At the most recent CUE Rock Star Teacher Camp I was listening in on a group of teachers from St. Rose school in Paso Robles, CA. They are considering a 1:1 program and debating the merits of various devices. I started a 1:1 Ubermix Netbook program at my school and have realized more than a few hiccups on the road to implementation. I jumped in the St. Rose discussion and asked how they plan on using the devices. Much like my own experience they were starting with the device and not the pedagogy.
I’ve found our 1:1 program to be a game-changer, that is if you allow it to be. Some teachers choose to use devices in the classroom to digitally tear down the classroom walls, others develop more controls to corral their students. I used to think that to allow more creativity in the class I needed to be hands-off and allow the students to roam with loads of freedom. I found that offering that much freedom to my students was unfair. They have come from traditional classrooms where the teachers stand and deliver while the students consume. To offer the opportunity to develop my student’s creativity I needed to help them with the process. I turned to Design Thinking.
I’ve always been afraid of the term Design Thinking as I considered myself a teacher, not a designer. Designers have style, wear fedoras and pointy shoes. It took some time for me to tear down my preconceptions and accept the fact that all teachers are designers and I want my students to be designers as well. Teachers are designers as they develop student experience and classroom atmosphere. It’s a daily process that shapes your student’s learning and advancement towards their unrealized potential. Design Thinking is a simple process. The first step is understanding the problem. We can better understand the problem through observation, questioning and listening. For the St. Rose folks the problem might be how to best utilize the device they adopt for their 1:1 program. For me it was how do I best help my students, develop their creativity, tap into their natural excitement for learning and in general make everyday like summer camp. We can better understand the problem through observation, questioning and listening.
As we understand the problem we diverge our thinking to develop lots of possible solutions. The key is to encourage wild ideas. Interview people, ask opinions and most importantly do not be attached to any one solution. This isn’t about you, it’s about the user. After you have wild ideas you hone in on one that seems workable. Build it. Use it. Test it. Reflect, redesign, rebuild and try again. This step could continue ad infinitum, and it does as everyday we are designing student learning experiences. Every year we have new students who need us to tear down our pedagogy and rebuild. It’s an exciting process that most of us were never aware is inherently written in a teacher’s job description. It’s tough being a teacher, but your students need you.
I’ve used Design Thinking with my students as they design a project to help a classmate learn a subject. They interview asking questions like “What ways have helped you learn in the past?” “What do you like to do outside of school?” “What were some of your most memorable projects in the past?” Students begin to design a project to help their classmates while asking questions and honing their work to best suit their classmates needs. Try Design Thinking, you’ll find it to be a powerful tool in your toolbox.
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Chris, father of 3 boys, is a full time history teacher who has introduced and developed several technology programs within his district. His student-lead Geek Squad built and maintains the technology resources within his district including the K-1 Open Source computer lab. Chris proposed and has successfully implemented a 1:1 netbook program that uses Open Source software, making a cost-effective and easily manageable program. He loves using Design Thinking, Scrum in the class and seeing his students love learning. Besides being a History and Technology teacher, he’s currently the President of Santa Barbara CUE, a Google Teacher Academy UK 2012 grad and a CK-12 Champion. He regularly presents at conferences on technology and classroom culture. Most recently he has built a MinecraftEDU server to offer his students freedom to explore, build and collaborate.Rss Feed