The Expert in the Room

One of the student-run businesses in my Fair Haven Innovates program is FH Grows. FH Grows is where my 7th graders learn to be entrepreneurs and stewards of the environment while leveraging technology and the Internet of Things to help our gardens grow. We sell our produce online and in our student-run farmers market. When we’re not working in the gardens, we are trying to solve the food problems of our future. At FH Grows, our customers know when they buy from us, they grow learning. But they aren’t just growing student learning. I’m learning right alongside my kids because when it comes to running a school garden, I am not the expert in the room.

In total, I manage 96 relationships as part of my Fair Haven Innovates program. By far, FH Grows has the most valuable relationships because I’m no gardening expert. I’ve had a garden since I’ve owned a house, but, as I’ve been learning, I only know a fraction of the tips and tricks that go into running a successful garden. Luckily, I’ve gathered a stable of experts who are willing to help me run the best school garden I can.

When it comes to gardening dos, don’ts, and what’s wrong with these plants?!, We direct our questions to the wonderful master gardeners of the Rutgers University cooperative extension. This Co-op connected us with a host of master gardeners, all within 15 minutes of our school. Our master gardeners have all been so gracious in teaching us what goes into creating a successful, year round garden. While these master gardeners aren’t classroom teachers, with their knowledge, we’ve been able to solve our school garden problems such as figuring out how, when, and what to plant knowing that they (students) aren’t in school during the peak growing season. With their help the kids and I have figured out how we can get three “grows” out of our garden while school is in session and have they otherwise helped us navigate the unique problems a school garden presents.

After our produce is harvested, we bring some of it to market. I own an edtech business and help run another, but selling produce is a world apart from working in edtech. Enter Molly Gearty, a certified horticulturist, and her wonderful crew at our town’s local nursery Sickles Market. They have been amazing in helping us learn the ins and outs of selling plants for profit. With her support, FH Grows just broke $100 in sales and landed our local pizza place, Umbertos, as our first client. Umbertos orders from us weekly, and is only using FH Grows herbs in all their dishes! They’ve even asked us to name their new pizza creation that uses all of our school-grown ingredients. Without understanding how to prep, package, and care for our plants set to be sold, we wouldn’t be as successful as we are starting to become.

Chef Steve and FH Grows having a tasting.

You can still learn a lot from running a school garden even once you’ve picked your produce, so I don’t want the learning to stop after we harvest. While I’ve mentioned we sell some of what we grow online and in our farmer’s market, FH Grows goes further. I want students to learn everything they can about food as it takes the farm to table journey. Again, I’m no expert in these fields, so I “hired” Chef Steve to cook with students at least once a month. Chef Steve works for Maschio’s Food Services, which is the company that provides our school lunches. I found out about this cool perk that Maschio’s offers from the wonderful people at the state Department of Agriculture who run the NJ Farm to School initiative and have been so, so helpful. With Chef Steve and the rest of his crew, students are being exposed to potential careers in health and food services and learning about nutrition, wellness, and all the other lessons the farm to table journey can teach us.

The examples I’ve listed above are just a fraction of the ways the experts I’ve sourced support my Fair Haven Innovates program. The reality is, FH Grows and a lot of the other amazing experiences my students get to learn from wouldn’t be possible without these experts because I’m not an expert in everything. I’m open with students about my level of expertise. I tell my kids how far I can take them, and then tell them when we’re gonna have to learn together from someone else. Modeling what lifelong learning looks like for students and teaching them how to find the human capital they will need to support them when they need help in life is as important as teaching them how to find good information. As teachers, we don’t always have to be the expert in the room, but we should try to fill our classroom with experts. If we open up the classroom and invite these specialists in, not only will we do better for our kids, we ourselves will grow too.

Until next time,

 

GLHF

 

FH Innovates Update: FH Leads

Hello, friends. It’s been a minute! My final masters class has been a slog, but I’m happy to report I’m basically done. We now return you to our regularly scheduled blog.

A lot has been happening with Fair Haven Innovates – the 21st century life, innovation, and technology program I created and run – since I last wrote. So how about an update? This week, we’ll start with my 8th grade, student-run business FH Leads.

Make it real and make it relevant are the two core values I kept in mind when I was designing FH Leads, my 8th grade consulting firm. The more real and relevant a problem is to their lives, the more passion my 8th graders will have for solving it. To make FH Leads as meaningful as possible for students, I have to get them into the real world; kids need to interact with their community. So last year, I reached out to our local hospital, Riverview, about being our first client. They couldn’t have been more excited. Through last Christmas and into last summer, we planned what the FH Leads/Riverview partnership would look like.

I did a lot of research and spoke to a lot of educators about their school/institution partnerships. I learned a lot of best practices, but two areas in the school/institution partnership stuck out to me as areas I really wanted to improved upon with FH Leads. Many partnerships seemed to be centered around 1) fake or easy problems for students to solve and 2) most programs stopped the design process at prototyping. I don’t want fake or easy problems for my kids. I want real, hard problems. I’d rather have my students fail at solving a real, hard problem than solve an easy, manufactured problem. Further, the problem with stopping students at prototyping is that they never get to the test stage. There are a million valuable life lessons to be found in the test stage. None more important than students learning to reframe failure as iteration as they test their designs and learn from failure. I don’t just want to propose prototypes and hypotheticals to the hospital and have kids wondering what if… I want  them to be able to test and iterate on their designs at least once. I want design doing, not just design thinking. I told the hospital that 1) my kids needed their real, most pressing problems and 2) my kids need to test their solutions in the hospital with the people their prototypes affect. The hospital totally got it and agreed. We were off and running. 

School started and the first few weeks of FH Leads focused on three things: teaching students to use our design process, developing the core values of our company, and creating a mission statement to keep us mission driven.

Students came up with these core values and mission statement to guide our attitude and purpose in FH Leads:

Core Values

Hardwork Pays Off
Teamwork Makes The Dream Work
No Days Off
Try, Try Again
Ship It!
Be Mission Driven
Build Bridges Not Walls

Mission Statement

We are a student-run consulting firm. We give back to our community by using our design process to help local businesses grow. FH Leads will be the competitive advantage local businesses can’t wait to hire because they know when they hire us they are getting the tireless dedication and next-level innovation needed to grow their business. From our clients, we will learn more about careers and enrich our knowledge as we make a positive impact wherever we go.

After building our business culture, we started our 8 week design challenge with our first client, Riverview hospital! 4 weeks ago, Riverview sent the head of a different department to each one of my 5 FH Leads classes to deliver each class their own challenge.

Class 1: How might we improve the lost and found system when it comes to cell phones? Riverview told us that they spend thousands of dollars a year replacing patients’ lost and forgotten cell phones. They asked if my students could design a process and a product to help them help patients to not lose their phone when they are in the hospital. To prevent loss while in the hospital, students have been designing a boxes for patients to keep their cell phone in and experimenting with the best place to put the box since they decided it should be in arm’s reach of patients. Further, and if you’ve been a reader of this blog for awhile you know how exciting this part is for me: I turned students on to nudge theory to find ways to help remind patients to take their cell phones and chargers with them when they’re discharged.

Class 2: How might we find a way to improve Riverview’s wheelchair tracking system? Students were fascinated to learn that busy nurses often hide wheelchairs in closets and showers, rather than returning them, since they are in such high demand. This was a big empathy lesson for students because at first they couldn’t wrap their heads around nurses “stealing” wheelchairs. But when our speaker told students what the typical day is like for a nurse, things became more clear. Most students in this class have started to develop a way to use the Raspberry Pi and RFID to track wheel chairs that can then be retrieved by volunteers.

Class 3: How might we help lost visitors find their way around the hospital by creating an all volunteer escort service and improving Riverview’s map of the hospital? One particularly clever student brought up that Disney likely put a fortune into designing the perfect map for theme parks. Since then, this class had been redesigning the hospital map as if it were a Disney map. Really cool stuff. I just need to do a better job in reminding them about the volunteer escort service part.

 

Class 4: How might we improve patients’ dignity by redesigning the hospital gown and sending patients home in clean clothes? Patients sometimes come to the hospital in soiled clothing. Riverview asked us to design a process for buying or cleaning these patients clothes so they can leave the hospital feeling and looking good. Further, while in the hospital many patients don’t wearing like the gowns. Students have been modeling the gowns and coming up with new ways to keep all of a patient’s vital areas

accessible to hospital staff while not leaving patients “butts blowing in the wind.” In the last class, there was debate among groups over who was going to learn how to sew. I’m excited to see some final products for this one! Like in Class 3, I need to do a better job reminding them to work on the clean-clothes process.

 

Class 5: How might we improve the phlebotomy process for younger patients who need to have blood drawn? The head of phlebotomy came in and explained to students how hard it is to draw blood from a panicked patient. Students have been designing “blinds” and other products to help with the blood drawing process. I was particularly proud of this class as they came up with the unique idea of developing preventive measures to calm patients down as they acknowledged the role that “the unknown” plays in fear. They believe if they can better inform young patients about what to expect, they will panic less when it is time to give blood.

I’m hoping through this eight week warm up with Riverview I can improve students creative confidence as they 

use our design process to solve these wicked problems. Creative confidence is still a work in progress. I was surprised, and maybe I shouldn’t have been, that many students didn’t think they had much to offer the hospital. They didn’t see themselves having the ability to make a difference. When they heard the problems the hospital proposed, some felt it was out of their power to solve them. I hope I can continue to encourage them and help them understand they can make a difference. 

I imagine my kids starting to learn about our design process in 4th and 5th grade through The Innovation Lab and their time with me would culminate in FH Leads. I wanted students to get out into the real world and work with real people and hear about their real problems. I always say if my kids leave my program have developed empathy for others and understanding that a design process can be used to solve all of life’s problems, I’ve done my job. I’ve started down this long road, but I think it is a road worth traveling. After this next eight weeks, FH Leads will start working with nineteen local business who have agreed to hire my FH Leads students for a 20 week design intervention. I’m so confident my kids have something to offer everyone, I said FH Leads will work for free this year to build our portfolio, but next year we’re charging! 

Until Next Time,

GLHF

How To Introduce Gamification (or anything new, really)

Introducing change like a new idea, routine, or workflow to anyone can be difficult. Introducing gamification to students is no different. I remember when I started gamifying seven-ish years ago, introducing gamification was actually harder than creating my gamification system. I made a lot of mistakes when I first introduced gamification. Since then, I’ve learned a lot of best practices for introducing gamification (or anything new, really) to students.

  1. For some, change follows the grief cycle – Not everyone has a problem with change. Many students have no problem adapting to something new, especially if they see it as fun. Those who don’t adapt well, however, tend to push back. And that push back follows the grief cycle. The most important thing to understand here, other than the types of push back to expect, is that you must stay the course. If you implement a change like gamification, don’t go back on it. You can tweak it, modify it, improve upon it, and add/remove parts, but don’t abandon it; persist and pivot is the name of the game. You will be doing yourself a disservice and will miss out on the opportunity to model for students how ideas start out as ugly babies but grow into something beautiful with effort and persistence. It also helps to give students a voice in any process. Allowing students to suggest Achievements and Items for the Item Shop can go along way in moving students through the cycle quickly.

Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle

2. Mollify loss aversion – You can cut down on push back by avoiding loss aversion. Loss aversion refers to people’s tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains. This means that someone will be more upset if you give them something then take it away than if you never give them anything at all. Losing $100 hurts more if I get to hold it first. In terms of change, loss aversion can be avoided by starting gamification or new ideas at the start of the year. Students can’t get upset about a change in routine if gamification is part of the routine from the beginning. If you can’t start at the beginning of the year, start at an obvious checkpoint. Beginning of marking periods, units, or after breaks is a great time to jump into something new. But don’t preface it!

3. Onboard new ideas – Back when I taught high school, I taught public speaking. In PS, I use to do a unit on stand-up comedy. In that unit I warned students to never preface a joke; don’t tell people how funny a joke is gonna be with phrases such as: “You guys will love this joke.” Just tell the joke. In the same vein, when you are introducing something new, don’t hype it up before break. Don’t hype up the change at all.

I’ve never had a good experience when I told students that when they got back from Christmas break, we are going to do something awesome or different. I think that is because the line between excitement and anxiety is thin. Instead, onboard students. Onboarding, like loss aversion, is another game-mechanic we can use to smoothly implement change. Onboarding is the act of integrating people with new ideas. Ever notice the two main ways a video game onboards players?:

1. The video game only tells you what you need to know when you need to know it. You don’t learn about a new spell you’ll receive at level 75 when you first start the game. You learn how to swing your wooden sword at a rats in the sewer.

2. Great games never break the narrative to tell you how to swing the wooden sword. Learning how to play a video game, the actual mechanics of play, are told through the story, as part of the story. Not as some separate event. When you leave your house in a game, someone on the street may stop you and ask you to help them by going into the sewer to kills rats. This is how mechanics are introduced. As part of the narrative.

These two points are vital in introducing new ideas. The first part of my gamification system I introduce students to are Quests and experience points (XP) because they are the first thing students need to understand. They are the foundational game-mechanics on which the system is built. I introduce this as part of class, in context. “Congrats class, you’ve complete your first Quest and earned 50xp” is all it takes to introduce this idea. Any confusion is cleared up by re-framing the same statement: “Yep, 50xp for the Quests you guys just completed. Way to work hard.” The hive mind of the class is able to put together what Quests are and what XP is. After that, I introduce them to the leaderboards, achievements, and Item Shop when the time is right. Don’t be in a rush to explain the whole system, especially if it’s complicated. This timing also goes a long way in preserving excitement and engagement. The kids never know what’s coming next.

4. Let them play – Any time you introduce a new idea or technology to anyone, let them play with it. Structured and unstructured play are valuable learning techniques. When students first see leaderboards, I give them a 1/2 hour or so to check them out and talk about them. When I introduced Flip Grid, I let students play and make funny videos before asking them to reflect. Do not expect someone to use, perform, or work with something new at the same time you introduce it. Build in time for play. Play helps students feel part of the change rather than feeling that the change is something happening to them.

5. Share success stories – Whenever possible, highlight success stories in your gamified class. If someone hit an new level or earned a new achievement, tell the class about it. If a student has created something awesome with the new edtech you introduced, let them share it. The more success stories you can show, the more students will be able to imagine themselves being successful. Success breeds success.

6. Allow for diverse feedback – Give students a diverse, productive way to voice what they like, what they don’t like, and what they would like to change or add to your class. I don’t always make this feedback anonymous, as anonymity sometimes skews the truth, but I do usually use Google Forms or Office Hours. Students have also left me notes or made me videos. If you let students know you are open to feedback, you’ll be surprised at how they deliver it to you. I once had a student redesign a site I made because he didn’t like it! Differentiate your methods of feedback and you will find the hidden gems of wisdom that your students have for your class. Approach this wisdom with the understanding that students can, and do, come up with great ideas that you should implement into your class.

These are just some of the best practices I use when introducing gamification, or anything new, to students. Now that I run the Fair Haven Innovates program, a program where we are constantly pushing the educational envelope, I can tell you that these best practices work in a variety of contexts, not just gamification.

With that said, I wish you all a great start to your school year and look forward to sharing all of my brand new adventures in Fair Haven Innovates with you!

Until Next Time,

GLHF

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