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Sunday, November 06, 2016

Inspired by the Teachers Guild

A couple of weeks ago, I had the humbling honour to visit the Teachers Guild at IDEO's San Francisco offices.

The Teachers Guild is an online collaborative environment where teachers can work together to solve our biggest challenges in education today. The Guild sparks the conversation by offering a design challenge, and teachers go through phases of Discovery, Ideate, Build, and Select. The ideas that are refined through this process have the potential in being built out by industry partners. For example, one of the ideas for a challenge that asked teachers to reimagine parent-teacher interviews was built into a template by Piktochart.

As a recent addition to the coaching team at the Guild, I was invited to join in on a coach's retreat, where we would deepen our understanding of design, hone the craft of coaching, and collaborate with one another.

I was so inspired by my time with the IDEO crew and the other coaches, and wanted to take some time to reflect on my biggest takeaways.
The best quotes from Day 1.

Design Thinking Knows Teachers are the Key to Reimagining Education

The BEST quote of all

There is no one better positioned than teachers to reimagine education. If we accept the idea that everything designed can be redesigned, and that nearly everything about education (if not everything) has been designed by humans, then we have the power to redesign it.

You Can't Design Culture, but You Can Design the Things that Impact Culture

IDEO's office has been carefully designed to influence the culture there. It's a place of collaboration and creativity. 

You know the culture as soon as you walk in.

IDEO's mindsets are posted on the wall in the front entrance.

IDEO values the idea of a prototype, and of iteration. The front desk is currently a prototype made out of cardboard.

IDEO's employees are connected with one another visually so they can collaborate easily. Project nests let teams work on a project together.

The Power of the Post-it. Collaboration, brainstorming, and blue sky thinking.
If we want to create cultures in schools that allow for creative risk taking, we must design our spaces, routines, and ways of being to enable this. A lot of the things we have in schools (take the timetable, for example, or students sorted by chronological age, or even the weekly informational staff meeting) go counter to the kinds of cultures we wish to enable. 

Inspiration is Everywhere

I had read the words "analogous research" in many of IDEO's helpful toolkits (Examples: Design Thinking for Educators, the Field Guide to Human Centred Design, and Design Thinking for Libraries). But I never truly understood what that meant until we did a design challenge on Day 2. 

Our challenge was: "How might everyday spaces invite student curiosity and learning?"

All we knew about our day was that we were to show up at Golden Gate Park. We were teamed up, received challenge cards, and set free to gather empathy at the California Academy of Arts and Sciences and the de Young Museum of Fine Arts.

I've done similar challenges with staffs before, particularly those who were wanting to shift their libraries to learning commons. But now I realize I was doing empathy backwards. I would have staff examine their existing library space, looking for opportunities that could spark curiosity and learning. But now I realize that analogous research means seeking out inspiration in places, people, and things that already do curiosity and learning really well. 

That's why we were at the science centre and art museum. We got out of the ruts of assumption - assuming we know what sparks curiosity and learning in young people - and noticed deeply and observed closely what actually does this.

Coach James testing out the earthquake exhibit at the Cal Academy of Science.
Discovering the immersive experience Cal Academy does so well. How might we create such a sense of awe and wonder in our classrooms?

It's All About the People

It's called human-centred design for a reason. The people are the ones who matter. We are better together than we are apart. It's my belief that it is impossible to be creative in isolation - your idea will never be as interesting as it would be if you collaborated with others.
Some of my fellow coaches, James, Maggie, Michael, and Jess.
Inside James Turrell's Three Gems
I was so inspired by my fellow coaches as the IDEO/Teachers Guild staffers during our time together. I am a better teacher, designer, and person for knowing them.

How You Invite Someone Affects How they Show Up

If we go back to our first takeaway, that teachers are at the heart of educational transformation, then this one is closely related. Teachers need to be invited. They need to be invited in a way that helps them recognize their power and see the optimism in this way of thinking. For those of us who create design thinking experiences for others, inviting them in such a way that helps them see why even engaging in a small way helps us all helps build that 
A small example of how you can make people feel special in being included.

So, you're invited. You're invited to help us reimagine what is possible. You're invited to let your creativity, and the creativity of your students, have free rein. Let's do this. 

Sunday, October 02, 2016

At the Confluence

My creativity is in full practice, though I haven't stopped much to write about it here! I hope to get back into that habit.

I did write an article on Medium for the Teachers Guild about Design the Shift, a summer professional learning event I helped organize. You can find out more about Design the Shift. You can read my article entitled At the Confluence.
Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Français Intensif...ça vaut la peine!

By Stephanie Bartlett

How many of you learned French in school and didn't have a chance to speak it?  In our French Immersion program, we dedicate regular time and professional development to keep current on best practice. We want our French Immersion students to speak the language and be able to express themselves from the beginning of their language acquisition. 

We have moved away from vocabulary lists to teach a theme or topic. Instead, we model and practice how to ask questions and how to answer in full sentences across all subject areas.
The results? Amazing and highly effective.

Our Kindergarten students are able to ask and answer familiar questions. They arrive each day with the understanding that they are welcomed and encouraged to express themselves en français. There is designated time throughout the day for support and practice. It filters and carries on through every grade in the school. I always feel a tingle and sense of satisfaction when I walk through the halls and hear older students speaking French with no adult present. 

How do we do it? The answer is given first in a full sentence.
Je m'appelle Isla.

Then the question is modelled.
Comment t'appelles-tu?

The work is done in partners, with an emphasis on eye contact and active listening with bodies facing each other. Our class loves to chat and sing outside, on the carpet, one on one with the teacher, after gym, and during snack. We add new vocabulary and sentences as the year progresses.

Some Thoughts on Play, Sound and Music

By Stephanie Bartlett

Dimples were deeper than normal as Sienna found her rhythm. She and some friends were joyfully banging copper pipes against the bike racks in our school yard. Metal on metal unleashed a joy in her that I have yet to see inside the classroom. Wide eyed, she looked at me as if to ask “Can I do this?” or perhaps expecting me to be upset. I grinned back at her and asked if she felt the vibrations in her body when she hit the bike rack. And she wasn’t alone. Sebbie unleashed a wild screeching noise as he grooved to the sound coming out of his loud pipe. Another group created a rhythm as they sat in a circle and drummed to keep the same beat.

When our parent volunteer joined the group to guide them through a rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” the enchantment and joy that I first noticed on Sienna’s face lit up the face of each small musician. The story is not complete without a sensory description of the sounds within our group. Snow crunching under our feet. Metal clanging sharply against metal. The quieter, more unified sound of pipes on plastic and metal containers as students drummed that seemed to weave it all together. The laughter.

Merely playing outside with copper pipes does not fit into the dominant discourse of mainstream education but it slides beautifully into how to make sense of Life and our local place. The learning arrived in abundance and I always feel a sense of surprise, then recognition. As one child was pulling a pipe out of a bin, he was saying it was “plus court” (shorter) than the other ones. Another child held up a pipe and we talked about how the pipe was taller than him. Music making transitioned into serious building as some students built an elaborate machine, while others built a camping kitchen and pretended to cook for each other.

We share daily experiences together in nature and we are in the middle of a year-long school-wide sound exploration. These two important inquiries are ongoing and we add to vocabulary and concepts as we go along. As an educator and researcher, I take my responsibility seriously to share my interpretation of these experiences and to place them within a context of joy and a shared love of learning (Smith, 2006). In the highly competitive, fast paced world that we live in (and yes, I rush around too!), I am helping to build life skills for students that will hopefully linger throughout their school career. We are nurturing community. We are learning outside. We are making music. We are wondering.

Smith, D.G. (2006) Trying to teach in a season of great untruth: Globalization, empire and the crises of pedagogy. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers

Further Thoughts About Kairotic Time

By Stephanie Bartlett

I don't think you can plan these moments. Or perhaps the planning comes from the very action of NOT planning our day down to the minute. Had I written my day plan today, it would have looked like this:

8:15 Greet students outside, français intensif, songs, check in with each other
8:30 Play outside
8:50 Enter into classroom, flow of the day on the carpet, ABC and numeracy skills
9:00 Guest educator from the National Music Centre
10:00 Journal about our experience, centre time, snack
10:40 Clean up
10:45 Story
11:00 Au revoir

My day plan looks like we covered the social and academic curriculum, we had an interesting visitor and we enjoyed activity time. This is curriculum as plan (Aoki, 1987/1991). But reading this brief sequential description, you just don't know- it is impossible to know- what we experienced. Read on to discover curriculum as lived (Aoki, 1987/1991). Curriculum as lived can be described as deep learning within an authentic context where both students and educators are fully engaged. The topics or experiences tend to arrive from the interests of the group and unfold organically to provide rich learning that covers both curriculum outcomes and life experiences. 

The idea of kairotic time (Smith, 2014) is when time is almost suspended while we live in the present moment. Chronological time does not matter here. For a previous post describing a similar experience, please click here. With kairotic time in mind, let's revisit our morning.

The lingering effects of the orange sun rise were behind us as we ran to our tree together. I know how much we all love this moment of the day, because we all gather together with bright smiles to greet our friends. Part of our discussion and our français intensif, is to close our eyes and listen to the sounds we hear. Then we talk and share. What does it look like for an outsider to see 19 students lying on their backs for a minute?

We moved seamlessly  from this activity to free play. When it was time to go inside, there is never any reluctance. We gather our things and move inside to slowly transition and meet each other on the carpet.
Here, we ran through our number recognition and flexible thinking about math, as well as our alphabet rhymes. This could be so flat and one dimensional as we practice these very necessary skills but it is so wonderful to see how readily the students represent different groupings of numbers (2 +3 + 5, 5 + 0 +5, 4 + 1 = 5) and how their bodies move to the rhythm of our alphabet rhyme. We then assembled our visual schedule for the day and talked about Monsieur Evan who was going to come in a few minutes. We were excited and wondered what he would teach us about music.

When Evan came in, he  started to talk to the class about patterns in music. His "Repeato Machine" allowed him to say a name of one of our pets into the microphone, and then it would repeat to make a pattern. We started dancing and moving around the room as we learned the difference between listening to sounds and listening to how sounds can be put together to make a pattern.

When we began to colour in our own circles to create our own patterns, this is when I heard "I love this." "This is so cool." "Can you play mine?" "I am choosing two colours. I chose pale green and light green for mine."

We said a happy goodbye to Evan and began  to draw this experience in our visual journals. It always seems so funny when a room full of Kindergarten students is quiet and everyone is intent on their work. Max drew his journal on a log. Autumn lay down nearby. Two tables were full of students working quietly and sharing crayons. Angus took his over to the block centre to rest on a log over there. Often when we write, we discuss the expectations and that everyone should write quietly and whisper so as not to disturb concentration, and there is a level of maintenance involved on the part of the educator to ensure this happens. There was no reason for reminders here. Everyone was fully engaged in representing their favourite part of Evan's visit.

Students then moved seamlessly into their play as I met with each student and scribed their thoughts. Even this was different. Focused, concentrated play as students met and conferred at the Smart Board, drew shapes and charts on  the white board near the blocks, created art and built at the tool table.

We cleaned up at the end of the day with some regret, made sweeter by the fact that Ivy had brought us all cookies. We munched our treats and commented on the story that I was reading.

Walking you through curriculum as lived, shows how we covered many aspects of the curriculum today that are laid out in government documents and school board policy. Sometimes magic rises up to meet us and enhances our day. There is no recipe. I could have followed my curriculum as plan and we could have had a chaotic day as we moved hurriedly from one activity to another. Instead, we floated. The effects of kairotic moments reach beyond our time as a class and I find myself floating through the rest of my day long after my students go home!

Aoki, T. (1987/1991). The Dialectic of mother language and second language: a curriculum exploration. In W.F. Pinar & R.L. Irwin (Eds.),  Curriculum in a new key: The collected works of Ted T. Aoki (235-245). Mahwah,NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Smith, D.G.(2014). Teaching as the practice of wisdom. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic.