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!

Beijing Learning Summit – A reflection

Ideas for tomorrow, tools for today

The Beijing Learning Summit 2010 certainly delivered what was offered: ‘authentic, just-in-time PD that is both effective and affordable.’ We had over thirty presenters from eight different schools – the vast majority were classroom teachers who came to share ideas on how to enhance the teaching and learning in the classroom, and beyond, through the effective use of technology. We were joined by a diverse range of educators: over 170 participants from over 20 local and international educational institutions from Beijing, Tianjin, Nanjing, Shanghai and Bangkok, Thailand.

Jim Pojman's 2 minutes in the Technology Smackdown

The rich conversations started on the pre-conference day tour of the technology facilities at three International schools: WAB (Jeff Holte), ISB (Rob Cormack and Russell Layton) and BISS (Julie Lindsay) with our out-of-town presenters: Brian Lockwood, Ann and Billy Martin from Nanjing International School, Jonathan Chambers from Shanghai American School and John Burrell from Bangkok Patana School.

Our theme this year was ‘Ideas for tomorrow, tools for today‘ which was explored by our two

Ian Stewart closing the summit

keynote speakers, both of which are parents of WAB students: John Ball from Microsoft and WAB board member, Ian Stewart. John presented a number of exciting future technologies such as the way we will communicate and interact and with technology through developments in avatar technology. His suggested that the student’s ability to succeed and excel will directly correspond to the skills and knowledge acquired whilst they are obtaining their education. Ian’s provocative ‘TEDtalk-type’ close challenged the relevance and purpose of today’s curriculum: to what extent are we preparing our students for tomorrow’s world?

The lunchtime student panel was insightful. For me, a HS integrator, this Q&A session was an anecdotal measure of the extent to which technology is an integral part of their learning. The panel comprised a handful of articulate and engaging grade 11 and 12 students; students who will graduate from WAB with a ticket to the next step in their journey. Some students believed that technology limited their capacity to retain knowledge and preferred to use more traditional ‘pen and paper’ tools for

The student panel

note-taking and writing essays. It became clear to me that until the tools for assessment catch up with technological advances, (for example, the majority of these students will hand-write their exit examinations), we have a challenge on our hands trying to finding the right balance in the use of technology. I cannot help but wonder if we are effectively employing or applying the tools we currently have in order to enhance the learning of these students?  And in the longer term, does and should the curriculum address the opportunities that are presented by the technological developments as described by John and Ian? Is it the curriculum itself or the delivery of the curriculum that may hinder our students’ digital development and hence limit their future prospects? Is the tension increasing between curriculum and technological advances? Can I detect an emerging digital divide? And if so, what as an educators are we doing to bridge this gap?

Sesson on understanding of the technologies which help us "connect"

This summit certainly helped narrow this gap for me and I hope for many of the participants. Although it will take time to synthesize and make sense of the big ideas in order to effect change for the long term, I took away a huge number of diverse, practical and ‘just-in-time’ tools and ideas that I can use now in my teaching. One idea learned in the morning solved my problem of simultaneous voice recording; how to get a clear narration with 20 students in a small room all trying to do record their ‘sound bytes’ on individual laptops?  Who would have thought that a paper cup with a tiny hole in it’s base placed over microphone would make such a difference?

So thank you to the 170 busy front-line educators who came together on a busy weekend to learn and share and continue the conversations. Although exhausted – I am looking forward to Beijing Learning Summit 2011. Who wants to join me?

The first Beijing Learning Summit (2009) was a grass-roots initiative led by five Apple Distinguished

Session: City in the Sea

Educators (ADE): Rob Cormack (ISB), Jeff Plaman and Thomas Galvez (formally ISB), Sheldon Bradshaw (WAB) and myself. This year, the core team (Rob, Sheldon and Madeleine) were were joined by Julie Lindsay (BISS) and Jeff Holte, Beth Gourley, Tom Adamick and Muhammed Azeem (all from WAB) along with major contributions from the ADE network in Beijing. This summit could not have happened without the support of the school representatives, the student geek force and discussion panel, the WAB student Fan Club (who provided hot cookies straight from the oven throughout the day), along with the sponsors to keep the costs down, Bitepita (for lunch) and Fish (beverages) the large number of behind-the-scenes staff, and the overall support of WAB.