.

Evaluation:

    • The Final Team Project will undergo the official Peer Review process.
    • The broad criteria for Final Team Project Evaluation (these will be addressed further later in the course):

1) Creativity and originality of the system design (Is the design substantially distinguishable from existing and conventional solutions?);
2) Educationally sound (Does the design promote higher order learning or generate learnable moments?);
3) Engagement and interactivity (Is the design engaging and interactive for the learner?);
4) Accessibility (Is the design accessible for people with disabilities or for people living in underserved communities?)
5) Scalability and sustainability (How sound is the implementation plan and business model?)

    • At the end of the course, you will also be evaluated by your other Team Members on your contribution to the Team efforts and Team Project. In addition to your Assignments, this peer evaluation will affect your Rank in the course.

Intellectual Property and Confidentiality Considerations:

    • Some of the major goals of this course are to instill the mindset for thinking about innovations aimed at improving education, and to create a space for developing those ideas into thoughtful designs. We would like you to continue to develop your work and Projects beyond this course into the real world. The Intellectual Property rights relating to your Individual Assignments, Team Assignments, Journal entries, and other materials created by you remain with you (and with the Co-Creators for Team Assignments and Jointly Authored Works)–they are not Stanford’s, not Venture Lab’s, and not Dr. Paul Kim’s.
  • At the same time, this space is public to others in the course–all Journal and Forum posts, as well as all Assignments will be visible to all others enrolled in the course. Viewing and learning from each other’s discussions and work products will expose us to new ways of approaching different problems and will help us develop a more critical eye for the benefits and limitations of technology solutions. Because all projects are shared with other DNLE-ers (strictly for educational purposes), an idea or product requiring strict confidentiality or formal business agreements would not be a good candidate for a Final Team Project. Please consider this when creating or joining a team.

Learning from my first MOOC Experience: I’m taking a course from Stanford!

A colleague of mine and I are taking “Designing a New Learning Environment” course taught by Paul Kim, Chief Technology Officer and Assistant Dean, School of Education, Stanford University. I have no idea how many thousands of students there are but I’m looking forward to the experience. The course is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) which theoretically sounds really cool.

I signed up before I read the MOOC Guide.

“The effect of a MOOC is not to be taken lightly! Many of the participants who went through a MOOC experience have had a powerful learning experience which in some cases resulted in strong personal or professional projects with impact. On the other hand the drop-out rate in a non-credited MOOC is high and some participants simply do not like the approach of a MOOC for it has specific dynamics. The diversity in appreciations and feelings is not new: the playground felt like a mental warzone to some and a great adventure to others.”

The topic is of interest to me and if it works I will be able to:

After the completion of this course, students will be able to:

  •  Identify advantages, disadvantages, limitations, and potentials of at least 10 interactive learning models and solutions.
  • Describe how online communication, collaboration, and visualization technology play a role in the behavioral, cognitive, constructivist, and social dimensions of learning.
  • Describe the major components and processes involved in development of interactive education systems.
  • Communicate rationales of learning technology design approaches through team-oriented collaborations.
  • Evaluate the value of ideas, principles, and techniques used in educational media or systems.

While we have lectures to watch, assignments to complete and discussion forums to contribute to, our major assessment is a team project that is due at the end of the semester.

Let’s see how this learning experience goes.

 

1:1 Laptops = Head Fake

  • We have been planning for our 1:1 rollout for the past year and a half and the event finally took place last week. Graded is fully 1:1 in the middle and high schools. During this time it has become clear to all of us that all of our talk about 1:1 was just a head fake. Randy Pausch described the “head fake” in ,  “Last Lecture: Achieving your Childhood Dreams”. Dr. Pausch talks about the indirect learning that happens when you’re involved in an activity. One example that he offers is from parents wanting their children to play football.

“We actually don’t want our kids to learn football. … we send our kids out to learn much more important things. Teamwork, sportsmanship, perseverance, et cetera, et cetera.”

Transcript of Lecture

For all of our talk about becoming a 1:1 school, we didn’t just want teachers and students walking around campus with machines. We learned quickly that what we wanted was so much more. This is where the commonly heard expression “it’s not about the technology” fits. Sure, we planned for electricity, software, bandwidth, polices and procedures, but the real learning came with those bigger questions that we are still tackling.

Finding the answers to these questions is where the real learning occurs and this is why our journey will continue.

  • What skills and knowledge do our students need to learn for now? Future?
  • Is the culture of learning different today?
  • “How do I help teachers bring authentic assessment and real world problem solving to the classrooms?”
  • With the technology in hand, what new resources will help with learning?
  • “How can we balance the teaching-learning process both on-line and face to face mode in a 1:1 program?”
  • “The relationship between new learning and old learning – is it a paradigm shift or a continuum?”
  • “How do we manage student learning as we encourage more outside/digital interaction/play?”
  • “What is the best way to change structures at Graded to support learning outside of traditional classes…and should we?”

We know that we have just begun the journey and that it’s going to be an exciting one for our entire community. If was really just about moving to a 1:1 environment we’d be done and we could check that task off our list.