Last week I was part of the 2014 Google Teachers Academy in Sydney. 50 teachers from across NZ and Australia had been selected to attend this 2 day experience at Google Sydney. Despite all our inherent differences – age, locations, expectations of the next 2 days, positions of leadership – we were all the same in that we all want change in education. Tom Barrett and Hamish Curry from No Tosh had assembled an awesome team of mentors from last year’s GTA to lead us towards making this change happen.
It started off like any other edu conference these days. People meeting outside the building (or in coffee shops just beside) some that know each other already, but the majority being those wonderful first f2f meet ups. Hugs, hand shaking and introductions out of the way we were then let into the Google buildings (yes, they have 3 in Sydney).
It was obvious from the start that this was not going to be like previous Google Teacher Academies. The first to be led by No Tosh, this was far more about Google thinking than Google products (much to my relief as this was what I had applied for – to push my thinking not for a 48 hour tool slam). Even when the mentors presented Google tools these were shared in 3 presentations through the lenses of community, curiosity and creativity.
The venue was amazing with all the Google expectations: a jungle room for relaxation, endless food, monorail cabin as an office, scooters and unicycles for travelling between offices, endless food, a games room, maker space and did I mention endless food?
But, the real highlight for me was the Design Thinking process we were lead through.
I use this often in class, but it was great to go through this myself in such an authentic manner again. From the immersion phase started before we arrived until launching our moonshots at the end of the 2 days it was a brilliant blur of hexagons, discussions and ideation. I have picked up many tips for how to improve my design thinking practice from these 2 days but the biggest takeaway was setting out the mindset, skillset and toolset required at each stage of the process.
I had arrived at GTA wanting to focus on enabling creativity and innovation amongst schools in New Zealand. The recent #edchatnz conference had shown there were plenty of teachers wanting to make change but also highlighted how many of those were 1 or 2 isolated people in their schools – the Lone Nuts if you will. I wanted to focus on how I could help them as this sketch from the first morning shows where my thoughts were at:
After working through some discussion with my team, others working on inspirational leadership ideas and some intense hexagonal thinking with Liz, I had framed up my initial HMW challenge:
I wasn’t entirely happy with it and couldn’t quite put my finger on why it wasn’t that flash. As my mentor Kimberley Hall pointed out: my face looked in pain when I read it!
This all changed when Annie Parker from Muru-D came in and spoke to us about ideation, innovation and entrepreneurship. Whilst provoking lots of thoughts across her presentation, there was 1 section that had a major impact on me. If you find yourself saying “It’s not right that…” that is what you should be working on. This makes sense across all aspects of innovation but had a huge impact in reshaping my HMW moonshot challenge. It made me refocus on what it was I really wanted to achieve: amplifying creativity across our education system. Hence my vastly improved moonshot challenge was:
The ideation phase following this was incredible. 10 minutes to come up with as many ideas as possible. I had 1 moment of panic when the ideas stopped and I remembered what I told students when doing this: just keep writing and the ideas will come back. So amongst my 45 ideas jotted down on an A3 sheet of paper is written “argh 1 1/2 minutes to go”. Instructed to choose our Darling idea, Safe Bet and Moonshot ideas off our sheet I ended up with:
- Darling: Pitch Workshops for Teachers
- Safe Bet: Edu Innovation chat on twitter
- Moonshot: Start up/innovation chamber for schools (told you I enjoyed Annie’s talk!)
The silent feedback saw many people really liking my Moonshot idea whilst I was now getting scared of how much I had set myself to do. Remembering Tom’s advice from the start of the 2 days “We will not be daunted” and with Brett Salakas talking me through my initial ideas of this, I began to prototype this out.
Working through paper prototypes on my own and gathering feedback from my Team Dysnomia team mates (and an awesome contribution from Tom who added a whole new section to my website) I rapidly prepared to launch. First step, develop my website with pages on:
- Pitch advice
- GHO archive (monthly innovation chats)
- Blog roll of innovation stories
- Lone Nut Gallery – from history and now
- Forum/Discussion Page
This will in time be supported by a bootcamp/design thinking workshop to help the ideas get off the ground. Initially thinking of calling this Uaki meaning launch in Maori, I am now calling this project First Follower in my mind as a hat tip to what really helps the Lone Nut become a movement.
I am really looking forward to working on my First Follower project to empower the Lone Nuts and look forward to sharing the progress.
Thanks so much to Tom Barrett and Hamish Curry from No Tosh, the Google team led by Suan Yeo, the incredible GTA mentors and especially Team Dysnomia for making this such a great learning experience.