“It feels like this thing you’re making is yours.”


10.13.15

We often forget, as adults, how infrequently young people get the chance in school to pursue their idea, to build their thing. So it was inspiring to have the chance recently to return to Beavercreek and visit the new design labs and feel the excitement of students brainstorming and prototyping ideas and owning it. Catch the short video from our visit here.


In the 8th grade course, students were looking at how they could create a more welcoming school environment. One group showed us the relaxation lounge that would be next to the cafeteria, a more comfortable and cozy work environment than the rows of desks in study hall. A different group showed us how the app they brainstormed would help new students find their classes during the hectic first week of school.


In another class, students were thinking about how to re-design classrooms to improve learning. Stationary bikes with desks to raise heart rates and increase mental focus?  What about more engaging, hands-on activities that got students up and out of their seats?


One of the teachers, talking about her first month as a design thinking facilitator, laughed about how difficult it is to let go - to allow the students to make mistakes, or follow an idea that doesn’t seem promising. How it’s so tempting to jump in and steer them to a “better” idea. But it makes such a big difference to students.  I was talking with one of the students in that class. “Design Thinking is a different kind of thinking. Usually there’s a right and a wrong.” I asked him what it felt like to be in a class where there wasn’t a right and a wrong. “It feels like there’s a lot of paths you could go down, like this thing you’re making is yours.”

Galileo Innovation Camps is Coming To Chicago


10.13.15

After a successful expansion to LA last summer, Galileo Innovation Camps will be launching in Chicago this coming summer. Co-founder Tajali Horvat has re-located to the area and is building a team of camp directors. It’s an ideal position for teachers who want to be part of an amazing team and continue developing their facilitation skills in a really fun and rewarding setting. If you know someone who might be a good fit, please let us know and we’ll connect them with Tajali.

Shout Out to IDEO’s New Teacher’s Guild!


7.22.15

Experience Institute is excited to be one of The Teachers Guild’s first partners for their beta launch! The Teachers Guild is an online community for teachers daring to design new solutions for our students, schools, and the greater system. It’s run by IDEO’s Learning Studio and Riverdale Country School’s Delta Group.


Their goal is to bring together teachers to collaborate and solve 30 education challenges in three years. Using the design thinking process, teachers tackle their biggest questions, together. We’re honored and excited to begin collaborating in this new space!


If you'd like to join the community, visit www.teachersguild.org to sign up and start collaborating with other teachers!

Building Design Thinking Capacity in Kentucky


7.22.15

"To go fast, go alone; to go far, go together."  -- African Proverb


Since last fall, we’ve led six Intro to Design Thinking workshops through a Race to the Top grant in Kentucky focused on using DT to tackle organizational challenges. In April I led a two-day planning session with five local leaders from the grant to design a workshop to help teachers facilitate the process with their students.


Designing a workshop for teachers is something I could have done internally in less time, but their goal with this grant is to not only bring in K12 Design Thinking expertise, but to develop it among their own staff. Smart. It’s a goal lots of people say they have, but one that very few commit the necessary resources to accomplish.


Over the course of two days, we developed a better agenda than I would have created on my own - better because it was informed by their knowledge of local teachers and resources, and because it resulted in greater investment and know-how on their part.


A couple of weeks ago, we used that agenda to co-facilitate the new workshop for our first group of teachers. They left at the end of the day with concrete ideas to try out with their students this fall.


Photo: KY teachers prototyping a kiosk to improve the car maintenance experience.


Bringing DT to Science and Social Studies Classes in Beavercreek, OH


7.22.15

In May, Science and Social Studies teachers (who participated in our February Intro to Design Thinking workshop) had the chance to take their classes into newly completed design labs, and dive into activities we'd built for them.


One activity touched on the problem of plastics in the waste stream, and challenged students to develop viable products made from recycled plastic bags. When one student heard about the project, he got his parents to take him to the mall so he could collect plastic bags in a variety of colors. He then designed clothes for his sister’s barbie dolls.

Other students designed sandals, an apron, a prom dress, and a fantastic umbrella hat.



Question: "How do you assess design thinking?"


7.22.15

Every time I’ve run a workshop with teachers, someone asks a version of this question. Usually I've shared some of the various rubrics that we've developed or borrowed from others. But this week in a conversation with a teacher, I stepped back from the nuts and bolts of the question and approached it from the more general issue of how to create an environment where feedback and evaluation help learners improve the quality of their work. Ron Berger's book, An Ethic of Excellence, has long been an inspiration and guide in my own efforts to address that challenge, and the culture of critique he describes is, I think, critical to facilitating good design thinking.


What resources have you found helpful? And when you think about it personally (and not just in the context of design thinking), what evaluation tools or experiences have been most valuable to your own learning?


-Aaron

Question: Good Curriculum - How Much is Enough?


4.8.15

​When building curriculum, what's the right balance between providing enough for the teacher to be successful, and leaving things open so the teacher is structuring his/her own projects?


This is a question I've wrestled with for 10 years. My assumption is that the most empowering and long-lasting work I can do is to provide a framework and support that helps other teachers build their own projects. That's the ideal. 


That said, Design Thinking will most likely be completely new (except for our 3-day Intro workshop) for the Beavercreek Design Thinking elective teachers. They'll also be inheriting new design labs, labs that the district hopes other teachers and after-school programs will also utilize. The teachers will have to create and manage the systems that allow the labs to run smoothly. With so many new variables, it feels like we'll need to build toward the ideal, rather than start there. 


How did you learn to facilitate Design Thinking? How and when did you start to build your own projects? What was that process like? What were the most helpful supports to you along the way? 


-Aaron

Project Update: Building Towers, building Confidence, and Building capacity


4.8.15

Beavercreek, OH


What impact can you have on creative confidence in a 45-minute activity? We traveled to Beavercreek a couple times to run a Paper Towers worksop with students to let them know about the new Design Thinking elective courses that will be offered this fall. 


Me: "Nice job, ladies!"


Student on the left: "I can't believe this!"

Student on the right: "Yeah, we're cheerleaders! (as in "we're not supposed to be able to do this kind of thing well"). 

So many things I wanted to say in response to that, but I think the most powerful thing had already happened - they experienced their own success. 


The record for tallest freestanding tower over the 4 days went to a couple juniors. 112"  (15 sheets of copy paper and two feet of masking tape)


While they were building, one of the students came up to me and asked: "What do we do if our tower touches the ceiling?"


Me: "You can take it off the table and put it down on the floor."

Student: "Uhhh, it's already on the floor." 

Me: "(smiling) Awesome. Well in that case, take it out into the library, and keep going!" 

They did. 


In May, when construction on the design labs is complete, these teachers will be using the labs to pilot 3-day design-based activities with their Science and Social Studies classes. We're excited to see how those go!


Kentucky Race to the Top Project

We've been working with a handful of regional support staff, building their capacity to facilitate the design process with their teachers and school leaders. Next week we'll be working with that team to design a one-day Intro to DT workshop for teachers that they'll then co-facilitate with me in various sessions throughout the summer.  It's been exciting to effectively work ourselves out of a job on this project as we build local capacity. 


-Aaron

Story: Would they mutiny?


2.25.15

I know, firsthand, how disempowered teachers often feel. Despite the importance of their role, teachers have little say in how schools run, and grow accustomed to being told from above that they need to adopt this or that new strategy to be more effective. Would Design Thinking seem like just another “new thing” to the teachers we were working with in Beavercreek, and would that lead to resistance?


As we prepared for our first workshop, our team decided the best way to help the teachers become effective DT facilitators would be to throw them right into working with kids while we were there. So we planned to have the teachers go through the design process in the mornings, and turn around and teach it to students in the afternoons.


Ambitious....I know.


As 1pm on the first day approached, doubts flooded my mind. After only four hours of exposure to DT, were they prepared to teach it? Would they succeed? Was there enough trust and relational equity in the room?


When I began preparing them for their afternoon sessions, I noticed something amazing. They were on the edge of their seats. People quickly volunteered to handle various components of the afternoon, they actively read every word of the instructions, and then descended upon their classrooms like athletes taking the field.


I’m embarrassed to say that I’d forgotten how much good teachers know about engaging students. There was no mutiny. Together, we pushed one another and learned about facilitating a great design challenge.


Today, a chemistry teacher emailed me. She wrote about how her kids are designing their own labs this week. They are brainstorming the steps for the lab procedure on stickie notes, then meeting with a peer to put the steps in the right order and identify gaps. After this initial “prototyping and feedback,” they’ll formally write out their Procedure.


Beautiful.


-Aaron

Beavercreek, OH: Bringing Innovation Labs to Life


2.25.15

Last year, Beavercreek City Schools won a grant to build Innovation Labs in each of four middle and high school buildings and bring Design Thinking to the district. Our task: to make those Labs come to life and be true centers of creativity and innovation. We’re developing new curriculum (DT electives, as well as embedded DT activities in SCI and SS classes) and providing PD to teachers. We just launched this multi-year project with a 3-day Intro to DT workshop for 30 teachers.

Using DT as a School Innovation Process: Kentucky


2.25.15

Can learning Design Thinking help a school develop a culture of sustained innovation?  Can teachers use d.thinking to regularly identify and address challenges? In September, we started working with two educational cooperatives in KY that were awarded a Race to the Top Grant and asked us to join them in answering those questions.