Tag: mindset

The 14 Gifts of Design Thinking

The 14 Gifts of Design Thinking

Last month I finished up the MITX Design Thinking for Leading and Learning course, and I’m still assimilating the profundity of these ideas and the impact they can have in classrooms. It’s actually really hard for me to articulate since I’m in the midst of a paradigm shift as ideas are colliding between developing empathy, creativity, and critical thinking in students. It’s been a “perfect storm” in my mind and I’m still trying to erase my former notions about design as a cycle instead of it as a creative process–which was probably my key take away. When I learned about how schools of poverty and underachievement are transformed by using it, I was impressed, to say mildly.  And I have been chewing on how this is possible when it occurred to me that it wasn’t all the great knowledge that was gained, it was the mindset that was cultivated. In particular, it made me think about the work of Brene Brown and her research on shame and vulnerability.

The REVOLUTION will not be televised. It will be in your classroom! You are working on the hardest edges of love.

Do not ever question the power you have with the people you teach!

Learning is inherently vulnerable and it’s like you got a classroom full of turtles without shells.  The minute they put their shells back on, they are protected–from their peers, from their teachers, from whoever–no learning can come in…so we really have to develop ‘shame resilent’ classrooms.

-Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly

I agree with Brene Brown about developing “shame resilience” and have found the usual tug of war between with teaching and mistake making diminishes when we introduce students to a mindset in which they appreciate the importance of recognizing our errors and strive for constant improvement. When I think about design thinking, I believe it could beinnovation a powerful way for students to experience their vulnerability and develop perspective taking, all the while creating real cool stuff–whether it is a piece of writing, a t-shirt, a rollercoaster, an app or, in my Early Year’s classroom, a garden. They learn how to fail forward and create another prototype. This design sprint is not a destructive but constructive element because, although they spent a lot of time developing their idea, the focus shifts from the product itself to the user–who will reap the benefits of this redesign. It gets the kids to detach from what they are making to who they are making it for. This nuance has a relatively big impact on the process of improvement.

So, it’s been in the midst of implementing it at a deeper level, that I had a moment of clarity in which I connected Brown’s ideas to that of design-thinking. Design-based learning creates a space in your classroom in which different “gifts” from the students’ learning can emerge:

  1. Love Of Ideas
  2. Belonging (in their collaborative groups)
  3. The Joy of creating something and learning new ideas.
  4. Courage to try new things
  5. Problem-finding by thinking future forward and considering what the possible issues might be with their design.
  6. Innovation by using different strategies and materials to solve a challenge.
  7. Ethical decision making by considering the different perspectives and considering if their solutions will be harmful to the environment or hurtful to others.
  8. Trust in each other and themselves
  9. Empathy for the users.
  10. Accountability to finish the job
  11. Flexibility with our time table and dealing with challenges.
  12. Creativity in designing.
  13. Listening to Feedback from others
  14. Hard conversations with each other

As my class is still in the midst of this design-based unit, I continue to be fascinated by their growth as the process reveals another level of their thinking and feeling about issues and ideas related to our current unit. I’m enjoying observing this process and love how it fits so well with the inquiry-based learning model of the Primary Years Programme (PYP). I definitely look forward to implementing this approach in future.

I’m wondering if others who have more experience with design thinking would agree with the “gifts” and/or add different ones to the list. Please share. I’m genuinely interested in your perspective.

D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Reflect)

D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Reflect)

Have you ever read the book, Tools of the Titans by Tim Ferris?  In the foreword, Arnold Schwarzenegger reminds us that  “The worst thing you can ever do is think that you know enough. Never stop learning. Ever.” And I think that this idea is the basis of so much of the book that I am currently reading now: Innovator’s Mindset by George Curous.

Drop Everything and Read (DEAR), a concept that encourages students to read and consume information. But few schools focus on encouraging students or educators to “Drop Everything and Reflect. How might we all be impacted if we took time out of each day to think about what we have learned and how it impacts our next steps?

George Curous, Innovator’s Mindset

I’m in the midst of Week 2 of #IMMOOC (Innovator’s Mindset MOOC) and when I read that idea, I took pause. I teachcharacteristics-im and lead an IB program in which reflection is a concept and skill that is developed in our curriculum. But when I read that sentence, I wondered, how often am I REALLY getting the kids to reflect on a daily basis? And, furthermore, how often am I really taking stock of the learning? I think I may take this for granted and I want to assess how and in what ways is reflection happening at our school.

I totally agree with George Curous: “As leaders, we cannot tell others they should be innovative while we continue to do the same thing. The characteristics we look for in our teachers and our students-empathizing, problem finding and solving, risk-taking, networking, observing, creating bouncing back and reflecting-should be embodied in our work as well.”  One has to walk the talk to talk the walk. So I’ll focus on being more observant and reflective, which I know will lead me to problem-finding/problem-solving, another key characteristic of the innovator’s mindset.

In particular, this week I am seriously looking at how frequently we reflect on learning and the quality of that reflection. Things that I am going to be reviewing this week include:

  1. The language I use–my teacher talk. What types of questions and responses am I giving students? How are they responding to me?
  2. The dialogue between students. What types of conversations are they having? Do they talk about their learning outside of the classroom?
  3. The discussions amongst teachers? What do those conversations reveal?

I have a little notebook that I keep to write down planning ideas and I will use this notebook to make these observations. In particular, I’ve set a timer on my phone for my DEAR time, in which I will Drop Everything and Reflect in this notebook regarding the learning for the day. Although I do find myself to be a reflective person, I do not have a daily habit like this so I’m curious to how this might change my practice. As I look over at my notebook now, I’m thinking that I might need a new one after this week–not a lot of pages left. lol

Perhaps you might want to explore this idea as well. What if you had a set time in which you reflected? What impact do you think this might make for your teaching, let alone your life?




Teachers are Students too

Teachers are Students too

stressfulI was startled by Dylan William’s research which suggested that teachers’ pedagogical growth and openness to professional development begins to wane after 3 years of classroom practice. I found that incredibly interesting; however as I recall my own journey,  it took me about 3 years to develop my classroom management style and get a handle of the paperwork and other demands of the profession. Perhaps these educational housekeeping items get confused for “good practice” and teachers can stagnant professionally once their comfort zone becomes established. Of course, the current boom in project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, STEM, flipped classrooms, design thinking and educational technology have disrupted a lot of teachers’ around the world. It may seem overwhelming at times to keep evolving.

Whether or not you adopt these principles and trends or not, I think there are some “basic needs” that educators have to master.

Here are some essentials elements of a quality classroom: (Must DOs)

  • Be intentional and set learning goals for students.
  • Laughter and humor are really important in learning –whether it is laughing AT the learning process or DURING the learning.
  • Hard Fun: challenging and engaging projects always trump didactic teacher directed lessons. (ie: Ditch that textbook and create meaningful work tasks for students.)
  • Get every student answering questions through better formative assessment practices.
  • Create blended learning experiences, in which technology is integrated as a component of learning.
  • Communicate with families and share the learning!
  • Growth Mindset isn’t a theory–it’s a fact and intelligence is malleable. Allow mistakes and failure to be fodder for deeper learning.

Here are ways to extend the quality of pedagogical approaches: (May DOs)

  • Keep a teacher reflection journal that documents what worked/bombed in the class.
  • Read educational books, blogs or take MOOCs/Online training so you can extend your pedagogical knowledge.
  • Develop a professional learning network, which could be inside your district or virtually, through Twitter, Facebook or Google+ communities.

And remember, the best teachers are the best LEARNERS! If you feel listless, then NOW is the time to inject some energy into your practice. You don’t have to wait for a school leader to drop a training into your lap, take charge and develop your craft–you are really the only one who can do that.

From Mind into Matter: 5 Ways to cultivate the Mindset of the MakerSpace

From Mind into Matter: 5 Ways to cultivate the Mindset of the MakerSpace

There is a Zen saying, “to know and not do is to not yet know.”  This seems relevant in today’s shifting views about learning, and I recognize my own struggle as an educator in preparing students for the unknown of the future. One of the skills that seem most intangible for me is teaching students to be more discerning in their learning-how to get them to love the journey and not the destination, so they want to ask more questions and dig deeper.

Lately, I’ve been inspired by the book, Invent to Learn. I think it really speaks to this disposition of curiosity as the impetus for extended learning, in which the child’s mind becomes the essential “makerspace”; our classrooms merely become the concrete representation of this immaterial world of their ideas. Experimenting and creating something is an act of discovering that a thought can be made solid.

It acknowledges that the power of making something comes from a question or impulse that the learner has, and is not imposed from the outside. Questions like “How can my car go faster?” or “I like the way this looks, can I make it prettier?” are treated as valid, and in fact, potentially more valid than criteria imposed by anyone else, including a teacher. Learners are empowered to connect with everything they know, feel, and wonder to stretch themselves into learning new things. We seek to liberate learners from their dependency on being taught.

Sylvia Libow Martinez, Invent to Learn.

As I reflect on the quote above, I think about how important it is to catch students in the act of curiosity so that I can implore them to engage in their ideas. In this way, I am no longer the guide but their champion. I wonder if this encouragement can compensate for the attitudes in our societies, in which quick fixes are highly valued. I believe it’s important to have students develop their stamina and see failure as an important element for their inevitable success.

Making things has changed the way they look at the world around them, opening new doors and presenting new opportunities to get deeply involved in processes that require knowledge, skill building, creativity, critical thinking, decision making, risk taking, social interaction, and resourcefulness. They understand that when you do something yourself, the thing that changes most profoundly is you. (Frauenfelder, 2011)

There are several units in our POI (programme of inquiry) that could incorporate many of ideals of the makers mindset. I know in the Early Years, this is easiest to do because students at this age have the permission to play. This seems a bit unfair when you think of it. “Play is called recreation because it makes us new again, it re-creates us and our world.” (Brown & Vaughan, 2010). I think this process of re-creation is ongoing and the foundation of life-long learner. Implanting design-processthis mindset into classrooms could not only empower students, but also teachers. Moving out of our instructional comfort-zones then becomes an act of faith, because we have to be trust that students can learn on their own. As soon as I write that sentence, it seems self-evident–of course students can learn on their own–that is their natural inclination!! But how can we nudge them to taking their discoveries from thoughts into doings? How can we translate the ideas of the minds into real learning.

Here are 5 strategies that might help teachers render the MindSpace of the Learner into a reality:

  1. Be curious about what students are curious about. Not all students will present their curiosities as questions–in fact many young students present their ideas as statements. Write and track them, even if anecdotally.
  2. Use self-evaluation for students to reflect and assess their attitudes towards the design mindset. This could be as formal or informal as you like, such as a discussion with a 1-3 finger self-assessment or a journal entry.
  3. Advertise problems and promote solutions, even if they are silly.
  4. Set up a classroom “creation station” with some”junk” to be repurposed.
  5. Share inspirational stories as exemplars. You can connect with other classrooms either in your school or virtually through a resource like ePals.

I know that I will take my own advice as I strive to make my classroom more engaging and student-centered. I wonder what suggestions others might have about shifting our classrooms into laboratories of the mind. Perhaps you can share below what other ideas or strategies you might have.

Until then, stay in Joy!


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Judy Imamudeen

Judy Imamudeen

Developing learners as leaders is my joy! As a highly qualified International Baccaluearate (IB) teacher and educational leader, I am committed and passionate about executing its framework and empowering students in creating a future world that works for everyone.

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