My colleagues and I have returned from the uLearn17 Conference brimming with ideas and philosophies to teaching. These ideas came from the wonderful keynote speakers like Abdul Chohan and Brad Waid . Their message? Technology must be simple and reliable so that we can focus on teaching and learning. And the other great take away was when we remember that technology is powerful when students start to do things, create things. Linking all of these ideas was that the relationship with the student is more important than the tool- this won’t change. We also enjoyed the wide range of workshops. But the fantastic ideas were also sparked while in casual conversations with friends and colleagues.
I strongly believe that a dynamic, thought provoking conference has been a waste of time and money if we don’t implement something new and different in our classes. It might be something you’ve always done, but you add a new glossy edge to it. Or it might be a complete change in direction. Teachers of senior classes in New Zealand face two and a half weeks of revision before external exams begin. So I’ve decided that I’m going to apply the Design Thinking model to my revision lessons. I have to thank Richard Wells for the following graphic representation of this plan:
Next, it’s important to add time pressure, so I added these time constraints:
My plan is as follows:
1. Get students to form groups of four. Give them post-it notes and sheets of paper or white boards.
2. Give them the issue: a range of essay topics, a different one for each group.
3. Give them time to reflect on aspects of the issue, and then share their thoughts with their group.
4. Build up a series of facts (evidence) around the issue using the whiteboards. They will need their devices at this point to access their evidence.
5. Get students to think of ways to empathise with the characters or the themes. And then share these ideas with their group. In this way they can build up the idea of judgements and can look at the author’s intention: what impact did this issue have on them, on society?
6. Select what they think would work best to define the issue, with evidence.
7. Iterate the ideas that work best together.
8. Pitch their ideas to the class.
9. Get the class to critique their ideas.
In this way, instead of simply rote learning ideas for the exams which seems pretty fruitless and boring, they will be honing their key competencies, and at the same time learning, sharing and growing their ideas. I will put a time limit on each aspect of the activity. Pace and speed are important for innovation, so I’ll put pressure on the students to come up with solutions.
HOW THE LESSONS HAVE PANNED OUT:
The first important step was that I allowed students to work with someone of their choice, then I put pairs together, forcing them to talk to a new group of students. But more importantly, we discussed why this would be important and they came up with sound and logical reasons.
The result: I actually saw and heard students help and talk to students they had not interacted with previously. I did have to remind them after lesson one to draw out the shy voices, and perhaps shut the loud ones up. Lesson two worked far better in this regard. They seemed to “really get it” after trialling it lesson one. Today the classroom was buzzing and there were a number of positive comments. I had to remind myself that they were doing revision which is typically quiet, introspective and boring.
Next important step: Stick to the time limit given. For all nine steps, I gave a time limit. This was good as it made students work under pressure. And they produced some impressive solutions.
The result: We had FUN! Their pitch (stage 8) was the most pressurised of all. I gave them a time limit of 30 seconds to do their pitch. What I asked of them was: what is the one golden nugget you can give the class? What is the one thing that you really want them to take away? We haven’t heard from all groups yet as we ran out of time. But so far I’m pleased to say that each group has had a brilliant golden nugget. And one group actually got a standing ovation. From their peers. For revision.
Design Thinking is well worth doing, and can be adapted for so many curriculum areas. I had to really stop myself from over-using exclamation marks in this post.