Full Tilt Into Design Thinking

Getting our ideas (many!) on the wall as part of the Design Thinking process.

Getting our ideas (many!) on the wall as part of the Design Thinking process.

This past week I was lucky enough to participate in four days of Design Thinking workshops given by the University of Kentucky DLab (ukydlab) director John Nash. In addition to myself, the people who participated in these four days were; Stacy Stephens (curriculum coordinator), Jessica Krueger (assistant curriculum coordinator), Dave Beaty (tech director), Maureen Cullen (HS Tech Coordinator), Gary Coyle (ES tech coordinator), Phil Rynearson (ES tech integrator), Ruchira Kochar (ES tech integrator) and Robyn Ibrahim(ES curriculum). We spent the first day learning about the Design Thinking philosophy and structure. We explored this structure with a hands on exercise and tried to create a better wallet for our partner. I have to say this was right up my alley. Two key elements of Design Thinking that I connected with immediately were the human centered approach and the onus on action.

Trying to design a better wallet.

Trying to design a better wallet.

The second day we spent using the Design Thinking process to look at creating a model for staff professional development around technology. We were going full tilt for the entire the second day. By the end of the day our brains were fried, but at the same time our spirits and motivation were high. I think this speaks not only to the exceptional facilitation by John Nash, but also the engaging and relevant nature of using the Design Thinking approach.

The third day we were lucky enough to have one of our stellar teachers come to work with us. She brought to the table something she was grappling with in her classroom. As we worked through the day using the Design Thinking process we broke out to interview some of the teacher’s former and current students.(remember the human centered nature) This was so valuable on so many levels. It reminded me that sometimes we educators get so wrapped up in content and standards that we forget about the human element of teaching. I was also reminded that sometimes we need to slow down and take this into account.(Because it’s so important!)

Sharing a prototype.

Sharing a prototype.

As we moved into the afternoon we had come up with some really cool ideas. One stumbling block was that we kept falling into the trap of trying to make sure our ideas were bulletproof. (Which I think is an easy trap for educators to fall into.) I had to keep reminding myself that this was merely a prototype and that once we implemented it we would gather more feedback from the people it affected to tweak and improve as we learned more.

As you may have noticed I have used “we” quite a bit in this post. That’s because Design Thinking involves collaboration. John Nash even says it requires “radical collaboration”. The process followed more of a “yes and” rather than a “no but” approach. If you know me at all you know that I am a big fan of collaboration so this is a natural fit for my working style.

If only it ended there! We still had one more day to work with John and to learn more about Design Thinking. This time we brought in 20 middle and high school students! The first challenge we explored was for them to redesign their partners morning routine. This involved building a prototype of whatever tool they were going to use to help create this new and improved routine.

I feel like I’ve been blabbering away long enough so take a moment to enjoy some Vine’s that hopefully will give you some insight into what we did!

The kids getting some of their ideas on paper.

John Nash explaining what the students had to work with to build their prototype.

The kids working feverishly on their prototypes.

The kids all explained how their prototypes would improve their partners routine.

All in all I was super pumped on the four days we spent learning about Design Thinking. This week some grade 6 teachers approached me and asked if I would help facilitate a Design Challenge around service learning projects. I’m very excited to give this a go. I’m a little anxious about diving into this for the first time on my own but John Nash left us with so many top notch resources and we were so heavily immersed in the process for four solid days that I’m pretty confident the day will prove successful.

Have you used Design thinking at your school and/or in your classroom? If so what nuggets of insight can you share?

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Stop Motion Remix Examples

My kindergarten students made a stop motion movie that they shared with the world (which you can read about here). They asked people to take the video that they had made and to create their own version, or remix, and share it back with them. We had a very good response with people sharing examples and resources for creating stop motion movies. If you are interested in making a stop motion movie definitely check out the comments to my previous post as people have shared a number of stellar resources.

We have gotten a couple versions that I wanted to share with you.

Here is a great version from Mr. Hodgson a sixth grade teacher in Southampton, Massachusetts called “Escape from the Dark Side: The Cupcake Thief Remix”.

Here is another awesome version made by Miss Pana’s kindergarten class at ISS International School in Singapore.

Definitely check out her blog for great ideas and examples of the stellar things she and her kindergarteners are doing in their classroom.

Here is a very hip and musically eclectic version by a student named Chris at Korea International School Jeju campus. Definitely watch to the end…

Here is a version made by Chad Sansing a humanities teacher in Central Virginia called “Are You my StarWars?”

Here is the version my kinder students came up with.

We have heard from a few more classes that they are working on creating a version of their own. I will share more as they come!

I also wanted to mention again the series by Kirby Ferguson called “Everything Is a Remix“. You can check out his website to learn about the work he is doing.

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Building Collaborative eBooks on an iPad via DropBox and Book Creator App

Right now I’m lucky enough to be collaborating with the amazing educators, Michelle Hiebert and Jason Graham. They’ve invited my class to work on creating a collaborative book. The idea is for one class to write a bit and then pass it on to the next class who in turn adds a bit and then passes it on etc. We’ve decided to use the Book Creator app on the iPad to create our book. My kinder students have had success in creating books with this simple to use app. We have decided to use DropBox as a way to share the book back and forth with each other. (I recently learned this process from @KLirenman, another awesome educator.) What I thought I’d do is provide a simple how-to on this process.

First thing you need is to have the Book Creator and the DropBox app installed on your iPad.  (You will also need a DropBox account, but don’t worry it’s a free cloud based storage app that pretty slick.) Once you have these two things you are all set!

First, someone needs to create a new book in Book Creator.

Tap the “+” box to create a new book.

Next you will be asked to choose a book shape (portait, square, & landscape) this is a personal preference and totally up to you. After you have chosen your book shape you’re ready to start creating your book! To start adding text, audio, and images simply tap the “+” icon in the upper right hand corner as seen in this picture.

Tap “+” to add text, audio and images.

Take some time to play around with the “i” button as that allows you to change font type/size, page color, alignment as well as some other editing features. Once you are at the point you want to send the book to DropBox you can do it one of two ways. You can either do it from the book view screen or from within the book itself. It is my experience that either way is pretty much the same. The below screenshots were taken when I shared the book while I had that particular book open. If you have the book you wish to share open go to the upper right hand corner and look for the box with an arrow coming out the top . This will allow you to open/send this file in DropBox where you can then share with other classes/people.

Click “Open in DropBox” blue and white icon.

After you click on the DropBox icon you you will be taken to the DropBox app where you will be prompted to “Save to DropBox”.

Save to your DropBox.

You are almost done! From here you just need to share this with whomever you are working with. As you can see in the image below you must choose the file you wish to share (right side) and then choose to share it via our friend the square with an arrow poking out of his head icon.

Choose the book you wish to share and choose to share it via email.

Now you have officially shared your book with another person/class. You are on your way to completing a collaborative project that will undoubtedly bring joy and learning to you and your students. The benefits will be far reaching and vastly surpass the creation of book itself.

The person on the other end must simply open DropBox on their iPad and select the book from the list of DropBox items on the left hand side. Once they select the book they must then look to the upper right and choose the blue and white icon of the arrow pointing down into a little tray. As you can see the screen is very similar as to when you shared the book.

Choose to “Open in Book Creator”.

They must simply choose to “Open in Book Creator”. Once they have done this they will automatically be taken to the Book Creator app where they can add/edit the book. They simply follow the steps above to share the book again!

Now of coures this is not the only way to do such a project but it’s a process that we can all commit to. Since the kids can drive an iPad this process provides the possibility to puts the kids in the drivers seat every step of the way. I’m excited to see what the kids come up with!

Do you think this type of project is something worthwhile? What other ways have you found success in doing similar projects?


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Creating a Stop Motion Remix

One of my goals this year was to work with my students to make a stop motion movie out of one of the stories they created. We had a story last fall that I though would be good but it proved too difficult (logistically) to make. With the year starting to wind down we had some time in our schedule to give it a go again. We talked again about stop motion and how it works.  I put a free but basic stop motion app on my students iPads called iMotion HD. It’s a very simple to use app that allows you to create stop motion movies.

The first couple we made didn’t turn out well at all… which is to be expected! As we revisited and revised they got better and better. (This was a perfect opportunity for us to revisit our discussion about “drafts” in writing.) The kids decided they wanted to do something centered around Star Wars. (One of the students just had a Star Wars themed birthday party and they were all about it.) I wanted to ride the excitement so we got right to it and started coming up with ideas for a plot. They came up with a simple story line and started working on story boarding. They then started on set design, as well as character, and prop selection. Once they designed the set they worked out the specific dialoge for each scene. They timed how long it took to deliver the dialoge so they would know how long each scene needed to be. We even went so far as to find out how many frames were needed to make 1 second of video. We then multiplied that by the number by the number of seconds we needed to make the scene. This gave us the number of frames we needed to shoot in order to have the correct scene time. This part was a bit of a stretch for them but I thought I’d throw it out there anyways.

Then came time to film. For this we used iStopMotion 3 by Boinx Software. I really liked this software for a number of reasons. First it has a really cool preview feature that allowed you to see what the next frame will look like before you actually take it. The software leaves the last frame taken up in the window and then superimposes the current frame on top so you can get an idea of what it will look like before you snap the shutter. This is also good if you accidentally bump or move a figure as you can see exactly where it was before and move it back in place.  The other feature that I thought was super cool was the ability to use my iPhone as a remote camera. We could set up the scene and use my phone as the camera as we controlled it remotely from my computer.

This is our workspace.

I think this may have been the most fun they’ve had all year. We worked on this for hours!! They loved every minute of it. As their skills improved throughout the project they scrapped a scene and chose to reshoot it because they felt they could do better. Very cool to see them taking such ownership.

We talked it over when we were done shooting and decided to share it out without adding any audio. They would like other classes to add their own audio and share it back with us. They want to see how many versions of the movie can be made. We even talked about having people remix the video as well but that may be a bit of a stretch. We’ll see if any one take that approach. Here is the movie without sound.

They learned a ton throughout the whole project and they are jazzed  up on story creation. Four or five classes have said they were going to add their own audio and share it back with us. We are very excited to see what they come up with. Please feel free to do the same, any and all ages welcome!

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Publishing Young Authors

Lately I have been more and more impressed with my student’s writing. I decided that it was time for us to think about publishing their work. I shared this with my students and it led to a discussion about what a good topic for a book might be. After some deliberation they decided to write a counting book as we were discussing ordinal counting in math. I thought this was a great idea!

I gave them a short tutorial on how to use the Book Creator for iPad app ($4.99USD) and off they went. The app is so easy to use they literally did everything themselves. Since they were using the app on their iPads they could take pictures and pull these pictures right into their book. We worked on what we should say in the book. Since the writing in the book would follow a pattern they wrote a skeleton sentence on a whiteboard and they filled in the different words each time they came to a new page. I helped them with their spelling but they did everything else on their own. They decided that they wanted the book to have audio as well so I told them to figure out how to add it, and they did.

When they thought they were done they brought their book to me and we talked about it and decided on ways to improve it. Some things we talked about: pictures should not overlap text, text should be relatively the same size on all pages, it should not look sloppy, each page should follow roughly the same format. After a couple revisions they were good to go! It was incredibly simple really, made me wonder why I hadn’t done it earlier in the year. After they finished the final draft they zapped it to my computer and I uploaded it to the iTunes bookstore. The whole process from starting the book, to it going live in the iTunes bookstore took about 2 weeks. I wrote about the actual process involved with publishing to the iTunes bookstore here.

I started thinking of so many cool books the kids could make. I was talking about it with a coworker and we decided we were going to make alphabet books with the 4yr olds. We’ll have them find things that start with each letter, take pictures of these things to use as illustrations for the corresponding letter page. They can then add the matching letter sound as well as the word each picture represents as audio on each page.

As I walk down the halls of my school I wonder why more kids don’t make books. I see their stories stapled together and hanging from bulletin boards outside of classrooms. Most all of these stories are typed and illustrated on a computer, why not take the extra step and make them into a book? I see how proud my students are at seeing their books displayed in the iTunes bookstore. They get so excited to learn that someone took the time to write a review of their book. (Even if it was their mom or dad.) Talk about building excitement and motivation towards writing!

You can download the books my students made, here, here, and here… for free!

Are you making books with your students?

Do you think 5 year olds are too young to be making books like this?

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