Wednesday 26 April 2017

Redesigning our learning spaces part II

In teams of teachers and students, we have been working through a process of collaboratively redesigning some of our learning spaces.

This is a five week process using the Stamford Design Thinking Process.

Our five steps / lessons / stages are
1. Introduction to the Stamford Design Process
2. Revisit the Process focussing on empathy and creating a problem / challenge statement
3. Work in teams to ideate a new learning space
4. Prepare the presentation / pitch of the new learning space
5. Pitch the learning space to a panel of peers and stakeholders

We have now completed stages 1 and 2 with most teams having created a challenge statement and sharing it on our shared Google Doc. The Challenge is to keep the energy flowing and the the good ideas bubbling to the top.

Week 3. Ideate a new learning space
We started by recapping what it means to work in a team, or more accurately asking the teams what are some of the things that need to happen so that their team works effectively. We used this video to start the discussion comparing good teamwork vs bad.
We spent some time explicitly addressing the power dynamic, i.e. a teacher leading or being part of the group and how could we overcome this so that everyone in the team had equal input. We also again went over our three metaphors for learning spaces and reminded everyone to focus on empathy and really listening to what people wanted in a learning space.
I provided the teams with a heap of resources and encouraged the teams to add their own resources.
Some of the resources included
Videos of how other schools have changed their learning spaces,WAB, Shekou and this playlist.
Then there is this great Flipboard Magazine from Tricia Friedman at UWC

Then it was time to work ideate, teams started exploring, playing and listening. I would have loved to be a part of every conversation and discussion. I did get the chance to flitter between groups and loved what I was hearing.

One group completely changed their plan for the science corridor after speaking to the science teachers. They wanted worm farms and other live animals, but they didn't think about who would look after them, now they want fish and plants, low maintenance and they clean their own tanks. It was so refreshing to see teachers and students listening more than they spoke.

I have a feeling the results are going to be great
Week 4
Preparing the pitch
We had plans to bring in an expert on presentations and share something presentation zen like, giving our students some tools and ideas. We ran out of time and to be honest couldn't find the right expert. Looks like we will just have to trust that our teachers and students have the right stuff when it comes to a Steve Jobs Style pitch.

We also wanted to maximise the time that the teams had working ideating their redesigns. We also guided / suggested / instructed the teams that they would want to probably meet again before next weeks Shark Tank.

Every team was so into the process that they were happy to meet in their own time, even after school and this is in a busy time of the school year, exams, athletics etc.

We have had lots of positive feedback about the process and most of all students and teachers appreciate being listened to, the big challenge will be to ensure that once we get these great ideas that something actually happens. It would be a disaster if all this collaboration and listening didn't lead to action.

Next week the Shark Tank, where our teams pitch their ideas to a group of critical friends.

Monday 17 April 2017

Redesigning our Learning Spaces

Our Learning spaces at IGBIS need an update
 Even though we are a new school many of our classes still look like a classroom from 20 years ago. We don't have any really innovative teaching spaces. Some of our rooms including the library and art room are very cool, functional and flexible. 

Some of them are just plain drab and boring.

Learning spaces are something I have been thinking about a lot lately.  I have lots of ideas, I read lots of articles and have visited (and photographed) schools with innovative and cool learning spaces. hopefully we can  move forward with getting some 21st century learning spaces at IGBIS. The new boss is very receptive to looking at our learning spaces, after chatting with him we thought any redesign should be a collaborative process, including all stakeholders.  The challenge was how to go about collaborating to plan new learning spaces.

I attended a workshop at Learning 2 last year led by Victor Boulanger on using the Stanford Design Thinking Process in schools to solve problems. I also attended a session at Deep Learning (KL) on using the Design thinking Process to design curriculum. I also would have liked to attend this session by Sarah Phoenix at Deep Learning on learning spaces, but circumstances didn't allow it. While talking to a few people at school, we thought we would try using the design process with a group of students and teachers to plan some new learning spaces.

We invited interested staff and asked them to nominate two students each to form a working teams to redesign a learning space in the school. It could be a classroom, hall way or common area. We sold the process as a brainstorming process that could actually happen. We then planned out five sessions / workshops / working times

1. Introduction to the Stamford Design Process 
2. Revisit the Process focussing on empathy and creating a problem / challenge statement
3. Work in teams to ideate a new learning space
4. Prepare the presentation / pitch of the new learning space
5. Pitch the learning space to a panel of peers and stakeholders

These sessions are to be held during school lesson times and after school.

So far we have completed part 1 and 2

I gave a bit of content on what to look for when thinking about learning spaces including the three metaphors for learning spaces
For a more detailed explanation see this document from Thornburg campfires in cyberspace

Then using the crash course guide from the Stamford Design Process website, we worked through this document  in pairs with participants designing a new learning space. Participants had to pair up with someone who was not from their team.

It worked really well, this is the second time I have used this crash course with staff and the first time I used it with students, both time I was impressed with the response from the participants. I empathised the importance of the empathy stage multiple times. 

People really like being listened to and having just 3-4 minutes of someone really listening to you and focusing on your wants and needs is very empowering with lots of positive feedback from teachers and students.

We didn't finish the design process (we ran out of time) but the participants had a good introduction and got a feel for what was coming up.

Session 2
Revisit the Process focussing on empathy and creating a problem / challenge statement

Here we split into our teams one teacher and two students per team and used the same document to work through the design process.

We then revisited the three metaphors for learning spaces.
Each team chose a learning space that they wanted to change, they worked through the first two steps of the Design Process, Empathy and Define.

Here teams interviewed each other and then chose a few other people (outside of the team) to interview with the intention of really empathising with the client (person they were interviewing). We gave them a list of open ended questions and emphasised the point of telling stories and listening. They then had to generate their problem / challenge statement and bring it to the next session.
This was a shortened session, but there was a lot of passion and energy once the teams finally picked a learning space (one team we had to guide and offer suggestions for their learning space). We could have done with more time but teams really started to get a feel for what sort of things   

Next week we will be researching and working in our teams to start designing our new learning spaces.

We have made lots of progress and the design process is working well, it gives us a structure and a way to collaborate where everyone is an equal (can sometimes be hard when students work with teachers) and gives us focus for our end product.