Paula Intravaia, Design Engineer, @CDMdreamers
“What’s beautiful is that you were all moving in sync while expressing your own feelings.”
“This idea could be a disaster if people interpreted your dance with a different meaning.”
Our K-6 learners have become increasingly adept in participating in feedback, or more accurately, feedforward sessions, during units of study in several content areas through the intentional practice of a design thinking mindset. The comments above happened on an afternoon approaching the date for an exhibition of learning based on our human impacts on earth and outer space. Encouraged to use their unique strengths and interests to design solutions for these impacts, a group of four dance enthusiasts shared their choreographed prototype for informing others about increasingly severe wild weather events triggered by global warming.
Rather than assuming our elementary students are limited in their ability to give and receive authentic feedback or understand the power of metaphor, our school district looks outside of education for ways to extend thinking and develop the capacity to reflect and revise before presenting a polished product. Truly, we value the process without discounting high standards for quality products so long as those products serve a meaningful purpose.
The power of the revision process cannot be dismissed. Mastering a feedback mindset requires practice through numerous and increasingly complex experiences. We seek to stretch learners beyond accepting minor suggestions to independently seeking and respecting other perspectives. One must be willing to imagine terrible futures and be open to making changes, such as adding clues to provide clarity during a dance performance, so more hopeful futures are realized.
The product we’re really after is a learner with a strong sense of agency who has developed cognitive skills as well as empathy and a creative mindset in order to avoid potentially awful mistakes and realize that through their personal strengths they can add value to the community and beyond.
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: Laura, Sarah, and Paula, the Innovation and Design Team
In August, Dr. McClurg challenged all of us to begin a journey from the tame to the wild, and as evidenced by some of the data Sarah, Paula, and I put together about our year, the DMUSD staff did just that. This year for us has been a monumental year of learning, creativity, and celebration, which would not have been possible if not for the amazing staff we were fortunate to work with throughout this school year.
When people think and act like a designer, they must be able to see not just what is, but what might be. The design thinking opportunities teachers facilitated for students this year truly exposed students to what might be by helping students discover their inner genius, and then empowering students to use that genius to advance the world. We watched in awe as students demonstrated sincere empathy and felt a call to action within, and outside of, design thinking experiences. We felt joy when watching the faces of teachers as they saw their students demonstrate their passion for learning. And we enjoyed seeing those proud parents listen to their children present their prototype solutions at packed exhibitions!
And we learned a lot, too! We learned...
- how important it is to always start with why and to know the priorities. When people understand the why and have an opportunity to be a voice in building the how and what, there is a greater success in change efforts.
- that every site and teacher, just like every student, has unique qualities requiring a customized approach to integrate design thinking experiences.
- connecting with industry experts to not only dive deeper into the content standards and relevant application to careers today, but to provide high-quality feedback on student thinking, exponentially increases student learning. And that expeditionary partnerships with local organizations is truly a game changer that leads to extraordinary experiences for students!
- a constant feedback loop is important from all stakeholders. Feedback, or better yet, feedforward, is an art form, and we are all working towards being master artists.
- our beliefs and experiences inform our actions. It is critical to give people an opportunity to experience something new for themselves so that they are empowered to contribute to leading change initiatives.
We have some hopes and plans moving forward to the 2018-19 school year. Besides continuing to support the momentum for implementing design thinking experiences in the classroom, we are looking to increase opportunities for expeditionary partnerships and industry expert connections. We're building design thinking-ish mini-experiences that teachers can use within a lesson, as well as redesigning some of our planning tools to be more user-friendly.
We are thankful to each and every staff member and student of DMUSD for the opportunity to serve you, and look forward to continuing in our unrelenting pursuit to create the extraordinary school experience for all students.
See ya next school year!
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