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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.