Category Design Thinking

#RethinkHighSchool with XQ: The Super School Project

This month, the rethinkED team is getting excited about XQ: The Super School Project, Launched by Laurene Powell Jobs, this design challenge invites teams to reimagine the next American High School. Winners will receive support and $50 million to make their idea into a reality.

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Source: http://xqsuperschool.org/challenge

According to the XQ institute, XQ is the agile and flexible intelligence that prepares students for a more connected world, a rapidly changing future, and a lifetime of learning. It is a combination of IQ (cognitive capabilities) and EQ (emotional intelligence or how we learn in the world).

Soliciting “What If..”s from the world, the XQ project is a design thinking challenge operating on a massive scale. The challenge is broken into 4 phases: 1) Assemble a team, 2) Discover the landscape of education, 3) Design a super school for the community, and 4) Develop a formidable plan.

RethinkED is going to team up with other innovative and talented individuals for an intense day of dreaming and designing next week. As you’ve seen, we have a lot of ideas surround character education, interdisciplinary pedagogies, and community-focused learning, and we are excited to merge these into a coherent plan of action to #RethinkHighSchool.

P.S. The rethinkED team has recently grown! We have two new members, and we are super excited for you to meet them.

 

unleashing creativity with d.global…*

Hello, fellow rethinkers! I took a break this past summer from posting, but I am excited to be back and to share excited ideas about education with you.

This past weekend I participated in a d.global workshop, a design thinking challenge that the d.school at Stanford is taking around the world with the goal of unleashing the creative potential in all of us.nycinvite

In this seven-hour workshop, we went through a design thinking process to seek new insights and understandings towards large problems attendees were facing in their day-to-day lives. We began with three postures – short activities meant to establish a culture with specific norms and values. I discuss two below:

creative postures…*

Our first posture – “I am a tree”- brought everyone into the mindset of stepping forward and taking risks. This is an improv game where one person begins by standing as a tree in the center of the circle and states “I am a tree.” Next, another team member steps in and states what she is to complete the setting. For example, “I am a bird.” A third person then steps in and could say, “I am bird poop.” The first person steps out of the scene and chooses one person to remove as well, and then the game continues. Here’s a youtube video of an improv team performing “I am a tree,” since it is far easier to understand if you watch it happening.

After reflecting on risk-taking, we began our second posture – “Tada!” This game seeks to reframe failure. Teams of two play a variety of counting games where it is very easy to mess up. After reflecting on how our body language and demeanor was affected by these mess ups, we were instructed to instead shout “Tada!” each time our group failed, complete with a step forward and spirit fingers.

design challenges…*

In an ideation session, we developed questions pertinent to our own life goals and struggles. I focused on how to seek a work/life balance and how to better structure my days.IMG_7768

We then shared and synthesized these questions into more broad goals that groups of 5-6 could rally around. My group asked “How to design a life that has meaningful impact and is meaningful / life-giving to you?” Other questions are included in the photos below.IMG_7766IMG_7770

In a surprise twist, we were then tasked with seeking inspiration and ideas to solve another group’s problem, rather than our own. Our group was looking into the question “how to find passion and a reason to get out of bed in the morning” We spent time with the other group, building empathy and deeper understand of their question. We realized that the members of this group had diverse reasons for asking this question. Some were overwhelmed. Others lacked focus or drive. Generally, they all had issues around goal-setting and motivation. With this in mind, we began our three hour exploration of NYC, seeking inspiration and new perspectives to bring back with us.

how to life a motivated and passionate life...*

Our journey to seek empathy and new perspectives led us to talk to many people, and the conversations we had were wonderful and inspiring. A barista at a local coffee shop spoke of how his day job paid the bills while his passion was to become a theologian. He was slowly obtaining a Masters in Theology at night. He advised us to first focus on what has to get done, and then focus on what you’d like to get done. An employee at Old Navy worked two jobs during the day and found both to be fun and fulfilling. Outside of work, she was an aspiring dancer. Her advice to those who dread leaving bed in the morning was to be patient and to mix it up every once in a while.

Last, we spoke with a highly regarded trainer at a luxury fitness enter. He spoke of setting a combination of short and long-term goals and holding yourself accountable by writing things down and telling your friends or family about your goals.

Our final task as a group was to create a gift for the group we were designing for, based on our experiences that day. We decided to combine all of the nuggets of wisdom we noted throughout our exploration into a “choose your own adventure” poster, shown below:

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HOW TO LIVE A MEANINGFUL AND LIFE-GIVING LIFE…*

The group designing for us gifted us with a line from the poem Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson shown below. This line is a beautiful representation of the desire to do good in the world that our group was struggling with.

I felt invigorated by the exploration of my city and inspired by the wonderful minds I spent the day designing with. This year, I hope to bring a similar experience to the Riverdale community.

Thank you, d.global, for a tremendous experience!

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{ Exciting New Course For Educators …* } Tinkering Fundamentals: A Constructionist Approach to STEM Learning

{ Exciting New Course For Educators ...* } Tinkering Fundamentals: A Constructionist Approach to STEM Learning | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman Randolph

Exciting new (and free) learning opportunity for educators and knowmads coming up later this summer: Coursera’s Tinkering Fundamentals: A Constructionist Approach to STEM Learning online course. The course starts July 22 and runs through September 3, 2015.

Tinkering activities provide a powerful way to inspire students’ interest, engagement, and understanding in science. The Tinkering Fundamentals course will help educators and enthusiasts develop a practice of tinkering and making. This course will focus on key design elements of high-quality, science-rich tinkering activities, effective facilitation strategies and environmental organization.

This is a hands-on workshop, so you will need to obtain or purchase course materials as soon as possible. Pre-bundled materials kits will be available from the Exploratorium online store after June 1, or you can start gathering your own things using our recommended materials list.

Head over to Coursera to register for the course and check out the syllabus.

learn, tinker & rethink …*

{ Design Based Research } for better and more efficient educational impact

One of the symposiums I attended at last week’s 2015 AERA conference was on DBR or Design Based Research. According to Wang and Hannafin (2005), DBR is:

a systematic but flexible methodology aimed to improve educational practices through iterative analysis, design, development, and implementation, based on collaboration among researchers and practitioners in real-world settings, and leading to contextually-sensitive design principles and theories (p. 6)

In my opinion, DBR is just the fancy name for design thinking in the education research realm! This is an important methodology because it bridges the gap between research and practice.

bridging_the_gap

As discussed by the closing speaker, Alan Collins, DBR has four critical aspects:

  1. Iterative refinements based on real-world trials
  2. Partnerships between researchers and participants
  3. Wide variety of measures/observations: outcomes, climates, system effects
  4. Working to improve both theory and practice

As a huge proponent of design thinking and its use in everyday life, I of course am drawn to these sort of methods. One of the more interesting debates during the symposium was about the myriad of methods and ways in which DBR is used. One attendee questioned, Does the fact that there is no linear path to DBR devalue it as a method? In a highly systematic research world, the ill-defined nature of DBR makes people uncomfortable. However, anyone who works in schools knows that there is no one way to educate and that the contextual factors of any given situation will lead to wild fluctuations in our approaches and methods to teaching. I think that the fact that there are so many ways to do this is promising and exciting. It redefines what it means to develop educational practice and intervention in a meaningful and efficient way. All too often, research is silo-ed from practice and the products of research and completely infeasible in the classroom setting. DBR saves researchers the waste of time and money early on.

I view DBR as a continuum in the space between high-controlled laboratory research and un-empirical practice in the classroom. In my own work at Teachers College, I am designing computer software through DBR methods that fall towards the research side of this system. We have three rounds of iteration and are constantly bringing our prototype product into schools to user-test and get valuable feedback from students and teachers. While our ultimate goal is a proof-of-concept scale up of a discovery-based learning task, we demand that this task is actually usable by students in real contexts.

Additionally, in many ways, the work that rethinkED has done at RCDS falls on the other side of the continuum. Working with teachers to identify problems and using design thinking and relevant literature to develop solutions, we too have merged theory and practice in a meaningful way.

Hearing about the exciting work done in this area, I am hopeful that the research world can increase its relevance for educational practice and I am excited about the potential for teams like rethinkED to contribute to this new and useful methodology…*

 

 

{ IDEO U } An Online School To Help You Unlock Your Creative Potential & Build Your Problem-Solving Skills …*

{ IDEO U } An Online School To Help You Unlock Your Creative Potential & Build Your Problem-Solving Skills ...* | rethinked.org

Screen Shot from IDEO U website

 

“Our goal is to take you from learning to doing to affecting change in whatever you do.”

Rethinkers …* delight, there’s an awesome new learning resource from one of our favorite companies: IDEO U. IDEO U is an online school for leaders to build their creative confidence while learning and refining their problem-solving capacities.

There’s no shortage of challenges to tackle in the world. We believe the world needs more creative leaders who can deeply understand diverse needs, think of radical solutions, and confidently experiment their way forward. IDEO U is an online school where leaders can unlock their creative potential and build their problem-solving skills.

Sign up for IDEO U’s very first course, Insights for Innovation, to explore new ways of solving problems. The course, which costs $399, will be open from March 23, 2015 to May 8, 2015. Students will be able to complete the course at their own pace during that time frame. The key takeaway of the course will be:

  • A flexible skill set for uncovering insights
  • Completed work that you can share
  • Tools to help you continue to practice after the course ends

Head over to IDEOU.com to learn more about the school and check out the first course.

learn, do, rethink …*

Critical elements of the { design thinking mindset…* }

Dominic’s recent post {Inspired} by IDEO is very timely for me, because I have recently been spending a lot of time thinking about one of the ideas he mentioned in his post. Dominic writes about design thinking, stating:

when I first learned about design thinking, I thought it was a methodology, a set of steps one uses to solve problems. Now I think of it much more as a mindset, a way of thinking and living…of course, one has to learn about design thinking to practice it well, but one also has to “bend” one’s mind to design thinking…

As I mentioned in this post, Can students learn something about failure from the design world?, I have designing a formal research study regarding design mindset and how it relates to classroom motivation and processes outside of the traditional design world. My theory is that students who take on a design mindset will be more persistent in the face of failure and more willing and able to try again when faced with setbacks or difficulty in the classroom. Starting this Thursday, I will be testing my theory in a short week-long study of how design thinking mindset can transfer to math and science learning.

DT4E defines design thinking as “the confidence that everyone can be part of creating a more desirable future, and a process to take action when faced with a difficult challenge.”  I like this definition a lot. However, I will only have a few class periods in which to instill design mindset into the 7th and 8th graders in my study, so I have been forced to make a more narrow definition of design thinking and really think about what the key elements are. I’ve divided it into two pieces-

1) Permission to fail and 2) The Process of Iteration.

Permission to Fail…*

I believe that the heart of design thinking mindset is permission to fail — the fundamental philosophy that failure is a healthy and natural aspect of the process of learning and design. For my intervention, I will be teaching students the motto “Fail fast, Fail forward”. Those who possess a design mindset are not afraid of failure and recognize that only through failure can one grow a solution from a bad to okay to great. 

Iterate, iterate, iterate…*

The second fundamental tenet of design thinking mindset is this idea of iteration – of repeatedly trying ideas and getting feedback. While this concept is clearly a piece of the design thinking process, I also see it as a mindset. The iterative design thinking process enables someone to come up with innovative solutions to hard problem.

Once one learns and truly embraces this process, it can become a tool to change one’s reaction to negative feedback or setbacks in problem solving. This is where the mindset piece comes in. A person who possesses an iterative mindset will be resilient in the face of setbacks because she knows that she is in the midst of a cyclical process of design. In the face of negative feedback, she will redesign and retest, rather than get stuck or frustrated. 

…*

In the next two weeks, I will be teaching students these two fundamental aspects of design thinking through both lessons and and practice in a tower building task. By cultivating a design mindset, I predict that these students will persist and succeed more in a challenging physics task than students who do not receive design thinking lessons.

Wish me luck! And let me know if you think there are other pieces of the design thinking puzzle that I should include in my lesson.

{Inspired} by IDEO…*

I visited with IDEO San Francisco last week in order to work on two new projects with them. As always, it was great to be in their offices and meet various team members. I am really excited to be working with them again. As you may remember, we developed the Design Thinking Toolkit for Educators with them a few years ago.Even though the work is inspiring and interesting, the most interesting thing of working with them are the “meta-lessons” I take away from experiencing their way of working and thinking about things. Here are a few of my inspirations provoked by my recent visit:

  • permission…permission to think creatively, permission to act naturally and be oneself, permission to dream…
  • creativity…they are willing to let down the barriers and just be creative…I think about how many of our workplaces, schools and homes are not supportive of creativity, and yet, developing creative people is one of the greatest challenges we face…”Yes, and…”-the core of improvisation is at the core of the spirit at IDEO
  • optimism…cynicism, irony, unpleasantness are jus too present in our lives. I work in a school because the optimism of young people is contagious…it makes you want to get up every morning and work. This is the spirit of IDEO and positive psychology-frame thing optimistically-you will not only be happier, but you will handle decisions, work and life better…
  • wicked problems…no problem is too big to be taken on…world hunger, creating great schools, improving the lives of older people…we should all take on challenges and turn them into “How might we…?” challenges…
  • design thinking…when I first learned about design thinking, I thought it was a methodology, a set of steps one uses to solve problems. Now I think of it much more as a mindset, a way of thinking and living…of course, one has to learn about design thinking to practice it well, but one also has to “bend” one’s mind to design thinking…
  • openness to learning…a lot of us think that learning stops with school or university…we need to be lifelong learners and places like IDEO support that idea of bringing a “beginner’s mind” to everything that we do. It is not that expertise is not important, but intellectual humility is just as important…
  • innovation…I sometimes think that we conceptualize innovation as something grand, something complex and sophisticated, and yet, it can be simple, elegant and modest…read/listen to this inspiring story that is a great metaphor for this idea…

IDEO is a worthy example of a place, a space that we should emulate. It is more than a firm or a design company. It is an experience and mindset. Lots of people want to work there, but the most important lesson is how to take the spirit of IDEO and apply it to our working, to our thinking and to our living.

“A Benchmark Anchored in Reality Forces You to Articulate a Clear Point of View About What’s Truly Important”

"A Benchmark Anchored in Reality Forces You to Articulate a Clear Point of View About What’s Truly Important" | rethinked.org

“Always going back to a benchmark anchored in reality forces you to articulate a clear point of view about what’s truly important.” – Diego Rodriguez

I found this excellent insight from IDEO‘s Diego Rodriguez as his contribution to LinkedIn’s Best Advice series. Recounting a time at IDEO when his team had produced a wide array of dazzling prototypes, Rodiguez shares how they felt stuck in deciding which one to select:

IDEO founder David Kelley strolled by to say hello and to watch us demonstrate our ideas. He listened patiently as we explained our dilemma, and responded with one simple question: “What’s the best alternative available to people today? Choose compared to that.”

Behind David’s powerful question is the best innovation advice I’ve ever received:

Compare to reality, not to some imaginary standard of perfection.

The truth was that even our least amazing prototype was miles ahead of the competition. It also happened to be the simplest concept, and the one that most tightly addressed the actual needs we’d heard from people we had interviewed and observed. Even if it didn’t fulfill our fantasies of perfection, we chose that option as the way forward, and we ended up nailing it: our award-winning design sold like hotcakes. Fifteen years later, it’s still in production, making people happy.

This is a key insight which speaks to one of the core tenets of design thinking: that the solution be created from a point of deep empathy and understanding so that it truly serves the need of the target audience, not the ego of the designer.

Some say that rooting your choices in reality is a sure path to mediocrity, but nothing could be further from the truth. Dedicating yourself to understanding what people really want — how they’ll experience a product in the real world — forces you to get away from your desk and make a tangible difference. Instead of just talking about a grand paradise of what might be, putting in the effort to understand people’s day-to-day lives, and then actually producing something that works, is what separates a true innovation from a merely good idea.

Great innovators dream, but they are also relentless about comparing those dreams to the real world, and acting accordingly.

Source: Best Advice: Want to Achieve Excellence? Compare Ideas to Reality

How do you make toast? {The design world and visual problem solving…*}

One of my courses this semester is called Visual Thinking, and we are studying how visual representations facilitate communication and thought. I am excited to share more with you as the course progresses, but when I found this TED talk last week, I thought it the perfect segue between design thinking (something we love here at rethinkED…*) and the power of visual explanations

Tom Wujec is a designer who specializes in visualization. In his new TED talk – Got a wicked problem? First, tell me how you make toast – he discusses the “design thinking way” of confronting a challenge: making your ideas visible, tangible, and consequential. 

How do you make toast…* ??

He explains his theory by starting off with a simple problem-solving exercise. How do you make toast? He has asked thousands of people and teams to draw their toast-making methods for him.

[All images from www.drawtoast.com/gallery ]

Systems Models Thinking…*

While the drawings demonstrate differences in the processes and focus of the act, one thing they all have in common is their structure; almost all of the drawings have nodes, representing tangible objects, and links, forming the connections between them. These combinations create the systems models that make our mental models of “how something works” visible. You can measure the complexity of a mental model by the number of nodes, and Wujec has found that most have between 5 and 13 nodes to be visually effective.

Semantic_Network_7_Nodes_6_Links

What these systems models illustrate is that we intuitively all know how to break down complex things into simple things.

The power of sticky notes and groups…*

Interestingly, Wujec has found that variants of the draw toast exercise can create better outcomes. For instance providing movable cards or sticky notes leads to better systems. People tend to develop nodes and then rearrange them like lego blocks. The malleability of the nodes facilitates rapid iteration of expressing and reflecting. In essence, it’s the design process.

Additionally, in a group, it gets REALLY messy for a while, but ultimately people build on each other ideas and the final model integrates a diversity of viewpoints, with branches and parallel patterns to represent different paths to the solution.

The Visual Revolution…*

Wujec states that he has been seeing a visual revolution in business – people are beginning to pick up on this trend and collaboratively draw out their challenges and problems. Through this process of iterative refinement of nodes and links, organizations find clarity. While the final models are important, the conversations around the models are important too.

Wujec’s ideas have much in common with the design thinking process of Design Thinking for Educators (more about this in a blog post here), which places an emphasis on iteration, collaboration, and the power of the sticky note.

However, the idea of creating a systems model for your problems is a new and useful one. It is easy to be overwhelmed when faced with a daunting challenge. Breaking it up into small manageable pieces, and using the “sticky note” method to keep these fluid and iterate on one’s ideas can result in surmountable steps to solutions. Wujec invites us to try this method with his website drawtoast.com and concludes, so the seemingly trivial design exercise of drawing toast helps us get clear, engaged and aligned. 

Watch the video below:

 

How to have a [ happy family ] in 2015: Using analogous situations to develop better methods for family success…*

Happy holidays everyone! As many of us are spending these weeks visiting family and loved ones, I thought it appropriate to talk about rethinking family dynamics. This time of year can be particularly stressful on families. While I don’t yet have children of my own, this TED talk by Bruce Feller is a great one if you are a parent with children and are looking for some ideas on how to improve your own family dynamic.

Family_Portrait

In true rethinked…* fashion, this talk is all about analogous situations. Particularly, Feller borrows from the Agile software development method. This method involve collaboration between self-organizing teams, promoting adaptive, rapid, and flexible responses to change. He uses it’s bottom-up idea flow, feedback, accountability, and adaptiveness in his own family.

In 2001 17 software developers created the Agile Manifesto. In this talk, Feller discusses his own Agile Family Manifesto. This manifesto has three tenets:

#1 Adapt ALL THE TIME

Happy functioning families should be flexible and openminded. You can’t just set rules and stick to them. Instead, you should build in a system of change. For example, Feller suggests holding family meetings each week and discussing 1) What worked well this week? 2) What didn’t work well? 3) What should we work on next week? Based on the answers to these questions, the rules can adapt to the current situation. Which leads to the second tenet…

#2 EMPOWER your children

In these family meetings, have children come up with the answers to these questions. Enlist children in their own upbringing. Feller suggests that we let our children succeed and fail on their own terms. We should let children make mistakes.

#3 Tell YOUR STORY

As much as the rules and family structure should be adaptive, it is imperative to have a foundational core. Feller urges parents and children to work together to define core values and develop a family “mission statement.” Additionally, studies show the importance of telling your children where they came from – about their grandparents, your childhood, or struggles their family members have overcome. Children with a sense of how they fit in a larger narrative have greater self-confidence. Research has indicated that knowing where you are from predicts emotional health and happiness.

Feller speaks more about these tenets, and other tips for thriving families, in the talk below. Overall, I think this talk is both a stellar example of using analogous situations. A great way to rethink is to apply methods traditionally used in one domain in another. And – empowering children to take a role in their own upbringing sounds like a great way to improve education to me.

 

 

 

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