Today I took a rather long bike ride with my children. Our destination was first to the park, the coffee shop(her dad likes iced coffee), then back home. My oldest is on two wheels and doesn’t need much, he just rides and enjoys the feeling of freedom he has to ride ahead of the group. However, my 4 year old, still on training wheels, still needs a bit of encouragement along the way. Her legs get tired, she stops and starts, never getting into that bike riding groove.

While riding home I was reminded how important it is to set just the right milestone to get her to continue peddling. When I said, we are almost home, it seemed like she knew that was a destination too far away, and her attitude toward riding her bike was relatively negative. “I can’t Dad — My legs hurt Dad — I need a break Dad,” she said. She continued to start and stop, stop and start. Something dawned on me, much like in the classroom, when I changed the next milestone to a landmark in between our current location and our home, her attitude instantly changed.

Although the eventual goal was home, in the moment, she needed a more achievable, and short term goal. The park I said, then her friends house, then the big hill, and ultimately home. She had the context to know these were landmarks along the way, and they didn’t seem to far to reach, so she rode, to each landmark without the problems we had early in the ride. Success! We got to our street, and it was like she sprinted on her bike up the street to reach the finish line.

Why am I writing this? Well, it served as a nice reminder that achievable short term milestones for student in our classrooms is such an important part of instructional design. The finish line, the test, the final presentation, are all too far off an aim early in the ride. Provide short sprints from milestone to milestone to keep kids focused on on their products of learning.

The idea of sprinting between milestones, on a bike ride, professionally, or personally is not a bad idea. Take a look at Google Ventures “Design Sprints,” based with the design thinking process at the forefront, aims to answer critical business questions through short, focused design sprints. This process has been used through the technology startup scene for some time now, where tasks are based on product priorities and the overall roadmap.

It’s a “greatest hits” of business strategy, innovation, behavior science, design thinking, and more — packaged into a battle-tested process that any team can use.

Companies like Zappos use something similar to launch new products and processes.

What would a modified “Design Sprint” in our classrooms look like? Something I would like to continue to explore.

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