The K12 Lab Network’s mission is to inspire and develop the creative confidence of educators. There could be many paths to this promised land, but for us a clear focus has been designing, building, and spreading innovative professional development opportunities. Our work is to turn professional development from a tedious chore into joyous occasions for adults to pursue their own deeper learning. We create opportunities where teachers and leaders can reconnect with their creativity, explore their identity as designers, and be the change they want to see in their schools.
Always Immersive, Challenging Assumptions
As we prototype our way toward a new conception of professional development, our guiding light is to create situations where educators can jump into immersive, invigorating experiences. These are always real-world challenges where learning design thinking can make a difference. Sure, there’s some initial discomfort, but the reward becomes clear as educators stretch beyond their comfort zone to pick up new skills and mindsets. What all these workshops have in common is a capacity to shift professional development from passive to active, from instructional to experiential, and from talking to doing.
We often host workshops at the d.school and it can serve as an inspirational platform, but just as often we seek to run experiences that take advantage of public spaces as venues so that others can see, hear, and feel how fun and powerful adult learn can be. We’ve run immersive design challenges in hotel lobbies, public parks, restaurants, school lunch rooms, and empty storefronts to name just a few that have sparked our interest and prompted teachers to question their assumptions about what professional development is and can be.
Own Your Awesome and Share It Widely
We find that with a design thinking toolkit and mindsets at the ready, educators can, as David Clifford urges, “own your awesome.”
Wait, what’s that?
Owning your awesome means that you notice the space and community in which you are working, use your awareness to empathize deeply, question assumptions, embrace prototyping over debate, and are willing (as much as humanly possible) to share both your successes and what you’ve learned from what doesn’t work. Whether we’re hacking the hallways at Roosevelt Middle School, redesigning presentations of learning at Design Tech High School, or shadowing students for the first time, what we’ve seen is that educators adopting these moves are able to make real progress on keeping students at the center of their work, integrating design thinking in their classrooms, and continuously improving on their school’s model.