Friday, March 4, 2016

Culture By Design

Culture by Design at SXSWEdu - 3.7.16 

Design thinking has almost become a buzzword in progressive education, but what does ‘design’ as a manifesto actually benefit the culture and practice of educators? How does people-centered problem solving work out in the professional development of a staff? What role does design thinking play in brand strategy and strategic planning for schools? 

At SXSWEdu I'll be presenting with two of my #dtk12chat friends on a panel about using design to build school culture. Over the last seven years I've been a part of schools that have embraced people-centered problem solving and specifically design thinking practices to identify and solve school problems, innovate and grow new ideas and engage learners in ways that create student agency. At my current school, Holy Family Academy, where I am Head of School and Chief Learning Officer we have developed the best school schedule to support a culture of design. Students take 80 minute to 2.5 hours core classes such as "Integrated Design Lab," where they identify and solve community social justice problems and have opportunities to do learning walks and field observation/interviews weekly. We have a game design start-up company where students meet 6 hours every Tuesday and use design methods to build their company! Design is also woven into Cultural Literacy class (our joint humanities block) where students recently created persona profiles and stakeholder maps of WPA workers as they read literature and learned about the great depression. Design not only is practiced by students in my school but with the lead learners, the faculty. Our Director of Innovation leads our faculty every Friday morning, every week! Yes, I said every week. Our teachers get 75% percent more time for professional development than the average teacher. While students are off-campus weekly at partner organizations as part of our network campus program, faculty collaborate using design methods within their "teach and lead" sessions. Methods like Rose/Thorn/Bud, creative matrix, walk-a-mile and visualize the vote helps our faculty be a lean, mean and collaborative team! 

As we embark on developing a new strategic plan, design thinking will be the vehicle that drives our approach. Engaging in a series of design planning sessions with students, parents, the Board and our faculty/staff, we plan to create our next three year strategic plan. We envision using this approach of methods from the LUMA Institute System of Innovating for People: 
  1. Whats On Your Radar
  2. Stakeholder Mapping
  3. Persona Profiles (designed in advance to be used at design sessions)
  4. Creative Matrix
  5. Interviews/Learning Walks/Storyboarding 
  6. Visualize the Vote
  7. Bulls-Eye Diagram
  8. Concept Posters
We envision these methods will be used over the course of three months in a very collaborative process where we continue to build the culture of the school. 

Come learn more about how to use design thinking to build culture in schools next week at SXSWEdu. A link to our slides will be posted here as we refine them! We will have a live "tweetup" (#dtSXSWedu) for folks that can't attend in person as well as live prototyping of ideas you might bring back to your school. 

Monday, March 7
5:00PM - 6:00PM
Hilton Austin Downtown Salon G - See more at:

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