Archive for Design

Speaking About Intensives

In January, I shared stories and observations about UPrep’s first intensive term at our State of the School event. The following video is cued to jump to my portion of the presentation.

Explore, Question, Develop: Next Generation Learning Initiatives

Originally published in UPrep Magazine

“A rolling stone gathers no moss.” — proverb

This ancient saying admonishes wanderers to settle down and establish themselves. But perhaps some wanderlust is good for you. The Rolling Stones evidently felt so, inspired by a Muddy Waters song of the same name. Wandering is not so aimless when we call it “exploration” and give it purpose: to experience broadly, appreciate difference, and try new ideas.

In 2015, UPrep set out to explore, question, and further develop intellectual courage, global citizenship, and social responsibility. First, the UPrep community identified the most promising opportunities for enhancing the student experience. Then, volunteer Research+Design teams surveyed literature, visited schools, presented at conferences, and wrote proposals. As you can see below, we are well on our way toward implementation of our Next Generation Learning Initiatives, which should be fully in place by 2020.

New Models of Time

Completed: A new daily schedule that is easy to follow, supports deeper learning and independence, and
makes time for social and emotional development.

Upcoming: Intensives (our working title), in which students take a single course for two-and-a half weeks to think deeply across disciplines, study contemporary topics, and learn in the community.

ULab

Completed: Senior LaunchPad, in which all seniors design and engage in an off-campus passion project,  and present it to the community. Social Entrepreneurship and Feminism, two new courses that are entirely student-conceived, designed, and delivered. Global Online Academy, in which students have registered for 50 fully online courses for next year.
Upcoming: Construction of a dynamic new center to support entrepreneurial thinking and connection to community. The building will feature flexible spaces for independent, group, and class work and house global programs, the Makerspace, college counseling, mentorship, and other student leadership programs.

Social Justice and Educational Equity

Completed: A comprehensive review of justice and equity practices in and beyond the classroom. New courses that include social justice topics or represent many cultures. Coordination among teacher leaders, the Board of Trustees, and the Diversity and Community program.
Upcoming: Further development of culturally responsive classroom practices, course curricula, student leadership opportunities, and enhanced collaborations among different parts of the school.

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)

Completed: A detailed review of SEL programs and UPrep needs, multiple surveys assessing students’ emotional health and social skills.

Upcoming: SEL curriculum built into the new schedule, Advisory for Advisors, and SEL classroom practices.

Intensives/Immersives Design

Upcoming: In 2018-2019, a new school calendar that includes intensive terms in January and June. New courses specially designed for these terms in which students deeply immerse themselves in different ways of thinking, study contemporary topics through multiple lenses, and learn in the community
and through travel.

 

While much of the UPrep program is consistent from year to year, Strategic Plan 2020 allows us to shake off a little moss and develop exciting new opportunities for powerful learning, which will equip our students to wander with purpose into a complex and ever-changing world

 

iOS Interface Confusion

Do you find it hard to remember where the share button is? New? Reply? Favorite? New? You are not alone! Familiar user interfaces, once a distinguishing quality of Apple products, now appear to be a thing of the past. iOS app developers are seemingly placing buttons wherever they see fit, no doubt confusing and discouraging users. Let’s take a look at some examples.

Top bars

Google Drive

actions - Google Drive

Calendar

new - calendar

GMail

new - GMail

Oulook

new - Outlook

Twitter

new - twitter

BBC News

open in - BBC News

Bottom bars

Twitter – tweet

actions - twitter

Twitter – web browser

open in - twitter

Apple Mail

actions - Apple Mail

Photos

actions - photos

Safari

open in - safari

Share menus

Facebook

share - Facebook

Google Docs

share - Google Drive

“Open In”

actions

School Start Times

The Seattle Times reports that Seattle Public School superintendent Larry Nyland will propose new start times for next year, based on the work of the bell times task force.

8:00 a.m.: Most elementary schools, three K-8 schools, Denny International Middle School
8:50 a.m.: All high schools, most middle schools, five K-8 schools
9:40 a.m.: 10 elementary schools, three K-8 schools

Currently, most high schools and middle schools start at 7:50 and elementary schools at 8:25 or 9:15. Three years ago, a district proposal to adjust start times was rescinded due to family objections. This time, all grades start later, some much later. According to the article, some families are balking over the potential inconvenience of the 9:40 start time proposed for some elementary and K-8 schools.

Research has suggested for years that adolescents are not physiologically prepared for an early start, and that learning may suffer as a result. Just ask high school teachers how much they prefer first period classes! One progressive, public high school starts at 8:40 most mornings, 10:10 on “late start” days. However, multiple factors influence bell times: athletics schedules, historical practice, traffic, parent work obligations, and busing. Three years ago, busing drove the proposal of new start times, so that the district could save funds by running the same buses on multiple morning and afternoon routes.

Let’s hope that the best interests of youth carry the day on this question.

 

Stanford+Connects Seattle

IMG_2572I relived a little piece of the Stanford experience and met interesting people at the Stanford+Connects event this past Saturday at the Washington Convention Center. These alumni events travel the country, featuring talks by the university’s president, several distinguished professors, and two students. I don’t ever make it to reunion events, and while I attend similarly timely and stimulating University of Washington or independent school talks from time to time, I don’t ever attend my college reunion events. I also got to learn about topics that I typically only read about or listen to through TED talks and NPR pieces. Some highlights for me: President Hennessy spoke to the many building and program development projects at Stanford, a number of which have emerged from the a recent comprehensive study of the undergraduate program. Among these: ten new joint majors that combine computer science with subjects in the humanities.

The five mini-lectures were most welcome, because of course I wanted to hear all of the speakers. These included two students: Westin Gaylord on a project that he and his friends started to write creatively every day, and Derek Ouyang on an energy neutral, pre-fab house core design competition for which he led a team. Three professors also presented mini lectures, Carla Shatz on restarting synapse generation in old age, S.V. Mahadevan on bringing emergency medicine to developing nations, and Robert Sutton on improving organizations by eliminating the bad. Dan Klein (with a nod to Patricia Ryan Madson) added an improv demonstration and three activities that got us out of our seats and meeting neighbors!

With a nod to our grad school memories, my wife and I attended David Kennedy’s historical review of water management in the U.S. west. Many alums fondly remembered Kennedy’s lectures, though this was my first! Kennedy shared a wealth of historical facts that laid the groundwork for contemporary federal water management practices, including many challenges. Did you know that the federal government owns fully 45% of the last west of the 100th meridian? This is in contrast to the east, in which the federal government sold nearly all of its holdings in the past. He painted a rather bleak picture for the future of the combined effects of rising global temperature, drought, and consumption increases.

Margot Gerritsen presented a detailed view into “unconventional” oil and gas, including tar sands and fracking. Her perspective, backed up with copious data, is that unconventional energy has already arrived, and we would be best served minimizing its negative effects than trying to “prevent” it from “emerging.” Gerritsen also demystified newspaper headlines, looking at the data to suggest that injection of chemicals into deposits during fracking is unlikely to contaminate groundwater, but water injection is in fact responsible for up to magnitude five earthquakes!

With a rare opportunity to learn outside of my field, I did not attend the one education session. However, I did take a moment to skim a paper by Candace Thille, who presented a session on big data and transformations in education. Thille is an expert on MOOCs and co-founded the Open Learning Initiative (OLI), first at Carnegie Mellon and now at Stanford. She echoes the distinction that others have noted between the original cMOOCs that adopt a connectivist pedagogy and the newer xMOOCs (Coursera, EdX) that have fueled popular interest. Thille then makes a further distinction between xMOOCs that simply put the university lecture hall experience online and those that make student data analytics available to instructors to further instruction.

Many thanks to the Stanford Alumni Association and Stanford Club of Washington for arranging a day of fun, learning, and contemporary topics.

Library Commons In Higher Ed

I recently had the pleasure of attending a talk by Jim Mullins, Dean of Libraries at Purdue University. Jim described the process by which Purdue Libraries developed their new Active Learning Center, a concept and $70m building described as, “a learning commons for the 21st Century.” The following ideas from the talk stuck with me.

The library commons concept, a “noisy” library in which students study, work in groups, access resources, and relax has reached the university level. Purdue, with the support of the State Legislature, is transforming their main libraries to keep pace with how students now use information and technology.

Purdue feels that their concept is unique in that it more fully blends classrooms with libraries than they have seen at any other institution. At Purdue, pilot classes have their regularly scheduled meetings within these flexible library spaces. The library isn’t just a place to occasionally hold class. It’s the main space where class takes place.

The Active Learning Center project includes intensive support and mentoring of professors to make their instructional techniques more generative and collaborative for students. Each professor was provided with an instructional expert, technology expert, and librarian to support curriculum transformation. A number of teams work successively with a series of instructors, expanding the number of instructors and courses that feature active learning. The main examples shared in the presentation showed students working in small groups at tables, while instructors roamed the room listening in and providing suggestions.

Minimal user technology is provided by the school. Students predominantly use their own devices to access information repositories and audiovisual displays using their own devices. Basic needs are emphasized: food, coffee, comfortable seating, and power are thoughtfully incorporated into the physical design of the spaces.

An anthropologist provided key findings that played a large role in the design of the Active Learning Center. Hiring an anthropologist, or at least adopting an anthropologist’s mindset, is becoming more popular as a core method to inform design.

Having just finished our second year with a library commons, we at U Prep can heartily endorse this approach. The Purdue initiative to create new spaces, support teachers with instructional coaches, and fully consider student experience has the shape of a well-coordinated school initiative. At least one of our teachers has started to schedule classes in the library during ordinary weeks, not just research projects, in a manner similar to the Purdue Active Learning project.

 

Another Special Senior Art Gift

Last year’s seniors gave a beautiful math-based painting to the school. The Class of 2012 just unveiled these two marvels, creating for science what math received last year. Yes, that’s a strand of DNA in cat’s cradle form. Click the photo to take a closer look.

Intranet Portal Version 7

Today, I rolled out a new version of our intranet portal home page to the school. The change was required since our main website gained social community features formerly on this site (blog, forum, directory, carpool map, photo galleries, video publishing, etc.). The site still runs Moodle and a number of custom Perl and PHP scripts, but it no longer runs Drupal or Gallery. I also took the opportunity to make it easier to read. Let me know what you think of the redesign. How do you manage your intranet portal?

The home page still shows different items depending on one’s Active Directory group membership.

My view
20100104-insideCatlin-rk.png

Typical student view
20100104-insideCatlin-student.png

Previous versions

2008-09
20100104-last_insideCatlin.png

2007-08
20100104-newinside.png

2006-07
20100104-oldinside.png

2004-06
20081223-insideUHS.png

2002-03
20100104-old insideUHS.png

Web Site Strategy

Here is a quick run-down of some key ideas underlining our new web site strategy.

Site goals

The site has two overarching goals:

Provide timely, useful information that school constituents are seeking.

Regularly transmit the key messages that drive our communication strategy.

Guiding Principles

Authenticity: our target audiences are sensitive to the authenticity of our message. We benefit by demonstrating transparency in our communications and providing a “window” into daily life in the school. Ruth Catlin envisioned the school as a “lab” that would share its teaching accomplishments broadly.

Timeliness: web site visitors expect site content to be up-to-date and useful in the present moment. Many visitors come to the site expecting to find information to help them meet a deadline, attend an event, or find out what just happened in the school community.

Engagement: community members once gained entrance to this community. The site should attempt to move individuals up the “engagement pyramid.” It should provide tools for users to provide information to the school, communicate with employees, and network with each other. Highly engaged members of the community contribute to the school’s success through attendance at school events, volunteerism, financial contributions, and spreading the good word.

Excellence: our school attempts to perform at a high level in all its pursuits. The site should itself demonstrate excellence in design and function and also communicate examples of excellence that take place within the school. Admittedly, this desire for excellence sometimes rubs up against our equally strong desire for authenticity.

Site objectives

Develop a graphic design and user interface that conveys the vibrancy and excellence of this institution and is also easy to navigate and use. Choose colors to pay tribute to the classic Catlin blue but make central use of the new, Crane-provided color palette.

Broadly publish photos of everyday life and special events at the school. Most schools only display carefully staged, professional photos on their home page. We deliberately publish shots of everyday life and special events in order to convey the vibrancy of school life, the authenticity of our communications, the informality of our school culture, and to provide motivation for repeat visits. We will also convert the random-select home page photo into a proper slideshow and retain the current grid view for photo galleries elsewhere in the site.

Limit the cash cost of the new site to less than $10,000.

Make athletics schedules and driving directions easy to access and subscribe to.

Make lunch menu information easy to access and subscribe to.

Make it possible for many people at the school to contribute content to the web site. “Content managers” will receive training and maintain the core pages on the site. Teachers will have the ability to post classroom news, which will be aggregated into division-level news pages. Teachers and students will also have individual blogs, in order to publish examples of their work should they choose to do so.

Launch our social network and media initiatives at the same time as the new school web site. Continue to develop our Facebook presence to share highlight news items, audio and video captured at school, and community-contributed content. Further develop and call attention to our LinkedIn presence, so that it takes over as our primary “career network” tool. invite parents and students to join the network (currently only alumni are involved). Launch new Twitter and YouTube channels in order to reach our constituents where they are, exert more influence over messaging about Catlin Gabel in those spaces, and create the opportunity for a viral media success.

Broaden the publication of News feeds to the entire site. News items will appear on the home page as they do at present, but they will also be archived permanently (unless deleted), allowing users to get a sense of the rhythm of school life over weeks and months. Newsflash items will automatically appear in other relevant sections of the site (e.g., alumni, arts). Each program, department, division, and classroom may have its own dedicated news feed, which will show both Newsflash and staff-contributed items. This will increase the timeliness of these content sections and “unbury” new content items. The web site manager will be able to select and promote smaller news feed items to the home page Newsflash if desired. Allow users to set up customized news subscriptions by RSS or email.

Provide forms to collect important data from constituents, increasing usability, accuracy, and efficiency. Users will be able to complete online forms to start the admission process, make an online gift, apply for a job, or update their contact information. The school benefits by making life easy for its constituents, receiving accurate data, and not having to collect it through more time-consuming processes.

Provide an opt-out alumni directory that alumni, employees, parents, and students may search. Provide employee and student photo directories to other employees and students only. Automatically generate directories and contact lists from our core school databases, eliminating the need for manual data entry of this information by school staff on the site.

Broaden the visibility of Caller articles on the site. Cross-list them in relevant sections through the site (e.g., a Caller article on sports also appears in the Athletics section of the site). Use Issuu.com to embed a Flash-based version of each Caller in the site, increasing readability of the articles, allowing the user to print an issue, and leveraging the school’s investment in graphic design and layout services for this publication.

Get All School News and division newsletters out of PDFs and into web page and email format. Retain the distinctive, individual character of division newsletters.

Provide a straightforward process for parents, alumni, admission applicants, and job applicants to create a login on the site that gets them access to relevant content and tools.

Enable the posting of comments by employees, students, and parents. Limit the viewing of comments to these same groups. Do not enable comment moderation queues but rather follow comment posts closely and intervene in exceptional cases.

Provide a clear navigation pathway for people new to Catlin Gabel to learn basic information about the school and receive key messages.

Improve site navigation for parents, who have provided feedback that the items of interest to them are scattered all over the site.

Provide “quick links,” so that many programs may have a ubiquitous link for them without cluttering up the primary site navigation.

Create a “schoolwide” or “all school” top-level section to draw attention to the many, growing schoolwide programs that mark the distinctive nature of the school (e.g., sustainable school, global ed, the arts).

Make it easy to post and sign up for volunteer opportunities. Make it possible for a user to see all available opportunities in one place.

Perpetuate the distinctive qualities of our four divisions by providing separate top-level sections and news feed categories.

Reduce the number of email list errors by providing central parentsxxxx@catlin.edu listserv addresses automatically synced to our school databases.

Seeking CMS Graphic Designer

Catlin Gabel seeks a graphic designer on a contract basis for a new version of the school’s web site, www.catlin.edu. This person will produce an original graphic design suitable for a content management system and consistent with the school’s existing style guide for print materials. The design will contribute to the vitality, accessibility, and usability of the new site. The project will be limited to graphic design and a small amount of interaction design — the information architecture is already in place. The school already possesses a considerable amount of photographic imagery for use in the site. The final deliverable may be either a layered Photoshop document or a complete Drupal theme, depending on the designer’s skills and experience.

To apply, please send:
– A letter describing your interest in this project
– A résumé of your graphic design experience and training
– A description of your web graphic design process
– The URL of a portfolio of your web site graphic design work
– References for prior web site design clients

We will select finalists and then request from each a project bid and interview (in-person or Skype).

Richard Kassissieh
Director of Information Technology
Catlin Gabel School
kassissiehr (at) catlin.edu