Demonstrating leadership in the classroom

Technology and new societal hierarchies are changing the demands on teachers and thus the opportunities for and style in which teachers should demonstrate leadership. Expectations on young people have also developed as the world evolves increasingly quickly. I wonder how many CEOs are now below the age of 25? It’s now less about displaying mastery over content and skills and more about demonstrating successful leadership by nurturing a creative and challenging classroom environment.

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Author: Richard Wells
Teaches grade 6 to 12 – Head of Technology at NZ High School
Top 40 in edublog awards 2013
Top 12 Blogger – The Global Search for Education
Known for Educational Infographics (see Posters above)
Presenter and also a father to 2 beautiful girls. Twitter :  @iPadwells

This post is written as part of The Huffington Post’s The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edu-bloggers.

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I have just read an excellent article in Time magazine by Julie Lythcott-Haims, where she summarises her book about the growing dependency children have on their parents. She explains how middle-class parenting, in particular, has developed in such a way it helps foster this dependency. Julie highlights that children increasingly expect to be fully catered for in any event or situation. To quote Julie: “We have to deliberately put opportunities for independence in our kids’ way.” This problem often gets discussed at my school in regard to students’ lack of initiative in the classroom but I can’t help but argue that the traditional classroom fosters just the same level of dependency.

Demonstrating leadership whilst not fostering dependency

student teams02In a classroom where every child carries out the same task for the same outcome, the temptation is to lead by command and control. After all, everyone has to tow the same line. The underlying issue in this context is that every student is dependent on the teacher for every step of the task. “Turn to page 52,” “Answer questions 5 to 10,” “Draw a mind-map of …” In these situations, a student’s need for initiative and decision-making is limited to the tight confines of the page, question or requested specific output.

Like anything, humans learn best through experience and this includes leadership. To demonstrate the more modern requirements for transformative leadership, teachers need to show mastery for adapting, evaluating learning goals and building productive working structures. These need to be open enough to let the students take control over the environment where true experience is gained in managing time, information, decision-making and social interactions. This has had very positive outcomes in my school where it seems self-respect has developed and the extra ownership over the work improves attitude and productivity.

Design-Thinking-iPadWellsSince opening up my classroom to structures like Project-based learning or Design Thinking exercises, I have seen what student leadership looks like. When it’s normal for students to be dealing with self-expression, task management and working relationships, it will amaze teachers as to what young people are capable of. Regardless of teaching model, the basics of: set negotiated goals, offer working structures; expect collaboration and let the students drive, are much more likely to develop the leaders of tomorrow.

This is important as the problems these young people will face are likely to require a more collaborative and global style of leadership. In my classroom, the quality of output but more importantly, the level of understanding and ability to lead a scenario have never been better.

Design Thinking with iPads

Design thinking is a powerful tool to really get your students thinking about and tackling a problem or topic at a much deeper level. It is a structured task that focuses on giving considerable time to thinking about and empathising with the people within the situation (Target audience or client), designing and prototyping a possible solution that is immediately challenged in order to improve it. It is used much in business and the design industry but can be used as a general classroom task within any subject area. It also gets students to work quickly without much introduction.

Design thinking promotes creative thinking, team work, and student responsibility for learning.

Design-Thinking-iPadWells

It is a form of solution-based, or solution-focused thinking; starting with a goal (a better future situation) instead of solving a specific problem. This keeps minds open to multiple solutions.

The core rules behind Design Thinking:

  1. The Human Rule: All Design Activity Is Ultimately Social in Nature
  2. The Ambiguity Rule: Design Thinkers Must Preserve Ambiguity
  3. The Re-design Rule: All Design Is Re-design
  4. The Tangibility Rule: Making Ideas Tangible Always Facilitates Communication

The infographic / poster above is a guide to a simplified version you can use in your classroom. This version can be carried out in an hour, over a week, or even longer.

This versions splits the task into 5 key stages. It’s good to set fixed time frames for each of these stages and for their sub stages.

1. Goal Setting (Whole Class)

How Might WeHOW MIGHT WE DESIGN / ACTION WHAT AND FOR WHOM IN ORDER TO CHANGE SOMETHING?

The first stage is to devise an atoll goal to improve something. This is best started with 3 key words: “How might we …” Starting this way can have a powerful effect on successful classroom engagement. “How” is a word that has a bias towards action. It implied the something is to be done. “Might” acts as a safety blanket as it offers the students the freedom to fail. This ensures tham more are likely to give it a go. “We” pushes the collective responsibility and collaborative aspect meaning nobody will be alone. It also removes the classroom hierarchy, bringing the teacher onto the same level as learner alongside the students.

During this goal setting stage it is important to select as a class:

  • WHAT” = An object – E.g. App, Gadget, Speech, Toy, Campaign, Website etc.
  • WHOM” = A Specific Client/target – E.g playground users, garbage droppers etc.
  • CHANGE” = A better world – E.g. Target result, Improved situation,

Examples:

As an extra idea, I have considered it even as a fun theoretical teaching task such as:

  • How might an iPad app have helped George Washington win the War of independence in half the time?

There’s nothing to stop posting up a number of big ideas or challenges for teams to pick from but ensure the students have been part of formulating them.

2. Thinking – Individual then Group

Think DTDecide on an amount of time that students will individually think around the topic. This personal thinking space is important for letting quiet, reflective and deeper thinking take place to start the process off. This might only be 5 or 10 minutes but means more will come to the table when the group starts discussions.

The individual thoughts are then brought to the group. I recommend groups of 3 or 4 as bigger than this can become less manageable for the students.
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3. Empathise

a) Facts  b) Opinions  c) Interactions

EmpathiseThis is the crucial stage where considering the people and situation that the solution will be dealing with is broken down into 3 stages to help the students allow for as fuller picture as possible. These 3 stages might take anything from 10 to 30 minutes.

  • First the Profile the target as a list of facts. What do they do? What do they have? What are we dealing with physically?
  • Second they imagine or research all the typical opinions and feelings that the solution will have to allow for.
  • Thirdly they consider all the connections within the situation. Who talks to who? Who shares things with who? Who or what competing with what or who?

By the end of this stage, the students will have done far more genuine thinking about the situation than they might have done if asked to just “research the situation.”

4. Solution Design – “Ideate”

ideateA minimum of 20 minutes is now needed for the group to dream up a solution. The important emphasis here is that no idea should be squashed too quickly. Let the students dream up ideas that may or may not be possible and allow the discussion and challenge evolve. The point of this whole process is for all possibilities to surface and be challenged. Sometimes the craziest idea can lead to successful divergent solutions.

App and gadget design can be applied to most situations and the fact that the students may or may not be able to make the final product should’t matter and allows them to focus on the needs that the product meets.
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5. Prototype Critique – Feedback & Improve

PrototypeThis stage simultaneously develops multiple skills whilst also encouraging a more optimistic growth-mindset as teams present and challenge each other. The emphasis here must be on growing ideas and not judgements. One thing I would highlight to students is that designers and problem solvers always seek advice and feedback and so can use and appreciate anything that gets fed back to them.

Even after good thinking and empathising stages, there’s always a number of “what ifs” that any team will not have thought of. This also highlights to all students that there’s always another view and this feedback loop is key to any significant success that will last. Just keep asking why? why? why?

 

Which apps help with Design Thinking?

Essentially, the apps that help design thinking are those that allow students to collaborate around their ideas and  creative output. Here’s a few to help.

post-itSecrative can be used to canvas the class for foreseen problems to be solved and once target problems are chosen, it can then ask students to submit How might we… questions to frame the task around.

Nearpod can also be used to collate the class ideas for problems.

Post-It Plus amazingly allows an individual’s real Post-its be captured by camera and shared as digital post-its with the group. You can even edit the digital copies!
Here’s a review.

Drawp is another great collaborative system and app for class activities.

Talkboard is an instant and free collaborative drawing board for the group to scribble down ideas on. Might need a stylus to get the best from this.

Prezzi can be used to present a plan.

 

Design Think Links and Info

NoTosh are a key organisation pushing Design Thinking in education. Great info and resources.

Stanford Uni have produced a whole crash course in Design Thinking!

 

 

Project Based Learning with iPads

projectKidsBringing learning to life – Bringing Life to learning!

To start with, I think Project-based learning is the future of education. It puts students into real situations where they have to:

  1. Act professionally
  2. be a team player
  3. understand their assigned role
  4. Stick to deadlines as a team
  5. Problem solve
  6. Project manage
  7. Communicate ideas

… I could go on for a while here!

Photo by USdagov

These are the skills the world,  employers, charities and universities are crying out for, far more than any specific content schools might have traditionally taught. The world is changing too quickly to be concerned with static content and these general skills that enhance one’s ability to learn new things quickly will be key to success in this century.

Fortunately, I don’t have to cover PBL in much detail as there are a number of sites and Youtube channels that do it brilliantly, especially EDUTOPIA and BIE.

Here’s Edutopia’s introduction:

Just one Important distinction!

Project-based learning is not ‘doing projects’. PBL is student-driven and specifically open to interpretation to ensure students learn through carrying out a project and not doing a project pre-designed by the teacher. They are driven to answer a ‘big’ question and carry out their inquiry and design in teams. They are also under pressure to present their results to a third party of some kind. The students decide on how to achieve the goals and are not carrying out teacher-designed tasks.

PBL APPS (version 1)

Here’s my quick representation of PBL by iPad App. The process is not necessary linear but the apps might help you start various stages and help students and teachers understand the task at hand.

i4S PBL Apps

Learning with iPad? Use the News!

Can any day’s world events or featured articles be tied to all learning objectives and make learning more meaningful?

One good use of student iPads is to appreciate that all creative output that comes from the device can feed directly from real-world stories, delivered by the various news apps. There should be one of any day’s events, stories or features that connects to a learning objective in any subject area.

The iPad can be used to produce media products or documents that cover how the story connects with the learning objectives in question. Appropriate news apps for your country or even local area can be used by the students to make learning more real and tangible.

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Connect the learning to the story. It’s just a matter of asking the right question. 

How does the story:

  1. relate to current immigration issues?
  2. prove or disprove the wave equation?
  3. parallel the mindset of Macbeth in act I Scene V?
  4. show that humans need to change their approach to politics?
  5. indicate that health problems are linked to religion in more than one country?

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These are just some examples (from the top of my head) but given that the news apps divide stories and features into categories, teachers should always be able to find something appropriate and design decent projects from it. It doesn’t have to be that exact day. Anything from the last week will still feature in the apps and offer a range of opportunities.  Connecting topics to real-world stories often humanises the context and engages students through an emotive connection. Studying weather patterns is one thing but connecting it to the effects of 8 million people loosing power after hurricane Sandy is quite a lot more powerful, especially if you demand solutions to their problems!

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Fixed content - irrelevant?This approach to learning does go hand-in-hand with project-based learning and does not fit well with the more common approach of one-size-fits-all topic by topic approach (fixed curriculum factory schooling – see right). This is precisely why I encourage it. 21st Century learning, if it is to be engaging and successful (long-term) must appear relevant in today’s world. Separate from what school offers, information is delivered to students too easily and quickly for schools not to connect it to bigger learning objectives and discuss it’s meaning and impact.

Getting Started

Technical issue 1: The news apps don’t often allow for the saving of images or the highlighting of text.

Solution: Use the 2-button (Home+off) screenshot to grab content from the screen and crop using the photos app. These can then be entered into any iMovie project / keynote or in fact any app.

Solution 2: Many allow sharing through email. This will give you the website link and you can grab content using Safari with the normal copy-paste.

Remember copyright and kids should attribute their sources when using the material.

Technical issue 2: Which apps?

To save me a lot of time, here’s a good list but I would add 4 things:

  1. The Guardian Eyewitness app
  2. The Boston Globe Big Picture app (now US only?)
  3. Summly app (quick story summarizing – great for kids)
  4. BBC News App (might be the best one)
  5. Look for your local TV news channel, it might have an app that covers more local stories.

Technical / teaching benefit: Safe surfing
Using the News Apps gives you a simple internet filter and is safer for younger students over general internet surfing

Conclusion

Make want to teach relevant to today’s world because it is and always will be. Humans will always be human and so everything you want to teach still has relevance even if it’s to discuss the stark difference between ‘then’ and now. Make the students think and make connections, hopefully while tackling problems that have a real purpose.