Design Thinking Report

For CEP 817, I spent a semester solving a problem by using the Design Thinking Process. Here is the final report.

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CEP 817 Final Reflection – Design Thinking

The Design Thinking Process has really changed my thinking as a teacher. The following presentation encapsulates my learning experiences and takeaways for teaching.

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Testing Report

A problem of practice I face in my role as Technology Integration Specialist is helping teachers to become less resistant to use technology in their classrooms. To support my teachers and hopefully address this problem, I have done many different things (created http://www.educationaltechvideos.com, podcast execution, digital citizenship unit that is applied across curriculum, etc.), but I am going to focus on one in specific right now. Because we are launching a MakerSpace next year, I created a website about the Design Thinking process. It is my hope that this website will teach teachers about the Design Thinking process and encourage them to think of ways to use the MakerSpace, which has both technology-rich and unplugged options.

To test my website, http://www.elementarydesignthinking.weebly.com, I elicited the support of a colleague, a Michigan State classmate, and a family member. My MSU classmate commented on a Google Doc (a screenshot is below) and answered questions about the relevance of content, simplicity of understanding the content, visual design, ease of navigation, functionality and usability. He made a few great observations, which sparked changes to the website. He suggested I embed all videos, rather than having links to some and having some embedded and encouraged me to add links to get from page to page to the bottom of each page. This was great for navigation. He also caught a few links that were broken. Lastly, he noticed that some links opened new tabs, while others opened new windows. Next, my colleague completed a Google Form about the website. I asked her what worked really well and what changes could be made. She thought the content was easy to understand and the videos were engaging. She really liked that I had a resource page with additional books to check out and that it was broken into subjects. She did not have any negative feedback (there is a screenshot of her survey below). Lastly, I asked my husband to check out the website. It was helpful to get his feedback, because he’s so far removed from education. I knew that if he was able to understand the content, it was written well. His favorite part was the use of multimedia. He was impressed with the videos, Padlet, and MentiMeter. He wants to use MentiMeter in his own presentations! He suggested that I add more of my own examples. This is a suggestion I would like to take into consideration in the future, but without an actual MakerSpace setup in my building, I do not have that many examples yet – it’s all ideas!

The testing process was really helpful to me. The most important feedback I received was from a classmate. I think the reason he had the most valuable feedback was because we do not know each other outside of school, so he never felt like he would hurt my feelings. He was able to be critical and trust it would be received constructively. I made many of the changes he suggested right away. The other advice I received about adding more of my own examples will be implemented over time but is not possible until we have our MakerSpace up and running.

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Testing Phase

The testing phase of the Design Thinking process is important, because it really allows us to make sure the product we are delivering is functional, easy to use, and simple to understand. In my case, I am testing my website,  www.elementarydesignthinking.weebly.com. To test this website, I created a Google Form survey for a colleague, a shared Google Doc for an MSU classmate, and had an informal conversation with my husband. Having a fellow MSU classmate assess the website provided me with the most honest feedback. Because we don’t know each other outside of class, the politics of friendship did not  weigh on his suggestions. By having a colleague test the website, I was able to hear from an authentic and targeted audience member. This is exactly who the website is going to support. Lastly, asking a family member to review the website was also helpful because my family member is removed from education and therefore was able to speak to the simplicity of understanding the content.

Check out the video I made to explain the importance of testing and the changes I made based on feedback by watching the below video.

https://spark.adobe.com/video/S6BtojrNaDiEI/embed

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View of Teaching

The big idea I chose was View of Teaching. To symbolize one view I have of teaching, I created a Teaching Toolbox (made from a cardboard box), with a lock on the front (made with a popsicle stick, tape, and a pipe cleaner). Many teachers are closed off, creating their curriculum behind closed doors. Inside of the toolbox, I included where a teacher might be getting his/her ideas: magazines, books, Twitter, brainstorming in a journal, etc. I also included a card labeled technology, because technology should be just another tool to use in education. If everyone would unlock their teaching toolbox and share their thinking with the world, imagine what we would have. It could be beautiful!

I always like the process of prototyping, because I think it encourages us to really stretch our creativity muscles and move beyond being consumers to creators. It made me excited to rollout the MakerSpace at our school, which I hope will happen sooner than later.

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Prototyping

My problem of practice (helping teachers become less resistant to using technology in their classrooms) has been something I have tackling since accepted my new role (Technology Integration Specialist) this school year. With that said, my role has been filled with prototyping! I began one prototype over the summer, another this past fall, a third one this winter (thanks to ideas from MAET!), and I am currently working on a new initiative (more ideas from MAET!). I would like to share all 4 of these prototypes with you.

One prototype is a website I created titled Educational Tech Videos. The purpose of this website is to spark teachers’ interest in different technologies, share ideas for integrating the varying technologies across their existing curriculum, and provide teachers with free resources to use when launching the new technologies.

Another prototype is a student-driven podcast. The purpose of the podcast is to get students and faculty interested in sharing what they’re learning in class and in turn help each other know what is going on around campus (there are roughly 145 kids per grade from Nursery – 12, so it’s hard to know what’s going on from one class the next). To launch this, I went from classroom to classroom and shared this presentation. Next, students were invited to complete podcast applications. When students are chosen for the podcast, I provide them with a participation request and schedule a time to record. Posters were laminated and given to teachers to hang in their classrooms for easy student access, which helped get kids using QR code and their iPads. Check out the latest podcasts here!

This winter, I went to a fantastic Ed Tech Teacher conference. It really aligned with another class I am currently taking through the MAET program (Teaching Students Online). The conference was so inspirational, and I just can’t say enough good things about it… especially our on-site school visit. Design 39 is a unique school that teaches almost everything through the Design Thinking process. Their school has 7 Makeries, and their teachers were SO inspiring. They really made the Design Thinking process feel relevant, and it got me thinking that it would be a fantastic way to roll out how to use the MakerSpace in ways that authentically fit into the curriculum, rather than having the MakerSpace seem like an add-on. My favorite example was about the Dust Bowl. For Teaching Students Online, we are charged to create an online course. I originally began designing a course on Computer Science, but when I came back from the conference I was inspired to change it completely and design my course on Elementary Design Thinking. It’s a work in progress.

Another way I am hoping to bring technology into students classrooms is by launching my next unit on digital citizenship. The purpose of this unit is to teach students the basics of navigating the online world. I think that by doing this, students will be more prepared to use the devices, and teachers will be more willing to use them with the students. In thinking more about it, I want to do this in the fall next year, but this year it will happen in the spring. My idea is to have fourth graders split into groups of two and assign each of the 12 partnerships a topic (i.e. Cyberbullying, Internet Safety, Mindful Messaging, Copyright, Social Media, etc.). I will provide the students with relevant content on their subject (i.e. Private vs. Public Information), and students will use Book Creator to design presentations about their assigned topics. Presentations will be given to each class, and I will also choose groups to also present to third grade classes. Fourth graders will learn about digital citizenship, share their understanding with their classmates and other lower school students, how to use Book Creator, therefore it will be easy for teachers to use it with their students in their classroom (huge bonus). In addition, the Social Media group will have a slightly different task, as I will teach them about Twitter and have them be Social Media Interns, an idea I got from the ICE Conference (I met MAET’s Candace and Mary!) I will teach them about Twitter, tweets, hashtags, @username, and more. Then, they will use my iPad Tweet great things happening around the school. I will have them train other kids to do the same, as a way to share our school’s story!

I’ve learned a lot from prototyping. I’ve learned everything needs revamped, as nothing works exactly the way it was imagined at first. I’ve also learned resilience because even though I am excited about something doesn’t mean anyone else will be. Most importantly, I’ve learned not to give up and to keep heading back to the drawing board. I am determined to get technology flowing through classrooms! 🙂

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Brainstorm/Ideate/Reflect

Brainstorm Session

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For the brainstorming session, I started off working independently. Before I approached anyone for help, I wanted to make sure I had my thoughts gathered. In the below picture, the writing in purple and blue shows my thoughts. I started by jotting down the problem of practice (teacher’s are resistant to new technologies in their classrooms) and started a web of ideas I’ve had to solve this problem. From these stems, I also included potential problems.

After brainstorming alone, I met with a colleague and shared my brainstorm map. My colleague talked things through with me and offered suggestions (in pink). A few of the ideas she suggested were:

  • Hand pick classes to participate in the Lower School podcast
    • This will get kids into the computer lab and excited
  • Invite teachers from other schools to come in and share how they use technology in their classrooms
    • This would change the dynamic of “the new teacher trying to change things”
  • Present at grade level meetings
    • Since it is difficult to meet with everyone individually, it could help to talk to grade chairs and present new technologies at grade level meetings
  • Schedule weekly observations
    • Ask teachers to observe what’s going on in their rooms to build trust and relationships – help small groups; consider curricular integration ideas

Ideation Journal

I asked myself, “How can I get teachers excited about trying out new technology?” In the notebook I carry from class to class, I keep ideas for “Tech Tips” – these are blog posts I write. In addition, I added an Ideation Journal, to keep track of additional ideas for supporting teachers in learning new technologies.

Reflection

The route I chose for brainstorming was very helpful to me. It was good for me to start the process alone, to gather my thoughts. Doing so allowed me to really articulate potential problems when I met with my colleague.  From there, I began the iteration phase. Because my mind had already been pushed to think of ideas in the brainstorm phase, good ideas came more quickly. My favorite idea came from my principal, who suggested I invite a veteran colleague to attend a Design Thinking/MakersSpace conference with me this summer. We can bring the ideas back to the lower school team this fall, and they will hopefully be better-received, as they are coming from not only someone who is “new” but someone who has been here a while. Another idea I really like is presenting 5 minute Tech-Spirations at grade level meetings. I can give a brief highlight of something and hopefully spark interest. The last idea I really like is having a shared reading this summer. I will talk to my principal about this. If we are all sharing the experience of reading something together, the experience will not happen in isolation and will build momentum. With all of these new ideas, I would say that the design thinking process is certainly helping me think through ways to solve my problem of practice!

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Problem of Practice Struggles/Wonders

My Problem of Practice is how to support teachers who are resistant to using new technologies with their students. Targeted Professional Development is one of my key solutions. However, this does not come without other constraints. Some of my struggles and wonders are listed below.

Struggles/Wonders

  1. I personally think that certain professional development needs to be required. Shared experiences trump isolated experiences, as shared experiences build momentum. As a technology integrationist, I want to design PD that my colleagues will be asked to attend. However, when I have suggested this, it always comes back that it will have to be offered as an optional activity. It frustrates me because I do not want to spend hours planning PD, only to have the people who would benefit the most from it not show.
  2. In efforts to solve the above struggle, I’ve created a website with PD videos. I send new tech tips out every other week. However, what I find is that people get excited about the topic (I know this is a PRO!) but do not read the blog post or watch the video tutorials before contacting me for support.
  3. Something else that is tricky is managing being newer. Having only been at my current school for a year and a half, no matter how good my ideas are, sometimes they are not accepted. Teachers who have been at my school for a long time do not like “new people” trying to change things.

 

Post-Incubation

Addendum to “Struggles/Wonders – #2”: When teachers reach out to me for support, I could show them how to get to my website and watch the video tutorial together first. It would make me feel like the time and energy I put into creating the website tutorial was at least being put to good use. In addition, it would encourage teachers to use the website as a reference.

Incubation is, put very simply, taking time away from something when you get stuck (Stone, 2015). This can involve going for a walk, working on a hobby, or even sleeping. The purpose is to distract yourself from what was really causing you to struggle, and the hope is that after time away you will be refreshed and come back to the problem with new and creative solutions or ideas.

After spending some time looking at Redfin (I love house-hunting) and researching my upcoming vacation to Thailand, I definitely felt like my mind was a little clearer. 🙂 Although my struggles and wonders are still existent, I am better able to think through how to approach them. After some time away from it, I was able to think around how to tackle Struggle #2 and both support my colleagues and feel my time has been used wisely. As for #1, I may need to schedule a meeting with my principal. #3, likely, is just going to take time and intentional relationship-building. The incubation strategy is one that works well for me, though I do not take advantage of it as often as I should, because I am someone who strives to be efficient and get things done. To that end, sometimes I have to remind myself that struggling to think of an idea and getting frustrated wastes time and there is less efficient than taking some time away and coming back with a clear mind.

This is a great strategy to use with students during the Design Thinking Process, too. Before actually creating prototypes, students should be encouraged to reserach their ideas. interview people for more ideas, step away to incubate, and come back. It is likely that their prototypes will evolve before they even get started!

 

References:

Stone, J. (2015, January 21). The Creativity Hack You Can Do in Your Sleep. Retrieved February 27, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/clear-organized-and-motivated/201501/the-creativity-hack-you-can-do-in-your-sleep

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Part 2 ~ Defining the Problem of Practice

Problem Statement

Many teachers show resistance when it comes to using new technologies in their classrooms. There are two main root causes that contribute to this problem: teachers have overwhelming, busy schedules that do not lend to the self-learning of new technologies and the absence of required professional development that is both invigorating and high quality. It is my point of view that engaging, applicable, and informative professional development needs to be required of all teachers or they will remain complacent with their existing curriculum. To minimize the burden of required professional development, time needs to be made during the school day or professional development days for shared faculty learning experiences. Learning new technologies and their authentic applications in the classroom should not be an isolated experience. In order to increase momentum, teachers must brainstorm, dream, and envision the use of new technologies throughout the curriculum collaboratively.

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Part 1 – Defining the Problem of Practice

The 5 Whys ~ A Root-Cause Analysis

    • Why are many teachers resistant to using new technology in their classrooms?
      • They don’t know where to start.
    • Why don’t they know where to start?
      • They haven’t had enough training on new technologies.
    • Why haven’t they had enough training on new technologies?
      • They don’t have enough unused time.
    • Why don’t they have enough unused time?
      • They have very full schedules.
    • Why do they have very full schedules?
      • They have vertical team meetings, faculty meetings, grade level meetings, parent meetings, planning, reports, conferences, etc.

A Why-How Ladder

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Point of View Madlib

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