Disrupting learning structures

 I am very lucky to work in a school that is trying to shift the paradigm around learning. Last year I started discussing with our CIO and Principal about having a remote learning day in 2016. Students effectively don’t attend school and learn remotely. This poses many challenges around the why, what and how. The big picture is moving our current learning to a more considered blended approach with flipped learning at our centre.

First part of this project was to discuss the ‘why’ 

with our School Teaching and Learning committee, to be confronting and challenging around our current student learning models. From this a team of teachers across our school have come together. The teams make up represents an interesting cross section as Rogers, describes in his Diffusion of innovations. We have innovators, some early adopters, late majority and dare I say laggards! It was important to diversify the team and have thinking that would continually challenge our purpose.

Staff working through a design thinking process. 

The significance of this team hasn’t yet been fully realised. It has a direct role in shaping the future learning of our school which will impact how our students and staff collaborate with technology to enhance learning. As chair I decided to move us through a design thinking mindset which as IDEO states is:

Design Thinking is a mindset.

Design thinking is about believing we can make a difference, and having an intentional process in order to get to new, relevant solutions that create positive impact.

Design Thinking gives you faith in your creative abilities and a process for trans- forming difficult challenges into opportunities for design.

It’s Human-Centered. Design Thinking begins from deep empathy and understanding of needs and motivations of people—in this case, the students, teachers, parents, staff and administrators who make up your everyday world.

It’s Collaborative. Several great minds are always stronger when solving a challenge than just one. Design Thinking benefits greatly from the views of multiple perspec- tives, and others’ creativity bolster- ing your own.

It’s Optimistic. Design Thinking is the fundamental belief that we all can create change—no matter how big a problem, how little time or how small a budget. No matter what constraints exist around you, designing can be an enjoyable process.

It’s Experimental. Design Thinking gives you permission to fail and to learn from your mistakes, because you come up with new ideas, get feedback on them, then iterate. Given the range of needs your students have, your work will never be finished or “solved.” It is always in progress. Yet there is an underlying expectation that educators must strive for perfection, that they may not make mistakes, that they should always be flawless role models. This kind of expectation makes it hard to take risks. It limits the possibilities to create more radical change. But educators need to experiment, too, and Design Thinking is all about learning by doing.

I have used IDEO’s toolkit and my own knowledge of design thinking being an educator who has worked within the design industry. This will guide our team through the process. Adding to the richness of our team was the inclusion of student voice. Each time we have met thus far various students have shared their learning and future ideas of what they believe learning should look like.

The main structures which we are looking at disrupting is time. Why do we demand students to learn in chucks of time? Learning is organic and happens when the need is there. It’s non-linear and occurs when the learner has a specific need. Let’s move to an asynchronous environment! That’s the end goal. Students can dip in and out of their learning. Making them truely owners of learning.

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