Cypress-Fairbanks Leadership Training | Presentation Resources

Here are the resources that support our engagement with the administrators of the Cypress-Fairbanks ISD in Houston, Texas.  The presentation, given three times, focuses on the process of learning design and the creation of student learning experiences. 


A pdf is available of the presentation here.



Habits of the Mind, Arthur Costa | Community High School of Vermont

Disposition of Thinking, from Design Thinking | Ewan Mcintosh

Teaching Thinking Dispositions: From Transmission to Enculturation | Harvard

Life-long, Life-wide, Life-deep Learning | Life Center

Life Long, Wide, Deep Diagram | Life Center


Hip Hop Ed Manifesto

An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth

What is Learning? 12 Principles of Peer-Led, Connected, Interactive Education


Focus on cSHED to Challenge Students Meaningfully | Ryan Bretag 

Not Skills or Content but cSHED | Ryan Bretag  

Questioning Pedagogy | Stephen Downes


Mitosis example 

Design Grid

Lovett School Playbook


IKEA Lamp video

The Third Teacher Note Cards


Towards a Tipping Point

At what point does an educational institution decide it's time?

It is easy to visualize a school corridor, lined with lockers and doors on opposite sides of the hallway that lead to the classrooms that have served learning so well and for so many years.  It's also easy to visualize the school cafeteria, the library, and the common spaces where students congregate.  After all, it's school and the representation of that is etched on the minds of everyone that has ever attended school.  

So, when is it time to do something different with the spaces of school and how they serve learning?  Are schools approaching a "tipping point" where their is a growing realization that their spaces, classrooms and otherwise, are rapidly losing their relevancy and are no longer capable of supporting a contemporary education?

Rethinking spaces means focusing on the student experience that the school wishes for its students.  It does not mean focusing first on furniture, on technology, lighting, or some other "thing."  Rethinking spaces is about experience first, and things second.  As it should be.

It is also about understanding that schools can no longer be an isolated entity and their own islands of learning.  Learning in 2015 is a connected endeavor represented by an ecology of learning opportunities, some that take place in formal institutions like school, but also some that are designed by learners themselves, and that are outside of the physical boundaries of school in spaces of the learner's choosing.  Learning spaces today must be visualized in a 24-7 context, and not simply in a 8 AM to 3:30 PM container.

There are many compelling opportunities for learning that are emerging, including blended and online learning, as well as the always-on Internet, with its availability of on-demand learning experiences, supported by creative and innovative ways that connect people, ideas, and resources together.  

These are all catalysts, and they relentlessly push on the traditional boundaries of education toward a tipping point that can, and hopefully, will lead to action.  That's a good thing.  That push should include a focus on the spaces where learning occurs and create a sense of urgency for creating new types of spaces and experiences. 

Simply stated, a contemporary education means placing learners at the center of a connected world.  That requires new thinking about the dimensions of learning and how learners leverage formal experiences in school, as well as serve as their own agents of learning.  And that process can begin by rethinking learning spaces, both physical and digital, and how the two spaces interact to create a more expansive condition for learning.


Educating STEM CABOCES | Workshop Debrief

The Third Teacher+ had a great opportunity to work with over 50 educators from western New York during a full-day workshop on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and design.  The goal of the day was to introduce the process of design and how the design process could be used in STEM program development, as well as how design could serve as a pedagogical foundation for learning based in a STEM approach.

We began the day with a presentation that explored an expedition of learning based in innovation and design.  Using the theme of "a STEM expedition," participants had an opportunity to immerse themselves in the design process by creating a talisman for their workshop partner.  Other design opportunities during the day reinforced the elements and the process of design and how it could support a STEM student learning experience.  An additional highlight of the day was engaging with Chris Lehmann, Principal of the Science Leadership Academy (SLA) through a Google Hangout.  Chris discussed a variety of topics including the development and operation of SLA, innovation, leadership and creating a school culture capable of supporting educational change and continual growth.

Major takeaways for the day:

  1. Design around experience, not things.  In this case, design around the student STEM student learning experience.  
  2. There is a specific language of design, composed of words such as empathy, ideation, prototyping, and iteration.
  3. The design process is grounded in a human-centered approach that seeks first to understand the implications and breadth of an issue or problem.  This is done through a process with a foundation in empathy.
  4. The design process, although a process, can provide rich opportunities developing creativity and fueling innovation.
  5. The design process encourages the development of complex cognitive skills, including listening, synthesizing (pattern-seeking), interdependent thinking, ideation, and communication.
  6. The design of learning is based in identifying and designing for the development of content understanding, skills, and habits of the mind, while considering the resources, people, and environment that support that development.
  7. Design is a process that could be used as a pedagogical approach in a STEM program.
  8. Developing a design mindset means approaching problems and opportunities with a design mentality.  This leads to the development of a design disposition.
  9. Design has the potential to re-introduce creativity and wonder into learning.
  10. Developing STEM and design learning opportunities are not mutually-exclusive of preparing students for standardized tests and standards-based curriculum.  Use the design process to address the development of a STEM program capable of preparing students for multiple expectations and opportunities.

We're excited to see the how the Educating STEM series progresses and how future speakers add depth, experiences, and knowledge to the participants' understanding of STEM experiences.  We're also excited to be working with our Grand Island team on the final session of the experience, focused on spaces, STEM in New York, and making STEM a reality for students.

Resources for the workshop are here.

Educating STEM | CA BOCES

We're excited to be kicking off the Educating STEM series at the Southern Tier West BOCES Center in Salamanca NY on December 17.  We'll be introducing educators interested in STEM to the design process, which will provide a framework for "providing a focus on the pedagogical understandings for STEM education that bring context to integrated context."  Our focus will be to explore the expedition of STEM, and how innovation, creativity, curiosity and wonder can be the essential elements that form the foundation of an integrated approach to education.  Joining the session through a videoconference will be Chris Lehmann, Principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, who will provide additional context for STEM through an interactive discussion with the participants.  Other speakers in the series include Sylvia Martinez who will be discussing invention and Larry Rosenstock, who will present on inquiry.  Kim Navarroli and Paul Murawski from our Grand Island office complete the series by engaging the participants in a presentation about STEM in New York.

Here are the resources that we'll be using in the first session:

Innovation does not come from the top down, it comes from decentralization and freedom to explore @sepkamvar #MediaLabIO

Inspiring Spaces


"If we are going to encourage creativity and innovation in education, we will need more white water rafting guides…than cruise ship captains." @dculberhouse

Design Thinking Resources

Innovations come from the margins; how will unstoppable force of innovations merge w/immovable force of schools? @raphaela235  #dml2012

Examples of Manifestos

Innovation is a constant pattern of invention, reinvention, then reinvent the reinvention. #Workspring



Drawing Design: "I sketch to establish relationships."

This month marks the start of The Big Draw (#bigdraw), a month long drawing festival that engages people of all ages in informal art making to demonstrate the power of drawing to help people see, think, invent and take action. This series was started by The Campaign for Drawing, a UK-based organization, and has now spread across the world. We are lucky to have a vibrant hub locally through The Big Draw Chicago, which has programming across the city at a variety of venues and institutions.

To celebrate, we are attending events and talking with colleagues about the role of drawing in their design practice. Below find an interview with Matt McGrane, a young architect in our firm who runs our summer sketch sessions and is a leader within Open Hand Studio .


 I sketch to establish relationships.  It is much easier to understand and test proportion and composition of elements quickly by  hand.  Architects use scale drawing to measure.  Repeated sketching allows an architect to hone an inherent understanding of how things relate before translating those relationships to the computer.   


 I love to draw the places around me, especially when I travel.  By sitting down for a half hour in a space and sketching, I am able to not only capture what a space looks like, but whenever I look back at my sketches, I remember how it felt to be there.  This is something that gets missed when snapping a photo with your cell phone.  The investment in time to draw is also an investment in the memory of the place.


I am a sucker for a good old Moleskine notebook and pen.  I am also a big fan of watercolor pencil.  Recently I got a smartphone with a sketching app and stylus.  Although my skills are currently quite crude, I see a lot of potential in digital sketching. I look forward to putting it to practice for my design work when I am inspired by what I see while I am out and about in the city.


Physical drawing ultimately is a storytelling tool.  Regularly as I would sketch while on my honeymoon in Italy, children or other tourists would sit beside me and watch over my shoulder as I drew.   In that moment, there was a connection made between people over a shared experience that transcended conventional language.  It works the same way in architectural practice.

For architects, often times we feel pressure to try and resolve everything before taking it to the client for feedback.  Just as often, the client feels as though they have missed out on something, or that the 'finished product' lacks some of the quintessential messiness and energy that makes design exciting.   If you have the ability to communicate through sketching, especially when interacting live with your clients, they feel as though they are an active participant in the creative process, not just the passive recipient of a finished design.  Sketching builds trust and establishes expertise, both of which strengthen the relationship between architects and the clients we serve.

Behind the scenes: Six favorite memories of Remake your Class

There's always a story behind the story. And for us, filming Remake Your Class with friends at Edutopia was not only a memorable journey of design, learning, and tight-budget building, but also an adventure in film foibles, food, and new friendships. As you can imagine, 14-minutes for one week of filming means that much was unsaid about the process and design, not to mention the colorful camaraderie behind the scenes. I thought I’d share a few of our favorite memories:


  • Culinary tour of The Richmond in SF

    One week of filming meant our crew shared 20+ meals with each other and within a mile radius of Roosevelt Middle School in the culinarily and ethnically diverse Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco. Not only did we eat everything from Burmese to New American to Indian buffets, but we grew in conversation and connection over tables and takeout. Learn more about the Richmond here.

  • Goofing around with the crew

    Here’s to boom mics in back seats. There are few things sillier than packing your new friend and tall sound guy into the trunk for an afternoon supply run. Or trying to coordinate casual drive by shots as you solve a budget fiasco. Or being chased by paint-covered hands of middle school students. Edutopia's film crew was not only talented and professional, but hilarious, easy going, and willing to do anything to get the shot–especially on the road. (High fives film team: Zac, Mario, Tom and producers: Lora and Doug!)

  • Hanging with the cool kids

    Steve's students and the rest of the student body at Roosevelt Middle School were some of the most sweet, insightful, and fun kids to spend the week with. From Christian and David's foray into blacktop soccer, epically viral games of WA (Emi’s favorite team warm up), sharing lunch tables and school snacks, post-it filled workshops–– we couldn't get enough of these 7th and 8th graders. During our reflection at the end of our workshop, one girl spoke up and reflected, "it was one of the bestest days I've had" to a chorus of nodding heads. We melted. Definitely one of our best too.

  • Colorful pants

    In the signature style of Christian Long and David Bill, every day was filled with a different pair of colorful pants. (See Bonobos) On the last day, with no coordination – Christian, David, a student, and I all wore magenta slacks. Now how's that for colorful coincidence? Teamwork!

  • Mustaches mobs

    We came during a fun time in the Mattice classroom–– Movember: a month long mustache growing marathon and men's health awareness campaign. That meant lot of kids with mini mustaches and a great way to see Steve's playful and community-oriented teaching in action.

  • School slumber party

    Well, nearly. We clocked some crazy hours over the week, but nothing was like the final weekend. Our generous principal, Michael, let us stay past midnight and arrive by 7:00 am consistently. There is something that feels rebellious running through school halls at night. You never grow out of it.

Behind the scenes of Remake your Class was a story of design and transformation, but also silliness, problem solving, and friendship. We hope you can catch a glimpse of that spirit in the film clips.

(Our pictures from the Instagram feeds of Christian, Melanie, Lora, and David to give you a peek behind the scenes. Follow our TTT+ instagram feed today!

Follow #remakeclass on Edutopia's Remake Your Class page,  Facebook Page and Pinterest Boards.  Check back on our blog for more articles on design & learning!



Putting Pen to Paper

If you joined us for a meeting in The Third Teacher Plus Studio, you’d be amazed by the imaginative possibilities and direction that arise from the intersection of conversation and ideas.

You’d also be surprised by another thing.

The sketchbooks.

Designers like to put pen to paper.  There is a certain amount of freedom in that, to be able to let ideas flow out onto to paper in a free form way that is adaptive and intuitive.  Sketching is also a powerful way to draw visual connections between ideas and concepts.

All of us have sketched something.  You’ve probably done this at some point by sketching on the back of a napkin when you had just the greatest idea ever.

It’s how you “draw talk.”

Here’s an example from team member Emi Day, with some Post It Notes added in for good measure:  

Sketching is a great way to build and link ideas to conceptualize a direction or represent understanding.  

Our challenge to you.  Think about a sketchbook as a great addition to your classroom to encourage students to intentionally visualize their understanding.  Imagine having kids draw a lecture or even draw an assessment - what would that look like?  Also, how might the use of a sketchbook, easily transportable and usable (no need to find an electrical socket!), be a location for your ideas and brainstorms that could be represented visually, and serve to grow your practice?

If you want to learn more, and how to draw for sketching, check out The Sketchnote Handbook.

Over time in this space you’ll see examples of how we use sketchbooks in our practice to support what we do.

Here’s to going old school with pen and paper!


I can almost always write music; at any hour of the twenty-four, if I put pencil to paper, music comes.
— John Philip Souza
“I just wish I could sketch well because it turns out that so many ideas start with images.”
— John Seely Brown

Blocks, Meet Bear

There were two things everyone had as a kid.  Blocks and stuffed animals.

We’re big fans of using design thinking to ignite new ways of imagining, and new ways of doing and connecting things.

So we wondered?  What would happen if two childhood toys met each other in a 21st Century mashup?  

The answer?  You'd get RoyoBlocks.

Enter Michael Pope.

Michael is a Stanford University masters candidate studying in the Learning, Design, and Technology program at Stanford University and the co-designer of RoyoBlocks, along with Jonathan Kleiman.   Michael and Jonathan created the tool for Paulo Blikstein’s class “Beyond Bits & Atoms” in the Transformative Learning Technologies Lab at Stanford.  

Here’s how Michael describes RoyoBlocks: “RoyoBlocks is a tangible literacy toy that uses RFID technology to allow young children to engage with text in a meaningful way. The kit consists of 60 wooden word blocks that each feature a high-frequency sight word, and a plush reading companion that houses the arduino-powered RFID reader and speaker.”

One word.  Amazing.

See pictures of Royoblocks and watch how it works in the video below, and observe how Michael used design to create a really compelling literacy tool for young kids.

Upshot:  use a design mind and eye to collide idea and idea, object and idea, or object and object.   Create something new.

Our challenge to you:  What two things in your classroom or in your school could you put together in a completely new way?  How could thinking like a designer change the way in which you view the raw materials of learning and how you connect and remix them to design compelling learning experiences for students?  You can get started by learning more about the how to do that with the process of design thinking.

Michael is involved in some really cool projects, so you’ll be able to learn more about Michael and his work in this space in upcoming posts!


Our Adventure with VS Furniture

Last week, Cannon Design Chicago hosted its second monthly cultural impact event called Pulse. Along with a presentation of evidence-based designs that enhance creativity and a game of Pictionary to challenge our colleagues to communicate concepts visually, there was a short video contest to get a glimpse into the lives of Cannon Designers.

Some of my favorite pieces at VS

Some of my favorite pieces at VS

Earlier that month, our education team had been invited to the VS Furniture showroom to learn more about the ergonomics, quality of construction, materials, and configurations of their furniture lines. VS needed to clear out their space for the annual NeoCon event, so we enthusiastically offered to babysit one of their couches. The following prize-winning clip is our mini-adventure of transporting a four piece round couch from Merchandise Mart into our Cannon office. Enjoy!

Figuring out the interlocking mechanisms built inside the couch.

Figuring out the interlocking mechanisms built inside the couch.

We're now using it as a mini-studio to immerse ourselves within a project vortex!

We're now using it as a mini-studio to immerse ourselves within a project vortex!

Danah Boyd: Relationships and Network Building

Boyd defines 21st century learning as making sense of the networks of public life. She points out that the most valuable thing gained from America’s top higher ed institutions isn’t the degree or the knowledge, but the relationships and networks students have made in their time there. She argues that building lifelong learners means “helping people recognize how important it is that they continuously surround themselves by people that they can learn from...[and] connect to new people on a regular basis.” She fears that social media makes it too easy for young people to sequester themselves into a narrow focus of like-minded people.

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

While I agree with this goal, I would argue that surrounding oneself with like-minded people is an important part of development that shouldn’t be cut out. Solidifying one’s own identity requires finding role models and others who reflect your values so you can live them and engage in them. As educators, we can help young people take their smaller circle for identity negotiation and widen it to open the way for brave, new intellectual pursuits. The question is how can we do this best?

How can we facilitate the building of social networks? How do we support natural relationship building and encourage the expansion of this comfort zone? How do we reward and document this form of growth and development?

Danah Boyd: How Teens Navigate Public and Private

As Boyd discusses the value of a public stage to experiment with self expression, she makes a really interesting distinction that “just because teenagers want to be IN public does not mean that they want to BE public.” They therefore have figured out how to negotiate a privacy within the public realm. This is possible because we no longer define privacy as the control of information. Information is free flowing. Shared knowledge is more valuable than competing in a zero-sum intellectual property game. Instead, privacy is gained by controlling the boundaries of who participates in your ideas and who understands your ideas. Teens use "’social steganography,’ which happens when teens choose to post something very publicly knowing the meaning is completely lost on anyone who is not in-the-know.”

What do public and community gathering spaces look like with this definition of public and private? How can teens to be in public and yet create boundaries of meaning? What does “social steganography” look like in physical form? Or is a combination of physical space and digital communication?

Danah Boyd on Trends in Teen Media Use

This written talk by Danah Boyd caught my eye and is worth a break from How Children Succeed. Her talk forecasts the nature of future organizations based on trends in start up culture and teen media use. She argues that today is about the development of the individual through their social networks. Organizations are a means of implementing and realizing, but they are not the primary focus. I love her productive cross-generational comparison. I’ll reflect on the teen learning topics of her talk here and will save start up reflections for a separate organizational strategy discussion. Boyd explores how social media demonstrates three aspects of teen development: identity experimentation, navigating public/private boundaries and building relationships and networks.

Identity Experimentation

A feedback book at a public library is filled with more expressions of personal identity than comments on the library.

A feedback book at a public library is filled with more expressions of personal identity than comments on the library.

Boyd makes a similar argument as Sherry Turkle in Alone Together: teen years are crowded with responsibilities and expectations that give them little opportunity to experiment with who they are and who they want to be. Social media serves as an interstitial realm that they can control: “it becomes a training ground for independence, creativity, and personal self-expression.”

How can we support this experimentation in learning environments? How can we connect them to the social media realm for safe experimentation? And help them carry the fruits of that experimentation into the physical realm? How can we create a physical realm that similarly supports experimentation?

The Skills Gap

Recently, I’ve been concerned about the “skills gap,” a term describing the situation where employers complain that graduating students don’t have the skills to qualify for available jobs, while educators still believe their students are ready.  Having just made the leap from 7 years of higher education to entry-level employment, I feel that this is a ripe opportunity to reflect on this transition.

My main objective here is to reframe the question of why graduates lack skills for available jobs, and ask instead why graduates are not emotionally ready for employment.

I’d like to tackle the idea that once you graduate, you’re done. You’re set, you believe you’ve acquired enough knowledge and know-how to start changing lives and taking names. Let’s look at that a bit more closely.

1.       We already know that you don’t have to graduate from school to start something. You don’t have to earn a degree to do anything anymore. Some people recognize that school is just the fertile ground (diverse people, creative tools, crazy ideas) to GET GOING.  

How can we support students to run with their ideas into the real world? How can we change the metaphor of schools from employee factories (economy-centered) to leadership academies (student-centered)?

2.       Different people take varying amounts of time to realize who they are and what they want to do.  When you graduate, it does not show how self-aware a person is.  For some people, looking for a job is the first time they’ve had to test their values against an organizations’.  It’s the first time that they realize we must each find a unique way to serve society; ideally, create their own position or niche.

How can we create more time for focused reflection during school so that when training is over, young people know how to use their own internal compass?

3.       Graduation is the end of formal institutional training, but learning is never over. Becoming educated must mean to learn how you, yourself learn; how you, yourself are motivated; how you, yourself, are inspired. Learning is simply a nimble mind. It’s open enough to accept new/challenging information, but closed enough to filter out spam.  It’s capable of making quick judgments but careful enough to reevaluate them later. It’s recalling main ideas but applying and sharing them to relevant people and situations going forward.

How can we instill a fundamental  love of challenging oneself to stimulate a lifelong learning mentality? How can we support and validate alternative paths to education?

Over the last year I’ve had great laughs about the Skills Gap- talking to my peers about meaningless degrees, collaborating with students to design our own education , and participating on OpenIDEO’s challenge to get young people employed. (Learn more about my submission here.) Fundamentally, it’s not about a skills gap; (I was trained as an architect/ergonomist and my first task was to design this website) it’s about a mindset gap. We need graduates who know themselves enough to pursue a fitting opportunity, who are devoted to learning when it gets weird, and who strive to work with people they admire.