Meaningfully Linking the Home and the School

Teacher Designer: Jeremy Thompson

By Elsa Fridman Randolph

The Teacher

Jeremy Thompson is a third grade teacher at Mountain Island Charter School in Mount Holly, North Carolina.

“I’m good at figuring out big concepts and making them easy to explain. And I like working with kids, so Education just seemed like the natural choice. That’s what got me into it and once I started doing it I just loved it.”

The Opportunity

In 2014, Jeremy was selected to be a LearnZillion Dream Team member. LearnZillion is an EdTech company that offers a free and growing set of math and english language resources for grades 2 through 12. The company brings together their “Dream Teamers”, a group of extraordinary teachers, who they select each year to create LearnZillion’s content and participate in a summer-long design collaboration.

Jeremy began his design journey at LearnZillion’s TeachFest, a three-day professional development event that jump-starts the Dream Team’s deep dive into the Common Core. The team was challenged to find new solutions for increasing parent engagement with student work.

The How Might We Question they addressed: How might we meaningfully engage parents in student learning?

Jeremy’s Design Thinking Moment

When problem-solving on his own throughout the school year, Jeremy’s focus tends to be on creating solutions for individual students in his own classroom. “Usually, as a teacher, my scope is very small,” he says.

Being part of a design collaboration however, gave Jeremy access to a variety of other perspectives on the challenge at hand. This enabled him to problem-solve on a bigger scale:

“It’s not enough to just have an idea that you know will work for one particular classroom. A High School teacher came up with some great ways to teach this math problem to a second grader. Outside of this, I never talk to the High School teachers at my school. We’re in two different buildings. Getting their insight of, ‘Hey when those kids eventually get to me, they’re going to need to understand this,’ really provided some fresh perspectives. Having all of those other ideas broadened my scope of thinking about how to do certain things.”

Another aspect of the design collaboration that Jeremy found particularly enriching was the opportunity to experience the shared optimism, energy and creativity that comes from being part of a committed team.

The Solution

Jeremy and his team prototyped a two to three minutes-long video explaining a math concept to enable parents to better help their children with homework problems at home. They created Google slides, which they auto-animated so that all a parent had to do was click through them to get an overview of the math strategy in under three minutes.

Jeremy has gone on to create more videos and is hoping to have one done for each unit his class will be learning by the start of this school year.