Design Thinking Workshops: WAB & ICS Addis

IMG_5249Western Academy of Beijing

Following on from our trip to #beyondlaptops, Rachella and I offered to share our Design Thinking (DT) experience with our faculty. Ray Gentleman, MYP Design, was also keen to be part of the process as he is also a supporter of the DT ideas from the With help from a few others, namely our PYP coordinator Angela Meike and  ES Teacher-librariran John Byrne, we organise a session for the entire WAB faculty (approximately 200 people).

The materials from the’s Virtual Crash Course are available to share and re-mix and that’s exactly what we did. Here’s some of the changes we made to personalise for our school:IMG_5252

  1. We took the Gift Giving challenge as the basis of our challenge and tweaked it for our audience. Firstly, we wanted to make some concrete links back to the classroom, so participants were given the option to share and explore either a personal problem, such as re-thinking their last gift-giving experience or to explore a school-related problem, from ‘How do we re-think our classroom spaces’ to ‘How can we be more collaborative in the classroom’.
  2. We decided that the hands-on rapid prototyping wIMG_5248as essential, even if the solution was an action plan. This allowed our participants to become really creative in their approach to demonstrate and communicate their solution to their partner. The idea is to put the prototype into the hands of the person you are creating the solution for and then observe how they interactive with the prototype in order to learn more about the solution: what worked, what didn’t work, what ideas you now have and what changes you would make for the next prototype. In addition, it allowed each partner to ‘gift’ their solution at the end of the session as a souvenir of the experience to display in their classrooms or workspaces.
  3. Finally, bringing it home was important. How does this experience link with our goals and IMG_5259 curriculum? As this year’s focus is on inquiry, the link was clear. In addition, we mapped the stages of the process to the Approaches to Learning and the IB Learner Profile. For example, the IDEATE stage, the ATL s identified were creative thinking, communication, reflection and critical thinking and the IB Learner profile attributes identified were communicator, open-minded, principled and caring. We thank Andrew Mayle for exploring these links here.

Each time I run this workshop, I gain a deeper understanding of the DT process and continue to gather ideas that can translate into our classrooms. For example, I have adapted the ideate stage for my IBDP ITGS Grade 12 students. When we are trying to respond to a complex question, for example, ‘To what extent…’ students really need to think of a large number of ideas before distilling down into the key points. Using white boards around our classroom, I have the students work in teams to throw out as many ideas as they can in 3 minutes then we share the ideas quickly with the other teams and then give another 3 minutes to rank and organise into the top three main themes. So a quick process to have students move from divergent to convergent thinking.

International Community School, Addis

We’ve just held our first Learning 2.014 Africa conference which was hosted at by the fantastic crew at ICS Addis. What a blast and more on that in another post. With all schools that host the Learning 2.0 conference, it is an expectation that (a) the school holds a PD day on the Friday of the conference and (b) there is a cap on the number of faculty from the hosting school. What this means it that while the conference is going on, the rest of the faculty are somewhere else on campus with their own PD sessions. Now Learning 2.0 is really a team effort and when the schedule allowed, the Learning 2 Advisory, offered to run workshops for the hosting school. Jeff U ran a session on the Wednesday afternoon and Simon May and I ran the Design Thinking Challenge workshop back-to-back for the Middle and High School faculty.

I tend to find High School audiences  to be tough especially when doing something as hands-on as this. However in Addis, the High School teachers seem to really embrace the challenge and came up with some really interesting and imaginative ideas and solutions, from magic wants to training the on-campus tortoises to retrieve the javelins during Track and Field Practices. It’s all good fun and the learning is in the doing. I now tell the participants that at the very least they get to spend an hour or more getting to know someone else on the faculty. After the digging deeper part of the empathy stage, we (jokingly) ask if there were any tears as that is a good sign that connections are being made and that the partner is really listening and asking good questions to learn more about their partner.

What I did learn was the ICS teachers clearly enjoy the challenges of living in Ethiopia. The most surprising element of the workshop was the request to keep the tin foil that we put in the boxes for the prototyping materials. Little did I know that large sheets of tin foil are difficult to acquire and quite expensive – so we had a few happy teachers who are now saving this coveted commodity for their Thanksgiving Turkey!

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