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.

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Photo of Kevin
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
Team

Thanks so much! We're working on it!

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