Archive for December, 2010

The Home Stretch

December 6th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Curriculum, Teaching

Final Project Assignment

After 8 weeks of small lessons we wanted to set up a lengthier final project that would last during our remaining two classes. We sat down and reflected on what we’d already taught the students, and thought about what we wanted them to get out of the final lessons. We came up with a short project description and created a project packet that would help guide them through the work we had planned, while also explicitly outlining the design process that we wanted them to learn.

Project: Interaction Design Challenge

In a team of 3-4 people, choose a problem you’ve observed or experienced in New York City. You may choose from our list of suggestions, or think of your own ideas.

• Long lines…everywhere!
• Getting students and teachers to use the school’s green space courtyard
• Signage, or lack thereof
• Classroom of the Future
• Access to fresh fruits and vegetables
• Something else?


Create a poster and narrative in a format that best tells the story of your problem and solution. Consider the use of writing, comics, photos, video and more in your plan. While finding a solution to the problem is ideal, the most important thing is to fully investigate the problem and be able to clearly communicate your findings to the group.

We simplified it as much as possible, breaking it down into Discover, Design Concepts, Solutions and Refined Sketches, and a section called Tell the Story. Our goal was to have them thinking about some research, sketching a lot of solutions, talking to each other a lot, and coming up with a couple directions to pursue.

What Actually Happened

When we arrived in class we learned that the tenth graders were on a field trip that day, and we were left with only seven of our students. We were very sad with half of our favorite students being absent! It turned out to be just fine in the end. We were able to split the girls up into two groups and Carmen and I each worked with a group. It worked out really well for each of us to guide them through the process we’d outlined, and in our short time frame for the work, I’m not sure it would have been as successful without our one-on-one leadership.

Tiny class!

The Projects

Not surprisingly, both groups of students chose the topic “Classroom of the Future.” It’s something they’re familiar with, and something they can see and touch in front of them so it’s easier for them to imagine how it might be different.

My group decided to focus on re-imagining the blackboard. They identified a wide list of problems with the existing set up, including the teachers’ bad handwriting, the lack of organization and cleanliness around the board, and the general lack of optimization around its usage. They felt like it could be better.

Dominique with post-its

After we listed out all the problems we came to the board and wrote on post-it notes to identify who our users were, and also the objects and spaces that are used around the blackboard. From that launching point we sketched out about 10 ideas for possible features that a “better blackboard” could have. They ended up imagining a homework exchange system that allows students to submit homework to the board, which sends it to a centralized collection and organization area, where teachers can grade it and return it through the board. They even got to do a quick interview with one of their teachers to learn about her collecting and organizing habits.


At the end of the session I was so so pleased that they had thought about and designed a whole system for homework. They weren’t just thinking about the input, but also the output of the system and how everything would get back to the beginning. I asked them to construct a system map to articulate what they’d come up with. Of course I got blank stares. I explained to them that a system map is an important piece of the puzzle. It helps people understand what they’re talking about, and also helps them understand all of the pieces of the system they’ve designed. Almost like a test for their idea; if all the pieces fit into the loop then it’s a complete system. (Just like in a chemical equation!)

System map

I can’t pretend that I played it cool. My little design teacher heart was beaming when they ended the first day with their first pass at a systems diagram.

For This Week

I’m really excited to see these project ideas finished, and I can’t wait to have the 9th graders from last week present their work to their peers. I think the final critique will be a nice reflection about where we’ve come this semester and for some students it may be a launching point for where they will take it next.

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