There’s a little saying that goes, “a stitch in time saves nine.” Is Empathy Mapping worth the time?
By: Meg Money, Sycamore Ridge 4th Grade Teacher
“As teachers, how do you want to invest your time?” Ron Ritchhart asked a cohort of DMUSD teachers recently. This question has replayed in my mind time after time since. Last week I was at a crossroads; time or making a difference? You see, our 4th grade class was in the thick of a Design Thinking challenge. All groups were collaborating ferociously and productively...all but one. But hey, it was my fault. I designed that group knowing that it had a 50-50 chance of working. This group of three included kids who were bright and capable in their own right but different as day and night. Unfortunately I didn’t play my cards right, and now I had a group on my hands that had potential but was so far behind because productivity and collaboration were nonexistent.
Now comes in the saying, “Timing is everything.” Fast forward two weeks to another training led by our very own DMUSD Design Team. Paula and Sarah led us through a Empathy Mapping exercise, and a light bulb went on. This is what my lagging group lacked... Empathy! However, this would take time; time a group was running out of.
“How should I invest my time?” replayed one more time in my head. Yes, this is exactly what this trio of budding engineers deserved. They deserved to feel safe in a group and showcase their talents. Their assigned grouping shouldn’t be the barrier holding them back.
I wasted no time and asked the group how they were feeling halfway through the research/prototyping phase. As you can imagine, they were frustrated and asked if they could just work alone. It was then I suggested that we come together and build empathy through the mapping exercise. (See photos) What happened from there surpassed every expectation I’d anticipated. The kids were open, honest, polite and so insightful. They really didn’t need much prompting; they got it! They created NEED statements (See photos) that immediately inspired them to hurry back to their learning. I watched in AWE as this group of young scholars immediately started approaching a difficult task with empathy and producing with the maturity of adults. I’m not going to lie, I had tears, goosebumps, and a swollen heart.
So, was this worth the TIME? Oh, you have no idea. Just ask the group members.
“Ms. Money, thank you for taking the time to do the mapping with us,” said one student.
“This was the best day of the year,” another added with a hug.
“Ms. Money, hurry, come see our idea!” shouted one from across the room.
I will forever be reminded of this experience that truly confirmed that helping students find their potential and giving them a chance at success is absolutely worth the time. Empathy Mapping is now the frontrunner of my long list of “Must Explore and Practice” list. It is worth every second of TIME!
By: Dr. Laura Spencer, Executive Director of Innovation and Design
Interestingly enough, although most companies say they value inquisitive minds, employees tend to feel stifled and conform to status quo instead of branching out with new ideas. In fact, a study found that curiosity drops 20% within six months on the job. Is it because the questions stop and the work production requirements increased? Maybe. But curiosity matters, and it has a huge positive impact on the workplace.
There's also an assumption that the creative jobs, the ones that hire curious minds, all require Bachelor degrees. Not true. Although blue collar jobs have declined, skilled-service good jobs are on the rise. The key is not so much in WHAT you learn, but more in the SKILLSETs developed while learning.
So how do you encourage creative, curious minds? Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba, says you do NOT do it by being the top student at school. As he explained to his son, "being in the middle is fine, so long as your grades aren’t too bad. Only this kind of person [a middle-of-the-road student] has enough free time to learn other skills.” What other skills? Ma shared at the World Economic Forum that students need to learn that which machines cannot, such as teamwork, independent thinking, and caring for others.
He's not the only one to share this thinking. Minouche Shafik, Director of the London School of Economics, spoke at the World Economic Forum of the importance of “the soft skills, creative skills. Research skills, the ability to find information, synthesise it, make something of it.” Fabiola Gianotti, a particle physicist and the Director General of CERN, expanded on Shafik's ideas: “We need to break the cultural silos. Too often people put science and the humanities, or science and the arts, in different silos. They are the highest expression of the curiosity and creativity of humanity.”
So how do we ensure that we not just say we value curiosity and creativity, but actually practice what we preach? The latest Leadership + Design newsletter stressed the importance of teachers connecting with the world to see how work is being done, why, and by whom. In Del Mar, the Design Engineers actively seek industry expert connections to provide an insider peek into careers and experiences to ignite students' curiosity.
Feeling a bit more curious now yourself? This playlist created for CreativeMornings by DJ Jim Q may just put you in the mood to go explore.
(A modified version of this blog post was originally posted on Dr. Spencer's personal blog)
By: Sarah Raskin, Design Engineer
There are few times in our lives when we can press the “reset” button with the permission to try something new. The beginning of the school year provides us all with a special opportunity for renewal. As our Innovation and Design Team reflected over the summer on the exciting work happening across campuses to meaningfully connect lessons learned in the classroom with real-world applications, we recognized an opportunity to invigorate the way we think about innovative practices. When focusing time and resources on a process, it is easy to overlook the importance of the mindset it takes to make the process happen in the first place. Imagine the author that spends countless hours practicing literary devices before considering their purpose, or which devices will be used within the context of their novel. This year, it is our goal to prime the mind for Design.
In their research paper on “Changing Mindsets in Design Thinking,” Heidi Weber, Antonio Cruz Rodriguez, and Americo Mateus, explain that successfully utilizing the Design Thinking methodology requires one to draw on different mindsets and thinking processes. Most specifically, they are studying how “priming” or exposure to a stimulus that activates a particular idea, context, or feeling, can positively shift a mindset. This year, the Innovation and Design Team is developing experiences that allow teachers and students to explore the components of the Design Thinking process, while intentionally focusing on practicing the mindsets that will build a culture of thinking within the classroom. The first mindset we are exploring is “connective.”
As the school year begins, teachers and students alike are working to develop connected classroom communities that embrace the strengths, interests, and learning styles of each individual. Below, are some activities that teachers have used throughout the District to empower students with identifying their own strengths, while also developing the connective mindset.
Just as an author “primes” their mind for writing their own book by reading a wide variety of great literature, our educators are exposing students to experiences that provide ideas, context, and feelings to prime their minds for developing a culture of thinking and the Designer’s mindset within the classroom.
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