Monday, June 30, 2014

We were very happy to work with the YMCA childcare staff doing some Design Thinking together! 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Vision For Wholemindesign Studio Work
Designing as an act of empowerment:  re-imagining professional development for educators

What if…
Teachers are empowered to become designers within their own practice
instead of simply trained to be presenters of content?
What if...
Educational systems acknowledged the individuality, humanity, and artistry within education more fully,
instead of seeking more ways to standardize teaching and learning?
What if...
Professional development  meant working collaboratively within on-going cycles of creation, reflection, and revision,
Instead of being left on one’s own, without needed support to launch and    develop new ideas?

As educators we value the uniqueness of every student, and know that the best learning occurs when teachers and students are in collaborative, supportive relationships with one another.  We also recognize that deep understanding is best achieved when learners can develop and practice new ideas and skills over time, and in an authentic manner.   
When it comes to TEACHERs as learners, however, the opposite is often true.  Professional development is sometimes done “to” educators rather than “with” them, and lacks the necessary frameworks to translate new learning into action and deepen a teacher’s capacities.  Instead of feeling embedded in “instructional relationships characterized by trust and mutual respect” , educators are too often isolated, feeling overwhelmed with the challenge of trying to make sense of a fragmented practice.  

At Wholemindesign we recognize the urgent need to support and nurture the learning process of practicing teachers, so we are asking ourselves:

  • How might we reimagine professional development that empowers educators to design authentic solutions to the unique challenges within their practice?
  • How can we develop an on-going collaborative community of highly motivated, innovative, reflective, educators who value career-long professional growth?
  • How can we create an environment that feeds the “whole teacher” by attending to his personal well-being, and refueling her capacity to create healthy and joyous learning environments for students.

Our answer:

Create a design studio for teachers

What we mean by “studio”
A studio is a place of inquiry where artists and designers prepare for the experience of public performance - a place of rehearsing, making and doing, tinkering, playing, experimenting, and prototyping.  A studio is a place for individual as well as collaborative experiences.  It is a space to exhibit one’s work-in-progress, get informal and formal feedback, and embrace risk-taking as a step toward developing creative confidence.  It is an environment designed  for “dynamic cross-pollination and cultured spontaneity”.  A studio should function as both a sanctuary and proving ground, protecting and cultivating seedling ideas as they mature, but also challenging one to vigorously wrestle with assumptions and limitations.  A studio’s ultimate purpose is to create supporting structures that lead to successful professional practice.

Who comes to the studio
We invite self-motivated educators across disciplines and contexts who want to participate in developing an ecosystem of practitioners devoted to reinvigorating and sustaining the health of their practice, their colleagues’ practices, as well as our profession.  Our studio is a de-institutionalized, hierarchy- flattening, multi-directional environment for any educator seeking out resources and community to move their practice forward.

What happens at the studio
We offer a variety of robust studio experiences intended to position educators as vanguards in their schools.  By working at the forefront of our profession with the most innovative ideas and practices emerging from research in the field, we aim to provide educators with useful tools to help them function as designers within their practice.  In addition to learning new tools, educators will be encouraged to develop the habits of mind necessary for creative work: resilience, perseverance, flexibility, observation, playfulness, patience, and willingness to take risks.   

Most studio experiences will be offered for graduate and/or professional development credit (SCECHS).  Below is a sample of the kinds of ideas we will explore:

  • Educators as Designers: In this studio experience novice through expert K-12 teachers, principals, and administrators from a variety of school systems learn the design thinking process as one tool for functioning as a designer and innovator within their own practices.  
  • Designing for Deep Thinking:  The text, Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhart and Mark Church will serve as the centerpiece for this studio experience.   The thinking routines set forth in this book will be the basis of our work together, and educators will use their classrooms as a laboratory to explore these ideas with students.   
  • Designing for Creativity:  The Power of Learning In-And-Through the Arts:  This studio experience is for educators interested in exploring frameworks for integrating art and creative thinking into the content areas of language arts, social studies, math, and science.  
  • Why Wait to Innovate: These studio experiences are opportunities to learn about innovative work being done in the field of education.  Guest contributors will be invited to share their work in the form of lectures, presentations, panel discussions, exhibitions, etc.  These experiences may last an hour or perhaps a day, depending on the individual contributors.  

Each of the above experiences will occur in a yearly cycle of four iterations described below (with the exception of the Why Wait To Innovate Series):

  1. Exploration:  Participants begin their studio experience by exploring  one of the topics from above (for example Educators as Designers, Designing for Deep Thinking, or Designing for Creativity). The length of time for this stage will vary depending on the particular topic.  Participants then articulate a challenge/opportunity in their practice where they can apply the new ideas and strategies to their own work as an educator.
  2. Experimentation: Participants experiment with ideas in their own setting using a prototype/feedback model.  They are encouraged to fail early and often to succeed sooner  as they work on their own design challenge.   Educators then return to the studio and “gallery walk” their work-in-progress in order to give and get feedback from one another, and gain inspiration to further develop their work.  
  3. Expeditions: participants engage in site visits and use on-line tools to build on-going connections with each other.  This is a time where educators can thoughtfully observe one another at work, collaborate, find support, ask and answer questions, and seek to understand someone else’s practice from the inside out.  This stage of the cycle has multiple goals - to enable educators to step outside of their “silos” as an antidote to isolation, to build on-going relationships and supportive networks between practitioners, and to develop empathy for one another.
  4. Exhibitions: The last stage in the studio cycle is an exhibition of artifacts from the field that make the work on their challenge visible to others.  The participant chooses the form that s/he wants to use to highlight struggles and accomplishments across the year such as pictures, narratives, videos, testimonials etc.  During this time we celebrate both incremental as well as monumental achievements, and honor the processes and products of our creativity.

Course offering
(each course would likely be composed of different sets of individuals)
(typically occurs in summer for 2-3 consecutive days, or during school breaks)
(typically occurs in fall/early winter on a weekend day or weekday evening(s)
(typically occurs in mid to late winter -  date/time/and extent depends on participants’ schedules)
(typically in spring or early summer on a weekend day or weekday evening (s)
Educators as Designers cycle
Designing for Deep Thinking cycle
Designing for Creativity cycle

The above reflects a small portion of the kind of work we intend for our studio.  Our model for growth includes designing further learning opportunities around compelling and promising ideas arising in the field of education.  We are open to receiving proposals from other educators who have initiatives they would like to pursue within our studio model of professional development.  

Location of the studio
The natural setting of the Wholemindesign Studio for Teaching and Learning is essential to our mission.  

Research has proven that a natural environment heightens concentration, directs attention, and has significant stress-reducing benefits.  Additionally, our natural setting is designed to help participants release feelings of fragmentation and disconnection as a step toward building cohesion in their professional lives.  
We want our participants to be surrounded with external reminders of the aesthetic we strive to achieve within our practice  - deep roots of understanding,  appreciation for the diversity of thinking, and a recognition of the beautiful relationship between form and function.  

Melanie Kahl and Steve Turckes from the Chicago architectural firm Perkins and Will say studio work is “...a beautiful collection of tensions. There is a constant pull between thinking and doing, the collective and individual...problems and solutions, artistry and engineering. At the heart of this lies creativity.”

Creativity is central to our work at Wholemindesign.  We have developed a model for professional development that empowers educators to function as designers and take action within their own practice.  Our studio creates opportunities for teachers and administrators across disciplines and contexts to step outside of their usual roles and participate in non-institutional, radical collaborations as a pathway for innovation and professional growth.   Our community of highly-motivated, engaged, reflective practitioners shares a commitment to thinking deeply about our work, and values being in sustained conversation with others about the power of education to transform lives.  We are professionals who see ourselves as engineers and artists in our classrooms, and continually strive to bring out the beauty of teaching and learning in the lives of our students.

Katrin Oddleifson Robertson
Diane Tamblyn

Thursday, February 27, 2014 is a great resource for manifestos from interesting people - their mission is to spread good ideas - here is one (of many!) that I like.

How To Be Creative - a manifesto

Monday, February 10, 2014

Have we crossed into new territory!  When colleges and universities begin focusing on certain content, K-12 educators tend to respond.  Let's hope this signals a change in how we prepare students for college Creativity as an Academic DisciplineStay tuned for Wholemindesign's "Why Wait To Innovate" series.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Check out our work with the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business! 

Images from Wholemindesign's work with Ross School of Business