Think, Write, Incubate, Think, Write, Incubate, Think, Write, ….

The purpose of this activity in my Design Thinking in Educational Technology course is recognize the value in taking time to step back from a problem, give yourself a break (by going for a walk, a drive, or some other low stress activity), and then coming back to the problem. You can seem the outlining I did prior to the incubation period in this image. I chose to write it because I like the freedom of writing on paper. Please also forgive the poor penmanship. A lot of the things I highlight were thoughts I didn’t necessarily develop tonight but were developed over previous weeks.

 File Mar 22, 11 36 57 PM
Post Incubation
My biggest revelation was that this problem has several layers and that each layer needs it’s own solution. There is the systemic layer that I stumbled upon in the five whys activity. Then there is the administrative level – We need admin that recognizes the importance of giving their teachers time to create and collaborate. Finally, there is the teacher level- The question is how do we get teachers more time regardless of what happens at the levels above them.
One thing I stumbled upon in my pre incubation phase was the question of do enough teachers really want this change? Lot’s of teachers reach a point in their career where they can kind of coast. What I’ve noticed is that the most time strapped teachers are the most innovative ones and the ones that are early in their career (and a third category might be the teachers that have  a lot of extra curricular activities in addition to their teaching load). I can list 5 teachers off the top of my head that given more time would not use it to innovate and create/develop new ideas. So it’s not only that this problem runs into the obvious issues of time, but also that there are less obvious reasons that teachers may be resistant to change. For instance, one possible solution is to reduce students contact time during the day and extend the year. The problem with that is that it shortens summer break, which I believe many teachers would adamantly oppose.
I think this process is incredibly handy. I encourage my students to do this as well when they’re working on tough problems and they get stuck. In fact, since I started working on this problem I feel like it has been a cycle of “work, work, work, incubate”. Because of this I have had several occasions where I’ll be driving or walking and ideas or further questions will pop into my head. This is actually a reason that I wonder about the current emphasis on grit in education. I think grit can be valuable to an extent, but when it becomes mindless stubbornness and we don’t give ourselves intellectual hang time we’ve taken a step in the wrong direction. Students and teachers (and just people in general) need to understand the importance of taking a step back from a problem and letting your subconscious work on it for a bit. Also, taking a break to do something like taking a walk or gardening is just generally good for mental health.   So, although this session didn’t lead to world changing breakthroughs, over the course of this semester this type of cycle has definitely led to several significant insights.

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