Design Thinking in Schools: Relish Change

Less chocolate is a change I am struggling with, I love the stuff! But non-the-less I am actioning that change thanks to getting a bit more educated about the way my body works. Better education and understanding has helped me embrace change and see it for the longer term benefits and impact.

 

I have been Inspired to write after listening to Jamie Casap, a Googler, talk about change in education. A keynote address I delivered at a few technology conferences including in New Hampshire and Sweden was titled “Change, the only constant?”. I suggest education hasn’t changed that much over time and it be something we as teachers get used to? Jamie, speaking on a Google Hangout on Air with educators split change into two.

Desirable change vs undesirable change

This struck a chord with me. Of course we like change that we perceive to have inherent benefits and are dubious or even avoid change we believe doesn’t improve our lot or in fact makes things worse. Sometimes it takes time or more education for everyone to see a change for the good it can bring and consider it from other people’s perspective or beyond the initial upheaval. I advocate change when I leave my day-job as a maths teacher to train teachers in the use of technology for learning. Do I always manage to frame that change as desirable or beneficial? My feedback forms suggest so, however is this feedback from educators who are already excited by the change technology can bring. Moreover, why would you book yourself on to a course which you felt was not going to be beneficial? I didn’t give my language classes at school the chance when I was 14 and dropped them at the first opportunity. I regret that now. Selling change for its benefits is not an easy job.

 

Later this week I am delivering training to a whole school, which should ensure we get a full and varied range of attitudes and perceptions to the change I am supporting them with. Will they all see the change as beneficial? If the change is to be worthwhile and to be realised then it had better be solving a decent problem or come with a compelling story.

Design Thinking

Design thinking is about finding good problems to solve, problems inherently worth solving. It also focusses on the “user” and take ethnographic data and builds a story around people and how we can help solve their problems. For this reason I think design thinking has a worthwhile and permanent place in education, making curriculum and learning design student centred and personal.

Problem Finding

The school I am supporting with training needs to learn the tools, granted but they won’t use them if there is no purpose. Therefore I want to help them to find desirable change by finding some problems worth solving.

“Technology for Learning or #Edtech is at its most impactful when no-one mentions it.”

Me, just now

Change is not a problem if it is worth doing. If someone has a good problem to solve they are happy to work hard at it and they will find the right tools to make it happen. This is my ever-evolving approach to supporting teachers with technology for learning.

To start finding a problem worth solving try the 5 whys activity. Write down your vision and the challenges in the way of getting there. Find a colleague who is fairly straight talking and get them to ask to why…

5 Whys

You: My challenge is to get teachers using new technology

Friend: Why would they want to use new technology?

You: New technology can provide new learning experiences

Friend: Why are the current learning experiences not good enough?

You: They are… but technology could open them up a wider audience

Friend: Why don’t the teachers already see that opportunity you do?

You: Because they are not keeping track of new technology developments

Friend: Why are they not up to speed on technology that is available?

You: Because they are too busy!?

With a good 5 Whys session you might find yourself with a problem worth solving…

How might we give teachers time to learn about new developments in learning?

Reframing a change from “Here’s a new tool for you to learn” to “We are going to use these new tools to save you time and develop learning” might be the catalyst for teachers to relish change rather than fear it. That is my hope for my upcoming training. Thanks to Jamie for making me think about it that little but more.

Enjoy

What’s in your classroom: Potentially everything!

The Weald School in Billinghurst is not the obvious place to end up hearing from a History teacher sitting in the car park of a 7eleven in Missouri but it happened at #TMedtech a Teachmeet focussed on educational technology. Thanks to Andy Cooper, who previously connected his class with Rhett, we were treated to a hangout with the US History teacher who actively pursues experiences for his pupils beyond their own community. If they are studying Greece he will find someone in Greece to get on a smart phone and shown his class around. His class have arrived early before school for some of the hangouts he has organized. As Rhett said…

“Would your students come to school an hour early for your best lesson?”

Rhett Oldham, 2017

I have been showing Google’s Virtual Fieldtrips video for a few years now as it demonstrates the impact technology can have on learning with no significant outlay of cash. If you use the SAMR model it registers on the M or R.

My parents are here now, why not get them on a video call with your class?

I used to have a classblog for a year 9 maths class and through Quadblogging we connected with classes in Singapore, California and Melbourne. A child from one of these classes commented on our lesson and it gave us an idea we put on place the following lesson. Lesson feedback from thousands of mile away! Deputy Mitchell, who runs quadblogging is looking for secondary school classes to get involved. I should crank up the old blog at my current school.
Whether you are swamped in devices or have to beg, borrow and steal to get your students into a room with a working computer, connecting learning to the wider world and bringing experts into your classroom is getting more and more achievable.

If you want to engage with other classes around the world here are a few options you could use to get started.

If you would prefer to get your day to day learning out their for the wider world then start a class blog. I used WordPress for mine where one student wrote the content each lesson and I took the pictures on my phone. (No faces or second names was the rule I stuck to)

You need to see Dean Stokes’ keynote to know why I have a picture of my feet.

Edublogs provides the opportunity for every student to have a login but ensure only the teacher can publish and is based on WordPress so has the credentials of a ‘proper blog’.

Consider taking your class global this week.

Enjoy

Ben

What’s in your classroom: Is Google Classroom ready to take over?

Google Classroom, Google’s tool for managing, sharing and collaboration in your classroom, has had an important update in the last month. A teacher can now assign a task to specific students, something we can all do ‘in real life’ but teachers who have found Google Classroom to be a time-saving effective tool for sharing content and accessing work have been calling for this feature for some time. To see the other updates, including usage statistics in admin panel click here.

When I presented a Google Classroom session for the first time at an Appsevents summit it solved many problems for teachers who already used Google Drive with their classes but those using Edmodo, Hapara Teacher Dashboard, Moodle liked the interface and usability but when they asked if it:

  • Can share information with parents like show my homework
  • Sync with markbooks like…
  • Work on iOS and Android
  • Annotate student work like…

It didn’t, but it does now! What we have learnt is that the feedback button was worth pressing. Google’s team of project managers and developers read every piece of feedback and have aggregated the main requests to regularly improve the product based on user’s requests. If you appreciate being able to sort by first and last name, you’re welcome.

All the items I listed in my training slides that Classroom couldn’t do have consistently been crossed off. Third party tools have made Classroom even more effective, more and more of your favourite web tools and apps work seamlessly with Classroom. Here are a few of my own favourites:

  • Geogebra
  • Share to Classroom
  • Desmos (sort of)
  • Peardeck
  • Smartamp
  • Texthelp

More and more providers of educational tools are taking advantage of the API access to integrate their tools with Classroom so your favourite may be linked soon if it is not already. Check out the ones that do here.

For admins, some who eagerly await more integration with the tools teachers want to use, others who have used a lack of integration as a reason to deny teachers use of it, there are now ways to sync users, create classrooms for the whole school and monitor usage. Parents can get updates on assignments and a calendar is created for every class.

Chromebooks are getting android apps and a stylus to make it even easier for teachers to annotate work submitted, which for me leave one last request…

Google, please can you develop Google drawings to work seamlessly with touchscreen, stylus and interactive whiteboards?

Ben Rouse, 2017

For schools looking to harness technology for learning, can they really look much further than GSuite and Chromebooks?

Enjoy

Ben

Design Thinking in Schools: Shadow a Student

Empathy and understanding the ‘what is’ forms the essential starting point of innovation and underpins design thinking. So what better way to get started in schools than to shadow a student. Check out the shadow a student website, which is aiming to get school leaders living a day in the life of a student.

Sign up to commit to shadow a student and learn more about your school than a month of meetings would tell you.

Try using empathy mapping while you do it, add it to an ethnographic wall in your staffroom and encourage others to add too. Father data from conversations, informal chats and observations made while walking the school. You might be surprised what you find.

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What you find might be the problem worth solving that leads to innovation…

Enjoy

Ben

Design Thinking in Schools: Which personas are in your school?

Students are categorised by grades, level of need, progress from starting points and in some cases background or ethnicity. There are other categories some teachers might wish to use too. Could we use very different characteristics to provide the best learning opportunities for all children?


Clearly I am not busy enough being head of maths for 3 days a week and Technology for Learning lead across a Multi-Academy Trust for the other two days. To fill in the slack I signed up to an online course on Coursera. The course title is “Design Thinking for Innovation” which has content and cohort discussion over 5 weeks with an assessed reflection at the end.

Why Design Thinking?

Design thinking provides a methodology and toolset for developing innovation (innovation is something we can all produce) and I am keen to apply it where appropriate to the way we work in schools. One aspect of the ground work needed to create conditions for Innovation is to go deeper rather than wider to understand the situation in which you are operating.

Ewan McIntosh’s book “How to come up with great ideas (and actually make them happen)” is a great place to start your design thinking journey.

How would it work in schools?

An example for a school would be to consider putting the whole school excel sheet to one side and take time to conduct interviews with 10 to 15 students. The interview in Design Thinking needs to be conducted carefully, taking time to listen. The themes that come from a few deep interviews can provide more understanding of a problem than data from 100s of students.

Personas

The course is not education specific, in fact it is mostly business focussed. However, I have found relevance in most of the sessions. One in particular led me to write this post.

A case study showcased the Design Thinking used by a healthcare start-up who interviewed 20 ‘users’ to define the things that influence their health and well being. From this work the company developed a set of personas to encompass their users, including strategies to help each persona improve their health.

Consider if in schools we used design thinking to get an understanding of the personas of our students in order to develop strategies for each that help them become better learners? Leaders may also consider this for their staff as recruitment becomes tougher it is valuable to know what will keep your staff motivated and happy. These things won’t be the same for everyone!

design-thinking-personas-1
Would this be of use to teachers and staff in your school? 

 

If your school takes an approach like this please do share. I will be using this idea as my reflection assignment for the course.


Further Reading

Have a look into design thinking in education via the Teacher’s Guild.

Other books you may wish to consider are:

  • Designing for Growth: A Design Thinkers Guide for Managers by Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie
  • Edupreneur: Unleashing Teacher Led Innovation in Schools by Aaron Tait and Dave Faulkner

 

Enjoy

Ben

“That sounds a bit technical”; why do Ofsted rarely mention #edtech

The use of technology for learning in schools is inconsistent in my experience. Schools with a reputation for embedding technology effectively into teaching and learning are in short supply. Is this because…

  1. #edtech has no impact on progress?
  2. Training is not prioritised? See OECD report
  3. School are nervous to change the way they use technology as they fear Ofsted won’t like it?
  4. Curriculum needs to change to enable the best use of technology (a greater focus on projects, blended learning or flipped learning?)
  5. Ofsted inspectors don’t agree or know what best practice looks like?

As someone who works with schools and teachers on their use of technology to support learning I encounter some extremely competent, knowledgeable and capable professionals at their most vulnerable when technology and change are thrust upon them. 

Ofsted are working hard to dispell some myths around inspections.

Many school marking policies reference “books” rather than marking and feedback wherever it may occur. I am suggesting to schools working with cloud drives such as office365 or Google Drive that teacher-student interactions captured in Onenote or on a Google Doc can be shared with an ofsted@myschool.org account should they wish to showcase it to inspection teams in addition to their SDP or SEF ( ideally laden with comments and discussions of a truly working document).
This is a response I have heard to such an approach.

“That sounds a bit technical.”

For who? The school, or the Ofsted inspectors?

Are #edtech references infrequent in Ofsted reports because;

  • schools are nervous of going down this route as it is different?
  • we don’t think Ofsted inspectors have the technical nows to navigate a login and shared folders?
  • Ofsted inspectors don’t know what good #edtech for learning looks like so avoid mentioning it in reports?

In an entirely unscientific search I found an area for improvement for a good specialist college.

the use of technology to support and enhance students’ learning and progress is underdeveloped

Ofsted 2015 

If I were being flippant I could claim this suggests to be outstanding schools must use technology but we know this is not an appropriate conclusion. 

It is expanded on in the report. 

Managers should extend the use of technology to support and enhance teaching, learning and assessment by learning from the best practice in colleges, and training staff further in the most effective use of technology such as interactive smartboards and tablets.

Ofsted 2015

This would suggest they have tablets already.

I would love to hear from schools using technology for learning if you make any concessions for Ofsted or have had your use of technology identified as contributing to good or outstanding progress. Ofsted will not specifically reference a technique or apprpach, preferring to speak in general terms to avoid a mass rush to copy the approach. 

I would also love to hear from Ofsted inspectors (on or off the record) about your experience of technology use to support learning and progress.

If you are interested in a summary of technology references in Ofsted reports you should read this post which was written by Mike Cameron in response to a TES article about disruptive technology (causing disruption rather than the type referred to in the Innovator’s Dilemma). Mike has searched a range of reports for references to “tablets”, after the article claimed a report suggested 30% of schools opporate a bring your own device (BYOD) policy. If that many schools do try to engage technology in learning Ofsted reports would be picking up these are strengths or weaknesses? Once again your input would be welcomed as I explore what great #edtech is.

More and more schools are investing in technology and we must ensure this investment has a positve impact on the efficiency of teachers and the learning outcomes of students. Ofsted has a role to play in that and I would like to investigate a bit more.

Enjoy your new year,

Ben

Communicake – Immersion Interviews

We are reviewing how we communicate across the schools within our Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) using design thinking to get an understanding of the problems and in order to potentially come up with effective and innovative solutions to improve the communication across our growing MAT.

The project has begun with a project team taken from the central MAT team, comprising members of the HR, finance, IT support and Education teams that work with all of the schools in the MAT. Catch up on my previous reflections here.

Interviews

As part of the immersion phase of our design thinking project we have undertaken a series of interviews with staff across the wider MAT to improve our understanding of the effective communication that takes place and areas where communication can improve. This phase is also referred to as the empathise phase, so an interview, listening to people’s view on communication will help us get a deeper understanding of the themes that can lead to good or bad communication.

Today we began to review some of the interviews that have already taken place. Summary post-its were placed around three themes.

  • Effective Communication
  • Communication Problems
  • Suggestions

These are the three themes that appeared in every interview and is now on the wall in the communal coffee and tea area so the wider central team can peruse as the kettle boils and their tea bag stews.

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I was made aware that this process can feel messy at first. To an extent it has but I have been fortunate to work with a great team who have shown enthusiasm, trust and commitment to the project. A fellow teacher who has carried out this process herself has been kind enough to share some advice. She encouraged me to use interviews in a recent message:

“Interviews will bring out insights about the communication issues. The immersion phase takes some time and feels a bit messy at first. Everything will start to come together when you make the connections from interviews.”

Wise Design Thinker, 2016

How true this has proved to be… While we are not at a stage where we feel we understand enough about communication across our MAT to move to the problem finding or “Define” phase, we have moved forward and themes are beginning to surface that need a little more attention. With the post-it-laden sheets on display next to the tea and coffee we are looking to engage everyone in the project and get them thinking about communication.

Growing the project

In a few weeks time the central team from out MAT meet, as we do each term, and we have a communication project slot on the agenda. The project team want to share our progress, but we have avoided simply standing and speaking about what we have done. True to our design thinking process we are keen to take this opportunity to enhance the immersion phase and go deeper by gathering the input of the wider team. Currently we see this as two activities:

How might we…

A recurring theme is that the role and vision of the MAT is not clearly understood or communicated to staff in the schools. Hence our first task is to ask groups of three to carry out what is often the initial generative task of a design thinking process. Beginning from a statement, in our case; “How might we communicate the role a vision of our MAT to staff?” the statement is reviewed and redefined.

Through interview and scribe the groups will gather their thoughts on this, leading to a review of the themes generated in the interview. This will lead them to redefine the statement of their own. How might we…

  • …induct new staff to MAT schools
  • …share key information with MAT staff
  • …engage all staff with MAT values

We shall see what comes and it should provide the next deeper level of immersion before we move to define and synthesise in order to find good problems to solve.

Team reflections

So far there has been positive feedback for the systematic approach of the IT support team who log calls and have a clear process for communicating problems and updating staff of the progress and solutions. Hence we want each team at our meeting to gather to reflect on their own communication under the following themes:

  • What do we communicate well to staff?
  • Where can we communicate better?
  • What can we change

Each team can then have some suggestions to add to the wall next to the kettle!

I have taken pictures and videos of our deisgn thinking process so far, here is a little video that I will be sharing with the team.

During the discussion about how to utilise our time with the whole central team some one suggested that these kind of tasks would be good to implement with headteachers, school business managers and the staff when we gather together annually at our MAT conference. This was a very encouraging sign as it said to me that the design thinking process can begin to spread throughout the organisation. From the beginning this was my hope, as I believe this way of thinking and problem identifying and solving can have a positive impact on the way we work together.

There are glimmers of ideas that I want to suppress until we have completed the immersion but I am excited that the process is moving forward.

Exciting times…