Activities and experiences in the classroom.

I am proud to announce that I have been selected by Education Influence as one of the education influencers in the United Arab Emirates.  I join the ranks of one hundred other professionals around the world in a virtual collaborative community of practice. If you are you a parent, teacher or school in UAE needing guidance on education, I am in an ideal position to be of service to you.

Founded by Gavin McCormack, principal at Farmhouse Montessori School, Education Influence is a non-profit community of practice that connects teachers from all walks of life to resources, courses, and each other to bring about educational change on a global scale. The organization acknowledges those who are making innovations in the classroom and beyond to provide a network of highly accomplished teachers who can pave the way for others.

Each country has a highly skilled representative willing to go that extra mile to bring high quality education to those who need it. All influencers have access to a huge database of resources for teachers and schools. Educators need help, assistance, and resources; we want them to get answers. Equality in education for everyone is the greatest gift we can offer the future of the world; together we can make this dream a reality. If you need help or you know someone who does, please contact your nearest influencer.

The organization just launched a robust website to provide teachers, schools and parents a place to find support and help. As teachers we are all striving for the best foundations for the children in our care, but do we all have the resources to make this happen? We do now! Many months were spent building the site so that others can find assistance easily. When you visit the website, you can:

There is a revolution happening in the field of education and Education Influence is here to help make positive change happen. The organization unites teachers, schools and parents from all corners of the earth to find resources, advice and support as they strive for equality in education.

I invite you to join us on this journey and encourage you to visit EducationInfluence.com for free teaching information, advice, and resources!

On May 31, 2018 I learned that I was selected by the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Education as one of 30 educators chosen from a pool of more than 400 applicants to join “Cohort 3” of the “UAE Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program.” Some background on the program:

What is design thinking? According to Coe Leta Stafford, Managing Director of IDEO U, “design thinking is a process for creative problem solving.” When we think about design thinking, the first word that comes to mind is human. Design thinking encourages organizations to focus on the people they’re creating for and leads to human-centered products, services, and internal processes. The core of design thinking is getting actionable and knowing your questions; it’s about simple mindset shifts or ways of asking questions differently—a new way to look at problems.

According to the Stanford d.school publication. “An Introduction to Design Thinking: PROCESS GUIDE,” the design thinking process includes the following five stages:

Empathize: Learn about the audience for whom you are designing. Empathy is the centerpiece of a human-centered design process; it is the work you do to understand people, within the context of your design challenge. It is your effort to understand the way they do things and why, their physical and emotional needs, how they think about world, and what is meaningful to them.

Define: Construct a point of view that is based on user needs and insights. The Define mode of the design process is all about bringing clarity and focus to the design space. It is your chance, and responsibility, as a design thinker to define the challenge you are taking on, based on what you have learned about your user and about the context. After becoming an instant-expert on the subject and gaining invaluable empathy for the person you are designing for, this stage is about making sense of the widespread information you have gathered. In a word, the Define mode is sensemaking.

Ideate: Brainstorm and come up with creative solutions. Ideate is the mode of the design process in which you concentrate on idea generation. Mentally it represents a process of “going wide” in terms of concepts and outcomes. Ideation provides both the fuel and also the source material for building prototypes and getting innovative solutions into the hands of your users.

Prototype: Build a representation of one or more of your ideas to show to others.The Prototype mode is the iterative generation of artifacts intended to answer questions that get you closer to your final solution. In the early stages of a project that question may be broad – such as “do my users enjoy cooking in a competitive manner?”

In these early stages, you should create low-resolution prototypes that are quick and cheap to make (think minutes and cents) but can elicit useful feedback from users and colleagues. In later stages both your prototype and question may get a little more refined. For example, you may create a later stage prototype for the cooking project that aims to find out: “do my users enjoy cooking with voice commands or visual commands”.

A prototype can be anything that a user can interact with – be it a wall of post-it notes, a gadget you put together, a role-playing activity, or even a storyboard. Ideally you bias toward something a user can experience. Walking someone through a scenario with a storyboard is good, but having them role-play through a physical environment that you have created will likely bring out more emotions and responses from that person.

Test: Return to your original user group and testing your ideas for feedback. Test mode is when you solicit feedback about your prototypes from your users and have another opportunity to gain empathy for the people you are designing for.

Testing is another opportunity to understand your user, but unlike your initial empathy mode, you have now likely done more framing of the problem and created prototypes to test. Both these things tend to focus the interaction with users, but don’t reduce your “testing” work to asking whether or not people like your solution. Instead, continue to ask “Why?”, and focus on what you can learn about the person and the problem as well as your potential solutions.

Ideally you can test within a real context of the user’s life. For a physical object, ask people to take it with them and use it within their normal routines. For an experience, try to create a scenario in a location that would capture the real situation. If testing a prototype is not possible, frame a more realistic situation by having users take on a role or task when approaching your prototype. A rule of thumb: always prototype as if you know you’re right, but test as if you know you’re wrong—testing is the chance to refine your solutions and make them better.

For additional information about design thinking you are invited to view the following 90-minute video, “d.school Crash Course in Design Thinking.

The main priority of the Year 3 project is to ensure the sustainability of the innovation and entrepreneurship curriculum in the UAE, with an additional focus on developing a core group of Program Ambassadors to deepen the impact of innovation and entrepreneurship education in the UAE. Year 3 program components are organized into 3 categories:

  1. Create and Develop an I&E Curriculum
  2. Support the Teaching of the I&E Curriculum
  3. Facilitate the Growth of the I&E Ecosystem

It is my honor to represent the American University in the Emirates during this initiative and I am excited to contribute to innovation and entrepreneurship educational efforts in the UAE!

Teaching is a profession that can be as challenging as it is rewarding, but every now and then I am reminded why I chose this professional path.

In May I received a kind and heartfelt email from Omran Al Farsi, a human resources student at the American University in the Emirates. He had been  a student in my Principles of Management class during the spring semester which had recently concluded. 

The students in Omran’s class, which was one of my smallest at AUE, were uniquely mature and engaged; it felt more like a masters degree class than an undergraduate one.  We spent many of our class periods in the food court discussing management articles from the Harvard Business Review. It was refreshing and revitalizing.

And so, in some ways, I wasn’t surprised to receive a message from a student in that class. However, I was nevertheless surprised, inspired, and energized by Omran’s email; it was exceptionally thoughtful and sincere. The text of his message follows.

It is my pleasure to share it with you below:

“If my educational journey taught me two things, it would be the importance of knowledge and the person who is giving you that knowledge. Thus, I am forever grateful to you and appreciative for your mentoring throughout the course. You have taught me so many things academic related and in leadership on a personal level. I never heard your name mentioned without students and instructors complimenting you as a person and instructor. I found out why when I first attended your class. You have one of the most pure and kind hearts I have ever encountered in my life.” — Omran Al Farsi, Human Resource Management Student at American University in the Emirates