A glimpse into //fuse!

Before I begin this post, I should update you all a bit (it relates back to //fuse, I promise!) I am happy to announce that I am joining the Mount Vernon Presbyterian School team as a 7th and 8th grade social studies teacher!  As a resident of the Dunwoody/Sandy Springs area, I have become very familiar with the wonderful academic and extra-curricular successes that MVPS has been experiencing.  MVPS has also been a champion of one of the latest trends in education: design thinking.  I feel incredibly blessed to be joining this school, and I am excited to share and learn with the wonderful faculty at MVPS as we all continue in our mission to improve the educational system for children.

Now, back to the original topic: //fuse.  MVPS and Leading is Learning  teamed up to host a design thinking conference.  This conference, //fuse, was held in June on the MVPS Glenn Campus.  Ryan Burke and Greg Bamford of Leading is Learning, as well as several faculty members from MVPS, led this two day conference designed to not only introduce design thinking to us, but to also to let us actually experience a design thinking challenge so that we would feel equipped to conduct this in our schools and classrooms.   Because I was a new faculty member to MVPS, I was excited to hear about this conference, and I wanted to attend to not only learn more about design thinking at MVPS, but also learn with other educators around the nation as they implement design thinking in their schools.  This was an incredible experience, and the passion of those in attendance and leading the conference was electrifying.  To spare you an incredibly long post, I’ll give you some of the highlights and share some of my thoughts and experiences from this wonderful experience.

The conference walked us through the DEEP process.  When implementing a design thinking challenge in your classrooms or school, your students can use this process to work towards their solution.  We were given our problem for the challenge on the first day:  “How might we improve the first week of school?”   The cool thing about the DEEP process and design thinking is that toward the end of the process, you end up changing your question around and focusing on one aspect of the problem that you would like to improve. D stands for discover.    You must discover the problem you are dealing with, and you must discover the group you are working with.  E stands for empathize.  You must empathize with your “user” or those affected by the problem, and you must truly try to understand how it affects their life/day/world.  E also stands for experiment.  You must prototype and produce models of your solution to the problem.  P stands for produce.  You finally will produce a solution, and hopefully your solution will be one that is successful.  I learned a great deal about this process and how important each step is.  The //fuse team also reiterated to us the importance of taking this process and starting with QUESTIONS not answers.  This is something that I think is important in all aspects of the classroom.  We want our students to be analytical and inquisitive in their quest for knowledge.  It sounds cheesy, but it’s the truth!

The biggest take away from this conference and from directly experiencing the DEEP process is that design thinking in uncomfortable.  It is uncomfortable for me for many reasons.  First, it is incredibly messy.  I’m the typical organized teacher with matching colors, folders, neat stacks of paper, and the list goes on.  With design thinking, you literally are throwing ideas out at random, writing on the table, pasting 100 sticky notes up on a board, and using random products that don’t go together for your prototypes.  Yes, this is extremely uncomfortable for me, but in this mess is beauty.  In this mess is innovation, collaboration, empathy, passion, and diversity.  Out of this process we can truly take a problem, turn our classrooms into a design thinking lab , make a mess, solve a problem, and make a difference!

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Day 2: EdTechTeacher’s "Teaching History and English with Technology" Conference.

Our morning session started with a brief discussion about student research, and the importance of scaffolding  for our students how to appropriately research and assess sources for their credibility.  We have been using the CRCD framework (via EdTechTeacher website) to discuss with each other the various ways we can scaffold this research behavior for our students. We have looked at various search engines we can show our students, as well as different ways we can show our students how to assess their sources for their credibility.  Research is a powerful tool in the classroom, and it is a necessity for our students to be globally minded citizens. Authentic research is the key to innovation, collaboration, and engagement.  Our students must build the foundations for authentic research while in school so they will be globally competent and prepared as adults.

CRCD Framework:
When discussing and learning about this framework, Shawn showed us some other search engines to use in the classroom when students are collecting research.  Google is great and wonderful, but sometimes students need more academic specialized searches without the distractions that Google can sometimes provide.  We practiced using a handful of different search engines, but the two I like the most were Refseek and WolframAlpa.  Refseek pulls only from academic domains when you research a topic, and WolframAlpha provides you with more of a comprehensive history (using multiple sites) of your topic.  The interesting thing about WolframAlpha is that it then  features the results on one page.  It’s a bit hard to explain, so try it for yourself, and you will see what I’m talking about!  Take a topic and use it with both of these search engines!  Try it out and let me know what you think.

The afternoon session of the conference was used to learn about new resources and also to experiment with what we have learned.  I chose to experiment with two things: Thinglink and Infuselearning.  Thinglink is a really cool resource that allow you to upload a photo (can be a personal photo, map, cartoon etc) and put interactive thumbnails over the various parts of the picture.  You can type in information you may want your students to learn about this picture as they hover over the various thumbnails, or you can use it as an assessment tool by putting a Google form in as one of the thumbnails.  For example, you could upload a political cartoon and ask students about the various symbols displayed in the cartoon.  Some thumbnails could be information about the cartoon that you want them to learn, and other thumbnails can be the Google forms to assess their inquiry and analysis of the cartoon. This resource can be a little time consuming when you are creating your product, and it can take a little while to get used to, but it is a great way for students to interact with pictures, maps, and cartoons.  Experiment with it this summer!  Finally, Infuselearning is a resource very similar to Socrative (I blogged about this on Day 1).  It is an assessment tool, but the difference with this resource is that it allows you to have a drawing feature in addition to multiple choice, essay, matching, t/f, and chronological questions.  This is great for math and science teachers that want to assess a graph or formula. I have not played around as much with this resource, but I plan to use it and Socrative in my classes this year.

Overall, this was a great conference, and it allowed me to experiment with familiar and unfamiliar technology resources.  It can be a little overwhelming, but my advice to you is to take one resource a day and experiment with it.  It is easier to process, and you won’t be as overwhelmed this summer if you just take one resource a day and get to know all of the moving parts of that resource.  This is what I’m doing, and it really allows me to concentrate on just that resource as I decide which will be most beneficial in my classroom and for my students.  If you have any questions, feel free to let me know! Have fun! 🙂