On Friday, 60 educators and a group of mentors and our leadership team convened at Georgia Tech's Student Success Center to spend two days strengthening our design thinking skills, going deeper into our individual school challenge work, learning how to better share and tell our stories (successes and failures!), creating next stage action plans, and presenting our results to date. Scott Sanchez opened the summit with a reminder of how hard innovation is, how important it is, and why design thinking helps us innovate. Friday's agenda was dedicated to a new design thinking exercise ("Design a Chair for one of the Simpson characters"), 5-10 minute team shares of "where are we," heavily facilitated/mentored team time, and storytelling training.
In the design thinking exercise, each team was assigned one of the Simpson characters and given a brief summary of that character's general personality, interests, and behaviors. The challenge was to rapidly design a chair for this character, beginning first with the challenge to sketch the chair. The exercise built through multiple iterations, each time with a new material/form: sketch, cardboard, pipe cleaners, toothpicks, and modeling clay. After each iteration, we would share some team examples. It was fascinating to observe the challenge of the various material constraints, and in particular how teams differed in their material preferences--some loved the modeling clay, most hated the toothpicks, others were really successful with the pipe cleaners. As we reflected on this exercise, we uncovered (and Scott empathized ) that as more constraints are added the more creativity emerges. It forces you to think differently. However, you can't start with too many constraints. It's a process of "flaring" (less constraints) then "narrowing" (more constraints). So why did we build the chairs with different materials as we iterated? The work is harder as you simplify the materials, and it is intentionally designed to help us focus on what matters most.
Following the refresher, each o f the 11 teams was given 5 minutes to share out their prepared narrative on their work since the fall and their goals for the two-day summit. Every school is in a different place: Some aligned with a specific strategic initiative/need and are using the design thinking process to advance those initiatives quickly but with great insights and prototypes. Others are just beginning and gaining important cultural insights that are informing their approaches. The range of projects is wide, but each is clearly going to impact the student experience and the learning communities at each school. The tweets below are a bit of a "teaser" of the work that will continue Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.
Before breaking for lunch and an afternoon of time for teams to work together and to get feedback from other teams, Scott took us all through a Story Tell training session. The goal here is to plant seeds for tomorrow's culminating presentation and to give teams some tools that will be applicable back in their schools: in classrooms, the board room, and parent night. Teams did three rounds of collaborative storytelling, and Scott provided a robust d.global overview of the important steps to a compelling story.
The afternoon was completely dedicated to coveted time for teams to work on their challenges, get feedback from another team, and then finish out the day in preparation for Saturday's work and final presentations. It was a great first day. Tons of energy, lots of learning, and enthusiasm for the work ahead!
This blog captures the spirit of the Atlanta K12 Design Challenge: a community of voices joined together to create something new. We welcome the broader community to engage with us here as we reflect on our journey together.