Design

#ATL’s Urban City Studio: An concept for engaging with your community

The City of Atlanta has big plans for the future especially since they are projecting 2.5 million new residents over the next 25 years. The city has created a comprehensive development plan and one of the ways that they are increasing awareness and gathering information from Atlanta residents is through their new Atlanta City Studio. The lab has a variety of displays, many of which are interactive. This pop-up lab will be at Ponce City Market for 6 months and then move to another area of the city. During my visit I was greeted by a staff member who took me on a tour and explained all that the projects on display and the process they are using to engage with the Atlanta community.

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The goals for the urban design studio space are to:

  •  through a shared vision for vibrant urbanism, raise awareness about urban design and plan for a better Atlanta…one that will continue to advance Atlanta’s people and places;
  •  create urban design policies and enhance design sustainability and livability for the city;
  •  direct urban design services on projects throughout the city;
  • spark urban interaction amongst people who visit our city and those who live here;
  • engage residents and stakeholders in identifying goals for the City of Atlanta and create a new narrative;
  • enhance the socioeconomic, ecological and sustainable urban design form for the city.

My visit there this weekend got me thinking about how we could use a space like this at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School. My first thought was that we can use it to gather information from our community that will guide us in our strategic planning process and to share information on our academic program. The space can also be used with prospective families who are thinking of attending your school. Visitors can maneuver on their own or be shepherded through by faculty members, students, parent volunteers or administrators. Take a look at what #ATL City Studio has and how your school can benefit from a pop-up lab.

Bike Network

Bike Network Plans

 

 

Character Areas Maps

Explaining Ideas and Asking Questions

Character Areas Questions

 

Imagine a student showing these panels to parents and having a conversation on the topic. Any community member who serves in a host role will have to truly understand these ideas and what they mean for the school.

Good Urbanism 1

Good Urbanism 2

 

Clipboards 2

Visitors can provide feedback by answering strategic questions

Let's Play

This interactive model allows visitors to redesign city blocks.

Kids Area

Younger children can also participate

Meeting Space

A meeting space for small groups

Work Plan

And a work plan with markers on glass. (These are really trendy now)

The Maker Movement has Something for Everyone

I learned a valuable lesson Thursday during the MVIFI Dine and Design event. I hate to publicly admit it but I was not looking forward to the event. As a participant in maker sessions in the past I just haven’t enjoyed them that much. It’s not that I haven’t tried to get hooked on the movement. Several years ago I read Silvia Martinez and Gary Stager’s book Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom and I attended their session at the American School of Bombay’s Unplugged ConferenceIn 2013, as the High

Scibblebot

First Attempt at a ScribbleBot

School Principal at Graded I helped get our Makerspace up and running. I’ve built scribble bots and used conductive paint to create light-up cards and seen kids tinker with circuits, magnets, 3D printing and programming. I’m also fascinated how drones can be used in learning.

At Mount Vernon our Hive is about to open and TJ Edwards has been working with Parker Thomas to develop a Maker curriculum that all of our students will take advantage of in the near future. TJ has also written about making a maker community.

Sadly I have enjoyed watching others tinker and make more that actually doing it myself. I have also been questioning how the Maker Movement fits in with subjects other than math and science. Well, on Thursday night I was actually hooked, engaged and fired up about creating a personal brand. Wait, how does a personal brand fit with the maker movement? The design exercise incorporated a tool that allows you to make vinyl stickers. Now I had seen kids creating stickers around campus but I had no idea how COOL it actually would be.

Here’s how the two hour session, including dinner, was organized.

  1. We answered the following questions on sticky notes and these answers would later be used to help us develop our personal brand.
    • How would a friend describe you?
    • How would you most want to be remembered?
    • Who is a person you most admire?
  2. We then watched a short clip of the TED Talk from John Maeda: How art, technology and design inform creative leaders
  3. To create these stickers we needed to develop a basic understanding of how to use Inkscape.
  4. Trey Boden then provided us a mini lessons on three types of logos, with examples.
  5. We then learned about the Noun Project as a tool for searching for images that represent nouns.
  6. It then came time to design and create our personal logo. With assistance we were all able to come up with our first prototype.

My personal brand came from a nickname that some of my friends have given me over the years and I’m proudly displaying it on my laptop.

Mr. Fiasco

My learning:

  1. There are such a wide variety of maker activities that can allow students to find a niche.
  2. Thinking about design was the most important task in this activity. Learning the technology was simple for our initial task.
  3. I can see more possibilities for makers in humanities and art classes.

 

 

#IMAMUSTANG – Highlights from My New School

So excited to be a Mustang at MVPS

So excited to be a Mustang at MVPS

As many of you know I joined the Mount Vernon Presbyterian School community this year serving as the Head of the Upper School. Mount Vernon is a school of “inquiry, innovation and impact” and we are redesigning the school experience for our students. So far, the experiences and challenges seem to be just what I was seeking.

Take a look at what I’ve been experiencing these past few weeks. This laundry list will provide you with a taste of what life is like at Mount Vernon.

On September 22 and October 6 Trung Le, Christian Long and the rest of their team from Wonder by Design held Curiosity Conversations around the current prototype of the proposed Upper School building with members of our community.

The current model is nothing like your traditional school building. “Flexibility” was the number one word used by those who participated in the conversation. There are “Inquiry Zones”, “Inquiry Accelerators”, “The Plex”, “The Mobile Action Lab”, and STEM areas. This building represents the school that we want to be and our efforts to create a program that fits the space are continuous.

Our students are working on their iProjects and those students who are seeking to find the topic that hooks them have had access to mini-field trips around town (The Beltline, CNN, College Football Hall of Fame, Historical Sweet Auburn Market), entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs like Corbin Klett (you have to see his 3 min speech at the Georgia Tech Commencement Ceremony), Ted Wright, from Fizz, Chantel Adams from Forever We and designer Jenn Graham of Atlanta Streets Alive.

I, along with colleagues and students attended the Creative Mornings – Atlanta meeting where Aarron Walter spoke about Empathy and designing for emotion at MailChimp. Our students then visited the Museum of Design Atlanta and had lunch at Atlanta Tech Village.

While the MVAllstars provided our community with a powerful drama around Armenian immigrants to the US, our World History students were conducting interviews of local Armenians to learn more about the their knowledge of the genocide that occurred 100 years ago. Our photography students prepared an exhibit that set the tone as viewers entered the theater and one of our teachers shared his family’s immigration story. This was an excellent example of teams working together to craft the entire experience for theater goers.

Oh, and it’s been so long ago that I almost forgot about having the honor to attend Plywood Presents where we heard from many inspirational problem solvers.

To provide our students with opportunities to travel abroad and within the US we kicked off sign up for our interim trips. Students can chose from trips to Australia, London, Greece, Costa Rica, Seattle, New Orleans, Crystal River, FL, local internships and other local experiences. Plus, our Innovation Diploma students will be visiting the Stanford d.School to work with graduate students on a Future of Food challenge.

More later on our work on improving assessment practices and designing a MVPS Upper School Humanities program.

Design Thinking: Part 3

I’ve talked about our leadership team’s experience with design thinking when we redesigned our high school trips earlier this year. As I mentioned, we literally learned by doing.

Today a small group of us were able to experience a 1 hour workshop from the d.school on design thinking. If you’re interested in a primer on design thinking, this is the one for you. It’s so easy to organize because you just need the video, a partner and some materials to use for prototyping.

The design thinking process from the d.School at Stanford. Image licensed for reuse – http://www.legaltechdesign.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/steps-730×345.png

Today’s group experienced the following:

  • The pace is fast which is just part of the process. This workshop is an abbreviated process but in general, the pace is fast when you’re designing.
  • You have to really learn about your partner during the process. You’re forced to study his/her process for giving gifts and learning as much about them and the process in a very short amount of time. At one point the facilitators tell you that the session should get emotional and people may cry.
  • Prototyping can be quick and dirty and you need to share unfinished work to test out your solution. It’s somewhat strange to build a 3D item that shows a process.
  • The process does lead you to test something and then make revisions. In this workshop you just don’t have much time to revise.
  • You can really become engaged quickly when your working on a design challenge.

I see many ways that our organization can use these principles when we are looking for solutions. There is less talk and more doing and testing out concepts and you’re really focused on the users. I’m looking forward to finishing up the our trip project and starting something new.

  • Bias for being more human centered
  • Prototype Everything
  • Collaborative
  • Bias toward action

 

 

 

The best time… Design Thinking part 2

The design thinking work on our annual trips for next year continues as we work to “Redesign the experiences to make them indispensable and unforgettable so that the mission and core values come to to life.” There are three things that I  think that I’ve learned in the past couple of weeks. I’m not exactly sure if I’m on the right track but, as the facilitator, I’m moving forward.

We started our last meeting by watching this trailer for the documentary, Design & Thinking.

Get to work prototyping and plan to fail often

It’s short and clip and one of the take-aways for me was that the teams should work quickly to create a prototype. I’ve found that in education we typically spend too much time on planning. We’re probably cautious and conservative when it comes to making changes. Grant Lichtman is his post Your School and Google’s Nine Principles of Innovation states, “Adults want proof that something new will work; we want a 20-year longitudinal study to show that something different is better than what we have done in the past.” We want to cover all our bases and think through every angle so that we plan it right the first time. In this process the idea is to create something quickly, based on the information that you have and then you test it out. So, we decided to break into teams and start prototyping our trips for next year. At the same time we are talking to teachers and students to learn more about what it would take to make the trips “indispensable and unforgettable” I think that all of us have been also thinking that it’s November (almost December) and we don’t have our plan for the trips set in stone yet. Well, maybe we’re behind schedule but…

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. Chinese Proverb

The second learning from the trailer is that we should plan to fail. When I initially considered this I thought, “No way! This can’t happen because we are the high school leadership team and we’re supposed to come up with the perfect solutions. What will people think if we fail?” Then I realized that it actually may be a good thing for us to fail. Maybe we need to learn how to learn from failure and to model this for our community. Hey, one of our core values is Risk-taking.

The process changes from defining and removing barriers to developing solutions

As I mentioned in my last post, my past experience has been with the quality process and the focus is on defining the problem and barriers and then taking steps to remove the barriers. My last piece of learning deals with a shift from removing barriers to developing solutions. As we speak to students and teachers I find that I’m energized by thinking about possibilities and solutions. We also looked at what other schools and organizations are doing with trips and that was inspirational. It forced us to think differently about what we currently do. While we have defined parameters, we seem to not be spending time coming up with reasons why we can’t make changes. Instead we envisioning what can be and how we can create that amazing experience for students and teachers.

We have another prototyping session next week and each team is responsible for coming up with a plan. We’ve invited two travel companies that we work with to provide us with ideas and options. I’ve also got one more focus group session with 11th grade students. Oh, did I mention that the two groups have are just a bit competitive? It just adds to the fun.

As I learn while doing I need to think about how we can test out the prototypes. Maybe we can present these to students and teachers for comments or for a vote. Based on our expectation of failure it makes sense to not immediately decide to use one of the models for the real thing. Probably better to test it out with our audiences before spending an enormous amount of money on the trips. Anyone have advice for our next step? I welcome any and all suggestions.

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