Looking Ahead with Some Teams from the TD4Ed Pilot

The beginning of a new year prompts us to take stock of where we’ve been, what we’ve accomplished, and what we want to happen in the coming months. I’d like to take the opportunity to reflect on behalf of a few of our TD4Ed pilot teams, who have been using TD4Ed as a springboard to drive some impressive transformations in their schools’ teaching and learning environments.

TD4Ed, or Teachers Design for Education, is a collaborative design thinking platform that BIF’s Student Experience Lab created with teachers over the past year, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Highlander Institute. This platform empowers educators to lead innovation in their classrooms, schools, districts, and communities. The newest iteration of this free curriculum launched online in September 2014, giving teachers design thinking tools and support to enable them to identify challenges, develop ideas to address them, and implement their solutions. You can check out the online platform itself or BIF’s report on the process of creating it.

The current TD4Ed online platform grew out of a series of pilot programs with teams of teachers in Rhode Island, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Massachusetts. We have some inspiring updates for you on how some of these educators have taken TD4Ed — and its design thinking mindset and processes — and run with it.

Team El Centro, Philadelphia 

El Centro de Estudiantes is an alternative school for students who are over-aged and under-credited, and the school’s model means that new students enroll each trimester. During the TD4Ed pilot program, the team at el Centro de Estudiantes decided to tackle the challenge of how their orientation program might better prepare these new students for success and help set their expectations for the environment at el Centro. Through the process, they found that incorporating current students’ voices and experiences into orientation was an effective way to get new students ready for el Centro.

Andrew Christman from Team El Centro tells us that since the pilot, the team has been hard at work establishing their new “Gateway” orientation program. In true design thinking fashion, the creation of the orientation program was informed by insights from conducting field research, focus group discussions, interviews, and surveys with students and staff members.

New and veteran students’ voices have been at the center of this effort. So far, Andrew tells us they’ve found that “this new ‘Gateway’ approach to prospective student orientation has proven to signify a major, positive shift at el Centro de Estudiantes,” and that “[their] training at TD4Ed made a vital contribution to the success of this important change at el Centro.”

Now that the team has established Gateway, they are focusing their design thinking efforts on sustaining the program and tackling other challenges el Centro de Estudiantes faces around the school’s attendance policy and student leadership.

Team Perspectives, Chicago

During the TD4Ed pilot, the team at Perspectives Charter Schools worked on a challenge focused on increasing teacher retention and better understanding educators’ expectations surrounding the experience of being a classroom teacher.

Team member Sydni Franks wrote to update us and told us that since finishing TD4Ed’s design thinking-based curriculum, they implemented a design thinking project for students that challenged them to explore how Chicago’s mayor might create a more peaceful city. This past October, the Perspectives network held a Peace Premiere event during which the five finalist student teams presented their ideas and plans to an audience of Perspectives staff members, community partners, and other key stakeholders.

Team Mashpee, Massachusetts

Team Mashpee’s project during the TD4Ed pilot centered on how they could make teachers more comfortable, consistent, and effective using technology in the classroom. Through the TD4Ed process, they established teams of educators who served as technology experts for colleagues and students. The intention was that these technology experts would collaborate, share ideas, and solve technology-related problems together, then train and support others in their schools.

Team Mashpee’s Stephanie Lanoue tells us that they continue to hold technology workshops on a weekly basis, and see great turnout and interest at these events. As the workshops are optional for staff members, Team Mashpee is now working to figure out how to reach educators who need assistance with technology but are hesitant to ask for help.

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We always love hearing about how teams are using TD4Ed, so if you have your own story to share, please pass it along!

In the meantime, we’re continuing to refine the TD4Ed platform, as well as explore new partnerships to get TD4Ed into the hands of even more teachers in the coming months and sustain a community of educators excited about education transformation. As we look to the future of teacher-driven change in education, we hope you join us — by giving us input into how to take the platform to the next level, by telling us about your creative ideas for strategic partnerships for TD4Ed, or by signing up for a free account at www.td4ed.com and starting your own project.

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