Design Thinking in Schools | Part Three – G Suite for Edu

By +Ben Rouse

Gmail was created by a Google engineer in their 20% time, back in 2004. Googlers get time to pursue projects outside of their main role and this engineer wanted to tackle spam, a significant problem for email users in the beginning of this millennium. The project was to create an email that would block most spam, the technology was utilised to solve a problem. It so happens this internal project became a tools with over 1 billion users. Wonder if they got a bonus?

All good technology integrations in schools don’t begin by talking about the tools. The same is true in this blog series, only once we have given time to empathise with the situation, define it and seek to develop ideas around this can the tools come into their own.

Embedding G Suite for Education in learning involves looking for barriers to modern learning taking place in schools and seeking to move beyond them. This was the case for me. I offered tool specific training in my school but the turnout was low, despite being able to travel across Europe to deliver sessions that were packed. However, when we started focussing on problems, such as the office staff not being able to edit a spreadsheet when someone else had it open, or that they were spending hours typing information from paper reply slips into a spreadsheet, this was when the tools came into their own. Since then the office team are Google form gurus and have saved themselves hours.

Two primary colleagues shared the planning load for their classes in the same year group but I discovered they were planning furiously over the weekend and only discovering what each other had done on Monday morning. Then they had to scramble to adjust their powerpoints to match. For them, the move to Google Slides through drive was easy as they could collaborate on planning and Monday mornings were much more manageable, giving them more time to welcome the children and ease into a successful day, knowing their planning was ready to go.

In preparation for an event in Scotland I was studying documents related to closing attainment gaps between students from different economic backgrounds, something that is a key focus in Scotland and many other countries. This document lists things schools can do, gathered from evidence based research. The five guiding principles and six key strategies aligned with two of my passions, design thinking and technology for learning. The guiding principles are empathy and context driven. Closing the attainment gap does not have a silver bullet but is uniquely entwined with the situation, community and context of schools.

The key strategies include, high quality teachers and teaching… this is vital for any technology integration! Another key principle is relates to a network of support and collaboration. If you are looking to collaborate then G Suite offers the best current set of tools for that.

What are the problems facing teachers and learners currently?

  • Lack of time 
  • School budgets are being cut 
  • Preparing learners for the modern workforce 
  • Being GDPR compliant 

And the list goes on…

I feel pretty confident that through a design thinking culture and approach schools can address these challenges effectively and having G Suite tools at hand will give schools the modern tools needed to innovate, adapt and solve the problems they choose to tackle.

This is the reason we are looking to compliment our Google professional development offering with design thinking principles that will help schools embed the tools in learning by finding problems worth solving. Schools can then take this approach and apply it to the rest of their challenges, whether that be learning spaces, project-based learning curricula or recruitment and retention.

Google Ventures, part of Google which invests in new start-up companies developed a design sprint they used to help new and growing companies make progress on new products or growth strategies quickly without spending too much. Based around design thinking the design sprint commits 5 days to understanding problems, generating ideas and prototyping and testing those ideas out on real users before the week ends. If you would like to find out more about this then James Knapp’s book “Sprint” takes you through the whole process with lots of great examples along the way. We know that schools are less likely to be able to commit five days to a design sprint, though some definitely do with great results! Through G Suite tools like docs and hangouts we can now work closely with schools as they develop learning through G Suite.

In the next blog post we will look at the prototyping process that ensures time is not wasted developing ideas that won’t have impact and making sure the ideas that prevail have merit and scalability. Prototyping can involve paper, glue and lego or it can utilise tools to create simple versions of websites and curriculum models. G Suite tools lend themselves to prototyping ideas because they were created by a company that innovates and uses design thinking in much of what they do.

About the author : Ben Rouse | AppsEvents, UK Director

After implementing G Suite at my secondary comprehensive school in UK I was accepted onto the Google Teacher Academy in London in 2013. Since then I have been involved in technology for learning training and implementations in schools in UK and Europe as a Google for Education Innovator and Trainer.

I taught Mathematics for 13 years and had middle and senior leadership roles in schools before becoming an educational technology integration specialist for a Mutli-Academy Trust in UK.

I now work with AppsEvents to help organisations implement G Suite and Technology for Learning effectively.

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