Getting Older is Weird



I feel so old…

Today I turned 17, and it was a pretty great day; actually, it was an overall great week! I’ve been in New York (my technical hometown even if I only lived here for three and a half years), and man I just really love this city! Every time I come there are more interesting things to see and do, and I leave with so many fatardo (awkward and random and usually crazy in the best way) stories.

We’ve seen at least one show everyday except 1 and they have almost all been fantastic!! (There was one show that personally wasn’t my thing just because it was more like listening to a podcast live and I just really need visuals to focus.) The last few days were especially great because we got to see School of Rock and Les Miserables on Broadway and that was super fun!!!

I also went to my first real New Years Eve party with my aunts which was interesting. Everyone felt old about that because just the fact that I’m now old enough to be going out till 2am in the city was kind of weird.

Plus I’ve also been walking around the city on my own more this year. One day I even went to meet up with an old friend for lunch, then her parents stopped by because they were in the area and we all had a moment of “Woah, you guys are so grown up. Going out to lunch by yourselves. I remember when you were so little!”

Then today, with it being my birthday, everyone was talking about how I’m almost 18 and everything I can do once I’m 18. And of course “Where do you want to go to college?”  has been asked about a million times…

I don’t know where this is going, but it’s just weird getting older. I remember I use to just love when it was my birthday and I didn’t really think about getting older, but now that I am older it feels so much more noticeable. Being a kid is pretty awesome, but I’m not such a kid anymore which is kind of weird to think about.


(Also exciting news, the video of my MoVe Talk from fuse15 is now finished!!!)


Stories Come From the Heart


My head is spinning right now. Today was a pretty good day, nothing particularly amazing happened, but it was pretty relaxed with a couple of great conversations. These great conversations have all connected for me in the great circle of life, so yes, this post is long, but that is because there is simply lots that I must say.

For starters, today Kat and I unpacked our interview that we had with Grant Lichtman yesterday, and the amount of ideas currently in my head our insane!

For the past year-ish (actually looking back at blog posts has allowed me to learn it was actually the beginning of November 2014 that we officially announced our coVenture), Kat and I have been interested in education redesign and student voice. But we’ve come a long way since first making our twitter accounts on the very day of that particular blog post.

Since last year, we have had a number of opportunities to lead design thinking challenges; Kat went to Europe with EF Tours and lead a design thinking session; I gave a MoVe talk at the DT conference FUSE15; we have written a collective of over 365 blog posts; we have a total of over 200 followers on twitter and actively have conversations with education leaders (teachers and some student groups) from around the world; we have created the first ever (to our knowledge) student designed AP class.

Point being: We’ve been wedging our way into education redesign conversations, and now I’d say we are starting to have a decent presence and heard voice in the conversations. Plus being students gives us a unique perspective compared to many educators in these conversations, which definitely helps us stand out a little.

Through all of the discovery and empathy work we’ve been doing over the past year, Kat and I have really started to develop a lot of thoughts around education redesign. For the past few months, especially since the creation of our AP Lang course, we’ve been thinking about actually putting our thoughts into a book to publish. Imagine a book written about education design from students’ perspectives! That would be something different, and hopefully game changing!

During our interview with Mr. Lichtman we really wanted to focus on questions related to the writing process and the journey he went on to create his 2 books (The Falconer and #EdJourney). His support and enthusiasm with our idea was motivating, and his insight invaluable!

Today while unpacking, Kat and I tried to focus on these essential questions that Mr. Lichtman asked us:

  • What are you writing?
  • Why are you writing it?
  • Who are you writing it for?
  • What else is already out there that may be like it?
  • Why should you be the ones writing it?

These questions may sound almost obvious to ask when trying to write something, but sometimes questions become more powerful and helpful when someone else asks you them.

When I say Kat and I focused on these questions, I mean we actually tried to start brainstorming some answers, but obviously we are still vary early in this process. The important thing is: we are in this process.

Our talk today clarified some of our thoughts, and we know we want to do this because we have things we need to say and we have things we want to learn more about to help others find their way on this journey to education redesign. Design thinking is human centered problem solving. In human centered problem solving we work with users to solve the problems. In schools the largest population of users is the student population. Therefore, it only makes sense that student voices are involved in the education redesign process.

It is due to my extremely strong belief in this that my personal how might we that drives my learning and actions at this point in my life is, “How might we make student voice at the forefront of education redesign?”

I’ve only recently been able to even clearly identify what my how might we is, part of what helped was when Alex Emmanuele asked me during an interview, “What’s your how might we?” Again, a seemingly simple question, but when you’re forced to answer publicly to someone else,  it slowly becomes more articulate and takes more shape than before.

The cool thing is that since articulating my HMW, I’ve slowly been seeing it take root even more in my everyday activities and school work. Having conversations with educators around the world to learn and be inspired, discussing how our writing can be meaningful to discussions outside of school, trying to uncover big questions like “what makes a good student?” and planning to interview with 50 stand out students to develop an answer- this stuff is exactly what I want to be working on.

I see my iVenture seeping into the work I’m doing in AP Lang class in a way that makes complete sense and motivates me to learn and work like no other class does. Plus I feel confident that we are also meeting the goals of what students are suppose to take away from an AP Lang class. Mr. Lichtman even said at one point, “You guys have the capacity to really synthesize and find new insights,” when talking about how he thinks us writing a book is an achievable goal. Well, a synthesis essay is one of the essays we have to write for AP Lang, and we just got feedback from an author that we know how to synthesis; that was pretty powerful feedback for us.

Writing a book is no small task. It takes months of constant writing and editing. Mr. Lichtman talked about how he probably wrote over 150,000 words even though #EdJourney only ended up being 90,000 and the target was 40,000. One of the biggest questions we are wrestling with is “how can high schoolers write a book while still keeping up with high school work?” Is it possible? We don’t know. Will we try despite the uncertainty and assumed constraints? Don’t doubt it for a second. How will we do it? Stay tuned as we continue on our journey to find out.

Through out the conversation the biggest piece of advise we got from Mr. Lichtman was, “Know what you want to say. Then continue to ask yourself ‘Is this exactly what I want to say?” We haven’t clearly defined what it is “we want to say” quite yet, but the thoughts are developing. For me the important thing is that I know I’m all in, because I feel that this is where my heart is, and stories come from the heart.

In fact this conversation we had today has made me deeply ponder about where my heart is calling me.

Ever since I can remember I’ve always been decently well known as “the math girl.” I mean even my nickname is “Pi-nya” because I sign my name with a pi symbol instead of an A. I’ve gone to Nerd Camp the past 4 years and taken advanced, college level math courses and absolutely loved them!

Due to my love of math and love of design thinking, I’ve been saying for the past year that I want to major in engineering because that seemed logical enough. I mean from what I’ve heard, engineering seems to be the major that most obviously relates to design thinking principles.

Related to engineering, in innovation diploma time I’ve been working on a product design coVenture focusing on “How might we make sustainability a part of the DNA at MVPS?” I’ve expressed before how I am not super attached to this coVenture; however, I feel like I’m missing experiences in my design thinking tool box that come with finishing a project all the way through.Thus I’ve felt the need to carry this out all the way, and I feel a certain dedication to my team as well to do so.

The thing is, the more we work, the more I’m starting to realize my strengths and weaknesses as a designer. I am not the best at using CAD programs. In fact I’m only okay at best. Also, electronic knowledge goes right over my head most of the time. I’ve also found, that I think I (like many classroom attempts at design thinking) have a problem with spending too much time in discovery mode before leaping into empathy and experimentation mode.

However, there are other things I am good at, like speaking up for a team. I think at this point most of ID knows that giving pitches is definitely one of my strengths. (Being an actress really comes in handy in the real world!) Even just today I was being filmed in a short interview for an MViFi video that is being created, because articulating ideas is a strength of mine. I’m also typically that person to help keep everyone up to date on things that need to be done and checks to make sure we all have the same understanding of what’s going on.

Back in the beginning of last year when we took the Gallup Strength Finder test my 5 strengths were recognized as “learner, individualization, restorative, achiever, and responsibility.” It isn’t until this year though that I’m starting to realize that maybe I should be spending more time focusing on how I can use the strengths I have and improve those rather than trying so hard to get good at a bunch of different things. A team is made of multiple people with different strengths.

I’ve also been questioning if engineering is really the path I want to go down. I mean I know my heart is more into my iVenture/AP Lang work compared to my product design work. I don’t necessarily want to stop my product design work because I truly do think it’s valuable to see a project come to life in some shape or form and learn to wrestle with the real world problems of bringing an idea to life. However, is product design really what I want to be doing later in life? And my iVenture is definitely design thinking, but it isn’t really engineering in the traditional college major sense based on my understanding, so what does that mean?

I know I don’t need to decide at this very moment, but like Mr. Lichtman said, “you really have to know what you want to do.” In my opinion, you often are happier when doing what you want, or at least doing something you know will help you get what you want in the long run. And I think you know what you want to do based on what your heart is telling you.

Currently, I know what I want to do, because my heart is calling me in the direction of my iVenture: “How might we make student voice at the forefront of education redesign?” But when thinking about my future, which as a junior comes up a lot, how does my iVenture fit in when thinking about college and my life after high school? I’m starting to think that engineering isn’t quite alined with my personal passions, but then what is? I’m feeling an odd mixture of being greatly lost and yet incredibly metacognitive and aware at the same time right now.

New Season, New Rules, and Newbees


I’m not a great singer, and I know this. However, I love band and being in musicals, so I would really like to improve my singing capabilities. So now, officially as of today, I’ve joined the new a cappella club at MVPS.

We were talking about what to name ourselves and it just made me think about all of the big choices that have to be made when starting a team. Or even when continuing a team but for a new season.

We’ve been in the process of organizing Kemps Khoas club stuff for what will now be our 3rd season, and every year we have new challenges because we try to make new tweaks to better the experience for everyone. Since year one, based on feedback from players, we have more than doubled the size of our tournament, we have made more concrete rules, we have changed the system for creating teams, we’ve added some fun all play days, we’ve gotten more efficient at scheduling game times and dealers, we have an official council helping to organize and make decisions, and this year we will even have a snazzy trophy being designed that will be 3D printed for our champions.

Every year, while the game has stayed the same, the full program as you may call it, has had to change to keep up with what is and isn’t working and to take account for the newbees that join each year, many that have never even heard of Kemps before.

After today, I realized how stinking similar this process is going to be (but on a much large scale) for ID as we start to experience it for multiple years now. We made it through a year, and it was great, but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve upon the system. In fact, it means we have to change the system because now, like in Kemps, we have newbees, many that are still trying to figure out how they fit into ID.

One change we made for Kemps this year is that we are requiring people who signed up at the club fair to come to at least one of our 3 info meetings in September to show that they really are dedicated and want to play. At these sessions we informed the returning people on the changes we’ve made for this year, and for the newbees we do the same, but we also have to teach them how to even play at all.

After our first info session which was held yesterday, I realized that it probably wasn’t super efficient with having both newbees and oldies there at the same time because the way I needed to present the information was very different. I tried to explain to the oldies first so that way they could move on to other work if they didn’t want to stick around to play practice games. The newbees were still in the area when I was explaining the changes to the oldies, but to them it all sounded like jargon at that point because at that point they didn’t know the basics of how to play so they didn’t have the content for the ideas to latch onto (so I assume based on observations at least). Therefore, in the end I actually had to repeat myself a little so that the newbees could better understand after they were given more content.

I notice the fail up opportunities in this system, but I also recognize that we’ve still made an improvement even from last year. Last year, if you didn’t know how to play then you had to taken upon yourself to reach out to someone that did know in order to learn and rules and regulations were emailed to everyone in a google doc, which most people didn’t really read… Therefore, a lot of people played their first ever match during the tournament, and big overarching things to know about the club, were mainly spread by word of mouth we discovered. We took these observations to try and make improvements this year, but with new ideas will always come new obstacles to jump over.

And now is about when I’m realizing, ID is facing similar challenges. With year 2 we have many new ideas being experimented with due to observations and discoveries from year one. However, we also have the added ball in our jugglers hands, of having a large group of newbees that have to first learn the content of the game in order to understand the whole game process. As an oldie now to this process, I may not need to relearn the entire game, but I still need to understand the changed rules which can sometimes require a little backtracking and relearning in a new way to come to a better understanding in the end.

In ID today we what some may consider a “serious talk”. We had everyone seated down in the conference room and our mentors discussed with us how they don’t see “the light in 100% of our eyes”, meaning not everyone has been keeping up with the responsibilities we all agreed to keep up with as a member of the Innovation Diploma. So they read some passages, and showed us some video clips, all with the intent of making us think about what we want to get out of ID and about what we can do to help make sure everyone feels successful at the end of the year.

I’m going to be honest, I blanked when reflecting on my definition of success in ID for me personally. I don’t know what success will look like because I’m not even sure on what my goals are yet. I have a problem, that most everyone is well aware of at least from the Disney Cohort, where I get involved in a bunch of things, but never dedicate specific focus to do one thing really well. This makes defining goals extremely difficult for me. And I think this is why I have better success when working on a team.

For example, while Kemps club was my idea/brain baby creation, it was the motivation from my peers that really inspired me to get it started. Year one it wasn’t even a real club. I had suggested the idea at the end of 8th grade, and then the next year, while playing during lunch one day, the idea came up again. So my friends and I pulled out a computer and started making a draft of what the letter would look like that we would send to teachers, since almost none of them had ever played/heard of Kemps before. The letter amused us so much that we all agreed we should actually make it happen. That’s team decision, which almost felt like a challenge and thusly a new obligation to complete it in a way, is what motivated me to start the steps needed to make the first year tournament a thing. Then after that first success, the next year we were able to up our game with a new challenge: make it an official MVPS club. This years main challenge is to gain participation and excitement to start thinking about how to keep the club going after my grade (which includes most of the club currently) graduates high school.

I also find that when I make my challenges more public, I feel more obligated and dedicated to get them done. Even when I first started this blog, it all started due to first a challenge, and then my first post where I shared my challenge, and once that happened I felt obligated to my followers and also to myself to prove I could complete the challenge. I can often feel the moment when I take ownership of a project/venture, because in that moment is when I feel energized to see it all the way through. It’s the moment of no going back. To reach that point though, there is often a lot of struggle and doubt where it’s the support of others and reminder of a goal that keeps pushing me forward.

I remember going through these moments even with mine and Kat’s AP Lang Collab-Course. At first the class was just an idea. I got on board more as a “why not? The opportunity seems like a good solution based on my needs, so sure I’ll go for it.” Then slowly as more people started to get interested and ask questions about the idea, and we really started to immerse ourselves into the venture, we got to the point where we now feel immensely proud about how it’s even a thing at all! Since we are only a team of 2, rather than most of our support coming from a team mate, we really had to put a lot of trust in our mentors and I think that’s what made us successful in the end.

At fuse15 during my MoVe Talk I talked about how important the role of a mentor is to thinking like a designer. I believe so strongly in this! All of the time I look back on my high school experience and just think, “I don’t know how I would have gotten through that without such awesome mentors.” Kat and I based our course off of The Hero’s Journey, and an early step on that journey is specifically dedicated to “meeting the mentor” because every great hero has a mentor. Just like Mr. Miagi, mentor’s often use some wacky plan or analogy, like constantly referencing The Lion King when talking about school struggles, or having students do improv for a whole week of class, or going on tangents in other languages and subjects, or letting students dress up in wacky costumes to intensely debate a case for an ancient and dead warrior, or starting off a new semester by playing cranium. To some, these methods may seem insane and not make much sense, but if you trust the mentor and wait out the process with full dedication, eventually the method to the madness becomes clear and it turns out that all of these crazy methods have immensely helped my learning.

Games, systems, and new organizations, they can all be tricky to develop at first, and future years always bring new obstacles with every new opportunity. However, with support, commitment, and trust, success can be found.

Networking on the Fly

miami-concourse-d-american-eagle-gates-1_30267 images

Happy Perfect Day/2 Pi Day/Tau Day !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Today is perfect day because 6 and 28 are the only perfect numbers that occur in the calendar, meaning that the divisors add up to equal the number. Just another one of those awesomely nerdy math holidays!!

However, while today was Perfect Day, it didn’t feel very perfect. It still just felt kind of depressing with all of my TiPster friends texting about how much we miss each other and at some point in the day we all listened to all of the tip tradition songs and watched recordings of the talent show acts.

Yesterday during my TiPression and lack of sleep, there was also a lot of airport drama.

So I’m starting to hate the Durum/Charlotte airports because I feel like the last several times I’ve flown to either of them alone I’ve had really annoying and stressful problems occur.

This time they were trying to say I wasn’t actually reserved on my flight so it took me about 2 hours to finally even get a boarding ticket. Good thing I was there really early due to TIP dropping me off.

On the upside, I guess my motto of “sometimes the biggest accidents make the best stories” tends to come through because I ended up having a really fatardo (awkward and random and usually crazy in the best way) story moment which reminded me of my “Hypothetical Conversation” from my last airport chaos, but in real life this time!

This time I ended up speaking to a lady that use to work at Duke and now works with some organization having to do with the concept of global citizens. I ended up having about a 40 minute conversation with her about design thinking, MVPS, MVIFI, ID, fuse15, my blog, and the DT summit trip that some of my friends our on in Davos right now. She gave me her business card and wants to contact me more about some conference in Durum. She also wants to maybe connect with MVPS because she’s trying to get her sons middle school to work on this big year long project for the students around global citizenship where they would also do planning and fundraising to potentially go on an international trip.

This lady wasn’t even on my flight either, she was waiting for her aunt’s plane to take off, but she kept talking to me a little after anyway!

It’s so cool how sometimes you can just bump into people sometimes and immediately connect and have a cool conversation. It felt so great to make connections and continue networking. Yesterday I introduced one new person to design thinking and it was pretty cool to be able to give examples and her to light up and want to learn more.

I’ve made a lot of new connections in the last month or so, now the real trick is going to be following up with them.

Challenge accepted.

Starting a Cycle


Being at Nerd Camp really reminds me how different Mount Vernon is compared to lot’s of schools around the nation. It also reminds me how lucky I am to go there!

I’ll talk to other Tipsters about school pretty often (because we know everyone here has at least one thing in common: we like learning and are good at school), and when I start talking about Innovation Diploma and opportunities I’ve had like #fuse15 and the work we are doing on our AP Lang course and even stuff about our environment like all of the white board desks (plus others, but these are examples) people look at me with open eyes and say, “I wish my school was like that!”

I mean Mount Vernon really is doing some pretty awesome stuff and I’m just glad to be a part of it!

I’ve probably talked about design thinking to at least 15 different people in the past 3 days. To me this is everyday talk, but so far everyone I’ve talked to hasn’t heard of design thinking which is crazy to me, but it reminds me how important it is to just share your story and in this case the DT story.

I mean imagine what could happen if even one of the people I’ve talked to happens to go back to their school and mention design thinking and some of the cool real world stuff we do at Mount Vernon to a teacher at their school. Then maybe that teacher goes and does some research and discovers #dtk12chat which connects them to a myriad of other educators interested in design thinking. Then those connects could help that teacher start talking to teachers at his/her school. Then maybe that school could start implementing parts of DT into their class. Before you know it, students at this school are helping people in their community through design thinking and then sharing what they do with more students at different schools so the cycle repeats! Maybe even one of these students may end up at Mount Vernon for #fuse16 (I may have been putting ideas in peoples heads).

How cool would that be?!?!?!?!?!

Hearing students respond so positively when I tell them about my MoVe talk and #fuse15, or my involvement in #dtk12chat, or my work with Innovation Diploma really has been making me wonder about students role in design thinking. Students seem to get pretty excited about the idea of doing meaningful, real world work to help people, so how might we network straight to students to get them involved in design thinking? What if a positive reaction from students first helped get teachers hooked too?



Wow this has been one awesome week!!!!! As the #dtk12chat often says #BOOMSHAKALAKA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ve had an amazing time at fuse15 getting to meet educators around the country and help coach them through the design challenge. Getting to see the ideas really come to life in today’s pitches was amazing! It was also really meaningful to get to work with these non-profit organizations, and you could tell how much our ideas meant to them.

I also really enjoyed my first experience with an un-conference. I wish I could have gone to even more of the conversations because they all sounded so interesting.

The first one I went to was lead by our MVPS college counselors and one of my teammates on Green Echo was actually the only non student in the room which was kind of cool. They shared with us their early prototype of infusing the DEEP process into the college process in order to help students discover what type of school they would like best rather than just knowing the names of a couple of big schools maybe from family or sports. The process was such a neat concept and all of the students in the room seemed to have a general agreement that it would be a super helpful process to go through so that we could really go to a college that’s just right for us.

The next session I went to was about the physical space needed for DT. However, the person that suggested this session had suggested it because she wanted to ask questions herself rather than lead the discussion, so instead some of us MVPS students ended up taking over as leaders for the session (seems like a common theme for me this week #hacktheworld). This session kind of bounced all over the place with people asking about our high school schedule, rest spaces (which lead us to talking about the ideas of a MV Cafe which seems to almost always come up with ID members), and even lower school DT.

There were a few really cool moments in this sessions for me. One moment was when we were asked about our ideal classroom (I think that was the question but I was actually having a side conversation with a few others when it was initially asked). The student that took the lead on this question started talking about his love of really nice textures like wood floors, and then he mentioned lots of window and all of the students jumped in to agree. We all LOVE WINDOWS!!!!!! Not only do they let in natural light, but also they can be used as a whiteboard surface!!!!!!!! It was actually a really funny moment because some of the people in the room kind of jumped because we all go so excited so quickly when someone mentioned windows!

Another cool moment was when we were asked about lower school design thinking and how the process could be used with younger kids. This moment was cool for me because it was a “we know more than we think we do” moment. All of the students in the room were at least rising sophomores and more of us were upper classmen, but we all were able to share a little about stories we’ve heard about DT happening on our lower school. We were also able to share tips about embracing the fun in the process and how kids that age can definitely brainstorm, tinker, and ideate but they may need more guidance so we believe the trick is to make sure they really understand the “any idea’s a good idea” and “fail-up” mindsets.

This moment showcased how clearly MVPS cross campus communication is at least decent since we were able to talk about the water challenge, mini library challenge, and makers club at the lower school. It also showcased how students can be “experts” about more than just high school stuff, because everyone has other connections and experiences that contribute to their knowledge on topics.

The last session was one I was leading about Innovation Diploma. Of all things the one question that I’m still racking my head on is, “How would you explain in 2 minutes design thinking to a 2nd grader? What key words would you use knowing they wouldn’t understand all of the DT language words?” There are definitely a lot of terms we use when talking about DT that not everyone understands, and it has been an empathy struggle for me personally sometimes because it is hard to gauge what people will or will not understand when it comes to word choice.

When we were asked this question non of us could give the actual 2 minute description, but we were able to pick out at least a few key words and phrases: human centered problem solving (the big one!), process, relationship building, lot’s of models (trying to not use “prototyping” and “iteration”), working past failed ideas, telling stories, and a few more I can’t quite recall. Anyway, for me this helped lead to one of my big take aways today which was that I can always be working to have a clearer way to quickly describe DT; it’s seems I’ve been in the situation more and more often where I’ve needed this quick, non-DT vocab heavy, explanation.

When the conference finally came to a close the energy and excitement in the room was fantastic! I loved how happy everyone was to have completed their first (for many) DT challenge and I was glad they all enjoyed MVPS so much. The wonder I have (and also said at the end of the day) is if next year we could successfully get students from other schools to come. This year we had those tickets available but no one took the bait, but maybe now people have a better idea of what design thinking is, they will bring students too! There were definitely a lot of “ooohs” when I said my wonder, so that’s always promising.

I also was so touched to have so many people that talked to me about wanting to communicate more with me about design thinking, and some even asked if I could talk to their students. When someone says “you were inspiring,” that’s more meaningful than any A or any number could ever be, and that’s what motivates me to keep learning and sharing my story every day. So thanks to everyone that helped make fuse15 possible: the d. team, coaches, and recruits, you were all what made the experience #BOOMSHAKALAKA !

Day 1 with the Green Echo Squad



Another rocking day at fuse15!!!!!!!!!! I’m worn out from all of the great work, but I still can’t wait for tomorrow!

To start the day some of us student coaches lead a spark with everyone which is always fun, and that went well which is always nice! Then I had an awesome time meeting with my team for the first time and getting right to work trying to uncover the needs of our users for the green team.

My team was full of great listeners which was really helpful because everyone was really working to understand the process even when we pushed them out of their comfort zones, and the team was great and catching insights and accepting feedback which is pretty tricky to do. I think these behaviors will really help going into tomorrow when we keep iterating and preparing for that final pitch before DEEPed where we will have an un-conference around what the recruits want to know about design thinking in the classroom.

However, my team did suffer a little from the team dynamic where we are missing that decision making person. Trying to help push the team through decision making was definitely a coaching struggle for me today because that is the part of the process where I also struggle most, so like always it was a learning moment.

Our team was pretty good at flaring “what if” questions and identified a ton of HMWs, but then as we tried to narrow we got into that design cliff low moment of the process. This is typical of any design team, you often go through your really high moments where you are filled with creative energy, and then later you have a low moment where you just have no idea what you are doing or where to go next. Luckily Ms. Cureton came over and helped to reassure the team that where we were at was perfectly ok and suggested for us to just use the “safe bet” “long shot” dot sticker technique where everyone puts a dot by what they think is the more easily solvable HMW and then another by the one they think would be awesome but potentially harder to solve for.

Through out that next hour or so there was still a lot of reminding of, “We aren’t quite at the same step as others, but that’s ok because design thinking is a process and it is not linear so groups will often be at different stages at different times and that’s expected.” If every group was always moving at the exact same pace during a design thinking challenge, then the participants probably weren’t getting the most out of the experience, and I’d bet the ideas/solutions wouldn’t be as awesome, user centered, and applicable which would kind of take away the point of the process in the first place.

The dot voting helped us narrow to 2 HMWs, but we still couldn’t narrow to one, so instead we divided and ideating using a tool from our DEEP Playbook we call 6 Sketchy Circles. The tool is pretty straight forward: there are 6 circles and you sketch (not write, actually sketch!) one idea in each circle usually while on a quick time limit.

We still couldn’t narrow…

This is where sometimes the time crunch and mindset of “keep moving forward” really can come in handy. We were being pushed by our commander to start prototyping, so we just made a quick decision to go with a very early idea and just start prototyping to see where it would go.

I found this very ironic because in my MoVe Talk last night I talked about how even when you won’t feel ready to take action, sometimes the best thing to do is just start prototyping. Well today my point was proven.

We started prototyping and I must admit I was definitely not really hooked on our solution just because I tend to stay away from the awareness like solutions. However, being a coach, I ran with it and and helped out where I could.

Then possibly the biggest win moment for me today was when our users came over to give us feedback and told us how much they really loved our idea! (Short version: We designed a logo for the collaborative group as well as some merchandize they could sell that ties to their believes around recycling and organic goods.)

After the feedback we got after round one of prototyping, we realized that we needed to go back and work on our story more. While we have tangible products that would eventually be sold, our prototype is almost experientially with the logo and name because it is serving as a connection between the 3 different organizations and helping to spread their believes into the public community.

The cool thing was that our ideas really came full circle during this new iteration because we realized that there was a whole separate layer to our prototype that actually solved for the need we observed with our 2nd HMW. The second HMW was more focused on the individual users of the organizations rather than the organizations themselves, and we realized we were helping another need because creating the products would offer a wide variety of job opportunities. (Remember back when we couldn’t decide on a HMW? Well we accidentally solved both which is just another cool part about design thinking! It’s all circular thinking not linear!!!!)

A general observation I also noted today was about how far those of us that are coaches have come with our storytelling/pitching skills to be able to give quality feedback to recruits. With my work on creating our collab-course for AP Lang I’ve been working a ton with the hero’s journey and seeing it applied EVERYWHERE, and with a good pitch really it’s all about having a good story. You have to have a good story to make people realize why your product/solution is needed and why this is one of the best solutions out there.

I know we will focus more on how to give a good pitch tomorrow, so I’m curious how the presentations for some groups will change after that more intensive work on that area of the challenge. Personally I think the pitch is one of the most important parts because you could have a great idea but not be able to communicate it so nothing happens to it while an ify idea with a really convincing pitch could go somewhere. I honestly wish we spent more time during school practicing story telling/presenting skills because it’s just as important to be able to communicate your ideas with people well verbally as it is to be able to write them.

Overall today was a great day of design thinking and I’ve particularly been so happy with how accepting recruits have been to the process because it can be pretty uncomfortable as a first timer for some, especially when teaming with people you may have just met. As tomorrow comes I’m excited to ideas come to life further and for DEEPed where some burning questions about design thinking in the class room will hopefully be answered.

DT Leader


Well today was AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

First off FUSE15 launched finally!!!!!! It was awesome to see all of our recruits for the first time and to hear some awesome MoVe Talks!!!!! I was honored to get to speak in front of everyone and share my story; it was a pretty awesome experience and I am so thankful for all of the great responses I’ve gotten from it! I can’t wait for the next 2 days where we will work with our non profit organizations as we go through the design thinking process.

Then to top it off, there was a #dtk12chat tonight as well. The chat started with like 4 people and everyone was confused with where everyone was. One person suggested that there was an unofficial hiatus due to so many people being at FUSE15, but I just responded with how there are way more educators then just those at FUSE15 so there is no reason to stop the chat.

Around then I texted my best friend Marz to get on the chat with me since for some reason no one else was leading it: “I seriously want to just take over the chat but I have nothing planed I’M LIMITED HELP TOGETHER WE’RE UNLIMITED LET’S DO THIS”. So we did. We just started asking questions and slowly more people joined the chat and it was pretty awesome!

Some great conversations started up around summer learning, student motivation, badging, communication skills, social media, and even standardized testing. We have no idea who was suppose to lead the chat tonight, or if there even was a specific person. But there was a need for a leader and when opportunity calls sometimes you have to just seize the moment and go for it. I’m also pretty sure this was the first #dtk12chat ever lead by students, so now that’s also out there as something that is totally a possibility!

All in one night I gave my first MoVe Talk (well to a large audience that is), and I co-modded the #dtk12chat and it felt spectacular! I’ve been sitting in my bed smiling and laughing all night!

Today I wasn’t just a student. I was a DT leader and proud of it!

Presentations: Story + Visual


I had another productive day of work at school in the summer today! Next week is FUSE15 the big design thinking conference that people all over MVPS have been preparing for. I’m lucky enough to get to be one of the coaches to partake in this experience, and I’ve also been given the chance to give a MoVe talk at the conference which stands for “Moment of Visible Empathy” and is like the MVPS version of a TedTalk.

I’ve had my story planed out since I gave the talk at the end of the year with all of ID, so luckily that part has been taken care of and just needs some more reps. However, the slides themselves are still being worked on a little because I want them to be visually professional too.

It was funny because in my meeting today where I was getting feedback on my slides, I realized that while in school we often teach and even occasionally get early feedback on what we are saying we don’t tend to focus on visual aspects of projects. I’ve learned more in the last 3 weeks about slide formatting tips then I have from the rest of my education so far.

It’s just that most of the work I’ve done with presentation stuff has been me kind of figuring it out myself and typically in school we would never focus on how it looked as long as the information was good (well even if the information was bad, the visual aspect wasn’t the focus of the project).

I wonder, what if we did spend more time in school talking about presentations tips? Things like how to pick color schemes or find good images (which may involve some photo shopping), and maybe talking about what words to even include on the slides and why.

I wonder if more specific feedback on the visual aspect to presenting could be helpful to students for future presentations they may do that will have higher stakes. I know at least my parents have come to me a few times before because they know I use more presentation stuff then they do at work and ask for tips on using various tech applications which makes me think of how in the 21st century, these presentation skills are becoming more useful then ever before.

There are two parts to a presentation typically, the story and the visual display. Both parts need feedback if you truly want the best quality come show time, so what if students started learning how to give and get feedback on both aspects early on? What if students were even helping give quality feedback to professionals on their presentations? Talk about game changing.

Plan, Practice, Preform


Today was really nice. I felt oddly focused and calm all morning which happens every now and then where I’m just abnormally quite compared to normal. Then by the time the end of the day came we had FUSE15 flight school and I was wide awake!!!

For the first week in June this year, MVPS is hosting a big design thinking conference that is going to be helping 4 non profit organizations. We are having primarily educators from around the country coming in for FUSE15 and it should be awesome! We are also, for the first year, having a group of teachers and students be the coaches during the conference. I’m really excited to be a coach and today was nice because we were working with our organization teams for the first time and started our discovery phase to learn more about our user.

Then I went straight to acro after that great, quick meeting for FUSE15. I only had 45 minutes of time for acro tonight, but my partner and I finally finished learning our new routine so that we can be ready to preform 2 routines at our spring in house meet at Jump Start. We are the first pair we’ve had to get all the way to level 8 with two complete routines which is super exciting! (Well a few of the skills are still a little rough, but we have done them all before even if not consistently.) When we do preform, in a few weeks, it will be the first time we have done these new routines and I really hope they go well because I think the more advanced we get, the more people with think acro is cool and want to join too! (Well that’s the hope at least.)

Then to close the night off I participated in the first ever “The Cup” show at MVPS which was basically a talent show for the high school. It wasn’t the best organized as far as pre planning and practice, but that is expected with a first time for anything especially when it is organized completely by students because they have less experience. However, it ended up being really good and a lot of fun. Way more people than anyone expected ended up coming which made some people a little nervous, but even the few that felt bad because they messed up a little, pulled it off really well and no one noticed.

I’ve said before that the high school should have a talent show and I’m really glad we did because we have some talented students at MVPS. I hope this tradition continues and I can’t wait to see how it grows; I’d love to see some more unusual acts in the future.

I did a mime for the show tonight and it went really well especially since I had never done a big performance of one of the mimes I know before today. A lot of people said they really enjoyed it and a few said it brought them to tears even; it’s always great to hear that you really affected your audience because that is how you know you put on a good performance. 🙂

Over all it was just a good day of planning, practicing, and preforming.