Design thinkers occupy movement - the Hilton #SXSWedu2015 #SXSWedu #dtk12chat pic.twitter.com/ntU8bByUfJ
— Chris Davis (@chrisdaviscng) March 12, 2015
Journeys to SXSWedu
Every classroom comes with a variety of minds, some ready to follow and engage, some so full of spontaneous learning that connecting and engaging with the day’s trajectory can shade in comparison to what they have going on internally, what they experience beyond the walls of the classroom. Our job is to connect the two, to bring the child experience into the curriculum. As Freire reminds us, schools are not banks dishing out the next salary payment of knowledge, children’s minds are not empty vessels. And neither are teachers’.
Every year schools have initiatives that stem from the philosophical structure of the institution, but between the pillars, in the interstices, teaches design and weave the living fabric of the learning community. That is where our project for Journeys in Podcasting began, in the spaces of spandrels where teachers work from their creative strengths. The first step of our goal is to document the creative teaching practices among our community. Our second goal is to research within our community, pooling knowledge from all heads on a topic or practice. Then through a series of readings and video conferences we research beyond with experts at the university level, with fellow practitioners, or the professional world.
Our strategies stem from educational theory we regularly apply to student experience, but often neglect the “teaching brain”. In Drive, Daniel Pink explains that having autonomy, space for mastery, and a purpose to work propels our motivation. At Stanford, Carol Dweck studies growth versus fixed mindsets in students. Dewey defined knowledge as action upon one’s environment. Vygotsky stressed the learning community itself as catalyst for knowledge. The d.School’s design thinking radical collaboration mindset empowers the efficacy of every idea and the more diverse set of heads on a topic, the better. This body of thought drove our own project design as we embarked on our journey to build from teacher strength and teacher interest. Each episode serves as a prototype for reflection for us to dive deeper within or extend further out the next study.
Our topics have included collaborative learning spaces, student created tutorials, socratic circles, student driven inquiry, student critiques, and mindfulness. Our researching beyond guests have included representatives from Steelcase, Dr. Reshan Richards, Dr. Aaron Kuntz, John Larmer, Paul Curtis, Dr. Lisa Palmieri, and Tim Burns. Each sessions stems from a set practice or pilot initiative within our campus. Our core team of three often bubbles out to include whoever is interested in a topic. We document through photo and video, interview, and record group discussion wherever gaps in our day permit, often hosting video conference sessions during lunch hours.
The original intent of the project was to create an active research method centered around case studies, capturing teachers at their best and getting a diverse set of heads in the room talking on topics they may not ever get a chance to discuss. What we have learned is an even more surprising gem, the focus on positivity. Something about being in the act of recording empties the room of whines and complaints. Our discussions have been borderline rowdy and rambunctious. When our shoddy internet connection failed we threw out absurd questions, hoping that they didn’t actually get heard on the other end. When a hail storm of biblical proportions made verbal communication impossible we resorted to miming. To date our podcast has six episodes and has been played 239 times, most of them probably from us. But we don’t worry about stats of hits, teaching is an incredible job, and having to articulate it for an audience, even if that audience is only ourselves, makes it a celebration.
Recently at SXSWedu I found myself at a cafe surrounded by design thinkers. It’s hard to hold back the smile in these unconference / EdCamp situations where you scan the crowd and twitter-know half the room. From their tweets, blogs, podcasts, and Google Hangouts, you know their talking points before they are voiced, and you probably feel more professional affinity with these “strangers” than you do with your teacher neighbor across the hall whom you have “collaborative meetings” with multiple times a week. I came prepared for this and after brainstorming discussion points on a couple of napkins, Joby, Zoom iQ6, and iPhone were on the table and a podcast session was underway. In forty-five minutes Moss Pike explained students building empathy for Ancient Romans by designing Roman bath houses in Minecraft, Ian Ulmer walked us through building student metacognition with blogging, Ellen Deutscher talked about design culture, Dan Ryder connected teaching poetry as a study of artistic intent, and Tracy Clark discussed the visual grammar of sketchnotes. Recording, making the artifact pushed articulation and defined purpose.
I have never liked recording myself, but like many elements of teaching, sometimes you just have to become what is required. We are currently working on sessions for iPads and literacy, design thinking case studies, maker spaces, commonalities in project design between disciplines, Minecraft as design learning tool, visible thinking habits of mind, and sketchnotes as literacy tool. We welcome your input.
We began this project with the mission to thread the learning community within and beyond. Come join the weave!