Posts tagged design thinking
Share Your Shift

Halton District School Board has been SHIFTING in a big way for the last two and a half years. Both educators, administration and corporate staff have shown an appetite for innovation.  We are seeing doors opening up, educators sharing what they do, taking risks and trying new things. There is a SHIFT happening in Halton and there are Shifters everywhere working together, pushing the envelope and improving processes, products and understanding.  Innovating is challenging, it is often the path less travelled. Innovators need time to feed their soul, reconnect with others doing this important work and recharge their mental batteries.


Date: May 23rd, 2019

What: Full Day “Share Your Shift” Conference

Play: Open Space, Swap Meet, Rotman I-Think, Empower Makers, McMaster Design Thinking, CIBC Service Design Team

Location: Queen Elizabeth Park Community and Cultural Centre, Oakville, ON

Details: 150 Spaces Limited

Lunch & Coverage Provided

If you’ve been engaged in this work, or feel like you want to get started please join us on May 23rd for a full day celebration of all things innovative!  Our partners in innovation, like Rotman I-Think, McMaster University and CIBC Service Design, will be joining us to lead sessions on new ways to shift our thinking.  There will be bands, collaborative sculptures, and slam sessions. Attendees will have the opportunity to engage in open space dialogue with other HDSB Innovators. There will even be a chance to share ideas and resources in a Swap Meet format!  

If you are new to Innovation in Halton, don’t let that hold you back!  Come along with a friend to see what Shifting is all about.  May 23rd is being designed for both academic and corporate innovator thinkers!

Register on  PD PLACE opens at NOON on Wed, May 8th to all of HDSB  — spaces are limited, don’t be disappointed!

A confirmation of your registration will be emailed to you with a participant form to submit.

Follow along to find updates on the day on our SHIFT website

The Collaboration Conundrum

Kate Power, Kelly Trdin, Charity Wilkinson and Daniel Lustrinelli are teachers at Dr Frank J. Hayden Secondary School.  They have been interested in creating cross-curricular moments with their students for some time. Recently, they were able to execute their plan.  This is their story.

“Collaboration is not awesome.”

Some variation of this comment is often heard by teachers of all grades and pathways, no matter the subject matter. The fact is that collaboration often gets a bad rep. We’ve all seen the GIFs and memes about it, and the seemingly universal eye roll that teachers face when they announce that the next activity or project will be done in groups. Not necessarily because students do not like to work with each other, but because there is a concern about who they are working with and how the work will be divided. At the same time, it is not going away. Collaboration is an essential transferable skill which will be carried over in our proposed ‘revised learning skills’ and far beyond.

Is it possible to combat this negative perception of collaboration and connect our curriculum in an authentic way? This was the question posed in 2017 by a PD group at Dr Frank J. Hayden Secondary School that focused on making cross-curricular connections to solve the collaboration conundrum.

We knew that we wanted group work to be more successful for our students. We had the right classroom design; our classrooms are set-up to encourage this sort of interaction. Yet, many students still prefer individual activities. Sure, they sit in groups or share Google Docs with each other, but we wondered how often they act as a cohesive unit, each with their own contribution toward a final task or product? What we needed to figure out was how to do more than simply go through the motions of collaboration and really ask our students to “buy-in” to the idea of working together.

Our overarching objectives were to make group work more successful for everyone involved, to provide an opportunity for our students to show that collaboration is worthwhile - and maybe even fun! - and hopefully see some great results in the form of critical thought, problem solving and mentorship. The first step to creating a successful collaborative activity for students actually had nothing to do with the students at all. First, the teachers had to come together. It takes a willing and enthusiastic group of teachers as well as a supportive admin team to make a project like this happen. From the PD group who first brainstormed the idea, to the subject teachers who jumped on board and volunteered their classes to participate, to the admin who approved the ‘in-school’ field trip and admin staff who blocked out time and space for those classes to come together, this was truly a collaborative effort. Not just on a practical level, but because collaboration between teachers is important and necessary as it reinforces the impact of modelling the kind of engagement we ask of, and expect from, our students.The activity we came up with paired students from our grade 10 Civics, grade 12 World Issues and grade 12 Accounting classes. It asked students to consider an authentic scenario geared towards mass transit, sustainability, politics, and money; two commuter communities in Halton connected by one rail line.

The students were placed in groups of 3-4, with at least one student from each subject per group and were given two full class periods over the course of one morning to decide on the impact (both positive and negative, and on a variety of different factors/criteria) that moving forward with this proposal would have. From there, they were on their own. They had to assume roles (financial analysts, urban planners, city councillors, etc.), and work together to determine the solution that would work best for all interested stakeholders. At the end of the morning, they were asked to upload a final product to the activity’s Google Classroom that summarized their research and showcased their final decision on the proposal, as well as to reflect on their experience.

The activity was not only created to connect students from different curriculum areas, but also to connect students from different grades and pathways. It was designed as a way to both assess our students ability to collaborate and their ability to solve a problem based on their previous learning.

So, how did it go?

It was, in a word, awesome. Over the course of the morning, the students took a little time to get comfortable with each other, no different than any adult does when working in a new group. Each student assumed their positions in the group based on their class and documented their roles, goals, and ultimate  ‘End Game’. We were really impressed with many of our grade 12s who took initiative to lead the group and help their grade 10 colleagues complete the activity, but our grade 10s were not passive participants by any means. They applied their knowledge and made connections to their previous learning while making a significant contribution to their group’s goals and the creation of the final product. All of this without the motivation of marks and very little instruction about the final product.

Was it perfect?

No. This being the first time we have run an activity like this in the school, there were some items to change next time such as forgotten Chromebook carts and mixing and matching groups on the fly. The students were great and just rolled with it.

In the end, the students made the morning. They were willing and engaged collaborators. One of the great student responses reflects this:
“I applied the concepts from world issues by incorporating local concerns like rail taking up housing space, and bigger issues such as emission efficiency. From a world issues perspective, it is important to consider all factors and stakeholders, such as demographics and sustainability. In order to accomplish my goals, I had to search up other sources to gain ideas on sustainable practices. On the VIA Rail site, there were many environmental proposals that were also realistic for trains. Another source that I used was Google Maps. Google Maps helps with the route and seeing exactly what we would be affecting like farming areas and subdivisions. As far as the other courses, I recognized that there are many aspects of a financial budget such as coverage, labour and materials. Also, by working with the civics class, I was reminded of the members in government and their roles, as well as the values of different parties.”

The overall take away, from both the teachers and students who participated, at the end of the morning?

Collaboration is awesome.

If you want more ideas on collaborative learning, click this link.
Diving Deep
Day two of deeper learning had participants tackling the true essence of the name of this conference: diving deep into learning. The sessions today were not one or two hour sessions, rather a deep dive into one idea for 6 hours. Funny enough, those six hours flew by as we were led through a series of activities crafted around the design thinking process.

The session we attended today, hosted by representatives from School Retool, was called “Empathy-based hacking for school-wide transformation”. Our session was facilitated by Jason Strong, Cassandra Thonstad and Marthaa Torres. As a starting point, we discussed insights learned from Shadow A Student challenge. In Halton, we had completed our version of this challenge and were able to bring our reflections to the table. This was the starting point: empathize with our students.
Putting aspirations down on paper  

From Aspirations to Small Hacks

We then talked, in groups of two, about our passions, our struggles and our own individual visions for how school can be different. This was a big challenge, as we were asked to speak to our partners for four minutes without interruption. Talk about taking a risk and being vulnerable! Four minutes feels like a eternity when you are putting your own beliefs out on the table. Immediately after those four minutes, our partner responded with the ultimate act of validation and active listening, by repeating, re-interpreting and summarizing what you had just said in those rambling four minutes. We capped this off by putting our ideas back into our own words - in 8 minutes, starting from rambling 4 minute visions and ending with a more cohesive idea.

Last task before lunch, we chose one of the Deeper Learning Big ideas. These were curated list by School Retool of the major strategies for engaging deeper learning, coming from the Stanford D.School, IDEO, School Retool, Big Picture Learning, Envision Schools, High Tech HIgh, among others..

After a lunch break we came to the bread and butter of this session, finding a way to implement change in our own buildings. Too often, when thinking about change, we aim to high and go too big. If we try to change too much, too fast, we run the risk of alienating the stakeholders that we need to work with. School Retool works around the idea of hacks, small changes that can lead to big transformations. We had already done the hard work by talking about our aspirations and big ideas. Now it was time to brainstorm, quickly and without pausing to think, any small change that might help us realize our goals.

The philosophy behind “The Hack” is simple. Act quickly, don’t overthink it. Be prepared and willing to fail as any failure is an opportunity to learn. Finally, start small with a short timeline. Extremely short, like actionable starting TOMORROW. By bringing change to the level of a small, scrappy experiment, it allows for you try something new without having to reinvent your entire school After brainstorming it was time to prototype. Individuals created their hack, bringing the brainstorming to life. Throughout this lengthy process, High Tech High students were made available to offer feedback on our prototypes. This created a wonderful iterative process and gave the teachers in the room a real working example of how students can be asked to prototype their own projects.

What was truly amazing about the day was how 1000+ educators could come together and create an exhibition of their own work. After six hours of deep diving our thinking was on full display, for everyone to view, comment on and ask questions about. And the spirit of sharing was contagious. Regardless of which session each person attended, they were able to speak about their own individual thinking as if they were a well polished expert.

So, after day two, not only did we learn about a model to facilitate small changes that can lead to big transformations, we left the conference armed with something we can implement tomorrow!