Gearing up for the school year, I've been working on a number of presentations and a common theme seems to be popping up: Empathy. I'll be revisiting this topic with some concrete examples of how empathy effects our work in the classroom, but wanted to share a few general thoughts as you all get ready to step up to the podium next week.
Empathy is most often defined as the ability to 'walk a mile in another person's shoes'. And many of us (esp. educators!) think we have this pretty locked up. It's a wonderful characteristic to have and we often pride ourselves on this ability. But be careful, empathy is a thin line; just believing you are empathetic puts you at risk of not being so. It is something we have to consciously practice. It's a mindset by which we live our lives aware that what we assume or presume may very well not be accurate, and allowing space for the perspective of others.
This is incredibly important in the classroom from building relationships, to supporting personalized learning, and engaging in meaningful formative assessment. So...let's get started! First and foremost, let's get back to being a kid. Let's get back to a time when even an ant crossing the sidewalk with a crumb was something to that would cause you to stop, point, squeal and fill you with such excitement and wonder that you just had to share it with everyone around you. Remember what it was like to feel emotions with such totality? To have a complete melt-down; to jump, squeal and laugh uncontrollably; to tug at your neighbor's sleeve until they joined in your wonder? It's probably been a while for most of you. So, before you continue with this post. Watch this wonderful video from Jason DaSilva at Shots of Awe (2 minutes) . I'll wait...
Wasn't that refreshing? So let's reflect on what this means in the classroom. Take the next 5 minutes and consider this: If you approach everything in your practice, (i.e. lesson planning, classroom management, communication with parents) remembering that this is how kids experience the world:
What might you do to tap into your childlike sense of wonder, to walk a mile in your students' shoes? And by extension, what might you do differently to ignite that sense of curiosity and wonder in them when faced with learning standards & objectives? What might you do differently to engage those excitable (or not-so-excitable) students?
Post your ideas and reactions below.
5 Steps for Redesigning Your Learning Environment
reading time: approx 3 min
Summer’s here! That time of year when teachers take a breath and reflect on what they want to do differently in the coming year. What better time to envision how you can tweak your classroom to better accommodate collaborative, personalized, project-based learning. I recently read The Third Teacher; 79 Ways You Can Use Design to Transform Teaching & Learning. (website link) Turns out, the three teachers are 1. adults, 2. peers, and 3. educational environment. And while a complete reno may be the ideal way to go, there’s no need to wait for a donor, bond approval or major grant to get started. From cafeteria services and custodial products to daylight, seating, student voice and community involvement simple school environment hacks can add measurable value to the learning process. Use the following 5 steps as you reflect on 16-17 and get ready to make 17-18 the start of something new.
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We wrapped up our 1st year of implementing Design Thinking (aka Human Centered Design) last week with an amazing showcase hosted by Aquinas College. 200+ community members came out to see the innovative work spanning grades k-12 in our schools this year. Below are some comments and a photo gallery for those who couldn’t make it. You can access this Google doc for more details on each individual project. Feel free to contact any of our teachers or the Office of Catholic Schools if you have any questions about the project. See my previous posts on this topic for the background. A Time to Dance | Innovate with Empathy
Response to the event:
“How exciting to see all your culminating work at the showcase! You are all humble Catholic school teachers, and it sometimes doesn’t feel natural to “show off” what you’ve done. I heard many positive responses from those who attended — parents, future parents, other educators, administrators — as your work has helped them to see innovation in our classrooms and your leadership in teaching others about what you’ve learned. Thank you for your continued commitment to our year of learning.” Assistant Supt Jill Annable
It [design thinking] has completely transformed the way they teach. They are so excited and energized about using this process. Teachers have requested mixed grade level classes because they see so much potential. ~Suzi Furtwangler, Principal St Thomas
“Thank you for inviting us! It was a wonderful collection of Design Thinking in action, and I loved the conversations that I had with Sara Olson about how she changed the direction of her Art 4 class utilizing Design Thinking (going to try some of this out myself with my art students next year).” Tricia Erickson, Art Teacher Northview High School
“This year I learned that failing is a good thing because you have the opportunity to really grow! If you don’t fail sometimes that means you aren’t really doing anything new or hard. God created us to DO things!” ~anonymous student
(reading time 2.5 min.) Author: Carol Glanville
This week has been a flurry of activity as we put the finishing touches on our inaugural spring student showcase. This year, we’re showcasing work from the 1st year of our design thinking in the classroom initiative, aka. innovatED.
A bit of history. Last spring we started exploring how we might bring the design thinking (aka human-centered design process) to our schools. We discovered that Xavier University in Cincinnati has an undergrad degree program in exactly that. So, we connected with them and created a customized 4-day workshop where staff from five or our schools, St Thomas, All Saints Academy, St Pat’s Parnell, West Catholic and Catholic Central participated as teams of teachers to learn all about it. We also explored coding, computational thinking, simple design software, 3-d printing and much more. We all left excited about the possibilities and many of us, without any experience in such things, were emboldened to discover how simple it really was! For more information on that program check out this posting from my blog archive: Innovate with Empathy.
Over the course of this year, we’ve continued to support each other, sharing our successes, failures and learnings along the way. The culmination of that work will be on display this coming Thursday, April 27 at Aquinas College. Teachers, students and administrators will be on hand to demonstrate and discuss how we’ve implemented this process and how it is related to future curriculum planning.
We’ve also made some exciting new connections throughout this experience. We’ve been invited to host sessions related to this work at the annual MACUL (Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning) conference, the iie (Institute for Innovation in Education) gathering at U of M, and Aquinas College School of Education. We’ve also made some valuable new connections partnering with local industry experts to demonstrate the connection from school to life; Kendall College of Art & Design, IDEO/Steelcase, Spectrum Hospitals Architecture and West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology, and the design team at Mercy Health Innovation Hub In addition, by participating in West Michigan Design Week events, we’ve connected with Wolverine World Wide and a local Stanford d.school consultant.
This exciting work has helped us broaden our reach and stands to benefit our schools not only in terms of the skills we teach our students but in ever-growing access to real-world application of learning and partnerships that can enhance our educational programming.
Please join us at the showcase to explore and celebrate the innovative teaching, learning and administrative practices of our journey thus far. As an added benefit, you’ll also have the opportunity to see the Documentary Screenagers; Growing up in the Digital Age. We showed this film last fall to a sell-out crowd of 300. It was very well-received and this showcase event provides the perfect venue for screening it again for those who missed the first go-round.
The event is free. The showcase is open-house style with no ticket needed. However, you do need to reserve seat(s) for the film. Follow this link for complete event details.
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Thomas Edison has been credited with once saying, “I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” (Erica Hendry, Smithsonian.com, 2013) But we rarely hear or teach about those 10,000 times. In schools, we tend to focus on the final outcome of ideas that have shaped the world, and then expect students to go through the process of discovery on their own. They do research, work problems, and perform experiments all with a very clearly expected outcome, but rarely any examples of how to do that work. And typically when they miss the mark, they are penalized in the form of a number or letter that places them on a fairly limited scale of success and failure.
There is great pressure on students to just get the right answer, with no reward for the process of learning. And equally, there is great pressure on teachers to produce students who can get the right answers.
I recently came across the concept of the Biography of an idea in the book LAUNCH. And as I work with our Human Centered Design cohort (aka the innovatED team) it’s come to light that students generally stop being naturally inquisitive around middle school. And by high school, really struggle with inquiry and research. They’ve become so acclimated to the ‘game’ of school, they’re afraid to break the rules.
In a panel discussion the innovatED team had this week with area experts from Steelcase, Spectrum, Kendall and WMCAT, we learned that among soft skills employers are looking for, demonstrated curiosity and acceptance of ambiguity rank pretty high. A popular interview question is “Tell me about the best vacation you ever took.” That story tells prospective employers more about the type of person sitting in front of them than anything else; including, their risk-aversion level, if they are planners or jumpers, and how easily they roll with the punches. Each panel member also talked about marathon sessions of brainstorming and idea generation the regularly happen in their work. The ability to perform those tasks with humility, work as a team, and be genuinely collaborative were also touted. They fully supported teaching the design thinking process and were excited to hear that we’re moving in that direction here at the Diocese. Indeed, they lauded us as leaders of the pack in this area and are excited to continue working with us.
So, how might we create a culture in our classrooms where the process is as important as the outcome; a culture that supports risk-taking and discovery on the road to the right answer?
While there are many possibilities, the following three apps are tools that have been used in our classrooms and are accessible across platforms; including iPads, Chromebooks, laptops, and a variety of mobile devices. Each tool plays a unique role in recording every step of a great or, in the spirit of Mr. Edison, maybe not so great idea.
Start with Padlet. (YT video Overview) Padlet has many potential uses, but at the simplest level, it’s a place to generate ideas. It’s essentially an electronic version of sticky note brainstorming. Students post their ideas on a padlet wall and can then manipulate them to sort ideas into clusters. This can be done as a group on a shared wall, or individually. It would be a great tool just for getting unstuck in an assignment. A student could just throw out the options they think might work, and then work them through without forgetting what else they thought might work. I think I’ll start using it to collect my blog ideas!
Once ideas have been sorted and students choose a couple to work out, move to Mindmeister. (YT Channel) A powerful mapping tool, Mindmeister works to really organize and add detail to ideas. Students can add the type and order of tasks to get them started inquiring and researching their proposed process. They can record notes, questions, and observations as they move through the ideation process.
Once organized in Mindmeister, students move on to heavier lifting including observation, research and creating a draft. This may or may not be electronic as students sketch, draw, model, experiment, write, or attempt steps in a problem. During this work phase, students test their ideas and come to a conclusion that works, or doesn’t.
Remember if their answer isn’t ‘right’ (aka doesn’t work) that doesn’t mean they failed. The ultimate goal is always that they have learned. So success is in the learning, not in getting the right answer. But of course, you (and they) need to be able to evaluate their work and what they did learn.
Enter Explain Everything (YT Channel) This tool supports the evaluation phase. With Explain Everything students can record what they did, include screenshots from Padlet and Mindmeister, talk through the draft phase and explain why it did or didn’t work, what they might have done differently where they went wrong. If they are unable to articulate that, you know they haven’t mastered the topic.
I encourage you to take a look at these three tools. If you’re a student, investigate how they might support you in completing class work. If you’re a teacher consider how you might teach students to utilize these tools in their processing. Even if you aren’t doing a full-blown project, these tools can be incredibly useful for many daily classroom activities as students work to make sense of their world. And who knows, you may be helping invent the lightbulb of tomorrow!
Want to learn more about Edison’s path of learning? Check out this Forbes article on “How Failure Taught Edison to Repeatedly Innovate.”
reading time 3.5 minutes
As we close out our Catholic Schools Week celebrations, I thought it would be fun to reflect on the relationship of technology to Catholic church over time. So, hop into the way-back machine with me and set the controls for c. 560 AD. Welcome to Seville, Spain where we encounter Isidore of Seville. Later canonized (by JPII) St Isidore, produced a 20 volume body of work known as the Etymologies, or Origins. The print version of the Internet for the Middle Ages, the Etymologies was translated and widely published for over 1000 years and was considered to be the resource for all knowledge great and small of the time. The next time you take a foray into the wide world of Google, pause a moment to pray for the intercession of St Isidore, the patron saint of the Internet, in your digital quest for knowledge.
Next stop, the mid 20th c. Enter Fr Roberto Busa, S.J. Fr Busa is credited (among other intellectual accomplishments) as being the catalyst for creating hyperlinks and searchable online text. Engaged in work to build a reference catalog of all of Thomas of Aquinas’ written works, he met with Thomas J Watson (founder of IBM) in 1949 and gave him this design challenge: Create a computerized way to search text by word. His innovative request was the genesis of the ‘hypertext’ function invented by Ted Nelson in 1965. (National Catholic Register, 2017) Fr Busa died in 2011, but you can interact with his tech legacy to this day on a multilingual public Facebook group. His innovations also led to the development of Digital Humanities in higher education; a field gaining in popularity and importance with the continuing evolution of data analysis. There’s even a Busa Prize awarded to leaders in the field of humanities computing.
A few year later, the Vatican saw fit to address the growing sphere of the influence of social media. Vatican 2 documents published in 1963 include a special Decree on the Media of Social Communications aka, the Inter Mirifica. This two-page document answers two driving questions. “The first question has to do with “information,” as it is called, or the search for and reporting of the news.” (Intermirifica 1.5) “The second question deals with the relationship between the rights, as they are called, of art and the norms of morality.”(Intermirifica 1.6) As you skim the Inter Mirifica, it will draw you in with its shockingly relevant guidelines for dealing with news and media today. In fact, it’s difficult to comprehend that it was indeed written in 1963.
Of course, all innovation carries with it some risk. In combining so many classical works, St Isidore preserved a large part of history. But because his work alone was so highly regarded and widely copied, some of those original texts were lost. The Inter Mirifica starts with this caveat, “The Church recognizes that these media, if properly utilized, can be of great service to mankind, since they greatly contribute to men’s entertainment and instruction as well as to the spread and support of the Kingdom of God. The Church recognizes, too, that men can employ these media contrary to the plan of the Creator and to their own loss.” (Inter Mirifica I.2)
Jumping now to the 21st century, and the ubiquitous nature of technology, it is truly a gift from God to have voices like Sr Carolyn Cerveny, SSJ-TOSF to provide guidance. Sr. Carolyn maintains a blog and Twitter account under the pseudonym of ‘Cyberpilgrim.’ In late 2016 she published a three-part series on Digital Discipleship.
In Part 1 she calls us to action with this statement: “We are now called to integrate the apostolic opportunityof the digital world, so that we may use it effectively in our everyday efforts to incarnate the Gospel message.” She goes on to connect the concept of intentional discipleship with evangelization and how the Internet can be used to serve that purpose.
In Part 2 she describes why and how to use Facebook effectively. She suggests a balance of posts between ‘other’ (work, fun, family, etc.) and faith. (i.e. 70/30, 60/40, 50/50) Your faith ministry can be as simple as a photo from a parish activity or a re-post from a Catholic site such as bustedhalo which I discovered while researching this post. Their #dailyjolt is a welcome addition to my Twitter feed.
Part 3 of Digital Discipleship advises how to get started with various social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, Linked-In and more. In this section, you’ll also find links to teen-focused accounts on these platforms and suggestions for finding your own faith-based content.
The Office of Catholic Schools’ mission states that we are “an alliance of Catholic schools where Christ illuminates learning and life.” It’s clear that over the history of the church, technology has been a tool used to do just that. I invite you to take up the mantle and continue the tradition of embracing innovation as a means for expanding Catholic educational ministry. Following are a few tips to get started.
Psst… wanna know the secret to engagement?
Carol Glanville, M.Ed.
Organizational Design Consultant