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Stepping Stones Partners with Deloitte to Teach Design Thinking!

Deloitte (or DTT) is a global professional services network that provides audit, consulting, financial advisory, risk advisory, tax, and legal services. Serving over 150 countries and areas worldwide, Deloitte provides services for approximately 80% of Fortune 500 companies and has approximately 312,000 professionals globally. In China, Deloitte established a branch office in Shanghai in 1917 and has had a presence in the country since then. Deloitte China is the DTT member firm in China and currently provides a full range of audit, consulting, financial advisory, risk advisory, tax, and legal services for clients located in China. Deloitte China has also contributed significantly to developments in China’s accounting standards, tax system, and professional training.

A professional international firm always has a set of well-used and effective policies and methods, as well as a strong sense of responsibility for society. For this reason, Deloitte’s team contacted Stepping Stones in an effort to better understand how to help China’s disadvantaged children. In particular, Deloitte highly commended our Stepping Up program’s teaching goals and ideals.

Stepping Up is a computer and life skills training program established by Stepping Stones in 2016. The program helps rural Chinese children to be better prepared for their futures after leaving school by teaching digital literacy skills common to the modern workplace. While we emphasize interaction between student and teacher, our classes are also designed to unleash creativity, encourage communication, develop critical thinking, and increase each student’s confidence, helping them look towards their future with excitement.

After weeks of online meetings and discussions, Deloitte’s team decided to help Stepping Stones’ Stepping Up program develop a design thinking curriculum. In nonprofit teaching, Deloitte has always emphasized design thinking, and it is also an area that the team’s experts and volunteers specialize in.

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a process that attempts to solve specific problems for set groups of people via innovative and meaningful ideas. Using innovation, design thinking aids professionals in creating unique solutions to the problems they face. After various scholars discussed the idea of “design thinking”, IDEO became the first company to integrate design thinking into corporate problem solving. IDEO’s founder, David Kelley, later went on to found the, or Stanford University’s design institute.

Stanford’s design institute splits design thinking into five large processes: empathy, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

Deloitte’s and Stepping Stones’ teams believe that design thinking can help children improve their ways of thinking, unleash their imagination, and help develop creativity.

A Long-term, Serious Curriculum Development Process

Our design thinking curriculum’s development happened over a course of almost half a year – we began the process at the end of 2019. Deloitte invited many creative and experienced employees to participate in creating and designing class modules, as well as various experts in design thinking, who provided insightful feedback for our curriculum. After reviewing our many years of past experience in teaching and our observations of our students, Stepping Stones’ team suggested a theme of “Wildlife Conservation” for the curriculum: to students, animals are an interesting and engaging topic.

Once again, we wish to thank the Deloitte team’s unending efforts and attention to detail in designing the curriculum. Our module design underwent as many as five major changes, and we also adjusted various details regarding color schemes and font types to make our PPTs more appealing to students. At the same time, we attempted to make in-class activities engaging and fun for students.

As we are now in our final month of development, our final product will be revealed to everyone very soon! We will also start our trial class sessions in mid-August. It is our genuine hope that our design thinking classes will help develop and unleash students’ creativity and curiosity, helping them better cope with the challenges posed by this era and age.

English Corner Program Continues Online!

Stepping Stones’ English Corner Program aims to provide teachers and students in Shanghai and rural areas with conversational English practice. Though it originally began as an offshoot of the Videolink Teacher Training (VTT) program, the English Corner Program has expanded to include classes for both teachers and students, focusing on interaction and confidence in English speaking skills.

Stepping Stones started in 2018 to provide conversational English classes for teachers enrolled in the VTT program. The professionals who were providing the English teacher training noticed early on that one of the key factors holding back their trainees was a lack of confidence in their own English skills, partly due to limited opportunities to practise speaking English after they left university and started working. Volunteers were recruited to provide oral English practice both online for the rural teachers and in the classroom for the teachers in Shanghai schools. The TECs were highly instrumental in boosting the confidence of our trainees to use more English in the classroom, and also gave the teachers a valuable opportunity to connect with people in the outside world.

Starting from last year, Stepping Stones has also partnered with rural NGOs to provide conversational English classes to disadvantaged middle and high school students. Similar to TEC, this program focuses on boosting students’ confidence in English speaking and providing them with more exposure to other cultures around the world. Compared with the students’ regular English courses, English Corner classes have less of an academic focus, instead emphasizing conversational skills that can be useful in real life and a less rigid, more fun approach to English learning. As our volunteers hail from all around the world, they also provide students with more chances to interact with people from a variety of different cultures and backgrounds.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has had varying degrees of impact on our other programs, our English Corner Program has continued despite the difficulties posed. Regular classes have continued as usual, with students, teachers, and volunteers all connecting from home!

As this semester draws to a close, volunteers, students, and teachers alike are looking forward to English Corner classes during the summer, and our next plan is to develop standard teaching materials for our TEC volunteers to use in the future.

If you would like to provide oral English conversation practice to rural English teachers or middle school students, please click on “here” for more information on how to get involved.

Videolink Teacher Training is back!

After months of suspension amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Stepping Stones is very excited about resuming its Videolink Teacher Training program, providing training to a new cohort of 20 English teachers from Xin Gan County, Jiangxi Province.

Launched in 2016, this program aims to improve the quality of English education in rural schools and increase English teachers’ confidence to use English in class, as well as improve their teaching methodology for English practice activities.

The majority of our 20 new trainees are working as primary school teachers, from Grades 3-6. They range in experience, from teachers who are in their first year, up to 7 years teaching. According to our professional trainer, Carrie, they’re an enthusiastic and participative group. Carrie said:

We’ve met once so far for a Zoom class, and we discussed ways to use more English in their classrooms. Examples include greeting students, giving instructions, giving praise and error correction. The trainees are all very keen to get guidance and appreciate any ideas to improve their techniques and to try them out in their classrooms.

The program includes eight training sessions, and after each session, trainees will send a short video of themselves using the techniques discussed in the session. Our trainers will then give feedback and ask questions so trainees can all help each other and learn from each other.

Future training sessions will include: help with lesson planning, improving students’ fluency/reading/writing, as well as ideas to teach grammar in a more interactive way. In addition, we will discuss how to use games and songs in their classrooms to increase engagement and student excitement while learning English.

With the help of this program, we hope to inspire and excite our trainees to expand their teaching and create more opportunities for their students to learn, practice and improve their English.

Stepping Up Goes Online

Stepping Up is a computer and life skills training program established by Stepping Stones in 2016. By teaching children digital literacy skills common to the work place, such as how to use basic computer applications and internet resources, we help prepare rural Chinese children for their futures after leaving school. Our learning environment emphasizes interaction between students and teachers; while teaching students important skills and concepts of digital literacy, the classes are also designed to unleash students’ creativity, encourage their communication, develop students’ critical thinking skills, and increase their confidence, helping them look towards their future with excitement.

During the COVID-19 crisis, as students were unable to return to schools and were unlikely to have computers at home, the Stepping Up program quickly adjusted teaching methods and moved classes online in response to the situation.

Class content was also changed as a result. Because most students had returned home and did not have other electronic devices other than an Android smartphone at their disposal, the Stepping Up teachers, Teddy and Ben, came up with the slogan of “Explore the World with Just a Smartphone!” to encourage and motivate students to continue learning at home.

As long as students download the Tencent Meeting app, they can participate in online classes to learn more about basic computer skills and knowledge. The adjusted curriculum also teaches students how to use a variety of other smartphone apps when dealing with text, numbers, images, and videos often encountered in everyday life.

To ensure Stepping Up’s high-quality class standards, online classes sizes are all small and last for 30 minutes each session.

Class Content
Basic Computer Knowledge
“A History of Human-Made Tools”
“The Birth of the Computer”
“The Computer’s Four Elements”
“The Graphical User Interface”

Smartphone Application Activities
Creating a resume via WPS
Creating and editing videos via video editing software
Searching for information via Bing
Organizing thoughts and memories via the XMind mind mapping app

Like our in-person classes, Stepping Up’s online classes remain focused on unleashing students’ creativity and boosting their confidence. As a modern-day tool, computers and smartphones allow students to better express themselves, communicate, develop critical thinking skills, and learn how to solve problems via the computer and the internet.

In addition, we also invite volunteer guest speakers to demonstrate more realistic and everyday usage of smartphone applications. For instance, we invited Andy, an Italian volunteer, to show students how to create interesting and engaging Douyin videos; Andy himself enjoyed the class greatly as well.

While reviewing our own findings from the slew of online classes we have taught in in the past few months, Stepping Up noted that many migrant children’s schools used China’s official online classroom system to teach. However, as migrant schools often lack specialized IT teachers, many schools could not provide adequate support and explanations for the IT lessons given on that platform. To combat this issue, one of Stepping Up’s teachers, Ben, devoted his attention to helping students understand those classes. Using the DingTalk app, Stepping Up teachers coordinated with national class schedules and provided more than 130 third-grade and sixth-grade students with real-time explanations of class content, garnering appreciation and positive responses from the students’ schools and parents.

Currently, with the advent of summer vacation, Stepping Up is working with Top 500 companies and programs to develop a design-based curriculum for students, to be used in classes during summer vacation and the upcoming fall semester. With the help of this program, we hope that students will be able to make better decisions regarding their plans and developments in the future.