It’s finally Fuse17 week!!!! That means dozens of educators from around the country have gathered at our school to learn about design thinking and how it’s applicable in the real world, including/especially within education. Plus, unlike a normal conference (says the 18 year old…), we get the joy of working alongside of 3 non profits as we go through a lap of the design thinking process.
I’ve been waiting all year for this event and am so glad it’s finally here and that we have such an amazing group of people gathered!!!
Now I’m really tired and should probably sleep seeing as tonight’s only day 1 of the 3 day conference. However, I couldn’t help but reflect a little on my already uncontainable excitement from day one, so I’m going to try to make this short, which is a struggle of mine.
Today was a day of really gearing up for the Moonshot of the conference. Participants started the day in a lab either dt101-Flashlab or dt102-Consultivation; these labs allowed participants to get an extra lap through the design thinking process (at whatever level suited their past experience) under their belt before we head into the big design challenge working with our non-profit partners. Then the evening was really spent diving deep into MoVe Talks where we heard from the various non profit organizations (GA Farmers Markets, Beds 4 Kids, and Love Beyond Walls) as well as some MVPS speakers who focused on how we use DT at MVPS for all ages in various capacities.
What really stood out personally for me today was to see how far we- MVPS, MVIFI, Innovation Diploma, even fuse itself- have come in the past four years. (I guess when you graduate you can’t help but spend the summer reminiscing on how much things have changed over time because it seems to be a recent theme of mine.)
Hearing the MoVe Talks today from MVPS people made me realize how many more stories we have to share than four years ago and how we have so many people that could give a MoVe Talk if needed, students included. We have 6 total Innovation Diploma members at fuse17 which is a much greater turn out than the last two years where we had about 3 max, and I’ve already been hearing so many comments about people being impressed by the students they’re working with or hearing from. And projects that ID has worked on over the past few years came up myriad times over the course of the day, which just goes to show that we’ve done some pretty awesome noteworthy stuff in the past three years.
Furthermore, facilitating the Consultivation session allowed me to experience and feel how far we’ve come.
This may sound odd, but there was an almost physical vibe about how comfortable things felt in terms of the DT process/facilitation/coaching going smoothly. We’ve facilitated dozens of design challenges in the past four years- yes I say we, I may only be a recent grad, but I have done my fair share of facilitating- and we are still constantly prototyping new ideas on how to run them, but today just felt so organic and there weren’t a million questions about, “Wait I don’t understand this, how do I use this tool?” It was great! (Wow that was a run on sentence, but I’m just so empowered right now that I can’t help but think and type faster than my poor grammar can try to keep up!)
I’m going to cut this post shorter than my normal reflections because I need to get some rest, because these next few days are about to be full of hard purposeful work- so obviously it’s going to be too much fun to want to spoil by being sleep deprived!
It’s official, the first edition of Trailblazers, a student driven magazine on the Education Transformation Movement, is here with young writers from around the world contributing!!!! My peers in the Innovation Diploma, Abigail Emerson and Kaylyn Winters, and I have been working at this project all year after some last minute edits over the summer, we now feel it is time to ship the idea and get it out into the world.
What feels like a very long time ago, I had to start writing my Common App essay for college. Back when I did start brainstorming what to write about, I turned immediately to my blog; it’s been amazing to have a an entire collection of reflections from some of the most memorable things that have happened over the years. It only seemed right that now, now that I’m finally decided on a college and graduated high school, that I should officially post my Common App essay:
Common App Prompt 3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
I am a designer. Anyone can be a designer. You don’t need a fancy degree or a Mona Lisa to prove it. You just have to be confident enough to say it, “I am a designer.” This was the message I delivered to inspire creative confidence to a “young” audience of design thinkers. Let me set the stage.
The summer after sophomore year, I earned the opportunity to be one of four guest speakers at an annual summer conference called Fuse, facilitated by the Mount Vernon Institute For Innovation. This event gathers 110 educators, business leaders, social innovators, change agents and dreamers from around the world to make an impact while learning more deeply as design thinkers. A slide deck appears on stage and the attendees saw the peculiar twitter handle @Pinyabananas, then a single spot light illuminated me- a 16 year old girl with her hair in a scrunchie. As a speaker, I delivered a 10 minute presentation similar to a TEDTalk where I shared about “Thinking Like a Designer.” My role: to get the room full of educators excited and confident in their abilities to spend three days problem solving for four different non-profit organizations. As the only speaker under the age of 30, the one with the least formal schooling and lacking the series of credentials and accomplishments of the other speakers, I was nervous.
Being an actress, I’ve been up on stage dozens of times in front of audiences larger than 110 people. I’m comfortable with public speaking, but this experience was different. This time I was the only student; specifically chosen because the organization believes that I have a story and ideas that educators should hear. Typically, it’s assumed that anyone still in secondary schooling has much to learn and not much to teach. When asked to speak, I was tasked with representing not only myself, but all students– to prove that we can have insightful thoughts worth sharing in serious conversations about the future.
I got up on stage vulnerable yet confident, and shared what I believe to be a recipe for success: to have community involvement, work with a purpose, a mentor to guide you, a mindshift to turn problems into opportunities, and a bias towards action. I challenged the entire audience to say the opening lines of this essay with me: “I am a designer.” To my surprise, when I repeated this statement, a chorus joined me; 110 educators accepted the challenge proposed by a 16 year-old girl to think like designers.
Age doesn’t have to be a limiter in life. If I am willing to take action for a cause that I care deeply about, then anything is possible. After my talk I had a number of educators come up to me and say, “You are inspiring!,” “I can’t believe you’re only 16,” “Thank you for giving me the confidence to do this.” Later that night my phone was blowing up with the number of twitter notifications I was getting from people commenting, liking, and retweeting things about my talk; our head of school even said, “Sounds like the takeaway of the night was from @Pinyabananas ‘I am a designer.’” It was a crazy night for me; it’s hard to believe it really happened.
This talk has since been used at a number of other workshops, some of which I probably don’t even know about. I remember researching myself online one day and found a link to a presentation by a professor in England who used the video of my talk! I am still astonished to think that my work had such an impact, and have continued to use my digital presence through daily blogging and tweeting as a mouthpiece for students around the country who remain silent school consumers.Anyone can be a designer. You just have to be confident enough to say it, “I am a designer.”
I’m a person who often gets involved in big time consuming projects that require lots of planning and organization. I love getting involved in these big projects, but at the same time it can feel like you’re walking on a treadmill: you just keep moving but you aren’t getting anywhere new.
This year I want to develop a better habit of taking action faster by focusing on more “small hacks.” Little short term projects that expose me to new skills while helping to change some small things that might otherwise get overlooked as not being a “big enough problem.” Making the life of even just one person a little bit better is still making an impact.
As part of my role as the Mount Vernon Institute For Innovation (MVIFI) Fellow, I work closely with the MVIFI Nucleus team and today I had a lunch meeting with them. This meeting was primarily about the Maker, Design, and Engineering programs we have been building at MVPS. A good chunk of the meeting was focused on how to get more people to take ownership and agency over the idea that they too can be a maker despite age, experiance, or teaching discipline.
This gave me an idea.
We have a maker’s space on both the lower and upper school campuses (Studio(i) and The Hive) where we have all sorts of tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters, vinyl cutters, CNC machines, and more that anyone can learn to use whenever they’d like to. Access to these tools is incredible because it means that we can develop high res prototypes in all sorts of mediums. Yet this is an opportunity that isn’t taken advantage of by nearly as many students and teachers as you would think– yet.
I personally do not even know how to use several of the tools that are available to me as part of the Mount Vernon community, and I want to change that. So I intend to start taking time every week to learn a new tool. While I’m learning, I hope to then make something related to different content areas which I can then give to various teachers in order to help encourage them to also use The Hive and to perhaps spread the maker mindset into their classrooms as well.
A maker, in my opinion, is someone who tinkers around with different materials and has a bias towards action in order to develop physical products. The maker culture therefore, is really centered around trying to make your thinking visible, which is something that is relevant and should be emphasized in all content areas. I want to live in a community of people who not only talk about big ideas, but a community of people who can build those ideas out and make them a reality.
In my experiance, schools want their students to be life long learners that feel empowered to take action. How do we teach the mindset of taking action? We teach students how to have a makers mindset. And this isn’t just the job of “Maker, Design, and Engineering teachers,” because in order for something to become a part of a communities culture, everyone must embody the mindset. It is everyone’s responsibility to embrace and spread the maker culture.
It’s been a busy few weeks. Since I last posted I’ve been working at the Stanford d.School, wondering the city of San Francisco, at a Disney hotel, exploring Universal, sick in bed, discovering new facts at interactive museums, catching up on reading, and in general having fun with family and friends relaxing and trying not to worry about school. I’ve dropped the ball on blogging for various reasons, but that is irrelevant right now because inspiration hit me and I’ve finally reached a point where I simply must write.
While in San Fran (though really I was in Palo Alto most of the time…) I did write some posts, but due to internet issues at the time they never made there way online yet.
Rather than multiple posts I shall put the summaries here of our work on the design challenge “HMW establish friendships and build community at Stanford?”
San Fran Day 1
Today was our first day in San Francisco and I’m so excited to be back here again! The city is so much fun! All the bright colors, interesting street people, and pretty scenery just makes me so happy.
Today was our “chill day “ since we only just got into the city and everyone is still adjusting to the time difference. We did a lot of exploring today. We started out just doing a lot of walking to our hotel and then to the pier to visit the Exploritorium. We came to this same interactive museum last year as well and it’s really cool to get to play with all of the science, math, and psychology interactive exhibits.
(Small tangent, this place also has one of the biggest Pi Day celebrations in the country at least, and there is free admission and a bunch of pi activities to do. One year I would love to be in San Fran for Pi Day just to see this supposedly epic event. This year is actually the 28th time they are celebrating apparently.)
One thing at the museum that I didn’t notice last year is that they have a moving sign up front that is constantly changing what it says. At one point in time, it read, “You can’t fail a museum.” I really liked this because it showed how the Exploritorium is really meant to be a place to wander and wonder and simple have fun learning about new things. There is no number or letter attached to anything. There is no sense of “failure” because no matter what you do at a station, you will either learn what works or 10,000 ways that don’t (just like Thomas Jefferson inventing the lightbulb.)
I wonder what schools could learn from the design of the Exploritorium. I know we need to have some form of feedback at school, which is not present at the Exploritorium, but what if we had a section of school that was more like a museum with various interactive exhibits set up. A place where you could wander in everyday and learn something new. Learning without the stress of grades is great.
San Fran Day 2
IDEO and d.School all in one day!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Today was fantastic so many great ideas in such a short amount of time!
We talked about everything from a bathroom note board, to a hackathon bike race, to how to build trust between high schoolers and college reps.
I think what I enjoyed most about today was giving feedback to grad students on their prototypes for trying to figure out how to relieve stress from students trying to go to college.
It’s cool to see ideas that other people have about education transformation and I was making sure to take notes on ideas that connect to ours.
I’ve noticed that most ID members have gotten a lot more comfortable with giving feedback which was very evident today. Everyone was “in the zone” so to say; we seemed comfortable and confident with what we were talking about and how we were explaining our thoughts.
It seems like we gave valuable feedback, but I wish we could have gotten to hear their team’s meeting about what they thought after our feedback. I would like to know if our feedback was actually valuable to them rather than just basing it off of our own observations.
We also did some quick interviews with people today around campus. That was particularly interesting because we don’t often get to experience what it’s like to go out into the “real world” and just ask strangers questions to try to empathize better with our users. Usually it’s someone we know that we’ve been emailing with for a while and then finally get one 30 minute conversation with. There was no real planning on our part with these interviews though (the facilitators at the d.School had talked with the dorm leaders who had talked to the student, but we personally had not connected with any of the students before). We talked less and did more and it was fun, informative, and got us moving further faster I think.
Overall day 2 was fantastic!
San Fran Day 3
Wow today was a full day.
We were talking with college students, doing fun team building dances, unpacking interviews and working a lot on trying to find insights.
It was tiring.
While there is a lot I could talk about tonight, what I’d like to dive in on is how I realized how important it is to have breaks in our day.
When we’re always working non-stop, then it can be hard to really process everything, and your energy level slowly dies down. We’ve had some long days this week so far, and while I’ve appreciated the amount of time we’ve had to work, I wonder if we will have more moments this week where we break out from working. Times to just do weird fun stuff as a team.
We did a dance exercise today, which I can only describe as a leadership exercise that forced us to be goofy and follow each other anyway. We were working with our teams and changing up who was the leader to lead our team in dance moves. This was so much fun and I think we got to know our mini teams better, but I hope we get to have similar experiences with all of the ID family. I think every group can always grow with their understanding and comfort level with each other.
Now I didn’t keep up with blogging after day 3, so I’ll just do a quick recap of my overall thoughts.
To be completely honest (as I like to be), I had many points of frustration. I think this is natural, I’d be lying to say that everything was good and dandy 100% of the time with anything I do. I think the hardest part was being in a place where not everyone sees the same potential in a group of high schoolers as our facilitators and teachers at MVPS do. We are given so much respect at MVPS that it’s hard to leave that environment and remember that not all of the rest of the world thinks of high schoolers as active and involved members of a community. This struggle personally came up for me a few times along with the normal working on a team struggles.
However, these were all minor things compared to the over all experience and everything we gained from it.
The theme of the week was “fail forward” which reminded me of a MVPS phrase we like to say, “fail up”; they essentially mean the same thing, which is a reminder that you have to learn from failures, in order to achieve success. So don’t shut down when you fail, instead lean in and like a clown at a circus, even when you fall you get up and say “ta-da!” I thought it was really neat to hear someone else talk about a mindset that we also have as a norm when doing work.
Some other big take aways were how we learned a lot of new helpful tools and coaching prompts for going through the design process. Another big success was that a lot of ID members seemed to take on new roles while we were at Stanford, and really come out of their comfort zones in positive ways; several people also had “aha” moments where they maybe understood a part of the design process better than they once did. I also think a huge take away was just the number of great ideas generated while we were there. I hope some of these ideas will maybe be adapted a little and implemented at MVPS.
I could tell that all of these take aways helped bring our ID family closer together, and I
hope to see some of these take aways help inspire our work as we continue this year and beyond.
What’s really blowing my mind still is that we had this opportunity. Ya we are a bunch of high schoolers, but we are a bunch of high schoolers that just spent a week with Stanford students thinking up big ideas to problems that are affecting real people. Too bad this wasn’t school all of the time.
A week or so ago one of my mentors, Tedwards as we call him, walked by during my Latin class and stuck a vinyl sticker on the glass wall. It said “et tu Baroody” and had a picture of the colosseum. My entire class thought it was great, but our marvelously OCD class got frustrated with the fact that it was slightly crooked on the glass. Our natural conclusion was that we needed more, so that it looked like it was purposefully crooked.
Then, earlier this week, Tedwards came to take down the sticker and a few of my friends said no we wanted it and wanted more! So we set up a time for Tedwards to come work with my Latin class, so we could make more Latin stickers!
This Friday was that day!
We were given the challenge to help Tedwards with a Guerrilla Art idea he’s been wanting to start up for a while.
Guerilla art is a fun and insidious way of sharing your vision with the world. It is a method of art making which entails leaving anonymous art pieces in public places. It can be done for a variety of reasons, to make a statement, to share your ideas, to send out good karma, or just for fun. –Keri Smith
So each of us was tasked with picking another high school teacher and creating a sticker for them that connected their class to something about Latin.
While some may think that this day was just a pure day of fun, I think the mixture of Latin and Makers proved to be a great day of learning, which also happened to be fun! I mean just think about everything we accomplished:
We learned how to use a new tool– the vinyl printer.
We worked on Latin prose composition when writing our Latin phrases.
We learned some History while picking what Latin images best conveyed our message to the other teacher.
We promoted the use of art and technology as a learning tool in the classroom by tagging other teachers with our stickers. (Most haven’t been tagged yet because most of us hadn’t finished Friday so we worked over the weekend on finishing.)
We got students excited about learning and talking about their experience with other kids that aren’t in the class.
Sounds like a pretty productive, successful, and fun day to me! I love it when things that start as a little joke turn into a great learning experience. 🙂
Last night was the 10th year anniversary of High School Musical, and you bet I watched the movie with the cast commentary last night on Disney Channel! It’s crazy to think that movie first played 10 years ago. It feels like it was only yesterday…
That movie, while extremely cheesy, makes me so happy. I mean it was a part of my child hood. (Even though technically I only started to like it after a little while of it being out.) I still know just about all of the words and several of the dances too.
One song that has been stuck in my head all day is “The Start of Something New” (which is slightly ironic because I missed that part of the movie last night).
The song has seemed fitting today though because many new things have happened. I got my new piccolo!! (I had never played one before today and that was interesting, but I’m excited to learn!) Our ReSpIn team in ID worked with the laser cutter and made huge progress in terms of design concepts and connects. Kat and I have been working on planning a big discussion around the “American Dream” and success, which we made a lot of great progress on today in AP Lang. And tomorrow is my first meeting with the MViFi team now that we’ve actually announced that I’m the first MViFi Fellow, and I’m so excited! (I finally put my shirt on today that we joke about being a bowling team shirt, and it’s kind of giant on me considering there are only guy sizes, but it makes me laugh in a happy way anyway.)
I don’t know why exactly, but it just feels like a lot of “new” is coming soon to my life. It hasn’t quite hit yet, but there’s something in the wondering air…
(I feel the need to explain the term “wondering air,” it basically means “breeze” but it became a joke in Latin today because when we translated a piece literally it said “wondering air” which we all found funny and I thought it was fit in this situation for some reason.)