Synthesis as part of Design Thinking

It has been a long time since I blogged but I have recently decided to return to it. I now work as CEO of NoTosh Inc. We are a global consultancy company working across education, corporate and not for profits. We use Design Thinking as a method to help organizations innovate and help people how to create as part of a group.

The phases we use as part of DT are Immersion/Synthesis/Ideation/Prototyping and Feedback and while these appear to be linear in nature they are in fact cyclical, much like all learning. This past week I was walking with the International School in Panama who are working hard to understand who they are and why they exist, what they believe about learning and teaching and what makes them special. Their values and strategy. The last time I was with them was a month ago where they had immersed deeply in better understanding themselves as a school. This visit was really focussed around helping them synthesise their data.  IMG_1615

 

The ability to synthesis is fundamental to research and learning. It requires the skills of pattern recognition and the ability to allow themes to emerge from the data without biasing the data yourself. It can be hard work and take time especially if there is a large amount of divergent data to work through. We often talk about the need to “sit in your data” to allow the data to speak to you not the other way around. 

This past week I have been working with the International School Panama to synthesise the huge amount of data they have collected since our last visit. Clustering is one tool we use to help our clients synthesis and ISP clustered and re-clustered many times. By doing so they were continually looking for pain areas to address and opportunities they might have missed.

When synthesising in larger teams it requires members to have trust in each other, listen to each other, be vulnerable and truthful – traits the ISP Design Team continually demonstrated as they synthesised to find their core values, and write the stories around them. Like other schools, we do this kind of work with ISP are attempting to create more than just noble attributes common to eduspeak (respect, excellence etc). ISP were synthesising to develop values that will define and articulate who they are, where they are going and help when difficult decisions need to be made. Also simple enough for a grade 1 student to understand and remember, their North Stars. Challenging and exciting work.

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Melbourne Ska Orchestra tour dates

It’s not often I refer to my musical work in this blog but today I will. Melbourne Ska Orchestra is a band I have been playing with for many years now which has had great success internationally. We are just about to release our second album  and have a number of tour dates announced to promote the launch.


If you haven’t seen this band you really should – 35 madmen onstage playing non-stop SKA dance floor fillers.Tour dates can be found

We are coming to the

  • Gold Coast
  • Sunshine Coast
  • Sydney
  • Brisbane
  • Blue Mountains
  • Adelaide
  • Albury
  • Melbourne
  • Coffs Harbour and
  • Mullumbimbi – before heading over to Europe

Tour dates can be found at the website

 

Hope to see you on the dance floor

IOI Weekend Melbourne

Just letting you know about a new event I’m running with Louise Bowe and Richard Olsen.

IOI Weekend is an intensive hands on workshop over an entire weekend where educators learn how to design innovative learning and teaching models that maximise pedagogical capacity, effectiveness, and quality. The idea for the weekend is something Richard and I and Lou have been discussing for some time and really has arisen out of work we have  done at schools over the last few years. Through a processes of trial and error, mixed in with theory we both believe in, we think we have got a model that will be exciting for educators as well as provide some simple tools that can use to assist as they seek to innovate effectively within their learning environments.

You can find more information at the website http://melbourne.ioiweekend.com

Richard Olsen has written a great blog post that outlines what attendees can expect which can be found by clicking on the link below:

In that post he gives a good overview of potential reasons why educators might attend:

“Experienced teachers should participate if they’re dissatisfied with their ability to adequately communicate why innovation in learning and teaching matters. The IOI Weekend provides a process to identify, justify, and measure the impact of their learning and teaching approach. As such, teachers who attend will be equipped to communicate more clearly the quality and impact of their innovative learning and teaching practice.

New teachers should participate if they lack confidence to adequately communicate why and how learning and teaching innovation is part of their role as a teacher. The IOI Weekend provides a process for developing, language for communicating, and a means for measuring the impact the impact of learning and teaching innovation. It will also equip you with some ideas of where to start, and connect you to a great group of similarly passionate educators.

School leaders should participate if they’re dissatisfied with their ability to adequately communicate the impact that learning and teaching innovation is making in their school. The IOI Weekend provides a process to identify, justify, and measure the impact of learning and teaching over time. School leaders seeking who attend will be better equipped to communicate, measure and report more clearly the impact that learning and teaching innovation is resulting in across their school, and make better decisions about future learning and teaching innovation opportunities.”

http://melbourne.ioiweekend.com/2015/04/what-should-i-expect-from-the-ioi-weekend-experience/

Also please download the flyer and share it with any educators who may be interested. You can find the flyer at: ioiweekend flyer

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Hope to see some of you there.

Teacher as co-learner and other arguments about knowledge

“There are times in life when the question of knowing if one can think differently than one thinks and perceive differently than one sees is absolutely necessary if one is to go on looking and reflecting at all” M Foucault

In my line of work (my day job) i am involved with education and it’s relationship with technology. This work sees me in schools, universities and other places of institutionalised learning operating as a consultant, assisting them to come to grips with the challenges technology is posing to existing structures and it’s potential to change the way we teach and learn. The core of my work is centred in epistemology – the study of knowledge – and its relationship with the internet. When I present I often speak of what knowledge is, where it resides, and what are the implications for teacher practice.  I often get some very strong reactions from teachers. My opening statement generally goes along the lines of, “knowledge never reside in the individual, it resides in the network.”

By this I mean that knowledge is not a tangible thing that can be transfered from one individual to another, in fact knowledge resides in the relationships, it is built up within the  discourse (language or practice). While objects might physically exists outside of these discourses any attempt to make sense of them is through discourse which is socially developed. Yet our education system with its practices related to curriculum and assessment of the individual, amongst other things, so often reflects a lack of understanding of this thinking. Many of you are familiar with the phrase ‘teacher as facilitator rather than teacher as expert’. When we talk of ‘teachers as facilitators’ (or even co-learners) not as experts we are talking in this area, we are demonstrating an understanding and belief of learning that is framed within a participatory culture. By enabling that we are acknowledging that it is only through participation in the networks that any connection with knowledge is able to happen. While the term and concept of “teacher as facilitator rather than expert”  is a concept that is familiar to many of us, it is still something extremely difficult to do and I see very little evidence of it being enacted  within many of classrooms. I often think that it is to hard to make this change because of the predetermined sense of identity built up by the discourse of the institutions that govern the concept of a “teacher/student” Below is a very typical argument a teacher will throw at me at conferences, or online, or during PD sessions when I start to talk about such matters. I am making no judgement of the argument because it took me a long time to understand this fairly abstract concept, and argument is a form of active participation in the discourse. This discussion took place on a friend of mines Google + account and I have added the screen shots.

A teachers response to a bog post I had written
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My reply

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His reply to meScreen Shot 2014-07-28 at 9.10.02 am My replyScreen Shot 2014-07-28 at 9.10.17 am Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 9.10.30 amUnfortunately he never responded. As educators I think It is paramount that we talk about these ideas, isn’t the concept of knowledge development central to our role? Furthermore the conclusions we collectively reach will have huge implications for how we do this thing called “teaching”.

What do you think?

NGV with Mick Turners band

I hardly ever blog about my music or the music Im involved in any more, just endless education pieces – not sure why that is. So here is a change.

Last Friday I played a show as part of Mick Turner’s band. Mick is probably best known as part of the iconic Australian band Dirty Three. As a band We have performed a number of times this year alongside Cat Power, when she was in Australia. mick_turner_ngv_0714_justintapp_0004.40f71fb3b94ecaae4459cd568a736632

Photo by Justin Tapp

There is something about Mick’s music that is absolutely incredible to be a part of from an onstage perspective. It has a freedom in  it which is entirely original. I thoroughly advise you to have a listen to it and maybe even go out and buy it.

Here is a review of the show

http://themusic.com.au/music/livereviews/2014/07/13/mick-turner-national-gallery-of-victoria-guido-farnell/

 

 

ICT and Music Education – Striking the Right Chord

The following Youtube link was a recent panel discussion I participated in with fantastic educators Andrew Williamson and Julie Lindsay moderated by Roland Gesthuizen as part of his  fantastic series  for the  ACCE Learning Network.

In this panel session Andrew and myself mostly spoke of the development of our work in ICT and education, which took its base when we were both involved in the music program at North Fitzroy Primary School. It was a music program deeply embedded in the idea that all children are composers and should be given the opportunity to be that. It was a program that focussed on self directed learning, authentic learning, student negotiated curriculum’s, an acknowledgement of student voice and in the end network learning.

ICT was a key link to all that.

Hope you enjoy it.

Blogging from a teachers perspective and from a students perspective.

I am working closely with a number of teachers on blogging in the classroom and how they might embrace this communication technology. There has naturally been some who have embraced the platform while others have initially shown some resistance as they have struggled with both the mechanics of building in a digital space, but more so their uncomfortableness with communicating in this space. Many teachers still feel nervous about being “on show”. There is also the prevailing view from our generation of the “large consequences” of voicing things in the online space. I’m not sure how true that view is.

I have also been working on a term long unit of work with my friend and fellow educator Dan Donahoo. We were working with a group of 30 children aged 11 and the contrasting opinions and use of the digital world has been quite enlightening. The focus of our unit is on game making and it is an exciting and totally engaging unit for these kids.

At the start of the project I quickly built the students a blog to help us communicate with them. As we are only with this class for one hour a week I was looking for a space where they could potentially become involved with the project outside of the classroom and beyond our physical contact hours. Dan and I gave them no instruction on how to use a blog or what we expected of them in this space. Rather we simply gave them the URL and said it was available to them if they wanted to use it.

The subsequent 6 weeks and the way the blog was used by the students was incredibly informative on this generations ability to communicate in the online space.  But beyond that it was quite interesting to note the reasons for their communication how it relates to learning how it is quite different to some of our more traditional practices.

Allow me to give a few examples.

The first night there were 19 comments – this is a class of 25 and shows the ease of which they use this medium. There was little to no evidence of fear of leaving a comment an opinion or asking a question. There was no feeling of “permanency” of their digital imprints leading to a fear of learning from the environment. Something I think we need to consider in our current approaches to “cyber safety”. Maybe its time to stop condemning the young for permanent records of their youth and inexperience. Maybe it is time to embrace a different perspective.

You can note in the picture below that opinion of our class is given (thankfully positive) and information about the subject is freely offered up helping us as educators to get t know our students better.

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Secondly, Dan and I decided to upload a vague plan of where we were heading in the unit – a unit outline. A number of students had read all of the planned work and jumped ahead and started to work at the place they were ready and excited to work at. They were rejecting our linear strategies and rather learning at the point of there own readiness. This really best represents how learning works – it is never linear. Perhaps some of the students had already covered our initial work in other classes or other parts of their life and didn’t require that from our plan. Excellent. Our idea of putting up the whole course content was also to encourage immersion into the work.

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Potentially there would be kids who would so take to this subject that they would like to do it in their own time, to be limited to our system of learning which only involved the one class a week at 2.30 on a Monday afternoon. Thankfully this did prove to be the case and it allowed for us as educators to stretch out and notice how it is important for our planning to be very flexible and dynamic. Kids were moving in directions beyond our planning and we needed to allow for that rather than constrict them to or initial limitations.

Finally the blog was a great place for the children to extend each other and provide each other feedback beyond the ability of Dan and myself to do that. They would upload the games they were making and respond with critique both positive and negative to each others work, they would ask for immediate help and get quick responses rather than waiting for Dan or myself to be the sole assisters in their learning. Below Charlie expresses something he has learnt from his own investigations with the group allowing response from Dan and suggestions on how to move forward.

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 2.40.16 PMThe following clip shows evidence of students uploading incomplete work, not afraid of public condemnation of poor work, rather they are uploading it to generate learning – they are looking for advice and subsequently got it from other students, myself and Dan.Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 2.49.58 PM

One final thing of note, that will hopefully encourage many nervous teachers to jump in. While being one of the main educators involved in a game-making unit I have never created a game in any of the platforms the students chose to create in. I have used many others but not these ones. As a teacher you don’t need to be an expert in software – you need to be able to set up learning environments that allow for a degree of student empowerment allowing you to manage the environment and push the students to go deeper in their inquiries.