More Sticky Notes

Today was a big day for our Paideia students because today was the day we interviewed users!

It seemed as if we might not even have any users to come in to be interviewed with the amount we had to search to find people interested in tiny houses and sustainability who were also available to meet today during the class time. However, somehow we managed to get 4 interviewees, one of which was virtual, who came in today for 15-minute interviews with each of our two teams.

I was incredibly impressed with how far these kids have come with their ability to ask questions. On day 2 during our Flashlab, we were a bit worried because there were a lot of yes or no questions and short, often changing, conversations happening. However, after just a week and a bit they have grown so much! 1334x1000.jpeg.f4cd3a6a28024abe9c5c51eb31c06aec.jpg

Today the interviewees left commenting on how much they liked the teams’ questions and we were having to cut off deep conversations happening due to timing, which was hard to do because it was so wonderful to overhear!

Honestly, what I’ve enjoyed most about teaching this course is seeing how design thinking really affects the lives of students.

Most of these kids didn’t know each other before the class and now we know all sorts of random things about each other; from how we got our names to stories about sibling tensions when the whole family got food poising and were sharing a bathroom.

Plus, Sparks have become a daily norm where we all laugh at how confused the neighboring classrooms must be when they hear us chanting “Jump in, Jump out” or reciting different ice cream flavors, or announcing our superhero names.

1334x1000.jpeg.05f3a73409e1486cbad36c70939e688d.jpgOn the way out of the classroom we’re always told thank you and “can’t wait to see you tomorrow” and one student when doing I Like, I Wish, I Wonder feedback said, “I wish we had more than 18 days in this class!”

They have become learners who question everything, even the challenging topics like “Can you vomit in a composting toilet, and would it be a solid or liquid when separating it into a compartment?”

And they can take those questions and turn them into insights, such as realizing how a toddler might actually be the most receptive family member to adopting a composting toilet because of how the mother said the toddler loves helping out and the ability to take ownership of a process.

I can’t wait to see what insights are found during our unpacking session tomorrow, but first, we need to get more sticky notes- we ran out today…

 

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First HW Assignment

Last night, in an attempt to get closer to becoming composting toilet experts, we gave our first “homework assignment” for the Paideia class.

We had every individual pick a different composting toilet brand and label all of the different parts and functions of that particular toilet. Additionally, they were asked to create a pros con list for their toilet. This information we then used today as a springboard to discuss what are necessary pieces required in a composting toilet versus where are areas we can brainstorm creative new ideas for.

When I announced the assignment I was expecting detesting remarks about how they were getting homework after not having it so far in the course.

Surprisingly though, no one even questioned the assignment. I couldn’t believe how calm everyone was because honestly, I was nervous about announcing it. Especially since it was a day-of-pivot we made because we thought it would be helpful for the students to more deeply explore different composting toilets currently available after hearing an external expert talk about a few different toilets.

I suppose they also all understood the purpose behind the homework and knew it would be beneficial to their teams and maybe that was why no one was shocked or annoyed with our ask of them. Sure I’ve only known these kids for a week or so now and maybe this is how they always respond, but maybe it just goes to show how when work has a clear and meaningful purpose, it’s less likely to cause tension and complaints.

Design-Engineering

Over the years I’ve been exposed to a lot of different design thinking processes. They all have the same basic components just maybe with different wording or descriptions but at the end of the day, every design thinking process is just another way to visualize and work through human-centered problem-solving.

2250x1687.jpeg.fb397ed778a54598a13237c793491d20.jpgSomething I’ve found to be really cool about our course with Paideia and Wish For WASH is that there is no set design thinking process associated with our organization, so we don’t have to contain ourselves to one methodology. Instead, I get to pull from all sorts of different tools I’ve used to help coach our learners through the process.

I’ve used DEEPdt as the base because that’s what I’m most familiar with, and the DEEPdt playbook is a convenient way to facilitate newbies through the process. However, I’ve also pulled in tools or even just coaching ideas from the Stanford d.school process, the double diamond method we used in Grand Challenges, and some tools used in a mechanical engineering core class.

Today was one of the first days for me trying out one of the engineering tools which was suggested by another Innovation Diploma graduate who is also at Georgia Tech the year above me. The tool is called “The Function Tree” and I think it was a really good tool for our design challenge since it is product design oriented. The tool is about breaking down the different functions your design needs to be able to accomplish by getting more and more specific about what the sub-functions are that have to be accomplished first.  For example, a toilet must contain waste, well a composting toilet must first separate waste, which also means there needs to be a way to contain the waste, etc.

1136x852.jpeg.63bcfa55c7e34ff19ecdc62f218f960eI’m still learning how to best use and facilitate some of these tools that are newer to me, but I’ve really enjoyed the process of combining different methodologies; it’s helped me identify gaps, weaknesses, and strengths in different methods and tools.

18 Days for Impact

For the past year, I have been working on the Georgia Tech Engineers Without Borders team called WISH for Wash.

“Wish for WASH is a social impact organization that seeks to bring innovation to sanitation through culturally-specific research, design, and education because #EVERYBODYPOOPS” – wishforwash.org

2.5 million people do not have access to basic sanitation needs which is the moment of visible empathy that WISH for Wash was founded on; however, it’s important to note that sanitation problems aren’t only a global issue. There are sanitation issues in our own backyard.

Here in Atlanta, we are running out of water and yet our population size is constantly growing. We need to find a way to reduce our water usage, and one place we use a lot of water is in our toilets.

This was the train of thought that a teacher at Paideia School had when he approached the leader of WISH for Wash curious about a collaboration between our two organizations.

This teacher has a five-year plan of developing a tiny home to be put up for rent that will be entirely sustainable; this home will be created by students in different phases over the course of these five years during various “Short Term classes” at Paideia.

Meanwhile, our WISH for Wash team is currently doing research on compositing in order to build our latest prototype of a composting toilet.

The trade-off: our WISH for Wash team is conducting composting research in Magnus’ backyard in exchange for us leading the first of several short-term classes contributing to this tiny home. This course, “Giving a S***: Design for a Better World,” is all about design thinking and sustainability with the goal of having two prototypes of a composting toilet by the end of the 18-day class. The key part of this design challenge is that the composting toilets the students’ design should be a toilet that a family in Decatur (potentially their own family) would be willing to use.

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This partnership is actually why I joined this team back in the fall in the first place; I love working on innovative education endeavors and this team needed someone who had experience with curriculum planning and facilitating design thinking.

Since joining the team, it’s been a crazy process because it’s the first time I’ve ever taken lead on developing a large-scale design thinking curriculum. I’ve helped with workshops and conferences, but I’ve always been working alongside very experienced facilitators. Going from that kind of advanced team to now leading a team who has had minimal design thinking experience has been a big change, to say the least.

We’ve come a long way since the fall though, between having Innovation Diploma members lead us through a Flashlab, creating multiple iterations of our outline, getting feedback from various DT facilitators and then today, leading our first day of the course!!!

To be honest I was low key terrified for today. The stakes are high on day one because if you can’t get kids hooked on day one then you’ve basically lost them already and it’s hard to get them back.

Luckily for us we ended day one on a very positive note! The seven students, four girls and three boys 9th-12th grade, admitted that most of them joined just because they thought the title of the course was amusing and the description seemed intriguing and different from other courses offered. (Different due to it being lead by Georgia Tech students and hinting at very interactive and interdisciplinary learning.) However, by the end of the day, we had everyone pumped about discussing toilets and excited that the work they will be doing is hands-on and has a larger purpose and impact. (They told us this themselves at the end of the day when we asked why everyone joined the class and what their expectations are after what they learned today, so this isn’t just me putting words in their mouths based on observations.)

To me, that means day one was a huge success because everyone is excited about our work moving forward, and I couldn’t be happier about it!

17 days left to go…

 

Just a Happy Moment

Sometimes we just need to celebrate the little moments in life. Today is one of those little moments for me because I have officially reached 500 followers on my blog!!!

Plus on top of that, I’m now all moved out of my dorm which means I’m officially on summer break before my sophomore year of college which means I’ve now been blogging for 4 years. In school terms, 4 years is kind of a big deal, so I’m having a pretty good day.

So congrats to everyone for all of those little happy moments in life that you just want to celebrate for a quick sec!

Elevating the Conversation

I’m back from DC and excited about the future!

This gathering of educators was centered about brainstorming around what it might look like to have a national conversation celebrating a year of learner-centered education.

To be honest, I don’t think anyone left this meeting truly understanding what exactly this might mean or look like just yet, but for a kick-off meeting, I think it went well. People were engaged and excited about the possibilities which is all that can really be asked of members at this point.

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The general concept is that there would be community leaders in different parts of the country that are organizing “inquiry sessions” throughout the year with different stakeholders serving as hosts (students, parents, teachers, business leaders, etc); the topic of these inquiry sessions is dependent on the community though.

For some, this might mean the first few inquiry sessions are more about creating community understanding about what is learner-centered education and how can it be further adopted in the community. For some, the need is about providing the energy and momentum to foster an urgency to do some radical shift in how a school or district operates. For some, the goal may be to engage neighboring school communities that are not as involved with learner-centered education by providing an open door for learning more about what it is and how to incorporate elements in different environments; this is in hopes of growing the movement beyond existing players. There are truly endless possibilities.

IMG_0494.JPGSome of my biggest hesitancy actually lie within just how vague the goal is right now, and I believe others at this meeting expressed similar concerns. Thus, one of the next big steps in my mind is for us to start thinking deeper about the different levels involved in this celebration and how to leverage the fact that this is intended to be a nationwide movement and to have some unified goals as well as community-based goals. It makes me think of some innovative conferences I’ve gone to where there is some goal for the entire conference to accomplish, some purpose for why it’s happening, but additionally, each team in attendance has their own context and reasoning for taking part in the event so they may have a deeper internal goal and purpose as well as the large-scale goals.

For example, this is the personal context I created for myself in terms of why I want to be involved in the planning and organizing part of making an event like this come to life:

“The Year of Learning goes beyond just talking via presentations and online articles, etc., about why the education system needs a paradigm shift; instead, this event would show the unified efforts happening already around the nation to actually make the movement happen. Nothing speaks louder than actions, and an event like this is necessary at this point in the process in order to create a new spark in the movement by celebrating the great successes we’ve had so far, building local communities to support the future of the work, and bringing new people in to learn what we’re all about. I want to be a part of this because I value strongly what the work stands for and as always believe young learners need to play a hand in the process, but beyond that, I feel a deep need to bring the Atlanta community closer together around the goal to transform education.”

I think perhaps my biggest wonder that I’m now pondering is actually a similar ponder I walked into the room with: who’s the audience? Or in design thinking terms: who’s the user we’re actually designing this event for?

Is the user the community itself and we’re wanting to embark on a quest for social good in the community through the lens of learner-centered education and leveraging connections and partnerships outside of the traditional school environment? Is the user parents who we want to be more engaged in the education process so our goal is to further educate them on terminology and practices of learner-centered education; thus we host activities stimulating what their kids experience to heighten their understanding of a learner-centered mission? Is the user students who we want to take more agency in driving the change, so perhaps gatherings are geared around exploring the history of how movements gain traction and workshops on writing and speaking to local politicians or superintendents?

Honestly, any one of these ideas sounds intriguing, and I know the temptation is to want to say “Why can’t we do it all?!” However, I know from personal experience that sometimes trying to do too much at once can actually just lead to confusion and a sense of lack of purpose. I’d even be curious to see multiple prototypes exploring several of the ideas I’ve discussed or potentially others and then decide on which one seems like it could have the greatest impact. Obviously, I’ve never quite helped with the creation of an event this big, but I do think a nationwide purpose will help make the sub-contexts at the community level more clear and impactful.

On a more personal note, I was empowered as a learner because I could sense how my own leadership skills have grown over the years by my participation in this meeting. Everything from just being asked to be in the room, to comment gifts I was given as we left the room made me feel like my presence was desired and contributive. Especially during our table group activity my design thinking training came out again as I was headlining takeaways from learning about a particular community and translating that into ideas for how a year of learning might look in this community. I loved how natural it was for me to fall into that role and help my team elevate our conversation.

I also found myself talking about my opinion on how to get more learners involved in this movement which I realized I had never really talked about before even though I often think about it. I believe there are two ways students feel empowered to take deeper agency in the education transformation movement:

  1. They are put in a position where they are requested to be a leader. This could be talking to a group of parents, taking part in a faculty meeting, facilitating a community workshop, etc. When students are placed in that position where they realize community members actually care about what they have to say about school and how they’re being educated, I’ve noticed they tend to easily speak up and then have a hard time stopping.
  2. Some students don’t realize how special of an opportunity they have until they go to an education event with people outside of their community. Whether this is Sparkhouse, a hackathon, an education conference, etc, when students go to some big event and realize just how many possibilities there are to how they could be educated, it can be insanely motivating to the point where students don’t want to expect anything less than what they learned about at the event. The key here is that the momentum from post-event needs to be taken advantage of with some sort of reflection or next steps to keep the energy alive otherwise it becomes, “Well we just did that there…”

Anyway, those are a little scattered brain thoughts, but overall takeaway is that I’m excited about the concept of elevating this conversation, especially now being in the position of a learner-centered educator without a learner-centered environment.

The Magic of User Feedback

It can be easy to forget the power of user feedback, but it’s truly a remarkable gift.

Today we had our end of the year banquet for Grand Challenges (the living-learning community I’ve been involved with at Georgia Tech where different majors come together to tackle “wicked problems” by utilizing design thinking) where we had some parents and other guests go on a gallery walk of the posters we made for our prototypes and then an honors ceremony afterward.

My team’s prototype is in the field of education (go figure), but we hadn’t really gotten to the point of getting much feedback on our idea from actual teachers yet. Therefore we were all still very hesitant about our idea going into this event and not super sure if it was really impactful at all.

However, during the gallery walk there happened to be several teachers in attendance today who came by and talked with us about our prototype. Turns out, every educator we talked to was really interested in our prototype and wanted to test it out at some point!

It was so refreshing and reigniting for our team to hear positive feedback from potential users. It even got us considering actually working further on this prototype even though we’ve decided to not continue with the Grand Challenges program.

I’ll explain more about our prototype in a soon to come portfolio entry, but for tonight I’m just happy that we finally got some affirmation that we’re on a worthy track right now.

The Progress Cycle

Nothing is really a linear process.

Progress takes time,

It takes patience and practice,

Focus and hard work.

Each day you feel like you’re getting closer,

Then the next day you realize how much further you still have to go.

It’s a constant cycle of forwards and backward

And yet, somehow, in the end, you know it’ll work itself out.

Today there were glimpses of beauty and moments of truth,

And much in-between and far from;

There is work to be done.

 

Proof of Concept

One of my favorite parts of working on a project is that first moment when you truly see the whole piece coming together.

Today I got to experience that twice which was amazing!

First up on today’s adventures, I took a trip to Paideia high school due to my work with Engineers Without Borders where we are currently partnering with a teacher to create a design thinking and sustainability short-term course. In today’s meeting, I walked a group of teachers through the outline of our curriculum and we had a discussion around materials, logistics, and feedback on the curriculum itself. It was wonderful to see everyone so impressed and excited about the work our project team has been doing! Especially since the curriculum has primarily been my brain baby, this day was really important because it was a bit of a proof of concept that we’re making progress and that this course is really going to happen this May! (Just a few weeks away and I’m so nervous and excited at the same time to teaching this 18-day class!)

Then after a 30-minute car ride, I ended up at Mount Vernon for Aladdin rehearsal where I got another lovely moment of being able to see my work taking shape. Today I had all my acrobats in rehearsal and now that I’ve been there a few times we’re starting to get into a groove. My little street performers (grades 3-6) learned some new choreography pretty fast today and did a great job keeping up! But the best part of the rehearsal for me was seeing “A Whole New World” now that we finally have an ending to the song/silks routine that works really well!!!! It’s going to be such a great show I can’t wait to see the full run through tomorrow! Hard to believe that show week is less than two weeks away!

Today’s been a lot of running/driving back and forth between classes and meetings (literally from 9-9 today), but having these moments of proof of concept where you can visualize so fully the work coming to life is what makes it worth it every day!

The Sub-Story

I’m very fortunate to get to see a lot of professional theater due to my family’s love of the arts and various connections in the theater world. Sometimes I’m even lucky enough to get to see a show more than once.

Tonight I saw “Something Rotten” at the Fox after having seen it a year or so ago on Broadway.

It’s always interesting to revisit something, especially when its artist. There are always new elements or some elements that you may have just missed the first time. Getting a second chance to view something allows you to dive deeper and further explore all the sub-layers to a work. I realized tonight that there were a lot of jokes and references I hadn’t noticed the first time, which also made me appreciate how my own theater knowledge has grown over the past few years.

Furthermore, I found myself less judgy this time around. Typically when I see a show I always get asked about my opinion, and perhaps this makes me more judgy then the average viewer, but seeing a show again is like giving it a second chance. You know the major parts already so you can open up to all the undertones of the story and appreciate the subtleties.

Every now and then it’s great to revisit something random and take in a story in a whole new light.