Design Thinking Workshop

Today, my school held its first major Design Thinking workshop, that was open to teachers from outside our school.  It went well, I thought.  We had four tables of four teachers (so that’s sixteen), plus two of my colleagues, me, and Diane — Diane is GREAT, she’s the manager of our state’s independent school association, CAIS, and helps do the behind-the-scenes planning and organization for all our conferences and confabs. We had four last-minute cancellations of various sorts, but that’s to be expected this close to the end of the year.

I have to say, I often lost the thread of our schedule, even though I had designed it.  It’s one of the great challenges I face as a Design Thinker and a designer in general: I need to design a schedule just so that I know what I want to cover, but then a conversation or an experience on the day of the event makes me realize I need to present things out of the scheduled order, and I shift my ordering without telling anyone.  This left my colleagues in the lurch, a little, and I need to be better about planning these kinds of shifts so they work for everyone, and not just me.

Design Thinking makes me a little ADHD.  I wind up thinking about providing folks with coffee and then that leads to “where are the cups?” and making coffee I leave the coffee pot on the counter instead of under the brewer spout, and only just get it into place in time…. and then I realize that I’ve forgotten some things in the design lab, too, and I need to go back to the lab to put out some things for later in the morning.  All of this leads to me rushing around during the conference’s half-hour of chit-chat before we begin, INSTEAD of reviewing my schedule and going over the plan with my associates.  Bad move.

Accordingly, I’ve made a list of tasks to be done — a PUNCH LIST — for next year’s conference, now.  So it’s now in the file, and ready to pull out when I go to plan next year’s event.

I’ve already decided there will be a next year’s event.

A lot of the feedback I got right away, had to do with building in more time to talk about curriculum.  I shie away from these conversations, though, because they’re hard. They’re licking your own elbow hard, because each and every one of these conversations involves getting a teacher to admit that there’s something they’re not happy about with their own teaching.  If you feel that all of your teaching is perfect, or almost perfect, or close to perfect, then there is no reason at all to include a Design Thinking component in your curriculum.

Today I realized why I shie away from that conversation…

Getting a high-powered teacher from a high-powered private school to admit that in front of a room filled with peers and colleagues from competitor schools is counter-productive.  It’s why all of my successful discussions about Design Thinking have happened one-on-one with a teacher who trusts me.  It’s why I’ve never gotten far with groups of teachers, or teachers one-on-one who have a trust issue.  It’s why it’s so important that I fix my own errors as a teacher… so that my colleagues see me going through this same design process that I’m pushing at them.

But then there’s that ugly, ugly problem… it’s really hard to find your own design flaws without feedback.  You need someone that YOU trust, to go over the design of a given lesson with you, find the faults and flaws, identify the areas for improvement, and figure out how to fix them together.  It’s EXACTLY what a mentor should do, and it’s exactly this reason why so many mentorship programs at so many schools run into problems — because the evaluation of the classroom teacher is often being done in a hierarchical pattern, rather than by a colleague interested in providing useful, collegial critique that leads to a better program.

There were so many things wrong with today’s program, from my point of view, that I’m curious if anyone will LET it happen again.  At the same time, I think the attendees, and my colleagues, got a lot out of the day, and so it’s easy to see a lot of things RIGHT with the day.  How do we muck with the program of the day just enough so that more people want to attend, and recommend it?  How do we revise the day to provide a greater range of experiences?  How do we make the humanities folks feel like this is for them, while not alienating the math/science folks?

These are always serious design questions, and the next step is to get some feedback from participants, and colleagues, about how the day went.

Tomorrow, the students tackle the Marshmallow and Spaghetti Problem (Students: don’t watch this! Yet!).

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