How can I use Design Thinking?

This blogpost is the third in a series of five where I intend on exploring Design Thinking in an education context. I want to come back to the questions we have about design thinking when we’re first starting out. I want to think about what design thinking is, why we might use design thinking, how we can use design thinking in schools, where to go for resources and help, and finally, how design thinking can transform our schools.

DT

I recently spoke about my passion for design thinking at educampwelly. In my quick-fire Smackdown presentation (so, under 60 seconds) I said, slightly hyperbolically, that for me if there is a silver bullet for education, design thinking is it.

So far I’ve said a little bit about what design thinking is. In the last blogpost, I spoke about why I think we should use design thinking. This kind of boiled down to the idea that if we want creative, innovative problem finders and problem solvers, then design thinking offers a structured yet flexible, empathetic way to this. So now, let’s get a little bit more practical, and think about the possible applications of design thinking in our current educational context and climate.

Um. It can be used every way.

Yep, I really mean it.

You can use design thinking to shape a one-off lesson. While maybe not ideal, this could be a great way to introduce the overall scope of the method. You can use design thinking to shape a whole unit of work. My preference would lie here, and you can see such a unit I created with a class of Year 8 English students here. Of course, you don’t need to be a ‘slave to the process’, and the design thinking mindsets can be used at any time to enhance the specific context at hand.

Beyond the scope of a ‘one subject, one hour’ secondary school timetabled environment, design thinking offers an excellent way to bring subjects together in a naturally integrated, cross-curricular way. The current New Zealand Transport Agency’s game design competition is an excellent example of an authentic, purposeful activity that would lend itself perfectly to design thinking, and I know of a school that’s doing so.

Beyond the classroom, design thinking can be used as an approach to professional learning. I use it to shape my own learning, and it can also be used from a facilitator’s perspective to help inform the shape of a professional learning session. In fact, my eFellowship research looked into this idea in more depth, and you can read about that here. I believe there are strong links to be made here to the New Zealand curriculum’s model of teaching as inquiry, as well as Timperley et al’s spiral of inquiry (2014). The latter in particular, with its central focus on meeting the needs of the learner.

Beyond professional learning, design thinking can be used as an approach to leadership and strategic thinking. Steve Mouldey has written about this. What if we structured whole school initiatives using a design thinking model? Wouldn’t staff and students and the community feel involved? Wouldn’t we have a diverse, wide range of ideas and perspectives to pull from? And wouldn’t this equate to more innovative, targeted and collaborative solutions? I’d recommend Grant Lichtman’s #EdJourney as well as Ewan McIntosh’s How to Come Up with Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, as places to start thinking about this.

Basically, I find that the more you explore design thinking, the more you see that it’s an overarching approach, not dissimilar to choosing to adopt a growth mindset, and that you are limited in applying it only by your imagination.

Sources:

Lichtman, G. (2014). #EdJourney: A roadmap to the future of education. San Francisco, USA: Jossey-Bass.

McIntosh, E. (2014). How to Come Up with Great Ideas and Actually Make them Happen: A Pragmatic Strategy Handbook for Education Leaders, Innovators and Troublemakers. Edinburgh, UK: NoTosh Publishing.

Timperley, H., Kaser, L. and Halbert, J. (2014). A framework for transforming learning inschools: Innovation and the spiral of inquiry. Centre for Strategic Education, Seminar Series Paper No. 234.

Andra-what??

When I shared my CORE eFellowship research plans with my lovely colleagues at The Mind Lab, I received some wonderful endorsement from my new colleague Tim Gander, himself an eFellow in 2014. He said to me that all pedagogy starts with andragogy. I smiled to myself, thinking, ‘OK, that makes sense: teachers learning (education as an adult – andragogy) about how to teach young people (pedagogy),’ and the comment went no further in my brain.

And then I recently read this blogpost by American educator Tom Whitby, “The Importance of Andragogy in Education“, which got me thinking further.

I’m no expert in andragogy, and in fact, sometimes I confess to thinking that some of the things people more expert than I list to consider when engaging with adult learners are equally important when working with young people. Take this list from Tom Whitby’s post for example:

According to an article, “Adult Learning Theory and Principles” from The Clinical Educator’s Resource Kit, Malcolm Knowles, an American practitioner and theorist of adult education, defined andragogy as “the art and science of helping adults learn”.

Knowles identified the six principles of adult learning as:

  • Adults are internally motivated and self-directed

  • Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences

  • Adults are goal oriented

  • Adults are relevancy oriented

  • Adults are practical

  • Adult learners like to be respected

I’m not entirely sure that this is so different to what works for younger people too – it’s just that maybe their ‘life experiences and knowledge’ haven’t been gained over the same amount of time. And that maybe younger learners need more help to be ‘internally motivated and self-directed’. (I don’t know – share your thoughts with me below…)

Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean a list like this isn’t useful, nor that it should be dismissed. And it’s the final bullet point that I want to think about today, that ‘adult learners like to be respected’.

I’ve been reflecting a lot recently about respectful practice. I started this eFellow journey in conjunction with my work as Postgrad Programme Director at The Mind Lab by Unitec with the intention of transforming education one teacher at a time. (No quiet, humble goals for me!) I want to use Design Thinking as my pedagogy (or is that andragogy now??) to bring about this shift. The Design Thinking principle I was seeking to embrace was ‘bias towards action’ – participate in the learning at The Mind Lab with the intention of changing your practice and thereby the world. But now I have started to doubt myself: who am I to disrupt the thinking of classroom teachers? Is there not an inherent disrespect in thinking I know a better way to ‘do’ education?

Image Credit: https://dschool.stanford.edu/groups/k12/wiki/6c04c/Visual_Resources.html
Image Credit: https://dschool.stanford.edu/groups/k12/wiki/6c04c/Visual_Resources.html

But in the midst of this doubt, which still continues, one thing has become abundantly clear to me: I hold genuine admiration for these teacher-learners who come faithfully every week to learn with me at The Mind Lab. They embrace playing with new technology, they share ideas, and are willing to consider new ideas. They devote time out of the scheduled sessions to read, view, think (and complete assignments!). They clearly just want the best for the young people in front of them. They embody a growth mindset. I am lucky to be part of their learning, and they are teaching me a lot about myself in the process.

So, instead the Design Thinking mindset or principle I find myself embracing is empathy, human-centredness. And maybe this is a more important starting point.

Teacher Professional Learning and Development

This blogpost represents my current thinking and learning about the role and the effectiveness of professional learning. It is a personal reflection both in terms of my role at The Mind Lab by Unitec and also my CORE eFellow research

I’ve been reading the summary of “Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration”, by Helen Timperley, Aaron Wilson, Heather Barrar, and Irene Fung, MOE (2007). But before I get there, I’d actually like to start with a quote from something else I’m reading at the moment:

‘It’s all about the kids’ is an almost universal mantra at schools and pretty much expresses our collective mission. But in the case of changing education to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world, it’s really all about the adults. The kids get it; they are naturally adaptive and flexible thinkers; they use new technology easily; they see learning as fun as long as we allow it to be playful and interest-based and not dreary. Changing what and how learning takes place is an exercise in retooling the adult skill set…”

Grant Lichtman#EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education (2014), p. 40

For me, this quote neatly encapsulates the moral purpose behind my position as Postgrad Programme Director (Wellington) at The Mind Lab by Unitec. It’s less about feeling like ‘the kids will be okay’, but more about ensuring that the lead learners in classrooms are equipped to work alongside our 21st Century learners. On a side note, for me it’s also about scale – the hope that I can accomplish more with the diverse group of teachers participating in the postgrad programme than I can inside one school.

So, it’s about the adults. But what do we know about what’s effective in professional learning? What prompts substantive, sustainable change that makes a difference for students? Luckily Timperley et al have synthesised a number of studies and have reached some really useful conclusions. The key summary is this:

“Seven elements in the professional learning context were identified in the core studies as important for professional learning in ways that impacted positively and substantively on a range of student outcomes: providing sufficient time for extended opportunities to learn and using the time effectively; engaging external expertise; focusing on engaging teachers in the learning process rather than being concerned about whether they volunteered or not; challenging problematic discourses; providing opportunities to interact in a community of professionals; ensuring content was consistent with wider policy trends; and, in school-based initiatives: having leaders actively leading the professional learning opportunities.” [emphasis mine, p. xxvi]

What I have been particularly struck by though is this:

  1. “Teacher participants rarely believe that they need to engage in deep learning or to change practice substantively, whereas providers typically believe they will but do not necessarily disclose this to the participants.” (p. xxix)
  2. “…it should not be assumed by providers that teachers’ current theories of practice are problematic or that providers’ theories are, by definition, more effective….Negotiating meanings, and debating and testing evidence of the effectiveness of both providers’ and teachers’ theories, are part of the process of achieving mutual understanding and effective practice.” (p. xl)

Firstly, I do not wish to be misunderstood. I am reflecting on these statements personally, not passing comment about The Mind Lab postgrad course nor its teachers. I believe the course itself stacks up against the criteria for effective professional learning and development as outlined in this Best Evidence Synthesis extremely well. And I know the facilitators of this course to be passionate, committed, reflective practitioners.

I want to own these two quoted statements myself. In seeking to lead transformative change in education, I do think teachers may well have to shift their practice substantially. And, underpinning that, I guess I have held a falsely superior view that I did know better. Yikes.

So, instead, what I keep coming back to are two things. Respect and transparency.

Each week I find myself in awe of the commitment teachers are making to their professional learning for the betterment of Kiwi kids. I want this to ring through what I say and in how I interact with the teachers on The Mind Lab course. My attitude is one of: let’s work together to explore what might work for you in your context and in your classroom.

And I need to be transparent in the expectations and assumptions I hold. Now this part is tricky, because they are my assumptions and sometimes I don’t even know I have them until I’m some way down the track. What I’m hoping that is by opening up conversations, participating in dialogue, and consistently positioning myself as a co-learner, I can confront my own assumptions and own them when they arise. I think this is respectful practice too.

So maybe I keep coming back to one thing only: respect. Aretha had it right all along.

Happy Anniversary

This is a short blog post I wrote for Tom Whitby, of #edchat fame, on the ‘aha’ moment of becoming a connected educator.

It was posted last week on Edutopia, and I cross-post it here:

“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.”

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

It strikes me as utterly appropriate to reflect on my journey from an unconnected educator to a connected educator at this time, as it’s nearing a year since I had my ‘eureka’ moment.

Last October, I attended ULearn, a massive (by New Zealand standards) conference, which draws together educators from all sectors to explore e-Learning trends and themes. I was so excited by what I learned there: it made such sense to me that we shouldn’t get hung up with the shiny tools of technology if pedagogy isn’t shifting to support a new, and more meaningful, way of teaching and learning.

And I wanted to learn more.

I had had a Twitter account, but started following the presenters I had heard at the conference. I decided to start a blog to help me record and process what I learned. I quickly realised that the way educators use Twitter, to connect and share, was extremely powerful. Through this I found blogs to follow, readings to explore, new ideas to wrestle with.

And I was hooked.

I haven’t looked back. Not only has my classroom practice changed, but my whole view of my profession has changed. I am passionate about education in a way that I simply wasn’t before. Sure, I wanted to convey my love of literature and the power and beauty of language to students, but now I want learners to think and to be engaged. Now I facilitate professional learning into future-focused pedagogy in my school. Now I’m the secretary for #edchatNZ and I helped organise their first conference. Now I’m planning to run an edcamp in my city. Now I’m a connected educator.

My mind is stretched.

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Pick Me!

This post is my application for a 2015 CORE eFellowship.

#edchatNZ steering committee. L-R: Heather Eccles, Sonya van Schaijik, me, Matt Nicoll, Alyx Gillett, Danielle Myburgh, Mel Moore
#edchatNZ steering committee. L-R: Heather Eccles, Sonya van Schaijik, me, Matt Nicoll, Alyx Gillett, Danielle Myburgh, Mel Moore

My application presentation can be found here.

My Twitter profile
My Twitter profile
The kind words of Steve Mouldey
The kind words of Steve Mouldey

Marsden Professional Learning Session 11

Today’s professional learning session was awesome! We were exploring creativity in practice. Teachers presented examples of how they develop creativity in their students. It was fantastic to see the outcomes students have produced – some really amazing stuff – but, more importantly, to hear about the means by which creativity has been encouraged.

One of the primary school staff spoke very thoughtfully about why creativity is so important. She touched on ideas about it being a higher order thinking skill as it aims for synthesis, building on prior knowledge and understandings. She used Albert Einstein’s quote, “creativity is intelligence having fun,” to talk about a culture of thinking flexibly and failing forward – things that don’t always come easily to our students. The emphasis was clearly on developing creativity no matter what the subject matter or context – that creativity doesn’t just mean art.

A senior manager also spoke to us about how her students have developed their creativity skills in her subject area. My favourite idea was that of constraints: that by putting tight barriers in place lateral, ‘outside the box’ thinking can be fostered.

it was also interesting that both speakers noted the benefits of BYOD – that by students having their own devices, the flexibility of learning and capturing learning was possible.

The only downside to the showcase was running out of time to have the workshops usually on offer. However, to hear concrete examples of pedagogy in practice was worth it.

Here is a copy of the wrap-around presentation I spoke to as a starter to this afternoon’s learning:

Marsden Professional Learning Session 10

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Always seeking to improve, in today’s Professional Learning session, I started with a ‘hook’: make a piece of jewellery from two pipe cleaners in 60 seconds. It always amuses me, and it’s something for me to remember, that adults are just like kids: we like to have something to fiddle with, and the soft, pliable nature of a pipe cleaner is no exception. (Next time – note to self – playdough!)

The purpose of this task was to introduce the future learning themes of creativity and critical thinking. I enjoyed the opportunity to make passing references to design thinking, and also to acknowledge some of the very recent learning I have been doing about the maker education movement. The accompanying presentation is here:

I felt a bit incoherent today, and I’m not at all convinced that my presentation was as fluid as I would have liked it to be. Luckily, the presentation is freely available for staff to refer back to, and there are lots of hyperlinks to allow people to continue to explore and learn. And also luckily, the next professional learning session in two weeks’ time also focuses on creativity, but this time showcasing examples of it in our classrooms.

The workshop I offered looked at the presentation tool Haiku Deck. The ‘help sheet’ I produced for this is available here. The lovely people who attended were very quiet, so I choose to interpret this as meaning they were thoroughly engaged in playing with the tool 😉 I enjoyed the clear link between the themes of creativity and critical thinking to this workshop. I also liked the question that I was asked as to what a concrete application of Haiku Deck in the classroom could be. I could think of two. This also reminds me, that like the pipe cleaners, all learners like to have ‘real world’ connections.

I would like to acknowledge Steve Mouldey’s work in creativity and curiosity. He is extremely well versed in this area, and I shamelessly plundered his blog (especially this post) for inspiration for this professional learning session. Why reinvent the wheel?!

From Tweeting to Meeting

Inspired by (or completely copying…) Matt Nicoll’s blogpost, I thought I’d still a few minutes to quickly jot down why I’m so excited by attending tomorrow’s #edchatNZ conference, and what I’m hoping to learn.

I have never helped organise a conference before. I can’t say I’ve contributed over much, but I’m so proud of being associated even loosely with #edchatNZ. I really hope to continue this post-conference. I would love to learn how to moderate a Twitter chat, and I’d love to be considered the ‘official’ #edchatNZ secretary. (Have the delegates enjoyed their emails – that’s mostly been me!) Also being involved in a small way with the organisation has helped me appreciate the boundless energy Danielle Myburgh, #edchatNZ founder, has. She is utterly amazing. Her commitment to her profession is awe-inspiring. I’ll say it now, and I’ll say it again in person: thank you, thank you, thank you.

I’ve also never gone to a conference knowing but not knowing so many people. I think I’m a little worried of looking like I have some dodgy fixation as I scan lanyards at sternum height and exclaim, ‘Oh, you’re [insert Twitter handle here]! So great to meet you!” I can’t wait to put faces to names – especially of the #edchatNZ steering committee. How strange to be working quite intensely with a group of people you’ve never met. But it the power of these connections that I’m so uber-excited to build upon at #edchatNZ. I mean zero disrespect to the amazing line up of speakers when I say: I really just want to sit around and learn from my PLN.

And what is it that I’m hoping to learn?

  • I want to learn more about design thinking and to feed that obsession.
  • I want to learn more about breaking down silos and encouraging traditional schools to shift.
  • I want to learn more about how to be an effective agent of change.
  • I want to learn more about the modern learning environment of Hobsonville Point Schools.
  • I want to learn more about being a future-focused educator.

I look forward to reporting back post-conference!

 

Marsden Professional Learning Session 9

Because I’d had some positive feedback about a previous session where I’d put more emphasis on skills for building professional knowledge and skills, rather than tools to use in the classroom, always under the umbrella of pedagogy and the Marsden vision of course, I decided to present this week’s theme in a similar vein. So, in focusing on the future learning themes of communication and collaboration, I chose to think about this in two ways: ways we can collaborate as professionals, thereby modelling life-long learning skills for students; as well as how to encourage communication and collaboration with our students. After all, we’re all learners.

I was hoping to have a teacher Skype into this session, but it wasn’t to be. This is an option I really want to explore further though, as I think it’s invaluable to hear similar messages from other voices. Nevertheless, I was particularly pleased with the collaborative Google Doc staff contributed to, to build a bank of ideas as to how to go about promoting or encouraging collaboration in the classroom.

The workshop I ran was on Edmodo. Staff seemed interested in how this can be used. It was very helpful to have staff members in the workshop who have been exploring Edmodo both for its potential in enhancing the classroom, but also for its potential for connecting with other educators. The help sheet I produced for this session is available here.

TeachMeetNZ

tmnz
Click on the badge to see my TeachMeetNZ page.

Ever grateful for the opportunities that come my way, this weekend I shared a presentation through TeachMeetNZ to the CLESOL conference.

I really enjoyed presenting in this way: the combination of speaking to your slides seemed to suit my delivery style well. I learnt a few more ‘techy’ tools along the way, such as how to embed my presentations, set them to auto-advance, and how to share my screen during a Google Hangout. I really enjoyed working more with the wonderful Sonya van Schaijik, who also works on the #edchatNZ steering committee with me. Getting to know a few more connected educators, my co-presenters, was also a bonus. It was fascinating to hear all the different topics people spoke to, but also some of the common themes of really knowing your learners well in order to best meet them and their needs with empathy, understanding and support.

I also want to reflect a little on my topic in particular, as putting together my three minute wonder gave me good time to reflect on my Year 8 inquiry into flipping lessons. Here is my presentation:

I’ve been ‘flipping’ my language lessons for six months now – it’s roughly about one lesson every two to three weeks. I  find using TED-Ed straightforward, and although I can sometimes spend a while to find exactly the ‘right’ video to choose, making the lessons themselves in this way, is fairly quick and easy. The students seem to enjoy completing their TED-Ed homework, and I remain convinced that the three minute videos I choose will always be more fun and engaging than drill and practise out of a workbook.

One of the aspects I really like about flipping my language lessons is that it gives me a much better understanding of the students’ individual strengths and weaknesses. One example in particular is one of my very bright, articulate students, who did poorly with a lesson on verbs. Without the data provided from TED-Ed, and flipping this activity, I would have assumed her to be confident with this material.

It is this ability to personalise learning more that I see as an important benefit to flipping lessons. And, conversely, it’s also where I can see I need to do some more work. Because the questions I tend to set for the students to complete are largely multi-choice, the spread of data I get is really insufficient to separate my class into more than two groups in an informed fashion. Thus, the flipped lessons I have prepared these holidays are less reliant on multi-choice, and I’m hoping this in turn generates a greater spread of students. I would like to be able to put them into at least three groups, each with their own tasks to complete in the classroom, so that I can target their needs to a greater extent.

I’ve also just taken my first baby steps to making my own videos! I had a play with the ‘Educreations‘ app on my iPad and I’ve made a revision lesson on apostrophes. It was surprisingly quick and easy to do. However, I really want a tool that means I can upload my videos (gulp) to YouTube so that I can incorporate them into TED-Ed. I think the ‘Show Me‘ app will allow me to do this, but I’m open to other suggestions if you have them!

I think this has become a bit rambly, so by way of summing up:

  • Being a connected educator means great opportunities come your way – these are to be embraced.
  • I recommend presenting through TeachMeetNZ or its equivalent to you – supporting the professional learning of others is a neat experience.
  • Reflecting on my ongoing inquiry has shown me that flipping lessons has much potential – but I can do more, and I have already taken some steps towards doing so.
  • A common denominator between the subject of my presentation and being involved with TeachMeetNZ: rewindable learning! Technology really does have the power to boost our learning experiences.