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 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!


My new, new job: #MSUhub

On December 12, 2015, in educational technology, by Leigh Graves Wolf

At the beginning of the semester I started a new position, which, over the past few months has evolved and I have been appointed as the Assistant Director of the MSU Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology.

The vision of the Hub is to: advance Michigan State University by realizing a more active, engaged, successful, and valuable student experience.

The mission of the Hub 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.

This initiative is embedded into Provost Youatt’s strategic priorities for MSU and is a catalyst and connector for enhancing student success.

As we are starting out our work, I have helped to facilitate a month of design thinking activities to give our team embodied experiences in the process.

We started on November 12 with the Virtual Crash Course in design thinking from Stanford dSchool. We have used this for many years in the MAET Overseas program with great success. Here are some highlights from our experience:

  Then, over the past 4 weeks, we released a series of asynchronous “Design Challenges” in our team Slack channel. These challenges were quite intentional – allowing for embodied experiences in design thinking (along with team building and sharing).


The next iteration of our work happened yesterday (December 11) when we engaged in the Hub “design day.” Architects and designers from Smith Group JJR came in to co-facilitate our work. We built the day upon the thinking and work from the asynchronous design challenges. For example, the playlist for the day was made up of the songs shared during week 1 and was playing when people walked into the room. We started out with the Ready, Set, Design activity to set the tone for the day then dove into many iterative cycles. We then worked through case studies (which were based upon the work happening around campus Maker Spaces) While the first job of the Hub is to create the Hub, it was the first time we were all able to collectively work on “real” work that would fall in line with “Hub work.”

The Hub is very intentionally bringing together different stakeholders to conversations (at the same time & same place) around learning and technology.  I am most proud of the way students are members our team. They are not “token members on a committee,” they are our colleagues, partners and leaders in driving conversations in and about the Hub (and thus, teaching and learning at MSU.)
We are also very intentionally working transparently and iteratively (this reflective blog post is an example – there is a lot more to unpack in the work we did over the past 4 weeks!) It is in our nature to start a project, determine a path to completion, finish and move on.  Shifting our routines (my own included!) to work in a connective, design based manner will take practice.   After our experiences yesterday, and over the past month, I know we are starting to equip ourselves with the knowledge and experiences to make this happen.
You can follow (and think and share!) along with us @msuhub and on social media with the hashtag #msuhub.

Thank you Kimberly Bryant #ald15 #adalovelace

On October 13, 2015, in educational technology, by Leigh Graves Wolf

I love the annual tradition of blogging for Ada Lovelace day! (Add your thanks, it’s easy – see how below!)

This year I would like to thank Kimberly Bryant.  Kimberly Bryant is an electrical engineer and founder of Black Girls Code.  The mission of Black Girls Code is:

to introduce programming and technology to a new generation of coders, coders who will become builders of technological innovation and of their own futures.

Follow Kimberly here:
and Black Girls Code here:

I am inspired on a daily basis by Kimberly and by the work being explored, created and shared by the girls and women involved in the Black Girls Code networks.

Read more stories about other amazing women by visiting: #ald15 today.


Add your story!

On October 13th, 2015 write a blog post about your STEM heroine and add it to our collection: Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Write about a woman in science, technology, engineering or maths whose achievements you admire.
  2. Publish your story online.
  3. Add your story to our collection.
  4. Tell your friends!


2014 Post – Thank you MSU Women in Computing (WIC)
2013 Post – Thank you Dr. Kyla McMullen
2012 Post – Thank you Mary, Pam & Catherine
2011 Post – Thank you Dr. Caroline Haythornthwaite
2010 Post – Thank you Dr. Catherine Mohr


Prepping for #DLRN15

On October 9, 2015, in educational technology, by Leigh Graves Wolf

Next week I’m headed to the The Digital Learning Research Network (dLRN) conference at Stanford.  The theme of the conference is Making Sense of Higher Education: Networks and Change. From the website:

This conference will be of interest to researchers, academics, and practitioners who are exploring the many nuances of the complex and uncertain landscape of higher education in a digital age.

Well, yes that is of interest to me! Given my new role at MSU, I will be engaged in, and will have my ear closely tuned to, the Innovation and Work strand.  I was first drawn to the conference through a series of tweets and links, which, started with this reflective blog post by George Siemens. Several tweets and article reads later, I registered for the conference.

The fantastic Virtually Connecting group is deeply committed to helping connect people who cannot attend academic conferences to these experiences and they will be embedded in dLRN15. I am excited to volunteer to assist in their efforts not only by tweeting, but by shadowing an on-site buddy for one of the sessions. You can find out more about how to Virtually Connect (in ways beyond twitter) to dLRN15 here:

This blog post is a specific call to my network of colleagues who will not be in attendance – looking at the schedule, what sessions interest you? What sessions are you particularly interested in and how can I help curate and gather information and connections for you to bring back to MSU to continue our contextual conversations on these issues?

I’m beyond excited to be connecting with friends from my networks around the world who are also attending dLRN. In addition to the conference, I’ll be making a few special stops to see some MAET students and alums in action in the Bay Area and at Stanford, because Spartans Will!

Finally, I have never been to Silicon Valley, so, if you have any (culinary) tips (in particular) send them my way.