The power of sharing & collaboration (again!)

On September 14, 2016, in educational technology, by Leigh Graves Wolf

Just (another) quick example of the power of sharing and collaboration.  I’m excited to be co-facilitating an Undergraduate Honors Research Seminar this fall with Jeff & Bill.  After all of my MAET years, I know how important day one, minute one are of class.  As I was thinking about first day activities (that do NOT involve reading the syllabus!!) I came across this post from Heather on Facebook:

Picture of chalkboard with post-it notes

I was immediately intrigued and the following dialogue ensued (I could summarize, but why not share!)

Facebook discussion

And, it’s as simple as that! Thank you Heather for sharing & for the inspiration!


UntitledOver the past 9 months I’ve been stretched in new directions as a facilitator of workshops which are organized around design thinking frameworks.  I’m no stranger to workshop facilitation, and, do my best to make workshops interactive (see QuickFire challenges). Entrenching myself in design thinking frameworks has given me a new perspective and tool for workshop and discussion facilitation.

Yesterday our team ran a design thinking exercise. I was the designated “data collector.” As a learning exercise and to engage in some participatory action research, I was able to pull aside Caroline, Breana and Dave in the moment to ask them what was going well, what was not and what we should do to improve upon what we were doing. First and foremost I want to acknowledge how incredible this team is and how open they were to this meta level of reflection in-situ.  We as a team are learning and the commitment to this being an iterative and growing process as one of those essential conditions that will set us on a successful path.

With that said, here are a few quick and practical ideas that came out of observations and the reflection that we wanted to share. These are abstracted from the specific exercise with the intent of trying to generalize the ideas to a wider audience.

1. Create a beyond the basics kit of supplies

We have started to collect the basics (post-it notes, sharpies, large rolls of paper) however, we thought it would be a good idea to put together a box or bag that contains the following so we can be prepared for any design thinking “emergencies”:

  • Dongle
  • Markers & pencils
  • String
  • Measuring tape
  • Stopwatch (in case on screen tech breaks)
  • A non-annoying bell or buzzer (to get the attention of the crowd)
  • Compass
  • Phone chargers
  • Tape
  • Portable document scanner

2. Practice

This one is hard, especially if your team is working on several projects at once, however, we’re getting better at tracking time and developing a set of resources that we can customize for conversations/exercises. Ideally, the team should have everything completed at 2 days ahead of time.  Then, someone from the team should run through the exercise with someone else who does not have any prior knowledge of the experience. This will allow for revision and refinement of the small, but very important details of getting everything just right. I don’t want to give the impression that we don’t practice (or process is highly iterative! We document our hours and time carefully.)

3. Use participant workbooks strategically

We think that workbooks are a key tool to facilitating these highly interactive experiences, however, there are a lot of working parts to getting them just right. (Libby is doing a fantastic job researching and implementing this piece.)  It’s important to be very explicit with directions to the group you’re working with and to have your slides/prompts very clearly direct them to interact or write in the book. One of the things we’ve noticed is that even with warm up exercises it’s sometimes hard to get people to the point of writing – which is SO important for the post workshop analysis. We are going to make sure that questions/prompts are replicated in the workbook so that if and when timers are used participants have the workbook to reference to have the questions present in their minds.

4. Have table facilitators

This one is a bit tricky because depending on how large your group is, it may be a luxury to have a whole team of people at your disposal to help. Design thinking exercises are timed and fast paced experiences, something that not many audiences are used to and it is very easy to lose the attention of a group or group of people around the room. Table facilitators can serve as your partners in keeping things moving and directing attention to the lead facilitator. Additionally, if your room is not ideal for design thinking work, your table facilitator can also be very helpful in re-iterating directions and keeping things on track.

5. The sound of music

Timers are essential for the iteration side of a design thinking exercise. (Kristen Soullier created this tremendous set of timers for anyone to use!) There is debate as to whether or not music increases productivity and creativity however we feel it’s an important piece to the mood and feel in the room. With that said we have learned that some of our participants are highly sensitive or adverse to music being a part of the process.  We consider this a work in progress – so next time we are going to start with the music very, very, very low.  Additionally, we are going to explain to participants that music is a part of the timer so it does not come a surprise.  We may also alternate in/out of using music and we can always hit mute if it becomes a problem that impedes the flow.

6. Respond to questions carefully

Oftentimes questions in a design thinking exercise are intentionally ambiguous. This often does not sit well with participants and they will push for a clarifying or more direct “answer.” There are two sides to this problem of practice – crafting good prompts is not easy (thus the need to practice with others to hone them) but as a facilitator you have to let discomfort settle with participants. The explicit intention of many of the questions and prompts are to bring to light different interpretations among participants and stakeholders.  Facilitating this process is very tricky and takes nuance and practice.

7. Record conversations and discussions

If you have a group or discussion component to your workshop, it may be helpful to have an audio recording of the conversation. This one is also a bit tricky, we’re not advocating that all audio recordings be transcribed, however, depending on the purpose it could be very handy to have as back up and with the ease of recording on smartphones, it’s not a lot of extra work to collect, which, leads me to my last point…

8. Design activities with artifacts in mind

I have discussed before that all too often design thinking stops in a room. When we plan out our workshops now, we very explicitly add an artifacts “line” to our planning document – what are we collecting and why are we collecting it. This helps greatly in the post-event analysis because we have strategically thought through the analysis piece. We are getting better at pre-labeling these artifacts which drastically cuts down on the time it takes to process and clean up the data for analysis. (This is also why a high-speed portable scanner comes in handy so the workbooks can be quickly scanned and archived!)

We would love to hear thoughts from you! What are some of your lessons learned? How can we continue to improve our workflow and processes?


It was an honor to speak with educators today at the Huron Shores Educational Technology Conference. A big thanks to MAET grad Ashlie O’Connor for this opportunity! Ashlie and Meghan did a fabulous job organizing this incredible opportunity for educators in North East Michigan!

The slides from the keynote are embedded below w/embedded links and you can follow along with all of the tweets and resources shared by following #HSET16.


Design thinking. Back end.At the end of one of the MSU Faculty Development seminars I facilitated back in March Dr. Chivukula made an observation in the Applying Design Thinking to Academic Plans workshop I was facilitating. He said/asked (as I recall) design thinking seems to have a place at the beginning of processes but, where does it fit long term? This is a question that has set in my mind almost every day now for the past 2 months – literally on my drive to or from work it will pop in my head, or, as we’re engaged in other Hub discussions or activities that involve design thinking. At the time, I think I said something to the effect of – yes, you’re right, but, my (lack of an) answer has always sat poorly with me. I didn’t like that I didn’t have a better answer and couldn’t articulate some of the tensions I myself was feeling around design thinking. I touched on this angst in the presentation – and at the end of the blog post reflection on the workshop I said:

In sum, I don’t want people to walk away thinking that this is the only way that I work.  It’s a tool in my toolbox (or whatever metaphor you want to use) as a way to tackle wicked problems.”

Now, fast forward to a few weeks ago – on May 19th the Hub facilitated a Design Day which was the start of a 10 month iterative process of creating a new way to prepare veterinarians at Michigan State University.  We led participants through design thinking activities to elicit ideas and to raise questions about the process. But, then what? So many activities that involve design thinking, post-it notes and brainstorming seem to end in the room. It’s the process that is important — ok, but, a lot of data was generated and a lot of people took precious time off to contribute to the process. How can we honor the time that was dedicated and use the artifacts that were created to further the curriculum reinvention?

If we’re going to be successful at using design thinking in academic contexts, we (I) have to more clearly articulate and situate the strategies and frameworks we’re using within our academic contexts. So – in reflecting on ways not only to capture, but to analyse, synthesize and report we huddled as a team, transcribed post-it notes, created abstractions, performed some qualitative data analysis and created a this report for participants.

The abstractions in particular have received initial positive feedback. Caroline and Libby were tasked with taking the photograpped “maps” that participants had created and I asked them to create the most simple representation possible. (I highly encourage you to read Chapter 5 of Sparks of Genius (Root-Bernstein, 1999) for more insight into the creative act of abstraction.)

I hope that the report helps to provide a more solid footing and insight one way design thinking can not only be operationalized in the moment, but, as an artifact that can be embedded into a process over time. On a somewhat related tangent, we were very purposeful about counting our hours and time dedicated to the project (something that I rarely do) you can find the full detail in the end of the report but essentially it took 125 hours of preparation and 51 hours of analysis.

There is no single solution, no magic bullet to solving wicked problems.  Henriksen et al (2015) outline a rubric for creative work – one that is NEW: Novel, Effective, Whole.  One thing that I have noticed in working across all colleges on campus over the past few months, in so many different contexts is that by nature we tend to desire a solution.  Johansson‐Sköldberg et al (2013) provide a critical analysis of design thinking and I highly recommend taking the time to read this.  Design thinking is one way we can and will solve problems, but it certainly is not the only way.   Design thinking is not new, but, the combination (or bricolage) of the techniques we’re using to solve complex problems (I hope) is NEW (novel, effective & whole) to our unique context as a university.  It is then extremely important that we thoughtfully situate and articulate these processes to our peers here at MSU and as an organization (the Hub); to be clear and purposeful in the techniques, frameworks and processes we are our combining in our toolbox to do our work.

Now what? In having spent some time thinking this through (at least a little bit, and adding a bit of scholarship) I would like to link to Jeff’s post from a few days ago – The new (?) learning designer (engineer) which touches on the array of skill-sets needed to operate in the above context.  In my research for the Design Day report, I came across Wilson & Zamberlan’s 2015 piece: Design for an Unknown Future: Amplified Roles for Collaboration, New Design Knowledge, and Creativity. To me it is a thoughtful and clever articulation of the skills needed to engage in the wicked problem solving that we are doing.

So, where does this leave us? What are your thoughts, struggles, triumphs? Would love to hear your reactions and comments.


Wilson, S., & Zamberlan, L. (2015). Design for an Unknown Future: Amplified Roles for Collaboration, New Design Knowledge, and Creativity. Design Issues, 31(2), 3-15. doi:10.1162/DESI_a_00318.

Henriksen, D., Mishra, P. & Mehta, R. (2015). Novel, Effective, Whole: Toward a NEW Framework for Evaluations of Creative Products. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 23(3), 455-478. Chesapeake, VA: Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education.

Johansson‐Sköldberg, U., Woodilla, J., Çetinkaya, M., Gothenburg Research Institute (GRI), Faculty of Fine, Applied and Performing Arts, University of Gothenburg . Department of Business Administration. (2013). Design thinking: Past, present and possible futures. Creativity and Innovation Management, 22(2), 121-146. doi:10.1111/caim.12023

Root-Bernstein, R. S., & Root-Bernstein, M. (1999). Sparks of genius: The thirteen thinking tools of the world’s most creative people. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.



#OLCInnovate 2016

On May 3, 2016, in Design Thinking, educational technology, by Leigh Graves Wolf

Oy, it’s the end of the semester and time is flying! Two weeks ago I attended my first OLC conference – OLC Innovate in New Orleans. It was a fantastic experience.  We had quite a few MSU faculty, staff & graduate students in attendance and it was a rare opportunity to hang out with colleagues after hours! (As a telecommuter, I don’t often get the chance to stay late and socialize!)  My session was titled: Facilitating & Fostering Passion and Inventiveness: Embodied Experiences From a University Unit Start Up. It was a great opportunity for me to take a look back at the past 7-or-so months that The Hub has been in existence and to reflect and share our successes and failures iterations.

Here are the slides & abstract from the presentation:

Michigan State University has started a new campus initiative: The Hub for Innovation in Teaching & Learning (“The Hub”). The Hub’s mission is to “facilitate the passion and inventiveness of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders both inside and outside of MSU to create, identify, and accelerate new ways to collaborate, learn, research, and deliver instruction.” While the core staff of The Hub is quite small, many on campus will be working with and through the Hub, a new mode of work in a large land grant institution. To facilitate this change, the Hub leadership team has anchored much of its “getting started” work and processes to design thinking.

In this session you will experience some of the design challenges used with the MSU Hub team and learn about our work and progress so far. Participants will also be asked to share their experiences with design thinking. Expect to walk away from the session with tangible resources to further your own design thinking work in teams or in the classroom.

On Wednesday, March 30 I was honored to facilitate the final MSU Lilly Seminar of the 2016 Academic Year: Applying Design Thinking to Academic Plans. The slides from the presentation are embedded below – (hyperlinks to resources are embedded in the slides.)

As is usually the case, the best parts came during discussion during the breaks, debrief and in the seminar feedback. I’ll share a few of those insights here since they were not shared with the group at large.


In my presentation, I shared some of the challenges I have faced associated with design thinking. During one of the breaks, Dr. Chivukula had a fantastic suggestion when using design thinking with groups – share a set of ground rules with participants. This is such a simple, genius solution that can thwart some of the resistance you may get (as design thinking is not a scientific process.)


After the session, I was honored to meet and connect with Daniel W. Linna Assistant Dean for Career Development & Professor of Law in Residence at MSU. I am VERY excited to learn more about and how they are using lean thinking (and design thinking) at the Law School on campus. One of the best parts of Faculty Development seminars is the opportunity to learn from people all around campus. I’ll be keeping my eyes out for news and seminars out of the LegalRnD department!


Finally, in reviewing the feedback there were a few points that I will address to hopefully help with the take-aways. One participant felt the session was self-promotional and another walked away feeling that there were not concrete ways to apply design thinking to the classroom.  I’ll do my best share a few more resources here that can help with that!  By sharing my own work, I was hoping to lend some legitimacy to my own use of design thinking (walking the walk and talking the talk) as opposed to simply linking out to the work of others.  I appreciate this feedback and will work at a better mix in the future. I was additionally asked to share concrete ways the Hub has been working across campus for the participants – I should have made that a bit more clear as I was sharing.
  • In the slides, I linked to the MSU library search for academic articles on “design thinking” – this is one place to start
  • Educause is another great place to search – here is the link to “design thinking
  • A great campus resource is Jess Knott – she has been doing a lot of thinking in this area as well and is a great person to tap for a brainstorming session.


In sum, I don’t want people to walk away thinking that this is the only way that I work.  It’s a tool in my toolbox (or whatever metaphor you want to use) as a way to tackle wicked problems.  I wish there was one single answer, but, honestly, where is the fun in that? Additionally, as I shared in the session, design thinking isn’t something that just gets done in a 1, 2, 3-hour workshop! It’s a continual process of iteration and re-design as you work towards solutions.


Finally, a huge shout out to Breana Yaklin and Dave Goodrich, my colleagues at The Hub. (Thanks for visually documenting the day Dave!!) They are two more people to tap on campus for your design thinking needs!


Thanks again to all who attended – would love to continue the conversation/resource sharing here in the comments or on twitter. (You can use the #MSUhub hashtag!)

SITE 2016 Recap #siteconf #SITE2016

On March 27, 2016, in educational technology, by Leigh Graves Wolf

Last week I was honored to attend another SITE conference in beautiful Savannah, Georgia. SITE is always a wonderful opportunity to share work and to connect with colleagues.  This year, I was involved in two presentations – supporting work by the extremely talented Spencer Greenhalgh & Josh Rosenberg and presenting alongside our incredible MSU Urban STEM team.

For Every Tweet there is a Purpose: Twitter Within (and Beyond) an Online Graduate Program     
Spencer P. Greenhalgh, Michigan State University, United States
Joshua M. Rosenberg, Michigan State University, United States
Leigh Graves Wolf, Michigan State University, United States



Reinventing TPACK, STEM Teaching and Leadership in an Urban Context

Punya Mishra , Michigan State University, United States
Leigh Graves Wolf, Michigan State University, United States
Sonya Gunnings-Moton, Michigan State University, United States
Christopher Seals, Michigan State University, United States
Rohit Mehta, Michigan State University, United States
Inese Berzina, Michigan State University, United States
Swati Mehta, Michigan State University, United States
Akesha Horton, Michigan State University, United States
Kyle Shack, Michigan State University, United States
Candace Marcotte, Michigan State University, United States
Missy Cosby, Michigan State University, United States
Chrissy Garcia, Chigago Public Schools, United States
Tasha Henderson, Chicago Public Schools, United States
Dakota Pawlicki, Chicago Public Schools, United States

Presider: David Slykhuis, James Madison University, United States

Symposium Summary (.doc)

Finally, I was happy to continue the tradition of coordinating the annual MSU EPET SITE reunion dinner – 27 colleagues from across the globe reconnecting and sharing over delicious pizza at Mellow Mushroom. :)



I was honored and delighted to spend some time with friends at #CESIcon 2016 today! Here is a brief follow up to our design thinking challenge this morning. We very (very!) quickly ran through two steps of a design thinking challenge (empathize & define) to wet the appetite for learning more about design thinking and how it can be used to tackle wicked problems.  The design thinking activity today was directly connected to the Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020 guiding document.

Here are the slides:

And, here is the raw data (the invisible made visible) from the session – you can use this to continue the challenge and to ideate – prototype – and test! Looking forward to continuing the conversation – please share your adventures in design thinking, would love to hear from you again!

Tweets from session:

Transcript from TodaysMeet:


If you are an educator in Ireland (or if your summer travel plans include Ireland) be sure to attend the free 9th annual MAET/ICT/Educational Technology Conference (#GREAT16) on the campus of NUI Galway in Galway, Ireland on Thursday July 14, 2016 (timetable announced later in the summer.)

Last year’s #GREAT15 conference again exceed our expectations. Several of our #edchatie friends made it to Galway for the conference and we were delighted to welcome Stephen Howell as our keynote. It truly was an amazing day and we are looking forward to reconnecting and making new friends at #GREAT16.

the mad #edchatie crew at #GREAT15

The conference is organized and presented by the Year 2 Overseas MSU MAET students as a requirement for their CEP 815: Technology and Leadership course (see the assignment here), and is targeted towards anyone who works in the field of education (K12, higher ed, and beyond).

Below you will find archives of the past 8 conferences to give you an idea of the spirit of the conference:

2015 #GREAT15:
2014 #GREAT14:
2013 #GREAT13:
2012 #GREAT12:
2011 RELATe:
2010 RELATe
2009 PLATE
2008 PLATE (parts of site available on

If you’re interested in coming, fill out this simple form to register your interest. We will send more updates as the schedule emerges:

One more opportunity to connect:

If you’re an educator or maker in, or around, Galway I would love to talk to you about the possibility of visiting your classroom/learning/making space! Our students are eager to not only visit classrooms, but potentially collaborate with you on an activity. We will be in Galway June 26 – July 23, 2016. I know this is the end of the school year and into holidays (which is a tricky time) but we are very interested in connecting with you! Just tweet me (@gravesle) if you’re interested!


Adventures in #MSUHub Coworking

On January 12, 2016, in educational technology, by Leigh Graves Wolf
Who is coworking today? I am coworking! Thanks @coworkmyr - what a great space!
(Picture from the now defunct MYR Cowork)


I’m a big fan of CoWorking. Ever since the idea started to emerge, I would seek these spaces out when I traveled.  I prefer CoWorking spaces over coffee shops as they often provide “nooks and crannies” for different styles of work along with an increased potential for connecting with others.

CoWorking spaces provide room for “the social gathering of a group of people who are still working independently, but who share values, and who are interested in the synergy that can happen from working with people who value working in the same place alongside each other.” (Wikipedia)

The MSU Hub is hosting a series of Pop-Up CoWork events in Spring 2016. The pop-ups are intended to be short term, relevant, just in time opportunities to work with others around campus. The pop-ups are completely open, unstructured and user-generated. It is my goal to get students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni to attend and work together.

It’s not typically the case that a coworking space would have a particular objective or focus, but, we’re co-opting some ideas here (combining cowork atmosphere with the pop-up movement) as we’re experimenting this semester.  For example, our first pop-up cowork on January 5th focused broadly on “Data and Analytics.” The group started out working together, then, as we were working ended up breaking off into other workgroups – which – was exactly what I had hoped would happen. I could feel a bit of anxiety/fear that we all had to stay together, but, that is not the point of the cowork space.  Often, I go there to work alone! It’s the potential promise in having creative people together at the same time and same place that makes the CoWorking space compelling.

As I was cleaning up from our first CoWork the day, I found these notes left behind:

Artifacts from #msuhub coworking event today

In digging through the digital detritus left behind, I found this tweet: 

This tweet was generated by a question posted by a Music faculty member working on a project with schools in Detroit. Mary is the Director of the MAET certificate programs.  It’s not very likely Mary & Mark would have been in the same place at the same time – the cowork environment helped to build the potential for this connection to occur. 

If you have not experienced a co-work space before, expect a coffee shop-like atmosphere, but, with people who are eager to talk and help each other.

We have 3 more pop-ups scheduled (and more to come) – you can find more info on The Hub Facebook page (working on getting this out on more social media/calendars.) You do not have to RSVP (but are more than welcome to do so) and if you’re not specifically interested in the topic at hand, you can still come and work on other things.

January 19: Pop-Up Co-Work #2: GTD (Get Things Done)
Location: 301 Nisbet Building (easy parking!)

Co-Work #2 will be an opportunity for you to bring your current challenges, ideas and inspirations to the table. If you need a quiet corner to concentrate, we have that! If you need to bounce ideas off of others, we have that too! Come join us for a few hours of Getting Things Done!

February 12: Pop-Up Co-Work #3: Composition
Location: 301 Nisbet Building (easy parking!)

Co-Work #3 will be an opportunity to focus on composing. Composing is a cross-disciplinary act that appears in rhetoric, writing, film, music and beyond. Come join us to create, experience & compose.

February 26: Pop-Up Co-Work #4: Feedback
Location: 301 Nisbet Building (easy parking!)

Co-Work #4 will be an opportunity to focus on feedback. Feedback is a crucial component of educative experiences. Join us to work together to discuss modes, methods and models.

Use the comments section here, or #MSUHub on twitter to suggest specific topics or creative cowork needs. In the future we will be expanding the coworks out of the Nisbet building and will be holding pop-up co-work opportunities all across campus.

I look forward to seeing you there!