Inspiration: Invention At Play

March 10th, 2010 by Carmen Dukes | No Comments | Filed in Discovery, Inspirations, Research, Resources

Invention at Play is an exhibit that celebrates inventors, innovation and the creative process at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.  I  recently discovered the website for the exhibit and their four approaches to playful invention might be a useful framework for our program as one of our main goals is to get kids excited about creating things.

The exhibit, website, and educator’s manual shows how these approaches – Exploratory Play, Pretend Play, Social Play, and Play with Patterns, Puzzles, and Problems – can help children understand their own creative abilities and become inventors of their own. This is definitely one of the outcomes we aim to get out of IxD program, so I look forward to exploring these concepts further as we development our curriculum.

Interview With Keith Frazier

March 5th, 2010 by Carmen Dukes | No Comments | Filed in Interviews

Keith Frazier

Keith Frazier,  currently manages a K -5 New York City test prep program at under performing schools.  While his program is specifically focused on helping students improve their math and literacy skills, we wanted to interview him to gain insight on working with NYC public schools.

Keith was really interested in how we position our programs to potential schools. He suggested partnering with  school PTAs to  get parents involved immediately, ultimately allowing them to become advocates for the program.

Researching current New York State Department of Education curriculum requirements was also one of his suggestions.  Even though our program is about design, he felt that if we can relate the specifics of our program to state required education guidelines,  it will help demonstrate the value of our program to administrators and others who may find the design concepts we want to teach abstract.

Ultimately, Keith told us to keep this in mind as we develop the program: Make the program relevant to all involved and people will be excited and interested in participating.


Calling New York City Teachers

March 4th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Curriculum, Discovery, Inspirations, Research
Students at Vanguard High School, Manhattan

Students at Vanguard High School, Manhattan

This week Derek and I visited a local area high school to see first hand how teachers engage students in the subject matter about which they are passionate. We gained an incredible amount of knowledge just from a half day of school, and we’re all eager to visit more classrooms as we prepare our own curriculum.

If you know any middle school or high school teachers in the New York City area who would be willing to welcome us into their classroom, please send them our way!

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A Little Late Week Inspiration

February 26th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Discovery, Inspirations, Research

This week on Design Observer I came across a group of volunteers in Lincoln, Nebraska and instantly fell in love with their ambition.

Our small effort was just one part of a bunch of other small efforts by a handful of dedicated creative people who jumped in and helped make this loose collection of concerned citizens into something worthy of attention.

Their work is beautiful, and I admire that they saw a need and started doing something about it. No planning, no hierarchy, just action. As we continue to flesh out the details of our little project, Derek, Carmen and I can relate to the sometimes scary feeling that nothing is known or planned, but that we’ve found a need and are doing something about it.

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Inspiration over Tea – An Interview with Jerri Chou

February 24th, 2010 by Derek Chan | No Comments | Filed in Business, Discovery, Inspirations, Interviews, Resources

Last week, the team had a chance to meet with social innovator and co-founder of All Day Buffet, Jerri Chou, to talk about some of our thoughts on design education and what it means to be an entrepreneur.

Jerri Chou

Our afternoon meeting with Jerri, who has found enormous success with All Day Buffet, helped put some of our initial reservations to rest. She told us her story of the earlier challenges in starting All Day Buffet and how she eventually overcame them by working hard towards what she believes in and quite literally, just getting that idea out there. Of course, we know our plans are a lot different than starting an organization like All Day Buffet, but Jerri is a great example of someone who made it.

To me, she isn’t just a social innovator, but a design entrepreneur — a term we’re quite familiar with as a result of learning about entrepreneurial design in our class with Bek Hodgson. She had an idea and used creativity and design to bring it to life.

In addition to inspiration, Jerri provided us with a handful of resources of other people and organizations who have worked on similar projects as us. She also gave us suggestions on how to work with and learn from schools in the city.

Toward the end of the interview, one important question came up that we will need to address – do we want to focus on schools that are already more progressive, or schools that have not yet been exposed to the kind of education we are thinking of introducing? This thought is definitely something we will need to incorporate into our goal-setting and strategy.

We want to thank Jerri for a wonderful hour of insights and inspiration. And tea.

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Back to School – An Interview with Kari Kokka

February 19th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Discovery, Interviews, Resources

Kari Kokka

Kari is a math teacher at Vanguard High School here in New York. When I first told her about our project she was super excited and eager to find out more.

When we told her about our plans, Kari confirmed that an after school program is one of the best ways to get access to interested students. Because it’s voluntary, the kids will be there because they want to be. Her school is pretty open to new and progressive courses, as evidenced by the well-received Capoeira class Kari recently led.

Since she’s been teaching for about nine years, Kari had plenty of good advice for sustaining kids’ enthusiasm during a class. She suggests that we plan, and since we are new to teaching, we should OVER plan. She says even if you think you have enough things to do, you’ll probably get there and realize you haven’t planned nearly enough activities.

Kari also suggested that we offer a field trip in addition to on-site curriculum. She thinks it would be valuable for kids to come and see what a real design studio looks like to get a better introduction to the discipline of design.

Most importantly, Kari recommended that we come visit a classroom. We’ve talked about visiting a class so we can do real observation of how kids participate and learn, and this will be a great opportunity for us to do that. Some of us are going to go to high school in a couple weeks and sit in on an art class, a robotics class and an advisory class, where we will be able to talk to some of the students and get a better idea of who our “user” is. I haven’t been in high school in many years so I can’t wait!!

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Designer Survey

February 16th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Design, Discovery, Inspirations

We’re working on developing an after-school program to teach kids about design! As part of our research, we’re asking our fellow designers to talk about their first exposure to design as a discipline. Tell us your story!

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Thoughts on Interaction 10, Design, Education, and Mentorship

February 15th, 2010 by Derek Chan | No Comments | Filed in Inspirations

Derek Chan writes in his blog a composite of thoughts and inspirations related to why he is personally getting involved in design education and this initiative: http://www.derekwchan.com/blog/?p=110

Interview with Katherine Schulten

February 12th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Curriculum, Interviews

On Wednesday morning, February 10, Derek and I had a quick phone interview with Katherine Schulten, editor of the Times Learning Network. Katherine has ten years experience teaching English in Brooklyn and even more experience as a writer. She had great insight to share about the prospect of educating kids in NYC schools.

Katherine Schulten

Katherine Schulten

A Community of Teachers

The Learning Network at the New York Times strives to facilitate a community of passionate teachers and students. Katherine pointed to it many times as an example of a level-agnostic forum for kids, parents, teachers and others to find educational information and to share their experiences. When the site was redesigned a few years ago, it transitioned from a static website to a blog format to allow two-way, active communication between the Times and its readers.

In discussing our project’s goals, we have extensively debated whether to focus on middle school students, who are typically pursuing more general studies, and high school students, who will be more focused on career choices. When we asked Katherine about the differences between the two groups, she implored us to consider a level-less program, keeping in mind that a good lesson will provide something of value to students of any age.

Classroom Experience

Katherine recommended that we sit in on a few classes to get a good idea of what classrooms are like today. It’s been quite awhile since any of us have been in a K–12 class, so doing a small ethnographic study is a great idea. We were told to observe teachers, who are trained not only to deliver an educational experience, but also to manage a classroom. The latter in particular was something Katherine identified as an important skill to learn before we enter the classroom.

Katherine had great advice to be transparent with kids. It’s okay to tell them we’re new at teaching and to solicit feedback after our lessons.

One of the easiest secrets to engaging kids in the content we are presenting is to make it hands-on. (This shouldn’t be too hard with interaction design and prototyping!) Katherine mentioned an education method, “activating schema,” that exploits the idea that no child comes to the classroom without any prior experience. Everyone has an existing framework in his or her head, and it’s okay to acknowledge that and even use it to frame the lesson we will teach. She suggested breaking the ice by having kids talk about their past experiences with the content we will present; a definite nod to the impact and power of storytelling.

She also mentioned that kids are pretty familiar with the idea of “mapping.” It’s something they’re taught to do in some of their other classes already. Derek and I are thinking this could be a natural jumping point for some of the more complex or abstract material.

The Big Challenge

One of the best pieces of experience Katherine shared with us is the idea that to be truly engaged, kids have to want to learn what you are teaching. If you ask adults to identify their most memorable learning experiences, you may find that they had some sort of emotional connection with the class material that was taught. If we can find a way to make interaction design relevant on this level, we’re positive we’ll be able to make an impact.

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What We Learned in Savannah

February 10th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Interviews, Research, Resources

Last weekend Derek and I attended the Interaction 10 conference, presented by the IxDA and hosted by SCAD, in Savannah, Georgia. Our humble project with the mission of reaching NYC middle school students through design suddenly blew up when we started talking to other people about it! The conference was like a pressure cooker of ideas and served as a great catalyst to get us moving. We both learned quite a bit about the current state of high school and interaction design education.

Savannah riverfront

Discussion on Education

Derek and I attended a discussion about the state of interaction design education on the first day of the conference. Jeremy Yuille and Martin Tomitsch served as moderators for a very lively conversation.

Difference between “Academic” and “Teacher”
One of the first questions posed by the moderators quickly became the discussion’s hot topic. What is the difference between being a teacher and being an academic? Is it essential that interaction design teachers also practice the craft? There seemed to be a resounding yes, and a mild resistance to being called an academic, which many people felt implies that one is no longer a working professional.

Call for High School Education
The discussion briefly meandered down the path of talking about the need for high school design education. How can exposure to design education at a younger age benefit undergraduate and graduate methods and programs for teaching design? If kids are aware of design as a career path, they will be more likely to seek out undergraduate design (and interaction design) programs.

One comment stands out in my mind from Marc Rettig:

My undergraduate experience showed me] the world is bigger than I could have possibly imagined.

I think that’s true for most of us. Well put, Marc!

Breakfast Meeting
The next day Derek and I attended a small breakfast with IxD educators Liz Danzico, Chris Fahey, Dave Malouf, Allan Chochinov, Nathan Shedroff, Jeremy Yuille, and Jon Kolko. There were a lot of exciting ideas being passed around – the need for a standard vocabulary to talk about interaction design education, the potential risk and reward in identifying our field’s “core skills,” the difference between BDes/MDes degrees and the more traditional BFA/MFA degrees. Everyone in the group was enthusiastic about our ideas to teach design and interaction design to kids, and a lot of the same questions came up that we’ve heard from others:

  • How will you make complex concepts tangible for kids?
  • How will you get classroom time?
  • How will you teach the teachers to use creative problem solving methods in their regular coursework?

Some more resources to check out:

http://www.inventorswithoutborders.org/

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