Thursday, 16 January 2014

The Benefits of Connecting~Investing your Time.

In 2013 I was fortunate to be part of the Design Thinking (DT) team where projects were implemented throughout my school. I felt very fortunate to be given this opportunity and appreciate the innovative projects my school implements. I was encouraged to learn from David Price (@DavidPriceOBE) on engaging students and Project Based Learning (PBL) by attending an informative two-day workshop. While I had some knowledge of DT, I felt I needed to learn more. So I read journal articles, got on Twitter and also contacted Diane (@dianedarrow). An innovative educator, Diane had taught my daughter in kindergarten (USA).

A few phone calls and inspiring discussions later, (Aus-USA) Diane and I had put together some ideas. Then I had the opportunity to go to ISTE13 in San Antonio. I would say it was one of my best educational experiences. Before I left for the US, Brad (@bcurrie5) & Scott (@scottRRocco) kindly asked me to co-moderate an extension of #satchat with Holly (@MrsHollyEnglish) and Jason (@jaysongraham99). #SatchatOC has been an incredible experience and I've connected with many innovative educators from around the world. While at ISTE13, I met many more including Jimmy (@casas_jimmy), Daisy (@daisydyerduerr) and Jerry (@cybraryman1). Talk about supportive resourceful educators!

The first day of ISTE13 I walked into the key note presentation-Jane McGonigal (@avantgame) with a Canadian I had just met. He sits down and comments about how he's surrounded by Aussies. There, sitting next to him was Cameron (@cpaterso) whose knowledge and experience is something to admire. Cameron has since connected me with TeachMeet Australia ( where I have met many dedicated educators such as Matt (@mesterman) and Jeannette (@7Mrsjames), who I now call friends.

ISTE13 clarified my thoughts that teaching and student learning had ventured onto an exciting path. Some educators had already taken that path, others were looking for directions to it and some didn't know this path even existed. I attended Diane's DT workshops and in one sat with Julie Lindsay (@julielindsay) who is a global and innovative educator (Flat Connections Projects). I can honestly say that ISTE13, those who presented and those I met, inspired me to take that path with more conviction. Diane suggested a book to help explicitly teach the process of Design Thinking. It is designEd She also recommended a Stanford MOOC where I spent my Sunday mornings learning about DT (8 Weeks). This provided the framework and confidence I needed to implement DT into my classroom.

In Term 3, I integrated DT into an established HSIE unit, People and their beliefs, while also explicitly teaching the process. I believe it's important to introduce the concepts such as interviewing skills and working collaboratively through mini-lessons. Throughout this unit, student engagement was evident and skills such as designing, collaborating, creative thinking, questioning and their ability to reflect significantly developed. I believe you need to front load and establish the process before applying DT to a unit. The most important and significant thing I learnt was that my students generated the 'Needs Statement' not from their interview questions but by a simple comment one girl made while playing with my students. Her comment generated a wonderful insightful discussion and I have to thank my friend, Helen (@MrsMorgani) for connecting our students. It was amazing to hear one student explain the meaning of 'Don't judge a book by its cover'. The needs statement they generated was applied to their chosen topic-Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or Indigenous Beliefs. Best of all, EMPATHY was the basis of this unit.

Thanks to John (@johnqgoh), I've since attended #PLSM13 run by Bianca @biancaH80 & Lee @waginski who continue to introduce PBL to many classrooms. I have asked others about the difference between Genius Hour, Design Thinking and PBL and from my understanding, in PBL, teachers design the driving question. In DT, students create a 'Needs Statement' by interviewing the stakeholders or researching a teacher-given topic. In Genius Hour, students have the freedom to choose the topic and generate their own questions.

I am eager to be journeying further down this path and if I can, lead others to this path. The time I've invested in connecting, whether it be on Twitter or at TeachMeets, motivates me professionally. On a personal note, I've meet some great people who share my passion. I have included twitter names because these people have inspired and influenced my teaching. For this, I sincerely thank them!


Feedback is very much appreciated.


  1. You continue to inspire me with your willingness to reach out and seek support, experience and knowledge from others in really proactive ways. If we were all actively seeking to better ourselves as you example, our profession would be so much richer. Great sharing, and I look forward to hearing more about how you generate the needs statements.

  2. Rhoni- your continued support is so appreciated! Although we don't work together, know that you inspire me and influence me. I feel fortunate to have connected with you. I teach my students to write about small moments with greater detail...may take my own advice next time. Thanks for reminding me.

  3. Andrea,
    You are the poster child for connectivity and how connecting with educators across the globe can positively affect teaching and learning. I just went and followed 30 people on twitter after reading your post. There are so many great thinkers out there to learn from.

  4. I think you did yourself a favour when you followed those educators. They share their knowledge and resources so freely! My goal this year is connect my classroom globally and I'm really excited! Let's stay connected.

  5. Your blog is really inspiring!

  6. Wow Andrea, as you look back on the last year at the new friends you have made, the things that you have learnt and the professional connections you have made through Twitter ... would you have guessed this could have happened this time last year? Thanks for sharing your journey.

    1. Thanks Anne, Twitter has introduced me to many people I admire. I have many friends in the US and we talked about teaching and education (both in and out of school). Twitter has filled that void. Thanks for being part of my PLN.