design thinking

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

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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!

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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

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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…

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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

 

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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

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How might we… Evolve #Edtech

Without talking about tech?

After my enthusiastic and bold message to my boss during Ewan McIntosh’s keynote (thanks to lisibo for the reflections and great sketchnotes!) at Practical Pedagogies in Toulouse I have been preparing to meet with him to start making that dent.

My role is to embed technology in learning across the academy chain, however I am coming to the conclusion this is best achieved by not talking about the technology (or at least as little as possible). Conversations about learning, independent learning, sharing and collaboration have been more effective in moving the use of technology forward in an effective way.

Hence, if my colleagues are creating innovative ideas and looking to make them happen, technology that supports learning will follow.

“How might we raise the aspirations of our children?”

“How might we shared best practice across our schools?”

“How might we assess without levels?”

“How might we connect with other cultures?”

“How might we support our local community?”

These are learning based problems that can have a technology aspect in their solutions but technology is not the solution alone. I often refer to a former colleague who was/is a self-confessed “techno-phobe” and nervous of my #edtech role. However, one lunch in the canteen she idly mentioned whatsapp, which she was merrily using on her new iphone. The technology gave her no worries or concerns…. Why? Because it allowed her to view endless pictures of her beautiful granddaughter. It solved a problem and enhanced her experience of being a new grandmother.

The design thinking process seems to be an ideal tool for identifying problems and developing ideas so I want to try and begin to introduce it to my organisation.

IMG_20151029_224921Part of this process has been re-reading Ewan’s book “How to Come Up with Great Ideas… and actually make them happen”. It is a fascinating combination of Ewan’s experience and a journey through the design thinking process. The aspects I have picked up in particular are ideas about trying to move excellence out of individual classrooms, how meetings do not support innovation and looking to define problems, great problems that can lead to great ideas. I have used a lot of post-its, though this seems to be a big part of design thinking!

The key ideas I want to get across are:

  • Help us immerse in our schools and look at the details (avoiding doing what we have always done)
  • Valuing people and their ideas (design thinking gives us a way to get the best ideas from our colleagues)
  • Make our organisation innovative and focussed on learning (Make the big thing, The big thing)
  • Schools can remain individual and autonomous while having a common language for creating innovation across the academies (A key vision of our Multi-academy Trust, MAT)
  • Subtle was of getting everyone utilising technology effectively (Evolving Edtech maybe?)

It feels fuzzy but I am assured this is how all great ideas should feel at the beginning. However, fuzzy doesn’t always allow people to buy-in.

The practical things I am asking for are

  • A notebook for a team/teams to write a bug list and ideas wallet
  • A room to display the immersion of our core team in our schools
  • Lots of post-its
  • Permission to form a project team that represents out entire organisation

My next post may be my last if I cannot convey the impact I think design thinking could have on our organisation.

Watch this space

Ben

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Making a dent in more than a sofa

I spent my birthday in a French Bowling Alley with a group of educators in a retail park outside of Toulouse. If that wasn’t enough the highlight of my 35 years I also went minimally viral for sitting on a squidgy sofa. I also got my phone out during a keynote address to send an email to the CEO of my Multi-Academy Trust. These are a few of the events of a pivotal couple of days in my career…

The official event was Practical Pedagogies organised by Russell Tarr from International School of Toulouse. This is an event based wgich started as an in-house professional development project that grew and grew to an international gathering of educators to share ideas and spend some quality time learning and developing our practice. I was made aware of it by Cindy Crannell, who lead a session with Mark Stillitoe (he took the sofa picture), and applied to do a session about Marking and Feedback as it was an idea I had been developing that I wanted to try out. I shared a selection of Marking and Feedback techniques that I have used that do not involve pen and paper. Hence the slightly provocative title “Marking and Feedback without coloured pens”. My session was accepted and my schools approved a couple of days in Toulouse.

My session aside the event was a triumph and Russell should be very proud of the positive impact it will have on a range of schools and classrooms Europe wide and probably beyond. Thanks to Miles Berry I have a huge amount to take back to the computing curriculum forum I facilitate across a number of Primary Schools.

If the sessions throughout the two days were not enough the keynote speaker was Ewan McIntosh. His company Notosh has some impressive credentials, working with a range of schools and companies to drive positive change using Design Thinking. Since joining twitter and following Tom Barrett, one of Ewan’s colleagues at Notosh, I have been intrigued by Notosh and their apparent clarity of vision which enables them to deliver in a variety of scenarios.

Ewan referred to Steve Job’s quote of about putting a dent in the universe and soon after that I put a rather large dent in a sofa. I shall resist mixed and laboured metaphors but simply say Ewan had me hooked and I am determined to utilise Design Thinking within my own organisation to gain increased clarity on my aim to embed technology in learning across our Multi-Academy Trust.

“We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?”

— Steve Jobs

In Ewan’s closing session (I was not the only person welling up during the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra) he asked us all to make the big thing, the big thing and decide on what our objective would be and the strategy and tactics to achieve it. The tweet I created at the time is below.

I have adapted it and will probably continue to do so..

Objective:

Embed technology in outstanding learning across my Mutli-Academy Trust

Strategies:

Ensure a robust and appropriate infrastructure for each school that they can rely on. Build confidence in all staff to be aware of opportunities to enhance learning with technology.

Tactics:

Design Thinking Design thinking is a process that Notosh use in all their work to help organisations identify problems and create ideas and prototype solutions. I have been threatening to use this for a while and Ewan’s keynote was the reminder I needed to get on with it. This blog post and subsequent ones are my reflections of this process which starts now. Check back in to find out how we get on on the journey from making a dent in a sofa to making a dent in the universe…

If you would like to see everyone else’s objectives, strategies and tactics click here. Thanks to Dave Stacey for compiling them via storify.

Enjoy

Ben