It’s not rocket science! Learn about Space from the experts

Last year two primary school classes in our multi-academy trust submitted questions to astronomical experts related to the Juno mission to Jupiter, which has sent back new and exciting information about the giant planet and its moons.

The excitement for our children was that their questions were answered live on a Google hangout on air by the experts as they watched from their classrooms. Spacelink are offering this opportunity again and it is all free. Check out the hangouts coming up via the link and register your interest to get your class involved.

What we did:

I created a Google document to share with the classes, once they had their class discussions and lessons to investigate the topic they added their questions to the collaborative document and I was able to simply send the document link to the organisers and they had them ready to go during the live hangout, which you can watch above.

At the end of the live hangout the children cheered! Real impactful #edtech should provide an opportunity for learning that wasn’t feasible before. Our teachers found the tech was easy and the learning was inspirational.

Enjoy

 

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…

Comminucake – Immersion

Our design thinking project, focussed on how we communicate across our 16 school Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) has begun… with a scheduled meeting!

“Meetings of peers sitting around a table rarely lead to collaborative actions towards solving a problem.”

Ewan McIntosh – How to come up with great ideas, 2014.

Indeed, not everyone could make it despite the enticing title “Communicake”; because where do we communicate best… over cake! Not that I am making conclusions at this early stage of the design thinking process, of course.

Project Team

A project team, consisting of at least one representative from each department of the central team, met two weeks ago to begin immersing ourselves in communication. Each team member received a notebook for them to record ideas and bugs related to communication. These observations will be key to the immersion phase as we gather a detailed collection of how communication currently works in our organisation. Not, how we think it works, or how it should work but how it does work day to day.

Immersion Tools

The tools for the immersion will be:

  • Notebooks – Ideas wallet and bugs list
  • Communicake board – Pin board by the coffee and cakes in our office
  • Interviews – It is vital we speak to as many employees across our MAT as possible

First Meeting

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The conversation was productive at beginning to consider the wide scope of communication. Some key questions emerged in-between preferences for face to face over electronic tools for communication. The questions were:

  • How many emails are sent across our organisation everyday?
  • How do private company central offices work?
  • Has every member of the MAT central team visited every school?
  • How many schools have a busy staffroom?
  • Where is our staffroom (one was created the day after)
  • Which schools consider themselves as being “good” at communication?

I have to admit to feeling I had not done a good job of facilitating the beginning of this design thinking process. I am fortunate to have some excellent colleagues who pushed the conversation forward and quickly picked up on the concept of design thinking from my brief description. However, over the week following our project getting started people are highlighting poor or good communication where it may have been overlooked before. For instance, someone has been asked to look at decorating our new office and we ended up discussing whether we should consider communication before deciding what goes on the walls. Hence the person given the task of purchasing decorations is joining us for the next gathering (can’t being myself to call it a meeting). Maybe this design thinking is as effective as I have read?

Next…

  • Review Ideas and Bugs
  • Identify next level of detail required in immersion
  • Interview techniques and tools

 

Making a Dent – The Project Team

After an inspirational two days in Toulouse and a desire to implement lasting change in my organisation, I have been given the support and permission to start a design thinking process for how we communicate across our Multi-Academy Trust (MAT).

As our MAT grows towards 20 schools we will need to be able to communicate effectively across all schools and via the central team that I work in. It feels like just adding more email accounts would not be the solution, so what is? Far be it for me to answer that question, we have many talented people across our organisation so I hope to facilitate their ideas through a design thinking process.

Create the project team

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We need to create a project team who will begin this journey that I hope will embed across the entire MAT. It needs to be:

  • Representative of the entire organisation
  • Keen to be part of a process of innovation

The team will need to understand that their daily job descriptions are left at the door for this process

“Innovation does not respect departmental boundaries” McIntosh, Ewan. How to Come Up with Great Ideas. Edinburgh: NoTosh, 2014. Print.

I was going to send an email but my CEO made an astute observation and suggestion. If we are looking for innovative ways to communicate effectively then maybe the recruitment should be communicated in an interesting way… tous chez!

Lets design think this with 100 ideas in 10 minutes:

  1. email with a long explanation of the project
  2. email a video of me talking about the project
  3. email a poster about the project
  4. put up a poster in the office
  5. fly a plane with a banner over the school
  6. have a treasure hunt and project team is the ones who complete it first
  7. send a word by email each day to show poor communication
  8. create a video via a QR code
  9. send everyone a copy of Ewan’s book with a note inside
  10. pin up paper with little tear off slips like you had a uni to get a room-mate
  11. Have a person with a “golf sale” sign while I sit in an office waiting for people to come and have a look
  12. buy advertising on TV during Gogglebox
  13. create a radio advert to broadcast
  14. set off the fire alarm and stand in the playground with a loud-hailer to inform everyone of the project
  15. send a survey where people assess which role they fulfil in a team, then pick the right mixture.
  16. Put numbers underneath everyone’s desk and randomly select people to join the team
  17. Set off carrier pigeons from Cornwall with a message inviting colleagues to join the team
  18. Use the force to make them want to join the team “this is not the method of communication you are looking for”
  19. Offer cake and tea in a meeting room and then announce my project
  20. Send a Google form around where people can
    1. watch a video
    2. identify their role in a team
    3. express an interest in getting involved
  21. Have a meeting (you can tell I am running out of ideas…and ten minutes is up!)

I have demonstrated why one needs a project team to power the ideas along and lead to innovative change. Now to get one…

After various attempts at making a video, animated gifs and other media I decided that we all communicate best over an impromptu piece of cake. Consequently I am going to lay on cake and that will lure people to my invitation to get involved:

Communication Flyer
The actual link is not included, just in case you all wanted to join the team.

First question… Why do we need to communicate any differently?

Enjoy

B Rouse