Culture

Using Creative Collaboration to Solve Problems in the Classroom

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Here at Piktochart, our team passionately believes in making tools to democratize design. We were thrilled to learn about another organization that believes in helping people design great things.

The Teachers Guild activates teachers’ creativity to solve the biggest challenges in education today. This community initiative is run by a team of educators and designers from IDEO’s Design for Learning Studio and PLUSSED at Riverdale Country School.

The Teachers Guild believes every teacher is a designer.

To the Guild, teachers are the innovators education has been waiting for. This powerful community is tackling some of education’s toughest challenges by supporting teachers as creative leaders. Teachers, coaches, and partners are coming together through The Teachers Guild to collaborate, connect, and find interesting world-changing solutions to these challenges.

When it came to our attention that we could be one of these partners, our team at Piktochart was excited to become a part of this worthwhile and inspiring effort.

Redesigning the Parent-Teacher Conference

One of the education challenges facing The Teachers Guild is reimagining parent-teacher conferences. They asked their community of innovators one simple question about this common collaborative practice:

“How might we redesign the parent-teacher conference?”

Jennifer Gaspar-Santos raised her hand and offered a new, innovative idea. Jennifer is the Director of Ed Tech and Innovation at St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco.

“I love my job,” said Jennifer. “I love studying and investigating how people learn and interact with technology. Deep down, I believe that the more we look at technology, the more we understand about how people relate to each other.”

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During a design thinking session hosted by The Teachers Guild at Stanford’s d.school, Jennifer and fellow educators were encouraged to get creative with their innovative ideas.

“The idea of infographics just came to me while brainstorming with the wonderful Teachers Guild coaches,” explained Jennifer. “At the end of the session, my coach encouraged me to go further on learning infographics. I decided to go for it! The combination of design thinking and encouragement from others is a great combo for creativity.”

Jennifer decided to tackle innovation around outdated parent-teacher conferences by bringing in visuals to capture student learning. She called her idea a “learning infographic.”

Jennifer’s Idea Takes Life

To create a mockup to show to The Teachers Guild community, Jennifer decided to use Piktochart.

“I used Piktochart because I needed something accessible, easy to use, and had ready-to-go templates for me to build on,” she said. “I like that the application is so easy that you can concentrate on the content without being weighed down by having to learn a new platform. I have also had great experiences using it in the past— it’s my go-to tool when I want something visually pleasing as well as quick and easy to use.”

Jennifer’s idea quickly garnered 1,500 views on the collaborative platform.

“I was getting great feedback, and even folks just encouraging me to work on it some more so they could use it in their schools,” recalled Jennifer. “One of the most honest pieces of feedback I received was from a youth engagement creator at the Royal Society of Arts. She said my idea was like Lego blocks — folks could build upon the visuals and scale up with more data on a student’s learning, and it could also be simplified into a few basic blocks or just a few, very intentionally designed visuals.”

Jennifer’s Original Draft

Bringing Jennifer’s Idea to the World

As a partner on this project, the Royal Society of Arts worked very closely with The Teachers Guild to mobilize the RSA community of Fellows.

“The RSA partnered with The Teachers Guild on the ‘How Might We Redesign Parent-Teacher Conferences?’ challenge because we recognize in the Guild a kindred spirit,” said Tom Gilliford, formerly the RSA Engagement Manager. “Both we and the Guild are on a mission to transform the education system from the inside out. We both believe that it is educators that should drive positive change.”

Some of the RSA Fellows got involved as contributors and others became specialist mentors. The team at the Royal Society of Arts reached out to us here at Piktochart about turning Jennifer’s idea into a reality for educators worldwide. They worked with Jennifer to pilot, evaluate, and scale her idea. Their goal was to make winning ideas into a reality by getting them to be implemented by schools and teachers. Bringing our team at Piktochart into the project was one way to accelerate Jennifer’s idea and bring it to the world.

Using an infographic to replace conventional report cards was a new, powerful idea to us – and we loved it!

The Teachers Guild believes every teacher is a designer.Click To Tweet

We got to work collaborating with Jennifer on making her idea into a tool any educator could access, for free, anywhere across the globe.

“Working on a project that is closely attached in the education sector was a huge motivation for me,” said template designer Kimberly Mak. “The opportunity to help bring Jennifer’s big idea to life sounded like a fulfilling experience.”

“Jennifer’s design was one of those things that you can’t understand why it doesn’t exist already,” said Gilliford. “The idea is a simple solution to a complex problem. Presenting the information around a child in this way not only makes it more accessible to a parent but also allows schools to show often intangible skills in a very tangible way. Teachers can benefit from this idea in a number of ways. On the one hand, it is a quick and easy way to generate reports, but on another, it is an opportunity to radically re-think what they want to emphasise in their communications with home.”

Designing with the Teacher in Mind

Recognizing how conversations typically flow during a parent-teacher conference helped Jennifer conceptualize how she wanted the template to look and feel.

While working on the design of the template, Jennifer and Kimberly focused on 5 areas with the teacher in mind:

Blocking and sections

“I love the clear organization of the timeline, student work & comments, and grades,” said Jennifer. “Teachers are systematic and organized when developing student assessments, and this data is very clear and easy to adapt to.”

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Space set aside for growing points

Jennifer noted this intentional space allows teachers to be prescriptive.

“It creates easy ways to identify how the student can grow and concentrates on the process as opposed to stamping a final end to a student’s learning journey,” she said. “This definitely supports a culture of the growth mindset.”

Showcasing project highlights

Jennifer told us teachers appreciate the ability to showcase a student’s work.

“In many ways, it’s also a representation of their work as teachers,” she explained. Text alone could be limiting, so having visual space set aside in the infographic template is an innovative way to create a window into student’s work.

A focus on 21st-century skill growth, not just grades

Rather than just focusing on grades, this infographic report card template goes deeper to serve as a guide to navigate through all parts of a student’s progress. The layout is also structured so 21st-century skills are presented on the first page of the report card. Skills that will be required of the student over the long term are highlighted. Educators are able to provide feedback on growth in areas like presentation skills, critical thinking, problem-solving, risk-taking, collaboration, and empathy.

“It’s imperative for educators to think about how we’re preparing students for challenges beyond the classroom walls,” noted Jennifer. “I believe that if we measure it, we draw importance to it.”

To Jennifer, the true value of this important design choice is two fold.

“First, it sends a message to the student and the parent that these are important growth areas,” she explained. “Second, it creates a way for the school as an institution to ask themselves how they measure 21st-century skills. It creates a framework from which to have a rich discussion as an institution. How does our school measure these skills? What evidence or desired behaviors are we looking for? How are we shaping students to acquire these skills? Just because 21st-century skills aren’t as quantifiable as a math test or an essay doesn’t mean they can’t be measured. Moreover, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be discussed during parent-teacher conferences. This learning infographic helps facilitate that authentic discussion.”

Capturing comments as they come

Keeping the educator in mind, we included a section on the infographic to note comments from parents. “It’s important keep track of the parent or guardian’s comments about the student,” said Kimberly. “This information would help the school and teacher have a better understanding and approach in helping the student’s journey.” Jennifer agreed with the importance of having space in the infographic specifically for parents and guardians to take notes during the conference. “I hadn’t seen something like this before,” she said. “It’s a great example of supporting the partnership between teacher and parent.”

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Learning While Collaborating

For our team at Piktochart, one of the most exciting things about collaborating with amazing people around the world is all the knowledge we gain and are able to bring to life in templates for the Piktochart community. Whether it’s working alongside the team at Indiegogo to create a infographic template for crowdfunders to partnering with a fellow startup like Typeform to reimagine visually reporting HR data, we are constantly learning from talented people as we create.

This partnership was no different. Both Jennifer and Kimberly took away valuable lessons.

“The mission of my school is to cultivate a culture of women and men for and with others,” said Jennifer. “And, in a way, this collaboration has allowed me to design for and with others.”

Working alongside others to bring her idea to educators worldwide taught Jennifer that multiple people are needed to get an idea to become reality.

“It requires working with people from all over the world — literally from the US, London, and Southeast Asia,” she said. “It’s very exciting!”

Early on in the project, Kimberly and Jennifer talked about how current report card formats are too heavily focused on the student’s grades. This was something Kimberly hadn’t considered reinventing prior to talking to Jennifer about her new, innovative idea.

“Having the main focus of the report card revolve around the student’s journey was definitely a highlight point that I think is reflected well on the final template,” said Kimberly.

Jennifer learned more about design by working directly with Kimberly. There were valuable lessons about designing with others in mind as well as design principles like being intentional with whitespace.

“I had to understand what this idea would feel like for a teacher, for a student, for a parent, and for school leaders,” Jennifer said. “It required lots of empathy and perspective. Talking through my ideas with Kimberly helped me to understand the importance and intentionality of space.

“Every person involved in a student’s assessment should have dedicated space on the learning infographic. There was space for pull-out quotes from peers, for teachers to showcase project work, for parents to write in their thoughts on their child’s growth, and space for the student to share more than just percentages and letter grades. The infographic is essentially a map of all the people that contribute to their learning.”

We’d love to hear what you think of this reinvention of the report card! Which design elements stand out as winners to you? What would you change? Is this something you’d use in your classroom? Sign into your free Piktochart account and start exploring the template!

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