Tag Archive for designthinking

Library Leadership Summit

There’s a “new vibrancy” in information sciences today, stated Mike Eisenberg, dean emeritus of the UW Information School. Insights came aplenty at this weekend’s School Library Journal Leadership Summit. The portion I attended this morning included a keynote presentation by Marnie Webb and leadership panel facilitated by Eisenberg. The presentations spoke to librarian advocacy, “extreme” listening, and librarians as technology leaders. I am proud that our library staff do all of this and more, playing a central role in the life of the school. Here are some of my thoughts from this morning.

Rebirth of Computer Science at U Prep

Reprinted from University Prep Happenings, Summer 2013

Dovetailing with the new iPad and laptop program, computer science is making a comeback in U Prep’s curriculum. Computer Science at U Prep was taught as far back as 1985, but in recent years has faltered due to low enrollment and the difficulty of retaining part-time instructors. For the last two years, no courses have been offered in either division, but U Prep administrators have been working to fix this deficit. Academic Dean Richard Kassissieh began by convening a study group last fall to consider how best to teach computer science with the idea of building a program that is attractive to students and  can sustain itself.

The committee, comprised of faculty, students, parents and division directors, met four times, and used Design Thinking to identify user characteristics and the most important qualities of a future program. This process, based on a Stanford Design School model, is centered on human needs and lends itself to creative solutions. It begins by creating an “empathy map” that focuses on the feelings and the needs of the target audience.  The committee interviewed sixty current students, alumni, parents and professional colleagues. Among the interesting findings: there is a perception among students that computer science is boring, and many girls at U Prep do not see themselves as either computer scientists or programmers. The study group concluded that, to overcome these hurdles, it is necessary to reach students early and to give them a taste of computational thinking and programming in Middle School.

Starting next fall, all Middle School students will be exposed to computer science. Computational thinking and programming will be integrated into existing courses, starting with math and science, to build both understanding of and interest in the discipline early. Some teachers are attending workshops this summer and developing study units for next year, and parents in the computer science field will partner with some of our teachers to assist them.  Students will have the opportunity to see how it is used in most disciplines today, and most important, that it is accessible to everyone. “Ultimately, the intent is not only to prepare students for their future, but also to empower them to create rather than just use software,” says Dean Kassissieh.

Next will come the building of a sequence of computer science courses with opportunities for advanced study in Upper School.  Initially, Introduction to Computer Science course is being offered to eighth through twelfth graders. The program will be further developed with the addition of more courses and the strengthening of co-curricular offerings, such as clubs that focus on programming, software development, pre-engineering, and robotics. Based on the large numbers of sign-ups this spring for the fall 2013 class, there seems to be ample student interest.  The hope is to hire a full-time computer science teacher by the fall of 2014.

U Prep has been very fortunate to draw on the amazing resources of its school community in this effort. Multiple U Prep parents have assisted with the effort, serving on the computer science study group, connecting with the UW K-12 computer science outreach group, and even co-teaching the Introduction to Computer Science course this year. We are fortunate to have among our parents software engineers and team leaders from Microsoft and computer science professors from UW.

Design Thinking at U Prep

In a previous post, I described a history of design thinking in independent schools. This article describes how we are beginning to use design thinking at University Prep and explores the differences between learning about design thinking in a workshop setting and using it within the daily operation of a school.

This past summer, three adults and four students from U Prep participated in Learning Is Leading, a workshop for educators to learn about design thinking and practice it with students. I served on the jury for Learning is Leading and had previously participated in two design thinking workshops through the Santa Fe Leadership Center, the first with IDEO and the second with Don Orth of Hillbrook School. We entered U Prep this fall curious to apply design thinking at school. Our librarian and athletic director have continued to meet with their summer cohort during the year.

Our athletic director introduced us to Thoughtstream, online “engagement software” that extends the traditional online survey by incorporating design thinking concepts. In a thoughtstream, the organizer asks open-ended questions, and respondents reply with “thoughts,” ideas that they generate. Once the thoughts are collected, the site sends a second link to respondents, asking them to rank submitted ideas. Compared to a traditional electronic survey, a thoughtstream is much more adaptable to participant ideas. It is similar to the inquiry stages of the design thinking process, when designers collect ideas from prospective users, generating insights that might not have been obtained otherwise.

Our first experience using Thoughtstream with the entire faculty reminded me that even seemingly small changes in user engagement require explanation and attention. The organizer setup is relatively straightforward, but we made a slight misstep by sending the respondent link to our faculty distribution list, rather than addressing it separately to individuals. This interfered with Thoughtstream’s ability to track and customize user interaction with the survey. From the user side, the interface is very clean, but when teachers accessed it from their phones, it required them to download an app to participate. This proved a significant hurdle for many teachers, who were expecting a more conventional web experience. These practical obstacles got in the way of our first Thoughtstream, so we were not able to gather the level of thoughtful input that we had been seeking. Also, it felt very different to solicit input electronically than face-to-face. Participation rates were lower, and the the conversational dynamic of an interview was missing.

In my next article, I will describe the application of design thinking to the creation of a new computer science course plan.


A Brief History of Design Thinking

Each of the past two summers, I have participated in workshops on a method for program development called design thinking. You may have heard of it, as it has been the subject of workshop presentations at education conferences, articles in education publications, and faculty retreats. In this article, I recount the history of design thinking in independent schools as I understand it. Call it “Design Thinking: West Coast Edition,” if you will. I would love to hear your experiences as well. Then, in a second article, I plan to tell the story of design thinking here at U Prep, particularly the experience of applying design thinking theory to on-site practice.

Design thinking has its origins in the world of business, specifically product design. A better chair, shoe, or building design have been common subjects of design thinking over the years. IDEO‘s David Kelley is cited as the pioneer of design thinking. Concurrently with explorations of design thinking, independent schools were engaged in a process of “professionalization”, looking to learn from business practices such as employee expectations, employment, and evaluation. The Summer 2011 edition of Independent School featured the theme of “Developing a Professional Culture in School.”

Independent schools were perhaps also attracted to the prestige of a national leader in design thinking, Stanford University. The Institute of Design (a.k.a., d.school), and its offspring IDEO, reached out to schools as early as 2009 (12), and a number of independent school leaders visited and attended their workshops.

A smaller but also prominent school is also located along the Peninsula south of San Francisco, Nueva School. The school came into contact with the Stanford d.school, found that these ideas resonated with its practices of experiential education, and decided to make design thinking a core feature of its instructional program. This led to the development of a dedicated space for prototype fabrication, hiring of a program director, and the integration of design thinking methods throughout the school’s curriculum. Nueva staff took design thinking one step further, adopting it as a process for learning environment design, and began to train its own staff as well as those from other schools. This led to several much-cited conference presentations, Nueva’s summer institute for design thinking, as well as its Innovative Learning Conference.

The 2012 NAIS Annual Conference featured workshops on design thinking (12). Architecture firms developed design thinking partnerships with educators (12). Mount Vernon Presbyterian School used a community-based design thinking workshop to inform the redesign of the school’s library and held a Design Thinking SummitRiverdale Country School and IDEO offered a free online course in design thinking and published an educator’s guide to design thinking. A number of schools began to try design thinking in classrooms and community projects (1, 2). Personally, I have been involved in the design thinking work of Santa Fe Leadership Center and Leading Is Learning. You may be interested in some upcoming Leading Is Learning events, a free webinar on Jan 30 (offered with Whipple Hill) and a design thinking event in June 2013 at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School.

We have engaged with design thinking in a number of ways at University Prep. My next article will explore these efforts and investigate the differences between attending a workshop on design thinking and implementing it in school practice.