As I began to think about my blog post this week, I thought I may want to refocus on the “why.” Why are we in education? Why are we teachers/coaches/interventionists/administrators?
And then I started to do my own reflecting. What was my “why” when I started out as a teacher? How has that evolved throughout the last 14 years?
I started to think about how my own teaching career has had so many ups and downs. How there were days I could take on the world and felt that I could teach anyone anything, and other days I wondered if I was going to be able to reach one kid in my room.
As I continued thinking about the multiple highs and lows in my career, I found myself reflecting on the times that I have hit the proverbial fork in the road. Those times created situations that looked a lot like this:
I would love to embrace chaos, but that is not my natural inclination. I know order and structure; I thrive in order and structure. Yet, at multiple points in my life, I have been hurled into chaos and my five year plan tossed out the window. (Honestly, five years ago I was a high school English teacher in Sandwich, IL now I am elementary instructional coach in Kaneland)
So where (except the inner workings of my brain) am I going with this blog post? Innovation, change, growth, personalization, and teaching can often times look like chaos. It is hard to tell where things begin and end, just like the line in the scribble above. It is hard to figure out if we are moving forward or just looping around again.
How do we move from the chaotic scribble, to a loopy line, to a solid direction? For me, it took a process.
I found comfort in the midst of uncertainty by jumping into something called the design thinking process. I was first exposed to this structure at the Learning Forward Conference in 2017. While the session in December sparked my interest, it wasn’t until my life was thrust back into a mode of chaos that I decided to really give design thinking a try. At the end of last school year, I was in a cycle where we were focusing on project based learning. I dove into the book Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student to help me coach but at the same time I began the design thinking process for my own life.
I quickly clung to the fact that while things were messy at the moment, the framework I was reading about and engaging in gave me an opportunity to know what step I was in the process of and give me direction to head toward. It granted me the permission to allow the beginning to be chaotic because I was taking productive steps to figure out how to come to my solution.
Design thinking is a structure that has been used for years. John Spencer and A.J. Juliani took this idea, which is prevalent in the business world, and shifted the focus to how we can use this process with our students in the classroom in Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student. Teachers are guided in the book to help students move through seven phases. These phases create structure in a messy process of creation for students, teachers, or anyone trying to solve a problem or innovate.
The Seven Phases of the Launch Cycle (partnered with the Design Thinking terms) are:
Phase 1: Look, listen and learn=Empathize It is all about taking the time to step into someone else’s shoes and begin to really view the issue from their perspective or multiple perspectives.
Phase 2: Ask lots of questions=Empathize Students work on developing and asking those tough questions that elicit productive answers. This is a great time as a teacher to get into the world of QFT .
Phase 3: Understand the process or problem=Define After viewing a problem/situation from a variety of angles it is time to figure out what is the real issue or problem that needs to be solved.
Phase 4: Navigate ideas=Ideate This is where true creativity can flow and students come up with all the possible solutions that they can. During this stage there is no such thing as a bad option. By the end of this stage you want students to gain a focus and select one or combine a few ideas to get moving on.
Phase 5: Create=Prototyping This is the time to get hands on and actually start working on making their ideas from the phase before a reality.
Phase 6: Highlight and revise=Test We learn best through failure and this is the place where students acknowledge those failures and figure out how to grow from them. Phases 5 and 6 may go back and forth for a while until the student has a solution that they are ready to move forward with.
Phase 7: Launch Have students present, share, send, etc. their work to an authentic audience for their problem. Allow this process to move outside the walls of your classroom and make an impact on the world.
Personalized learning can seem chaotic when you think only big picture. The Launch Cycle can help you and students find a way to structure the process of personalization with an understanding of steps to take as you/they move forward. This can ease that discomfort that can come with change, innovation, and growth.
Back to where design thinking led me… I started my own educational consulting company this summer. I took the process step by step until I was able to launch my idea out into the “real world.” Now my question is where will this thinking take me next? Or maybe more important, where will you let this process take you and your students?
Spencer, John, and A. J. Juliani. Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student. Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc., 2016