Archive for the ‘Curriculum’ Category

Our 10 Week Outline

May 11th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Curriculum, Design, Programming

Carmen and I got together last week to lay out our first draft curriculum time line. After taking a few weeks off to finish our other projects, we jumped back in with a huge splash. Everything in our brains for the past four months came flying out and on to paper. Below is our very high level plan for 10 weeks of classes.

Goal: To teach kids about design by encouraging them to think of themselves as inventive creators who can alter the world around them by examining it and coming up with creative solutions.

Before coming to class: Have the students fill out a survey about their interests and experience.

Week 1: What is design?
Week 2: Ideas
Week 3: People & Environment
Week 4: Design in the real world (Field trip!)
Week 5: Mobile
Week 6: Services
Week 7: Solving Big Problems
Week 8: Project & 10 Min Speaker
Week 9: Project & 10 Min Speaker
Week 10: Reflection

More to come…

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Teaching Philosophy – Interview with Jamie Nestor

March 18th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Curriculum, Discovery, Inspirations, Interviews, Resources
Katie, Derek and Jamie

Katie, Derek and Jamie

Derek and I had a wonderful afternoon conversation at the City Bakery with Jamie Nestor, a graduate student at the esteemed Teachers College at Columbia University.

Overall, Jamie reiterated much of what we’ve heard from education professionals: get kids intrinsically motivated, reach them on an emotional and personal level, and keep it hands on to sustain their attention. Make sure to carefully plan the work and the group assignments, make the goals clear and be transparent about expectations.

It was great news for us to hear these concepts reemphasized through Jamie’s inspirational words, and beyond teaching method advice she also spoke about theory and philosophy when handling a class.

Teaching Philosophy, Meet Design

Jamie’s teaching philosophy revolves around two principles:

  1. Students should be the center of the learning
  2. Teachers need to be held accountable for what goes on in their classroom

The first principle particularly resonated with us. The idea that a student drives the decisions being made about a lesson plan is a direct translation of the user-centered design process we practice in our work. We were relieved to see a clear connection between what we know and what we’re trying to learn about teaching. Speaking of connections, Jamie told us about a teaching technique called “scaffolding,” in which an educator helps a student build upon existing knowledge to understand a more advanced concept. (We instantly thought of Jared Spool’s “brick” theory.)

The second principle is important for creating a community of learning within a school. If every teacher is held accountable it will produce a more dedicated teaching staff that is able to engage students through their enthusiasm and commitment to what is being taught.

Hopes & Fears of Prospective Teachers

Jamie asked us what fears we have as we prepare to teach students about design. I spoke first, sharing my fear that the kids won’t love design as much as we do as students and practitioners, and explained how that may be a difficult challenge for us to cope with. Jamie’s advice was clear: when she teaches, Jamie doesn’t expect that her students love the subject matter as much as she does (she used to teach Latin), but she does expect that they leave class with an appreciation and respect for it.

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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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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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