EDEx Educators Experience: Culminating Event
EDEx invited guest bloggers from the 2017-2018 EDEx Educators Cohort to share perspectives from our year together. This week’s guest blogger is Brandon Bogumil, Technology Teacher at St. Timothy’s School in Raleigh. Brandon is passionate about design thinking, project-based learning, and technology integration. Learn more about him through his blog and podcasts. Brandon is sharing highlights from our Culminating Event held on May 16, 2018 at The Nest Raleigh. The incredible night featured guest speaker, Sean Maroni, Founder and CEO of Betabox, and celebrated the project work of each EDEx cohort member. Thank you to Annah Riedel for the wonderful photos. Thank you to Sean and The Nest for hosting us! Congratulations again to our EDExers for a fantastic year!
On May 16, fifteen EDEx Educators gathered with friends and colleagues at The Nest to celebrate our work this year to learn about design thinking and incorporate it in our work with students. As I sat there and watched the presentations of the projects the idea of community came up over and over. It is always interesting when a group of teachers share because often common ideas seem to pop up organically.
The space in which we presented was awesome. The Nest is a co-working space located in Downtown Raleigh. Simultaneously, it captures the historic feel of Raleigh with its exposed brick, while also representing Raleigh’s future and emergence as a home to young entrepreneurs. Sean Maroni, the founder of the space, is one of those young entrepreneurs. While at NC State, Sean joined the Entrepreneurship Initiative as an engineering student. He had an idea for a mobile makerspace that turned into Betabox. Betabox visited my school, St. Timothy’s, along with many of the other teacher’s schools in the crowd. In visiting, it helped introduce and develop the idea of Design Thinking to our school communities. We were, and still are, very grateful for all that Sean has done, especially for hosting us at The Nest that evening for our presentations.
The presentations were about different projects the teachers had created this year based around the ideas of Design Thinking. There were a lot of amazing projects and a lot of them empowered students to think like designers by finding and solving problems in their own communities.
Design Thinking is a powerful method of teaching students how to think like designers. Designers are creators. They create solutions, products, and systems. What separates a designer from other creators is their focus on the people at the center of the solution, product, or system. Designers start with empathy.
The teachers in The Nest also started with empathy. They facilitated projects that modeled for the students and guided them toward the power of Design Thinking as a way to change a community for the better.
Thinking back to Hopscotch Design Festival , where we kicked off our year as the inaugural EDEx Educators cohort, one big takeaway was the realization that Designers are constantly making the world around them better in innovative ways. Teaching our students to do the same is a very motivating goal, and Design Thinking is an amazing teaching approach to help sustain that motivation because it fills the creative need.
One of the projects from Michelle Bass, a teacher at Hilburn Academy, taught her students how to hack toys. The students were tasked with hacking the toys to make them accessible to students with special needs in her school. The project’s focus was on the students. It is such a great example of the power of Design Thinking to help strengthen community through problem solving. One of the students who hacked a toy said, “we became more empathetic and learned how to feel for others because we were able to observe kids with special needs and their struggles.” What really strikes me about that statement is how innate the idea of empathy through observation and interaction is in that student’s understanding. He isn’t going to guess what others need. He is going to put in the effort to meet people where they are to identify their struggles.
We met a lot of professional designers throughout our year long cohort, and we were able to reflect that in our teaching practice. When I hear about Michelle’s project, and how the student reflected on his work, I see a person with the same designer mindset as those professionals. It is truly inspiring to reflect on the work we do with our students, and the power we have in shaping them. It is scary, but it is also exciting, to think that we have the ability to prepare them for an unknown future. But, we have ideas like Design Thinking to help us better mold those students.
I am sure I speak for the whole cohort when I say a big THANK YOU! To Sonja for the experience she created for us. She clearly started with empathy to meet us where we were, help us grow to where we are, and will forever guide our future progress. This cohort has been the best professional development experience. Thank you, Sonja!