An Awesome Day of Design Thinking

Tuesday proved to me just how much Design Thinking is the way I approach all aspects of school (and increasingly life) these days. In reflecting on what had happened this week I realised that Tuesday was an entire day of Design Thinking.

I started the day with my Hub completing the redesign of our space. Last week I had realised that things needed to improve with my Hub teaching so we had completed a SWOT analysis of our Hub and everyone had drawn how they would design our space to make it work for us. It was pretty clear from all the pictures that a common theme had emerged. So, away went our old space:


And in came our new design:


We have still kept the seating we like for Hub time – mainly ottomans and a few beanbags. But now we have got rid of any other form of seating, created a break out area and swapped the unused table that was a dumping ground for a low table that we can work on from our low seats. Early days but it has definitely created a better feel for us as a group.

After this was finished we Continue reading

All is well, or is it?

I was worried how last week would go. How could I possibly keep up the excited puppy heights of hosting the Geography Awareness Week TeachMeetNZ and being at the inaugural EdChatNZ conference?

The Monday following EdchatNZ conference saw me spend the day in the Take Action big module I am co-teaching with Bryce and Martin. I spent 2 of our blocks helping Martin in the workshop as students constructed marble runs while their groups were affected by changes in government policies.




Students also had similar experiences with Bryce as they played Volleyball with Government policies affecting the rules for each team. The final block focused in on actions we can take as citizens other than voting and brainstorming issues of interest to the students. Continue reading

How Might We make the 100th Anniversary of World War 1 more relevant for students?

Monday August 4th 2014 is just a couple of days away. It’s also an incredibly significant day as the 100th anniversary of Great Britain declaring war on Germany so marks the beginning of World War 1.

Much of the plans around remembering this event in New Zealand are centred on the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli Landings on April 25th 1914. There are however some major events to think of before then.

Aug 29th 1914 forces capture German Samoa – the start of a long and storied relationship between New Zealand and Samoa.

Feb 3rd 1915 first time NZ troops engage in combat during WWI at Suez Canal against Ottoman troops.

The important part in bringing these (and other events) into the classroom is making them relevant for students. Rather than just lets have a minutes silence, draw a picture, write a diary entry – think about how you can get students thinking critically about events from the past and how they relate to today and in the future.

I have been lucky enough to be invited to join a group writing education guides/resources to prompt inquiry learning about the 100th anniversary of WWI. I am looking forward to getting the resources ready and accessible for teachers to be able to adapt for their classrooms.

In the meantime, check out the great NZ’s First World War Centenary website at and start thinking about what prompts you could give students.

Is it a celebration?

Is it a commemoration?

Would you sign up to fight in Syria today? How is that the same or different to signing up for WW1?


This post is my catch up post for Day 29 of my Questioning Quest.


What If you had $200,000 to spend on research in your school?

What would you focus the research on?
Who would you get involved as the researchers?
How long would you run the research for?
What would you hope to gain out of it?
How would you share these findings?
What would the funding be spent on that you couldn’t do as a school already?
How important is it for your school and your learners to find this information out?
Is it possible to do these things without the funding?
How will you try to get funding?
How might you make the research happen without the funding?

This post is Day 25 of My Question Quest

Why? (x5)

Day 10 of My Question Quest is reserved for a very small but powerful word – why?

Whether as a one word question or as the start of a longer question it holds enormous power for digging deep into a topic/issue/situation.

I hear this continuously at home from my 4 1/2 year old daughter (most recently into the minute details of Frozen). It has also held enormous power at work though as well – for my students, for me, from parents and for us as a whole staff.

One of the most powerful uses of this is when the question is asked 5 times in a row. Next time you (or your team) are making a decision, test your solution by asking why. Then after you answer that, ask why of that answer. Repeat until you have answered why 5 times. An awesome check for if the decision meets your vision and values!

Any major decision, inquiry, problem solving or design thinking situation should start from why. If not, you may be on the completely wrong track.

NZ US Design Thinking Chat

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to Google Hangout into the awesome Fuse14 conference happening in Atlanta. After many twitter discussions with Grant Lichtman (author of The Falconer) and Meghan Cureton (Director of the Innovation Diploma at Mount Vernon Presbyterian Upper School, Atlanta) we decided it was time to chat ‘face to face’. The discussion also included Claire Amos and Karen Melhuish-Spencer here in NZ and ranged from the state of Design Thinking in our respective countries, how to grow student centred approaches through to the intersection of student passions and community needs. Watch the full video below:

Authentic Challenges

Another full on week at HPSS where I really focused on continuing to make sure the learning was authentic. This was the next step up as I try to continually improve the learning occurring and much of what happened in the week was due to what had occurred the previous week.

The Galileo Educational Network have an awesome inquiry rubric that I regularly refer to. This image below is of the section on Authenticity that I have looked back on whilst reflecting on the weekend:

Galileo Authentic Inquiry Rubric

Galileo Authentic Inquiry Rubric

Continue reading

Curiosity and Inspiration

Last night I bought, downloaded and read Can Computers Keep Secrets? How a Six-Year-Old’s Curiosity Could Change the World by Tom Barrett. Stemmed by all the questions his 6 year old son asks, Tom then delves into how we could maintain this natural curiosity that is with all youngsters but seems to disappear as we grow up.

I have long wondered at which point do we stop questioning the world like a 6 year old? When do we start to have more anxiety than curiosity?

Loc 176 of 489 on kindle Edition

These questions struck me as both an educator and a parent. Continue reading

Bias Towards Action

Elements of a Design Thinking Mindset from dSchool K12 Wiki

Elements of a Design Thinking Mindset from dSchool K12 Wiki

A bias towards action is the element of a design thinking mindset that resonates with me the most and what I see as really making this such a powerful pedagogical approach. Yet, the bias towards action is bizarrely an aspect that has seen some teachers question the appropriateness of design thinking as an approach for all learning areas. For me, the bias towards action is what makes this an authentic inquiry process rather than just another project producing a poster. Continue reading