All posts by Madeleine Brookes

Design Thinking: Innovation is a Team Sport

The recent #beyondlaptops mini-conference at Yokohama International School was #beyondexpectations. I learned so much, yet still have so much to learn.

PICNIC10 Paul Pangaro IIMy first share is the session “How Can We Solve Our Own Challenges”, an introduction to Design Thinking based on the work from the Institute of Design at Stanford. This session was excellently facilitated by Heather Dowd and Patrick Green (THE #knockemdead tech coaching team from SAS). I love hands-on workshops where the participants are fully engaged and this was one of those. Our challenge was to design something useful and meaningful for our partner in less than 60 minutes!  Here’s an outline of the stages of the challenge that we covered and some commentary my additional research, mostly gleaned from the d.school’s Virtual Crash Course resource page:

EMPATHIZE: We started off with interviewing our partner (4 mins each). It was important to gain empathy so so then dug deeper for stories, feelings and emotions. We needed to ask ‘why?’ (another 4 minutes each).

DEFINE: In three minutes, we needed to reframe the problem. Firstly by capturing our findings into ‘needs’  and a few ‘insights’ that we found of interest that we may use to leverage when creating solutions (in 3 mins). Then we moved onto defining the problem in a statement that is ‘juicy and actionable’: {name} needs a way to {user’s need}. Unexpectedly in his/her world, {insight}

IDEATE: Step one was to ‘sketch to ideate’ which meant generating, not evaluating, a number of radical ways to meet our user’s needs. This meant going for volume in a few minutes. Step two was to share our solutions and capture the feedback from our partner. We needed to listen to our partner and resist the urge to defend our ideas. The point was not to seek validation but to use this as an opportunity to remember that this was about building empathy (about 4 minutes each).

PROTOTYPE: Taking this valuable feedback, we incorporated what we have learned about our user and some of our suggested solutions, looking for areas where we hit ‘pay dirt’ and also where some of our ideas  ’tanked’. We needed to take the understanding and pull it into one single solution (3 mins). In a longer sessions, to build a prototype (in 6 or so minutes) we would have created a 3D model using whatever resources available such as lego, tape, paper, card, glue and other small items.

TEST: Finally, in 4 minutes, not as a salesmen but as an anthropologists, we needed to share and get feedback (what worked, what could be improved, questions and ideas). The idea of the 3D model would be that our partner could touch and feel the idea/solution that we were trying to communicate.
On completion of this challenge, it’s important to reflect on what we just did and why. The challenge was a quick exposure to the process where we focused on our user and their needs. However, the goal was to focus on ourselves as innovators and what we learned from the experience.
  • How did engaging & working feel like with a real person?
  • How did we feel about testing ideas with a real person?
  • How was the pace – the iterative, quick process?
  • What would we do next if we had to do it all over again?
  • What stages would we revisit?
  • How did (would) we feel about giving our ‘client’ unfinished solutions (prototypes)?
  • What did we learn from listening carefully to our ‘client’?
Overall we gained a sense of the attitudes required for this process:  prototyping,  understanding our client’s needs and being collaborative.

  “Innovation is a team sport”. George Kembel, cofounder and executive director of d.school

Rachella, my partner-in-crime and colleague, came up with a solution for my problem which was how I could share my learning from this conference (and continue to reflect and continue to learn). The solution was to use this blog to create a series of posts and then to share the links by email and other means to targeted audiences. Let’s see if it works!

The slides that Heather shared with us are here and lots of projects can be found here. For an overview of #beyondlaptops, please read Kim Cofino‘s post here.

How does this apply to me & my students?

I will certainly use this process with my IBDP ITGS students for their Internal Assessment which is a real-life solution to a real-life problem with a real-life client. This process closely mirrors the Design Cycle that we use in MYP Design and as a basis for the MYP Personal Project and therefore Rachella and I are planning to facilitate this challenge-based workshop with our colleagues to generate discussions on how we can use this process with our students. More on that soon – I hope!

Why Do I Examine?

I’ve been teaching the IBDP Information Technology in a Global Society (ITGS) for almost 15 years and have been examining for well over a decade, probably more.

Students will be writing exams in for foreseeable future
Students will be writing exams in for foreseeable future

So, why do I examine?

Yes, it’s great professional development

I am now a team leader for one of the papers and therefore get to be part of the online standardisation meeting and really get to grips with the paper. Then there is the mentoring role for the examiners in my team where you set up online group team meetings to go through the paper, answer questions and guide the team. During exam time, you are ‘on call 24/7’ to advise, discuss, coach, mentor, encourage… It’s a great collaborative effort and you feel very much part of the overall ITGS team.

Do I do it for the money?

Absolutely not! Like teaching, I don’t think that any of us are in it for the money!

Bottom line: I do it for my students

It’s mock exam week and I am now marking my students’ papers. Being so familiar with the workings of a paper has really paid off as students have risen above the common pitfalls, interpreted the questions correctly and have structured their answers to maximise their marks. OK, maybe we need to work on their content, but their exam technique is really coming along nicely.

What do I really think about exams?

Ideally I would love to see the demise of the high-stakes terminal examinations (and I could write a whole Extended Essay on the reasons why) but the reality is this: if you are an IB DP humanities teacher, your students will be writing their exams, by hand, in your school gym each May (or November) for the foreseeable future. So the best I can do for my students is to ensure that they are fully prepared for those exams and if that means teaching them how to play the ‘exam game’, then so be it.

Oh, and one more thing, if you are in a 1:1 school like I am, you may also want to give them handwriting practice…and ‘gift’ them a black pilot pen or two!

Cycle 3: iPad Trials in the WAB High School

We are now in Cycle 3 of our Collaborative Action Research iPad trials in the High School here at WAB. We are exploring how to use the iPad for transformative learning. Our research question is: In which areas is an iPad a better learning tool than the MacBook Pro?

In May 2013 we completed the analysis of Cycle 2 of our Action Research iPad project. We found that:
  • For a school that is already 1:1 MBP, the iPad does not outperform the computers in most areas. As one teacher put it, “MacBooks are the real workhorse,” and the student data reinforces that, with over half of students either unsure or disagreeing that iPads are an effective learning tool.
  • The areas where the iPad outperformed the MBP were in areas where the iPad was used at the redefinition level of the SAMR model. The iPad allowed for the creation of new tasks, which were previously inconceivable, even on the MBP such as using Coaches Eye and NearPod.
  • While we initially believed institutional ownership of the iPads would not be viable, given the iPads individualized nature, if only used for specific, transformative tasks, iPad carts seem a more reasonable way to go, rather than implementing 2:1 policy for 2013-14.
  • By far our biggest surprise lay in the power of the action research process to create a community of empowered learners.  Almost without fail, when surveyed as to the highlight of this project, for them, teachers replied, “Sharing ideas,” “It was interesting to see how different teachers utilized the iPads in their classroom,” and “Teachers from different departments work together, share ideas, and inspire each other. You can think out of box that iPads can be used in different ways in different subjects.”
Thus, we feel the need for another cycle, exploring how to use the iPad for transformative learning. We started in December 2013 and will publish our findings in May 2014. The course is available through iTunes U and is based on the course we developed for Cycle 2 with considerable revision. 

Day 27

Two spectacular days of walking – fantastic views and scenery. We are staying in Samos across the road from the Benedictine Monastery – We could have stayed in the Monastery for a donation only but I decided that I didn’t want to sleep on a bunk bed in a dormitory for 70 people.

So day 27 over and we are closer to the 100km – it will be all over soon. I never thought I would get this far and in such good spirits – surprise!!

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Day 24

We are at a lovely Albergue in Pieros and now have less than 200km to go. We are in a quiet, rural Spanish village away from the hustle and bustle of marching pilgrims and the cyclists. The weather is hot getting to about 40 degrees and so we only managed just under 20 km today. In the next day or so we will cross the final mountain range and begin our descent to Santiago. It’s going to get busy as many want to be in Santiago for the festival of St James on the 25th.

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Day 14, 15 and 16

Day 14 – I just can’t quite remember….

Day 15 started with a 17km stretch of nothing. So glad I downloaded a trashy summer reading audio novel to pass the time. We stopped in a lovely Albergue and even managed to get our own room at 10€ each – although the bathrooms were communal and mixed! We had a lovely afternoon and evening exchanging stories of pilgrims we had met on the way. We seem to be walking with the same set of people for the past few days. Our favourites are Michel (22) and his mother who are from Vienna. Everyone has a story and a reason to do the Camino – retirement, death in family, dumped by boyfriend, chucked in the job…we probably have the least profound reason…just going for a walk?!

Day 16 was not the most inspiring of walks today but we are in a pretty good hostel – the hierarchy is hotel, hostel, pension, albergue. Now having a cool beer, some green olives while waiting for dinner at 8

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Day 11, 12 & 13

I don’t know what happened to day 11! Last night we stayed in a guest house in a very pretty place called Castrojeriz (35€) and the night before we stayed in a private albergue in Rabe de las Calzadas (8€ each) Tonight we are in the municipal albergue in Fromista (7€ each). The level of accommodation varies with the price but as long as we get a shower and bed with clean sheets and towels to ourselves every three or so days I think I’ll survive! Here are some photos from the last few days:

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Day 9 & 10

We started out quite late from Santo Domingo De Le Calzada but still managed to walk over 30km to Villambista. We stayed in a tiny Albergue in a dormitory with 8 sets of bunk beds – very cosy after our previous night where we probably could have packed in at least 10 bunks. This morning we left at about 6:30 and walked until about 3 in the afternoon – so about 7.5 hours with the odd break. The scenery is changing and we are out of the vineyards and into the wheat & barley fields. Here are some pictures from The last couple of days:

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Day 7 & 8

After two really long days of walking we are now in Sto. Domingo de la Calzada. I think it’s between 560 and 550 km to Santiago de Compostela. We have checked into a hotel – a really nice (and expensive) one to have a break from the dormitory experience and communal washing facilities. What a luxury to have clean starched sheets and fluffy towels! We’ve walked through some stunning scenery and although the weather has been drizzly, it was much better than full sun with very little shade. We are just about to venture out for dinner and will probably bump into a number of fellow walkers who will be wondering why we are not in the auberge. I expect we’ll opt for the Pilgrims meal again unless we want to wait until after nine for an a la carte menu – however by that time we may have passed out from exhaustion helped with a few beers.

Here are some unedited images from the past couple of days:

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