District leaders set to apply “Human Centered Design” after participating in Expanding Innovation 2.0

A training session earlier this week found lots of converts to Human Centered Design (HCD). Brownsville Area School District Superintendent Bill King was quick to say why he was one of them.

“It’s friendly, it’s positive, it’s a unique approach to problem-solving,” he explained.

HCD is a discipline of making decisions in service of people. It has proven to be a powerful approach for business leaders attempting to make their companies more customer-focused. Now gaining traction in education, it’s also expected to help district and school leaders put students at the heart of their decisions.

King’s district was one of seven that participated in Expanding Innovation 2.0, an outgrowth the HCD training program for education leaders that the LUMA Institute piloted last year in cooperation with Remake Learning.

The Consortium and LUMA are working in partnership to extend the training to two more cohorts of education leaders in the 2018-2019 school year. Both the pilot and this year’s trainings were made possible with support from The Grable Foundation.

In addition to Brownsville Area, teams participating in this year’s first two-day training session came from Allegheny Valley, Bethlehem Center, New Castle Area, Northgate and Shaler Area and South Allegheny school districts

As part of the training, they learned HCD concepts by tackling simulated problems such a hypothetical situation with a  goal of increasing civic engagement. To address each problem, teams were given “recipes” that required them to use several of the of 36 HCD methods they were learning during the two-day session.  Among the methods are practices such as conducting interviews, undertaking formal idea-generation sessions, doing stakeholder-mapping and others.

Having completed the training, teams now will apply HCD methods on real projects in their districts and schools. LUMA and Consortium trainers will check in to provide support at the 30, 60, and 90-day marks, after which, the teams will reconvene to present their work. The Consortium already is fielding inquiries from districts interested in joining a second cohort of teams that will get HCD training and perform projects in the second half of the school year.

Projects that the teams from the first training session were planning ranged widely—from improving the school cafeteria experience in one district to boosting staff morale in another.

Brownsville’s King said his team plans to use the HCD methods to better align the use of high school library space with student needs. Noting that technology has reduced the space needed for books, he said the library could conceivably incorporate other resources such as technology or other functions, such as career services.

King said he thought HCD would be a good approach because it encourages participants in the process to express ideas without inhibition. “It’s a no-fear response system,” he said. “Everyone can be comfortable because no one idea is right or wrong.”