Thursday 28 September 2017

#Project Flip: : Fostering an Innovator Mindset by Using Design Thinking with students

Over the last year, I have had the privilege of going through some design thinking exercises.  Last summer I read A.J. Juliani and John Spencer's LaunchUsing Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student.  Last fall my team at work and I explored the dSchool at Stanford's design virtual crash course in design thinking.  This past summer, I attended the Google for Education Certified Innovator Academy (#WDC17!!) and the amazing Les McBeth took us through Future Design School's design thinking process.  After each of these experiences, I knew Design Thinking had a place in education.

For those not familiar with Design Thinking, it is a way to make the design process more accessible.  It is HUMAN CENTERED INNOVATION.  Design Thinking is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems, and find desirable solutions for clients. ... Design Thinking draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning, to explore possibilities of what could be—and to create desired outcomes that benefit the end user (the customer).


It is a a phenomenal opportunity to cultivate an innovator's mindset in students, allowing for them to take control of idea creation and activity execution.

At the end of the summer, I was talk to my colleague Stephanie Signer about plans she had for her 5th grade class this school year.  We talked about using Flipgrid in activities to capture student voice.  In that conversation, she brought up concerns that she would be teaching in a portable and wondered about how noise levels would affect video quality since she would not be able to send people outside the class in the rain or during the cold Canadian winters.
I immediately realised that Design Thinking could be used if (and when) the problem arose.  We discussed how we would turn the task of finding a solution over to the student.  Then, sure enough, after their experience with Flipgrid, Steph called me.  The students had love the activity and the tool, but they we annoyed quickly with the noise level in the classroom.  And so she told them it would be up to them to conquer this challenge.

On a crisp September morning, I went to visit Ms Signer's gr. 5s in their portable.  We had landed on a hybrid of models to run the sprint, but stuck with the language that Spencer and Juliani used in Launch as it seemed the most student friendly to us.

Spencer & Juliani's Launch Cycle

Importance: Allows designers to identify the problem.

We began our morning really thinking about the problem they faced.  Stephanie has made a video montage from their videos showing instances of poor noise quality, bad lighting, and even other students photo bombing videos. The class had a discussion about how these issues affected their learning.  They talked a lot about being distracted. 

Importance: Helps designers empathize with users, understand the context of the situation, and allows designers to see the problems from the user's lens.

Success Criteria
After this discussion they had more clarity and realised that many of them faced the same problems.  We explained that they were going to have to come up with a solution to these problems.  To be sure their solutions were addressing all aspects of the problem, Stephanie co-created some success criteria with the class.

Based on the criteria they created, we moved on to think about how we could solve the problems they were facing.  We put whiteboards at each table and asked them to list as many ideas they could think of - no matter how big or small.
Part way through the activity we had all the students move to another table and asked them to build on ideas that were there and add new ones that may have been inspired by what they read.  When they finished we asked students to share solutions they found interesting, impossible, or silly.

One of the suggestions we saw, based on the video from the beginning of class was to have Tiffany yell at people to be quiet.  Of course this was not a plausible solution since Tiffany would miss out on other learning.  We did explain that sometimes good ideas come from bad ideas.  We watched the Bad Idea Factory videos shared by Kevin Brookhouser and his students with particular focus on Denny - whose idea of spending a month in a wheelchair led to more accessibility on the school's campus.  We also read Ashley Spires's The Most Magnificent Thing to show how sometimes we need to walk away for a minute to gain fresh insight. After creating a list of bad ideas to meet our success criteria (and sharing via a paper snowball fight) we moved on to the next part of the cycle...

Importance: Gives the opportunity to come up with many solutions (there is not "right" solution) based on conversations with the user.

In order to come up with some fast ideas, we walked the kids through a process called rapid ideation (sometimes this is called an 8 fold activity).  In this activity students fold a piece of paper into 8 sections and have to come up with one idea, or build on a previous idea, in each of the boxes. A timer is started and students have 45 seconds to put an idea into the box before they move on to the next.  A number of students said it was a tough activity but they were all very surprised at how many ideas they generated in 5 minutes.

The 8 fold
Kill Your Darlings
After the rapid ideation we asked that they take a sheet of paper and sketch and label their favorite idea. These were posted (nameless) around the class for a walkabout activity we called “Kill Your Darlings”. In this exercise, students were given Post-it notes and they walked around the room pointing out obstacles the idea would have to conquer or pitfalls that would be faced should the idea launch. We made sure students did not write their names on the sketches so that there was no bias in feedback.

At this point the students went for recess and Stephanie quickly made groups. These groups would become teams that would work on a prototype for the flipgrid area. Once the students returned to class, they got into their groups and shared their ideas. Together, they had to pick one idea or amalgamate a few ideas into a singular idea that would become their focus.

I had to leave to go support another school, so we created a Flipgrid in which groups did an initial pitch to me that I could watch later that night.  In their pitch they explained their idea and how they thought it would meet the success criteria they had co-created earlier.  (These videos are super cute but for privacy reasons I cannot share them here.)

Stephanie and the students continued some work on #ProjectFlip including a discussion about the learning pit and watching a short video about famous failures. We really wanted the students to realize that this experience is as much about the process as it is the final product. they also discussed how failure is often not a bad thing but simply a step in the iteration process.  Stephanie also explained what a prototype is and together they created a word bank for effective Google searches to help them search for ideas in their prototype creation.

So now, a week later, I look forward to hearing about how the students are progressing. We have a second Flipgrid topic where in students can pose questions to me as they work on building their prototype.  I will be touching base with them sometime this week 2 let them know that it will not only be me and their principal who will see their prototype pitch but also a couple of Flipgrid employees - it is all about authenticity!

There are two more parts to the cycle that I will highlight in a future blog post:

Importance: Allows designers gain rapid feedback from users to allow for improvement.

On October 11th I will be joining the class via Google Hangouts and they are going to do a little dress rehearsal for me with their pitch. They will also have some time to try out prototypes that other groups have created to get and give some feedback.

(See my follow up blog)

Importance: Allows opportunity to continuously improve a product or experience.  There is no "end game".

October 18th will be pitch day. The school principal, Adam from Flipgrid, and I will see the fruits of the students' labour. I can't wait!

Stay tuned!  #MoreSoon as we say in the #WDC17 family.

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Fostering an Innovator's Mindset in Children

Over the last couple of weeks I have been reading Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by:Tony Wagner.  The books discusses what parents and teachers need to do to develop an innovator's mindset in children.  Through the presentation of various case studies, it boils down to the 3Ps: letting kids PLAY, allowing them to find and experiment in their PASSION, and to ensure they feel they have a PURPOSE.
My sketchnote on the first few chapters of the book.
The book made me really think about the way I parent and teach.  It reinforced many things I do, and made me relinquish some controls in other areas.  It questioned schooling in general and talked about how school is a place to get "credentialed", not a place of inspirations for many creative, innovative kids.

"Creativity is treated as a bad habit...The system doesn't encourage risk and penalizes failure."

My favourite part of the book began on Page 222 wherein Wagner shares Jeff Hunter's 2007 blog post (which I can't find online!) that outllines Hunter's frustration with what students must do for success in school vs. what skills they need as future innovators.  I have shared it below.  I hope it speaks to your heart as much as it did mine.

~My Son Won't Do His Homework, by Jeff Hunter~
"I am going through hell with my son. He is twelve, and no matter what I do, no matter what my wife or my oldest daughter do, he won’t do his homework. We ground him, we take away all his gadgets, we prevent him from going to birthday parties and other social events that he loves. Other than corporal punishment (which is a place I won’t go), we have tried everything. It doesn’t matter… he doesn’t care. We can't force him to do something he thinks is wrong. And my personal hell is... he is right.
My son can listen to the radio and pick up his saxophone and play whatever he is hearing. Or, if his sax isn’t handy, he picks up whatever other musical instrument is around and plays that.
But he doesn’t do his homework.
I bought him a book about drawing and he gets up at night and reads it and sneaks around the house sketching things. The portraits he does are incredible. The comics he produces are funny, insightful and engaging. Everyone asks him to draw for them.
But he doesn’t do his homework.
My son is rarely if ever unhappy, and people are naturally drawn to him. He has a great delivery on jokes and has a photographic memory for any piece of pop culture he has seen. We riff on Simpson’s lines all the time, cracking each other up in the process. Then he’ll tell me movies he saw three years ago, shot by shot, line by line.
But he doesn’t do his homework.
My son is intellectually curious. He loves to learn new things and is always asking me “Why does something work this way?” or “What about that?”
But he doesn’t do his homework.
My son loves video games. I work at a video game company so I know how long it is supposed to take to finish all the missions in your average next gen video game. My son takes half that time. He holds competitions with his friends where, after he beats them, he shows them all the tricks that he has figured out about how to beat the game.
But dammit, he doesn’t do his homework.
The other day I insisted that my son finish a piece of homework. I sat down next to him and taught myself math that I never learned in all my years of high school and college (remember, he is twelve). I stayed up until midnight with him, browbeating him the entire time, my anger unchecked. Finally, we completed the problem, which had to do with plotting the parabola of a quadratic equation and reducing the result set to a graph of the system of inequalities. The project was about finding the cross section of a river based on a given quadratic equation.
The next morning my son woke early and went down and made his project interesting to him. He put in cartoon characters exploring the depth of the river, and drew a shark (which he labeled with his teacher’s name) about to eat a happy little duck (which he labeled “My Grades”). He drew a fisherman packing gear and assorted other fish and life. These were not just doodles – he actually helped clarify some of the information that he had been struggling with. By drawing the characters he was helping himself understand what the lesson was trying to teach.
My entire family was completely enthralled by what he had done. It was not only artistically creative and engaging, it actually helped clear up the very nature of the project. Justly proud, we anxiously looked forward to hearing how his teacher responded.
My son returned home from school downcast, shuffling his feet. I asked him what was wrong. “My teacher didn’t like the project, because I put it on the wrong size paper.”
I don't have much hair, but I am ready to tear what little I have out at the roots. My son doesn’t do his homework because his homework is stupid. I have spoken to educators and principles and academicians and grandparents and probably a hundred other people , and nobody has given me a decent answer to this question: "Why are you so convinced that my son is going to be an academic or an investment banker?" Because as far as I can tell, those are the only two things that schools prepare kids to be.
I have been sitting by my son's side for 7 years, doing his lessons. I believe I can state with the unequivocal clarity of someone that his given valuable time to a task that is largely worthless but required... the homework is just plain dumb. It is boring and condescending and even my son, at the age of twelve, can figure out that the rules are arbitrary, that they are enforced in a haphazard fashion, and that the stuff that he loves (art and music and video games) will be a great future for him and the stuff he hates (math and science) is something he will never compete in, never have a chance at.
But school doesn’t care, because school does not have the objective of helping my son produce the maximum amount of value in the future that he will probably encounter. School cares about ensuring that he knows how to take tests, follow directions and can do math that he will never have to care about for the rest of his life. School cares that he can either prove that he is worthy of being in the top 5% that will go on to be homogenized and brainwashed in a top-notch school so that they are almost completely without originality of thought or perspective or that he gets the hell out of the way for those kids that meet that description. School cares that he can be measured and managed, so that he will be a good little cog in a habitual big wheel.
As a parent I am caught between two worlds. I am 100% certain that school is doing great damage to his future prospects, but I also know that the game is rigged to be in favo[u]r of kids who get the right grades. Because recruiters can’t seem to get off the “experience and education” kick that does so much damage to our society and our children, I know that my children’s future job prospects are being controlled by people who have never once taken a critical look at what really goes into producing value for a business or market. They just know that their client (the hiring manager) told them they wanted somebody from Stanford with a certain GPA. And if they can get that butt in that seat they can then go deal with the next client.
I want to focus on what will make my kids successful, on what will allow them to provide the most possible value to their clients, their society and themselves. But I have to focus on what will get them work, even if that will hurt them, society, the companies that hire them and everyone around them. This is the very definition of broken system, the very epitome of how we are driving ourselves off a cliff all in the name of safe driving."

Sunday 17 September 2017

Alternate way to access Bitmojis on an iPhone

I love using Bitmoji!  But the keyboard set up makes me so frustrated!

I hate that it pops up when I am trying to toggle between letters, number and emojis.  Then, last week, I found a phenomenal new way to use Bitmoji on my iPhone and LOVE it.  Here it is in pictorial instructions (read left to right, to top to bottom).

Make Bitmoji an app...not a keyboard:

Want to see me do it in action?  Check out the video:

Note:  At the end of the video I say to erase the Bitmoji keyboard - if you do this you will ONLY be able to use Bitmoji in iMessage.  It will be gone in Twitter, Google Hangouts, etc.

Sunday 3 September 2017

Clear your iPhone photos with Google Photos

While I love using Google products, my devices are all Apple.  I have both a MacBook Pro, an iPhone and two iPads.  But... get these...
...a lot.  I don't want to pay for extra storage so for years I have backed up my photos to my computer, then transferred them to an external drive.  Then, I would go though the onerous task of erasing all the photos from my phone to clear space.  Then, when I would want to see that photo from a few years ago (yes this happens to me a lot), I would have to pull out the external drive and find it.  NO MORE!

Thanks to my pal Jeffrey Humphries' session at the HPEDSB EdTech Team Summit, I can now back up all my photos to Google Photos (unlimited, for free!) and free up all the space on my iPhone!

How you ask?  Here's how:

1) Download the Google Photos apps to your device.

2) Open the app and Click Get Started.  

Note: If you have Google Photos already and you have opened it before, you might not get these prompts.  In this case skip to step 7.

3)  Be sure you are Signed in to your personal GMail account.  Teacher friends - as Jeff pointed out - do not choose your EDU Google account because then your district owns the photos - and will be able to see your Saturday night activities.

4) Be sure the switch beside "Back up and sync" is toggled over to the right (it will be blue).  Click Continue

5) Now, under Upload Size you will have two options:  High Quality or Original (see the note below for clarification between the two).  Selecting High Quality will allow you to save an unlimited amount of photos for free.  Choose High Quality.  Click Continue

Note: this might reduce the quality of the photo.  From my understanding this basically means if you try to print an enlarged photo it will become pixelated when it is larger than 8x10.  If you choose to do the original, the space the photos take will go against your quota of free space eventually you will have to pay - like iCloud.

6)  Now you will get some tutorials about how to use Google Photos.  Read them and click through.

7) Along the bottom you will have 4 icons: Assistant, Photos, Albums, Sharing.  Click Assistant.

8)  You should see a prompt that says "Back up and sync is off  TURN ON".  Click Turn On

9) Toggle the switch on by tapping it. It will turn from grey to blue.

10) Ensure your Personal Gmail account is selected as the back up account.

11)  On wifi devices (you may not see this on all iPads) you can choose when to back up.  If you turn mobile data to back up for photos and/or videos then you will use your data and might incur overage fees if you do not have a lot of data.

12) Click the arrow pointing left at the top left.

13) Click the Assistant icon.  It will show you how many photos and/or videos are left to upload.  Once the back up is complete, you will see this.
14) Now, here is where you get to clear up all that space.  On the Top left corner, beside the box with "Search..." written in grey, click the three horizontal lines.  Select "Free Up Space".  You will be prompted asking if you want to remove the photos and videos from your device. Click Remove.  You might get some additional prompts here about deleting burst, etc.  Read the prompt(s) and decide to allow or not.

Settings Icon
15) Now it will say "Just one more Step".  Your iPhone stored deleted photos and videos for 30 days.  If you can wait that long, do nothing, if you want the photos gone now to free up the following step.  Personally, I did step 16 the first back up, but not after that unless I am in need of space on my iPhone.

Note:  I really like the satisfaction of seeing how much room I am about to clear.  If you want to do this, go to Settings on the iPhone (or iPad) and click General.  Select Storage and iCloud Usage.  Under Storage if will say "Used".  This is how much room you have used.  Check back here (you might need to close and reopen the Settings app) after step 16.

16)  Go to the iPhone (or iPad) Photos app.  Click the 
Photos Icon
Album icon on the bottom bar (on the left).  Scroll until you find the "Recently Deleted" album.  Click it.  Once you are in click Click Select in the top right corner and the click Delete All in the top right hand corner.  Now all your photos will be off your device and you'll have more room!

Note:  This is when you can check how much space you cleared as instructed in the note in Step 15.

17) All your photos are now in the Google Photos app - and not in your Apple Photos.

Moving forward you can back up all your photos to Google Photos as you take them.  In this case, you would need to open the Google Photos app and ensure they all download like in step 13.  Alternatively, you could just do this when you want to create space on your phone.  In the later situation, you would have photos store in two apps.  Photos that were back up will be in Google Photos, the ones that have not been will be in Apple Photos.