Madeleine Mortimore is the Global Education Innovation and Research Lead for Logitech, where she leads research on EdTech hardware. With years of experience as a classroom teacher, Madeleine has developed a curriculum for grades 4-12. Her research experience includes positions at the MIT Teaching and Learning Lab. Madeleine has a Master of Education from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.
“Sometimes it’s hard to really stand your ground where maybe it’s cheaper, maybe it’s faster, or we need to hit a certain timeline. I’ve learned my personal Northstar is just as important as having team values. I can stay really focused when there are those decisions to make, when the impact in the classroom is against the corporate need to be within a certain budget or timeline.”
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Read the Transcript here.
Title: Question Your Assumptions
Daniel: I was reading somewhere about culture in building high performing schools. There was this idea that. Schools get it wrong when they do things to right it, maybe even for the community in which they serve. The magic of culture, the secret behind creating something that I would consider world class is when you create the culture with the community in tandem and you go to them as experts. Today’s guest has a lot of experience building things with the community, and it’s my pleasure to tell her story on today’s show. Hey, it’s Danny and welcome to the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast, a show for Ruckus Makers. Those out-of-the-box leaders are making change happen in education. We’ll be right back after a few messages from our show sponsors.
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Daniel: Hey there, Ruckus Maker. Today I am joined by Madeleine Mortimer, the Global Education, Innovation and Research Lead for Logitech, where she leads research on EdTech Hardware with years of experience as a classroom teacher. Madeline has developed a curriculum for grades four through 12. Her research expertise includes positions at the MIT Teaching and Learning Lab. Madeline has a master of education from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, who, by the way, is a sponsor of the podcast. Maddy, welcome to the show.
Madeleine: Thanks so much, Danny. I’m so excited to be here today and can’t wait to chat with you.
Daniel: The pleasure is mine. Thanks for being my guest and I love to start talking about reorienting the structure of the Logitech team towards impact for students. What was that like for you?
Madeleine: Yes, that’s a fantastic first question. I joined Logitech as the first education focused hire. Coming from an education background and going into very much a corporate environment where everyone was used to that particular structure and no one was coming directly from the classroom or an education setting. What was really important from the get go was to find a way to share my knowledge and really empower other people on the team, my colleagues, co-workers, to make sure they were armed with the right knowledge of what is truly a classroom. That often is very, very much assumptions going into what pertains to a classroom nowadays. Many people try to put upon their past experiences, which, as we know, is not realistic. It’s very different being a student a number of years ago versus having to integrate technology into the classroom design curriculum, make it work in that environment. My second main goal, after sharing all of that initial knowledge in various ways, was to make sure we have a culture of not having assumptions. It’s very easy to think, well, this particular product must do well in the classroom because it’s this size that’s an assumption. I’ve really focused on building a culture where we test rigorously, whether it’s talking with educators themselves, students putting products into classrooms to test in various different ways. Thirdly, I’d say it’s been a big change and shift, having very clear values on how we function as an education team slightly differently to Logitech as a whole company. So we worked hard to develop value specifically for our team and how we want to make a true impact in the education space, not just what’s easiest from a company standpoint.
Daniel: All those I could definitely dig into more. I’m curious, I want to talk about the assumptions and I also want to bring up the question, what is a classroom? Right, because a lot of times we have a worldview, our shared history and experiences that inform what is a classroom, what is a school. I’ll work with individual private clients and we’ll talk about success or failure. What is success? What is failure? These are all things to wrestle with. So I want to note that because I think it’s brilliant that starting off with the team, what is a classroom? Let’s talk about that. But that’s also the testing of assumptions part, 100%.
Madeleine: Yeah, 100%.
Daniel: Can you tell me more just about that approach? I’m very curious about assumptions right now.
Madeleine: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s such a great point that you brought up around the assumption of what a classroom looks like. We did a lot of work on that the past few years where we were looking into whether the really quick changing landscape of hybrid remote. There’s different types of hybrid, there’s different types of remote, whether it’s the educator side, the student side. We dug really deeply into that as well. Going back to your question on testing assumptions, we built a community of educators, students, parents, IT decision makers, and we have hundreds of them in the community. And we make sure by default that we run any questions, pass them, we gather data, we gather primary research, and that’s one way that we test assumptions. Another way is that we go into classrooms ourselves. We’ll observe directly, we’ll talk directly with students, will have scores, test out different products at different stages, and will observe, will gather feedback, and will gather data. And we really have this culture of leaving no stone unturned, whether it’s a high level thinking about what a classroom is or at a more granular level of should we have this feature for this particular product.
Daniel: Almost using the community as a large focus group in going straight to them, talking to them. I’m pointing this out for the Ruckus Makers listing because you have naturally our community already built. It’s the community you serve within the school. You should bring in people that represent all aspects of that community to test ideas, test assumptions with and for the listeners that have been around forever. I know this is true for you. You’re constantly in classrooms, but potentially for newer listeners, like if you’re not in classrooms, you need to be. That’s where the action is happening. Anything you want to do, any type of change you want to make or however you want to support the school in becoming better, the solutions are found there in the classroom.
Madeleine: A last point on that and I love the point you just brought up is making sure all voices are heard within this type of decision making. Even if it’s a parent voice, which might not be the prominent person interacting with that product or service, but they do have a touchpoint and they do have a perception of that and they have different observations. Any kind of stakeholder, it’s really important to integrate their voice into any of that process.
Daniel: Absolutely. Everybody wants to know that they’re seen and heard incorporating voices so, so important. You’ve transitioned, taking your experience from education, and now it’s being utilized in a corporate setting. I’d love to ask, what have you learned about driving change within an organization like Logitech?
Madeleine: First of all, not being afraid to really stand your ground when you know that by doing something, perhaps the harder or more complex route, that you’ll have a bigger impact within the classroom. Sometimes it’s hard to really stand your ground when there’s that environment where maybe it’s cheaper, maybe it’s faster, or we need to hit a certain timeline. I’ve really learned my personal Northstar is just as important as having the team values and Northstar so I can stay really focused when there are those decisions to make, when it’s the impact in the classroom sometimes against the corporate need to be within a certain budget or timeline.
Daniel: I want to hear more about Northstar. I have a personal philosophy. It’s four words called Be an intentional catalyst. I know that change is happening around me all the time. Depending on my energy and what I bring to the table, I could speed up that change for better or for worse. But when it comes to your personal Northstar, what is it?
Madeleine: For me personally, it’s a subset of one of our teams, North Stars, but it’s how we make a true impact within the classroom for our students. And that can take many different routes. But for example, our pressure test, that bus is a particular feature we’re looking to build in behind the initial stages of visioning what a new product or set of products could look like, whether we’re having to choose between certain vendors or manufacturers and thinking about the types of materials, really pressure testing against what is the true value and impact in the classroom. Sometimes that is different to what’s best from a company standpoint. If I have that family as a North Star, I’m able to consistently bring up points and make my case as to why we should go with X versus Y. But it’s really important to have that personally, firmly grounded, especially being one of the only people within the company really coming from that background and driving that change.
Daniel: To reflect back and correct me wherever I get it wrong, but if you have this North Star of really trying to drive impact for students and change for students that sometimes might go against the fastest, most efficient budget friendly profit margins, all this kind of stuff. But it’s what’s best for students, in your opinion. You had to change that a bit in the team.
Madeleine: It’s definitely a balance and it takes time, but it’s really important to build that muscle and that muscle memory within the team to get that that type of thinking, especially when usually in a corporate setting it’s the North Star is those kinds of KPIs, the timeline, the budget, but we need to incorporate the impact within the KPIs as well.
Daniel: I’m excited we’ll get to talking about some of the tools that you’ve built. Have a greater impact. One more question before we get there. You’re coming into this new organization. You’re building buy-in around these ideas and this north star of impact for Kids. What’s it like for you in terms of, I guess, getting people on board for this new collective purpose? How did that work out for you?
Madeleine: One of my biggest aspects that I really advocate for is that everyone in the team should spend some time in the classroom. We have some schools where we collaborate with, where we observe different classrooms, we interact with the educators on the ground within the school, because without having that, you could read through articles, you could watch YouTube videos, you could read endless PowerPoints, but without being direct in the classroom, that’s really not a genuine way to get by. And it’s kind of second hand smoke by and if that makes sense. I know once people spend time within the classroom, they can really feel some of the challenges, some of the joys, and that’s really essential to getting that buy in. Another aspect that I also advocate for is if they can actually try and teach something in any capacity, even if it’s an online class, even if it’s back to the team like a mock kind of classroom, whether they can volunteer at a school like weekend study sessions, anything like that. Because until you’re in the shoes of an educator, you really can’t fully empathize with what goes into that 45 minute lesson.
Daniel: I’m not going to reveal this individual, but I was talking to somebody who is highly successful in terms of he’s in medicine, super duper successful. He told me that he was thinking of teaching as sort of the safe ride into retirement type of deal. When he was done with his medical profession, he started serving on a board for education and started getting your people, your team, you’re encouraging them to get them more involved. He was more involved volunteering in classrooms. And boy, did his assumption of what it takes to run a classroom, get challenged. He’s like, that job is infinitely harder than mine, as a doctor. I will be the first to say, “I think actually being a classroom teacher was more challenging for me than actually leading an administration. That’s my life experience.” So, yeah, I’m really, really happy to hear that you encourage your people to get in there and see what it’s like.
Madeleine: That’s a fantastic story that really highlights many of the sentiments I’ve heard from the team as well.
Daniel: Well, Maddy, I’m going to we’re going to pause here just for a second and get a few messages in for our from our sponsors. But when we come back, I would love to hear what some of the largest tech tools for the classroom are out these days and what you’re most excited about. Learn the frameworks, skills and knowledge you need to drive change improvement in your learning community. With Harvard’s online certificate in School Management and Leadership, a joint collaboration between the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Harvard Business School, connect and collaborate with fellow school leaders as you address your problems of practice in our online professional development program. Apply today at BetterLeadersBetterSchools.com/Harvard. During COVID. Every teacher is a new teacher. That’s why innovative school leaders are turning to Teach FX whose virtual PD is equipping thousands of teachers with the skills they need to create engaging, equitable and rigorous virtual or blended classes. To learn more about Teach FX and get a special offer, visit teachfx.com/blbs. Today’s show is brought to you by Organized Binder. Organized binder develops the skills and habits all students need for success during these uncertain times of distance learning and hybrid education settings. Organized binder equips educators with a resource to provide stable and consistent learning routines so that all students have an opportunity to succeed, whether at home or in the classroom. Learn more at Organized Binder. We’re back with Madeleine Mortimer, the Global Education, Innovation and Research Lead for Logitech. Before the break I mentioned I would love to hear about some of the tools Logitech has built in the recent time that you’re the most excited about. So yeah, what have you been excited about these days?
Madeleine: One of the most recent tools that have come out that I’m really excited about, and one of my first major projects at Logitech is the Logitech Pen. The Logitech pen is a uhs-i enabled status for Chromebooks, which means any Chromebook that is touchscreen enabled can use this pen. Beyond just the fact that it’s one of the only and main classroom made Chromebook styluses. What I’m so excited about is the rigor behind how we develop this product. It’s one thing to feel good about releasing a product, and there’s one, and it’s another thing to feel truly proud. I can say confidently that I feel truly proud about this product from the ground up, developing a very rigorous process incorporating firstly student voice. We had hundreds of students play around with prototypes, do different tasks, and through all of that data, both from the design itself, the shape as well as the color, different features. We work directly with students, which I think is relatively rare, especially when it comes to hardware. It definitely was an example of what I discussed earlier. A trade off in time it took. I’d say significantly more time incorporating that many students into the process. Having a product where it’s essentially made by students and where the facilitator, which I think is really, really powerful. We also worked with multiple ergonomics to make sure it’s a very ergonomic design for all different types of ages, especially with the increase in 1 to 1 devices, students, and mainly on the device all day as their primary learning tool. Having interaction tools, especially something like a stylus where you’re using for hours on end, it’s really important that it has that ergonomics integrated within the product, especially for younger students who may not have a lot of experience holding a stylus for long periods of time. Having that integrated into the product design as well as the student voice was really a powerful process. It’s so interesting when you really listen to students how many different types of features come up. We looked at how students have different styles of writing and so depending on, we saw a lot of different styles of writing and how they actually hold the pen. We integrated things like the non-slip grip especially, and the length of that, depending on the different styles of writing. Depending on how you hold it, you can still have an eco-friendly way to hold it. Especially the younger ones we noticed they would get slightly sweaty hands, as if any educated listening you can, especially the younger ones. We have material which accommodates that as well. The whole process of the student voice, the ergonomics factor, and then third and finally the educator voice. And this goes back to what I was discussing earlier, how important it is to have voices from different angles, because that’s really when true innovation can happen. From an educator standpoint of what they would want within a product like this, where it’s aspects like how can we save time with this? One way to save time is that you don’t have to pair it with each individual device. We have a no pairing design that allows students to get straight to work as well as educators. They’re able to take their stylus, maybe make annotations or notes on different students’ devices as well. To summarize what’s so exciting about this is the student voice, multiple different angles of innovation from the ergonomics side and the different materials, as well as just bringing in the educator standpoint and how this product can be seamlessly integrated into any learning environment.
Daniel: You saw me on the idea of the no pairing. I have a few Bluetooth pieces of hardware, I guess what you call it. I’m not a tech guy, so whatever. But I have multiple devices that they need to connect to. It’s super annoying pairing them all to all of it. I didn’t know you were going to tell me this in the interview or our conversation. And so just here to remove that friction so that’s actually sort of a meta lesson, for the Ruckus Makers listening wherever in your school experience, whether it’s vision or values or the teacher in the classroom, wherever you can reduce friction to make it easier for the user, so to speak. That’s your faculty, the student. You’re going to see some success there. So no pairing like that genuinely made me super excited. Like, wow, I want to check that out because that just seems easy and that’s good. I’m curious, when you do go to the students or to the faculty, you mentioned the sweaty hands, which is funny, but was there anything else, just maybe the ways that people were interacting with the stylus, so to speak, and you might not remember. But was there anything else just being there on the ground with them that surprised you?
Madeleine: What’s really important is we looked at many different ages, and it’s really important to take in the different child development stages, especially when we’re talking about lower elementary using this product. We actually observe and have different tasks that are age appropriate, both from a physical and cognitive developmental stages. It was interesting to see the different ways in which, depending on how long they’ve been writing, they’ve been. Holding the pen. And also when it came to the actual design itself, there were very different viewpoints. From lower elementary to middle school, for example, on what they actually were excited about from a color and material aspect. It was really interesting thinking about how we can innovate for a span of age ranges? And it really came back to a lot of universal design principles. If we design for lower elementary, for certain aspects, you know, extending the silicon, no slip grip because they hold it in different ways. That actually overlapped with middle schoolers who use it for both writing, sketching for STEM courses and they were able to hold the pen for the different activities in that sense as well. It was interesting to break it down by age, really map out all of the use case scenarios, all of the different types to be done, all of the different preferences. When you lay it out very comprehensively and rigorously, you actually see that there’s many different overlaps even though upon first glance it’s very different use cases. I’d say the takeaway was in terms of what stood out was even on the surface when it looked like there were so many student needs, when you really map it out comprehensively in that way, again, the use cases ties to be done preferences, there’s a lot of overlap and so that was really exciting to see and a really fun design challenge.
Daniel: Thank you for taking the time to explain that. We’ve talked about the stylus. I’m not sure if there’s any other tools you’d like to bring into the conversation. Do any of those tools potentially alleviate the stress that we’ve all been really experiencing in classrooms these days?
Madeleine: Yes, that’s a good question. It goes back to the point you raised earlier with how do we reduce friction? You have the device, you have the learning environment, you have the user who has different needs that may be at different stages of development and then you have the tasks to be done. Usually that is friction between those different points because the increase in 1 to 1 devices have happened so quickly that there’s still this friction point with just the 1 to 1 device, and suddenly all of the tasks have to be done within this 1 to 1 device, which isn’t built particularly to fit or individual student needs and the tasks to be done, which then in turn increases this stress factor, especially among youngest students in elementary school, when they’re still developing things like fine motor skills, which comes to my first first tool, which I think is really useful, is the mouse. Particularly among elementary school students, they’re still developing those skills which are needed to use a trackpad. So if a Chromebook or a Windows machine is in the classroom, it’s really then a battle between their ability to use the tech, not their true knowledge that they have. When you add a mouse in there, it’s a lot easier in terms of fine motor skill, skill development that’s needed to use it. In time we’ve seen it decrease fatigue using a device that they’re able to concentrate for longer periods of time. And in turn they’re able to focus on the task at hand rather than trying to use a piece of equipment that they’re not yet able to really appropriately use at that age yet. So that’s one example of a tool I’d really recommend for you.
Daniel: I loved hearing about the stylus in the mouse as well. Now would be the time if there’s one more that you would just want to highlight to say, hey, go check it out, let’s do that. I would love to ask you the last few questions that I ask all my guests.
Madeleine: Yeah, definitely. I’d say as well, for the iPad side, having an iPad keyboard case is really important. Again, a lot of this moves on from elementary school when you get to middle school and even high school, if you have just the iPad, the task to be done writing a higher volume is a lot harder when you’re using an onscreen keyboard. Having an external keyboard really reduces that friction, alleviates that stress, and enables students to just fully focus. On the task at hand and this is becoming increasingly important because over 70% of states in the US now require an external keyboard for iPad assessments. Imagine going into a test and the stress levels just from the test coming up, but as well you suddenly have to use a new piece of equipment, an external keyboard, just for that test. We’ve seen that not being effective, but we’ve heard from educators when they have the iPad keyboard throughout the entire school year, not only are they able to just complete different tasks more seamlessly, they’re able to approach Test Day with a lot less test anxiety.
Daniel: That’s great. If you could put a message on all school marquees around the world for a single day, what would your message read?
Madeleine: If I could do that, which I would love to do, I would say it would be voice and choice. I think that’s really important, both from your Ruckus Makers standpoint when it comes to building out different things within your community, similar to what I mentioned at the beginning, really incorporating voices from many different standpoints. On the choice side, I really think a lot of these different tech tools enable choice. Whatever is best for that particular student for their learning process, what’s best for that educator in delivering that particular lesson and what’s best for that learning environment as well. Having that choice aspect is what I see being really important moving forward.
Daniel: If you were building your dream school and you had no limitations in terms of resources, your only limitation was your imagination. How would you go about building your dream school and what would be the three guiding principles?
Madeleine: I love this question. I could think about this all day. I would say maybe it’s not super exciting, but for me it gets me really excited just looking at the foundation of tech within the classroom. Three guiding principles, the ability to hear and be heard. So both from the students standpoint, that education standpoint, the ability to see and be seen again from both standpoints and the ability to interact. And these three core areas still now in this current landscape with 1 to 1 devices, we’re in different types of learning environments. They’re not fully covered all the time. But what we’ve seen is when students are really equipped with the right tools as well as educators, it really makes all the difference in the learning process and just the overall joy within the classroom.
Daniel: We’ve covered a lot of ground today, many of everything we discussed. What’s the one thing you want Ruckus Makers to remember?
Madeleine: I would say the one thing for Ruckus Makers to remember is that it doesn’t always have to be the really exciting, flashy new projects. It can really be just covering the foundation needs of students when it comes to tech within a classroom and learning environment.
Daniel: Thanks for listening to the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast Ruckus Makers . If you have a question or would like to connect my email [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at. @Alienearbud. If the better leader, better schools podcasts is helping you grow as a school leader then please help us serve more Ruckus Makers like you. You can subscribe, leave an honest rating and review or share on social media with your biggest takeaway from the episode. Extra credit for tagging me on Twitter at @AlienEarbud and using the hashtag #blbs. Level up your leadership at better leaders, better schools . com and talk to you next time. Until then, class dismissed.
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