Tag Archives: #designthinking

#ELMLE2015 Sketchnoting

14 Mar

Workbook-400It’s been a month since I have posted something new. Know that I have been working away…but I have had plenty of shade tree time, too. It has been a busy but fulfilling winter in Germany.

In the past ten years, I’ve endured my share of light-starved, snowy Februaries. In both Boston and Frankfurt, winter days can feel as if we’re all just sitting inside of some enormous, frozen broom closet waiting for somebody to turn on the lights. A colleague of mine talks about the “ping pong ball sky,” as if we’re all just sitting inside of a ball trying to look out. It’s an apt image.

I fill these grey-white times by learning to do something creative. When I lived in Boston I took all kinds of continuing ed classes: boxing, rock-climbing, acting, singing, writing. This winter, my ambitions are much smaller, but I’ve been experimenting with sketchnoting. My wife bought me two books for Christmas, and we’ve both been practicing in the evenings while vegging out in front of Netflix. At this year’s ELMLE conference in Warsaw, I put my nascent skills to use.

I am not good at this by any means, but my teaching always improves when I embrace the rich learning that comes from doing something at which I truly suck. I am surprised by how much I enjoy taking notes in this format. I listen much more attentively, and the big ideas from each session become stickier. Not every session lent itself to this format, but here are my notes from the conference with a breakdown of the key points from relevant sessions:

My apologies to the presenters. None of you really look like any of my sketches…just chalk up your Quasimodolike effigies to my not-so-budding artistic skills.

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Paper Airplanes for Freedom: Who Cares?

3 Nov

Most teachers would probably naturally intuit this, but carting 20 students to downtown Boston so they may throw paper airplanes at strangers is probably not a good idea. Too many things could go wrong, and why, exactly, would they want to do this in the first place?

I was cautious, but I really care about putting students’ ideas at the forefront of learning, so we executed this harebrain idea anyway. It did not go so well. And, it was a huge success.

How can it be both? First some background….We used CNN’s Freedom Project throughout the term as one source for our research on modern slavery. One posted assignment, Paper Airplanes for Freedom, intrigued us. It is pretty simple: make a paper plane, write messages of solidarity on it, launch it, and encourage those that pick it up to do the same. It’s a novel way of spreading awareness. More slaves exist in the world today than at any point in human history….27 million by some counts. 

As we brainstormed our own ideas for raising awareness, the students had an overwhelming urge to create a public action. During the idea generating and iteration phases, “Paper Airplane Flash Mob” rose to the top. The students and I thought it represented a chance to grab people’s attention and make a lasting impression.  We also thought we could execute it relatively easily.

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27 Million Dots (or Why Design Thinking Is Worth the Extra Effort)

27 Oct

As I sat in line waiting to buy some blue paint and Goo-b-gone, the time creeping past 8:00 p.m., I thought, “Does any of this really have anything to do with English class?” This year I began my sophomore English classes with a project on modern slavery, and even though we moved on to topics like Gatsby’s impossible dream and the nuances of parallel structure, the Modern Slavery Project is still going, taking more and more of my time.

This re-occurring unit is one of which I am very proud. I have written about our work in the past, and every year I attempt to reboot this project, I start by showing past work and asking, “Now…what do YOU want to do?”

For the past two years this has meant tweaking the basic pattern from previous years: students research an aspect of modern slavery, create a video PSA, and write letters to various organizations and individuals, all the while making connections to Harriet Jacob’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. This work is always engaging, interesting, and original, but this year I pushed my students to think about ways to amplify their voices and increase their impact.

I utilized some design thinking training that is part of Beaver’s in-house professional development. I built in more time to INSPIRE (a research stage of the design process), and we took our ideas through a longer process of iteration. My students were particularly keen to take our work beyond the classroom walls, and they devised some novel ideas to do so:

27 Million Dots: Make Your Mark

One section transformed a three story hallway in the building by painting 27 million dots to represent the total number of slaves in the world today. This idea is inspired by Paper Clips, the documentary about children at a Whitwell, TN middle school collecting six million paper clips to represent the six million lives lost in the Holocaust.  The students generated many ideas about how to best create a physical representation of such a large number, but the plan that emerged as most “doable” and having the most impact was the dots.

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