Hey all! I’m Aaron Roberts. I spent 14 years as a high school teacher. I taught art! Though I taught many forms of art, I spent most of my career in digital art, design, and animation. In 2016, I became what we called an Innovative Learning Coach. This gave me an opportunity to bring creative thinking methods to lots of classrooms. We iterated that role in 2019 and I now work as a Learning Experience Designer for Mason City Schools in Mason, Ohio. This has been my favorite job in education thus far because, for me, it’s not just a job title, it’s who I am. All three words in that job title are meaningful to me.
There is a big difference between teaching and learning. Learning is a deep mental process. Some people are faster and more skilled at it, others less so. Rarely is a person skilled in the quick learning of all types of things. Thus, I believe in Personalized Learning. I don’t mean the type of Personalized Learning that EdTech companies want to sell. What they want to sell is adaptive software. That sort of thing is more about pacing than it is about chasing curiosities, thinking deeply, and engaging in things that matter. Personalized Learning consultant Allison Zmuda (a friend and mentor to me) describes this type of school design as “rigoros, meaningful, and authentic.”
I know, Personalized Learning is such a buzzy thing right now. Really though, what learning is not personalized? Our teaching simply has to enable the brain processes that want to happen naturally.
Have you ever heard an education reformer try to claim that schools should be run more like a business? They may claim that students are our products, and we must turn out the best product possible! I think that’s BS. I do. If anything, students are our users of a product. The product we create as educators is the educational experience. The way we run our schools, the way we create lessons and activities, the enrichment opportunities that we offer all combine to make the magic of a school experience.
I’m a big believer in Design Thinking. This is a process that the Stanford Design School and the firm IDEO have made famous. I consider myself to be a fairly creative guy. So, the ideation process is what drew me to Design Thinking at first. It let me produce lots of ideas without judgment. The divergent and convergent processes in DT really seem to match how my brain seems to be wired.
Thought Ideation caught my eye, it was Empathy that made me stick around with the philosophy. Design Thinking can also be called Human Centered Design (HCD). The human centered part comes from going beyond quantitative data. Design Thinking makes the correct assumption that people are about more than the numbers – they are their own stories. Quantitative data can give us a clue, but qualitative data is the truth about the human experience.
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