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Posts Tagged ‘design thinking

Design Thinking Process and UDL Planning Tool for STEM, STEAM, Maker Education

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Post by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D. @jackiegerstein and Barbara Bray @bbray27. Crossed posted at http://barbarabray.net/2017/06/08/design-thinking-process-and-udl-planning-tool/.

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If there is a makerspace in your school, it may be down the hall, in the library, or in another building. If there is someone other than the teacher managing the makerspace or there is a schedule for the school, your kids may only be able to use it once a week or month. Some makerspace activities may be focusing on how to use the resources available and may not be connecting the activities to the curriculum or around a real world problem. If this is how the makerspace is set up in your school, then your kids may not have access to the resources, materials, and tools when they need them, especially for STEM or STEAM.

In deciding what resources you need based on the learners you have, you may first need to determine how your learners learn best, what projects you plan to do, how you can set up a makerspace in your classroom, and much more. This is why we decided to create a planning tool for makerspaces in the classroom for you using the Design Thinking Process and Universal Design for Learning®.

The Design Thinking Process

Design thinking is an approach to learning that includes considering real-world problems, research, analysis, conceiving original ideas, lots of experimentation, and sometimes building things by hand. The projects teach students how to make a stable product, use tools, think about the needs of another, solve challenges, overcome setbacks and stay motivated on a long-term problem. The projects also teach students to build on the ideas of others, vet sources, generate questions, deeply analyze topics, and think creatively and analytically. Many of those same qualities are goals of the Common Core State Standards. (What Does ‘Design Thinking’ Look Like in School?)

We adapted the Design Thinking Process to include additional phases based on our own experiences in schools with educators and kids.

Define Problem IconDefine the Problem: The educator along with the learners generate possible authentic problems to explore within their local community (classroom, school, social, community) which includes identification of the intended audience.

Empathy IconEmpathy and Perspective Taking: Learners interview clients to gain an understanding of their needs and to see the problem from their perspective. The educator can assist learners in the interview process including how to develop interview questions.

Idea Generating IconIdea Generation: Learners, typically working in small groups, generate lots of ideas and questions to ask to solve the design thinking problem or challenge. Each generated possible design is analyzed as to its potential to resolve the design challenge.

Sketch Design IconSketch Design: A blueprint or sketch of the selected design is created through pencil and paper or through an online tool such as Google Draw or Sketchup. This design can be pitched to another group for constructive feedback.

Prototype IconPrototype – Test – Refine: This phase is the actual creating and building of the product. To get the product to work as the plan often takes several iterations of prototype, test, and refine. Learners are encouraged to use the tools and building processes that work for them.

Feedback IconFeedback from User: The final design is presented to the users for their feedback. The designers ask the users about the degree to which the design met their needs asking specific questions about what worked and what still needs improvement.

Reflection Icon

Final Reflection: Learners reflect on the process in a way that works best for them – blogs, photo essays, video recording, podcast, sketchnotes, illustrated ebook.

 

Share IconShare Out: A goal of the design thinking process is sharing learning out to a broader public. This is typically done by sharing documentation of learning and final reflections through social media.

 

Universal Design for Learning® (UDL)

Universal Design for Learning® (UDL) developed by David Rose and Ann Meyers is a registered trademark of the Center for Assistive Special Technology (CAST). UDL was designed to reduce the barriers to the curriculum and maximize learning. UDL provides a framework for all learners to help them become self-directed and independent expert learners. UDL has reordered the principles and guidelines, to begin with, Multiple Means of Engagement, the Why of Learning that compliments how the Design Thinking Process involves learners in identifying an authentic problem or challenge.

  • Multiple Means of Engagement (Why) is the affective network that explains how interest and purpose engages and motivates learners to want to learn.
  • Multiple Means of Representation (What) is the recognition network how content is represented and how learners process information.
  • Multiple Means of Action and Expression (How) is the strategic network involving how learners monitor progress and demonstrate and reflect evidence of learning.

The National Center on Universal Design for Learning goes deeper referring to the alternate version of the UDL Guidelines found in the book UDL Theory and Practice by David Rose and Ann Meyers where the order of the principles and the guidelines have changed. The UDL Guidelines provide a deep dive into each of the principles to checkpoints that provide resources, examples, and research. We pulled together the phases of the Design Thinking Process and identified specific options under each principle to create a Design Thinking Process and UDL Planning Tool for teachers.

Design Thinking and UDL Planning Tool

In the initial phase of defining the problem, the teacher involves learners to generate possible authentic problems within their local community. The problem can be defined by the teacher to encourage learner interest. We connected the UDL principle Multiple Means of Engagement to this phase by providing options for recruiting learners’ interest through optimizing relevance, value, and authenticity. To understand the problem, the teacher activates learners’ background knowledge and invites them to highlight patterns and critical features around real world problems that impact them.

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Egg Drop ActivityThe UDL connection to Engagement to the second phase of Empathy and Perspective Taking made so much sense to us. The UDL connection involves learners having options for sustaining effort and persistence by fostering collaboration and community. This phase is where learners gain an understanding of the needs of specific people about a problem from their perspective. They may interview, do observations or survey them about the problem.

Some lessons can involve a specific problem identified by the teacher who first wants to encourage empathy. We provide one example around an Egg Drop and the Design a Squishy Circuit for a Classmates (see these examples at the end of this post).

The middle phases of the Design Thinking Process involve the iterative steps related to idea generation and prototype-test-refine as well as getting feedback from the users.

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As can be seen in the UDL Connections column of the Design Thinking and UDL planning tool, representation and action and expression can be explicitly addressed. Representation or the What of Learning is a strong focus during the Idea Generation and Feedback from Users phases as the educator helps learners highlight patterns, critical features, and relationships of their discoveries. The Action and Expression or the How of Learning emerges most strongly during the Creating a Blueprint and Prototype-Test-Refine Phases as learners include their own personal touches and preferred means of expression.

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The final phases of the Design Thinking Process involve reflection on the design and making experiences and then sharing out the results to a broader audience.

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UDL technology connectionThe UDL connection to Action and Expression is especially strong in the final phases of Reflection and Sharing Out. During the reflection phase, learners are given the option to express what they learned during and because of their STEM, STEAM, Maker Education experience in a way that makes the most sense to them given the nature of the task; and their preferred means of expression. This is especially relevant given all that technology and online tools provide.

For example, students can write a blog, create a photo essay with a caption, record a podcast or video, do a hand-drawn or online sketch, create a comic.  Learners, many being savvy at the use of social networks, can then choose how they want to share out their reflections. This serves several purposes related to Action and Expression: (1) it gives learners an authentic audience, and (2) it helps other makers learn from their personal experiences.

Examples of STEM, STEAM, and Maker Education Activities using the Design Thinking and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Planning Tool

We hope the Design Thinking and UDL planning tool we developed helps you guide the design of learning activities that focus on STEM and STEAM and brings makerspaces into your classrooms.

We will be discussing this topic in the Twitter chat (#plearnchat) on Monday, June 19 at 4 pm PT, 5 pm CT. We ‘re also going to be sharing more details including redesigning makerspaces in the classroom in our presentation at ISTE 2017 in San Antonio on Monday, June 26 11:30 to 12:30. Please join us!

We welcome any comments, ideas, or questions.

Jackie GersteinDr. Jackie Gerstein’s byline is, “I don’t do teaching for a living. I live teaching as my doing . . . and technology has amplified my passion for doing so.” Dr. Gerstein has been teaching in-person and online for several decades. Currently, she teaches master’s level online courses in educational technology for Boise State, Walden, and Western Governors’ Universities as well as gifted elementary education where she focuses on STEM, STEAM, and Maker Education.

Jackie actively blogs at  https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/ and tweets at https://twitter.com/jackiegerstein

Additional Resources referenced from Jackie’s blog:

Barbara Bray Pic

Barbara is a teacher, writer, change agent, risk-taker, instructional designer, connector, futurist and visionary. Whenever anyone told Barbara she couldn’t do something, she took it more like a challenge. New and veteran teachers are overwhelmed with day-to-day tasks plus being asked to teach and integrate technology or to change their curriculum. The big question even today is “how do you fit everything in that is expected of you and meet the needs of all students?”

Barbara co-authored two books on personalized learning with Kathleen McClaskey:Make Learning Personal and How to Personalize Learning. She wrote a regular column on professional development for OnCUE (Computer Using Educators) for over 17 years and continues to write here, for Personalize Learning, chapters in books, articles, and as guest posts on other blogs.  She works tirelessly to find and research new tools and methods that help educators and personalize learning. Now with multiple opportunities to network using social media and join various online communities, teachers and learners are confused. Barbara makes it her job to determine what is authentic, valid, cost-effective, safe, user-friendly, and relevant for her clients. She is relentlessly researching how to personalize learning so all learners follow their passion so they discover their purpose.

Barbara  actively blogs at http://barbarabray.net/ and tweets at https://twitter.com/bbray27

 

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

June 8, 2017 at 10:33 pm

Design Challenge

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This year I have been focusing on design challenges and design thinking with my gifted elementary students, grades 2nd through 6th. Last semester I introduced a series of activities to have them explore, learn about, and interact with design thinking principles and strategies. For a description of those activities, see https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2016/09/25/introducing-design-thinking-to-elementary-learners/

To re-introduce design thinking again for this spring semester, this week I asked them to do the Extraordinaire Design Studio:

The Extraordinaires® Design Studio is a powerful learning tool, that introduces children to the world of design, teaching them the foundations of design in a fun and engaging way. Your clients The Extraordinaires® are over the top characters with extraordinary needs, it’s the job of your student to design the inventions they need to fit their worlds. Choose your design client, from a rap star to a vampire teen or even an evil genius plotting in his lair. Look at the exceptionally detailed illustrated character cards to learn more about them, their world and their needs. Once you’ve chosen your Extraordinaire, pick a design project. It could be a communications device for a soldier or a drinks carrier for a circus acrobat. https://www.extraordinaires.com/shop/the-extraordinaires-design-studio-deluxe

To play, the character cards are laid out and then the inventions or gadgets are randomly placed on the character cards. The learners can then select which character/invention pair for which they would like to design.

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After drawing out and labeling their inventions and gadgets, they took pictures of them and posted their images along with a short description on a blog post. Some example learner work follows:

Hoverchair 1.0

TJ selected a hover chair for an astronaut.

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Le Phone

Sebastian selected a communication device for a fairy.

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Bearded Flask

Will selected a drink carrier for a wizard.

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This activity was a high interest, high engagement, high yield instructional task. Some learners had a little trouble getting started but once they did, their designs and inventions were fantastic. I think the fanciful nature of the cards helped engagement. The company has a free app to go along with their set for the designs to be uploaded and described. This app did not do what was promised so I cannot recommend its use.

What I think this type of design challenge does especially well is to introduce the idea that design thinking often encompasses designing a specific type of product for a specific type of client. It does a good job of introducing learners to the core of the design thinking process:

The Design Thinking process first defines the problem and then implements the solutions, always with the needs of the user demographic at the core of concept development. (http://dschool.stanford.edu/redesigningtheater/the-design-thinking-process/)

This set does cost some money but there are other free options:

  • Maker Education Card Game that I created
  • Destination Imagination Instant Challenge

Maker Education Card Game

This game, which I first introduced in the Maker Education Card Game, is a card game that ends with the makers making something based on selected cards. Each maker picks a card from each of the three categories:

  1. The Thing or Process
  2. The Product
  3. The Population.

For example, a maker may choose, Create a Blueprint from The Thing or Process category; a New Toy from the Product category; and Adults from the population category meaning the maker would create a blueprint for a new toy for adults. The educator and makers can choose whether it is a “blind” pick or one in which the makers see their options. (Note – I would love to increase options in all categories. If you have additional card ideas, please leave them in the comments section).

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Destination Imagination Instant Challenges

Destination Imagination offers similar design challenges

The Destination Imagination program is a fun, hands-on system of learning that fosters students’ creativity, courage and curiosity through open-ended academic Challenges in the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), fine arts and service learning. Our participants learn patience, flexibility, persistence, ethics, respect for others and their ideas, and the collaborative problem solving process. https://www.destinationimagination.org/mission-vision/

Combination Challenge

Randomly choose one or more items from A and one or more items from B, C, D or E and get busy.

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Roll-A- Challenge

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Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 15, 2017 at 8:10 pm

Introducing Design Thinking to Elementary Learners

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Design thinking is an approach to learning that includes considering real-world problems, research, analysis, conceiving original ideas, lots of experimentation, and sometimes building things by hand. The projects teach students how to make a stable product, use tools, think about the needs of another, solve challenges, overcome setbacks and stay motivated on a long-term problem. The projects also teach students to build on the ideas of others, vet sources, generate questions, deeply analyze topics, and think creatively and analytically. Many of those same qualities are goals of the Common Core State Standards. (What Does ‘Design Thinking’ Look Like in School?)

I use the following activities to introduce elementary students to the design thinking process. The ultimate goal is for the learners to work on their own, self-selected problems in which they will apply the design thinking.

Introducing the general design process to elementary student occurs through showing the following video about the engineering process:

The Task: Build the Highest Tower

The Goal

The goal of this activity is to have learners practice a simple version of the engineering design process.

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Source: http://slideplayer.com/slide/9058715/

The Task

In teams of 3 to 4 members, learners are asked to build the highest tower out of 50 small marshmallows and 50 spaghetti noodles.

The Process

As a team, ask learners to sketch out possible solutions

Design thinking requires that no matter how obvious the solution may seem, many solutions be created for consideration. And created in a way that allows them to be judged equally as possible answers. Looking at a problem from more than one perspective always yields richer results. (Design thinking… what is that?)

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Prototype and test ideas

After brainstorming and sketching possible designs, learners begin the process of building this spaghetti-marshmallow towers.

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Revisit the design process

After some time prototyping, a time-out is called so learners can reflect on what is working and not working. Learners are encouraged to see what the other groups have created to spark new ideas.

Design thinking allows their potential to be realized by creating an environment conducive to growth and experimentation, and the making of mistakes in order to achieve out of the ordinary results. At this stage many times options will need to be combined and smaller ideas integrated into the selected schemes that make it through. (Design thinking… what is that?)

Return to the building and testing process

Next Step: Introduction to Empathy

As a design thinker, the problems you are trying to solve are rarely your own—they are those of a particular group of people; in order to design for them, you must gain empathy for who they are and what is important to them. As a design thinker, the problems you are trying to solve are rarely your own—they are those of a particular group of people; in order to design for them, you must gain empathy for who they are and what is important to them. (from the d-school)

The second part of the introducing elementary-level learners to the design process is introducing them to empathy and its connection to the design process.

The Goal

To have learners discover and explore the elements of empathy as it relates to design.

The Process

Introduction to Empathy

For younger kids (but even the 5th and 6th graders seemed to enjoy it):

Warm-Up: Great Egg Drop

Preparation and introduction:

Learners are asked to draw a face on an egg and are given the following directions: “Pretend the egg is alive – has thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Your job is to use the straws to create a protective covering for the egg so it will not crack when dropped from a 10 foot height. Address the following questions prior to building your egg structure:

  • What do you think your egg is feeling about his or her upcoming drop?
  • What do you need to make your egg’s journey less stressful?
  • What can you do to reassure your egg that everything will work out okay?
  • What forces do you need to consider in order to keep your egg safe? Consider gravity, rate of descent, impact.

Example Responses from a 6th grade group:

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The Task

To begin, assemble groups of 4 or 5 and give each group various materials for building (e.g. 5-20 straws, a roll of masking tape, one fresh egg, newspaper, etc.)  Instruct the participants and give them a set amount of time (e.g. 30 minutes) to complete building a structure, with the egg inside in which the structures are dropped from at least 10 feet in elevation and then inspected to see if the eggs survived. The winners are the groups that were successful in protecting the egg. (http://www.icebreakers.ws/medium-group/defend-the-egg.html)

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Delving Deeper: An Environment for a Gamibot

Lead learners through the following steps:

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  • Develop the Backstory for the Gamibot: Report via a Blog Post or Voki
  • Create an Environment for the Gamibot Out of Natural and Art Materials. Make sure it fits your Gamibot’s backstory creating an environment that is tailored for your Gamibot. Be ready to explain why it fits your Gamibot.

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Squishy Circuits: Designing for a Human Being

The Goal

To put everything together by creating a design for another human being.

The Task

Learners design a squishy circuit product based on the specifications given to them by a classmate – the client from all of the available colors of Play-Doh (conductive clay), modeling clay (insulating clay), and LED lights.

The Process

Lead learners through the following steps:

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  • As partners, decide who will be the designer and who will have a product designed for him or her – the client.
  • As a designer, find out the following from the client:
    • What do you want me to build?
    • What size do you want it to be? It needs to be scaled in some way. (Note: learners are given graph flip chart paper with 1″ squares and taught about scale, e.g., 1″ = 1′, 1″ = 2′, etc.)
    • What color Play-Doh? Modeling clay? LED lights.
  • Construct the design while your client gives you feedback. The client is not permitted to touch the Squishy Circuit during the design process.
  • After completion, roles are switched.

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Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

September 25, 2016 at 2:30 pm

The Educator as a Design Thinker

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[Note: This was originally written for and posted in the Heinemann Digital Campus. Unlimited access to more articles like this, as well as video clips and full-length books are available on the Heinemann Digital Campus. Subscribe at: http://www.heinemann.com/digitalcampus/referenceLibrary.aspx.]

Information abundance, emerging technologies, broad ranging social connections via social media, and the ability to create, produce,and  share original works of writing, art, inventions with authentic audiences have created a new age of learning, one that is qualitatively different than the 20th century.  Tony Wagner, author of Creating Innovators: he Making of Young People Who Will Change The World, stated “”The world doesn’t care what you know, but what you can do with what you know.”

Schools need to reflect these changes. Schools are doing Education 1.0; talking about doing Education 2.0; when they should be planning and implementing Education 3.0.  Some of the characteristics of of those living and working in a Web-Education 3.0 world include:

  • Understanding learning as a process; the how-to’s of learning.
  • Knowing how and where to search for resources, people, information when needed, also known as just-in-time learning.
  • Being able to make social, intellectual, interest-driven, and academic connections both face-to-face and virtually.
  • Adding to current fields of study, knowledge bases and content areas through giving feedback, sharing resources, creating content.

Design thinking has great potential to aid both educators and learners in developing these 21st century living, learning, and playing skills,  Many, including the Stanford’s d-school. are working towards integrating these ideas into educational settings to help insure that education is more aligned with real world skills and needs.

This movement to build a generation of design thinkers could not be more timely or more relevant. We are living in an age of increased complexity, and are facing global challenges at an unprecedented scale. The nature of connectivity, interactivity, and information is changing at lightening speed. We need to enable a generation of leaders who believe they can make a difference in the world around them, because we need this generation to build new systems and rebuild declining ones. We need them to be great collaborators, great communicators, and great innovators (Design Thinking in Schools: An Emerging Movement Building Creative Confidence in our Youth).

The intent of this article is to interest and motivate educators in using design thinking to approach their instructional strategies and curriculum from a fresh perspective; to learn and promote skills, attitudes, and knowledge that are more specific for their students as well as having them develop skills for being 21st learners both in and out of school.

Every day you design ways to interact with your students around content. You can follow a design process to be more intentional about connecting this content to the interests and desires of today’s learners by finding out more about the things that they do outside of school and connecting that to the content you are bringing to them (Design Thinking for Educators).

So simply put, when implementing the design thinking model, the educator approaches his or her learners with the question, “What do you want to learn?” and then uses the process of design thinking with his or her learners as co-creators to develop the curriculum and learning activities specific to their interests, desires, and needs.

Essential Questions

  • How can the educator use design thinking principles to inform instructional and curricular decisions?
  • How can the educator include their students in creating a learning environment informed and influenced by design thinking?

It is understandable that given today’s school climate of accountability, testings, standards, and scripted curriculum, going into a classroom without a plan other than to use design thinking to design the curriculum and learning activities can be a more than a little disconcerting or seem like an impossible endeavor.  But for educators who want to prepare their learners for functioning in today’s and future worlds, this process can be invaluable.  Benefits can occur even if the educator can devote some of the class time to this process (e.g. 20% time),

educator as design thinker

Guiding Strategies

  • The first and most important step in the design thinking process is knowing and empathizing with the audience, in this case, the learners. Learning activities such as interviews, learning surveys, get-to-know one another activities, and empathy development are used so the educator gets to know the students; students know the educator; and the students know one another. This is crucial step so that instruction and curriculum can be selected and tailored for each specific student group.
  • The focus is on processes – producing, assessing, developing, creating, revisiting,  revising. Learning content becomes secondary to developing the how-to skills for how to be a learner in the 21st century.
  • Ambiguity is normalized and failure is seen as iterative.  Reframing Failure as Iteration Allows Students to Thrive.
  • Group skills for design thinking include active listening, collaboration, conflict management are integral for the process.  Participatory, democratic, inclusive principles and methods guide decision-making. Design thinking honors all voices; acknowledging that everyone – educators and learners alike – have valuable input into the design, implementation, and assessment of the learning activities.
  • Continuous feedback loops for and by the educator and the learners help inform the process. Feedback or assessment is not a separate step or entity as is typical in the classroom. The educator and learners engage in continual evaluation of the efficacy of the learning activities through group discussions, writing, informal assessments, making revisions, alterations, and detours based on this feedback.
  • Deep reflection is part of the process. Related to continuous feedback is building into the process the skills and attitudes of being a reflective practitioner. This permits both the educator and learners to take a step back to analyze what is working and not working within and throughout the design process.

Benefits of Bringing the Design Thinking Process Into the Classroom

Some of the benefits of integrating design thinking into the classroom for both teachers and students include:

  • The curriculum becomes tailored to the student group being served.  Because the focus and intention is on tailoring learning to the student group as well as individual students, differentiated instruction and universal design for learning become inherently and naturally part of the process.
  • The educator and students learn the process to address ambiguous problems and concerns. The result is the development of tolerance for and skills to address ambiguous problems which is more aligned with how the real world works.
  • The educator and students develop skills related to innovation, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving – those skills valued by today’s workforce and society.

Resources for the Educator as a Design Thinker

Ideo. (n.d.).  Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit – http://www.designthinkingforeducators.com/about-toolkit/

Pfau, P. (2014).  Rethinking Education with Design Thinking – http://www.metropolismag.com/Point-of-View/February-2014/Rethinking-Education-with-Design-Thinking/.

Speicher, S. (2013).  Design Thinking in Schools: An Emerging Movement Building Creative Confidence in our Youth –  http://gettingsmart.com/2013/11/design-thinking-schools-emerging-movement-building-creative-confidence-youth/

Teachthought. (2013). 45 Design Thinking Resources For Educators http://www.teachthought.com/teaching/45-design-thinking-resources-for-educators

Video Teacher Voices: What does design mean to you?  http://vimeo.com/46066703

 

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 27, 2014 at 8:54 pm

Educator as a Design Thinker

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educator as design thinker

 Resources for Educator as a Design Thinker

Ideo. (n.d.).  Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit – http://www.designthinkingforeducators.com/about-toolkit/

Pfau, P. (2014).  Rethinking Education with Design Thinking – http://www.metropolismag.com/Point-of-View/February-2014/Rethinking-Education-with-Design-Thinking/.

Speicher, S. (2013).  Design Thinking in Schools: An Emerging Movement Building Creative Confidence in our Youth –  http://gettingsmart.com/2013/11/design-thinking-schools-emerging-movement-building-creative-confidence-youth/

Teachthought. (2013). 45 Design Thinking Resources For Educators http://www.teachthought.com/teaching/45-design-thinking-resources-for-educators/.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 24, 2014 at 1:22 am

Empathy: A Top Skill of the Effective (and Loving) Educator

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Learning is a result of listening, which in turn leads to even better listening and attentiveness to the other person. In other words, to learn from the child, we must have empathy, and empathy grows as we learn.   Alice Miller

I have a fitness teacher.  She knows fitness, she knows how the body works.  She knows how to break down the exercises and how to teach them.  What she doesn’t know is each participant’s body.  She assumes she knows what is best for all of the students.  In other words, she lacks empathy for those in her class.  Some tolerate her, others do not go to her class because of her lack of empathy for her students.  But these are adults, children in public school education do not have such a choice. So this post is a call to action to highlight and become intentional in bringing teacher empathy into the classroom.

What is Empathy?

Daniel Pink in a Whole New Mind describes empathy:

Empathy isn’t sympathy- that is, feeling bad for someone else. It is feeling with someone else, sensing what it would be like to be that person  Empathy is the ability to imagine yourself in someone else’s position and to intuit what that person is feeling—to stand in their shoes, to see with their eyes, to feel with their hearts—it is a stunning act of imaginative derring-do, the ultimate virtual reality, climbing into another’s mind to experience the world from that person’s perspective.

A Rationale for Empathy

Given all the pressures placed upon teachers in today’s schools, I think, not necessarily due to all of fault of their own, some educators overlook the reverence they should take in relating to and interacting with their learners.  Jonathan Kozol in Ordinary Resurrections so beautifully stated:

Good teachers don’t approach a child with overzealousness or with destructive conscientiousness. They’re not drill-masters in the military or floor managers in a production system. They are specialists in opening small packages. They give the string a tug but do it carefully. They don’t yet know what’s in the box. They don’t know if it’s breakable.

. . . and . . .

Human beings are precious. Their values, thoughts and independence are very important to them. When dealing with another person one has to know that one is “walking on holy ground.” Defining empathy skills in practice – Carl Rogers and unconditional regard

Empathy for one’s students should be a top concern of educators and intentionally used as a primary instructional strategy.

Empathy and the Educator as a Design Thinker

Given the recent popularity of design thinker, some educators are looking at and proposing that educators using design thinking to design the learning experiences in this classrooms.  As Grant Wiggins notes in Beyond teacher egocentrism: design thinking:

The learning is the center of our world, not the teaching. And until we see that we are in the business of designing and causing learning instead of merely in the business of teaching, we will fail to cause optimal learning. Great care has been given to thinking through the goal of the learning and the conditions that have to be in place if optimal engagement and active learning, in a group of diverse students, is to occur.

Many describe empathy as the first step of effective design thinking.  “One of the core principles of design thinking is its focus on human values at every stage of the process. And empathy for the people for whom you’re designing is fundamental to this process” What is Design Thinking?

I would go as far as saying that empathy is necessary for designing all facets of teaching: setting up the classroom, selecting curriculum, choosing and implementing classroom management strategies, and teaching each individual learner as unique individuals.

Benefits of Empathy in Teaching and Learning

Finally in terms of benefits to teaching, learning and the classroom environment, empathy is a necessary precursor in order for the following to develop:

  • Foundation of the teacher-student relationship:  With educator empathy, the learner feels as though the educator has a genuine interest in and really understands him-her.
  • Individualized, differentiated, and personalized education:  There is absolutely no way an educator can tailor instruction to the meet their learners’ needs, interests, desires without empathy.
  • Meeting the social emotional needs of the students:  “Addressing the host of unmet social and emotional needs that students carry into the classroom demands that teachers be able to look below the surface and understand what’s driving a particular set of behaviors” (Unleashing Empathy: How Teachers Transform Classrooms With Emotional Learning).
  • Modeling empathy to increase empathy by the learners: When educators walk the talk of empathy, students can see empathy in action and develop those skills for themselves. ‘Ultimately, creating empathy comes down to leading children by example. “We have to model what we want them to do”‘  (Creating Empathy in the Classroom).

Educators inherently know that empathy is important to the operation of their classrooms and the success of their students. Educators must meet the needs of each of their students, no matter their background. At the core of this educational mission is the teacher’s ability to empathize with these students, moving beyond the teacher’s perspective to those of the children he or she encounters. Beyond this there is also the argument that empathy itself should be a goal of education; students should leave the classroom or school environment equipped with skills to build meaningful relationships with their peers  (Empathy in the Classroom)

educator empathy

Related Posts:

 

Finally in terms of benefits to teaching, learning and the classroom environment, empathy is a necessary precursor in order for the following to develop:

  • Foundation of the teacher-student relationship:  With educator empathy, the learner feels as though the educator has a genuine interest in and really understands him-her.
  • Individualized, differentiated, and personalized education:  There is absolutely no way an educator can tailor instruction to the meet their learners’ needs, interests, desires without empathy.
  • Meeting the social emotional needs of the students:  “Addressing the host of unmet social and emotional needs that students carry into the classroom demands that teachers be able to look below the surface and understand what’s driving a particular set of behaviors” (Unleashing Empathy: How Teachers Transform Classrooms With Emotional Learning).
  • Modeling empathy to increase empathy by the learners: When educators walk the talk of empathy, students can see empathy in action and develop those skills for themselves. ‘Ultimately, creating empathy comes down to leading children by example. “We have to model what we want them to do”‘  (Creating Empathy in the Classroom).

Educators inherently know that empathy is important to the operation of their classrooms and the success of their students. Educators must meet the needs of each of their students, no matter their background. At the core of this educational mission is the teacher’s ability to empathize with these students, moving beyond the teacher’s perspective to those of the children he or she encounters. Beyond this there is also the argument that empathy itself should be a goal of education; students should leave the classroom or school environment equipped with skills to build meaningful relationships with their peers  (Empathy in the Classroom)

 TeacherEmpathy

Related Posts:

Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/69392086@N06

 

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 28, 2014 at 9:18 pm

Hacking the Classroom: Beyond Design Thinking

with 15 comments

Design Thinking is trending is some educational circles.  Edutopia recently ran a design thinking for educators workshop and I attended two great workshops at SXSWedu 2013 on Design Thinking:

Design Thinking is a great skill for students to acquire as part of their education.  But it is one process like the problem-solving model or the scientific method.   As a step-by-step process, it becomes type of box.  Sometimes we need to go beyond that box; step outside of the box.  This post provides an overview of design thinking, the problems with design thinking, and suggestions to hacking the world to go beyond design thinking.

Design Thinking

Design thinking is an approach to learning that includes considering real-world problems, research, analysis, conceiving original ideas, lots of experimentation, and sometimes building things by hand (http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/03/what-does-design-thinking-look-like-in-school). The following graphic was developed by Design Thinking for Educators to explain the process of design thinking:

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As a further explanation of this process, here is an exercise by the d.School about how to re-design a wallet using the design process.

Here is another take on the design thinking process as applied to learning within a community setting:

“What does it take to create education in this age of imagination?” was the theme of the following Ted talk.   Imagination, play, and social interaction become important to the learning process.

To further learn about design thinking, visit:

Problems with Design Thinking

Bruce Nussenbaum, in a Fast Company article, Design Thinking Is A Failed Experiment. So What’s Next?, discussed the benefits of design thinking but also noted it has become a type of flavor of the month for corporations.

Design Thinking broke design out of its specialized, narrow, and limited base and connected it to more important issues and a wider universe of profit and non-profit organizations. The contributions of Design Thinking to the field of design and to society at large are immense. By formalizing the tacit values and behaviors of design, Design Thinking was able to move designers and the power of design from a focus on artifact and aesthetics within a narrow consumerist marketplace to the much wider social space of systems and society. We face huge forces of disruption, the rise and fall of generations, the spread of social media technologies, the urbanization of the planet, the rise and fall of nations, global warming, and overpopulation.  Design Thinking made design system-conscious at a key moment in time.

There were many successes, but far too many more failures in this endeavor. Why? Companies absorbed the process of Design Thinking all to well, turning it into a linear, gated, by-the-book methodology that delivered, at best, incremental change and innovation.  CEOs in particular, took to the process side of Design Thinking, implementing it like Six Sigma and other efficiency-based processes (http://www.fastcodesign.com/1663558/design-thinking-is-a-failed-experiment-so-whats-next).

I fear a similar outcome for design thinking within educational settings.   As I stated in the introduction, design thinking, being a type of problem-solving model, is it’s own type of box.  It attempts to solve problems via a specific process in order to come up with a new solution or product.  John Media, in If Design’s No Longer the Killer Differentiator, What Is?, emphasizes the limited perspective that design thinking can create:

Designers create solutions. But artists create questions — the deep probing of purpose and meaning that sometimes takes us backward and sideways to reveal which way “forward” actually is. The questions that artists make are often enigmatic, answering a why with another why. Because of this, understanding art is difficult: I like to say that if you’re having difficulty “getting” art, then it’s doing its job.

Paul Pangaro, a technology executive, who combines technical depth, marketing and business acumen, and passion for designing products that serve the cognitive and social needs of human beings, further critiques design thinking in his video, The Limitations of Design Thinking.

If we stop with design thinking we won’t solve those problems that those in design thinking say they want to solve.    Paul Pangaro

Hacking the World

All of this leads to the question of what types of learning in today’s classroom would help students acquire knowledge, skills, passions, and attitudes for living, working, and playing in today’s world.  Design thinking is one process for creative problem solving, but to really survive and thrive in a world of such constant and rapid change, kids need to go beyond design thinking and be able to hack their world.  Not only is it important to be able to use a creative process to solve problems, it is equally important to be able to identify problems to solve. As humans living within systems that are safe and comfortable for them using the tools and strategies that are familiar to them, it becomes difficult for many to step outside of that comfort zone to critically analyze these systems to identify problems and to discover better ways of living for themselves and for others.

Hacking is a way to do so.  Hacking can be defined as:

Hacking is research. Have you ever tried something again and again in different ways to get it to do what you wanted? Have you ever opened up a machine or a device to see how it works, research what the components are, and then make adjustments to see what now worked differently? That’s hacking. You are hacking whenever you deeply examine how something really works in order to creatively manipulate it into doing what you want.

The real reason to be a hacker is because it’s really powerful. You can do some very cool things when you have strong hacking skills. Any deep knowledge gives you great power. If you know how something works to the point that you can take control of it, you have serious power in your hands. Most of all, you have the power to protect yourself and those you care about (Hacker High School).

In an NPR article, At This Camp, Kids Learn To Question Authority (And Hack It), Michael Garrison Stuber, whose daughter participated in the camp, stated:

“Why would I do this?” he asks, while laughing. “Fundamentally the world is about systems. And we work within systems all the time, but sometimes systems are broken, and we need to be able to subvert them. And that is a life skill I absolutely want her to be able to have.”

In developing hacking as a skill, an attitude, and/or as an approach to construct and de-construct the world, it is more than just hacking in terms of computer science.  In order to hack the world, we need to tear it apart, deconstruct it and analyze its components parts and how they operate in relation to one another within various systems.  This is a mental, social, emotional, and whenever possible, a physical process.

The following icebreakers are designed for web design, but they could also be used to establish a climate of thinking outside of preexisting mindsets which, in turn, becomes a goal of hacking: to develop alternative mindsets.

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http://hivenyc.org/hacktivityGrid.html

To get a broader perspective on helping young people become white hat hackers (folks who enjoy thinking of innovative new ways to make, break and use anything to create a better world), see:

Although I am currently looking towards hacking as a way to facilitate creative thinking and positive (world) change, it also has the potential to become a more standardized process as is the issue with design thinking.  Hacking, but its very nature, should force learners and learning to the limits, but attempts to scale any movement can inadvertently and unintentional create the type of standardized, procedural system it is trying to avoid.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 11, 2013 at 12:24 am

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