Thursday, 28 September 2017

#Project Flip: : Fostering an Innovator Mindset by Using Design Thinking with students

Over the last year, I have had the privilege of going through some design thinking exercises.  Last summer I read A.J. Juliani and John Spencer's LaunchUsing Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student.  Last fall my team at work and I explored the dSchool at Stanford's design virtual crash course in design thinking.  This past summer, I attended the Google for Education Certified Innovator Academy (#WDC17!!) and the amazing Les McBeth took us through Future Design School's design thinking process.  After each of these experiences, I knew Design Thinking had a place in education.

For those not familiar with Design Thinking, it is a way to make the design process more accessible.  It is HUMAN CENTERED INNOVATION.  Design Thinking is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems, and find desirable solutions for clients. ... Design Thinking draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning, to explore possibilities of what could be—and to create desired outcomes that benefit the end user (the customer).


It is a a phenomenal opportunity to cultivate an innovator's mindset in students, allowing for them to take control of idea creation and activity execution.

At the end of the summer, I was talk to my colleague Stephanie Signer about plans she had for her 5th grade class this school year.  We talked about using Flipgrid in activities to capture student voice.  In that conversation, she brought up concerns that she would be teaching in a portable and wondered about how noise levels would affect video quality since she would not be able to send people outside the class in the rain or during the cold Canadian winters.
I immediately realised that Design Thinking could be used if (and when) the problem arose.  We discussed how we would turn the task of finding a solution over to the student.  Then, sure enough, after their experience with Flipgrid, Steph called me.  The students had love the activity and the tool, but they we annoyed quickly with the noise level in the classroom.  And so she told them it would be up to them to conquer this challenge.

On a crisp September morning, I went to visit Ms Signer's gr. 5s in their portable.  We had landed on a hybrid of models to run the sprint, but stuck with the language that Spencer and Juliani used in Launch as it seemed the most student friendly to us.

Spencer & Juliani's Launch Cycle

Importance: Allows designers to identify the problem.

We began our morning really thinking about the problem they faced.  Stephanie has made a video montage from their videos showing instances of poor noise quality, bad lighting, and even other students photo bombing videos. The class had a discussion about how these issues affected their learning.  They talked a lot about being distracted. 

Importance: Helps designers empathize with users, understand the context of the situation, and allows designers to see the problems from the user's lens.

Success Criteria
After this discussion they had more clarity and realised that many of them faced the same problems.  We explained that they were going to have to come up with a solution to these problems.  To be sure their solutions were addressing all aspects of the problem, Stephanie co-created some success criteria with the class.

Based on the criteria they created, we moved on to think about how we could solve the problems they were facing.  We put whiteboards at each table and asked them to list as many ideas they could think of - no matter how big or small.
Part way through the activity we had all the students move to another table and asked them to build on ideas that were there and add new ones that may have been inspired by what they read.  When they finished we asked students to share solutions they found interesting, impossible, or silly.

One of the suggestions we saw, based on the video from the beginning of class was to have Tiffany yell at people to be quiet.  Of course this was not a plausible solution since Tiffany would miss out on other learning.  We did explain that sometimes good ideas come from bad ideas.  We watched the Bad Idea Factory videos shared by Kevin Brookhouser and his students with particular focus on Denny - whose idea of spending a month in a wheelchair led to more accessibility on the school's campus.  We also read Ashley Spires's The Most Magnificent Thing to show how sometimes we need to walk away for a minute to gain fresh insight. After creating a list of bad ideas to meet our success criteria (and sharing via a paper snowball fight) we moved on to the next part of the cycle...

Importance: Gives the opportunity to come up with many solutions (there is not "right" solution) based on conversations with the user.

In order to come up with some fast ideas, we walked the kids through a process called rapid ideation (sometimes this is called an 8 fold activity).  In this activity students fold a piece of paper into 8 sections and have to come up with one idea, or build on a previous idea, in each of the boxes. A timer is started and students have 45 seconds to put an idea into the box before they move on to the next.  A number of students said it was a tough activity but they were all very surprised at how many ideas they generated in 5 minutes.

The 8 fold
Kill Your Darlings
After the rapid ideation we asked that they take a sheet of paper and sketch and label their favorite idea. These were posted (nameless) around the class for a walkabout activity we called “Kill Your Darlings”. In this exercise, students were given Post-it notes and they walked around the room pointing out obstacles the idea would have to conquer or pitfalls that would be faced should the idea launch. We made sure students did not write their names on the sketches so that there was no bias in feedback.

At this point the students went for recess and Stephanie quickly made groups. These groups would become teams that would work on a prototype for the flipgrid area. Once the students returned to class, they got into their groups and shared their ideas. Together, they had to pick one idea or amalgamate a few ideas into a singular idea that would become their focus.

I had to leave to go support another school, so we created a Flipgrid in which groups did an initial pitch to me that I could watch later that night.  In their pitch they explained their idea and how they thought it would meet the success criteria they had co-created earlier.  (These videos are super cute but for privacy reasons I cannot share them here.)

Stephanie and the students continued some work on #ProjectFlip including a discussion about the learning pit and watching a short video about famous failures. We really wanted the students to realize that this experience is as much about the process as it is the final product. they also discussed how failure is often not a bad thing but simply a step in the iteration process.  Stephanie also explained what a prototype is and together they created a word bank for effective Google searches to help them search for ideas in their prototype creation.

So now, a week later, I look forward to hearing about how the students are progressing. We have a second Flipgrid topic where in students can pose questions to me as they work on building their prototype.  I will be touching base with them sometime this week 2 let them know that it will not only be me and their principal who will see their prototype pitch but also a couple of Flipgrid employees - it is all about authenticity!

There are two more parts to the cycle that I will highlight in a future blog post:

Importance: Allows designers gain rapid feedback from users to allow for improvement.

On October 11th I will be joining the class via Google Hangouts and they are going to do a little dress rehearsal for me with their pitch. They will also have some time to try out prototypes that other groups have created to get and give some feedback.

(See my follow up blog)

Importance: Allows opportunity to continuously improve a product or experience.  There is no "end game".

October 18th will be pitch day. The school principal, Adam from Flipgrid, and I will see the fruits of the students' labour. I can't wait!

Stay tuned!  #MoreSoon as we say in the #WDC17 family.

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