iDiploma Challenge at the d.School

Almost a year ago, the Innovation Diploma facilitator team began imagining an intensive field experience at the Stanford d.School. While Mount Vernon has been a school steeped in design thinking for about six years, and while the iDiploma foundations are built solidly in design thinking methodology, we know that we can continue to stretch ourselves and grow capacity as strong practitioners and coaches of human-centered design.

What’s more, the Interim Term at Mount Vernon allows for a week of complete immersion into an experience, and we hypothesized that such immersion would be transformational for our current cohorts of innovators. So, after proposing to the K12 Lab the idea of a week-long, co-created challenge, we began collaborating with Susie Wise and Ariel Raz to collaboratively set the conditions for a design thinking field experience for the 22 student-learners and four facilitators of Mount Vernon’s iDiploma program.

The week has been truly outstanding. For our challenge, we established an initial frame of “How might we establish friendships and build community?” Actually, in the late fall, we brainstormed some possible frames, and the iDiploma cohort members worked through a selection of the challenge that most appealed to them. For our user base, we planned to design for the Stanford undergraduate students – people who have made a transition from high school to college and have been living this new-friendship-and-community-building change.

Throughout the winter planning and during the onsite experience, Ariel Raz has served as our chief facilitator. He is truly masterful as a designer and leader, and we are all the better for having worked with Ariel. Our co-facilitator is Durell Coleman, and we have learned so much from Durell’s rich experiences, as well. Additionally, we have enjoyed moments with a variety of d.School faculty and collaborators, all bringing something wonderful and unique to our skill building and problem-solving arc. The overall map of our week can be viewed on this Google spreadsheet. Overlaying our map, we have threaded the entire week with the “FailForward” lean. Instead of a relatively linear progression through Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test, Ariel recommended and co-crafted a flow that showcases prototyping in a more sophisticated way throughout the totality of the phases, which all rely on each other continuously.

What follows are quick summaries of what stood out to meet each day, as well as a photo gallery from each day of the experience. As I write this, we are soon to begin Day 5, which is concentrated on storytelling. Readers can also check out the milestone moments with this Storify collection of the Instagram shares.

Day 1

At the d.School, the design thinking process begins with Empathy. I am increasingly convinced that this is the best starting place for dt. At Mount Vernon, our DEEPdt process starts with “Discover.” After this return visit to the d.School for me, my brain (and our team’s collaborative brain) is spinning – in the best way – with the possibilities of reimagining a process flow that honors the wisdom of starting with Empathy.

Ariel and Durell mapped the DEEPdt process with the d.School flow so that our teams began the week with shared language and understanding. We oriented to the work space, which I still find evermore magical on my third visit. Then, we almost immediately entered the field work with empathy probes that utilized prototypes to do two things: 1) make some early insights with our users – the Stanford campus residents, and 2) get the “nerves” out with our design thinkers in a new setting, doing authentic design work.

On Monday night, we changed roles and became prototype testers for ED338, a d.School course working to create more innovative high school programs. The multi-cycle rounds with these prototypes provided us with first-hand experience as indirect users, and also gave us deeper knowledge about different types of prototype sharing. Such insights built our understandings about the mutually reinforcing phases of empathize and prototype.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 2

On Tuesday, we began our day with a special visit from David Kelley. Because we are from Mount Vernon, this is about the highest celebrity/hero sighting we could have imagined. It was awesome, in the truest sense.

Then, we grew from an incredible session with Aleta. The session was movement and dance and improv, all wrapped into one, and Aleta guided us in developing empathy and prototyping and exchanging-leadership by using our bodies instead of our auditory voices. It was masterful and magical. The session culminated in four-person diamonds dance-leading each other to practice non-verbal leadership exchange, as well as a mindfulness segment that empowered us to support and encourage each other in this critically important work.

Throughout the afternoon, we were deeply immersed in observation and interviewing to get to know our users and their dorm-life and campus existences. Upon returning to the studio, we employed a number of tools to help us analyze and synthesize the data we had collected.

In the evening, we watched Extreme by Design, a documentary about a course – and so much more – at the d.School. Because Durell was in the movie, this viewing afforded us a deeper dive into the design-for-extreme-affordability field work and project development.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 3

Wednesday was all about Define and Ideate. The purposeful and intentional scaffolding around clarifying user needs and insights stands out as one of the most powerful learning experiences that I have ever personally enjoyed. Ariel and Durell coached us all in more sophisticated and expert ways to develop POVs and translate those POVs into HMW catalysts.

Patrick, one of the Design Fellows at the d.School tested his Wayfinder prototype with us. Patrick, and his research partner Kelly, are working hard to transform the very foundations of the high school experience – to empower adolescents to truly learn who they are and want to be, and to rebalance the scale of overemphasis on content-learning that becomes memorize-dump-forget for all too many.

“Mo” joined us to add gasoline to the Ideate phase. Mo’s introductions to some new stoke activities were worth the entire week! As a team, we advanced as ideators in profound ways because of the collaboration offered from Mo, Ariel, and Durell.

And during lunch, we met Mark from Farm Hill, who provided us the most delicious meal I’ve ever eaten and shared his story of starting his company in the Launch Pad course at Stanford’s d.School.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 4

Thursday was all about prototyping. Again, the purposeful scaffolding and facilitation that our d.School collaborators provided helped us stretch and grow in fabulous ways. Our process-knowledge capabilities expanded exponentially with regard to prototyping techniques and context-setting for testing prototypes with users.

For me, I continue to feel the best “magic” happen when design thinkers share and test their prototypes with the users. A small army of users cycled through multiple stages of testing and iterating with the iDiploma crew. Building on the theme of the week, we deepened our understanding of how to use prototype testing as a richer, more high-res method of empathy interviewing. In fact, empathizing and prototyping are wonderfully entangled and virtually unseparate-able in my mind now.

In similar fashion to the previous days, the richness of the stokes pushed us immeasurably further in our sophistication of experiential prototyping. We are forever the better for this learning.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Glorious Morning at IDEO

On Monday, February 29, I was able to live a long-standing dream of mine. Thanks to earlier relationships built by others, thanks to the growing partnership between MVIFI and Teachers Guild, and thanks to Innovation Diploma traveling to San Francisco, I was able to spend a glorious morning at IDEO.

I have enormous curiosity and respect for IDEO. I am progressively reading everything I can get my hands on about IDEO. I dream a not too distant future in which MVIFI and the Innovation Diploma operate even more like IDEO.

To be at IDEO was truly magical. For this first post about my experience, I will pinpoint just a few things that stood out to me.

First, IDEO is incredibly purposeful about setting conditions for creative collisions. From the office/studio layout, to the intentional kitchen location and design, to the home plate to await an open bathroom, IDEO orchestrates serendipity and collegial sharing. Program and process is built into the week so that people from different teams rub against each other and exchange ideas and challenges.

Secondly, IDEO makes its culture and norms known. The organization is very purposeful about its shared and foundational beliefs. The current expressions of those values greet folks as they enter the door, and the emerging expressions are clustered with a kind of family-picture wall about the future IDEO. But, believe this for sure — they are so much more than just affixing words to a wall.

And, third, the prototype culture is surging throughout the people and organization. IDEO learns by doing and building and testing and integrating feedback. They move fast and involve the collaborative wisdom of the team, gaining insights by constructing a reality that did not exist before so that they can see it and hear it and feel it.

During the last half hour of our visit, the iDiploma crew prototyped several solutions to the current Teachers Guild challenge: “How might we create programs, processes, and tools to provide ongoing support to all students on their journey to and through college?” It’s spectacular to witness our student-learners-and-leaders making prototypes for teachers who are trying to change the journey-to-college process for the better! It’s a thrill and a privilege to be breathing the air with fellow problem solvers.  

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

SPARKplaces 2016

“Welcome to the first-ever SPARKplaces gathering.

From the very beginning of daydreaming this event, we were certain about a few things. We wanted:

  • an intimate experience that invested in authentic human relationships;
  • to gather creatives and visionaries that love discovering new ideas;
  • all participants to be uniquely hand-selected year one;
  • a fully immersive expedition, not a pick-n-choose conference;
  • to explore the design of learning environments but make sure we were focused on ‘learning’ first, ‘environments’ second;
  • to trust in everyone’s expertise and experience coming in the door, but more importantly we wanted to see what happens when people let go of their own biases;
  • to be inspired by the spirit of ‘design thinking’ without over worrying details;
  • to ‘wander’ and ‘wonder’ without apology;
  • to ‘do’ and ‘create’ something that gained momentum after the event ends;
  • to see if a tribe could emerge that seeks to keep exploring together over time.”

Such is how the SPARKplaces notebook began with a welcome to the participants. In this two-day design expedition, we gathered in the stunning Convent and Stuart Hall School, situated in the Flood Mansion, and we engaged in a collection of provocations and challenges that yielded compelling design possibilities and inspiring manifestos. For me, one of the most exciting findings took the form of the fast-cycle in which all of this concentrated effort occurred. The window of work, not much more than ten hours when all was said and done, created a set of artifacts and launching pads derived from committed teams of people — work that could be replicated, in process, with the people who make up a single-school community, as well as a tribe of people from various schools.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Rapid-fire speakers sharing profound talks in five minutes, dinner table prompts hybridizing a Jeffersonian Dinner format, epic questions, learning metaphors, and a learning ecology build palpable momentum, “completed” by a manifesto drafted by each team and percolated to richness because of all of the meaningful pump-priming that preceded the quick-write of shared understanding and conviction.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Paradoxically, the work felt “finished” and unfinished simultaneously. Wonderfully, it excited me to continue the efforts and forward the next steps…whatever they may be.

SPARKplaces 2016 Storify

Many heartfelt thanks to Christian Long (Wonder, by Design), Carla Silver (Leadership + Design), Howard Levin (Convent and Stuart Hall), and to the fellow participants who poured themselves into this collaboration. I felt honored to be in your learning community.

NAIS Annual Conference 2016 #NAISAC

During the last week of February 2016, I attended the National Association of Independent Schools Annual Conference 2016. To document some of the major milestones in that experience, I captured a version of the story on Storify. That running record is linked below (because Storify does not embed in WordPress.com sites).

Quick View of My NAIS 2016 Annual Conference.

My session selection had a huge effect on my experience, of course, and my major take-away, which was connected to my choice to do school visits, involved the ways that schools are striving toward great “student-centeredness” and “real-world context” in the work students are undertaking. From sessions with Hawken, Colorado Academy, and a case-study session with Tim Fish of McDonogh, I was afforded a view into several schools that are prioritizing setting the conditions for students to engage in very meaningful, relevant work that goes far beyond some green-covered grade book, or the digital equivalent. Bravo!

And the Urban School shared a session about Inquiry for Equity that showcased that methodology and their faculty as collaboratively curious! I will definitely be looking more closely at that process, as it connects to instructional rounds, critical friends groups, design thinking, etc.

As I continue to reflect on my experience and learning, I will share more specific ponderings, I’m sure.

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 22,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.