Thursday, October 24, 2013


Walk onto the Googleplex, the Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California, and you can't help but feel inspired. The D39C team visited on Monday, October 14 as part of our #edjourney to visit some business and schools in the Bay Area. During our time we were able to have lunch and take a tour to experience what Google is all about. It is clear from our short visit that Google is a fun place to work where they take care of the whole person, trust their employees, and value each other’s expertise.

From the artistic, interactive art and creative workspaces to the ball pit conference areas, Google bikes, and the famous Google slides, the Googleplex is a FUN place to be. It has such a playful atmosphere that invites creativity and inspiration. Googlers have a smile on their face and they value opportunities to work and collaborate in a lighthearted environment.
You would think schools working with children would have this fun type of atmosphere, yet when you walk through typical schools they all look the same. Classrooms filled with rows of desks and decorations that all look the same on the bulletin boards. Students have to walk quietly in lines down the hallways. Bells direct students and teachers from class to class. Unengaged students struggling through textbooks and endless worksheets. Where is the FUN in this? How are educators keeping the natural curiosity, creativity, and FUN in learning? Learning is fun and school should be a place that fosters the culture that learning is all around us and is FUN. 
After walking around the complex and seeing the variety of amenities, it was clear that Google takes into consideration the whole person. They provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as mini kitchens always full of snacks, drinks, and coffee throughout their buildings. The main dining facilities have every variety of food you could imagine including make your own sodas. All the food is FREE!

Besides food there are massage rooms, napping pods, an endless swimming pool, fitness center, beach volleyball court, mobile dentists, and mobile car services. They also have a medical facility on campus for flu shots and minor medical needs. The Googleplex really felt like a complex that you never had to leave.
In education you will often hear the phrase “taking care of the whole child” or “creating well rounded children”, yet schools limit with constraints and the need to cover or deliver curriculum. Are we really nurturing the whole child by only concentrating on what academic level they are on or what difficulties they are having? Are we offering opportunities for students to find and explore their passions?
Google trusts its employees. Trust was one of the first words that came to mind as we looked around and saw people in impromptu, creative work spaces working individually or in small groups. There are no bosses micromanaging employees’ time. Supervisors trust them to work and meet their project deadlines. They have a system in place where employees submit their project goal ideas for approval and are accountable for their work streams. The feeling of trust is evident in the fact that one key card gives employees access to every Google building in the world. With 40,000 employees and growing significantly, Google still has such high levels of trust in its employees.
Imagine if national and state educational decision makers had as much trust in its teachers as Google has in its employees. Imagine district employees trusting teachers and teachers trusting students. It sounds silly, but the trust often isn't there. Teachers are given standards and textbooks with scripted lesson plans. Some districts strictly require their teachers to follow exact plans where you can walk out of a room and into another and miss nothing in a lesson. Teachers are doing the same things with students. They are not trusting students. They are not trusting that students can be passionate about learning and be an integral part of monitoring and assessing their learning. How would education change if we had more trust in each other?
When I asked a Googler what he like most about working at Google he took a moment to think and responded, "the expertise we have here in Google." He proceeded to name some talented colleagues that work at Google and how they are able to collaborate and use each other's expertise. Googlers are encouraged to search out people and connect with them to assist in their projects. They join up to use each other’s expertise to create something better than they could create on their own. Their playful, physical environment also promotes collaboration between employees.
If working in the real world is about connections and collaborating, then why do we make so much of school “sit, get, and do by yourself?’ A businessman once shared this thought with me. “In school it was called cheating. In the real world it’s called masterminding.” When students join together and use each other’s “super powers” great learning will be the result. How can we change schools so students have more opportunities to explore content and produce work as a team using other’s expertise? The author of “The Multiplier Effect” shares that “students work hard in school always proving they are smart. Once in the real world they continue to try to prove they are smart. This can make them unsuccessful. Instead, we need students to know they are smart and then know how to find other’s expertises.”
This trip to the Googleplex was exciting and inspiring for the Design39Campus team. Thank you to Google and to Paul Carff for taking the time to welcome us and give us a tour of the complex. This experience validated a lot of the work we have started with D39C as well as spur some other thoughts to help our school become successful.
Below is a Twitter Recap of the tweets from our team during the tour of the Googleplex.

Another takeaway from visits to Google & Box- It's time to change the way we name classrooms.

Google treats their people well & amazing things happen! Schools, too?

Google employee's face lite up when we shared kids as young as kindergarten will learn coding

If no one is upset with the changes you are making, you are not pushing far enough!

Great visit with Google! Amazing what's created when people aren't treated like widgets.

Trust is key! Trust people to have great ideas and to get it done. Teach kids how to manage projects.

Google as a company= Trust, innovation, collaboration, expertise, fun, creative, inspiring. Need to make school feel this way.

Bikes, lounges, slides, food, doctors, ball pit conferences, bike meetings,... Google=FUN Schools need more FUN!

Google's environment is collaborative, creative, and inspiring. Food is all free and so much variety.

Megan Power

Rocketship Academy

Rocketship Academy in San Jose, CA.
October 16, 2013
How does a community who feels (is?) underserved by their local school overcome their challenge and develop a higher quality education for their young children? One option is the Rocketship model of charter schools.
Their model of education grows from three core values: "Excellent teachers and leaders create transformational schools; Every child has a unique set of needs; [and] Engaged parents are essential in eliminating the achievement gap." At Rocketship Alma Road, where we visited today, the parents we encountered raved about the school. They felt welcomed, cared about, and wanted at the school. And that was very refreshing.
Too often we hear from parents that they don't feel welcomed at their children's school, that the feeling they get is that the schools want parents to drop their kids off in the morning, pick them up in the afternoon and just leave the rest alone. There are many problems with this scenario. First, when parents don't feel welcomed they are less likely to be engaged in the daily educational lives of their children. The assumption is that if the school wanted them to do more, they would ask. Second, if the parents are not included in the educational process, asked what they value, what they would like to help with, invited into the classrooms to help and observe, then they will fill the vacuum with either the memories they have from their own education, or with the myths and half-truths they hear from their friends and neighbors. Last, when parents aren't part of the school, they aren't cheerleaders for that school's staff or programs. They are less likely to provide financial support, too.
While I found it interesting that the folks at Rocketship were using computer technologies and web-based assessments in order to help students accelerate their learning in math and reading, I felt that the most profound difference this school makes in their community is their open, caring, and engaging relationship that they develop with their parents. This "village" approach to education is human-centered, relationship-based, and has created an environment in which attitudes toward school amongst the families attending Rocketship are overwhelmingly positive.
As we all move forward looking for proven methods that create positive change in our schools, look to Rocketship and their all inclusive model of parent involvement. The biggest challenge you may have to overcome is deciding how to best utilize all your new resources!

Bret Fitzpatrick
Learning Experience Designer

A Fun Morning with Los Altos School District

Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2014

What an exciting and inspiring morning at Los Altos School District.  Alyssa Gallagher, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Community Partnerships arranged for us to spend three hours with Superintendent Jeff Baier, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Nancy Davis, District Technology Coach Erin Zaich, Innovative Strategies Coach Kami Thordarson, and STEM Coach Karen Wilson.  Additionally, the Superintendent of Milpitas Unified School District, Cary Matsuoka, joined us.  An added bonus: we picked up our friend and Chief Provocateur, Grant Lichtman, at San Jose Intl Airport so he could join in the collaboration with all of us!

We started off with introductions in their iLearn Room.  Alyssa asked us to share an "ah ha" on our innovation journey. We immediately knew we were among people with a similar vision,and we felt right at home. 

After the D39C team shared the progress of our journey in our new school, we then had the opportunity to select a topic for small group dialogue.  The four themes that surfaced where Rethinking Professional Learning, Culture and Climate, Blended Learning, and Change.  The next hour and half was lively and very beneficial to everyone.

I sat with Nancy and Erin to talk about Rethinking Professional Learning.  We shared the challenges of offering opportunities for our teachers to learn, and promoting more widespread participation.  It was exciting to think of the possibilities if our districts could define the "sandbox" or overall focus, and then facilitate teachers as they develop their own professional learning centered on our districts' focus areas.  We like the idea of teachers taking the ownership, deciding what they need to know and learn more about, what they need to let go in order to shift learning to students, and (most exciting point) modeling the  learning experience we are hoping for our students.  We were intrigued about the notion of giving teachers a challenge to develop time for more collaboration.  We discussed the benefits of developing true collaborative skills and strategies for all staff.  (I shared that I have worked with The Thinking Collaborative, Maximizing Capacity in Individuals and Organizations

Additional group summaries:

Culture and Climate
  • The importance of breaking down traditional mindsets and structures in order for real change and innovation in classrooms.  How to make it sustainable throughout the district.
  • Everything speaks: labels of our spaces and title.  In order to change the way we teach, we need to change the way we label it.
  • Modeling the change at the district level, working with teachers, and the need to work with principals so they can lead the change at their sites.
  • Listening to students, using student voice to change culture and climate.

Blended Learning
  • What is wasn't.  It has become kids in front of computers with headphones on, not truly blended.
  • It is truly a blended experience of integration of tech as a tool, direct instruction, design thinking, collaboration, and just in time learning.
  • It is difficult to lesson plan because it is much more organic. 

  • Changing how an organization initiates change
  • Finding ways to light more brushfires, rather than rewriting district strategic plan and hoping.
  • Examining our language and vocabulary to reveal what people truly believe about an organization. 

It was so exciting to be with kindred spirits for the morning, and we are excited about continuing this partnership.  Google Drive and Hangouts/Skype/FaceTime will be our day to day tools to continue our dialogue, with a few visits sprinkled in here and there!  We are very appreciative of the time and energy Los Altos SD and Milpitas USD gave to us this morning!

Sonya Wrisley

Inspiring School Garden

Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School 
Berkeley, California
School Garden

The Edible Schoolyard Yields Seed-to-Table Learning Video Featuring
Martin Luther King Junior Middle School:

Stanford Visit

On October 15, 2013 our Design39Campus team had the great fortune to tour the Stanford d.School and take a peak inside the design thinking spaces of the school. Having spent the morning at IDEO, we were ready to explore the halls of this famed school. 

From the outside the d.School is hard to spot as it looks like most of the buildings at Stanford. Inside, however, you know you are in a different kind of learning environment. Multicolored stickies, whiteboard panels on wheels and hanging from the ceiling, foam sugar cube seats, and roll-up garage doors for walls are all standard fixtures of this learning space. 

Upstairs you will find the lab spaces where students work through the design process in collaboration with a variety of people. 

Of interest to our team was the K-12 work group who is finding ways to bring design thinking into the classroom. Reading their walls excited us to see how the mission/vision of Design39Campus fits with the work the d.School is doing. We left business cards and tweeted to them about our visit in hopes we can make a deeper connection with this very busy group of thinkers.

The Makery rooms proved to be a treasure trove of ideas for our own Makeries back home. Our take-aways from this visit are:

1) learning spaces must be flexible
2) furniture must moveable and multi-use
3) designing is about making and sometimes it just has to be messy
4) we need "stuff" readily available to facilitate learning 
5) space, tools, and materials must be applied to real problems/projects to make learning real
6) traditional one teacher, one classroom organization is a barrier to innovation
7) teacher teams need to be composed of a variety of experts who help all members learn new skills in the application of the teaching practice.

Thank you d.School!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Last week the Design39Campus team had the privilege to travel throughout the Bay Area to explore new ideas and possibilities to implement in our new school. As classroom teachers, we rarely are able to attend conferences or collaborate with educators from other schools or districts.  We took advantage of this incredible opportunity and packed our schedule with visits that could help inspire our thinking as we design D39C.
One of the most impressive stops on our journey was not a school, but rather the offices of IDEO.  IDEO is a design and consultation firm founded by brothers Tom and David Kelley.  They have designed everything from apps, to automobile seating, toys, games, packaging, the computer mouse, the Palm Pilot, and customized buttons.  They have worked with companies such as Levi Strauss, Mattel, Apple, Steelcase, Quiksilver, AT&T, and Converse to name a few.

As we approached their offices in Palo Alto, this was the first thing we saw:

The Kelley brothers just released their new book, Creative Confidence, this week.  If you have not had a chance to read it, I highly encourage it!  You can even read the first 60 pages for free in iBooks. These pictures were taken in the IDEO San Francisco lobby. (If you buy the hardback version, the cover unfolds to create a full size poster. Creative!)

As it turned out, our connection and appointment to tour IDEO did not get fully communicated.  However, the receptionist at the front desk, Vicki D., was amazingly helpful in getting us all set up with a tour with Yancy, the Director of Experience.  Our first big take away from IDEO?  They believe in treating people well.  From the moment we walked in the door, we were welcomed and they worked with us to give us the best possible experience on their campus.  As Vicki said, "Everyone wants you to succeed here, so they want you happy so you CAN succeed."  Vicki has been working at IDEO since 1989 and says she can't imagine retiring.  That alone speaks volumes about an organization.

The IDEO lobby itself was awe inspiring.  As we waited for our tour, we all sat in a yurt with a table made of donut shaped plain white paper and a box of colored pencils.  They encourage you to leave your mark when you visit.  Of course, we plastered our sheet with messages for changing the way we do school and images of D39C.

IDEO is also responsible for designing the Node chair produced by Steelcase.  The chair is on casters with a moveable desktop and underneath storage.  It is considered one of the latest and greatest in furniture for educational settings.  IDEO painted one of their Nodes with chalkboard paint and wrote messages in chalk for their display.

Creative Confidence is now on bookshelves and IDEO created three extremely large props of the book for their release party.  These are also in the lobby, along with the espresso machine, of course.

After telling Yancy about D39C and our mission to change school the world, we began our tour of the campus.  (Unfortunately, from this point forward, we were unable to take photos due to the nature of their business.  You'll have to just use your imagination in this part.  In fact, take what I write and multiply it by 500 on the coolness scale and you'll get a sense of what we experienced.)

Our first stop was the cafe.  Yancy explained to us that people come together around food.  There is much creativity used in cooking and making a meal.  It's a chance to connect with others, centered around the hearth.  IDEO has rituals based around food, such as special homemade soups on Tuesdays and times to gather for tea and homebaked goods.  It is a place that people gather together to eat and also work collaboratively. Another thing we have learned on this trip?  Companies feed their employees.  Well.  Each business we visited offered endless supplies of food and drink.

Upstairs, we peeked in on the toy workshop.  IDEO creates toys and apps for major companies.  Imagine a place where every possible part and accessory is available to design new toys.  This workshop was fully equipped with tools, whiteboard topped tables, computers, and endless drawers of random supplies.  Yancy explained that they work with their client to empathize and define the problem they are trying to solve.  They brainstorm ideas and then begin piecing together parts until they have their prototype.  One example was the idea of a football with added wings to help create the perfect spiral.  They simply used an existing football, cut slits in the sides, and hot glued on new foam wings.  That simple prototype transformed into the Aerobie football, with over 3 million sold worldwide.

We also toured design spaces where groups of people worked collaboratively on projects.  Yancy explained that certain groups of people are matched together to create groups that can best meet the design challenge.  Each employee has areas of interest, passion, and expertise that help determine the projects they join.  The work spaces are flexible and adaptable, with most furniture on casters.  Desks and tables are adjustable to sitting or standing levels.  Oversized tables are centrally located for use with large projects.  Work benches contain every imaginable tool and machine. Supplies are housed in various sized bins hanging off the walls. Moveable Z-racks (think whiteboards) are available to roll in and out of project spaces.  

On the IDEO campus, there is also a group of specialty builders working in the machine shops to create design prototypes.  They have access to multiple 2D, laser die cut, and 3D printers.  These large open warehouse type spaces house the largest machinery, with outlets hanging from the ceiling.  Our builders (Bret) in the group were drooling!

The entire experience was inspiring.  IDEO is stocked full of people using their creative confidence to re-imagine the world. Design thinking is a powerful process.  

So what can a group of teachers learn from a place like IDEO?  
  • Relationships are vital.  Treat people well. Read Jimmy Chion's article titled, "What it's like to work at IDEO?"
  • Food is important, as well as a central space to gather together.  
  • Design space with intention.  IDEO designs for minimum personal space and maximum collaborative space.
  • Don't be afraid to change your space as needed.  IDEO has moved multiple times and is currently in the process of rearranging their current campus to improve access to specialty tools.
  • Empathy plays a powerful role in the design process. You must first understand the audience you are designing for and become part of their experience. Great example of this, IDEO - Improving School Lunches By Design for SFUSD.

Other Resources:

IDEO’s Ten Tips For Creating a 21st–Century Classroom Experience
Creative Confidence
Watch David Kelley on 60 Minutes
CBS This Morning
TED - David Kelley: How to build your creative confidence

Thanks, IDEO, for inspiring educators!

Kelly Eveleth

Monday, October 21, 2013

Thinking Outside the... BOX

During our northern California EdJourney, our Design39Campus team was able to visit the progressive, start-up company box.

Motion. Laughing. Freedom. Trust. Collaboration. Fun. Food anytime. Mobile furniture. Writeable surfaces. Pride. Celebration.

These are are a few of the many things that became very noticeable within minutes of walking around the newly renovated 3 story building. The first piece of furniture that caught our eyes was the bright yellow slide that allowed employees to get from the second floor to the first floor. With a smile on our faces, we asked “is this only for box employees?” Thankfully, it was for everybody. Right away, we knew this was going to be an engaging experience - and we knew how our time here would end. More on this in a bit...

Employees were standing or sitting at height-adjustable tables with, what we believed, to be their choice of computer. In front of them, a small writeable surface for quick ideas and brainstorms to be jotted down. Most employees were huddled in groups, standing, talking, and working effectively with common goals of innovation and change. Writing covered the whiteboard walls and all the rooms were named with a creative twist or inside joke. Clearly, the environment inspired creativity and high quality work, while maintaining a light, joyful working experience for employees. We saw pride in their work as teams seemed to work in small, collaborative families who celebrated success in their own special ways. All workers ate lunch at around the same time in a large, open cafe where food was, of course free, and at the heart of the workforce. This space, which included ping pong tables and a stage, was big enough for all employees to fit in at once, if needed, to have all staff events.

It was nearing the end of our visit and we still had unfinished business. That’s correct. The slide.

Our team went in with the mindset that box could only offer a user a virtual cloud for digital storage.  We quickly learned that this is not the function that makes box special - it’s the fact that they allow for users to interact and collaborate with those files through a virtual network. We left thinking, how can we integrate this into our school and why would this be good for kids? More to come soon.

A few of our tweets from our experience:

@Design39Campus box employees moving constantly, having fun, and working in a collaborative environment #edjourney #d39c

Another takeaway from visits to Google and box - it's time to be creative and change the way we name classrooms #edjourney #d39c

Box has a slide!!! Our team has fun everywhere!! #edjourney

Schools need to model more after innovative businesses like @ideo @google @BoxWorks #edjourney #D39C

Thanks box!

Kyle Asmus

A Call For Organic Efficiency

While participating in a session on changing school at an unconference put on by EdCampSD, a participant shared out that there are certain systems in place in schools that help to make things more efficient. . .

There are at least three ways to look at efficiency: the factory model, bureaucracy, and organic. In the factory model, efficiency is a means to an end. Specifically: cost savings. Consultants are brought in to analyze the assembly line processes and to find ways to speed up the process, or to cut the time of production, or both. Systems are developed, tested, and put into place to increase efficiency. Emphasis is on the process of getting the job done quickly, meeting the minimum requirements of the consumer, in terms of product quality, and not taking into consideration either the workers, or the possibility of improving or innovating the product. This is a very cold, inhuman way of looking at the world. In practice, monetary profit is the bottom line, if not the only line. 

In a bureaucracy, the purpose of which is to prevent change and to cement power and control, efficiency is much talked about, but rarely valued. In fact, as layers of the bureaucracy develop, and systems are put in place to manage the flow of information (read: approve or disapprove), efficiency suffers, even though there are awesome flow-charts developed to show exactly how a certain task is to be completed or pursued. The larger the institution, whether it be a car manufacturer, school district, or computer company, the less efficient the process due to the additive layering process and the defense of power, no matter how little an individual may have. Also, in a bureaucracy, it is far easier to say "no," than to convince the "higher-ups" that a new idea is worth pursuing. 

Given the changes that continue to happen in the world of work, it is becoming clear that there is another form of efficiency that is developing. A great example is the maker movement. These are individuals and small groups of people who are very agile in their thinking, and in their practice. As developments come along, new resources, both human and material, are incorporated, until the product comes to fruition. Once completed, they move on to other projects and ideas. It is an organic view of efficiency. One in which capital (money, natural resources, people) naturally flows to the area of need. Visiting Google, Box, and IDEO this week has only helped to clarify this view. Each of these companies promotes the development of ideas and the movement of personnel to pursue ideas and to solve challenges as needed. This is a flat, distributed, or organic model, which enables fluidity, reduces waste, and enables creativity.

Looking at schools and school districts, we immediately recognize the bureaucracy and, since the advent of the Standards movement, the factory model of efficiency at work. Education innovators run head-long into the bureaucracies that have grown and developed over the last century. Even well meaning and bleeding edge superintendents encounter problems with the established bureaucratic cultures entrenched in the world of education. 

In other words, efficiency, as traditionally described and encountered, inhibits innovation and creativity. For real change to occur in education, it is imperative that teachers not only band together to lead the charge, but that they also fuel the fires of the evolution of the profession, changing it from the sage-on-the-stage factory model, to the far more efficient organic model where collaboration, creativity, and innovation are the most deeply held values. 

Bret Fitzpatrick
Learning Experience Designer