Curiosity-Based Learning: Teaching Innovation Through Design #TVRSE15

On Tuesday, June 9, Meghan Cureton and I are facilitating one of the hands-on learning expeditions at the Traverse Conference in Boulder, CO. Actually, we’re offering the session twice – from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and again at 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Mountain Time)

Our sessions are called “Curiosity-Based Learning: Teaching Innovation Through Design.” You can find our session flow and resource links at, and the Google doc is embedded below, too.

Also, you can find a post on the Traverse Ideas blog that shares some details about the thinking behind the session – “How do we teach ‘the explorers’?”

A deep lesson in human-centered innovation. Thanks, @k12lab @stanforddschool

Yesterday, I enjoyed a magnificent experience at the d.School (The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University). To be honest, I feel a bit like an eight year old at Disney World for the first time. It’s magical, and I love that the reality only enhanced the magic, rather than diminishing it in any way. And yet, I also love that there is really nothing magic about it – the process and practice of design thinking is truly accessible to everyone and absolutely practicable.

Today, the adventure continues as we move into Day 2 of the “Intro to Design Thinking” workshop for educators, hosted by the K12 Lab. Our challenge focuses on designing for mothers of multiples.

When Susie Wise asked me on Monday why I was attending an introductory workshop, I responded that I always have plenty to learn, and I was most excited to see how they would approach a workshop promising to be an introduction. In addition to sharpening my skills as a practitioner, I would also be paying meta-attention to what they decided to focus on in a two-day, introductory experience. Surely, this would sharpen my facilitator know-how, as well.

Well, the learning for me was extraordinary. Whereas I generally try to pack ten pounds of flour into five pound sacks, the d.School never seemed to rush or hurry or overstuff. They concentrated on the essentials, and they really focused on the people present. For the first couple of hours, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, with a civilized start time of 9:00 a.m., and we worked with a variety of partners through a series of sparks to teach about engaging our creative confidence, to lean into failing forward, and to develop our empathy muscles further. We did not even begin the actual challenge until near lunchtime. And the most intensive direct instruction was so very purposeful around the ideas of interviewing and unpacking an interview.

And at the end of the day, there was a quick acknowledgement about the “mood meter,” and we shifted to wonderfully childish finger painting. We didn’t try to jam or pack another phase into the afternoon – the facilitators perceived we needed some human maintenance, and so we let that rule the closing hour.

That was a real education for me as a learner and as a facilitator. Go with your user. Don’t just cover and deliver because you have a curriculum to cover. I’ll work hard to follow that extraordinary example from my new teachers at the d.School.


Bo’s quick capture on Storify of highlights from the day. Plus a photo gallery below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Participatory design for innovating on the right questions

Translating forces into forms, Alejandro Aravena shares three incredible case studies in design thinking. The forces include the voices of the users. The forms are the solutions that were collectively created by community and architect, working together through design.

Alejandro Aravena: I don’t know if you were able to read the subtitles, but you can tell from the body language that participatory design is not a hippie, romantic, let’s-all-drink-together-about- the-future-of-the-city kind of thing. It is actually — (Applause) It is actually not even with the families trying to find the right answer. It is mainly trying to identify with precision what is the right question. There is nothing worse than answering well the wrong question.

Identifying the right question — that is the value added of design thinking…”participatory design,” as Aravena calls it.

There are three great portraits of innovation in Alejandro Aravena’s “My architectural philosophy? Bring the community into the process.” And the lessons apply to so much more than just architecture? How are you bringing your community into your process?

Sharing the Well Through Design Thinking — and #fuse15! #MVIFI @MVPSchool @modatl

An open letter to Mount Vernon Faculty and Staff:

Dear Mount Vernon Faculty and Staff:

I love a good story. I particularly love story that reveals to us some of the fruits of our labors and reminds us of the motivations for why we do some of what we do.

“Learners apply knowledge to make an impact.” “Empathy influences learning.”

As designers, you empower your learners to be change agents, and our school family believes so deeply in empathy and the power of applied learning. Through your work, you have helped spring forth the Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation and events like #fuse14 where we can share our practice and nurture innovators beyond our own campus and immediate community.

Thanks to #fuse14 and our amazing partnership with MODA, we helped play a part in a story of Francis W. Parker School exhibiting pieces of MODA’s recent “Design for Social Impact” show – the show that was up when we spent a night at MODA for a segment of #fuse14. You can read about it here:

I love thinking that learners in Chicago are emboldened and inspired to see themselves even more as design thinkers and change makers. And I love that we got to be a part of that story through your committed work, sharing the well, and collaborating with our partner MODA.

A number of other schools around the country and world have let us know that they are implementing design thinking thanks to the support and practice that we provided them at #fuse14.

Let’s do so again, and help share the well to nurture even more innovators.

#fuse15 is June 3, 4, 5. Mark the date and continue to make your mark!

THANK YOU for all you do and share and inspire!

fuse15 June 3-5 2015

School 3.0: Partnering for Mutual Learning and Problem Solving – CDC and MVPS

For awhile, I’ve used the term “School 3.0.” When I do, a number of people ask me what I mean by that.

School 1.0: the “traditional” or industrial-age model of school where information transfer from teacher to student is the dominant and defining characteristic. Verbs such as “deliver” and “cover” are used a lot. The currency is grades on a 100-pt scale (in recent half century).

School 2.0: the “21st century movement” in schooling where some number of “Cs” dominate the conversation (communication, collaboration, creative thinking, etc.); information exchanges in two directions and phrases such as “student-centered” are heard frequently. Technology enables some pull-based education. School works to model more of how the world learns outside of school. The currency of school 2.0 leans much more towards learning, and SBG is at least practiced by several progressive thinkers, if not the entire faculty.

School 3.0: the next wave (hopefully) of school transformation. Learning is deeply contextual and relevant. PBL (with a capital P) dominates the mode of work as “schools” (placed-based collections of teacher-learners, student-learners, and parent-learners — more like schools of fish than mere school buildings) are partnered with community organizations, civic leadership, and for-profit and not-for-profit business to address real-world challenges and opportunities. Shifts thinking about school as merely “preparation” for something later and recognizes that people of all ages learn by doing and desire to be positive forces of change in their worlds. The currency is the stuff that matters — the challenges and opportunities for social and capitalistic improvement, betterment, and innovation.

Well, on Friday, August 22, 2014, I spent a full day in School 3.0

Mary Cantwell (@scitechyedu) was invited as the Director of the Center for Design Thinking at The Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation to facilitate two half-days of professional learning and implementation of design thinking with Atlanta’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Particularly, Cantwell was asked to work with the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (@CDC_NCBDDD) through the Open Idea Lab.

Additionally, Mount Vernon’s Inaugural Innovation Diploma Cohort was also invited to co-facilitate and participate in the partnership to address three SHI (Strategic Health Initiatives): 1) pregnancy and safe Rx drug use, 2) ADHD overmedication versus behavior therapy, and 3) blood clotting. Director of the iDiploma Meghan Cureton (@MeghanCureton) and I collaborated with the twelve student learners (freshmen, sophomores, and juniors at #MVUpper) in the cohort. Also, colleagues James Campbell (@theRealJamCam) and T.J. Edwards (@TJEdwards62) rounded out the team of educators and agents of @MVIFI.

On Friday, “school” for us involved significant collaboration with three CDC SHI teams to employ design thinking to advance our understanding of and to address the strategic health initiatives that the CDC_NCBDDD focused on during its time in the Open Idea Lab that day. Teen agers and doctors and educators and research scientists were bound up together in SHI teams doing the work of learners, problem-solvers, professionals, engaged citizen leaders, design thinkers, difference makers, etc. Everyone brought strengths and limitations to the tables. Everyone drew on the contributions that others offered.

Progress was made Friday. On three SHI. And on School 3.0.

Read about more of the details in one or more of these posts by my colleagues – those young and old not as young: