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Facilitating Collaboration

Facilitating Collaboration

Cover image: Photo by Alexey Shikov on Unsplash

In this week’s post, I will be facilitating a structured learning activity/discussion with those hopes of encouraging empathy and perspective taking. Let’s take a look at the plan before implementation, and then the reflection to discuss how it went.

The Plan

Facilitate a structured learning activity/discussion in your classroom or school.

  • Which structure will you choose? Circle of Viewpoints
  • How will you communicate your expectations and the process?
    • I will create a Google Slide show.
    • I will show the students a video about perspectives
    • I will then show students an example of how the routine will flow.
    • I will ask students to brainstorm different stakeholders at our schools (Korean students, American students, Korean-American students, parents, teachers, etc. Students should try to think of as many different stakeholders as possible.) This is a brainstorm.
    • Students can open my Google Slides file and write the different perspectives and their name next to someone that they choose from their list. They will write their names around a key word.
    • I will ask students to follow the protocol of Circle of Viewpoints.
      • I am thinking of … the topic… From the point of view of … the viewpoint you’ve chosen.
      • I think … describe the topic from your viewpoint. Be an actor – take on the character of your viewpoint.
      • A question I have from this viewpoint is … ask a question from this viewpoint.
    • I will ask the students to think, pair, share with one another around the question: What new ideas do you have about the topic that you didn’t have before? What new questions do you have?
    • Finally, I will ask the students “why do you think we might have done this activity today? How does it fit into our unit of ‘giving voice with our eyes’?”
  • How will this experience challenge students to use a design process and practice computational thinking? This will help students to empathize with other people. The unit that we are working on asks the students to identify a school community member that he or she does not necessarily identify as. The student will then interview and ask this person about what challenges he or she might face in our community as a result of their points of diversity. This is one of the most important parts of design: thinking empathically. When the students are really able to listen to another person and consider their perspective, then the student will be able to help solve their problem. I am asking the students to extend this idea a little bit further by identifying a group of people with which they do not identify, thus giving the opportunity to build community through this act of empathy.
  • How will you incorporate technology in order to enhance/deepen the experience?
    • I will use Google Slides for students to share as a group the different possible perspectives.
    • Students will use their personal laptops to write their ideas.
  • How will you demonstrate cultural competency? In line with NEA’s article, I will:
    • encourage students to think of a variety of different perspectives from different cultures, countries, socio-economic statuses, etc.
    • demonstrate cultural competency by welcoming all perspectives. In this situation, no perspective is wrong. All perspectives and school community member roles are welcome; it is not my job to validate or invalidate different perspectives, but rather to validate that there is truth in all perspectives.
    • facilitate the conversation
    • value parents and families
    • avoid using the word “normal”; just because it is one culture’s norm, does not mean it is right. That goes with perspectives about a given topic.


Photo by Pepe Reyes on Unsplash

Reflection Question 1: How did this experience support collaboration, design and computational thinking?

This experience helped support design thinking more than anything else. By looking at a situation from various perspectives, students were invited to be empathetic. It’s impossible to make someone empathize with others, but it can create an opportunity to see things through another’s eyes. This is one of the essential parts of the first part of the design cycle as students gather information about a want/need/problem in the world.

Reflection Question 2: Which ISTE Standards for Students were the focus of this experience?

I think that this thinking routine will begin the journey into the ISTE standard listed below

  • 4c: develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.
  • 7a: use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning.

I think this thinking routine is beginning the journey into 4c because, as I mentioned above, one of the essential things we do as designers is to empathize and consider a want/need/problem from another’s perspective. The first area of the MYP design cycle is really about collecting information, researching, interviewing and talking to experts and/or those who have been affected by an issue.

Second, I think that as students begin to look at broad and diverse perspectives, we will move toward standard 7a. Again, I think that this activity that I am doing is not 100% the ISTE standard, but we are moving toward them in the sense that students will later choose their own teams, and people to empathize with; at that time, students will be able to select their own digital tools to collaborate. Furthermore, 7a is also about broad perspectives. This activity is really about looking at things from wide multi-cultural, generational perspectives as well as other filters of perceptions. By encouraging the students to look at things from other perspectives, they gain a greater sense of connection and begin to see a common humanity.


  • Dear Alex,

    Hello again! Hope the school year is going well and you’re settling into live at Chadwick International School. I was at a basketball tournament this spring and told Sean Forde about you.

    I really like how you are using design thinking not only the class, but for a discussion about the process. Many teachers do debriefs off the cuff, and don’t put in as much thought into the reflective process. The Circle of Viewpoints (and many Critical Friends Protocols from SRI) can be very powerful as they challenge our viewpoints and like you’re planning, empathize with others.

    I’m curious to know how it went, especially the discussion stems that start with “I am thinking of … the topic… From the point of view of … ” This gets students thinking about their own selves and how they’re seen by others. Be sure to give students a chance to respond to the thinking predictions of others and ground the activity before hand so that everyone knows to assume good intentions of one another.

    As you’re using slides, consider using the ‘insert animation’ on your essential questions to allow them to appear and disappear before moving onto the next question so that students are focused on the discussion at hand.

    We’ll talk again soon! : )

    Gary Johnston

    • Hi Gary,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments! I especially liked the idea of using transitions to slowly build in the guiding questions to keep students focused.

      How have you been enjoying your travels around the world? It was funny to me that I moved to Korea at the same time you left! Oh man!

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