Design Thinking – Wrap-up

We finished up by teaching 11 workshops based on Design Thinking (the IDEO way) to around 225 second year Werklund students and Tammy and I have a few takeaways from the experience.

  1. The sooner the better.  If we could teach “The Three Little Pigs” design thinking scenario to every student in the second year program during the first week of classes in January, everyone would benefit.  There comes a time in the third week where students have already looked at the 5 possibilities (Design Thinking, Discipline-Based Inquiry, Project-Based, Understanding by Design and Universal Design for Learning) to solve their problem of practice where our workshop is really too late.
  2. No matter how much time you give, students want more.  In this case, we actually had students prototype an advertising “pitch” for a product or program that would solve “The Three Little Pigs” scenario.  Last year our feedback was that students wanted to prototype.  We allowed time this year for prototyping and presenting (testing) and then used Today’s Meet to collect feedback from the other students in the class.  Because of time limits, feedback was not rich with information to give groups ideas to change or rationalize why not to change their product or pitch.  Students still felt we did not allow them enough time to digest the feedback.
  3. Instructors in the program should know what they are getting into.  We should have clear information about the workshop we offer since we are now considered to be “the experts” on staff for Design Thinking.  We tried to get students to come independently to the workshop in time away from class time.  We had very little buy-in for students doing the workshop without their classmates.  Given that students want to only come with their class, please see #1.

And we are already talking about changes we would make for next January.  I still think that Design Thinking, the process and the workshop, are valuable tools to give students in Werklund School of Education.  We would love to have a whole day, in the first week of January, with instructors and students to walk everyone through the process fully and completely but we are managing to give a good experience to those who sign up early and immerse themselves in the workshop.

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Coding – Where Do I Start?

 

Well I actually know where I started coding and it was the Daisy the Dinosaur App. Although I know that I should be ashamed to say it, I’m not. For my age, I think any kind of coding is a bonus. Something I never, ever thought I would be learning and, yet, here I am.

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And, because the focus in the Doucette Library is to take this educational technology out to the K-12 environment, I think walking the walk and talking the talk is where it is at.

Moving forward was a tougher decision. Everywhere I looked there seemed to be options to learn coding at the next level. Python seemed a bit of a stretch, like speaking Greek before learning Greek. Thanks to a couple of robots, though, my decision became more evident. Ozobot and Dash and Dot both use Blockly (and there is also a Blockly Jr.) So I learned some great terms like looping and moving of robots with simpler click and drag commands.

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Alas, there are larger programming needs on my horizon. For the wearable workshop that we are working on, I would like to, also, invest some time with Scratch. This language also calls upon the click and drag method to watch what happens and that suits me fine.

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My experience with Arduino taught me that I was trying to gallop before I knew how to walk. Much of the coding for arduinos is open source but I am not yet able to predict what the outcome of downloading much of the code will be or how to make minor changes to affect the downloaded code. And, yet, I keep at it, learning step-by-step. I also know that I am not an intuitive coder.

I’ve collected a few good websites, apps and resources to help you begin to bring coding into your classroom or to try something to connect with other coders out there in the world. Take a look here to see where to start.

Design Thinking – “The Teacher as Designer”

We often hear this statement during or before any of the workshops we run about design thinking.  Although this phrase appears in 2010 in an article entitled, “The Teacher as Designer: Pedagogy in the New Media Age,” by Mary Kalantizis, Bill Cope, referring to the process of Learning by Design, we use the more general description in our design thinking workshops.

The teacher as designer refers to every educator who designs a classroom, a lesson, a unit, a project, a school environment, a school atmosphere and/or professional development workshops for colleagues.

The design thinking workshops we offer have students work through the d.school five-step program using the “Three Little Pigs” story as an anchor.  This use of the design thinking process is not the only way we see this technique being used by teachers.

Using it to break your students into groups in your class and work through a potential solution to a problem is just one way the process is used in education.  It does reach all the current “c’s” of the modern classroom: collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication. It also provides an opportunity for students to practice many so-called “soft skills” as well.

In the secondary stream of our program, we often get feedback about the process not being conducive to the delivery of curriculum content in their grade level.  Lesson and unit design can be developed using the five steps of design thinking.  Starting with the empathy stage where a teacher looks at the lesson from the student’s point of view may be quite eye opening.  Effective lesson and unit development can be completed using the design thinking process.

There may be school wide problems that are presented by other teachers or administration that can be solved using the design thinking process.

 

Each individual school has its own priorities and culture that is set by the administration, often taking into account staff and students ideas.  As administration creates a certain identity for a school, staff may be engaged in the design thinking process to bring these ideas to life.  Say, for example, a school seeks to be an integral part of the community in which it is situated.  Connections with the community can be fostered through various means and the ideas may come from an design thinking session that features the empathy and definition stages.  Moving towards ideation makes the collected research from these stages result in effective community connection for the school as a whole.  Having many great ideas that don’t fit the needs of the community won’t engage staff and students like something that meets the needs of the surrounding area and makes an positive impact in the community.

In these three separate areas of teaching, teachers can take up the d.school, five step process and introduce design thinking into their school.

Design Thinking 2.0 – Interview with a consultant?

We have had some very successful workshops in the first week of working with the second year students from Werklund School of Education.  We had both elementary and secondary classes working through the famous “Three Little Pigs” design thinking scenario with mixed results although most students came up with a convincing pitch to share with the class.  From the “Cattlepult” to a “wonderful community where pigs and wolves live in harmony,” pitches for a “solution” to the pigs versus wolves problem abound.

Our final workshop on Friday afternoon offered us the least number of comments in the definition phase.  We couldn’t cluster ideas or look for outliers.  We were left with very few ideas to talk about or work through to a solution stage.  Perhaps, students weren’t engaged enough to give back any evidence collected in the empathy phase but it was difficult to maintain any momentum through ideation, prototyping and the testing loop.

So here is the change we made to help with the definition stage.  We backed up to the Empathy phase and instead of having pigs and wolves empathize with each other, we introduced two “consultants” into each group to ask questions and gather information from wolves or pigs.  Each consultant was provided with a package of documentation containing some basic information about the pigs and the wolves that could prompt some entry points to begin to gather information.

This morning we worked through a class incorporating this change.  We did get many more ideas to write up on the board for our definition stage and some great statements to anchor the ideation and prototypes.  And, we gathered statements from each one of the four groups.  We will try this approach again on Tuesday.

The ironic feedback we received on just one form was “…if the student switch roles. …can have a better understanding of different roles.”

We will work with the consultant model for now but we will keep an open mind depending on more feedback that will come with future workshops.

 

Design Thinking 2.0

Did I mention that it is January again and for us at the Doucette Library, that means Design Thinking?  The second year Education course, EDUC 546, is looking a little different this year, widening it’s scope to include Universal Design for Learning, Project-Based Learning, Understanding by Design, Discipline-Based Inquiry, and the Design Thinking from IDEO and Stanford.

Tammy and I will be, again, contributing to the learning by holding a number of workshops for the EDUC 546 classes following last year’s model based on the Three Little Pigs.  Ah, but this year we have an extra few minutes in which to add PROTOTYPING!  We will be adding the final two steps in the Design Thinking process, prototyping and feedback/re-test into the Three Little Pigs scenario in a way that fits into our new time constraint.

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In this iteration of the workshop, we will be asking students to ideate using chart paper divided into 4 sections.  We are hoping that students will come up with at least 2 different, viable ideas within the sections of paper.  They will find that the more ideas you have, the better outcome you will have.

For prototyping, we are asking them to take one of the ideas to prototype but not as an actual artifact.  Students will be coming up with a pitch or a way to advertise their chosen artifact.  It is an interesting way to have each group present an idea and sway the rest of the class to think about their solution.

Feedback will be given by other students in the class though the website, TodaysMeet in a “room” for each workshop we are giving.  A few minutes will be available for them to look over the feedback received in this fashion.  Critique comments will answer questions like, “how well does the prototype solve the problem as stated in the defining question,” and “how effective is the pitch?”

We are still asking for feedback about our workshop.  It helps to change what is happening in the Design Thinking teaching here at the Doucette.  So stay tuned, iterations are happening.

 

It’s January – Stop Procrastinating!

App for January

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30/30 App by Binary Hammer

Cost: Free

Version: 2.1.7

Size: 19.0 MB

In-App Purchases

Do you, or the students you work with, have focus issues?  Do you find it hard to complete or substantially take a bite out of a task at one sitting?  This app is for you.  It takes the guess work out of how much time you have to spend on a task and how often you should be checking your phone.  It was recently reported that the average person looks at their phone 115 times a day.  How does anyone get anything done?

And it is not just checking a smartphone that takes attention away from the task at hand.  It would seem society at large is determined to interrupt you often enough to seriously change how focused you can be.

Here is an app that can help with keeping you or your students on task for a stated amount of time.  Use that smartphone to outsmart the interrupters.

“The app allows you to pre-set a list of tasks and allocate the length of time that you want to spend on each activity. The app makes a sound when it is time to move on to the next task. But most impressive about this app is the visual component. You can color code each task, watch the timer count down, and see the list of tasks coming up next.” Jennifer Sullivan and Ron Samul, eSchoolNews, December 6, 2017

All true and waiting for you to download for free.  You can use all the features effectively without any of the in-app purchases.

Hmmm.  I wonder if this would work for my backlog of work.  I seem to remember a saying  about an old dog and a new trick.

 

 

Making in Calgary (and on campus)

We are 18 years into this new century.  Eighteen years.  Students born in this century will be on campus this year.  It is time to embrace the new learning environments that have presented themselves this century.

There are many new spaces to create learning opportunities here in the city.  Learning has never been restricted to the classroom but there are some amazing opportunities out there for some unconventional discovery, design and creativity.

Many makerspaces are now accessible here in Calgary.  Try to visit one a month or a couple on a weekend to investigate which one can help you express that creativity that is bursting to get out.

Protospace has been around for a while and welcomes newcomers every Tuesday evening to look around and see if the space and the peer group fits your needs.

Fuse33 is the newest space in Calgary and you can arrange to go and see it.  It is a bright working space that offers everything from woodworking to sewing in a bright building in the South East area of Calgary.

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The Calgary MakerSpace has plans for an incredible space that will be accessible by many.  Follow their progress on their site.

And last but not least, the newly opened Lab NEXT  here at the University of Calgary.  “Lab NEXT features a makerspace, bookable collaboration rooms, open collaboration space, and high performance computers.”  Also in the space are various 3D printers, Cricut machine and scanners. Workshops are being run during Block Week and into January to familiarize staff and students with the space and resources available on a bookable or drop in basis.

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Lab NEXT not only features state-of-the-art equipment, it also has staff to help you with various questions you may have about your research technology.  It is a very handy place to have on campus for the use of staff and students. It is located on the 3rd floor of the TFDL.  Visit the site and go over to check it out.

 

Does a MakerSpace have to be a Space?

Many schools (elementary, secondary and post-secondary) are including a MakerSpace in their square footage.  People are reconfiguring spaces, libraries, learning commons, classrooms and basement rooms to include a MakerSpace.  People are using grant money, parent council money, and other kinds of budgets to make this happen but I’m asking, does a makerspace have to be a space?

I mean it is nice if students have a dedicated space to do their making, designing and hands on learning but the space is not as crucial to making as the mindset.

Students and teachers may have a dedicated space to make with many fine kits and equipment but if the making is done as a “special” or unusual activity that must be booked and scheduled in, I feel students would not have the kind of making experience I envision.

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Having a maker mindset that permeates a classroom with opportunities to try inventions and ideas out during the natural flow of learning creates an atmosphere where making is not a planned or scheduled event but an everyday occurrence.

The opportunity to embed this type of hands-on learning into each and every classroom suggests that the separate space idea may be just a short term measure to include making in schools.  Teachers may move making directly into their classrooms as a way for students to express the outcomes of their learning in ways other than paper and pen or digital documents.

It’s great to have a MakerSpace but even better to have a maker mindset in every classroom for students who are tackling real world problems to be able to create many types of physical solutions as they continue to ponder solutions and learn original ways to problem solve creatively.

Speak Mohawk and Tsuut’ina Apps

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An article in the Huffington Post (Canada) led me to investigate the Speak Mohawk app for Apple iPads and iPhones.  The Six Nations Polytechnic launched the app to further protect and teach a language that is in danger of being lost. Statistics are showing about 2,350 people in Ontario and Quebec knowing the language.  Speak Mohawk has broken down words and phrases into 42 categories including “Days of the Week” and “Feelings” for easy access.

Now I realize Mohawk would not be a language that would be picked up in Alberta to any large degree but by accessing the information about Speak Mohawk, it led me to a app developer called Thornton Media, Inc.   that designs a variety of  indigenous language apps.

The Tsuut’ina people, who live west of Calgary, have also developed an app to preserve their language and this one may be of more interest.  Teachers may have students in their classrooms who are learning the Tsuut’ina language at home.

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This app would be a great way to have students in your classroom learn more about the root language and culture.  It is a free app that can be added to iPads or other tablets easily and referenced by students from this culture and other interested students.

It seems that young people in schools and post-secondary settings are expressing an interest in keeping these languages alive and finding a digital way to preserve the language and culture from these communities.  It is a good start.

 

Hour of Code – 2017

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How about spending an hour with your class coding during your practicum?  The Hour of Code for 2017  is set to go the week of December 4th to the 10th to align with Computer Science Education Week.

A quick introduction to coding is a great way to appeal to students and have them learn logic and the step-by-step process that leads to great coding. Laying a foundation of skills needed to code can be done using games like Robot Turtles  or an app like Daisy the Dinosaur.

Do you need to know how to code? No not really.  You need to have a general knowledge of the outcomes that you see for your students.  You will want them to have an awareness of coding, what it looks like, the cause and effect of click and drop coding like SCRATCH and SCRATCH Jr.  Overall, you will want them to have a positive experience getting to know how the computer “knows” how to do things.

Of course, the Doucette Library has your back on this one.  Visit the Research Guide about Coding in the Classroom to find links and resources to help you out.

No tech in your classroom?  Start with a simple writing exercise.  Challenge your students to write down all the steps it takes to do something.   Or build low tech robots and have students record individual movements needed to make the robot walk.

Look to include coding in your classroom as you head out on practicum. Many students and your peers will be happy that you did.