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

Ed Interview: Mike Popelka

1) Can you briefly describe your background in education and what your current position is?

I graduated from the University of Iowa with a BA in Elementary Education.  I taught upper elementary in the Chicago Public Schools system, then worked for a couple of years as a kindergarten teacher at a social service center/childcare provider that fed students into the public school system.  I moved to Seattle and apprehensively took a job teaching middle school at a private school; I found that I loved interacting with the older students as much as I did the kindergarteners back in Chicago.  I was responsible for teaching 6-8th grade science, 6-8th grade writing, and 6th grade homeroom.  I learned a lot during these years, and I found that I had a rekindled love for science– especially biology and physics.

I spent some time teaching PE at a K-8 school in Seattle, then briefly lived in Des Moines, Iowa working as a K-5 intervention teacher in the Public schools.  When my family and I moved back to Seattle, I was hired as an interventionist at Roxhill Elementary and soon found my way back into the kindergarten classroom.  I’ve taught a lot of different subjects in several different schools in three different states.  It’s been an interesting career so far!

2) What inspires you about the work you do at Roxhill?

This is my fifth year teaching at Roxhill, and every day I feel fortunate to be at school.  Any teacher will, with 100% honesty, answer that they are inspired by the personal connections with students and their families.  I feel the same way.  Many of the students I work with come from less than ideal circumstances; 40% of our students are English Language Learners, 80% of students qualify for the free/reduced lunch program, and understanding the cultural differences that occur in the classroom can be challenging.  As a kindergarten teacher, I often have students enter my classroom with no academic skills and often very little ability to communicate.  I probably complain about the amount of effort it takes to build up the foundational skills required to succeed in school.  I find inspiration in that struggle, though—I love the fact that I work hard, my students work hard, and that after all the work we do students finish the year ready for the challenges to come.

One other thing that inspires me is the professionalism and dedication of the entire staff of the school.  I have never worked in a school where each member of the staff is so interested in improving their own skills and gaining new knowledge before coming to Roxhill.  We solve problems as a team and genuinely keep the best interests of the students and the community in mind.  Even the most veteran teachers on staff routinely implement new methods.  It’s rare that one finds a place where their co-workers are helpful and friendly; rarer still is a place where one enjoys going to after work functions with their coworkers.     

3) Can you share a story from your first year of teaching that illustrates an important lesson or skill you think all first year teachers should know or have?

I learned a lot of important lessons during my first year of teaching.  I was miserable, and after not having my contract renewed I almost left the profession.  I worked in Chicago at the time, and I felt unsupported, underprepared, and foolish.  I showed up to substitute teach in a three story, 1,000 student school one day mid-year and was (surprise!) immediately assigned to take over a fifth grade class with 33 students for the rest of the year.  I felt it would be a good way to prove myself and work my way into a job with the district.  Unfortunately, there were no curricular materials, my students brought knives to school on multiple occasions and threatened each other in the closets, a student who had previously tried to light his sleeping grandmother on fire threatened to kill me, police arrested a student with a backpack of full of loose marijuana, etc.  I knew I wasn’t cut out for teaching.

No other jobs in other fields were feasible (many teachers like myself have a pretty limited skill set for office work), so I reluctantly accepted another teaching gig and found that despite my own struggles in the classroom the previous year, the problems were not all my own fault.  I learned that my first year failure was not simply because of my ability to teach, it was the situation that exacerbated my inexperience.  The students at my new school were just as challenging, but with a very trying year under my belt, support from other teachers and administrators, and a professional environment where openness and honesty were valued   I was able to complete two very successful years of teaching.  I realized that I was definitely going to be okay—I had not thrown away piles of money on my elementary education degree.

4) How do you continue to develop as a professional? Where do you see your professional growth taking you?

I recently completed a graduate program that focused on environmental education, community, and inquiry based teaching methods.  The work I did in that program have continued to help me see new possibilities with teaching—especially in trying to incorporate as much student voice into my lessons as possible.

I also truly enjoy many of the professional development opportunities I’m lucky to have in my district and my school.  I usually try to sit in the front and find at least one thing—a “take away”, if you will—that will benefit my instruction.  I have served on many committees, including the building leadership team and on a team that helped bring many aspects of full-service community school ideals to Roxhill.  Finally, I continue to work as a cooperating teacher with the University of Washington.  I have had three student teachers during the past four years, and I enjoy learning from the students and their instructors at the college.

I am working toward being a versatile educator who runs a safe, nurturing, interesting classroom.  I feel that my professional development experiences contribute bit by bit to me becoming the teacher I want to be.  Hopefully I get there before I hit retirement age!  

5) What kind of learning culture do you try to establish within your classroom and among your colleagues?

The learning culture I value most is one of discovery, confidence, and humor.  In my classroom I enjoy finding unique activities for my students to undertake.  My classes have sung Louis Armstrong songs at school assemblies, monitored bird populations in the woods near school, and analyzed old Harold Lloyd films.  I enjoy leading lessons of discovery that I feel I am uniquely suited to teach.

As a colleague, I try to balance humor and professionalism.  I want teaching to be seen as a profession for professional people, and I pride myself in (usually) being able to back up what I’m doing with solid research and from a place of authority.  I enjoy goofing around, but I am confident that everyone knows that I do my job, I do it as well as I can, and I truly care about the outcomes of my students and school.

6) What are you currently reading for personal enjoyment? And what book would you recommend for a first year teacher?

I’m always reading about four books; this is a tricky question to answer.  Right now a “hard” book I’m reading is War and Peace by Tolstoy.  I think that Tolstoy is really amazing at painting visceral pictures of emotions, and I’m really enjoying discovering this book for the first time.  A professional book I’m reading is The Nature Principle by Richard Louv, a long book about the value of connecting students and communities to the nature around them.  As for some light reading, I’m going back through my collection of Iron Man comic books.  He’s been my favorite since I was about 11 years old; I still love rereading the stories.

I feel that a first year teacher should definitely read Steven Wolk’s book A Democratic Classroom.  I was assigned this book as an undergraduate elementary education student, and I reread it every couple of years.  The website of Heinemann, the book’s publisher, advertises it perfectly:  “In his call to reinvent teaching, Wolk argues for teacher who ask questions, challenge assumptions, respect children, and understand the enormous role they play in shaping minds and society”.

Student Focused: Effective teaching through learning centers

The following post was first published in the January edition of BiBimBap, the bimonthly Jeollanamdo, South Korea teachers and foreign residents newsletter.

The Logic of Learning Centers

Learning centers are a constructivist teaching method designed for Pre-K through 3rd grade classrooms, where students engage in self-guided work, either independently or cooperatively, that attends to multiple learning styles and ability levels. The students are split into manageable groups which then rotate through different areas and different activities. The teacher acts as a facilitator, creating different stations or “centers” where groups engage in different activities that will educate and stimulate them. This is a student-centered method wherein teachers provide structure via planning, modeling the activities, and guidance during the center’s rotation. When I think of the Centers Model, what comes to mind is my Montessori pre-school days of rotating between an art activity, making block patterns, and counting hundreds of tiny toy soldiers; but it can be an effective teaching model for many of us, as well.

The Logistics of Learning Centers

Many NET’s in Jeollanamdo teach small groups of students in extra classes after school or work in rural schools where the class sizes are small. Learning centers are ideal for groups of fifteen students or fewer, especially if there is a wide range in ability levels and managing students is a challenge. However, learning centers are also used in large pre-K through 3rd grade classrooms of twenty or more throughout the world.

There is a significant amount of work up front in the form of planning, creating materials, and modeling the activities for each center. You must also practice the rotations, reinforcing the behavior expectations for individuals or pairs at each center and ensuring that centers are accessible to all students while also providing a challenge for those able to do more.

Once you have the learning centers running, you are free to confer with students as they engage in the different activities. You can also take advantage of flexible grouping so that a lower ability level student has a strong peer model to work with at each center.  However, the real benefit of establishing centers is that you, the teacher, become a learning center where you can provide targeted, differentiated, one-on-one (or small group) instruction to help a struggling student or encourage challenging one that is excelling.

The Lowdown on Learning Centers

I have implemented five learning centers with my extra class of ten 3rd grade students. We meet twice a week for 40 minutes, so it took me about one month (or eight classes) to plan, model, practice, and gradually release the students to work in pairs at the five centers. I do not have a co-teacher in my extra class, so clearly and repeatedly modelling both the task and the behavior expectations was essential. I used ClassDojo prodigiously up-front to reinforce both good and bad behaviors that I saw and then wanted to either encourage or snuff out at the centers.

11 Examples of Tiered 3rd Grade English Learning Centers Activities (easy to challenging):

  1. Shapes, Colors and Numbers practice, draw 10 green squares, 9 purple triangles, etc.
  2. Letter/Sound Recognition practice
  3. Spelling practice with a list of three letter words, a whiteboard, a reader and a writer
  4. Vocabulary matching or memory game with word and picture cards
  5. Number Scrolls, students write the word and the number together using a number grid visual aid, the rolled numbers papers become a scroll
  6. Rhyming word practice with ending sound examples, write as many words that rhyme with ‘am’ on the whiteboard or paper as you can think of
  7. Body Parts Labeling using pictures of people and animals
  8. Phonics Sliders, create sliders with all the vowel sounds so students can see and hear the difference between ‘bat, bet, bit, bot and but’ (nat, net, nit, not, nut)
  9. Word Fragments or Sentence Fragments, students have to put the fragments together and categorize them based on key words
  10. Quizbean.com, create a visual vocabulary mastery test on the free online site and create a station at a classroom computer
  11. Buddy reading, provide a level appropriate text for students to take turns reading to each other

Currently, my five centers activities are tiered, meaning they vary in difficulty level for the students, and are fully based off the content we have previously covered in the extra class. During the roll-out, I wanted the content of the centers’ activities to be easily accessible for the students even if the task was new. In this way, I hoped to scaffold their entry into the self-guided pair work and set them up for success.

The centers have been running for almost three weeks now. The students are really responding to them and have their favorite center. They are taking responsibility for their own learning, their own behavior, the clean-up of their center before rotating to the next and they are working well with their partners. The next step is adapting and evolving the centers to respond to the learning growth and interests of the students.

If you would like to see my centers in action, feel free to watch a video of my extra class here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8Ahbqb_1JzeVHRxSHAxLWhIR2s/view?usp=sharing

If you would like to see an expert teacher implementing and managing learning centers in their classroom, watch this Teaching Channel video here:

https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/classroom-management-guided-reading

Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_centers_in_American_elementary_schools

http://www.talesfromoutsidetheclassroom.com/2014/10/using-powerpoint-to-manage-centers.html

http://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/200707/OfPrimaryInterest.pdf

http://www.abcteach.com/free/l/learningcenters_rev.pdf

https://www.google.co.kr/?gfe_rd=cr&ei=zMpyVJbhDcGJ8QeG24GgDQ&gws_rd=ssl#newwindow=1&q=classroom+learning+centers+elementary

 

Birds Korea in the Classroom

Birds Korea Logo

Birds Korea is a conservation and research non-profit that collaborates with governments, non-governmental organizations, scientists and academic institutions within Korea and internationally. Andreas Kim, a long-time German expatriate member of Birds Korea and birding enthusiast in his own right, visited my classroom for a special English language presentation on the birds of Korea, birdwatching, and habitat conservation. The guest lecture also included a walking field trip down to our nearby marina where my 5th grade students were able to do some real birdwatching and document their scientific observations.

You can view the Korean language report of their birdwatching observations that my students wrote for the Birds Korea website here. Below you can watch a short video/slideshow of the highlights of Andreas Kim’s visit to Ansim Elementary.