I wrote this piece as part of strategic planning for a school that wishes to transform teaching and learning for their learners. I used the Stanford dSchool design thinking process, combined with a thorough stakeholder analysis. When it came time to prototype, we decided writing a narrative would be most effective. To test, we plan to share the narrative with stakeholder groups, to build excitement around a shared vision. This narrative is of a student in their 9th and final year at the school for 5-14 year olds. Our next steps will be to write about a day in the life of a 3-5 year student, and finally a 1-2 year student. It will be important to show how we will gradually develop the level of self direction and learner agency that is exhibited in this student in her final year at the school.
A Day in a life of an ABC Academy Learner
Jessie rose to the sound of her alarm going off at 5:30 am. This early rising gave her time for morning Yoga class via Google Hangout with a group of her classmates. She loved that she was able to get her PE credit this way! Karen, a 7th year student at the school, received her certification to teach Yoga through a previous PBL unit that was completed by learners interested in health and fitness careers. She was the Yoga instructor, and she utilized a tool called Swivl to keep the iPad camera pointed at her as she moves about the room. This morning, in addition to the regular kids attending, Jack decided to pop in to give Yoga a try. One of his PBL units involves working with a group of mobility challenged senior citizens, and he is trying to find solutions to help them maintain flexibility so they have an easier time standing, walking and moving. Jessie wanted to laugh at Jack’s obvious lack of coordination and balance, but out of respect for her friend leading the class and others in the Hangout, she kept it to herself, remembering how she struggled when she first started the class. One thing their group had learned through the six years at the ABC Academy was the importance of being good citizens -both face-to-face and digitally.
Once Yoga class ended, Jessie texted Jack to let him know she thought he did great for his first time out, and asked if they could meet over lunch to come up with an outline for their presentation later that week to the school board. They were both working on a project with several other students to present research on the impact on blended and personalized learning to the board on behalf of the principal. All learners in the school are expected to present to authentic audiences throughout the year, and Jessie and Jack had selected this project for the opportunity to share their voice and thinking with the school board about how this model of learning has inspired them to learn things they didn’t think were possible. They wanted to be able to help some of their friends in more traditional schools to perhaps have access to this model of education in their schools one day.
Jessie quickly showered and dressed, then checked her calendar and messages in the LMS to start prioritizing her tasks for the day. She noted that an algebra test was coming up in two days, and her group’s project design for the culminating activity in algebra was due by the end of the week. The task was to come up with a project to improve the Innovation Center grounds that required the use of the Algebra concepts they’d been learning to complete the task. For this she was partnering with Angela, who had some really cool design ideas, and also Breanne, who was just a math nerd at heart. Justin joined their group reluctantly, as the only boy, but he was really good at math and so the girls were happy to have him. He volunteered to serve as the engineer. Jessie sent a calendar invite to Angela, Justin and Breanne for later that afternoon to meet at the Innovation Center and work on their project design. She decided to make it a 2 hour meeting, so hopefully they could get the initial design drafted and schedule their conference with their teacher a day early. Jessie was trying to keep her calendar clear for Friday, so she could do some job shadowing at the new science center downtown.
Jessie began viewing the instructional videos and working some math problems in the LMS to prepare for the test. After 60 minutes, she was tired of drilling on the math problems, and was feeling reasonably confident in her ability to complete the test successfully, so she decided to jump into the Science Forums and see what her friends were chatting about. She brought up her Voxer walkie-talkie app on her phone, and navigated to the curated collection on “Fibonacci in Nature” in Google Collections. Then she remembered her Mom had to go into the office that day, so before diving into those posts, she ordered an Uber ride for 11:30 to get her to Chick Fil A to meet Jack for their planning meeting. They had special access in the Uber app to parent and community volunteers who helped shuttle students too young to drive to meet-ups for school projects. Jack’s Mom would be able to drive her to the Innovation Center after lunch.
Jessie began playing through the voice messages that corresponded with each of the pictures posted in Google Collections and realized that this was all giving her an idea to for her math project. What if..they applied the Fibonacci pattern to their design –whatever that turned out to be? She was excited to be able to share this idea with her project team later that afternoon.
Time passed quickly as she listened to the ideas and insights her classmates were sharing, and before she knew it her ride pulled up in front of her house for her lunch project meeting with Jack. When she arrived at Chick-fil-A she wasn’t surprised to see several other project teams from her school meeting at their favorite lunch hang out. This business partnered with the school district to offer nutritious meals at a cost equivalent to what most kids paid for a school lunch in a traditional school. It was one of many community partners who also provided minimum wage jobs and on-the-job business training to district learners who were 16 or older. Jessie’s older sister, Marla, had worked here before she graduated. Jessie and Jack hopped on the wireless network – certified as safe by the school district – and pulled up their Slides app. They built their outline as their teacher, Mrs. Brown had modeled for them, putting each of the main points on a separate slide. As they were working, they saw a comment pop up from Mrs. Brown, reminding them to be certain to cite their sources and mention the research base to their ideas when they did their presentation for the board. Jack rolled his eyes when he saw this, remembering that he lost some points on his last presentation for not including the bibliography. Jessie offered to set up a citation page in G Drive that they could embed in the last slide, and Jack thanked her profusely. They finished in under an hour, and Jack’s Mom came to get them, then dropped them off at the Innovation Center for their tutoring sessions, and project management conferences.
Jack took off running when he saw his buddy Steve, and Jessie stopped just outside to survey the grounds. She had an idea brewing from her earlier work on the curating project of Fibonacci in Nature, and wanted to see where her idea might best be implemented – maybe in the form of a flower garden? She wasn’t sure, but was excited to share her idea with the project team. She entered the building and headed for the center study pit- the one her team always tried to reserve because of the great view. She found Justin, Angela, and Breanne finishing up their brown-bag lunches and already chatting about their project. As project manager, she slipped onto the Hokki stool near the whiteboard and, as any 13 year old girl might do, picked up the hot pink dry erase marker and drew a giant flower. She smiled broadly and put her hands on her hips, looking at the group with satisfaction. Her team stopped talking and looked at her with puzzled looks on their faces. Justin groaned. He said, “Come on, Jess-we really want to build a basketball court on the south side of the building. You aren’t thinking of hijacking our idea, are you?” Jessie considered this for a moment, then remembered the Design Thinking process they’d been taught and decided that might be the best process to use. She picked up the blue marker and drew 5 circles then wrote inside each one: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test. She then reminded them of the data they’d gathered from students and teachers at the center, which indicated their wants and needs in terms of a physical improvement to the grounds. This was how they addressed the empathy step in the design thinking process. Together, they reviewed the survey responses as they sought to identify the problem. They learned that neither basketball court nor flower garden were what the community wanted. However, many had expressed a desire to move towards more healthy meals being offered in the center. As they began to ideate around this concept, Jessie shared her idea for using a design that included the Fibonacci sequence, and the team easily was able to narrow down the project list to one: creating not a flower garden, but instead a vegetable garden that could provide fresh vegetables for school meals. Angela captured their problem identification and ideation in a MindMap in Google Drawing, which she dropped in the assignment folder in the LMS. Their lead teacher, Mrs. Monroe, stopped by as they were finishing, and they brought her up to date on their ideas. They were able to schedule their conference with her a day early, just as Jessie hoped. With the early conference scheduled, the group decided to meet again the same time the next day to do the prototyping.
Jess glanced at her email and task list. After catching up on her reading for social studies class, she had just one more thing to accomplish for the day, and that was writing in her reflection blog about the day’s tasks. She found a comfortable quiet spot in the writing zone near an outlet, plugged in and fired up her laptop. She pulled up her techbook and found her spot, then opened the group notes for the class and did a quick scan. Karen was in her social studies group, and she had already dropped some notes and questions in the doc. Jess put on her headset and started reading, pausing to play the multimedia videos and quizzes. She navigated back to her notes doc and added some of her own thoughts, connections and questions. They were studying the social reform issues of the late 19th century, and she was starting to see a lot of connections with issues in her community today. She was excited to share some of this thinking in her blog. She had learned that with the blog she could write the way that she thinks, and she enjoyed the freestyle flow of ideas that often evolved. Plus, her teacher had connected her blog with several other students and retired teachers who always gave her good feedback and helped her develop her ideas further.
Jess finished up the last quiz then shifted gears and pulled up her reflection blog. She was really happy to find some comments on her last post, about her experience in her last job shadowing experience at the science center. The comment was from her old science teacher, who had retired 2 years ago. She wanted to know if Jessie had been able to use use any of her physical science knowledge when working in the exploratory laboratory with the younger kids visiting. Jess responded to her question, then settled in to write about her learning and accomplishments for the day.
Before she knew it, it was 4:00 and Jessie’s Mom was pulling up to the curb to take her to piano lessons on the best electric piano. Jessie smiled, happy with her accomplishments for the day. She was looking forward to some work on her Minecraft city when she got home, as well as doing some reading in the new novel she picked up at the library. She opened the car door, and her Mom asked “How was your day?” Jessie replied, “Busy! Really good- you should read my blog post!” Just then Jessie’s phone buzzed alerting her to a new text. Her Mom smiled, seeing that her daughter would be focusing on her friends now, but happy to have the reflection blog to fill her in on all of the learning her daughter was engaged in. Simultaneously, Mom and daughter had the same thought. This school was the best thing that ever happened for Jessie.