Not All Designers Wear Fedoras: A Lesson in Design Thinking

By Derek May on May 08, 2013   /   1:1 cue Design Thinking EdTech education technology Educators iBallz iPad Deployment iPad Rollout iPadEd mlearning mobile learning    /   0 Comments

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.
Contact me I like to help:
@cscottsy -twitter

My bio:
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.

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iBallz On The Road!

By Derek May on November 09, 2012   /   Acorn Media Bill Selak Camper Crywolf cue cue blog cue fall cue fall conference DEN design thinking Discovery Education Network EdApps EdTech EdTech Team Education Apps education technology elearning fall cue flipclass flipped classroom Google Apps for Education Google Apps for Education Summit Google Nexus Google tablet iBallz iPad iPadEd iPads in the Classroom Mark McWhinnie Microsoft mlearning napa Nexus 7 Nexus 7 Tablet OC Tech Fest OCDE Orange County Department of Education Samy's camera Surface tablet Technology in Education twitter twitter for teachers    /   0 Comments

It’s a new school year with new students, new challenges, and maybe even a little new technology!  Right after you settle into the new term but before you settle in for the holiday season comes a bevvy of Ed camps, conferences, and summits.  We were fortunate enough to get to jump in on a few here in California and had a blast meeting all the movers and shakers in Education Technology.

First we hit the Google Apps for Education summit in SF, which got us very inspired about apps!  Google really has a lot to offer educators and students.   Since the conference we have been working with the EdTech Team (, recently supporting their donation of Google Nexus 7 tablets to classrooms.  More info at 

Additionally in SF we attended and sponsored the integratEd SF conference.  At the conference we got to attend group sessions on BYOD program implementation, using social media to engage students and parents, and an amazing iPad 101 workshop presented by Mark McWhinnie (

Next we hit the road to beautiful Napa for the CUE Fall Conference, which we helped sponsor.  We towed the iBallz camper up north and set up shop in the courtyard of the beautiful American Canyon High School.  What incredible facilities!  The school is beautiful and pristine, complete with a field of solar panels guarded by a friendly group of sheep which came right up to greet us.  At the conference we got to hear workshops on everything from Twitter for Teachers by the ultra informative Bill Selak and we learned all about Design Thinking and it’s many problem solving applications.  We were amazed by all the creative educators at the conference, fearlessly experimenting with new and innovative models of teaching!

We then headed down to Orange County for the OC Tech Fest and boy were we in good company.  We demonstrated our wares at the Orange County Department of Education alongside Microsoft, Crywolf, Acorn Media, Samy’s Camera and more.  Microsoft recently came out with their new Surface tablet and iBallz is a perfect fit!  The festival was hosted by our friend Randy from the Discovery Education Network – if you haven’t checked out DEN, they are an incredible community of educators nationwide, a club of teachers who help each other learn and grow.  We’re a big fan of DEN here at iBallz!

Many thanks to all the EdTech conference organizers!  Keep in touch with iBallz for more tips on tablet education - Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter



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Fall CUE Conference: Survival Guide Top 8 Tip

By Derek May on October 24, 2012   /   Common Core in the Cloud cool cat teacher cue cue blog cue fall dana duree fall cue flipped classroom food truck Jon Bergmann napa supercharged learners Vicki Davis    /   0 Comments

Survival Guide: Top 8 tips to successfully surviving the Fall CUE Conference

The Fall CUE Conference, “Supercharged Learners”, is Education Technology Professional Development at its Best!

Fall is my favorite time of year. The leaves are transitioning to orange, red and golden hues, the weather is cool and crisp not to mention the Fall CUE Conference, October 26 – 27, at American Canyon High School, in Napa Valley, California, is right around the corner!

Whether this is your first conference, or your 15th, here are my Top 8 tips:

1.  Check out the Fall CUE Guide before the Conference

This online, interactive guide lists all sessions, optional workshops, and events taking place at the Fall CUE Conference. You can sort listings with search parameters on the right hand side of the Guide, create your own schedule, and share it with friends! Session attendance onsite is first come, first serve, so I recommend arriving to your most anticipated sessions a little early.

2.  First things first!

Once onsite, check in at the Library of the Administration Building to pick up your badge and other items. View the Fall CUE Guide for registration hours 

3.  First Timer’s Orientation

If you are looking to jump start your first Fall CUE Conference experience, be sure to attend the First Timer’s Orientation, taking place on Friday and Saturday morning. View the Fall CUE Guide for times and location

4.  Sponsors

22 sponsors offering the latest education technology and resources will be onsite Saturday, October 27.  Be sure to visit their tables, trailer, or SUV located outside in the Quad, and upstairs and downstairs in the Administration Building.

5.  Did someone say food trucks?

If you didn’t pre-purchase your lunch, you have the option to visit Kinders Food truck selling BBQ or El Norteno Food Grill selling Mexican food, on Friday and Saturday from 11:00 am – 2:00 pm. Lunchtime is also an excellent opportunity to visit the Fall CUE Sponsors (like iBallz!) and network with new contacts.

6.  Opening/Closing Keynotes- Join the CUE community at the Opening Keynote by Jon Bergmann on ‘The Flipped Class’, and enjoy the kick off to see whose lessons will reign supreme in the Iron CUE Battle, all during the General Session on Friday.

Hear Closing Keynote speaker Vicki Davis discuss ‘Common Core in the Cloud (with Cool Cat Teacher)’ and enter for the chance to win a raffle prize sponsored by Troxell Communications, all on Saturday afternoon, during the General Session.

7.  CUE Corner- Pop in to the CUE Corner in the Administration Building to peruse Vision Technology books, and stock up on your CUE Gear items (new hats, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and iPad cases!)

8.  Engage, learn, share, and have fun!

After the conference, be sure to share your new knowledge and renewed passion with your colleagues back home, and encourage them to experience a CUE Conference for themselves.

If you haven’t already registered for the Fall CUE to the Core Conference, visit for information.

I look forward to seeing you there and sharing how fun education technology can be!

Reblogged with permission from  Article written by Dana DuRee, Marketing & Programs Coordinator, CUE, Inc.

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