Thursday, December 11, 2014

Another Design Thinking PD Day for Faculty - Reimagining Creative Spaces at School

Just before Thanksgiving break I led another full day Design Thinking workshop with my faculty. Our goal was to look at our campus and consider what we could do with our physical space to inspire creativity in ourselves and in our students. Because we only had from 8:30 - 2:00pm, I decided to take my faculty through exactly the same processes that we used during our August PD day, which I described in my last blog post, but with a different topic. Since we had already been through all of the steps once, I was able to skip over a lot of the explanation of the how and why and move people right into action.

Because our PD was on the Middle School campus, I had students in 1st and 4th grade and faculty take videos of the Lower School campus from their own perspective and posted those to a website for people to look at. We used those along with a Pinterest page of creative learning spaces for the empathy portion of the design process. I also took people through a "Speed Dating" type interview process where they had a few minutes with a few different people to share what types of spaces they personally find inspirational.

We modified our "How might we" statements to focus more deeply on a particular question.

The day culminated in the making of prototypes. Faculty used a variety of materials to build their imagined spaces and then presented them to the faculty.

Overall, I think the PD day was a great success! I attribute that to a few things, a great facilitator (LOL), and a real problem to solve. Just as when we looked at Back to School Night, we are going to find ways to actually implement everyone's ideas. I think this is a key element for successful DT work. Otherwise it is just an exercise and doesn't have the same impact on the participants.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Using Design Thinking to Reimagine Back To School Night

I am very excited to share that I have started my new job as Director of Curriculum at Keys School in Palo Alto. Over the summer the faculty read the book Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelly. As a way to integrate their Design Thinking model into our teacher work week, we are going to use the model to reimagine our Back to School Night. 

We will have 3 hours on the first day and 1 hour two days later to complete the process. Here is our plan. (I would welcome your suggestions or ideas for improving upon it!) It is based on the Stanford Design Thinking model which is outlined in the book and which I have blogged about previously.

Groups Part One: We will create groups with as much diversity across grade levels, experience levels, points of view etc.

Empathize - Experience what the “user” experiences

Groups will break into pairs and interview each other about their BTSN experience as a teacher, as a parent, etc.
One pair will look at parent survey feedback.

Empathy Map:
After the interviews, participants will fill out an Empathy Map summarizing what they heard in the interview into four quadrants:
  • Say - What are some quotes and defining words your interviewee said?
  • Do - What actions and behaviors did you notice?
  • Think - What might the interviewee be thinking (that s/he didn’t say)?
  • Feel - What emotions might your interviewee be feeling?

We will post the Maps around the room - Everyone will do a gallery walk.
People will return to their groups and complete 1 Empathy map that summarizes everything you saw.

Groups Part 2:
We will reconfigure groups so that they are more homogeneous by school (The Lower School and Middle School are on separate campuses and have separate Back to School Nights).

Define - Come up with an ACTIONABLE problem statement

Give out a Point of View Statement Handout where faculty come up with adjectives to describe the user and verbs to describe what the user needs and insights into why based on this blog post.

Faculty write out a Problem Statement:  User + Need + Insight

Ideate - Focus on idea generation

Groups will stand up and try to generate 100 ideas in 10 minutes and write them out on Chart Paper.
We will post the lists around the room.

Post-it Voting 
Give 5 dots to each person. Have people walk around the room and put dots on their favorite ideas.
Participants look around the room at the ideas that have the most votes.

Participants return to their groups and choose one idea to prototype (the ideas does not have to be from their original list and more than one group can choose the same idea)

Prototype - Getting ideas out of your head and into the physical world.

Groups create a prototype of their idea. Prototypes can be anything that takes a physical form:
a schedule
a handout
a role-playing activity
a space
an object
a video

Test - Refine the solution and make it better

Groups share their prototypes with everyone.
Participants fill out a feedback grid for each idea.
We look at the feedback and determine what we are actually going to try at BTSN.
(We follow up BTSN with a survey to further test prototype and iterate for next year.)

So that's the plan so far. I have about two weeks before I put it into action. Please let me know if you have any suggestions or resources that might help me improve upon it.


Friday, April 18, 2014

My Google Teacher Academy 2014 Application

I am really excited to be applying for the 2014 Google Teacher Academy in Mountain View California this summer. I have wanted to become a Google Certified Teacher for years, but until now, I have not been available on the days the academy was being held. 

This year I am moving to California just in time to attend the Mountain View Academy at the end of July. (Beginning July 1st I am going to be the Curriculum Director for Keys School in Palo Alto!) Of course, the program has become much more competitive over the years. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I will be accepted.

As part of the application I had to create a one minute video that answers the question: "How do you innovate in the classroom or educational community to generate positive change?”

This is what I came up with. I hope you like it. Wish me luck!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Passion Driven Professional Development - Teachers Unplugged at NAISAC14

This morning I helped facilitate our second (annual?) Teachers Unplugged session at the NAIS conference. This is an Edcamp style unconference that allows the participants who show up to define the conversations that they want to have. Among a sea of stand and deliver presentations, Teachers Unplugged is a chance to connect with other independent educators attending the conference and discuss issues that we are all grappling with.

This is something you can run inside your own school at a faculty meeting with teachers or in a classroom with students. A number of participants asked me to list out the steps so that they could try it at home, so here they are.

I hope this is helpful. I welcome your comments, suggestions, or questions!

Set Up:

  • Easels with chart paper or white boards or a google form set up for people to propose topics.
  • 3-5 Circles of chairs or tables set up for different discussions


  • Participants arrive and write down topics that they are interested in discussing.
  • Participants also vote for the topics that they are most interested in (the ones they wrote down and the ones others wrote down)
  • Explain the "rules" of an unconference.
    • Who ever shows up is meant to be there
    • If no one comes to your discussion, go to another one
    • The law of two feet - if the discussion isn't what you thought it was going to be, go to another one.
  • One organizer/facilitator runs an icebreaker that allows participants to introduce themselves to eachother
  • While the icebreaker is going on, the other organizer(s) find the most popular topics and assign them to different tables.
  • Participants choose the discussion circles in which they want to participate.
  • Participants discuss the topics for about 20 minutes and then (if there is time), they move to another circle (or stay where they are if they want to continue the conversation).

Wrap Up

  • Ask participants to share with the entire group something they learned.