Innovation Diploma 1: Ethnography and the CDC

Many people have been asking what Innovation Diploma is and no one in ID has any clear idea, so I thought I would keep a record of what we do during this year as both an answer and a way for me to look back at everything. I will write a new post every one to two weeks.

At my school, we have an open period on Thursday mornings and at the end of last year we were discussing using that time for ID. Therefore, during the first couple of days of school, the cohort discussed how each of the students had been planing on using that time, whether we needed to use that time for ID, and how we would use it if we were to use it. We discovered that one of the problems with that discussion was that as we had no idea what ID was going to look like, it was hard to know if we needed it and what it would be used for.

Because of that, the two teachers in charge of ID created a poster board (not the best word for it, but the best one I have) that mapped out some of their thoughts – pieces of paper with verbs on them, schedules showing the time we had together, teaching methods, the like. Then they asked us to write down and then talk about what we saw, thought, and wondered about the poster board, allowing them to both see what we thought of their ideas and how we worked together as a cohort.

Speaking of working together as a cohort, we also laid down the “norms” for this class, as we do in most classes. They included the usual: respect, listening to others, putting every idea on the table, etc. We had a basic 10, which we worked down to 5 just by combining a few.

Somewhere during all of this, we learned about ethnography, which is basically a fancy word for observing human cultures. We started with a TED Talk that confused me a little (the video did this weird thing where it skipped part of the beginning, so some of our context was lost), and then we went outside and took pictures of stuff and asked question about that stuff and put all of it on the Innovation Diploma WordPress (okay, that was super summarized, but you get the picture). During a class later that week, we headed over to the Lower School campus, had lunch, and observed the kids. Then we came back to the Upper School campus, had a quick discussion, and headed off to our next class.

During this past crazy week, we were given an opportunity to go to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and work with/observe the groups in their Ignite program. The way to see in detail everything we did would be to either go to the the Innovation Diploma WordPress and look at everything tagged CDC or look at Anya’s post about it. If you don’t care too much about details, though, then carry on reading this.

When we arrived, confused would be a good word to describe the feeling in the room. The students weren’t sure exactly what they were supposed to be doing, the adults from the CDC were wondering why we were there, and the teachers didn’t offer very informative or straightforward answers to questions. The basics of it were that the students were to work their ethnography muscles, maybe help the CDC people understand and embrace the design thinking process, and gain real world experience. I think we accomplished all three.

Some of us jumped right in, pulling up chairs to the tables, talking to the adults, etc. Some of us sat back a few feet from the tables and simply watched. Some of the adults seemed to be all, “Okay, I can work with this.” and others were more, “I don’t know what’s going on and I don’t know if I’m going to like it.” It took a while for everyone to really feel comfortable with each other and then even longer for everyone in the CDC to admit that maybe the way they had solved their problem wasn’t the way the best way (or that they solved for the wrong problem). It was really fun to watch how people evolved throughout the day and who jumped right in and who went in an inch at a time. At the end of the day, everyone left a little more educated and a little more open to change.

When we came back to school, we grouped up and answered 3 questions: How can we unlock other people’s creative capacity, how can we share our story with others, and how can we help the CDC more? Then we sat down in a circle, tried not to fall asleep because we were all very tired, and talked about the experience. Then it was time to go home.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s