STEAM

The Eduneer: From Silicon Valley Engineer To K12 Educator

by Howard Chan @socratech

InnovationsOver the last few years in education, I have seen an explosion of branded “innovative” ideas that have many of its guiding principles rooted from engineering. Selfishly, it has been a validating feeling that my so-called “rebel” ways of teaching in the past, is seen as now necessary for the future of education. “Innovations” such as Design Thinking, PBL, Deeper Learning, STEM to STEAM, Makerspaces, NGSS Engineering Practices, Blended Learning, FutureReady, and most recently from the White House pushing Computer Science for All, the shift is finally happening.

I grew up in the heart of the Silicon Valley during the roller coaster period of the .com bubble of the late 90’s. Despite my family’s heavy education-career focused background (it was in my blood), I geographically gravitated to the “cool”, fast-paced and high-paying career of engineering. While there were plenty of rewards being an engineer, there were just as many difficult times living the “high-tech” lifestyle…but I will leave that for another post.

I spent a good decade applying my engineering practices as a network engineer, systems engineer and ultimately sales engineer. While the job titles rotated, it fundamentally was based on a key engineering principle: designing solutions for customers. It typically focused on how we can design, sell, train and support customers in their particular business…pretty simple conceptually. But we all know very few do it well, and I quickly learned to embrace failing forward as a key motivating principle to survive in this field. In short, I have failed many times…

Fast forward a decade, I made the leap of faith and became a 6th-grade classroom teacher. I was one of the few engineers that received grant money from the city to become a teacher. The city made a considerable effort to entice engineers to become teachers and paid for credentialing/graduate programs to make it happen. Fortunately for me, I was already soul searching, and it couldn’t have been more timely. I made the teaching leap but never let go of my engineering fundamentals.

The Silicon Valley days continue to stick with me, and it is inspiring to see education embrace many of those principles in modern day pedagogy and curriculum. Below are my guiding reflections in what defines the beautiful marriage between Engineering + Education into what I call the hybrid “Eduneer.” I look forward to seeing how these Eduneering principles continue to manifest in our classrooms and schools all over the world.

7 Guiding Principles: From Silicon Valley Engineer To K12 Educator = Eduneer

  • Asks the Right QuestionsEduneering
  • Continuous Improvement Cycle
  • Relationships Matter
  • Systems Thinker
  • Seeks Technical Expertise
  • Outcomes Driven
  • Humility

Asks the Right Questions

  • What problem am I trying to solve?
  • Who are my users? audience, customers, stakeholders?
  • Did my original question get answered? Or did it evolve to another question?
  • Who provided input on the question? Intentions?
  • What is the better question?
“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” -Albert Einstein

Continuous Improvement Cycle

  • Constant reflection
  • Risk taking while working in vaguery
  • Failing is just fine as we learned something from it
  • Fail forward
  • Quick iterations
  • Design Thinking
  • Engineering Design Process
“People who fail forward are able to see errors or negative experiences as a regular part of life, learn from them, and then move on.” -John Maxwell

Relationships Matter

  • Show love and demonstrate integrity
  • Socially Intelligent
  • Building a network – Who do you know?
  • “You can’t sell anything if you can’t sell yourself”
“Change happens at the speed of trust” -Covey
When I was in sales engineering, I was often partnered with a regional sales rep whose quarterly sales report meant life and death. They were typically driven by the bottom line and were not so concerned about solutions, but product sales. It was that two-team dynamic where I found customers naturally gravitating towards the sales engineer, whose role was to support the solution, not the product sales. These relationships were driven by two things; Can I trust this guy, and is he competent? When trust is built in the relationship, things tend to get accomplished.

Systems Thinker

  • Understand connections
  • Things don’t happen in isolation
  • Systems influence one another within a larger system.
  • Understand the bigger picture
“A bad system will beat a good person every time. Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” -W. Edwards Deming

Seeks Technical Expertise

  • Know your stuff 
  • Surround yourself with people who know their stuff
  • Constant learning
  • Build a personal learning network
“You must continue to gain expertise, but avoid thinking like an expert.” -Waitley

Outcomes Driven

  • Project management mindset
  • GSD – Get “Stuff” Done
  • Measuring success, improvement and growth
  • Celebrate and reflect

“Vision without execution is hallucination.” -Thomas Edison

Humility

  • Work in progress mindset
  • Be gracious
  • Quiet confidence
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” -C.S. Lewis

 

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SAVE THE DATE: 4/30 FutureNOW! Conference @Design39Campus

SaveDateFutureNOW2016We are excited to be partnering with NCPDF, STEAM Insight, and Design39Campus for the 2nd annual FutureNOW! Conference. Last year, we brought together over 250+ educators, administrators, and technologists for a full day of professional learning and collaborative networking. Sessions covered topics in Design Thinking, Creative Confidence, and Project-Based Learning. This year, we are excited to continue the momentum with more exciting learning opportunities from innovative educators from around the county and state. Please SAVE THE DATE for Saturday, April 30th for the 2nd Annual FutureNOW! Conference @Design39Campus. Details and registration to come in early February. 

Here is a glimpse of last year’s conference via Storify: sfy.co/i0Z3W

STEAM: Engineering Design Process in the Context of K12 Education

by Howard Chan: @socratech 

STEAM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics, is not simply a list of subjects that are to be taught, but more of an educational approach to teaching and learning. Although there are several models of implementing a STEAM program, we have developed a model based around the Engineering Design Process (EDP). Although the EDP is typically used in the professional field, we have formatted the process in the context of K12 education.

The Engineering Design Process is a five step cycle where teachers create an inquiry-based learning environment that stimulates students to learn through questioning and doing. The five steps are the following: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create and Improve. Within each of those steps, and transitions, there are teaching and learning strategies that help facilitate the process. Below describes the cycle in the context of K12 STEAM education.

Although the first step in the cycle is to ask the right questions before beginning any process, teachers often begin with step 3, the Plan. In K12 education, it is not uncommon to teach with the “plan” as the focus, and inadvertently bypass two important steps of what are we trying to do/learn, and giving students opportunities to imagine the topic/problem in question. When one skip steps 1 and 2, what often occurs is that teachers give away what we call the “formula” or “step-by-step” plans of solving problems. While understanding the steps are important skills, it is only one part of the process of learning. Students who are simply given the formula in the book are fixated on how to systematically solve an equation and not taught how to truly problem solve. Instead of developing critical thinking skills, the unfortunate outcome is that students are taught to memorize steps and practice rote techniques.

Dan Meyer (http://perplexity.mrmeyer.com/) is a teacher who models how to engage students in math before jumping to the formula in the textbook. He offers several examples in how to introduce math concepts by allowing the students to ask the right questions, allow opportunities to imagine and formulate the problem (without giving it to the students), and leveraging multimedia tools to enhance the experience.

The first step in a solid STEAM program is to build a curriculum established on asking the right questions. Fundamentally, we are trying to provide insight on common questions found in STEAM studies, such as “why am I learning math?” And if you are in middle school math or above, why am I studying Algebra? It is important to build curriculum that puts Algebra or other mathematical concepts in context of real-world applications. In helping guide those questions, a well-thought out socratic seminar will put the context around Step 3 (Plan) and give opportunities for divergent thoughts around the same topic.

It is in Step 2 (Imagine), that teachers give students opportunities to ask questions that will guide them to formulate the problem that needs to be solved. In this context, students are discovering the learning, and not given the answer. Strategically, a teacher will guide the questions and divergent thoughts into converging ideas, ultimately leading to Step 3, the Plan. The work and effort to get to Step 3 gives students the foundations and context of the formula, rather than searching for the formula in the textbook.

Step 3 Differentiated: Using Blended Approaches
To provide more personalized instructional approaches to learning, a blended learning model can help facilitate Step 3 in a more efficient manner.

The first 3 steps of the Engineering Design Process remain in the theoretical framework of learning. In order to provide experiential opportunities, a well-rounded STEAM program will need to integrate the application layers of the model, which are Steps 4 (Create), and Steps 5 (Improve). Once students have established theoretical proficiency of content, teachers can elevate the learning experience by introducing project-based activities around the content. It is in Step 4 that students experience STEAM in its fullest by providing opportunities to transform the theory into practical hands-on experiences. In this level, students are building, designing, creating, and experimenting with the content in ways textbooks could never provide. It is important to develop a strong project-based curriculum that strategically brings together the theoretical frameworks into practical design applications.

The last step of the Engineering Design Process is giving students opportunities to improve upon their creation. In a test taking culture, we often create an environment of a pass-fail mentality. Step five is the opposite of that mentality, where failure is looked upon as an opportunity to improve the design. The ideal EDP fosters a culture of trial-and-error and that improvement is a sign of self-direction and evaluation. When students are in the improvement level, rubrics and portfolio-based assessments help guide the evaluation process. If designed correctly, students would be documenting the process right from the beginning in a portfolio that can be referenced, improved, and edited along the way.

The culmination of the Engineering Design Process can lead to three desired outcomes for any given topic. The first outcome is referencing back to the original question that the project asked and determining if it was appropriately addressed. The second outcome is determining that the original question was just the beginning, and that one has to ask a higher level of questions to get to the desired outcome; therefore going through the EDP again. The last outcome is what engineers call innovation, the creation of something new that addresses a problem. In K12 education, an important last step of the EDP process is providing students a platform called Mountain Top to share all their hard work, no matter the outcome. The Mountain Top can present itself in many forms, such as digital portfolios, competitions, debates, showcases, science fairs, videos, and more.

Big Ideas Around the Engineering Design Process
Step 1: Ask to Step 2: Imagine

  • Asking the right questions
  • Socratic seminars
  • Divergent thinking
  • Challenge-based learning
  • Putting topics and content in context

Step 2: Imagine to Step 3: Plan

  • Discovery learning
  • Convergent thinking
  • Formulate of the problem
  • Design multiple paths to the answer

Step 3: Plan to Step 4: Create

  • Theory into Application
  • Blended approaches to learning
  • 21st century skills practice
  • Project-based learning

Step 4: Create to Step 5: Improve

  • Evaluation and analysis
  • Self-reflection
  • Trial-and-error learning
  • Portfolio-based assessment

Step 5: Improve and Beyond

  • Reaching the mountain top (sharing successes)
  • Innovation
  • Reaching a higher level of Step 1: Ask (asking a better question)