DSISD Commons #7

In this one…

  • Inclusive, connected cultures
  • Segregation, isolation, and compliance
  • Consent in ed.
  • Hyperactivity and postponing kindergarten
  • Structural ideology, systems thinking, and the three tier caste system
  • Progressive, connected education
  • Neurodiversity inclusion and class size
  • The Open Schoolhouse
  • Typing > handwriting, plain text editors
  • Open by default
  • Respectful parenting
  • Diversity and inclusion resources

Inclusive, connected cultures

Subject-specific lessons – an hour of history in the morning, an hour of geography in the afternoon – are already being phased out for 16-year-olds in the city’s upper schools. They are being replaced by what the Finns call “phenomenon” teaching – or teaching by topic. For instance, a teenager studying a vocational course might take “cafeteria services” lessons, which would include elements of maths, languages (to help serve foreign customers), writing skills and communication skills.

There are other changes too, not least to the traditional format that sees rows of pupils sitting passively in front of their teacher, listening to lessons or waiting to be questioned. Instead there will be a more collaborative approach, with pupils working in smaller groups to solve problems while improving their communication skills.

We come across children playing chess in a corridor and a game being played whereby children rush around the corridors collecting information about different parts of Africa. Ms Jaatinen describes what is going on as “joyful learning”. She wants more collaboration and communication between pupils to allow them to develop their creative thinking skills.

Source: Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with ‘topics’ as country reforms its education system | The Independent

Segregation and isolation are reflexes of compliance culture

Renay Ferguson, whose 10-year old son has ADHD, gave The Seattle Times school records that show her son was placed in isolation 148 times in the span of two years at two different elementary schools. Each isolation incident ranged from two minutes to three hours, the records show.

Ferguson’s son felt like he was “going to die” when he was in the Rose Hill Elementary isolation room in Kirkland, and he would take off his clothes to relieve the feeling of suffocation, he reported to his mother and doctor.

While in the isolation room April 18, Ferguson’s son banged his head against the door and tied his shoelaces around his wrist and neck, according to district records. He suffered a concussion that day, according to a report from his doctor.

Source: Special-ed student confined 617 times in 6 months despite state laws | The Seattle Times

Consent in ed.

Within schooling, no consent is sought, in fact mainstream schooling requires that intellectual or educational consent (which term is best I am not yet sure) is not sought. It is a system that is coercion dependent, and it uses an infrastructure of punishment and reward to facilitate and reinforce the coercive environment.

Source: Consent in Education | Sophie Christophy

Hyperactivity and postponing kindergarten

Let them play.

A new study from Stanford University shows that Danish kids who postponed kindergarten for up to one year showed dramatically higher levels of self-control.

“We found that delaying kindergarten for one year reduced inattention and hyperactivity by 73% for an average child at age 11,” Thomas Dee, one of the co-authors and a Stanford Graduate School of Education professor, said in a release.

Dee did his research with Hans Henrik Sievertsen of the Danish National Centre for Social Research, who told Quartz that the impact was strong and lasted a long time: “We were a bit surprised at how persistent the effect was.” The effect of delaying school on hyperactivity and inattention didn’t diminish over time, as they expected, but increased: in fact, waiting one year virtually eliminated the chance that an average kid at age 11 would have higher-than-normal scores on those measures.

One interesting hypothesis is posed: did attending school later allow kids more time to develop through unstructured play? Developmental psychology research emphasizes the importance of imaginative play in aiding children’s emotional and intellectual self-regulation. “Children who delay their school starting age may have an extended (and appropriately timed) exposure to such playful environments,” the study noted. Party time, kids.

Source: Stanford researchers show we’re sending many children to school way too early — Quartz

Structural ideology, systems thinking, and the three tier caste system

Structural ideology and restorative practices acknowledge the actuality of our systems and the lived experiences of students. Students live and learn within the context of a three tier caste system. Cultivate intersectional systems thinking with this engaging 11 minute primer on the three tier system,

the documentary 13th,

and the books The New Jim Crow and A People’s History of the United States.

“Oh, so design isn’t about this pixels thing. It’s about systems thinking.” I’m a systems thinker. “Oh, so it isn’t just about the appearance.”

Source: Good design is good business | McKinsey & Company

Progressive, connected education

Because now is the time to prove that progressive and connected education is the only way we build hope for the future.

We have a generation asking us to be better, and so we must be that for Generation Z. And we must begin with schools that become unschools. We’re not there, but we’re trying.

We know we need to help our kids become communicators, curators, inventors, problem solvers, and critical thinkers. And we need to reimagine education to get there.

Source: Still need to get Dan Willingham on a tour, so he can understand where education needs to go – Medium

Neurodiversity inclusion and class size

Children with autism who are in a large class at school are more likely to play with peers at recess than are those in a small class.

The new findings reveal that large class size and opportunities to connect with classmates may help children with autism gain a foothold in their school’s social network.

The most socially successful children with autism came from the largest classes and, not surprisingly, showed the strongest communication skills and the fewest repetitive behaviors on the ADOS. The findings suggest that schools can boost the social success of children with autism by putting them in large classes, which maximizes the number of familiar faces they can approach on the playground.

The researchers also noted that children with autism are most likely to occupy a prime spot in the social network when they have ample opportunities to interact with typical classmates.

Programs that teach typical students how best to engage and interact with children who have autism may also help build the social circles of those on the spectrum, Anthony says. The researchers suggest in the study that “a successful inclusion model would start by training the peers, not the child with autism.”

Source: Support helps some children with autism socialize at school | Spectrum

The Open Schoolhouse

I updated my primer on The Open Schoolhouse. I still need to add a few grafs tying it into the communication is oxygen narrative.

What I love so much about open source philosophy, and what I strive to replicate on the help desk, is the participatory, inclusive environment where traditional power structures dissolve and students are empowered to act, contribute, express, learn, and think. Together as a team, students and staff shape the world around them. Once we stop treating students like data banks waiting for downloads, once we trust students as equal partners in their education, and once we empower students to contribute to their school community, the open schoolhouse emerges.

Typing > handwriting, plain text editors

“I’ve had a fair number of kids that were traditionally disengaged— The most common complaint: ‘I don’t like to write, so I don’t like school.’ When I said, ‘Well, you can type it. You don’t have to write; you can type. And you can use the spell checker, and you can look up words.’ All of the sudden they say, ‘Oh, OK. I’ll do that.’”

“If you’re not a good writer, sitting and writing on a piece of paper is hard. But when they have a computer that can help with spelling, and with grammar, and they can go online and look up words and the pronunciation, and they can hear how it’s said, and they can write it down correctly. Now they feel good about themselves because they’re not getting a paper back with a thousand red marks all over it, correcting grammar and spelling that they don’t necessarily understand in the first place.”

High school students are often reluctant writers, especially when assigned to produce work that is uninteresting and unrelated to their personal lives. However, writing is a vital part of the help desk. Apprentices, both on and off the Communication Team, regularly craft articles for the support blog. My team offers starter ideas, but the apprentices select most topics based on their interests and the support needs of their peers. In this setting, writing feels less stilted, less pedantic, and more authentic. Writing for a real-world audience is vastly different from a traditional school writing assignment where a single teacher is a sole spectator.

Reisinger, Charlie (2016-09-29). The Open Schoolhouse: Building a Technology Program to Transform Learning and Empower Students. Kindle Edition.

As a hacker and writer, I spend a lot of time in text editors. Almost everything I write starts in my favorite text editor. A text editor is my thinking space.

Hackers, writers, scientists, and screenwriters love plain text & Markdown. Let’s infect education with the love of plain text. It’s portable, non-proprietary, and humane.

Plain text writing (and marking up text elements for later formatting) is simple. If you’ve been socialized in Word (like me), you may disagree at first. But I believe that if you try plain text writing, you’re likely to change your mind and come to enjoy its purity and simplicity. As for myself, I think now that text processors are actually cumbersome, and many writers just got so used to this fact that they don’t question it anymore.

So writing plain text means to separate writing from formatting for the sake of productivity. The essential structural elements of a text are marked up while writing: You can write headings of various levels, add emphasis, add lists and more. What you can’t do: Tweak margins, or choose your first order headings to be 24 pt, and red-colored. All the layout tasks that have nothing to do with the content you’re trying to compose. Take care of layout later. This first instance should be about writing, and writing only.

If you want to publish your text more than once, but in different formats, plain text is very effective – thanks to the use of markup, you can easily convert it. Ulysses, as an example, can use one and the same text to create a formatted PDF, an e-book or standard HTML – with just a few clicks.

Source: Why Plain Text Will Boost Your Productivity as a Writer | Ulysses Blog

Open by default

Leaving emails and other routine documents subject to FOIA encourages a general culture of transparency within agencies while creating another reminder that government employees work for the people.

But it’s equally important that government officials do get used to working in public, so to speak, and part of that job is being able and ready to share, explain, and occasionally defend their work.

The more routine they make that practice, and the more deeply ingrained it is in their culture, the harder it is for anyone to turn it into a “gotcha.”

18F has done a great job of working to embrace openness as a core value, doing much of its programming work in public on Github, and even working to open up much of its Slack services to the public.

That strategy has seemed to work: 18F has achieved a lot, and what scandals have emerged have been taken in stride, with the agency preferring open and honest communication around the challenges as they move to update the technological engines of governance for the digital age.

What typically hurts officials is when they fight requests, rather than embracing them as an opportunity to share their work with constituents.

Source: Why emails should be subject to FOIA, explained

In a communication is oxygen culture, open by default comes naturally.

Respectful parenting

  • Instead of intensive speech therapywe use a wonderful mash-up of communication including AAC, pictures scribbled on notepads, songs, scripts, and lots of patience and time.
  • Instead of sticker charts and time outs, or behavior therapy – we give hugs, we listen, solve problems together, and understand and respect that neurodivergent children need time to develop some skills
  • Instead of physical therapywe climb rocks and trees, take risks with our bodies, are carried all day if we are tired, don’t wear shoes, paint and draw, play with lego and stickers, and eat with our fingers.
  • Instead of being told to shush, or be stillwe stim, and mummies are joyful when they watch us move in beautiful ways.
  • Instead of schoolwe unschool and can follow our interests, dive deep in to passions, move our bodies, and control our environment

Source: Respectfully Connected | #HowWeDo Respectful Parenting and Support

  • Be patient.
  • Presume competence.
  • Meet them at their level.
  • Treat challenges as opportunities.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.
  • Seek inclusion.
  • Embrace the obsession.
  • Create a calm oasis.
  • Let them stim!
  • Encourage play and creativity.

Source: A parent’s advice to a teacher of autistic kids

Diversity and inclusion resources

Recent diversity and inclusion discussions from the tech water coolers I lurk about:

D&I Water Cooler – hypubnemata

DSISD Commons #6

On #DSISDChat, assessment, Twitter in education, IT acquisition, building creative culture, The Open Schoolhouse, Hacking Homework, social media flow, feedback loops,  Leader in Me, CHAMPS, education tech culture, inadvertent cruelty, school UX, threshold flow, welcoming contributors, private Facebook groups, inclusive participation, and corporate diversity and inclusion.

#DSISDChat on Assessment

From the #DSISDChat conversation on assessment. See the Storify.

My contributions and selected favorites:

Twitter in Education

Twitter is a way to build a learning network that transcends traditional understandings of knowledge and ideas, of connecting learners and ideas. The democratization of information and knowledge requires our engagement or it will happen without us.

There is now an imperative to contribute, not simply for the sake of it, but because there is an obligation to model digital literacy. And what does this really mean? It means that learners openly and actively engage in the learning process and that leaders lead the way. We live in a post-consumer era: how do we empower our students to thrive here, to contribute and create? If we are not open-minded, literate learners and contributors ourselves, how can we expect our students to be?

The digital landscape is now open. It’s time for our schools to be the same.

Source: The Trouble With Twitter in Education – Medium

Created Serendipity: Idea Scouting, Idea Connecting, Coworking, Distributed Collaboration, and Intersectional Bricolage – hypubnemata

IT Acquisition

18F and USDS are bringing open source and contemporary, mainstream technology thinking to gov. Public ed. should consult their playbooks. They have good advice on building technology culture. I’ve worked in the trenches of open source with some of the folks at USDS. I updated the “IT acquisition reform” section of my “Communication Is Oxygen” guide to collaborative culture with more on their efforts.


Building Creative Culture

Howdy DSISD,

At Automattic, we’ve been iterating on creative culture for over a decade. Our culture is built by and for creatives. We have low turnover and rate well among freelance creatives.

The Top Companies WNW Creatives Would Kill to Work for Full-Time – Free Range

I’d like to share a peek at that culture…

Building Creative Culture – hypubnemata

The Open Schoolhouse

The Open Schoolhouse tells the story of collaboratively iterating a school district toward open, 1:1 technology.

I think of Moodle and WordPress as fraternal twins. Passionate and ingenious founders with ardent beliefs in free and open source software created both software platforms. Global communities of programmers, designers, and end users drive the development of both platforms. They use similar web technologies (LAMP), and subscribe to principles of simplicity and ease of use. They are credited with creating, and disrupting, entire industries. And they made dramatic impacts on our students, teachers, and staff.

Locked-down technology is a symptom of an education model designed for student compliance and defined by the incessant measurement of learning. A factory-like school system values what a student has purportedly learned on a linear path, as demonstrated by a standardized test score. Technology device restraints and restrictions lock students on the assessment assembly line, at the cost of a child’s curiosity and intellectual freedom. Computers were once the spark for a child’s imagination. Now, they are a testing apparatus for assessment monarchs.

The destructive confluence of decimated school budgets, neurotically locked-down technology, and lockstep assessment mandates is taking a toll on progressive educators-and disempowering students.

Source: The Open Schoolhouse – hypubnemata

Hacking Homework

Hacking Homework, from the author of Hacking Assessment, recently released.

If homework is assigned, it must be purposeful, transparent, and tied to learning experiences. Students shouldn’t have to guess the reason for the homework, or worse, mindlessly complete assignments for the mere reason because they were told to do so.

Homework is one of the most misused tools in education. So many contradictory ideas are bundled inside the homework paradigm, with clashes between assigned learning outside of the school day, and play and learning in more natural ways. When we give students homework that doesn’t directly relate to their lives, we are devaluing student time and disrespecting the sanctity of learning.

Every learner works at a different pace. After being in school for seven hours, shouldn’t a child have the opportunity to reflect in a manner that is meaningful to him or her, allowing new learning to sink in before adding more practice? Shouldn’t we spend less time assigning and grading homework for the sole purpose of marking a grade in the grade

Traditional homework is an insidious practice that often ruins the learning process for children and puts a damper on playtime and learning as a positive experience. We believe learning outside of school should be as inspirational to kids as Einstein’s words are to us.

Hacking Homework isn’t written to solicit teachers, parents, and students to make picket signs with “NO MORE HOMEWORK” messages. We strive to shift the perspective on learning at home to be more exciting and relevant than what we experienced as students. Our belief is that learning shouldn’t be a dreaded activity; learning can and does occur all of the time. The approach of teaching a new concept in class then assigning hours worth of drill-and-kill problems has proven to be unproductive, and we hope that this old-school method will change. We still want learning at home to continue but in a different way.

Bottom line: We want you to consider sound alternatives to traditional homework that foster a love of learning in all students and encourage them to learn outside of class, whether you tell them to or not.

Sackstein, Starr; Hamilton, Connie (2016-10-31). Hacking Homework: 10 Strategies That Inspire Learning Outside the Classroom (Hack Learning Series Book 8). Times 10 Publications. Kindle Edition.

Social Media Flow

A note for those running DSISD social media: providing direct links to resources is good habit. Direct links are more accessible and convenient and don’t rot with time.

I am always willing to show my publishing and social media flow. Educators and tech workers should hang out together, with laptops. Or, ask a nearby digital native. Maybe, bring your kid to work so they can modernize backoffice flow day. 😉

Feedback Loops

Culture share: At Automattic, new hires spend their first three weeks in customer support as temporary members of our Happiness team. We onboard every single person through customer support. Every year, every team in the company spends a week in a “Happiness Rotation”, once again becoming a member of the Happiness team, working frontline customer support, and talking to those using what we make.

After your rotation, you post your impressions and make suggestions. Every time a development team goes through a rotation, they come out freshly reawakened and in the mood to fix flow. Such feedback loops are necessary to the health of agile, continuous iteration.

Use what you make and default to open – hypubnemata

Leader in Me, CHAMPS, Education Tech Culture, and Inadvertent Cruelty

First impression perspective after LiM day: Leader in Me, CHAMPS, and Education Tech Culture – hypubnemata

Iterate assessment with students. Make them activate participants in designing assessment personalized to them. Our first attempts will reinforce the deficit model we’re emerging from, but with universal design for learning and design for real life, we can avoid inadvertent cruelty and the mistakes of edtech. Data can be very cruel. Collect and present it with awareness, intention, and care.

School UX

  • Be patient. Autistic children are just as sensitive to frustration and disappointment in those around them as non-autistic children, and just like other children, if that frustration and disappointment is coming from caregivers, it’s soul-crushing.
  • Presume competence. Begin any new learning adventure from a point of aspiration rather than deficit. Children know when you don’t believe in them and it affects their progress. Instead, assume they’re capable; they’ll usually surprise you. If you’re concerned, start small and build toward a goal.
  • Meet them at their level. Try to adapt to the issues they’re struggling with, as well as their strengths and special interests. When possible, avoid a one-size-fits all approach to curriculum and activities.
  • Treat challenges as opportunities. Each issue – whether it’s related to impulse control, a learning challenge, or a problem behavior – represents an opportunity for growth and accomplishment. Moreover, when you overcome one issue, you’re building infrastructure to overcome others.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. For many parents, school can be a black box. Send home quick notes about the day’s events. Ask to hear what’s happening at home. Establish communication with people outside the classroom, including at-home therapists, grandparents, babysitters, etc. Encourage parents to come in to observe the classroom. In short, create a continuous feedback loop so all members of the caregiver team are sharing ideas and insights, and reinforcing tactics and strategies.
  • Seek inclusion. This one’s a two-way street: not only do autistic children benefit from exposure to their non-autistic peers, those peers will get an invaluable life lesson in acceptance and neurodiversity. The point is to expose our kids to the world, and to expose the world to our kids.
  • Embrace the obsession. Look for ways to turn an otherwise obsessive interest into a bridge mechanism, a way to connect with your students. Rather than constantly trying to redirect, find ways to incorporate and generalize interests into classroom activities and lessons.
  • Create a calm oasis. Anxiety, sensory overload and focus issues affect many kids (and adults!), but are particularly pronounced in autistic children. By looking for ways to reduce noise, visual clutter and other distracting stimuli, your kids will be less anxious and better able to focus.
  • Let them stim! Some parents want help extinguishing their child’s self-stimulatory behaviors, whether it’s hand-flapping, toe-walking, or any number of other “stimmy” things autistic kids do. Most of this concern comes from a fear of social stigma. Self-stimulatory behaviors, however, are soothing, relaxing, and even joy-inducing. They help kids cope during times of stress or uncertainty. You can help your kids by encouraging parents to understand what these behaviors are and how they help.
  • Encourage play and creativity. Autistic children benefit from imaginative play and creative exercises just like their non-autistic peers, misconceptions aside. I shudder when I think about the schools who focus only on deficits and trying to “fix” our kids without letting them have the fun they so richly deserve. Imaginative play is a social skill, and the kids love it.

Source: A parent’s advice to a teacher of autistic kids

Classroom UX: Bring Your Own Comfort, Bring Your Own Device – hypubnemata

Threshold Flow, Welcoming Contributors

And the question of when to follow one’s judgment and when to follow protocol is central to doing the job well—or to doing anything else that is hard.

Source: The Checklist Manifesto – hypubnemata

When you know someone by face and name but won’t release their kid to them because they lost their ID, question the process you serve. Design for real life, not fear. Real life is diverse. Security theater and carding are a “go away” to marginalized communities. They’re a go away to neurodivergent parents like me. They’re a go away to creatives.

Now, instead of being outside, kids will be sequestered in a room and parents will be carded. This is security theater. I avoid places that make me show ID. Fear ratcheting drives away contribution and collaboration. Security theater harms accessibility & inclusion. FUD makes for bad threshold flow.

Stop investing in fear and start resisting it. Instead of pursuing an education on privacy, passwords, and online identity, our PTA invites the FBI to scare people with predators. Instead of welcoming parents to school, we card them and treat them like they’re at the DMV. Even when we show up regularly and everyone knows our name, we parents are carded. This is not an environment for contribution and collaboration. This is not community. Threshold flow matters. Our schools are locked down, and contribution and community are locked out.

Security Theater, Threshold Flow, and Inclusion – hypubnemata

Private Groups, Inclusive Participation

A lot of Dripping Springs community chat happens in private Facebook groups. Private groups are non-inclusive and put threshold guardians in the way of contribution. Threshold flow is vitally important. Designers and open source communities spend a lot of time worrying about onboarding, inclusive participation, and new user experience. So too should education communities. Iterate toward transparency.

Corporate Diversity & Inclusion

Our systems default to the deficit and medical models. They default to the language and mindset of grit, resilience, bootstraps, and tough love. We must flip this script and make inclusion, restorative practices, and structural ideology the new normal. Education is heavy on remediation and the deficit model. Kids are medicalized, marginalized, and segregated. Inclusive companies should counter these narratives in their D&I messaging. Promote the social model. Support restorative practices. Acknowledge structural inequalities. Recognize our duty to make education pipelines inclusive.

Universal design, universal design for learning, design thinking, design for real life, and neurodiversity are expressions of the social model. The social model is good design, good culture, and a good human rights framework. Let’s promote it by name.

Source: Corporate Diversity and Inclusion – hypubnemata

Corporate Diversity and Inclusion

Demonstrating a grasp of intersectional systems thinking improves your corporate Diversity & Inclusion page. Next level D&I statements acknowledge/mention:

Our systems default to the deficit and medical models. They default to the language and mindset of grit, resilience, bootstraps, and tough love. We must flip this script and make inclusion, restorative practices, and structural ideology the new normal. Education is heavy on remediation and the deficit model. Kids are medicalized, marginalized, and segregated. Inclusive companies should counter these narratives in their D&I messaging. Promote the social model. Support restorative practices. Acknowledge structural inequalities. Recognize our duty to make education pipelines inclusive.

Universal design, universal design for learning, design thinking, design for real life, and neurodiversity are expressions of the social model. The social model is good design, good culture, and a good human rights framework. Let’s promote it by name.


Howdy! We are an international company with employees who come from a wide variety of backgrounds. We believe that the more perspectives we embrace, the better we are at engaging our global community of users and developers. We want to build Automattic as an environment where people love their work and show respect and empathy to those with whom we interact. Diversity typically includes, but is not limited to, differences in race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, political and religious affiliation, socioeconomic background, cultural background, geographic location, physical disabilities and abilities, relationship status, veteran status, and age. To work on diversity means that we welcome these differences, and strive to increase the visibility of traditionally underrepresented groups. We see inclusion as the ongoing, conscious effort to celebrate difference and welcome people of differing backgrounds and life experiences, whether they’re current or prospective employees, partners, or users of our software.

Source: Diversity and Inclusion — Automattic


We see diversity as everything that makes an employee who they are. We foster a diverse culture that’s inclusive of disability, religious belief, sexual orientation, and service to country. We want all employees to be comfortable bringing their entire selves to work every day. Because we believe our individual backgrounds, perspectives, and passions help us create the ideas that move all of us forward.

Source: Inclusion & Diversity – Apple

The most powerful technology in the world is technology that everyone, including people with disabilities, can use. To work, create, communicate, stay in shape, and be entertained. So we don’t design products for some people or even most people. We design them for every single person.

Source: Accessibility – Apple


At GitHub our goal is to help everyone build better software. To do that, we know we must create a company where anyone, regardless of what they look like or where they come from, can grow and thrive. When we deliberately seek different perspectives, life experiences, and identities, we can build better products for developers all around the world.

Source: Diversity and Inclusion at GitHub


Microsoft actively seeks to foster greater levels of diversity in our workforce and in our pipeline of future leaders. We are always looking for the best and brightest talent and pride ourselves on our individuality – inviting candidates to come as they are and do what they love. The common thread that attracts us to candidates is their passion for their work and the desire to make an impact in their careers, in the community, and on the world.

Source: The Business of Inclusion

Designing for inclusivity not only opens up our products and experiences to more people with a wider range of abilities. It also reflects how people really are. All humans are growing, changing, and adapting to the world around them every day. We want our designs to reflect that diversity.

Source: Inclusive – Microsoft Design

We design together as a family, across many disciplines. How well we work together determines how well our products work for customers.

People interact with our products in diverse ways. It’s our job to make sure their experience is both cohesive and inclusive, from the smallest details to the most expansive systems.

Source: Inclusive design toolkit – Microsoft Design


Creating a diverse and inclusive culture makes us a better company, fueling our innovation, enhancing our experience of work, and enabling us to succeed in a rapidly changing world. We see and value every individual for what they have to contribute. And we are committed not just to the principles underlying this philosophy, but the day-to-day practices that bring it to life.

Source: About SAP | Diversity & Inclusion


A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.

Source: Diversity – Google


At Facebook, we believe that understanding and managing unconscious bias can help us build stronger, more diverse and inclusive organizations.

These videos are designed to help us recognize our biases so we can reduce their negative effects in the workplace. Surfacing and countering unconscious bias is an essential step towards becoming the people and companies we want to be.

Source: Managing Bias | Facebook

Diversity is central to Facebook’s mission of creating a more open and connected world: it’s good for our products and for our business. Cognitive diversity, or diversity of thought, matters because we are building a platform that currently serves 1.4 billion people around the world. It’s vital for us to have a broad range of perspectives, including people of different genders, races, ages, sexual orientations, characteristics and points of view. Having a diverse workforce is not only the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do for our business.

Source: Driving Diversity at Facebook | Facebook Newsroom


People come to Twitter to freely express themselves, and we’ve seen this through individual Tweets and collective movements like #BlackLivesMatter, #ILookLikeAnEngineer, and #LoveWins. Just as inclusion lives on our platform, we’re striving to ensure Twitter is reflective of our users, and that our workplace and the decisions we make about it are equally inclusive. We want our different perspectives to flourish — they make us stronger and help make product decisions that will best serve our users around the world.

Our differences makes us stronger; inclusion makes them matter. That’s why building a strong culture is important to us — once you join the flock, we have many ways for you to get involved and bring your “whole self” to your role. Our employee groups foster supportive environments for employees of various backgrounds, and have also led the charge on incredible programming and initiatives, both internal and external.

Source: Inclusion & Diversity


At Salesforce, we believe diversity and inclusion at all levels is critical to our business. A diverse workforce gives us the unique perspectives we need to build the most innovative products and engage effectively with customers and partners.

Source: Diversity at Salesforce – Salesforce Diversity Numbers – Salesforce.com


Pandora is committed to playing a role in creating a more equitable society in which our business, employees, and communities will thrive.

This means we seek to build and foster a diverse workforce that is a true reflection of music – empowering, inspiring, and unique – where all of our employees feel at home to perform their best and be themselves. In addition to amplifying a culture that celebrates our differences, Pandora Mixtape, PRIDE, and Women are three Communities at Pandora that provide more support, visibility, and empowerment to our underrepresented employees.

Source: Pandora | Careers


Diversity and inclusion fuel innovation, creativity, and growth, and keep us connected to our communities around the world. We seek to recruit a highly-talented workforce that includes individuals representing a wide range of ages, experiences, backgrounds, and ethnic groups. We foster a welcoming and respectful work environment where all of our Cast Members feel they are a valued part of the team.

Source: Workplace | Walt Disney Parks & Resorts

At Disney, we strive to include and attract individuals who reflect the diverse world in which we live. We also seek to ensure that our workplace is inclusive and provides the opportunity for all of our people to contribute and develop to their full potential. Having employees with a broad range of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives gives us an advantage in understanding and meeting the needs of our consumers, and this commitment serves to keep our focus on attracting, developing and retaining a diverse workforce at every level.

Source: The Walt Disney Company Recognized for Diversity Leadership – The Walt Disney Company


The Airbnb community is committed to building a world where people from every background feel welcome and respected, no matter how far they have traveled from home. This commitment rests on two foundational principles that apply both to Airbnb’s hosts and guests: inclusion and respect. Our shared commitment to these principles enables every member of our community to feel welcome on the Airbnb platform no matter who they are, where they come from, how they worship, or whom they love.

Source: Airbnb’s Nondiscrimination Policy: Our Commitment to Inclusion and Respect | Airbnb Help Center


Amazon has hundreds of millions of customers who can benefit from diversity of thought. We are a company of builders who bring varying backgrounds, ideas, and points of view to inventing on behalf of our customers. Our diverse perspectives come from many sources including gender, race, age, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, culture, education, as well as professional and life experience. We are working to develop leaders and shape future talent pools to help us meet the needs of our customers around the world.

Source: Amazon.com: Diversity


We’ve discovered that the best way to deliver the highest value is by incorporating the diverse perspectives of a well-rounded team in terms of knowledge, skills, and cross-cultural understanding. An eclectic and egalitarian workforce helps IDEO realize our full potential by allowing us to better understand, relate, and respond to our clients and their customers around the world.

Source: Supplier Diversity | ideo.com

New York Times

Great organizations thrive and grow on a diversity of thought and ideas. The Times’s statement of values calls for us to embrace diversity and inclusion. These factors require that we report on our diverse cities, nation and world, with perception and insight. Only by having a staff as wide as it is deep, broad in perspective, backgrounds and experiences are we able to capture the multitude of voices of America and the world, with true fidelity.

Source: Diversity | The New York Times Company


IBM thinks about diversity the way we think about innovation—both are essential to the success of our business. When we innovate, technology becomes smarter for clients and creates new opportunities for growth. When we incorporate diversity into our business, we create better innovations and outcomes. IBM has embraced diversity, and it gives opportunities for IBMers and our clients to achieve their full potential.

Historically, IBM has responded to the kinds of challenges we now face in parts of the world where women, for example, continue to struggle for a safe and harassment free work environment or society, where Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people lack legal recognition and feel unsafe, and where People with Disabilities lack equal access to employment opportunities due to non-existent accessibility standards or flat out discrimination.

Our willingness to take on issues of equity, fairness and equal opportunity in the United States or anywhere in the world have not only set us apart, but positively distinguished our company and made us a magnet for the smartest and most talented people in the world. More so, as IBMers, we have come to a realization that we are a company of “firsts”—a company that has led and not followed from its earliest days to the present.

Source: Diversity & Inclusion: Diversity of People. Diversity of thought. A smarter way to innovate every day.


DSISD Commons #4

Security Theater, Threshold Flow, and Inclusion

Fear ratcheting drives away contribution and collaboration. Security theater harms accessibility & inclusion. FUD makes for bad threshold flow.


The Segregation of Special

Segregation never works. Time now for inclusion. Disability is an engine for innovation. Design for real life, together.


Compassion is not coddling

Compassion is an essential tech skill that needs to be taught as an integral part of tech education.



The arts fuel industry. Restore them to education. Neurodiverse, multidisciplinary, self-organizing, agile teams are how companies are working now and how education should start working. Communicate, collaborate, iterate, launch.

Source: STEAM > STEM

Growth Mindset and Structural Ideology

Keep grit, bootstrap, and deficit ideology out growth mindset. Growth mindset without structural ideology, restorative practices, and inclusion can be more harmful than helpful. Do not use growth mindset to shift responsibility for change from our systems to children. The practice and implementation of growth mindset has been suborned by deficit and bootstrap ideology. Develop an authentic voice based on diversity & inclusion, neurodiversity & the social model of disability, and structural ideology instead of propagating the untempered language of the latest deficit/bootstrap fad. Inclusion and structural ideology are the way forward. Growth mindset as commonly implemented is just another bootstrap metaphor that excuses systems from changing and learning.


The perils of “Growth Mindset” education: Why we’re trying to fix our kids when we should be fixing the system – Salon.com

Illness isn’t a battle

Perspective on ableism and the social model.

When your child has a disability, you start out trying to “fix it” through intensive therapy. Over time, you push back. You learn that “fighting” is not a good model for living. Instead of making the child change to fit the world, you want the world to change to fit your child—to accept your child as a full human being.

Source: Illness Isn’t a Battle · thewalrus.ca

Promoting the social model

Every year and every season, my family does the work of promoting diversity, inclusion, and the social model over inspiration porn and the medical and deficit models to a new set of parents, teachers, coaches, doctors, therapists, and administrators as we flow through our systems.


Inclusive framing

Change our heuristics. Rules of thumb for human systems:

Framing Matters

The Segregation of Special

Update: A new version of this post is available on my main blog.

This piece speaks to my experience as a neurodivergent father with neurodivergent kids. “Special” is non-inclusive, discriminatory language. It is a deficit and medical model euphemism. Use instead the language of neurodiversity & the social model of disability. Use the language of  diversity & inclusiondesign for real life, and universal design. These are a human rights and human collaboration framework that will accelerate industry, education, and society. Segregation never works. Time now for inclusion. Disability is an engine for innovation. Say the word, and design for real life, together.

Although human diversity, the social model of disability and inclusion as human rights framework concepts are developing traction, for much of society the “special story” still goes like this:

A child with “special needs” catches the “special bus” to receive “special assistance” in a “special school” from “special education teachers” to prepare them for a “special” future living in a “special home” and working in a “special workshop”.

Does that sound “special” to you?

The word “special” is used to sugar-coat segregation and societal exclusion – and its continued use in our language, education systems, media etc serves to maintain those increasingly antiquated “special” concepts that line the path to a life of exclusion and low expectations.

The logic of the connection between “special needs” and “special segregated places” is very strong – it doesn’t need reinforcement – it needs to be broken.

Further, the “special needs” label sets up the medical “care” model to disability rather than the social inclusion model of disability. It narrows and medicalises society’s response to the person by suggesting that the focus should be on “treating” their “special needs”, rather than on the person’s environment responding to and accommodating the person – including them for the individual that they are.

There is another insidious but serious consequence of being labelled (as having or being) “special needs”.  The label carries with it the implication that a person with “special needs” can only have their needs met by “special” help or “specially-trained” people – by “specialists”.  That implication is particularly powerful and damaging in our mainstream schooling systems – it is a barrier to mainstream schools, administrators and teachers feeling responsible, empowered or skilled to embrace and practice inclusive education in regular classrooms, and accordingly perpetuates attitudinal resistance to realising the human right to inclusive education under Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

In other words, the language of “special needs” leads to, and serves to excuse, a “can’t do” attitude as the default position of many general educators – it effectively deprives inclusive education of its necessary oxygen – a conducive “can do” classroom culture.

The label of “special needs” is inconsistent with recognition of disability as part of human diversity.  In that social framework, none of us are “special” as we are all equal siblings in the diverse family of humanity.

Source: “He ain’t special, he’s my brother” – Time to ditch the phrase “special needs” – Starting With Julius

It is also to acknowledge and discuss the fact that the disability rights movement has been having conversations about language and disability terminology for decades, and that many nondisabled people are (perhaps willfully) unaware of these conversations. They come up with complex and tormented euphemisms to talk about disability instead of just asking a disabled person if there’s an appropriate term. Many nondisabled people are shocked that many people with disabilities, including myself, view ‘special’ as a rank insult that is horrifying to encounter. This word makes me so angry. So angry.

Thus, when I say ”special’ troubles me,’ I mean ‘please do not use this term to refer to me, because I find it personally insulting, and I have an identity, that identity is disabled, please respect my identity by using the word I self identify with to refer to me’ and I also mean ‘I would vastly prefer that you consider not using it as a default/general term, but use it for self identification if you identify with it, and to describe other people who self identify with it.’ And, in return, if I know that someone identifies as special needs or with any other term involving ‘special,’ I will refer to that person that way, because I believe that respecting self identification is a critical thing. However, I note that I don’t personally know anyone who identifies with this term; I see it being used by nondisabled friends and family, applied as a label by others and not claimed as a self identification.

So, here’s what I, personally, don’t like about special: I feel like it’s an isolating word. I feel that the concept of ‘special’ stands in the way of full integration into society, and it also perpetuates some very harmful myths. It sets people with disabilities aside and stresses that they are different and alien. That using a wheelchair, for example, is ‘special’ and different and weird.

This word, to me, stresses a hierarchy of normality. And, thanks to the way that it has become twisted, it has become a singularly loaded word. Everything from ramps to quiet rooms for taking exams is considered ‘special treatment’ and sneered at. Nondisabled people think that we are pulling off some kind of giant scam here and that’s reinforced when we talk about, for example, ‘special education.’

The very idea that accommodations are ‘special’ stresses that they should not be expected. That they are a prize or treat. That you don’t deserve them. I want to see accommodations normalised. I want to see it assumed that everyone who wants to participate in something is able to do so, that no barriers are presented by other participants or the venue. I don’t want that to be ‘special.’ I want it to be ordinary.

Likewise, the idea of referring to human beings as ‘special’ is one I find troubling, not least because this term has become weaponised. I have trouble parsing whether it is being used as a celebration of identity or an insult whenever I encounter it.

Source: Ableist Word Profile: Special | FWD/Forward

The “special needs” language falls into normativity. There’s a “normal” and a “right” way to do things, and that way is how able people do it. If you don’t do it that way, suddenly it’s “special” because it’s different and scary.

“Special needs” is part of this dichotomy which is used to split able and disabled. Indeed, to alienate disability. Disability is different and “special” and hard and weird. “Special” is an isolating word, in fact, because it sets people apart, and not necessarily in a good way, no matter what the original meaning of the word is.

Think “special bus” or “special education,” both of which are used to isolate developmentally disabled folks from their peers, often under the argument that they are “hard to control” or “disruptive” or “upsetting” or, sometimes, just “gross.” People use “special” to push these folks away, to isolate them somewhere where they cannot bother the nice able people.

It’s one of the many euphemisms for disability which is used to create a veil of obscurity. Disability as Other. Indeed, “special needs,” a term which  people often use because they are fumbling for something else to use, looking for the “right” way to say it, is intensely othering.

Source: Needs Are Not Special | FWD/Forward

For one night, the special needs community will shine! And then the day after, they will go back to being ignored by much of their communities.

Here’s the real problem for me – why put this money behind isolated, segregated, events? I know Tebow et al. think they are doing good here, and I’m sure the people who go will have a good time. But it accomplishes nothing other than a brief moment of fake normality.

“Prom” didn’t matter to me, but to many people prom = normal highschool experience. So if people with disabilities are being excluded from such activities, if that’s something they want, then the solution is to put time and money behind making such events more inclusive and more accessible.

A segregated special event for special needs, no matter how well intentions, just reinforces the idea that people with disabilities cannot function in “normal” society.

Source: How Did We Get Into This Mess?:  Special Proms for Special Needs – Good Intentions but a Bad Idea

There’s a social media campaign going on right now to #SayTheWord – it was started by Lawrence Carter-Long, the Public Affairs Manager for the National Council on Disability, and is an active Twitter hashtag. The word, of course, is disabled.

The importance of this campaign is driven home to me over and over again as I see people performing ludicrous and painful contortions to avoid saying it. Reminder that when I make a criticism the way well-meaning people interact with disability, I am not attacking the people (parenthetical reminder that I was immersed in ableism myself not long ago), but inviting people to think about things in a different way.

Instead of saying disabled, nice people say things like:

  • differently abled
  • handicapable (yes, really)
  • physically/mentally challenged
  • special needs

It’s that last one, special needs, that I really want to take aim at, because I believe that seemingly innocuous phrase does serious damage to disability rights.

Every time someone says “special needs,” they reinforce the false notion that disabled people are asking for “extras” when we require accommodations, modifications, and/or support to access the same things that non-disabled people are able to access, such as education, public spaces, community involvement, and so on.

That’s the first problem, because access is not “special” for disabled people. It’s our right. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, modeled on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, protects disabled Americans from discrimination, requires us to be accommodated in the workplace, and grants us equal access to public spaces and institutions. Other countries have laws in place to protect disability rights in similar ways.

The second problem is, the phrase “special needs” flies in the face of the social model of disability. The social model says, the disabled person’s inability to access things is due not to the disabled person’s failings, flaws, or deficits, but on the environment’s failure to provide access to the things. For example, a Blind person is not disabled because they can’t see, they are disabled because the world was set up by seeing people for seeing people and is made of many things that are inaccessible to non-seeing people.

Source: #SayTheWord, Not “Special Needs”

My son, who has Down syndrome, is 10. By the time he was 3 (thanks in part to spending his first few years reading everything I could get my hands on), it was pretty clear to me that while he had particular needs, they weren’t all that special. He needs an education, safe housing, independence, meaningful community, health care, and basically all the other stuff that everyone else needs. Our means to get him there might vary and require specific techniques, tools, and resources, but it’s not because his needs are so “special.”

Moreover, as a euphemism, “special” has become its own brand of insult. Anecdotally, I increasingly see people substituting the word where they might have used the word “retard,” because ableism can always survive the shifting of norms. “Special,” appended before “snowflake,” was the “defining insult” of 2016, according to The Guardian. “Special” connotes both undesirably different and unjustly self-centered.

In fact, there’s a broad cross-disability movement dedicated to working against euphemisms like “special needs” or “differently-abled.” While the origins of the expression “special needs” are complicated and debated, Rebecca Cokley, executive director of the National Council on Disability, explained to me that it’s clear “the term was never chosen by our community; it was chosen by educators, family members, and other professionals who felt uncomfortable by the use of the term ‘disability.’”

It’s not just about law, either. Lawrence Carter-Long launched the #SayTheWord campaign in 2016 to get people to use “disability” or “disabled” rather than dodging the issue. He told me that in the past, “Disability was only a diagnosis, but it now equals identity, it equals community, it equals history, it equals constituency. So part of saying the word is the recognition of the evolution of what the word has become.” He’s equally opposed to special needs, as a concept, because, “A need isn’t special, if other people get to take the same thing for granted.”

The #NotSpecialNeeds video doesn’t say the word disability, but I don’t know that it needs to do so. It’s an impressive piece of work, chipping away at the euphemism “special needs” with hilarity, positing scenarios that would qualify as special, like needing massages from cats or celebrities to conduct wake-up calls (the latter scene features John C. McGinley, the actor from Scrubs, whose son has Down syndrome).

Source: Stop Calling Some Needs ‘Special’

See also,

DSISD Commons #3

Learn to Code


The Pipeline Problem and the Meritocracy Myth

Overcoming diversity and inclusion pipeline problems requires adopting structural ideology and restorative practices in education and work. Do more than blame pipelines, and don’t propagate the meritocracy myth.


Surviving Is Diversity Work

Burnout is a systemic issue in tech and education. Anxiety & impostor syndrome are nurtured in the treadmill of primary education & carry into the relentlessness of tech. Tilting at the thoughtlessness all around us is a full time job on top of all other duties. The flow patrollers, the diversity & inclusion unit testers, are tired.


Inclusion and Created Serendipity

Inclusive collaboration in the commons improves our heuristics and creates serendipity. Bricolage in the intersections.


Developing a voice amidst rubrics and continuous evaluation

Embrace obsession and iteration

Allow iteration without continuous evaluation.

Embracing obsession is critical to teaching neurodivergent kids.


See also the marshmallow challenge.

Gifted, talented, obedient, fearful

This aligns with my experience as a straight-A student.


Why do we need structural ideology and restorative practices? Watch 13th on Netflix.

Surviving Is Diversity Work

Burnout is a systemic issue in tech and education. Anxiety & impostor syndrome are nurtured in the treadmill of primary education & carry into the relentlessness of tech. Tilting at the thoughtlessness all around us is a full time job on top of all other duties. The flow patrollers, the diversity & inclusion unit testers, are tired.

“For marginalized workers in tech – women, people of color, queer/trans people, people with disabilities – [tech] burnout comes quicker and harder. It comes from existing and being pressured to thrive in a space where your presence is seen as an aberration, and your skills are perceived as suspect. It’s a burnout not easily solved by quick fixes, or even a new job; it’s triggered by your own life, the very body you inhabit”

focus on burnout as a central crisis facing the diversity in tech movement.

burnout in diversity in tech is a systemic issue, and it will require systemic solutions.

Source: Putting a Spotlight on Diversity in Tech Burnout by The Editor | Model View Culture

Being in a minority group and advocating for diversity and inclusivity is like being that one engineer who’s always reminding people to write tests.

Similarly, it’s nice to have time to work on your actual job and not have the emotional and moral well being of your company be part of your unspoken and unsalaried responsibilities when there should be a dedicated team working on diversity and inclusion.

Source: # TODO: Diversity Unit Tests – Race Condition – Medium

As a community, we need to come to an understanding that diversity in tech work is work like other work. Activists in the space deserve to be compensated for their work, and they also deserve to be supported. We need to manage our own expectations of activists and we need to acknowledge their humanity. I’m an activist but I’m far from perfect, and there’s always so much to learn. But being given the space and permission to take breaks as needed is important because the work that I create is produced by me, a person.

Recognize that, while extremely beneficial, diversity-in-tech work exacts an emotional and mental toll on the well-being of the people who do it. We need to value people; people must always come first. For without them, there would be no work at all.

Source: Mental Health and Diversity Work by Anonymous Author | Model View Culture

I think you should say “no” to corporate diversity work.

It is second shift work, work you are asked to do on top of your normal duties.

You will not be rewarded for it. In the rare case you are, it will never be proportional to the effort that you put into it.

Worst of all, this work often distracts from your technical accomplishments, which is how you are actually rewarded in this industry.

It is a one-way ticket to burnout.

The company says it cares about diversity, but a large portion of the diversity work is pushed on underrepresented employees who are already harmed by diversity-related issues. That work is largely unrewarded. Even worse, that work can distract from people getting promoted, which is how the company rewards people financially. What do you think about that?

Source: Julie Pagano – Mid-Career Survival for People Who Don’t Want to be an Attrition Statistic When They Grow Up: Talk Transcript