Curiosity Journals for Crafting Collectively Curated Curriculum (How 'bout all them Cs!)

By crowd sourcing community members' curiosity journals, we can practice Innovator's DNA traits...and solve for problems and opportunities!

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In Tom Kelley's book, The Art of Innovation, chapter 3 is entitled "Innovation Begins with an EYE." And The Innovator's DNA detailed the five traits that Dyer, Gregerson, and Christensen identified as the skills at the heart of innovative action - observing, questioning, experimenting, networking, and associating. 

So, what if we put people's eyes to work for one another? What if we facilitated students, teachers, parents, and community members using their phones to capture things they observe and that raise questions for them? And what if we pooled these curiosity journal entries as a virtually endless source of potential projects and ventures to use for innovation and people-centered problem solving? What we could create is a new and exciting way for people to collectively create and curate curriculum - tracks of life - that are all about purpose!

Here's how it could work:

  1. People see something that intrigues them - it could be something that works remarkably well, it could be something that bugs them, it could be something that they imagine working so much better, it could be something that's broken or needs some solution seeking. It could be simply something that makes them say, "Hmmm..."
  2. They take a snap shot with their camera phone. 
  3. They upload that image to an email address that sends to a collective site. (I've used Wordpress, Posterous, Google Community, Instagram, Twitter with a Hashtag, etc. They all work well.)
  4. As we people work together on capturing our curiosities like this, we generate a pool of possible things to draw on as projects, design challenges, etc. 

Yes, it really is that simple. The magic is rooted in it being this simple. We just take an act that many of us do multiple times a day - snapping a pic with our cell phones - and put it to work for us. 

By capturing our observations and questions, we can then identify potential experiments to run. We engage the "We are smarter than me" network, and we find patterns and trends and opportunities in our ever-growing collection of posts. 

A group of students could do this in a single class. A team of teachers could do this as a collaborative experiment. I do this with my sons, and we call it #FSBL - father-son-based learning. We've created a course from this method, and we called the course Synergy. And we use this methodology as one of our ways of working in the Innovation Diploma at Mount Vernon. 

A group of schools could partner in this way. Or people in a community. Parents at a school. It's endless in possibility. 

And it's simple. We just have to each commit to the practice, develop the habits, and make the time to collaborate on the back-end of the collection process, so that we can transfer those curiosity journal captures into new products, processes, tweaks, innovations, and solved problems. 

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NOTE: A number of the Ideas that others listed here at The Teachers Guild have further inspired this thinking and potential acting. For example, Julia Goga-Cooke wrote about questioning; Carolyn Wendell wrote about Innovation Walls; Gavin Cosgrave contributed his Preflights; James Campbell wrote of Cultivate What You Celebrate; Brent Brownell ideated on Innovation Meters; Richard Brehl posted about Opportunity (or Challenge) Boards; and Dea Jones reminded us that Twitter Hashtags could help us pool ideas. This practice of Curiosity Journaling is simply another way to help connect and put into practice the exceptional ideas of the people gathering here. 

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Photo of Moss
Team

Really love this idea, Bo, since it's based in the power of observation, and it makes me think about space in different ways. Thanks to ideas like this one and Elysa's "Walk-Waze" (along with Robert Irwin's biography), I have a better appreciation for the ways that space inspires observation and reflection. Hope to see it continue to evolve!

Photo of Grant
Team

A powerful and actionable idea that would help create a key element of what is missing in education transformation: rich, accessible veins of mining for ideas. There are a number of obstacles to innovation implementation; accessing and sharing ideas, connectivity amongst internal and external stakeholders is one of them. Does this answer question of sustainable implementation? No; but it will definitely help provide a much richer pool of ideas and radically leverage/build cultural innovation DNA in school communities.

Photo of Joseph
Team

I just tried a version of this with a small group (8) 6th grade students. To get us up and running quickly we used Google Drive since they are familiar with it. We also used the library as our main focus for various reasons (mainly as a controlled environment).

Here's our steps:
1. Created a folder in Google Drive and shared it with the students using our district accounts.
2. Students logged into their Google Drive on an iPad and found the shared folder.
3. Students used the "add" feature to take photographs using the iPad's camera which then loaded directly into the shared folder.
4. Students added short comments to the file as the file's name. (The students modified the rose/bud/thorn approach to organize their photos.)
5. Students were able to share the photos through the shared folder with all the students in the group. This will eventually expand to include the entire grade level and, eventually, larger groups in the campus.

A few #failups:
1. I initially had the folder as "View Only," but the students couldn't upload their photos with that permission. One of the students in the group suggested that I add editing permissions to the folder for the students. The students were then able to access the iPad's gallery and re-upload the images.
2. The students wanted to use the file name as a way to organize the images. I may suggest some common notation to decrease the number of characters needed. (One student suggested :) = rose :( = thorn :/ = bud.) We may also create sub-folders for the different images if they want to continue categorizing their images. I may also suggest that they just take photos for pure inspiration and leave judgement/criticism for later.
3. Some students suggested that sharing editing permissions with the entire grade level could cause issues with files being deleted. They suggested that a team form (including them, of course) that was the "Innovation Team" to help monitor the folders. My main concern, which I shared with them, is that they then become "gatekeepers" to the sharing of ideas. One student convinced me that there could be some checks and balances to help mitigate this possible source of censorship.
4. The shared resource folder would later in the process be used as a source for a more public forum like a website. (I'm thinking I could possibly embed a Google Folder link in a sub-page on my library website.)

The next step is to try the same process with an entire 6th grade class during their library class time next week. We had a library redesign project last year, and the Curiosity Journals could be a good way to kick another iteration of the library redesign project.

I will post example images in subsequent posts. (as soon as I figure out how to do that in the comment section; probably via links to the Google folder or files)

Photo of Bo
Team

Joseph,
I loved reading about this approach and prototype. Thanks for posting here! I really like that you used existing tools and skills that were readily accessible to get the observers actively collecting. Sounds like some good problem solving was happening directly and in the meta-state of the process itself. I've been using curiosity/observation journaling for almost 10 years, and I've also seen Google Community work really well for this. If your Google package includes Google Community that might be a great way for you to test and prototype, as well.

Photo of Elysa
Team

Hi Bo,
I think this idea is pretty great. I'm curious to know more about how you've been using Google Community, and if there are any things you'd wish were different with that experience. What works? What doesn't work?

I just discovered dscout, which I think is a pretty interesting way to collect inspiration from global folks. It has some drawbacks in that it seems like the only people who get access to the entire collection of captures may be the administrators, but the interaction is pretty great for prompting people to seek out certain behaviors/experiences. I like that you can send out a 'call' for specific design challenges, and ask people to capture experiences wherever they are.

All of that said, I'd love to know what the ideal capture/share/build experience would be for curiosity journals. What if the community captures could be easily reshuffled/tagged for different kinds of curriculum? What if you could build curriculum worksheets right through the application? I'm truly not trying to make this more complex that it needs to be (Simpler usually is better). I guess I'm just seeing that you've found a really great hack and wondering if there is anything else essential to taking that hack to the next level?

Photo of Bo
Team

Elysa,

Thank you so much for your feedback - the affirming and encouraging kind AND the challenging, take-it-to-the-next-level kind.

Probably the shortest way to describe the system I think would maximize potential impact of this method is to say that I wish the OpenIDEO or Teachers Guild tech platforms were readily available for "local community" use and engagement. In other words, the features and functions of OpenIDEO are so great, and they work to help connect problem finders and solution seekers across the globe. Yet the community members who are within a 5-20 mile radius of each other might find a hack use of that platform sub-optimal for managing the innovation being championed in our immediate vicinity. (Does that make any sense yet?!)

Over the 10 years I've been playing with this work, I've used a number of different platforms for this curiosity and observation journaling. The most recent example of using Google Community is one that Meghan Cureton and I set up for the Traverse Conference last summer: https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/113121255689067553260

Google Community is fast and efficient to set up with users, and we are grateful for that (Wordpress, for instance, is also great, but it can take a bit longer to get up and running with a group of new users). As you know far better than I, people on Google Community can easily capture an imagine and their thinking. I like how hashtags and categories can help organize numerous postings, once a community grows in sophistication with use of the tool. I wish that Google Community could better help manage (perhaps it can) the phases and processes involved with such discovery, selection, and solution work - like the OpenIDEO platform does (which is why I mentioned it first before bogging you down in my long-windedness!). Being able to "vote up" ideas might help. Being able to integrate more easily with other social media might help.

I hope my reply is, at least, a beginning of an ongoing conversation. I have certainly tried a number of hacks, and I love having others joining in here to crowd-source the next levels of hacking.

Photo of Elysa
Team

Bo,
Thanks for this thoughtful response. I'd actually invite a fellow design thinking Googler (Paulo) onto the Guild and into this conversation. Do you have a working doc capturing your latest thinking and/or maybe we can all try to have a Google Hangout to discuss further.

Photo of Paulo
Team

Bo, your idea is very interesting and I look forward to helping.

Photo of Bo
Team

Elysa, I'd love to have a GHO with you and Paulo. That would be fantastic. Do you have some suggested dates and times that could work for both of you? Thanks so much.

Photo of Bo
Team

Thanks, Paulo. I really appreciate the feedback. I just sent Elysa a reply, and I hope we can all gather for a GHO sometime in the near future.

Photo of Paulo
Team

Hi, Bo. Sorry for the delay. My calendar this week was very tight, but I can meet you tomorrow from 9 to 10 and on Friday from 4:30 to 6pm.
My e-mail: paulozac@google.com

Photo of Bo
Team

Elysa,
Paulo and I are going to connect by GHO at 1pm EST on Friday, Sept. 11. Would love for you to join us, if you can. My email is badams@mountvernonschool.org

Photo of Sean
Team

Last year my curiosity collection took the form of a shared Thinglink image where students suggested non-fiction readings, videos, and other texts that coincided with their ongoing exploration of a self-generated question (using the Question Formulation Technique) for each novel we read. You can see an example here: https://www.thinglink.com/scene/576120822666625026

This year I introduced my classes to our curiosity collection on the second day of school. I plan to use Thinglink again, but I encouraged my students to catalog their curiosity early and often. You can see our ongoing collection on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #zapfv.

If you’re interested in doing more exploration of curiosity journals as a pedagogy, I suggest reading Geoffrey Sirc’s “Box-Logic:" https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/awysocki/www/445/sirc.pdf

Sirc suggests similar methods of collection for, among other reasons, its “idea of sustained inquiry—for [him] the most crucial part of the academic enterprise.”

Photo of Bo
Team

Loved this Storify that @SilberbergMark posted about engaging in observation journaling with new faculty in New York. He used Twitter as the medium.

https://storify.com/SilberbergMark/new-faculty-learning-walk-on-the-high-line

Photo of Elysa
Team

Great find!

Photo of Meghan
Team

Here is a post I wrote on my blog about implementing the observations of students into the curriculum: https://meghancureton.wordpress.com/2015/08/29/curiosity-journals-in-practice/

Photo of Bo
Team

Meghan,
Thanks for adding your blog post here and for sharing the current curriculum-generation work happening with our Innovation Diploma cohorts.

Photo of Joseph
Team

Here's the Google folder with some of the images and video created by my students (Yes, they figured out that video works too.). (It features a video of me walking around with my iPad trying to figure out why my Google Drive app wouldn't update.)
https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B4hCBPIvGM_YflY2QTVTM1hWcTNheURkSDR6aVVmQ1lhZzFGQlZ2Si1pdHM0WjFRVDFYVFU&usp=sharing

Photo of Bo
Team

Thanks, JB and 6th graders! I loved seeing your Rose, Bud, Thorn images from your observation journals. I wanted to be able to comment right on some of the photos, but they are view-only for me. How might you create ways for long-distance collaborators to post observations and comments with you?!
Bo Adams

Photo of James
Team

Good morning Bo
This is a little crazy, sending you a post when you are on the other side of the building. I will talk to you face to face later. Curiosity Journals for Crafting Collectively Curated Curriculum has been moved to the Evolve stage and we would love for you to start prototyping and sharing your progress. Talk to you soon!!

Photo of Bo
Team

Thanks, JamCam. I would love to touch base soon. My idea team and I have some confusion about how we might approach the Evolve phase, especially given that we actually use the curiosity journal model and have been prototyping it for a number of years (in my personal case). We tried to tune into the GHO broadcast on Wednesday, but I was pulled away to a meeting, and I think there were some technical issues with the broadcast. So, we'd love some provocation and help from you!

Photo of Alicia
Team

I was fortunate enough to see your presentation on this at Traverse and experience it for myself first hand. I am grateful for this resource as it is such a simple, yet effective way, to start with what motivates students.

Photo of Bo
Team

Alicia,

Thank you so much for this affirmation and great feedback. I am excited that you found the session at Traverse a good one, and I am glad that the additional resourcing here may be helpful to you and others.

All the best to you,

Bo

Photo of Emma
Team

Wooohoo! You posted! Love it. I've got way more to dig in and respond to here - but nice work! This is awesome, Bo,