Feedforward and Opportunity Forum

A parallel digital/physical space where community members can request feedforward and post “HMW” questions to improve any situation.

Photo of Richard Brehl
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Prototype using Google Sites now online at: 

https://sites.google.com/site/fboforum/

First of all, what is "feedforward"?

Feedforward is a term coined by Peter Dowrick.

Feedforward: (noun) To give someone suggestions for the future regarding a task or undertaking. It can help people envision a positive future. Feedforward can come from anyone familiar with the task, and does not require personal experience with the individual. We can change the future, we can't change the past.

Here are some interesting links on the concept that I found quickly:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feedforward,_Behavioral_and_Cognitive_Science

http://keithlyons.me/blog/2009/06/28/feedforward/

http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ758113.pdf

Overview: (What’s this idea about)

This idea is about creating a public, digital space, as well as a parallel, physical space, where school community members can share two basic categories of ideas related to innovation and design in teaching and learning. These two categories should create a cycle of feedback and innovation in which each supports and feeds the other. There will be corresponding physical and digital discussion boards for each of these categories.

One category of ideas shared in this space we will call  “opportunities”. These are “How might we” (HMW) questions related to improving any situation or solving any problem in the institution, the local community, or in any context up to and including the world at large. We are calling challenges and problems "opportunities" in the spirit of optimism. An example opportunity post might be: "How might we create more blank space and/or time in our schedules this year"? From this HMW, a group of educators would share wild ideas and solutions by writing one idea per post-it note and leaving it on the board. An example idea that might come of this brainstorm could be to do more lesson planning from home, therefore opening more time in our school day schedule. This idea could then be taken through the other board, "Feedforward Forum".

In the "Feedforward Forum", community members can share experiences with projects, tasks, assignments and (of course) opportunities they have engaged or undertaken, and request feedforward on their efforts so far. For example, one might seek feedforward about trying to plan for the school day from home. Some positives of working from home could be comfort, food and drink, and more time around family. A possibility of lesson planning from home could be that one can work later into the evening.  A concern of working from home is that one might be distracted by children, television or even fall asleep.  Two possible iterations a teacher might experiment with are to become more of a minimalist and to NOT over plan. Both would eliminate the need to plan from home.  From these ideas, one would circle back the the first board, "Opportunities" to create a new HMW question: "HMW encourage educators to embrace a minimalist approach to planning"?

Again - while these two boards might constitute a productive cycle of feedback and inspiration, there is no necessary order of entry or dependence - one can go ahead and start with a feedforward request or post an opportunity without worrying about how one relates to the other. Connections, if they exist, will manifest themselves.

Potential For Impact: (Why is this an idea that creates a culture of innovation?)

What if we openly shared the challenges we face throughout the school year with each other? What if we felt comfortable enough to receive feedforward from our colleagues about a lesson, activity, or big idea? Rather than trying to make changes alone, what if we relied on the ideas and creativity of the masses?

What if we had access to a space where we could submit challenges and opportunities for improving any situation in our communities and collaborate with our fellow community members to design, test and implement real world solutions?

The feedforward and Opportunity Forum would provide an open space for people to initiate and engage in creation of a challenge/feedforward/solution design cycle.  

An additional benefit would be to connect micro-communities to macro-communities, both in our own minds and those of our students, as well as in concrete and practical ways.

For example, if someone posts an opportunity such as, “How might we reduce water consumption on our campus?”, efforts within the institution could be explicitly connected to larger issues such as global water scarcity. Conversely, one might ask “How might we address the issue of global water scarcity?” An 11th grade physics class might respond to this opportunity with new ideas for desalination processes, while a 2nd grade class might approach the same opportunity from a more local perspective, focusing on ways to reduce water consumption on the campus. We visualize it would be very like the Teachers Guild site, where challenges are posted and engaged by members of a community.

Another example: if someone posts an opportunity such as, “How might we design assessments that acknowledge what they can do- not what they can’t do, and then give students concrete, positive feedforward?”

People could write ideas for micro-solutions such as:

“In my classroom we…”

People could also write ideas for macro-solutions such as:

“Alfie Kohn pushes back against the growth mindset concept. He thinks that instead of teaching kids how to think positively about academics, we should be looking more closely at the type of assignments we ask students to complete- many of them ask for compliance, not innovative thinking.”

Value Prop/Pitch: (How would you pitch this to other teachers in your school? Your principal? Etc)

We all know that people working together generate more ideas and can prototype a wider range of solutions so when we openly share our ideas about improving specific situations or solving problems, as well as sharing  attempts at innovation and failures, there are more chances to find solutions and to prototype them.

When teachers feel  comfortable receiving feedforward and discuss freely what could have been done differently, when they share “How might we” (HMW) questions as “opportunities” and collaborate to design solutions to real-world problems or improve real-world situations, workflows, or methods, they create a neutral, non-judgmental space in which innovation and growth can flourish!!!

Structure:

For each participating local community (school) there would be a digital space (potentially an app) which would allow for community members (and possibly other institutions) to view the school’s boards online. In the digital space, schools might check each other’s boards for feedforward requests and opportunities, offer feedforward, solutions, insights and ideas to each other, and collaborate across institutions.

In some cases, a problem identified by one school might alert another school to a similar issue they are experiencing that they are not yet aware of. We see this benefit on the Teachers Guild site, where teachers from all over are collaborating to meet challenges.

Ideally, schools would also set up physical space (if space is available) with whiteboards or bulletin boards in a large, public space such as a library, cafeteria, or auditorium. This physical space could be equipped with materials for engaging in the design process: furniture, office supplies, etc. The Feedforward board would have columns for "Activity", "Positives", "Possibilities", "Concerns" and "Iterations". The Opportunity board would have columns for "Opportunity", "Hopes"  and "Ideas". While this is not reflected in the latest prototype, it might also be good to have a column for "Implementation(s)" on the Opportunity board. However, it could also be that concrete implementations of ideas from the Opportunity Board are placed directly onto the Feedforward Board to enter the cycle of feedforward, refinement and iteration.

In this approach, the physical space will provide a place for people to collaborate and work in person on challenges and to leave feedforward and suggestions for those who have posted the results of initiatives and projects they have tried. The physical space would also provide a built-in, tangible reminder to engage with the board.  Encouraging users to subscribe to digital updates from the forum, like a newsgroup, could also help to increase engagement.

Scaling up from the local community, there could be a meta-board containing sub-boards for all the participating institutions. Users could search the meta board for opportunities, ideas and solutions generated by other schools comparable to what they have posted or are thinking of posting to their own sub-board.

Either way, it would be advantageous for all schools doing this to use a consistent platform or site template so that collaborators from different schools will feel at home on each other’s boards. Perhaps technology could be designed that would automatically search for and identify related challenge/opportunity posts, emailing those involved and suggesting they check out each other’s work.

Posted opportunities and the resulting design processes could be used as foundations for lessons, project-based learning initiatives, units, etc. This would support the idea of curriculum being designed as much as possible around identifying and designing solutions to real-world problems.

A moderator or a group of moderators would be needed to manage the boards for each school.  Moderators would take responsibility for transferring work done in the physical spaces onto the digital boards, organizing and forging connections between posts and ideas as needed, and synthesizing feedforward request threads into opportunity posts and vice-versa. It would be helpful if the moderators could be trained in design thinking principles so as to maximize their ability to refine and move ideas forward with feedforward, questions and insights for participants.

How’d I get this idea off the ground?

This idea in it’s fullest form would require a digital platform, as well as physical resources to implement the physical space component. Possible existing platforms include:

    Google Classroom: We are currently using Google Classrooms to prototype the cycle on a guided inquiry initiative in a 4th grade classroom at Riverdale Country School

    Google Sites: Prototype created at: https://sites.google.com/site/fboforum/

    Moodle

    Twitter w. groups and tags

    Pinterest

Ideas come to life as individuals and/or groups are inspired to engage feedforward requests and pursue specific opportunities posted. Success is dependent upon community members taking responsibility for moving ahead on challenges and offering feedforward to peers. It will be important for participants to remain open to feedforward on their work and ideas, to post what they are doing and to be open to collaborating with others on designing and implementing solutions.

How  you can get started:

By starting within your own community, this idea can grow throughout your school or district.  Start small, involve a handful of people, show the power and grow it from there.  The digital space can start small as well. Using tools like Google Sites, Moodle or Google Drive, we can share resources digitally, receive feedforward, and collaborate to design solutions which can be accessed by anyone in our community at anytime.  Once we have established a need for a digital space, we can build an app that is accessible across districts and schools around the world.

39 comments

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Photo of Kevin Jarrett
Team

Just came across this idea and I have to say it's utter genius. Love, love, love the combination of physical and digital spaces. Convenient, available, powerful. I could totally see schools and even districts rolling with this. So fantastic. Good luck!

Photo of Richard Brehl
Team

Thanks so much! We're working on it!

Photo of Kingston Tam
Team

Thanks Elysa for the introduction. I love the idea of getting the community more engaged with improving their environment. It offers a very direct way of getting members to think more carefully about how they could do so. I'd be interested in seeing how we could start getting people engaged in a lightweight prototype as it seems that there isn't a high bar to setting it up. One additional idea would be to try a Google+ Community as a way of seeing all the posts in a succinct fashion, e.g. https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/103473332841972047889?e=-RedirectToSandbox

@Richard/core folk, would you guys be free for a quick sync up on the latest status of the project?

Photo of Richard Brehl
Team

Hi Kingston - thanks - Michael and I are free starting at 3:45PM EST tomorrow.
Can you let us know if that works for you?
If anyone else wants to be part of the convo let us know.
Google Hangout should work for us. Thanks again!

Photo of Kingston Tam
Team

Great! Does 4PM EST/1PM PST work for you?

Photo of Richard Brehl
Team

Sure. We'll be ready at 4 PM EST. My email address is rbrehl@riverdale.edu. Michael is at mschurr@riverdale.edu. We'll be ready for a hangout invite, or if you prefer some other approach, just let us know. Thanks!

Photo of Kingston Tam
Team

Sounds good - talk to you then!

Photo of Richard Brehl
Team

Hi Kingston - we're available - shoot us an email/invite whenever you're ready. Thanks!

Photo of Elysa Fenenbock
Team

Hi Team,
I also want to invite a fellow Googler, Kingston (https://teachersguild.org/profiles/117606940223977546263) to offer some feedback on this idea. He's a design thinking + tech expert and might have some more thoughts regarding iterating and implementing this idea.

Photo of Richard Brehl
Team

Thanks Elysa!

Photo of Jessica Lura
Team

Love the iteration!

Photo of Richard Brehl
Team

Thanks Jessica! Go team!

Photo of Richard Brehl
Team

Don Ostrow, Director of the Learning Research Team at Riverdale, engaged my co-teacher, Grace Victor and me in a discussion about designing differentiated math instruction. This discussion was quickly transformed into an "opportunity"/HMW question that is now live on the board. We also have some other very compelling opportunities and feedback requests posted.

Photo of David Harrington
Team

Nice work, Richard. This seems to cover a lot of what we were looking for: Low cost of entry, change in culture or routine and scalable. I can't really make out the images (all appear upside down on my mac) so maybe this is already done but could you do mockups of each stage? Shouldnt take very long (not at all if you have already done it;) )

Photo of Richard Brehl
Team

Thanks David! The new images I just posted appear correctly so I'm hoping they convey the mockup we have going.

Photo of Richard Brehl
Team

Posted pics of the latest (live) prototype of this idea set up at Riverdale Country School.
Also posted screenshots of the latest version of the website - homepage as well as both boards. I haven't been able to set up privs on the site so that anyone with the link can post and comment on the boards (without giving edit access to the world), but the hope is that it at least demonstrates the functionality.
Added description of columns on physical boards (and ideas for additional columns) to paragraph three of the "Structure" section.

Photo of Meg Krause
Team

Rich
Love the term "feedforward". I like the new integration of opportunity board and feedback forum. Bravo!
Meg

Photo of Richard Brehl
Team

Thanks Meg! Persoanlly I had not heard of "Feedforward" until Michael and my co-teacher, Grace mentioned some of the drawbacks of the word "feedback" in conversation. Michael said he'd been reading about this "feedforward" concept, so we decided to go for it. Glad you mentioned it as we should give proper credit for the original source of the concept. I'm putting links at the top of the idea.

Photo of Richard Brehl
Team

Not sure why some of the latest pics are appearing upside down. They open properly on my Mac. If anyone knows of anything I can do to fix it please let me know. Thanks!

Photo of Richard Brehl
Team

We think the latest version of this post completes the integration of the Opportunity Board idea with Michael Schurr's Feedback Forum idea.
We also tried to tighten up the language and clarify the idea in terms of function and implementation.
The prototype website has also been updated to reflect the latest language and thinking on this.
Meg - while we haven't combined the two boards, we are tightening the integration between them and presenting them as complementary elements in a cycle of inspiration that support and feed each other.

Photo of Meg Krause
Team

Richard
I think is SO cool to have a place to share challenges, and Google Sites seems like a good platform (easy to use and free). I have a couple of questions that I am thinking about. Is there really a difference between the Feedback Board and the Opportunity Board? I wonder if we could merge the two boards into one so there would be less decisions to make- where do I post? does this belong here? Then, how do we keep track of both a physical space and a digital space. Teachers need to consider- where do I post, which space gets the most traffic? are they cross-referenced? Jut thinking outloud here.
Meg

Photo of Richard Brehl
Team

Thanks Meg! I agree the simpler the better and if they can be combined into one page, they should be. One reason for having two boards is that the posting guidelines are different, and I'd like to have posting guidelines on the page where folks create their posts. Do you think the two sets of guidelines could be consolidated in a way that would communicate what needs to be said while remaining concise? I certainly don't want too much text scaring potential contributors off. Maybe I'll take a stab at doing that later. I enabled comments on the home page as well as the two board pages, and allowed attachments as well, in case you or anyone else wants to comment on a page directly. Thanks again.

Photo of Britta Wilk McKenna
Team

Richard,
Great thoughts! I am currently having two of my students work with an alumnus (developer) to code a front end to our new project board that will send the projects to a boxed solution (testing out Podio, Asana and Trello right now) for project management and will infuse Slack as well. As I'm not a coder, they seem to think this is the quickest and cheapest approach to having an outward facing "board" that connects with a PM backend. I don't know if this helps you at all, but thought I'd share where we are with our planning in case it helps. I am using the blackboard now and moving to a Google sheet so people can "see" the projects online as a temporary solution. I love the name of an "Opportunity" board, so may pivot my name from Project Board to Opportunity Board! If you want to learn more about our Innovation Hub called IN2 that is being built and will open next summer, here is a link: http://youtu.be/E33-TL1XLi0

Photo of Richard Brehl
Team

Thanks so much, Britta! Your initiative looks incredibly exciting. For now I'm prototyping with Google Sites to see what I can do quickly and for free, but if the idea were to scale up, I could see these ideas being hugely helpful!

Photo of Richard Brehl
Team

I'm prototyping this with a Google Site and announcement pages for each board. Totally free and very easy. I can't be sure I will ever have a public physical space to work with (though I hope to make some kind of space in my classroom for kids to engage in this kind of work), and almost certainly will not have one for school start or by the end of the evolve phase. In other words, I'm finding so far that the digital aspect of this is a lot simpler to get going.
Here's the digital prototype.
https://sites.google.com/site/fboforum/

Photo of Richard Brehl
Team

I'm working up a Google Sites version using Announcement pages now. My sense is that the structure with posts and threaded responses will work better. Attachments are also supported, though not embedded multimedia. To my mind the organization and structure of the board is extremely important. It may be that the board itself is primarily a platform for high-level discussion, with other platforms being brought into play on a case-by-case basis - the way this team started with the Teacher's Guild site, but moved into Google Docs and Slack.

Photo of Richard Brehl
Team

I created a padlet but there is no way to connect posts on a padlet to one another (I asked). So either we would need to create a separate padlet for every opportunity (which I feel would be cumbersome), or posts and responses for all opportunities would be isolated from each other. Here is the padlet:
http://padlet.com/rbrehl/1hg02h9d9klt

Photo of Jessica Lura
Team

Adding on to Tom's comment, I know that initially, on this site, people seemed hesitant to jump in. One solution was for the coaches to submit ideas/proposals, etc. to start the conversation and to model what one might include. This might work at school sites as well (which would mean potentially supporting people implementing this locally brainstorm starting points).

Photo of Jessica Lura
Team

And, I'd love to try this out with my colleagues :)

Photo of Richard Brehl
Team

Excellent point! Again, the idea of having a design leadership team for the school could really help with this - these folks could lead the way with exemplar posts, and could also be a resource to help people focus and hone their ideas and posts. I could imagine the school leadership supporting this with a dedicated faculty meeting where people could be given time to post opportunities/challenges and requests for feedback, and to support each other's posts with ideas and feedback. Folks who felt uneasy about diving in solo could form partnerships or teams to make it more comfortable. THANKS!

Photo of Tom Sayer
Team

How do you kick off interest in this? I worry that there would be a blank board with a couple of ideas that never get responded to.

To share from a personal perspective, with this board (the Teacherguild platform) we spent a lot of time thinking about how we made sure there was activity at the start, and how we kept it going, in order to keep interest up. How do you do that with this board?

(Also, can we get comment access to the doc?)

Photo of Richard Brehl
Team

Hi Tom, and thanks for your feedback!
I agree the question of maintaining engagement is a real issue. Having a physical space where the opportunities and the feedback requests are posted is key to maintaining interest. That space should be located in a central area, where folks are sure to be exposed to it regularly. Ultimately, community members would need to take ownership of it, and the leadership of the school could help by supporting the idea of community problem solving, design thinking and community feedback as a priorities. By placing the physical space strategically and emphasizing the importance of this kind of work and thinking, we can make it possible for these challenges and feedback requests to be shared and engaged. Ultimately, it is up to the community to engage and follow through.
That said, I would think that such a forum would be empowering for community members, given that it is a place to submit concerns and problems that we see as important. So often we are affected by an issue and we desire a way to make our voices heard and engage in constructive problem solving. I imagine kids who post opportunities will certainly advocate for engagement, and I would think that teachers who post opportunities and request feedback would get some responses out of a sense of community and collegiality, to start. But again, this idea would depend on classroom teachers and school leaders making time for and prioritizing engagement of these opportunities and feedback requests. Ultimately the success of an idea like this is highly dependent on the culture of the school.
In sum - key points crucial for maintaining community engagement would be:
1 - A strategically-placed and well-designed physical space for display and work on opportunities and feedback requests.
2 - A digital mechanism by which participants could receive updates on opportunities and feedback requests
3 - Prioritization and backing by school leadership for the importance of engagement
4 - Emphasis on the idea that this forum empowers community members to raise issues important to them and make change in their own community - "Instead of complaining about a problem, post an opportunity and solicit help from your students and peers to design a positive way forward!"
5 - What else can we do to maintain community engagement and support followup and implementation of solutions?
Here is the link to the doc, and anyone with this link should be able to comment: http://bit.ly/1WL4MPg

Photo of Michael Schurr
Team

Check out our collaboration work here:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xWEtmrN1XJusLUqJXSv0rYigGpn1IuW2b-vwYMQAias/edit?usp=sharing

Photo of Moss Pike
Team

Great idea, Richard! Love it, and I second Emma's comment #2 that it'd be great to have a dedicated CM for the board. It could be a lot of fun testing the idea out with a tool like Padlet too, which should make it relatively easy to create a digital space for HMW questions. Excited to see the idea grow!

Photo of Richard Brehl
Team

Thanks so much! Exploring Padlet now. I like the way it supports multimedia.

Photo of Richard Brehl
Team

Thanks Emma and Michael for your feedback and questions!
Regarding your questions, Emma:
1 - I think there are a wide variety of digital tools that could get it off the ground. Personally I think a platform that presents topics/challenges in a hierarchical, categorized format organized either by scope (micro to macro/local to universal) or topic area might be best. Perhaps a discussion forum format? My gut tells me this would be preferable to a format that lists posts visually in a chronological stream (as many social media formats do), as things tend to get lost over time as new items are posted, and often only the latest posts are at the top and presented to the user when they log in. The way the teacher's guild site is organized by missions makes sense to me, and I have seen discussion forums organized in a similar way. So that's where I think I would start at this point if I were prototyping this. That said, I'm more comfortable with hierarchically organized, textual information, and my brain needs to work a bit harder to engage with the more visual formats that present content in graphical clusters (which many others seem to feel more comfortable with). So it may be that the format I am most comfortable with will not be what works best for most others.

2 - I would think that a moderator or a group of moderators would be needed to manage the board for each school. At the very least an admin would be required to respond to reports of abuse, troubleshoot tech issues, organize (and reorganize) posts as needed, etc. Beyond that, perhaps the moderators could be folks trained in the design thinking process who could help to refine ideas with feedback and questions (as you and others are doing on this site). I suppose this would be beneficial, but not necessarily required.

3 - Ideas might come to life as individuals and/or groups are inspired to engage specific challenges posted. I imagine community members stepping forward and taking responsibility organically for moving ahead on challenges. I think it would be important for folks to post what they are doing and be open to collaborating with others about their work. Having a trained Design Thinking Leadership team to assist with coordination and logistics and to guide and inspire the design process for each challenge would be very helpful, but in my own experience I regularly see individuals and groups organically responding to and taking responsibility for challenges and working together to design and implement solutions without outside help or guidance. The more I think about it, the more I feel that design thinking should be an academic department in schools and should be formally integrated into the curriculum. Challenges could be harvested for integration into curriculum for math, science, social studies, or probably any subject. A dedicated Design Thinking integration team might serve to support teachers as they integrate posted challenges and active solution design into their teaching, just as tech integrators do with technology.

Michael: I totally agree our ideas could be combined in some way. A gDoc to collaborate sounds great!

Photo of Emma Scripps
Team

Richard! This is such an awesome idea! Wow. I love the idea of a digital opportunity board. I know you said you thought a physical board could be better - but what I like about a digital board is that it would be searchable so that you go back and see what past solutions people had contributed.

Here are a couple of questions this post made me think about:
1) Are there existing digital tools you could use as a sort of hack to achieve this larger vision? (i.e. a pinterest opportunity board or maybe a G+ community)
2) How would the opportunity board be managed within a school context? (Do you need a teacher to be a community manager? Etc.)
3) What would happen to ideas once they're posted? How would they come to life?

Photo of Emma Scripps
Team

P.S. I LOVE this idea.

Photo of Michael Schurr
Team

Yeah Rich, I'm all over this idea too! I think we can take both of our ideas and make a hybrid. I think what I like best about your idea is that it is applicable to faculty, admin, students and potentially parents. This is big!

What do you think about getting a gdoc going between us to really iron out some details while addressing Emma's questions. We have quite a crew of ppl in the NYC area who all want to collaborate and build on each others ideas.