My Preparation for a Diverse Student Body

One of the main reasons I was drawn to the teaching profession was the opportunity for cross-cultural exchange and to promote such relationships in our society. As I white male working in or for communities of color as an English teacher first and then a primary teacher, I found that I had the opportunity to represent the dominant culture in a positive way for immigrant children and their families, or for marginalized minority American groups as well. I take this responsibility and opportunity very seriously and I have grown quite comfortable translating a parent-teacher conference in Spanish or reaching out to the Hmong community in our school in order to learn more about them. This is a part of the job I love.

And to be frank, I think I had that interest in understanding the other, in empathizing and attempting to take on their perspective before I entered the Teach-Now program, before I completed my clinical and before I continued on to the Master’s in Global Ed program. In fact, my purpose was set as I entered the profession, to be a positive social mirror for students of color and immigrants, and to do my best to treat them like the individuals that they are.

What my clinical experience and my learning in this module have taught me the academic terms and definitions that go along with my experiences teaching in these communities. I knew I wanted to seek to know and understand people of other cultures beyond stereotypes, but I didn’t know that I might be avoiding the single story danger or tokenism in the process. I always knew that I valued diversity and would seek it out in my personal and professional life, but I didn’t know that this was a central component of culturally competent teaching. I also keenly felt the insider immigrant tendencies while abroad to seek situations where I could take a break from my second language learning, where I could find emotional and instrumental support in regards to the challenges of living outside of my own culture. No I have those strategies in mind the next time I am working toward better intercultural communication and understanding in my classroom or school.

The truly revelatory part of my Teach-Now clinical experience and now with this Global Ed module, is that I have gone through the process of thinking and reflecting about cultural interactions, in what ways they are fraught with challenges, where and when I have had negative intercultural experiences, and also what the environment was like when I had sublime experiences of connecting across a great cultural divide. Knowing what both of those contexts look and feel like will make me more culturally self-aware going forward, and will allow me to more accurately dissect the dynamics of cultural interactions my students have and that I have with them and their families. In short, the reflection will make me more sensitive to the two-way social mirror present, how Hmong families might see me as a white man educating their son, and how I reflect their identity by treatment and consideration for them.

The big challenge for me at my current school is getting to know the Hmong community. I do not know their history, their language, or their culture like I know those of Latinos, African-Americans, Koreans, or other immigrant minority groups. In reading Chee Vang’s exhortation to implement Hmong culture into classrooms, my ignorance was confirmed once again, but so was my awareness for the need to learn more. In fact, earlier this year I had a conversation with a Hmong diversity consultant, who took some time out to teach me her approach to schools with significant Hmong populations along with a few critical facts about the Hmong culture. She taught that Hmong people are not as transactional as white Americans in their interactions and she told me that the biggest fear of Hmong parents is that their children will completely assimilate into American culture and lose their heritage even more than it has been threatened and lost already. As a member of the district equity team, I felt that it was very important that we have a Hmong representative from the Muir Elementary community and so I reached out to several and found one mother willing to commit her time to the effort.

I still have enormous gaps in my knowledge of the Hmong people, but at least I can see and feel those gaps now. At least, I have resources and community connections which can help me to slowly fill those gaps and implement more responsive approaches to my Hmong students. The next phase will be sharing what I learned and what institutional knowledge already exists at Muir Elementary about our Hmong community, so that new teachers can gain the knowledge they need with this particular population.

Advertisements

Teach-Now in Korea

This article originally appeared in the November issue of BiBimBap magazine, an online journal for EFL teachers in Jeollanamdo, South Korea. You can view the ISSUU version here.

The Teacher Certification Debate

In America, there are two debates going on about teacher preparation programs; one is happening in the media, among education policy experts and at the highest levels of education administration. The other is happening around kitchen tables in the homes of career-changers, and in coffee shops with college graduates and undergrads, who are interested in becoming a teacher. Both debates are concerned with the structure, quality and quantity of preparation needed to sustain an effective teaching career in U.S. schools in the 21st Century. However, the latter debate also includes concerns about the costs associated with taking a year or two off from making money and instead taking on the prohibitive costs (read: student loan debt) of getting a teacher certification from a traditional school of education.

Case in point: my own path as a teacher has been varied and circuitous because I was most interested in gaining actual experience in the classroom over acquiring more formal theoretical knowledge in grad school. And I found many opportunities in my own community and around the world to get into the classroom, develop a style and a toolkit of my own and grow immediately as a professional. Adding to my uneasiness about grad school was the fact that I was debt free when I finished my undergraduate studies and vehemently wanted to stay that way.

Furthermore, I knew many alums of the many prestigious teacher prep programs at the local universities while working as paraprofessional in a Seattle public school. Many of those teachers told me that the experience I was gaining in the classroom as a teacher’s aide was preparing me as much as or more than a formal Master’s In Teaching program would by itself. I felt frustrated by the limbo between having the relevant experience and lacking a flexible, affordable and high-quality path to teacher certification. It turns out I had to come to Korea to discover the answer to my teacher prep woes!

We should not forget Martin Haberman’s research showing that long-serving “star” teachers are often from low-income backgrounds, have graduated from non-elite colleges, or are people of faith. Others, like Alex Caputo-Pearl, have somewhat radical politics. What makes these nontraditional teachers special is that they are mission-driven to help struggling students succeed, and they are enthusiastic about holding all children to high intellectual standards. Those are the attributes teacher preparation programs should seek.
-Dana Goldstein, The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession

Teach-Now, Literally

Emily Feistritzer worked for the U.S. Department of Education studying alternative-route teacher certification programs across the country. After 30 years as a preeminent expert on the subject, she decided to create a program which addressed the holes and inadequacies that she saw in many alternative-route teacher prep programs. Thus, Teach-Now was born; a rigorous, practical and affordable teacher certification program aimed at “preparing tomorrow’s teachers for tomorrow’s learners in tomorrow’s world”.

Apart from the student-teaching portion of the program, the Teach-Now classes and coursework are completed fully online. Assignments, readings, teaching videos, discussions, and professor interaction are all facilitated via the Teach-Now online learning platform which is similar to those of EdX and Coursera. Small cohorts of 15 or fewer teacher candidates and their module instructor meet weekly online, in real time, using the AdobeConnect video conferencing program. Lectures, discussions, flash collaboration mini-projects and analysis of exemplary teaching videos happen in the VC’s (virtual class) by the cohort members and their instructor who could be many thousands of miles apart. In fact, my cohort consisted of three English teachers in three different Korean provinces, five international school teachers in three different provinces of China, an American school teacher’s aide in Germany, and a paraprofessional working in an Arizona charter school.

Teach-Now relies on open source readings and resources from the web, as opposed to expensive textbooks. The resources range from podcasts about Lev Vygotsky and the importance of play in learning, Rick Wormeli YouTube videos on differentiation, and, of course, the writings of John Dewey on progressive teaching methods.  

Where the Teach-Now program really excels and differentiates itself, thanks to Ms. Feistritzer’s vision, is in the hands-on experience teacher candidates get with valuable education technology tools. Assignments ask teacher candidates to analyze and dissect the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in an electronic mind map, create an academic data infographic, collaborate on a debate about blended learning via Voicethread, participate in an ed policy Twitter chat or develop a Pinterest board rich with lesson plan ideas. All individual and group writing assignments are completed, shared and submitted in Google Docs.

The final module or unit of the Teach-Now program is in the mold of a traditional student-teaching practicum in which teacher candidates need to complete 250 hours of in-class instruction in their subject area or grade level of certification. Similarly to traditional student-teaching models, teacher candidates need an experienced mentor teacher to support, observe and evaluate the candidate’s performance. What is different with Teach-Now, is that you also record a class once a week, upload the video to your Google Drive, share it with your instructor and cohort-mates, receive notes on your performance and discuss it at the weekly VC. This professional development method is precisely what the Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching Project calls for in order to better identify and develop the best teachers and teaching strategies.

 

My Experience with Teach-Now in Korea

I had a wonderful experience completing the Teach-Now program from here in Yeosu. The opportunity to achieve my goal of becoming a certificated elementary teacher while living and working abroad, and not going into serious debt, has been a huge gift for which I am grateful. However, there were a few key factors which made the experience possible, as well as a truly rigorous and meaningful preparation that was flexible enough to work with my unique teaching situation. Keep these in mind if you are reading this and are interested in the program.  

First, I had some great cohort-mates who were located in similar time zones in East Asia. They were serious professionals with years of teaching experience before joining the Teach-Now program. I learned a lot from them and received a lot of valuable feedback on my teaching as well.

Second, my Korean co-teacher at my elementary school in Yeosu is a wonderful, progressive teacher with nearly two decades of experience in the classroom as a homeroom teacher, head teacher, English teacher and low-level administrator. Despite her years of experience in Korea, she was eager to learn from my American-style teacher preparation and therefore allowed me to experiment with some distinctly Western-style teaching methods in our English classroom.

Last, I teach a few extra classes on my own, without a co-teacher and without a curriculum. This also allowed me huge amounts of freedom during the practicum especially, but also during the academic modules. I used those free form classes to complete an assignment or put into action an emphasized teaching method.

If you do not have these elements; solid cohort-mates in your time zone, a great Korean co-teacher and some flexibility in your teaching schedule, then you may need to think twice before applying to Teach-Now. Otherwise, go for it!

  

Teach-Now in the News:

Teach-Now as a great alternative-route certification option for military spouses abroad.

Teach-Now program revolutionizes teacher preparation.

Education researcher moves into the certification business.

On Twitter you can follow Teach-Now @teachnowprogram or via #tncohort.

Part II: Skype in the Classroom

This article originally appeared in the September issue of BiBimBap magazine, an online journal for EFL teachers in Jeollanamdo, South Korea. You can view the ISSUU version here.

In Part I of the this series I outlined the resources, methods and potential best practices for leveraging one kind of information and communication technology in the classroom – Skype Education. In Part II of this series I’d like to share with you my experience using Skype in two of my 6th grade ESL classrooms, one being a recorded video exchange over a couple months and the other a live video class session.  

Whether or not the Skype VOIP service is best for keeping in touch with your friends and family back home is debatable, but there is no doubt that their service offers the richest platform for teachers trying to connect classrooms across the world. And remember, if you have a simple webcam, a monitor and a broadband internet connection in your classroom, like most of us do, you are one simple download away from getting started.

Recorded Skype Exchange

I mentioned in Part I of the series that I had made a connection with a teacher in Florida and a teacher in an American school in northern China. As it turned out, the exchange with the classroom in Florida just did not work out because of a combination of factors; the learning objectives of that classroom teacher and scheduling difficulties. I have come to think that this is the norm when seeking out a Skype in the Classroom partner across the country or across the world. I probably contacted close to ten teachers via the Skype Education platform in my initial search to find a partner teacher whose goals for the Skype exchange and schedule would work with mine. To date, I have successfully collaborated with two of those ten initial teacher contacts. Keep this in mind! Put a lot of hooks in the water and be patient if your schedule doesn’t immediately align with the first teacher that responds to you.

Nevertheless, I did successfully devise a #MysterySkype plan with the 5th grade teacher in an American school outside of Beijing. Ms. Hart’s homeroom class schedule and my schedule teaching five 6th grade English classes on Wednesdays and Thursdays did not initially mesh well, particularly because I had one deserving high-level, hardworking and outgoing 6th grade class in mind for this initial foray into a Skype exchange. Thus, instead of a live lesson, we settled on a recorded weekly video exchange over the course of a few months.

Since we both taught ESL students, we first established a geography-themed vocabulary list to review with the students in preparation of the #MysterySkype questions to come.  It included words like hemisphere, equator, prime meridian, province, and the cardinal directions. I also prepared a Powerpoint presenting the whole idea and purpose of the #MysterySkype game and showing them how the exchange would work with a sample recording on Skype. My co-teacher translated all and fielded many questions in Korean. Our goal was to have all the students fully understanding the process and intention of the activity so that they could focus on the language and not be confused by the strange new activity that was definitely not from the curriculum.

During April, May and June, Ms. Hart’s class and my specially selected 6th grade class went back and forth asking increasingly specific geographic questions in a race to figure out who lived where first. We started with, “Do you live in the northern hemisphere?” and ended with, “Do you live outside of Beijing in the Heibei province?”

In each successive round of question and answer I chose two new students to work with me to craft an answer to the other class’ question along with crafting our own new question for our mystery friends in China. We worked together at lunch time, where I would sometimes have them write the response on a whiteboard to read during the recording, or we would just practice the question and answer repeatedly until they felt confident they had it down pat. Then we recorded the video message on Skype with me leading and introducing the students. We would watch it once through together to assure clear speech and audio, send it on to Ms. Hart’s and then waited for their response. In the last five minutes of every class I would show Ms. Hart’s class’ latest video and it was always highly anticipated. My 6th grade class and their homeroom teacher resoundingly loved the exchange!

Live Skype

I also mentioned in Part I that I had a plan to do a #MysterySkype class with a 6th grade teacher in Hobart, Tasmania. After much scheduling and rescheduling, we finally connected our classes in mid June, this time with a different, yet no less competent, 6th grade class of mine.

Mr. Fitzpatrick’s class was a group of native English speaking Australian 6th graders. Therefore, I requested that Mr. Fitzpatrick’s class ask us questions about our location and limit my ESL 6th graders to simply responding ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to their geography questions. I was admittedly nervous about asking my students to create ever more specific location questions in response to the Hobart students’ answers in real-time in a live Skype session. Instead, I limited my students participation to primarily English listening comprehension as opposed to production. In addition, I leaned heavily on my enthusiastic co-teacher to keep all the students in the loop in Korean regarding the questions being posed.

I did ask a small group of higher level English speakers to prepare a show and tell presentation on Korean culture. The small group and I worked together to prepare a presentation on hanbok, ddeok, the danso flute and janggu drum. They practiced their English presentation three or four times for me before the live version.

The class was an absolute hit and went off without any problems except for, of course, a technical difficulty. Mr. Fitzpatrick and I did not test our VOIP connection on Skype before the actual class. Thus we were left scrambling to fix an unknown connection issue, then a mysterious microphone problem, and had to hang up multiple times until the connection magically strengthened and the audio righted itself via restart. It was frustrating and would have crushed the students and I if it didn’t eventually work out. So my big advice is to run a test Skype video call from the classroom computer you will use during the live session. Otherwise, happy Skypeing!  

PD Video Annotation: EQ & the Yale RULER

Yale RULER Tool

Marc Brackett

Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

Presidential Inauguration Symposia

“Emotional Intelligence: From Theory to Everyday Practice”

Annotation:

Minute 4:05 – A plus 5 rating means that this is the most amazing day of your life. While a minus 5 rating means you should probably be somewhere else and not listening to this lecture!

Minute 5:45 – Brackett asks the audience members who rated themselves in the yellow and green, “Is this the reality of your everyday life” and seemed to get a mixed response. Good question to gauge your students upon meeting them.

Minute 5:52 – Brackett asks the audience, after they have self-assesed their emotional state based on the RULER tool, to identify the word that best describes their current emotion, good or bad. “Over fifty percent of the room was challenged to find the best word.”

Minute 7:55 – Brackett asks the audience how many people drink wine in order to illustrate his point that healthy expression and description of emotion takes practice and a learned vocabulary. “There are underlying reasons why we feel the way we do and labeling them is important.”

Minute 10:50 – Bracket puts the essential practical question to the audience: “What’s your strategy?” Meaning, in order to try and regulate your emotions and keep them somewhere in the yellow or green sections of the RULER tool, what mental or physical strategies do you deliberately employ?

I would be a rich man if I had a nickel for every time I heard a teacher ask a student who is struggling with an academic problem, “What’s your strategy?” This is well-known language in most classrooms, however, is it used when talking about student emotions, and the behavioral consequences of those emotions?

Minute 11:20 – An audience member answers that her strategy is to focus on the positive, a very general and subjective mental strategy for regulating emotions. In response Bracket refocuses the question and narrows the goal of the strategies to just regulating emotions during his lecture, for the next 40 minutes or so, no more. An audience member says they will remember to breath (specific and possibly helpful), but another audience member says “Pay attention.” Brackett questions this as an effective and specific emotional regulation strategy because it does not actually define the mental and physical acts that are contained within paying attention to a speaker.

Minute 14:00 – Historically, the idea of emotional intelligence was considered impossible or an oxymoron. Reason and emotion are antithetical.

Minute 15:30 – “We know that when we are feeling anxious it is hard to concentrate…Think about what its like to be a child who is being bullied in school….When your brain is focused on dealing with very strong unpleasant emotions, how can it be available for learning? On the positive side, if you are going on vacation next weekend, it is hard to focus on your work the week before.”

Minute 16:30 – Bracket begins to talk about how emotions make the grading of student work a subjective task for teachers. Ninety percent of teachers did not think their emotions affected their grading of student work. We are not conscious or aware of this emotionally-caused bias. This is just one example from education.

Minute 19:10 – Peter Salovey and Jack Mayer are the fathers of emotional intelligence research. There were two initial ideas about EQ; first, that some people would be gifted at employing effective strategies in regulating emotion while others would not be so. Second, that there would be a way to measure and define EQ as a special mental ability that could positively affect people’s lives.

Minute 20:40 – What is EQ? Yale RULER Definition:

R ecognizing emotions in self and others.

U nderstanding the causes and consequences of emotions.

L abeling emotions accurately.

E xpressing emotions appropriately.

R egulating emotions effectively.

Minute 23:00 – Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions, when extrapolating this part of the RULER definition of EQ, Brackett explains how teachers need to know that when grading in the yellow you might find a student essay to be better than it is (expansive and generous), while you are in the red or blue you will be more critical (pessimistic, contracted).

“So we know that our emotions are constantly affecting our thinking and judgment.” And, importantly, this goes beyond grading to actual teacher-student interactions which can easily be negatively affected by either the teacher’s or the student’s emotions.

Minute 23:50 – “It is not realistic to be happy all the time.” So Brackett explains how the different quadrants of the RULER EQ tool lend themselves to different writing exercises:

슬라이드1

Minute 26:20 – All emotions can be useful depending on what you do with it. The red can be nasty but, “if you convert it to passion, now you have a difference.”

Minute 29:38 – Brackett asks the audience a very important question after defining jealousy as being a dynamic in a relationship, whereas envy is simply a material desire. The question is, “Why would I want a teacher or student to know the difference between jealousy and envy?” The short answer is that there will be different corresponding strategies when dealing with jealousy and envy, it is important to distinguish.

Minute 32:20 – Brackett asks two very simple and very obvious questions about the regulation of emotions that emphasize its importance:

  1. How many of you would like to have more strategies to regulate your emotions?
  2. How many of you wish the people you live with would have more strategies to regulate their emotions?

Minute 34:00 – Emotion regulation is usually thought of in terms of negative feeling avoidance or coping. And sometimes we talk about how to generate positive emotions. But Brackett begins to talk about “emotional maintenance” here, “dream stealers”, how you maintain “flow” despite distractions or haters, as opposed to generating that state.

36:30 – Self-assessment of your own EQ is unreliable, along with assessments from people around you. Emotional ability-based assessments are the most reliable and in the developing stages at Yale. “Asking people, ‘How good are you at regulating your emotions?’ just doesn’t have any validity.”

Minute 38:20 – Brackett generalizes research results of studies done on young adolescent students with higher emotional intelligence:

슬라이드2

슬라이드3

Minute 39:30 – Brackett tells a sad illustrative story from his own laugh about how taking the GRE’s immediately following the passing of his mother adversely affected his ability to focus and do his best on the test. His results had little do with his cognitive ability or studying habits, and everything to do with his emotional state at the time. “What I hope happens is that people understand the nuances. That some people feel anxiety when taking tests. That people are at a place in their life where they are not capable of doing complex problem solving because of outside influences on their emotions.”

Minute 40:45 – Brackett reviews the results of research on classrooms where teachers demonstrate qualities of higher emotional intelligence, like bringing students into the learning process, using less cynicism or sarcasm, etc:

슬라이드4

Minute 44:05 – Brackett talks about how emotional intelligence develops:

슬라이드6

“Every parent should know about these skills.” And so should every teacher working with young students. “If you are creative, you are going to fail a lot, and you need those emotional strategies to deal with the failure and not give up.” If you agree with Sir Ken Robinson that the most important aspect of an education is to cultivate creativity, then this is a profound discovery for educators, teachers and parents.

Minute 47:47 – Brackett begins to discuss the establishment of emotional intelligence rules. He confirms that everyone loves to break rules and emphasizes intentionally creating an ideal environment in school.

Minute 49:40 – He talks about awareness of emotional triggers and the use of Meta-Moments to recognize and regulate the emotional triggers:

Yale Meta-Moment

What does your best self look like? Define that, remember it, hold on to it and then strategize depending upon that aspirational self image! “You never regret being your best self. You always regret being unregulated.”

Minute 54:15 – “We train everyone with a face.” Superintendent, parents, school secretary, teachers, etc. RULER theory of change:

Minute 59:00 – Brackett finishes the lecture by introducing us to Garreth, a student Brackett met while creating an emotional intelligence lab school in England. Garreth was bullied in elementary school and then arrived at this middle school where all students and faculty had been trained on emotional intelligence and it had a completely different environment for him. Brackett tells this heartwarming story of how this work and this EQ awareness can change a student’s life, open them up, build confidence and reveal their cognitive and creative talents.

More Yale Ruler info:

Bellevue Schools teach emotional smarts to help boost academic success. – The Seattle Times

Emotions Matter – Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

Part II: Design in Education

There are a number of resources on the web to help teachers and administrators get started using design principles and processes to address challenges or opportunities in their schools and classrooms. Here are a few that I have stumbled across in my informal study of design.

First, when I think of design, I think like most people I think of the aesthetic or structural variety. And in many ways there is a powerful way in which architecture, ergonomic engineering and visual design can have profound of effects on learning and school environments. Indeed, there is a body of brain-based education research which emphasizes environmental design elements such as lighting, scents and sounds, and classroom configuration as major ways to leverage our natural neurological predilections for learning.

In this endearing TED Talk by Japanese architect, Takaharu Tezuka, he showcases an oval open plan preschool he designed and where his own child attends. He explains a bit about the process he went through to design for the end-user, both the teachers and the students of the school, and how he included input from both groups during that design process. The space is an urban preschool paradise, with wonderful natural light, open spaces, tight cubicles, trees growing out of the classrooms, and practical multi-use, storage-rich learning stations. It is an amazing organic space for young learners.

Next are a few web resources to both learn more about design in the classroom specifically and design education in general. As mentioned in Part I of my design series, the TD4ED organization is leading the way on adapting the design process for schools and engaging districts and charter organizations in its use. They have tweaked IDEO’s Human-centered Design process for schools, renaming and retooling the six steps to reflect the student end-user; define, imagine, explore, play, reflect and transform. The steps are reminiscent of the gradual release method that many teachers know and use today in their classroom.

If you are looking to connect with other teachers and schools who have already implemented design thinking or a design solution, the Design Thinking in Schools website has searchable map of worldwide resources and programs. You will find pins for the famed design schools like INNOVA in Peru, a whole cluster in Silicon Valley close to the IDEO headquarters and even a few in my home city of Seattle. Check it out and see if you can find and visit a design-forward school in your area.

Lastly, here a few more resource websites and Twitter handles to follow to round out your design in education education:

edSurge – This is their collection of resources to get schools, teachers and ed leaders to start using design thinking in their education communities without hiring an expensive consultant.

Design Education, California – This site is for design students and professionals, but is a resource rich clearinghouse for any interested potential design educator. (@designeducation)

Design In Schools Pinterest – Check out and follow my design board as I continue my professional development on design in education.

Intrinsic School Chicago – Read a Q&A with the lead architect of this revolutionary blended learning space and how they approached their design process with the end-users (students and teachers) in mind.

Biophilic Design in Schools – Stephen Kellert of the Yale School of Foresty and Environmental Studies on how to build nature into education.

@cooperhewitt – The Smithsonian’s design museum provides summer camps for kids interested in design.

@sawhorserevolu1 – A Seattle-based nonprofit working with high school students to design and build solutions for homelessness.

@ProjectHDesign – A 501c3 nonprofit teaching youth to design and build their future with heart, hands, and hammers.

@schoolstartup – The handle for Will Eden, former teacher and edtech expert now leading the launch of a Next Generation School in Alpha Public Schools, San Jose, CA.

@TeachersGuild – A beta community from IDEO and Riverdale School District to get teachers collaborating on design thinking for education with other teachers.

Design in Education: Part 1

Design, and more specifically, the design process has been a growing interest of mine for the last few years. In 2012, I became a board member of Long Way Home, a small non-profit based in Guatemala that is building a sustainable green school out of repurposed waste material, training a local greenbuilding crew, and providing an environmental education to 60-plus local children. The board position demanded that I begin to understand how to turn challenges in a community of poverty into opportunities based on the needs and desires of that community.  And while I had been involved for several years in the small rural community where Long Way Home operates, assuming that I knew best how to solve problems for the locals, let alone my staff on the ground, would be folly.

Maintaining empathy for the community I was serving, balancing a worm’s eye view with a bird’s eye view and aspiring to create responsive operations systems within the organization was what brought me to learn about IDEO and Human-centered Design (HCD). It did not take long for me to realize that many of the HCD principles could translate well to the “end-users” in the American Title I school I was working in at the time; urban elementary students. If you are interested in student-centered learning, you ought to be reading something on design. Thus, I have endeavored to study the IDEO design process and consider how HCD and general design thinking can be put to productive use in my own classroom.

This is just Part 1 in an on-going and indefinite series on Design in Education. The purpose of this series is three-fold.

1) Collect and catalogue the different Design in Education resources and PD that I have found

2) Distill those design resources into some bite-sized takeaways for myself and other teachers

3) Reflect upon how and where I could implement design principles and the IDEO HCD process, in particular, into my classroom

There is no better place to start than introduction of IDEO and what Design in Education is at it’s core. Last November, during the Global Education Conference, Alaine Newland and Emily Havens of IDEO gave a keynote presentation introducing ways in which IDEO has already used design to improve schools the world over. Below is the Global Ed Con session recording and my notes on the presentation:

Alaine Newland of IDEO – Background connecting global and local communities in the non-profit sector.

1. What is HCD

  • User-centered process based in deep empathy for the user & their experience
  • Understand and observe, make it visual, consider the whole system
  • 4-step process: Inspiration, Interpretation, Ideation, Implementation
  • The goal is for “opportunities to become innovations, transform insights into action, implement new solutions with impact faster and more effectively”.

2. IDEO + Design for learning examples:

  1. San Francisco Unified student-centered school lunch
  2. INNOVA Schools, is a network of world-class schools in Peru that cost families just $130 per month

3. Reimagining the classroom : 8 tips for innovation in the classroom

  1. Pull don’t push – Empower students to seek their own answers & solutions
  2. Create relevance – activate student thinking around real world problems
  3. Reimagining skills – 21st Century Skills are not “soft skills”, they are instead core skills for problem solving
  4. Allow for variation – Learning menus, mastery, competency-based, “equality does not mean sameness”
  5. Teachers as designers – Permissive guidance may be more chaotic but fosters greater engagement
  6. Build a learning community – Partnerships, CBO’s, learning and presenting outside the school
  7. Be an anthropologist – Understand people through interviews, brainstorming sessions, etc.
  8. Incubate the future – How can you make your classroom issues-based so that students think about, explore and brainstorm solutions to problems that they will face when they are adults in the community

Areas of potential reimagination in the classroom:

  1. The classroom space itself
  2. Re Envisioned curriculum
  3. Inspire new behaviors and a creative confidence
  4. Design experiences that support learners and create design thinkers

4. OpenIDEO – Open innovation platform to get people to design for a better world, a community of 75,000 including professionals, students, and entrepreneurs. People collaborate rather than compete and have physical meetups all over the world.

→ Open Challenge Process starts with a big question and continues through the HCD phases

5. Ways to Engage: Emily Haden is spearheading efforts to expand offline engagement

  • Davidson College integrated a yearlong design fellowship into students’ gen ed classes and learning
  • http://www.designthinkingforeducators.com/toolkit/
  • Student meetup groups that meet offline to engage with an OpenIDEO Challenge
  • Campus-wide learning communities that move from awareness of a problem to designing and implementing actionable steps in the local community

Favorite ideas for my teaching practice:

“Teachers could use the design process to teach skills around interviewing and research.”

“HCD is rooted in thinking about the end-user. Empathy is the base of HCD and a way to structure the teaching of empathy.”

Related IDEO & design in education links:

Impact Design Hub interview with one of the founders & current Creative Director of IDEO.org, Patrice Martin:

https://impactdesignhub.org/2015/07/08/human-center-of-design-ideoorg-patrice-martin/

IDEO Method in Action – Story #154, Bezos early childhood support project.

http://www.designkit.org/stories/154

My IDEO HCD Pro Toolkit Tips collection

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8Ahbqb_1JzeTDA0djVyWHZWM0E/view?usp=sharing

Innova Schools in Peru and IDEO

http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-03-20/ideos-sandy-speicher-reimagines-education-in-peru

Going Global in Korea with Skype

This article originally appeared in the May issue of BiBimBap magazine, an online journal for EFL teachers in Jeollanamdo, South Korea. You can view the ISSUU version here

Going Global

In 2012 the Korean Education ministry announced it’s ‘SMART Education’ plan, the ‘T’ of which stands for technology. In an effort to create an education system which is less passive, more creative and more adaptive, the plan called for wide scale integration of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). In fact, the plan set 2015 as the deadline for digitizing the entire school curriculum to make it more accessible to 21st Century learners. Yet in spite of the reported 67% of Korean youth ages 5-19 that have smartphones and the widely touted high-speed broadband access in Korea, ICT is not leveraged for learning in most classrooms yet.

This is where Skype in the Classroom comes in. Most of us have a broadband internet connection, a computer connected to a classroom monitor, a classroom document camera, headphones with a microphone, or, if you are an online “J-Distance” teacher, you have a webcam with a built-in microphone. This is all it takes to get started and begin using the ICT in your classroom to connect your EFL students with native English speakers the world over.

 

Where To Start

If you do not have a Skype account, you should start there. If you already have a Skype account, you can use that as your login for Skype Education. You can create a distinct teacherly profile name, like Mr. Short, add a professional profile pic, enter your location in the world and give a brief description of your aims for using Skype in your classroom.

Next, you can ‘find a lesson’ or ‘find a teacher’. There is a really cool map with classes and teachers pinned all over the world. You can zoom in and out and see more or less teacher pins appear as a result. If you click on a pin it will automatically scroll down to that teacher’s Skype Education profile and from there you can select that person and message them directly.

My suggestion is to ‘find a teacher’ first. I spent some time searching to ‘find a lesson’, I signed up for lessons, and did not get any responses from those teachers. However, when I started searching for teachers in our general timezone, for example, classroom teachers in Australia and New Zealand or International School teachers in Japan and China, I had much more success messaging them directly and proposing a Skype classroom collaboration.

 

A Global Lesson

The trending Skype lesson on Twitter is #MysterySkype. This is billed as a “global guessing game” where students in each class prepare questions, hints, show and tell items, etc. that allow the other class to guess their location. Skype Education recommends that #MysterySkype beginner classes start off playing 20 questions, preparing that set of questions and a few hints to give to the other class. This is ideal for our EFL students because it allows us to pre-teach the target language; questioning, locations, directions, place specific vocabulary and more. You can scaffold the whole process and interaction for your timid Korean students by helping them fully prepare before so they know what language to expect once you are in the Skype call.

There are many more ways that innovative teachers are using this all over the world to support a wide range of content learning. Students are brainstorming conflict resolution strategies via recorded Skype messages across the world and teachers are designing standards-based social studies lessons to compare and contrast their own customs and traditions with that of a foreign culture. The tool can be used as simply as a 21st century version of penpals or as complex as a collaborative research and writing project.

 

My Plan

I am currently planning my first #MysterySkype lesson with a 6th grade teacher in Hobart, Tasmania. For my first lesson I want to give my students the best shot at success, so we have agreed to limit the lesson to the Australian class guessing our location through questioning. This will allow my students to answer questions concerning basic facts about Korea, which they will know. And those questions and answers can be more easily supported by a bilingual Korean co-teacher. I suspect that the creation and translation of questions from Korean to English in order for my students to figure out where in Australia those students are would be very time consuming and possibly discouraging for both parties. At least this first time, I want to be able to scaffold this process so that both parties walk away feeling successful and encouraged.

The other way you can use Skype in your classroom is via a recorded message exchange with another class, similar to the old school pen pal programs. This allows for classes to have an exchange or do #MysterySkype in spite of impossible time zone differences. So, for those of you who know a teacher back home in Canada or the U.S., there is a way to connect with them even though they are in school there while we are asleep here.

I am working with two teachers right now to set up this kind of recorded message exchange, one classroom is located in Florida, U.S.A. and is interested in doing a basic show and tell cultural exchange, while the other classroom is in northern China and wants to do a #MysterySkype lesson over the long-term. In both cases we are planning on recording one short message per week.


Our first message from Ms. Hart’s class in China.

Final Tips

As you can imagine, considering the timidity of many of our Korean students to produce authentic language on demand, planning, preparing and practicing a recorded lesson might lead to a more fruitful exchange than a live Skype lesson. However, there are ways to prepare students for the live chat as well, introducing key vocabulary, sentence stems and making it completely clear in Korean the purpose and goal of the Skype exchange.

The planning and preparation will generally require significant buy-in from your Korean co-teacher, which I know may be a tall order for many of you. You may have to put significant effort into identifying your curriculum’s target language that will be used authentically in the Skype lesson. You may also need to start with a baby step like recording a simple message for another class one time, and then checking in with the co-teacher about the possibility of an ongoing exchange. It is probably obvious to you that the value of the lesson and the time it will take to schedule and plan it may not be immediately understood and committed to by your co-teacher.

Lastly, it is important to strategically choose a class you feel has the makeup to do well and get something out of this kind of global live lesson. You know your students best and you know the ones who are outgoing and who try and chat in English with you all the time. The first few times you experiment with this kind of lesson, you should lean on those students and those classes, if you have them.

I will check back in with more info and tips once I get a few Skype lessons under my belt.

Links:

https://education.skype.com/

https://education.skype.com/collections/skype-guides?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_2015_jan_literacy

https://www.edsurge.com/n/2014-12-11-how-you-can-actually-teach-beyond-your-classroom-s-walls

http://genproedu.com/paper/2013-01/full_003-009.pdf

Twitter:

@mysteryskype

@SkypeClassroom

#skype2learn