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!