Wednesday, November 30, 2016

LAUNCH: #D100bloggerPD Book Study

I was so happy to be asked to be a part of the #D100BloggerPD. It is forcing me to read one of the many titles in my pile of professional books. We're a group of bloggers in Berwyn South District 100 that read and blog. It was started 1 year ago by Colleen Noffsinger and Kristin Richey, two reading teachers in our district, as a way to update and redefine teacher professional development. It is great because unless you're assigned a chapter you can follow along at your own pace. Professional Development on your time!

This time around the blogger crew is reading LAUNCH: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student. So far I have learned a lot from reading the first 3 chapters.

Don't seek to be the best, seek to do your best. - Sarah Thomas @sarahdateechur

Chapter 4 is all about the first step in design thinking, or the LAUNCH Cycle. The authors Spencer and Juliani have shared the above poster, and more available for download from their website. I think the posters are a great way to attach a visual to each step and remind students where they should be in the process.

The first step is to build awareness or empathy. The authors contend that there are 7 ways for students to LOOK, LISTEN AND LEARN. In each section the authors provide us with a definition, questions to ask your students, sentence stems and a classroom example from personal experiences. Some of the method titles are self explanatory. Each entry below has a summary from the book and a personal reflection or connection from me.

p 70

1. The observation of a phenomenon
This works best for a time when hands-on experiences or using the 5 senses will help students learn more about what they already know or see something new. Allowing for observation and play can be done in a variety of situations. Teachers should try to engage students "... in such a way that they become profoundly and deeply interested in what they are seeing." p 71.
I think this would work best for science and math, but could be done in any subject.  The Questions to Ask Your Students and the Sentence Stems sections could be very helpful in getting started.

p 72

2. Tap into natural wonders
This method will tap into students natural sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around them. The authors liken it to asking questions, as if you are a four year old child again. 

There is a quote in this section that I think is very important. "Unfortunately schools are more often designed to help students answer questions rather than question answers." p 72. We need to set up situations that make students want to ask questions. We also need to teach students how to ask the right kinds of questions. I was recently in Mike Saracini's social studies classroom. He was starting a new unit. In order to get buy in and build engagement from students he took short video clips that would elicit questions from his students. Questions like who are these people?, What problem(s) are they trying to solve?, and When did this event occur? Instead of spoon feeding the information through lecture he helped his students ask good questions. 

p 74

3. Start with an awareness of a specific issue
Usually students Look, Listen and Learn in this instance with no solution in mind. Building empathy around a specific issue leads to services more than tangible goods. I think it can be issues that have the potential to change the world or at least the students' little corner of the world. Issues like recycling and social justice topics are just a few. This can be likened to service learning projects.

A few years back one of our middle school science teachers did a recycling unit. The students became so passionate about the topic that they asked the question - What can we do to help in our community? After going through the LAUNCH cycle they chose to have a fundraiser that would raise money to buy recycling containers for our city's largest park because it did not have any. 

p 76

4. Start with empathy towards a specific group
This method focuses on specific groups that students already know, or an issue they have faced themselves. Their "...personal experience connects them on a heart level to the issues..." p 76. The end product is created with real people in mind. The issue referred to in this section is poverty. 

"As they seek to understand the attitudes, beliefs, emotions, and mindsets of their potential audience, they develop empathy. The product then, is often even more valuable to the end user because it was created with real people in mind, rather than a theoretical market." p 77. This reminds me of when I heard Jessi Chartier, CEO of Mobile Makers Academy, speak earlier this year. She told the audience that the technology companies in Chicago have a greater return on investment than those in Silicon Valley or Austin because they are solving real world problems for people. This is what we want for our students. 

p 78

5. Start with a specific problem that needs to be solved
Students identify a problem and ask why it matters. This style lends itself to Shark-Tank types of projects that solve a specific consumer issue. 

I think this could be a good place to start. I am going to do some Novel Engineering units with a class that I am working with. Novel engineering is where you take classroom literature then students
engineer design challenges. The end result has the students designing and creating a solution to a specific problem. For instance, one of the books is Keats Snowy Day. Students will need to design something that will keep the snowball from melting in Peter's pocket.

p 80

6. Start with a product idea
"Students have a clear picture of the finished product in mind..." p 80.  During the Look, Listen and Learn stage students should keep their ideas very general. The example in the book is the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) project. Here students create an original story after doing research. In this instance they need to take an idea, develop it and make it their own. Another way this could be done is if you have students improve a consumer item that already exists. 

I did an invention unit back in the early 1990's when I was a classroom teacher. Some of the best ideas were those that improved on products that already existed. I had a student who decided that adhesive bandages should have antibacterial medicine on the pad. At the time those did not exist. He was able to design a usable prototype.

p 82

7.  Start with a geeky interest
"The benefit of this approach is that it supports intrinsic motivation through student choice." "... when students begin with their own geeky interests, they can persevere." p 82. 

This method lends itself to the now popular 20% time or Genius Hour. This method taps into student's passions and prior knowledge. This is a great way to increase student talk time and help students be active learners. There are many resources available on the Net on how to get started with Genius Hour in your classroom or school. 

Next the authors discuss the doubts that some educators have about the effectiveness of these methods and the LAUNCH process in general. The concerns are things like, how do you keep kids accountable for their work and their time, how does this go with the curriculum and standards that I have to teach, and there is no way to do this with a whole class of students. It works because each one of these starts with student choice

Finally, the authors provide an Action Plan Template. Click on the link to download or add it to your Google Drive. 
You can also visit to get more information and resources on Phase 1 of the LAUNCH Cycle. 

Thank you to @MrsRyder58 for allowing me to include this awesome sketchnote of Chapter 4 to my blog post.


Next up is the fabulous Miss Kayla Kaczmarek to blog about Phase 2 and asking questions. Stay tuned! 


  1. Great post! I love the idea that empathy can play such a large role in areas, such as tech or Science, that we might not normally think of in social emotional contexts. Thanks for sharing your reflection! :)

  2. This chapter really got me thinking about all the ways you can start using design thinking! I used to think empathy was the only way, but there is a good option here for all subjects!

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  4. Whoops - had a mistake in my first comment so I rewrote it.

    A HUGE part of NGSS is about engaging students with phenomena, so #1 is perfect for that! I loved reading the summaries of each method - thanks for the write up!

  5. I really enjoy your real life connections to each piece. What a fantastic way to connect the dots. You really got me thinking about how to tap into younger students who want to begin the process.