Tag Experimentation

On Deep Learning, Transformative Change & Rethinking Bad Habits …*

On Deep Learning, Transformative Change & Rethinking Bad Habits ...*  | rethinked.org - Photograph: Elsa Fridman

Long time readers may remember Friday Link Fests of past, in which I curated links to some of the most intriguing things I had read, watched or seen that week. I’m thinking of bringing it back for 2015 but this time I’d like to experiment with some intriguing ways to pair and contrast the content instead of just sharing it in a list. What do you think? Any suggestions on how to do that well? Let me know * 

 

“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves, otherwise we harden.”

–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ( 23 Powerful Quotes To Inspire A Successful Year)

{ OUTSOURCING COGNITIVE CONTROL TO THE ENVIRONMENT — WHAT IT MEANS FOR OUR ABILITY TO MULTITASK AND CHANGE OUR HABITS }

This week I read two articles–one about multitasking and the other about changing habits–which both dealt with the outsourcing of cognitive control to our environments when faced with repetitive tasks and behaviors. I enjoyed the contrast between the two lenses through which this tendency to offload cognitive demand can be a positive thing (it helps to make multitasking slightly less inefficient) and how it can be a highly detrimental thing (it can keep us stuck in bad habits).

– – – 

What Heroin Addiction Tells Us About Changing Bad Habits is that roughly 45 percent of what we do each day, we do “in the same environment and is repeated.” This is a problem because:

“People, when they perform a behavior a lot — especially in the same environment, same sort of physical setting — outsource the control of the behavior to the environment.”

So we stop making choices and react to environmental cues, like sitting on the couch at the end of the day, getting on Netflix, and reaching for the pint of ice cream without really thinking about whether or not we even want ice cream.

“To battle bad behaviors then, one answer is to disrupt the environment in some way. Even small changes can help — like eating the ice cream with your nondominant hand. What this does is disrupt the learned body sequence that’s driving the behavior, which allows your conscious mind to come back online and reassert control.”

– – – 

Consistently performing actions and behaviors in similar environments does have an upside however, especially when it comes to multitasking. While multitasking is counterproductive and should be avoided, it can be rendered more useful if you “practice multitasking when you learn it in the first place.” In The Curious Science of When Multitasking Works, Walter Frick reports on a new study published in Psychological Science, which shows that consistent context matters in our ability to multitask well:

“These results suggest the possibility that our ability to juggle tasks and recall information depends on the context in which we learned those things in the first place.”

*

{ THE NEED TO CULTIVATE A GROWTH MINDSET & EMBRACE VULNERABILITY TO ACHIEVE DEEP LEARNING & AUTHENTIC GROWTH  }

“Learning is fundamentally an act of vulnerability. It is an acknowledgement that what one knows is not sufficient, and that new information and new thinking about that information is needed.”

So starts Jal Mehta’s article on Education WeekUnlearning Is Critical for Deep Learning. Across industries, from the boardroom to the classroom, we are becoming increasingly aware of the discomfort dimension of learning and the need to cultivate a growth mindset to transcend this discomfort and push through to achieve deep learning and transformative change.

“At the end of the day, the factors that facilitate unlearning are the same qualities that mark good organizations and good teaching environments: psychological safety, the normalization of failure, the recognition that rethinking core assumptions is critical for significant improvement, and the development of challenging, rigorous, but supportive communities that help people do this kind of learning. If school leaders organize their schools with the explicit intent of creating these kinds of environments for students, it will be much easier to do the same kind of learning with the adults (and vice versa). And if districts and states can fight their usual instincts to apply pressure and seek immediate results, and instead create the space for schools to do the kind of experimentation, unlearning, and re-learning that significant change entails, they will be more likely to see the kinds of qualitative change in teaching and learning that they seek.”

– – – 

Meanwhile on Harvard Business Review, Herminia Ibarra reminds us that You’re Never Too Experienced to Fake It Till You Learn It. While the idea of “faking it” may seem inauthentic to some, depending on one’s appraisal of identity,  it is a key learning strategy with tangible benefits.

“By definition, transformative learning starts with unnatural and often superficial behaviors. When we are working at improving our game, a clear and firm sense of self is a compass. It helps us navigate choices and work toward our goals. But when we are looking to change our game, a rigid understanding of authenticity is an anchor that keeps us from sailing forth. By viewing ourselves as works in progress, we multiply our capacity to learn, avoid being pigeonholed, and ultimately become better leaders. We’re never too experienced to fake it till we learn it.”

– – – 

Finally, in From the Editor: In Praise of Humility, Martha E. Mangelsdorf concludes her introduction of the MIT Sloan Management Review Winter 2015 edition of the magazine–which focuses on articles urging us to stay open and aware of what we don’t know–by reminding us:

“Awareness of our human frailties and fallibility shouldn’t discourage us. Instead, being aware of our own limitations creates opportunities to learn, to experiment, to change — and to improve.”

And to conclude this week’s Friday Link Fest, this wise, adorable and important PSA on domestic violence from Italian media company Fanpage.it.

Source: These Boys Are Told To Slap Some “Pretty Girls.” Here’s What They Do Instead. via GOOD, published January 7, 2015

{ The Independent Project …* } What If Students Designed Their Own Learning?

A few weeks ago I posted a deeply insightful observation from John Maeda about the disconnect between thinking and doing in academia. Maeda argued that the gift of ideas is the curse of doing nothing and highlighted the stigma around “doing” in the world of pure academia. I posed the question: How might we help students become fluent in both literacies of doing and thinking? Just this morning I read an interesting article on Ashoka’s Start Empathy blog about the importance of college students taking ownership of their education by engaging with the myriad learning opportunities surrounding them both in and outside the classroom. The quote below really struck a chord with me and I thought it highlighted a potent entryway into rethinking * the harmful dichotomies we have created between thinking and doing and being students and “real” people functioning in the “real” world:

“The very best students wring the veritable sponge of their institution for every last drop of value. They assume ownership of their education by taking advantage of all the available resources. They let what they learn shape them as human beings so that when the mantle of “student” eventually falls away, a knowledgeable, prepared, and motivated person remains underneath.” – Engaged Learning, Engaged Living 

What might this process look like? How do we enable the young minds that are entrusted to us to engage with and construct their learning in a way that shapes them as human beings rather than simply as “students”–an identity which is context-specific and thus ephemeral (and far too often, is experienced as imposed and begrudged by children who are disengaged and cannot wait to shed the “student” label, eagerly awaiting emancipation from the school system)? In other words, how might we produce ‘knowmads’–lifelong, engaged and passionate learners? One fantastic initiative, which attempts to do just that, is The Independent Project, started by a high school student, Sam Levin, in 2010.

The Independent Project is an alternative student driven school-within-a-school that was started at Monument Mountain Regional High School.

The idea for The Independent Project came about from that student’s own experience of high school, and his observation of the experiences of his peers. The two main things he felt were missing from many high school classrooms were engagement and mastery. He also felt that even students who were engaged were often learning material that was not very intellectually valuable. They were learning lots of information, but very little about how to obtain information on their own, or even create new information. His intent was to design a school in which students would be fully engaged in and passionate about what they were learning, would have the experience of truly mastering something, or developing expertise in something, and would be learning how to learn. He felt that the most important ingredient to a school like that would be that it was student-driven. Research by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on engagement suggested that if students have more control over their learning, they will be more engaged, excited, and committed to their studies. He also felt that it was important for the school to be focused on methods rather than specific topics, having students work like actual scientists, mathematicians, or writers. – Sam Levin’s ‘White Paper’ on The Independent Project 

The pilot for the Independent Project ran for one semester, accepting eight students ranging in grade levels and academic ability, and was divided into four parts: Orientation, The Sciences, The Arts, and The Collective Endeavor. The students’ days were broken up into collective learning in the mornings and independent, project-based, inquiry-led learning in the afternoons. Watch the two videos below, produced by the students themselves, to learn more about The Independent Project. Also be sure to check out Sam Levin’s White Paper on the project for a detailed overview of the pilot and helpful tips, ideas and insights on the project.

question, engage & rethink …*

Hat Tip: This Is What a Student-Designed School Looks Like via MindShift, published July 14, 2014

{ Stanford 2025 } Design Thinking Major Paradigm Shifts For Future Learning Opportunities …*

Just yesterday, I was writing about an upcoming MOOC on the Science of Happiness that is poised to make online learning history according to this Forbes writer. MOOCs have sent the world of education into a bit of a frenzy as we attempt to collectively shape and understand the disruptive effects that online learning will have on future learning environments. Personally, I find the idea that schools have now been rendered obsolete by online learning misguided. It is a gross oversight of the critical need and function of social connection to deep learning. As Sophia Pink, daughter of Dan Pink, observed after spending a year of independent learning, using a mix of online learning courses and independent projects:

“classroom education shouldn’t be fully replaced by online courses, but it can draw on what works well online. Huge online courses have many virtues but need to do better at fostering the sort of side by side back and forth collaboration that we all need to learn.”

What might this relationship between social and online learning look like? And what types(s) of environment might facilitate and enhance this hybrid form of learning? Those are precisely the questions that Stanford’s d.school explored through its @Stanford Project, which ultimately generated the Stanford2025 exhibit and website. Noting the potential disruption posed by online learning and noticing that “many parts of the undergraduate experience are ripe for reinvention” prompted a team at the d.school to question how time, space, expertise, accreditation, and student agency may also change within higher education:

College has multiple aims: it’s a place to gain expertise and develop abilities, but also to come of age. These are entwined together in a residential college experience―a complex and special setting. Enormous energy and investment are now being placed in experimentation and pioneering in the online learning space. We wanted to complement these efforts with an exploration of learning and living on campus, now and in the future.

A design team from the Stanford d.school worked with hundreds of perceptive, creative, and generous students, faculty, and administrators over the course of a year to explore this territory. We considered many lenses—from how students prepare for a Stanford education while still in high school, to patterns of undergraduate decision-making about what and how they study, to the shifting needs and expectations from future employers. 

The project culminated with an experiential exhibit entitled “Stanford 2025,” held at the d.school in May 2014. To encourage an exploratory mindset, the event was staged as a time-travel journey. The community embarked to the distant future—and landed just at the moment when Stanford was looking back retrospectively at major paradigm shifts that “happened” around 2025. These possible shifts were shared as provocations—a subjective, student-centered imagining of what could happen as the future unfolds.

While the Stanford2025 exploration of future learning environments is focused on higher education, the provocations listed are critically relevant to K-12 learning as well. Head over to the website to dive more deeply into each of the four provocations and download the accompanying toolkit to “Make them your own. Try them, tweak them, push them, or even reject them.”

  • The Reflect Worksheets are excursions into imagined worlds inspired by the provocations.
  • The Imagine Cards are prompts to spark inspiration in your own work.
  • The Try Playbook is a set of activities and suggestions to get started.

reflect, imagine, try & rethink …*

{ OPEN LOOP UNIVERSITY } Bringing an End to a Society of Alumni in Favor of Lifetime Learning:

From: Students received four years of college education, front-loaded at the beginning of adulthood

To: Students received a lifetime of learning opportunities.

The perspective that the university could effectively serve its original mission while continuing to narrowly define the time in one’s life when learning would happen was challenged.

Open Loop Vimeo from Stanford d.school on Vimeo.

*

PACED EDUCATION } Abolishing the Class Year & Embracing Adaptive Learning:

From: Structured, 4-year courses of study advanced students by seat hours on a quarterly rhythm.

To: Three phases of varied lengths provided personalized, adaptive, calibrated learning.

Paced Education Vimeo from Stanford d.school on Vimeo.

*

AXIS FLIP }  Flipping the Axes of Knowledge & Competency:

From: Knowledge within a particular discipline was the criteria for graduation; skill development was secondary.

To: Stanford flipped the axes so that skill development became the foundation.

Axis Flip Vimeo from Stanford d.school on Vimeo.

*

PURPOSE LEARNING } Declaring Missions, Not Majors:

From: Students declared Majors and focused their studies around set requirements.

To: Students declared Missions and coupled their disciplinary pursuit with the purpose that fueled it. 

“I’m a biology major” was replaced by “I’m learning human biology to eliminate world hunger.” Or “I’m learning Computer Science and Political Science to rebuild how citizens engage with their governments.”  

The goal was to help students select a meaningful course of study while in school, and then scaffold a clear arc for the first 10 – 15 years of their professional lives. It wasn’t about the career trajectory, but the reasons behind it.

Purpose Learning Vimeo from Stanford d.school on Vimeo.

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[ Hat Tip: Students Travel To 2025 To Question the Future Of Higher Education via PSFK, published May 9, 2014 ]

“If You’re Just Naïve Enough To Believe You Can Do What Everybody Tells You That You Can’t, Amazing Things Can Happen”

"If You're Just Naïve Enough To Believe You Can Do What Everybody Tells You That You Can't, Amazing Things Can Happen" | rethinked.org

I’ve written about the Zen Buddhist concept of shoshin, which translates to “beginner’s mind,” several times before here on rethinked Beginner’s mind is a mental state devoid of assumptions and prejudices. Zen master Shunryu Suzuki highlighted the sense of omnipresent potential and openness that characterizes the beginner’s mind by saying: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Mick Ebeling, founder of the fantastic Not Impossible Labs has a great article over on CNN, explaining the immense power of shoshin, which Ebeling refers to as “beautiful naiveté” to yield big ideas with tremendous impact. Below are some excerpts from Ebeling’s inspirational article. You can read the rest of the article, and view the accompanying short video here.

In each case, the experts told us that what we were doing just couldn’t be done.

Fortunately, we didn’t listen, or didn’t hear them, or ignored them, or were oblivious, or all of the above. We went ahead and tried anyway. And what do you know. It worked.

This all started when I met a graffiti artist named Tempt, who was paralyzed with ALS. I was a film producer, with no experience whatsoever in the field of technological medical devices. But when I learned how he was communicating with his family — they’d run their fingers over a piece of paper with the alphabet printed on it, he’d blink when they’d get to the letter he wanted, and, painstakingly, he’d spell out a sentence — I was moved, and angry, and a whole lot of other things. And I blurted out to his father, “We will find a way to get Tempt to paint again.”

See, I was just clueless enough not to know that that was impossible.

At one point, a group of programmers and coders told us, “If you had any clue how hard it is to do what you did, you never would have tried it in the first place.”

I’m so glad we were clueless.

*

David possesses a quality — as do the other members of the team, Dan Goodwin and Sam Bergen — that, I think, is essential to success.

We call it beautiful naïvete.

Because if you’re just naïve enough to believe you can do what everybody tells you that you can’t, amazing things can happen.

It’s just possible, in fact, that you’ll discover what each of us has discovered:

That nothing, in fact, is impossible.

Source: Naïvete is key to innovation via CNN, published April 22, 2014.

{ Dirty Car Art & Bicycle Symphonies } Finding Wonder In The Everyday And Creating Delight Out Of The Ordinary …*

At the heart of our team, mission and work is a deep commitment to framing and experiencing the everyday and the mundane with delight, curiosity and wonder. We seek to make the ordinary unknown in an attempt to better uncover its vast untapped potential to make life more salient, human and fulfilling. But it is sometimes all too easy to lose track of this perspective, to become distracted by the superficial and overlook the magic of the mundane. I was thrilled to come across the works of the two artists featured below–Scott Wade –The Dirty Car Artist– and composer Johnnyrandom–whose art, each in his own way, is about finding wonder in the everyday and creating delight out of the ordinary. A welcome reminder of what’s important.

delight & rethink…

 

“Through music, I want to change the way that people perceive their surroundings and I hope this will inspire others to look at every day objects with more curiosity and wonder.”

Johnnyrandom | Bespoken from Johnnyrandom on Vimeo. [ Hat Tip: Making Music With A Bike  via Colossal, published January 15, 2014 ]

Composer Johnnyrandom breaks new ground with musical compositions made exclusively from everyday objects. His debut single, “Bespoken”, explores the full potential of sounds generated from bicycles and their components, transcending the role of traditional instrumentation as the accepted method for creating beautiful and thought-provoking music. 

Head over to soundcloud to sample a breakdown of selected sound elements combined in Bespoken – from tire inflating to handlebar tube hits. You can also download the full single on iTunes.

 [ …*

“It’s weird because dirty cars are so much a part of our culture and when we see a dirty car we think, ‘Oh God, that’s ugly, it’s an eyesore, you have to go wash it.’ When you can turn that into beauty, then it challenges our perception of what’s beautiful, what’s not beautiful. Plus, dirty car is a mobile art gallery.”  – Scott Wade

The Dirty Car Artist – Scott Wade [ Hat Tip: Dirty Car Art, by Scott Wade via My Design Stories, published January 13, 2014 ]

Friday Link Fest {November 2-9, 2012}

ARTICLES

What Does It Mean to Be Simple? ~ All designers say simplicity is important, but what does it really mean to make something simple? Most of the time we think it means less, that by removing stuff we achieve simplicity. We think by keeping content above the fold we’re helping people focus, or by using bullets instead of paragraphs more people will read it, or by cutting text in half it becomes more clear. But simple doesn’t mean “less”. A better definition would be “just enough”. via 52 Weeks UX, published December 22, 2011.

How to recognize Design Thinkers ~ Since Roger Martin and others hijacked the term ‘designthinking’, there is an ongoing dispute. Two thought worlds exist and possibly these can be united by laying bare the essential characteristics of a ‘design thinker’. via Team Cognition, published October 30, 2012.

Given Tablets but No Teachers, Ethiopian Children Teach Themselves ~ via MIT Tech Review, published October 29, 2012.

Pinterest’s Founding Designer Shares His Dead-Simple Design Philosophy ~ Sahil Lavingia on why design shouldn’t be designated a specific function or industry. The discipline is just as fundamental as technology and profit are to a business that it doesn’t need to be isolated to a single role. It should be considered part of every role. via FastCo.Design, published March 7, 2012.

Design Firms Go Beyond Gadgets As Portfolios Expand~ On the rise and ubiquity of design thinking: Bay Area design firms behind iconic technology products like the mouse and the Macintosh computer are broadening their portfolios. Health-care companies, nonprofits and industrial giants are among those tapping these and other designers to conceive not just gadgets but new software, business strategies and even school systems. The expansion has happened gradually but is accelerating as firms seek to connect with design-savvy customers. via The Wall Street Journal, published October 31, 2012.

The High Line Effect: Top 10 Urban Transformation Projects ~ When it comes to urban transformation, size does not matter, per se. The subtleties of thoughtful urban projects shine through at every level, and sometime outperform their more ostentatious contemporaries. The Architizer Plus: Urban Transformation Award will reward the best architectural project that spurs new occupation and lively places. via Good, published October 31, 2012.

Design Thinking Starts At The Top ~ Even though design thinking requires participation from many different sectors of a business, there is no question that this is an initiative that has to be led and implemented from the very top by a management committed to the process. Unless there is a strong figure there to properly determine what shape design thinking will ultimate take, there will be no firm direction and there will be no significant follow-through. via Fast Company, published November 2, 2012.

Learning to Bounce Back ~ via The New York Times, published November 2, 2012.

Van Bo Le-Mentzel: Rethinking Everything ~ “It was like my reset button had been pressed,” Le-Mentzel said of his childhood. “Other kids had parents who were doctors, teachers, grocers or lawyers to follow, and I was starting at zero. No one told me what to be – and that turned out to be an advantage. via Smart Planet, published November 1, 2012.

 

TALKS & VIDEOS

Watch A Great Short Film On The Future Of Technology And Education ~ We’re still teaching our kids using a 20th-century paradigm, but many visionaries–like the ones in this video–have plans to take our advances in computing and technology and use them to explode the idea of what education can be. via FastCo.Exist, published October 22, 2012.

 

Open Source Architecture Manifesto Movie ~ Istanbul Design Biennial 2012: this movie shows how a custom printer continually updates a copy of the Open Source Architecture Manifesto Wikipedia entry, written on a wall in the entrance to the Adhocracy exhibition at the Istanbul Design Biennial. via Dezeen, published November 7, 2012.

 

A 3-D Printed House That Grows Like Human Bone ~ London design studio Softkill paints a far-out picture of what 3-D printed architecture could eventually look like. At last week’s 3D Printshow, the team of Architectural Association grads presented a concept called ProtoHouse, which imagines a radical new mode of construction based on the strengths of 3-D printing. Their design is in stark contrast to other 3-D printed home schemes, which are either markedly utilitarian or oddly traditional. via FastCo.Design, published November 2, 2012.

(Softkill Algorithm from Sophia Tang on Vimeo.)

 

Design the New Business ~ Design and business can no longer be thought of as distinct activities with individual goals. Design the New Business is a film dedicated to investigating how designers and businesspeople are working together in new ways to solve the wicked problems facing business today. The short documentary examines how they are joining forces by bringing together an international collection of design service providers, education experts and businesses that have incorporated design as a part of their core approach. Design the New Business features inspiring case studies and insightful discussions, helping to illustrate the state of the relationship and how it needs to continue evolving to meet tomorrow’s challenges.via  dthenewb on Vimeo, published November 2011.

(Design the New Business – English subtitles from dthenewb on Vimeo.)

 

Rethinked’s…* Dominic Randolph on Design Thinking for Educators: Short Documentary on His Collaboration with Ideo ~ Dominic Randolphrethinker…* extraordinaire and Head of Riverdale Country School, won a grant in 2012 from the E. Ford Foundation to teach Design Thinking to Educators and to spread its adaption and implementation across the country. This seven-minute film documents Dominic’s collaboration with legendary design firm, Ideo. via Rethinked, published November 8, 2012. (Video Design Thinking for Educators – Dominic Randolph from paul dewey onVimeo, published November 6, 2012.)

 

Urbanus: Argitecture / Archiculture – Future Cities, Beijing ~ Wang Hui of Urbanus presents his recent works which are dealing with the development of the urban landscape in China. Understanding that eliminating farmland in favor of high rise structures is not a sustainable model, Hui presents a new system which brings together the two worlds instead of isolating them. By taking the words ‘architecture’ and ‘agriculture’ and hybridizing them to spell the terms ‘agritecture’ and ‘archiculture’ new meanings are created and from that dynamic proposals can be established.via Design Boom, published November 7, 2012.

 

IMAGES

Invisible Street Art by Cayetano Ferrer ~ Los Angeles-based video, photography and sculptural/installation artist Cayetano Ferrer has re-interpreted the discipline of graffiti through his artistic interrogation of urban objects. Through his projects ‘City of Chicago‘ and ‘Western Imports‘ he camouflages street signs and ordinary cardboard boxes to mimic the surrounding scenery – rendering them ‘invisible street art’. Ferrer creates the work by pasting high-quality photographs reflecting the relevant environment printed onto stickers and fixing them to various urban debris around the city. By photographing these pieces in situ, the resulting images articulate an illusion of transparency, prompting the viewer to look twice. via Design Boom, published November 2, 2012.

Flying Houses, Spotted In Paris ~ Paris-based art director-turn-photographer Laurent Chéhère has created a series of whimsical photographs featuring buildings that appear to be flying. via Design Taxi, published October 30, 2012.

Brilliant 3D pencil drawings by Nagai Hideyuki ~ Who knew that pencil art could be so multi-dimensional and layered? These incredible illustrations by young Japanese artist Nagai Hideyuki are created using the projection technique, Anamorphosis, which gives the images a three-dimensional appearance when viewed from certain angles. via Lost At E Minor, published July 19, 2012.

How Children Learn: Portraits of Classrooms Around the World ~ A revealing lens on a system-phenomenon both global in reach and strikingly local in degree of diversity. via Brainpickings, published August 20, 2012.

Disruptive wonder from French artist Rero ~The artist simply known as “Rero” works exceedingly simply – but all the better to get his point across. Recently, he has been making challenging through contradiction, posting fliers with phrases like “I hate graffiti” and “I don’t really like people who stick bills on walls,” as well as questioning our perception of public art. via Beautiful Decay, published August 10, 2010.

Rain-Activated Street Art ~ Poland-born, US-based mixed media artist Adam Niklewicz has created a stunning water mural on a red brick wall of a historical building in Hartford, Connecticut. Only appearing when rain falls on it or if water is sprayed on it, this public art project features an image of Charles DeWolf Brownell’s “The Charter Oak”, a reference to American freedom and independence.via Design Taxi, published November 5, 2012.

Our Differences Unite Us ~Just last week, 10-year-old Sophia Bailey-Klugh wrote and illustrated an endearing letter to U. S. President Barack Obama and, as the daughter of a gay couple, thanked him for supporting same-sex marriage. She then asked for advice on how to respond to those who saw such a thing as “gross and weird.” Her letter, and the reply she soon received, can be seen here. via Letters of Note, published November 6, 2012.

RESOURCES

Top 7 Websites for Creating the Future City ~ seven websites that harness the power, wisdom and knowledge of the crowds to cultivate smarter future cities. via Goodnet, published September 26, 2012.

The History of Western Architecture in 39 Free Video Lectures ~  The History of Architecture, a free course that recently debuted on iTunes. Taught by Jacqueline Gargus at Ohio State, the course features 39 video lectures that collectively offer a classic survey of Western architecture. via Open Culture, published November 8, 2012.

Ways to help affected communities after Hurricane Sandy ~ via Architizer, published November 2, 2012.

16 Free Lectures by “The Great Courses” (in a Sea of Free Courses) ~ You have got to hand it to The Great Courses (previously called The Teaching Company). Based in Chantilly, VA, the company has traveled across America, recording professors lecturing on great topics. They have roughly 390 courses in their catalog, market them aggressively with millions of print materials and emails, and generate $110 million in annual sales (as of 2010).And it just so happens that we’ve dug up 16 free lectures sponsored by the company. (Most are individual lectures taken from longer courses available for purchase online.) via Open Culture, published November 2, 2012.

Take First-Class Philosophy Lectures Anywhere with Free Oxford Podcasts ~ Conveniently podcast lecture courses from the University of Oxford. via open Culture, published November 6, 2012.

If Only There Were More Time…

Is there a way to give teachers the time to experiment with their lessons and their classrooms?  Most teachers try out new ideas every year, so we could just say that experimenting happens, and that’s that–no problem to address.  But at the DT4E conference we were exposed to a different type of experimenting that demanded rapid prototyping, uninterrupted focus, and time to reflect.  As the group reimagined a library for the 21st century, we covered the Riverdale cafeteria with models and full-size sets, all made in less than an hour.  The creativity was remarkable, and I think that everyone felt more optimistic about successfully incorporating new ideas into their own teaching.

It’s hard to see teachers experimenting during the school year the same way we did at the DT4E conference or the same way they would in an explicitly experimental setting.  That doesn’t mean that teachers can’t experiment in their classrooms during the year; it’s just hard for them to experiment as deliberately and thoroughly as they might during a less harried time.  School days are crazy and frenetic, and finding time for reflection and analysis is no easy task when there are papers to grade, meetings to attend, and emails to answer.

Fortunately, schools have three months of every year when they aren’t in the go-go-go mode that makes authentic experimentation so difficult.  What if schools used their campuses as educational laboratories during the summer?  This program would be more than the summer day camps that many schools offer during the summer.  It would require students to be participants in K-12 research, and the focus would be on teacher enrichment, though the students would learn plenty as well.  One school could gather teachers and students from many surrounding schools so that the program would feel different than the academic year, with a different mix of people and a different sense of purpose.  Younger students could be enrolled in what looks like a summer camp, causing little change to their plans.  Older students could be paid an hourly rate to be in laboratory classes for a few weeks each summer.  These days teenagers are in need of jobs (teen unemployment was at 24.6% at the beginning of June), and plenty of teachers would be willing to sign on for some extra productive work during the summer months (stipend provided, of course).  Teachers could try new ideas, get feedback from real students, adjust their approach for the following class, and prepare for the coming school year in authentic, innovative ways.  Rapid prototyping, tailored for education.

Just an idea, one obviously in need of some further thought (and some funding), but it could easily lead to some fantastic new ideas in K-12 education.  Then again, maybe this idea has already been implemented elsewhere.  If it has, please post the info.

Thoughts on the Design Thinking For Educators Workshop

First of all a huge thank you to the Riverdale Country School (RCS) and IDEO for putting together the Design Thinking for Educators Workshop, what a brilliant two days!

   

The workshop started Thursday morning on the sunny RCS campus. Designers, students, teachers and administrators gathered together in the RCS multi purpose room filled with IDEO’s colorful rolling desks. We started the workshop with a 45-minute challenge designed to give us an overview of the design thinking (DT) process.
                 

 

We partnered in groups of two and were tasked with redesigning our partner’s morning commute. Together we went through the five phases of the DT process (Discovery, Interpretation, Ideation, Experimentation, Evolution) to identify the challenges our partner faced every day as part of their commute in order to come up with tangible solutions for them.

 

      

 

We were given a list of tips for the discovery process, to allow us to engage with our partner’s reality in an empathetic way.  We were urged to not solely gather facts but to get at the moments, the stories behind the facts because design thinking, at its core, is about the human experience. It’s about improving our moments by challenging the status quo and placing the human, as an individual rather than a statistic, at the center of every experience.

I told my partner, Pia, a learning specialist at RCS, about my commute and enumerated my many complaints: the overly crowded subways, the unpredictability of the G train, the frustration I feel every morning as I try to manage a modicum of personal space, stuck in a mass of tired, cranky, coughing, sneezing people all in a hurry to get where they are going. In retrospect however, after having seen Pia’s prototypes of the solutions she came up with for my morning commute, I realized all of these complaints are the facts of my commute, shared by thousands of others taking the NYC subway. They do not reveal anything specific about my needs or my personal experience of the commute.

Armed with IDEO’s tips on discovery, Pia was able to identify the real story of my morning commute: I’m not a morning person. I’m actually not really a person at all in the mornings until I’ve had my second cup of coffee. And I’m a bit of a germaphobe. I absolutely hate having to be crammed so close to strangers that I can feel their breaths on my face, it sends me into a whirling state of paranoia about all the many diseases floating around the subway car, waiting like predators to get me sick.

So Pia designed a subway that would have Purell dispensers as well as cup holders and coffee machines in every subway car. It was a simple, elegant solution and it was such a salient insight into the overarching challenge of my commute. What amazed me was that through the DT process Pia was able to identify my morning commute challenge better than I could myself.

 

             

 

It was astounding to see the quality, breadth and creativity of the ideas produced in such a short amount of time. From bike helmets that protect your hair do, to a digital butler that bounces ideas off with you about things you’re interested in while you’re driving, the prototypes were amazing. (MTA, if you’re listening, coffee machines and cup holders in the subway are pure gold…get on it).

Our next challenge, which was to be the core of the workshop, was to reimagine the 21st century library.

1. DISCOVERY: I have a challenge. How do I approach it?

We were split up into groups of five and sent off on different field trips to analogous places and on interviews with students and their families. One group went to Starbucks, another interviewed students, another a family and so on. This was all part of the discovery phase. Discovery is about being inspired and energized. The goal of discovery is to achieve a state of ‘informed intuition’ meaning that an intellectual grasp of the challenge is not enough, we want to become aware of the various aspects of a challenge at all levels (emotional, physical, empathetic, etc.).

When all the teams returned from their interviews and observations trips we broke for lunch, excited for the next phase of the process.

2. INTERPRETATION: Learned something. How do I interpret it?

After lunch, we were ready to begin the interpretation phase. We were first asked to write down the information we had gathered on post-its notes. One thought or quote per post-it. It was interesting to see how all the members of my group, despite having all been in the same room and having participated in the same interview with a family of three, had identifying such different insights. After getting all the information we had gathered out onto the post-its, we began to group them by themes.

 

 

We then arranged the themes into “How Might We”s (HMW). In this step we rephrased the problems we had identified into possibilities. For example, we realized that the students found it difficult to navigate the library and find the resources they were looking for. This insight was translated into a HMW: How might we redesign the ways in which books are grouped to ensure that students are able to find the books they seek?

3. IDEATION: I see an opportunity. What do I create?

 

 

Once we had identified some HMWs, we were reorganized into groups of 15 and voted on two HMWs that the aggregated group wanted to focus on. We then had to come up with as many ideas as possible, which we jotted down on post-its and put up on a board. Our goal was to come up with at least 100 ideas in the allotted time. It was an amazing experience seeing the ideas slowly trickle out at first before spurting out in a seemingly endless flow.

 

 

The second day of the workshop was split between prototyping the ideas we had come up with during ideation and examining our real life challenges through the DT lens.

4. EXPERIMENTATION: I have an idea. How do I build it?

The experimentation phase of the process is about thinking through an idea. It’s about getting ideas out of your brain so they don’t become too precious in your mind and making them tangible so that you can evaluate them and get rapid responses from stakeholders. The prototype can be executed in any form; it doesn’t necessarily have to be in physical form, it can be role-playing or any other type of representation that successfully illustrates the idea.

We were split back into groups of five and each group selected two to three ideas to prototype. To build our prototypes we had access to anything in the room (chairs, tables, water bottles, etc.) as well as an assortment of arts and crafts materials.

 

 

Once the allotted time for building our prototypes was up, each group was given two minutes to present their prototype to the whole group as well as a panel of RCS students who provided feedback on each of the prototypes.

 

 

 

Each of the prototypes was breathtaking; no idea was too big or too small to be represented. One group designed a set of ‘bibliospecs’, which would function similarly to Google glasses whereby the wearer would see personalized information and set of resources tailored to her as she navigated the library. Another group designed a new type of librarian position that would hand deliver special invitations and VIP event invitations at the library to students. Yet a third group redesigned the library to include within it a large tree, hammock reading nooks, modular furniture and information kiosques. Each of the prototypes brimmed with wonder, imagination, whimsy and possibility.

5. EVOLUTION: I tried something. How do I evolve it?

Evolution is an ongoing process, a way to refine your ideas and concepts over time. All products, services and systems are constantly in the evolution phase. Nothing is ever done or perfect; as our needs evolve so too should our environments and interactions.

While we did not physically evolve our prototypes, getting the feedback from the students did give us a good idea of further steps in which to take our solutions to better meet their needs.

The rest of the day was spent focusing on the individuals in the room and their specific education challenges. We partnered up in groups of two and unleashed our specific complaints, changing them together into How Might We’s and coming up with a project plan to enact tangible solutions to the problems we face.

 

 

As the workshop came to an end, it was amazing to reflect on all that we had learned. We had acquired a new skill set (design thinking), we had gathered insights on students’ needs and preferences, and we had learned about ourselves. We tend to take our mindsets for granted because the opportunities to question deeply how we think are so rare and far between. All systems, to varying degrees, instill in us a sense of immutability. As we experienced a new methodology of thinking, we were all forced, to some extent, to realize our own biases and assumptions. It was an incredibly empowering experience to be reminded, for it seems we often forget, that our experiences as individuals matter. We do not have to passively accept systems, services, products and environments that do not meet our needs. We do not have to wait for solutions to be handed down to us by ‘experts’. With the people around us and a simple yet powerful method, we have the power to take ownership of our experiences and effect tangible changes for ourselves. Design thinking is a set of tools but it is above all a mindset. It is about rethinking problems into possibilities; it is about being human and making the most of it.

If you couldn’t make it to the workshop, don’t worry you can still experience design thinking for yourself. Check out designthinkingforeducators.com where you can get a free 94-page toolkit, which details the design thinking process as well as presenting real case studies of how the process has been used in schools to enact positive changes. Be sure to check back here with us and on our Twitter and Facebook page for more pictures of the workshop and announcements regarding upcoming initiatives.

As always, we’d love to know what you’re thinking. Whether you were at the workshop or not, let us know what’s on your mind: comments, questions, case studies, feedback…we love it all.

 

 

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