IDE Corp
Professional Development for Innovative Schools

An Empathy-Driven Design Process

The engineering design process (see video) is about creating that which does not yet exist. You formulate a problem, explore content related to it, ideate to brainstorm possible solutions, sift through those to select the most effective and feasible, simulate the solution through a prototype you can test, and then, advocate for that solution.

 

Voila! You’ve solved a problem. Or have you?

If you haven’t addressed the needs of those affected by the problem, you haven’t solved it. In order to address those needs, you must be able to comprehensively understand how others are affected by the problem. The Cambridge Dictionary defines empathy as “the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation.”

In IDE Corp’s design process, the first step is to “formulate” the problem. What is the ideal situation? What is the reality? What are the consequences of not solving the problem? Answering the latter two questions requires you to understand deeply how others are affected by the problem, that is, to demonstrate empathy.

Empathy is complex. Consider the nuances of three kinds of empathy, described in a blog post by Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence. All are important to develop.

  • Cognitive empathy is the ability to take a perspective and understand what another person is feeling or thinking. This is an important skill but, absent of other types of empathy, it can have a dark side: those who possess it can use it to manipulate and torture others.

 

  • Emotional empathy is the ability to feel along with the person, often experiencing the same physical effects. Scientists are linking this ability to the existence of mirror neurons in the brain. This, too, is important, however, it could leave the empathizer emotionally drained if unable to manage these emotions.

 

  • Compassionate empathy involves both understanding and a compelling need to help. While this kind of empathy is that which leads to success in the design process, cognitive and emotional empathy are critical companions in truly understanding how a problem affects others.

 

Empathy is also comprehensive, depicted in the graphic below as having four elements:

 

As you engage students in the design process, teach them How to Develop an Empathic Approach in Design Thinking.

A Classroom is Like a Swimming Pool

How do you create a culture of creativity and problem-solving while addressing all of the curriculum standards? As you may know about IDE Corp., we love using metaphors and similes to rethink “school” (e.g., “teacher as ferry; teacher as bridge”). So let’s consider the infinity pool: a swimming pool that gives the impression of endlessness and offers exploration while providing supportive boundaries.

The Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom is all about Students Taking Charge, that is, having choice and voice within safe boundaries. Let’s break down some of the structures and strategies:

 

  • Teachers consider the curricular standards and design a problem-based task students could accomplish if they mastered those standards. They design a rubric to provide students with clearly articulated expectations. Teachers present the task and rubric to students at the start of the unit, driving the learning! The task and rubric provide a certain set of boundaries, like a pool, to keep students safe within the realm of the curriculum (because, that is what’s expected in schools these days, unless you’re going rogue!).

 

  • An activity list offers a variety of differentiated learning and practice activities to support students in mastering the curricular goals; however, students decide which to use, when to work on them, and with whom they will work. Students have a lot of choice and voice as they “swim” around the learning environment.

 

  • Teachers facilitate learning, helping students make decisions about their learning paths, providing direct instruction, and probing thinking to move students to higher levels of understanding.

 

  • Every Authentic Learning Unit (ALU) that begins with a task and rubric results in students’ demonstration of knowledge through the creation of some sort of product or performance. If the product or performance itself is not a part of the curricular goals, teachers should allow students to present in a variety of ways. For example, if you’re teaching poetry writing, students may be limited to writing a poem; but if you’re asking students to present a solution to designing a zoo habitat for an animal, you can allow them to present that through a written proposal, video, multimedia presentation, scale model, or any other means, because your curriculum is about habitats, not presentations.

 

The structures of the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom are what enable the freedom. Within those structures, students are empowered to explore, make decisions, be creative, and invent. Make your classroom a swimming pool, metaphorically speaking, that is. Change the world!

Physical Education Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classrooms in Chester Taylor Elementary School

A Tampa Bay Times article on May 3rd describes how the physical education classes at Chester Taylor Elementary school in Pasco County, FL are using the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom to make physical education classes “more academic”. The article noted that “more than just play a game, the children studied its history, calculated their statistics, designed uniforms, set team budgets and conducted trading based on salary caps, among other activities.”

“We’ve shown them there are other opportunities within that sport you can be involved with and still learn the game,” P.E. teacher Michael Johnson explained. “When you get into each sport, your standards are around learning that sport. We want to take it a step further.”

“Chester Taylor Elementary adopted the “Learner Active, Technology-Infused Classroom” system three years ago, when it faced the threat of a state-mandated turnaround plan for consistently low student performance on state tests”, describes the article. “The school quickly saw improvements in student test scores with its initial foray — its fourth-graders soon outperformed the state average — and has been expanding it since”.

Read the full Tampa Bay News article here: http://www.tbo.com/news/education/k12/pasco-elementary-school-brings-academics-to-physical-education-class/2322280

Learn more about the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom.

Founded by Dr. Nancy Sulla, IDE Corp. offers a comprehensive instructional model that is the synthesis of the best research available on student achievement. IDE consultants work with school districts around the country to help them shift paradigms and design new approaches to instruction.  IDE Corp. has been providing instructional and organizational consulting to schools since 1987.

#LATICinsights: Using Data As Your Driver

What drives a classroom in which students take responsibility for their own learning, are engaged in grappling with content, and are pursuing high academic standards towards higher achievement? Data!

The Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom is a data-driven learning environment. It’s a highly structured learning environment that allows students significant voice and choice in their learning. While students have the freedom to set their schedules, work on what, with whom, and when they want, the success comes from the fact that most decisions are data driven. Here are some of the data structures that should be in place:

  • Teachers review state and district standardized test data to determine individual student weaknesses. Given the student-driven nature of classroom activities, teachers can more easily guide individual students toward appropriate activities, offering the maximum level of differentiation.
  • Students use rubrics to continually self assess where they are and set goals. The teacher meets with individual students to confirm progress and goals.
  • Students use their rubrics, assessment data, and activity lists to select the activities they need to accomplish. Even kindergarten students can manage their day!
  • Teachers carry facilitation grids to capture formative assessment data; they also use the grids to capture data from quizzes and tests. They then use this progress-monitoring data to plan scaffolded learning activities and teacher-directed, small-group lessons.
  • Based on a topical assessment, students can opt into an advanced small-group, mini-lesson to push themselves beyond the expected.
  • Students use Learning Dashboards of standards and curricular objectives to track their progress across the year, using the data to select learning activities.

When students are in charge of their own learning, it’s easier for the teacher to differentiate instruction. With data as the driver, teachers can plan benchmark lessons; small-group, mini-lessons; and activity lists to ensure that all students’ needs are being met.

Put students in charge of their own learning; have teachers act as powerful facilitators; and let data drive the action!

IDE Corp. offers differentiated, online courses facilitated by our consultants for maximum success of all our our participants, including one on formative assessment.

The #LATIC-RTI-UDL Convergence

How do you ensure that all students achieve at the highest level, thus opening myriad doors for their future? Three popular frameworks converge beautifully to provide the “secret sauce.”

IDE Corp.’s Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom (#LATIC) is a framework for designing student-driven classrooms: it puts students in charge of their own learning to produce greater results. The key is to shift paradigms from “teacher as ferry” to “teacher as bridge builder.” (For more, read Students Taking Charge.) At the core are three tenets:

 

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a framework to “maximize student achievement and reduce behavior problems,” targeting struggling students. The key is to shift paradigms from labeling students as unable to reach high levels to providing different instructional interventions to ensure success at high levels. At the core are four essential components:

from the Center on Response to Intervention

The Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom actually focuses on Tier 1 and Tier 2 instruction in the same setting by reducing the amount of whole-class instruction in lieu of providing differentiated learning activities. Students, therefore, begin by working at their cognitive level and learning style. Teachers are constantly gathering formative assessment data to guide student choices and develop learning options. Where a student is struggling significantly (Tier 3), special education teachers can easily provide a student one-on-one instruction in the classroom. All students receive one-on-one instruction naturally in the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom as well. The intent is to teach differently from the start to reduce the need for extensive interventions. While RTI was designed to address issues found in conventional learning environments, it’s important still to recognize the different levels of intervention at work as they emerge in the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom setting.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework “to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn.” The key is to provide access for all at the start of the teaching and learning process. A great visual for this is the difference between buildings that were designed for the ambulatory, later retrofitted for access (left building with added ramp), and buildings that were designed with access for all in mind (the Guggenheim Museum on the right with its infamous spiral walkway.) Apply that thinking to instruction and curriculum and you have the concept of UDL!

UDL includes three guidelines:

The Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom framework naturally includes these guidelines. Students are engaged through problem-based learning and by the teacher using structures that create a “felt need” for learning. Teachers design multiple learning activities to represent content at a variety of cognitive levels and through a variety of learning styles. Students set goals and schedule how they will use their time; they have options for how they will demonstrate learning. IDE Corp.’s UDL summary sheet from the IDEportal may help in ensuring a deliberate and purposeful learning environment.

Incorporating all three frameworks into the classroom creates a powerful and effective learning environment. Try it! Change the world!

Standardized Testing Super Bowl Style

Yesterday’s historic Super Bowl win by the Patriots was an amazing example of grit and the can-do attitude that students need to take the state standardized tests. The Falcons were poised to win: with 17 minutes to go, they were leading 28 to 3; no team had ever come back from that far down to win; they had the game in the bag. What happened?

The Patriots had grit; the Falcons’ confidence shook. The Falcons were highly capable, with great players who know how to play the game well; but they lacked the can-do, fail-forward, grit that the Patriots had. It’s a good time of year to reflect on this and make sure your students walk into standardized testing with great grit!

About that test! Please answer the following question:

Ciò che è due più tre?

The answer to “what is two plus three” is five. Chances are, you know that content, but you might have been thrown by the question being written in another language. If you know the romance languages, you might have worked somewhat to figure it out and arrived at the answer of five, but it took you more time than if it were written in your native language, assuming you don’t speak Italian.

I believe many students know far more than their standardized test scores indicate, but the act of test-taking is not natural for most students. It is, therefore, important to spend some time before standardized testing helping students build familiarity and grit, so that what they know in their heads actually translates to the paper or computerized test situation. Here are some ideas:

1- Build test-taking familiarity. Throughout the year, provide students with tests similar to the format and test-taking conditions they will encounter on the state tests. I was once struggling with an earth science course (I admit I didn’t pay attention in class). I bought the state’s practice book, took the first test and scored a 20%. Without looking up the incorrect answers, I took all of the tests in the practice book. I then went on to take the actual test and scored in the high 80s. Familiarity with the test helped me greatly. In the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom, students are used to working collaboratively, talking, moving around, putting their names on a help board. None of this resembles the test-taking formality of standardized tests. Teachers must simulate test-taking conditions prior to state tests to ensure students are not overwhelmed by the situation so much that they can’t put what’s in their brains on the answer sheet.

2 – Build a “can do” attitude about strategic test-taking: looking for clues and insights to reading the questions and answering them; knowing where to place an emphasis. Use a superhero approach that fits for the age level, like _____ School’s Mutant Ninja TestTakers. Imagine if students considered the characters and their strengths, and related that level of grit to test-taking success! Imagine if they went into the test with superhero powers on their mind.

3 – Inspire your students with positivity! The worst thing you can do to a losing team is tell them they’re losers; that just demoralizes them. Coach Belichick didn’t go into the locker room at half time and tear down his team; he told them to “keep doing what we’re doing; play like we know how to play and not to think about what happened.” He inspired them to achieve the greatness he knew was inside them. Pump up your students to let the world know how much they know. You may have heard of the teacher who wrote inspirational #growthmindsetmessages on students’ desks. On test day some schools are known to have their teachers line up at the entrance and high-five students as they’re walking in.

4 – Get students learning from students! Students in Jessica Lutzke Heck’s class at Chester W. Taylor Elementary School take their roles as peer experts very seriously. They must first be vetted by Jessica to ensure that they know the content well enough to teach it. (Create a vetting quiz of questions like those on standardized tests.) Then they must submit a lesson plan consisting of four items:

  • The example they will use to instruct the group in the skill and the points they will make
  • The example they will use for guided practice
  • The example they will use for independent practice
  • How they will assess their group’s mastery of the skill

Identify key content and set up your students to teach one another through a week or two of small-group, mini-lessons using a student sign-up process. Imagine just lots of small group sessions run by students. Students learn well from one another; and they learn by teaching others. Ensure all students have the opportunity to conduct a small-group, mini-lesson.

5 – Prepare for greatness! Share with your students how great athletes prepare for competition: get a good night’s sleep; eat a good (non sugary) breakfast; and drink water (all good for the brain.) Inspire them to be as great as they are. In preparation for the test, try this activity. First, cover your desks/tables with butcher paper on which to write. Then put students into groups of 3-4 and ask them to recall everything they’ve learned this year about the subject, discuss it as a group, and write it on the paper. Challenge them to see how much they can fill in within 15 minutes. Then ask one student at each table to stay while everyone else moves to new tables. Let the remaining student answer any questions about what is on the paper for the others, then have them all continue to add content. After three rounds, bring the group together and comment on your observations: how much they remembered, key insights they may have had, and talk about any content that was glaringly missing. Let students know that they know what’s on the test: they just have to let it out!

Sometimes it’s not a matter of students not knowing content; it’s a matter of familiarity with the situation, and grit! OK, as the state tests approach, go change the world!

Rigor Through Convergence: Next Gen Science, ELA, and Math Standards

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) offer an opportunity to build academic rigor in ELA and math. Schools tend to address content by subject, with separate programs and texts for each subject. The brain thrives on making connections. “To learn new knowledge, a person must build on information that is already stored in the brain” (Erica Cerino). If students make connections to prior knowledge and to knowledge gained across subject areas, they will solidify learning at deeper levels.

The NGSS include a set of Crosscutting Concepts that focus on important learning that transcends the disciplines. For example, patterns are an important part of understanding science in the world around you. They are also an integral part of understanding ELA and math. Consider these related primary standards:

Another key concept is that of cause-and-effect relationships. Here are some examples from grades 3-5 ELA and math standards:

And another is stability and change, with examples from middle school:

You can leverage the convergence of these standards in your instruction, pointing out the crosscutting themes in all of the subjects students are studying. Ask students questions about each subject area based on these concepts. To get started, use this planning sheet (if you are not an IDEportal subscriber, just click demo at the bottom of the screen) to review the NGSS Crosscutting Concepts and consider the connections to your ELA and math standards.

Make learning more meaningful; connect ELA and math to science; and change the world!

 

Technology Mindset Shift: From Means to End

If you’ve read my book, It’s Not What You Teach But How, you’ll know I promote focusing on the ends over the means of standards. It’s easy to focus on the means, or the effort, without focusing on the end, or the results. Let’s not make this mistake with educational technology.

My systems analyst days

People in the business world use technology to accomplish their goals. Few, if any, tout how many computers they have; rather, they use them seamlessly and purposefully toward a greater goal. In 1981, I made a side-trip from teaching to work as a systems analyst. Day one I was handed my terminal (precursor to today’s Chromebook; a gateway to a bigger computer.) I don’t think any of us bragged over our 1:1 environment; we didn’t focus on it at all. Instead, we focused on the software we were designing with it; the interoffice communication it allowed, and analyzing data.

Yet in the educational world, we tend to lead with “we’re 1:1,”  “we’re BYOD,” “we’re a GAFE district,” “we have a Mac graphic design lab,” and so forth. In reality, all of this means little unless you’re using it to develop students who can think at high levels, communicate well, collaborate, problem solve, and exhibit the skills and attitudes needed for their future. Don’t get me wrong, schools should have a lot of technology available for students and educators — a lot! The possibilities for the advancement of achievement are unparalleled. Just don’t stop at the inventory.

The greatest gift given to me by my stint in the design and coding world was that I returned to teaching with a mindset of ends-based computing: what are we doing with it? Over the years, I’ve categorized computer use in a variety of ways, including my Tech Hierarchy and Ten Characteristics of a ‘NetCentric Society. One, the Categories of Tech Infusion, offers seven ways in which students interact with computer technology in the learning process. (Note: this is not about the creation and design process; that’s another topic!) Let’s look at these categories through the lens of results.

As schools work to build skills in executive function, the information management aspect of technology can be extremely powerful. Teach students naming conventions for files so they can easily find them later, how to manage their documents, how to bookmark web pages, how to use an online calendar, and more. … What? You struggle with these skills too? See how important they are?

If you want students to master the ELA skills of the standards, they need to be immersed in an environment of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. A silent blog (students all discuss an issue at the same time, online, in silence) allows everyone to engage in the conversation (as opposed to just those whose hands are up.) Students need to read and respond to others: it’s real time, it’s engaging, it builds communication skills, and it gets them ready for Twitter chats! 😉

Sometimes, two heads are better than one, but only when they truly collaborate rather than trying to convince one another to switch sides. Collaboration skills are complex but so worthy of being taught. Cloud-based Apps that allow students and teachers to offers suggestions and comments, and to co-create, build a “felt need” for collaborative skills. With technology, students can not only collaborate with students in the classroom, but with those in other classrooms, schools, cities, countries, solar systems. . . (Ok, maybe not solar systems … yet!)

There are many experiences that are not available to students in schools, such as traveling in space or to the bottom of the ocean, engaging in a revolution, managing a city, building an amusement park, blood typing on a crime scene, and more. But these are all available through simulations. Simulations are powerful for building understanding of content, cause-and-effect relationships, and unintended consequences. I’m thinking many of us should use auto simulators before heading out on the road!

Students spend a lot of time thinking about what they want to wear, what backpack they want to carry, what language they want to use, and more. Why? Because they are appealing to an audience: in these cases, an audience of their peers. Nothing says “pay attention to detail” better than an audience. When students produce for an audience beyond the teacher, they tend to focus more on the quality of their work; and, they experience the power of one’s voice being heard. There are many websites where students can publish their writing and ideas anonymously (anonymity is a must!)

Building an understanding of concepts and skills requires grappling: struggling and wrestling with content. Teachers’ wonderful explanations just don’t do it. If you’re going to learn to swim, you have to get in the water! Provide students with ample time to explore content, solutions, and ideas. I recently saw a fifth grade teacher trigger students’ awareness by asking how the students’ plants (science experiment) were going to survive over winter break without anyone to water them. I asked a student if he ever heard of the term aqua globe? He immediately looked it up on computer and was excited to find the term, which led him to read more about the concept. He returned from lunch with a plastic soda bottle, armed with the grit to make one himself. He watched YouTube videos; he thought through different ideas, researching more and more. He presented his teacher and classmates with his idea for feedback. This powerful learning experience was made possible by the availability of technology to explore concepts and skills.

Gaining popularity are 3-D Virtual Environments, which are related to simulations. The two differences are that they are three-dimensional, in that you feel like you are actually in the environment, walking around, driving, etc.; and that you often interact with other live human beings as opposed to just a computer. There are virtual environments that are just simulations with better graphics; but there are also those through which you engage with others who are online at the same time as avatars, for maximum engagement! It’s not mainstream in schools yet, but just wait!

I hope these categories will help you to think through the opportunities you offer students to build higher levels of content understanding and application. You can access a blank grid for brainstorming on the IDEportal — our online instructional resource for student-driven learning.

If you’re headed to FETC 2017 in Orlando, find us at booth 2440. If you’re headed to Techspo 2017 in Atlantic City, find us at booth 104. For a look at our presentations at both, visit the news section of our website.

#LATICinsights – Avoiding the No-Man’s Land of Innovation

Innovation requires a shift in mindset and action, sometimes taking you outside of your comfort zone. As you design a Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom, you will no doubt find times that you are outside of your comfort zone. Your tendency might be to drop a structure that doesn’t seem to work for you or your students. Don’t do it!

In the game of tennis, players first played at the baseline. The ball would cross over the net, bounce in the court, and as it approached the back line, the player would hit it back. Over time, the game, and tennis racquet fotolia_tenniscourt_xstechnology, evolved, and the net game was born. The player would run up to the net and hit the ball as it crossed, not waiting for it to bounce first. For some players, this was natural and comfortable. For others, being at the net was stressful, and they would begin to back up, fearing they would miss the ball. The problem is that if they backed up to just the middle of the court, they would find themselves in what tennis folks call “No-Man’s Land” (the center of the court between the net and the baseline.) The balls would bounce at their feet and they could not hit them.

In the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom, if teachers back up and drop a structure here and there, they end up in #LATIC No-Man’s Land. The classroom will not run as smoothly and the students may not achieve to the desired levels. The key is, you can’t drop a structure because each one has an important reason for being there, and the structures support one another. Take a look at the list below. This represents just some of the many structures that make the classroom work.

latic-structures

As you innovate, be sure to lean in, embrace the change, reflect and adjust, but keep moving forward. When something appears to not work, it’s usually because a structure or strategy is missing. Rather than reverting to former methods, find out what’s missing that needs to be added. Avoid No-Man’s Land! Innovate and change the world!

#LATICinsights: Social Learning Environments Accelerate Literacy Development

fotolia_kids-collab_xs_croppedIf you want to build literacy skills, leverage the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom as a social learning environment. Consider that students engage in problem-solving as part of a learning community in which they engage with teachers, outside experts, and one another. They spend their day speaking, listening, reading, and writing! It’s a veritable literacy playground, if you set it up well.

Problems and Solutions word on wooden table

Through the solution-finding process, students discuss what they know, what they need to learn, how they will learn, what they’ve found out, possible solutions, and how they will present the solution to others. In addition, the structures of the classroom provide myriad opportunities for teachers to build literacy skills outside of deliberate literacy instruction.

When I ask students what they like about the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom, they invariably mention the ability to choose what they do when. That freedom is enhanced through literacy. Given students are motivated to control their own time and learning activities, teachers can use that motivation to deliberately build literacy skills. post-it-tenacity

  • Use your notes in the two-pocket folder to build vocabulary by using a word and then defining it.
  • Model strong language use on your activity list. Instead of saying, “Read article on water cycle and draw your own,” say, “Peruse (read thoughtfully) the article on the water cycle and illustrate a depiction of your own.” Instead of “Write down your ideas from reading the story and meet with a group member to share ideas and agree on one main take-away,” say, “Generate and capture in writing your insights upon reading the story; meet with a colleague to collaborate on determining one, key insight to glean from the story.” If you want students to build language skills, you need to model them. Create a culture of literacy!
  • Have students use a design process to work through a problem, keeping a design notebook in which they write their findings and ideas. (The problem itself will promote reading.)
  • When you facilitate, ask students to tell you about what they’re doing and why. Engage in conversation! Introduce vocabulary words there as well.

Below is a grid on just some of the structures of the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom through which teachers can build literacy skills.

latic-literacy-grid

Deliberate and purposeful use of language in the classroom paired with maximizing opportunities for students to speak, listen, read, and write are foundational to building a culture of literacy. Add to that direct instruction in literacy through learning activities; small-group, mini-lessons; and concept-based benchmark lessons, and you have the formula for accelerating literacy development. And with strong literacy skills, you can … change the world!