Archive for the ‘Inspirations’ Category

Lending a hand at the Yale Education Leadership Conference

March 27th, 2011 by Katie Koch | 2 Comments | Filed in Business, Design, Inspirations

Last week I was asked to help facilitate a workshop about the Digital Classroom at the Yale Education Leadership Conference. Below is my recap of the rewarding day, originally posted at pixelkated.com.

Expanding Solutions for the Digital Classroom

What happens when a group of designers lead a brainstorming session with teams of school administrators, MBA students and educational policy makers? The future of the digital classroom…

On Friday my SVA classmates Clint and Derek and I took the morning train to New Haven, CT to join the Yale Education Leadership Conference. We joined a panel session about the Digital Classroom hosted by Larry Berger, CEO of Wireless Generation.

Larry invited us to work with his team of designers to lead a workshop with the group of administrators, management students, and education innovators at the conference. We stayed for the day to iterate on the solutions that came out of the workshop session.

The Brief

After watching a short panel presentation from four leaders in classroom software development, each designer led a workshop with a group of 4-7 participants.

Each group addressed a common problem:

It may be too time consuming for many teachers to keep track of all of this student data, to locate patterns in the data, and to understand how to prioritize certain information about their students in order to design lessons and small-group activities.

And worked on a single task:

With your group, design an interface that would allow a teacher to visualize data collected regarding students’ progress toward the common core math standard below. Ideally, this interface would allow the teacher to see student mastery of specific sub-skills in order to create differentiated small-group lessons.

The Workshop Experience

All of the designers agreed beforehand on a common framework for the workshop.

  1. Lead a discussion about the problem space to establish a common language among participants. Since the groups would be assembled of a variety of people with different backgrounds and ideas, this step is important to beginning a productive conversation.
  2. Define a unique problem statement to solve during the session. What does our group care about? Choosing a specific angle helps all group members be more invested in the session.
  3. Discuss what we already know about the problem. The 45 minutes allotted for the workshop isn’t enough time to do research. A quick and dirty research method is to leverage the knowledge of each group member to define the problems and opportunities in the space.
  4. Rapid sketching and solution generation. The more ideas we can produce, the more likely we are to come up with a great solution.

In my group we began with a healthy discussion about the problem of real-time data collection and visualization, which I captured on Post-It notes for everyone to refer to as the conversation progressed.

We reached a hurdle in the middle. Everyone was content to politely discuss existing solutions, but there was very little movement toward ideas for new solutions.

The tone changed when I reframed the conversation with a new question that directed the group’s thoughts back to our users. “Think of a teacher in a classroom with 25 students. What is the most important piece of data the teacher needs to see?” Suddenly one woman announced she had an idea. She began describing her idea to the table. I handed a marker to her and asked if she would be able to sketch the concept she had just described. She gladly accepted the challenge and started drawing on the communal poster paper in the middle of the table.

Once the first person started sketching it broke the barrier between group observation and collaborative generation. Instantly everyone at the table was able to talk about the new idea, adding on improvements and creating new sketches for similar concepts. The energy was tangible as my group of quiet talkers suddenly came alive.

The Design Studio

After the workshop all six designers gathered to share and discuss the outcomes of our separate groups. Across our many ideas we saw a clear solution for how a real-time data visualization system might be built. We decided to pursue three parts of the system: student input on a mobile device, teacher dashboard, and a group display visible to students and teachers in real time.

We spent the next few hours brainstorming around the three different touch points and sketched a few detailed drawings for how the solutions might work.

Teacher Facing

May and Jeremy worked out a web app and iPad app design based off the rubric used for standards-based grading. Jeremy had the idea to include social features allowing for peer review with other teachers and among students.

Student Facing

Clint, Takao and Courtney envisioned a system of dynamic mobile devices that would allow students to collaborate by subject matter and assignment within a classroom.

Group Facing

Derek, Mo and I started with the idea that we could use games and a highly visible “leaderboard” to give students the sense that they’re all contributing toward the common goal of learning. We designed a game that would reflect each student’s progress in a lesson.

A Day Well Spent

I headed into the workshop with an understanding of how to move a group of high school students in the direction of a solution. It was much different working with my group of educated adults whose heads are already full of optimized solutions. I quickly saw the value of throwing out wacky ideas and adding or removing brainstorming constraints to get them to think outside of what is normally expected.

Spending the day with a group of talented folks was enlightening and enriching for me. As is often the case, I learned as much from the workshop participants and other designers as they might have learned from me.

Sharing in the mutual exchange of knowledge and awareness was refreshing and delightful. I look forward to many more workshop opportunities to come!

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For this Weekend: Philly & EduCon 2.3

January 27th, 2011 by Katie Koch | 1 Comment | Filed in Business, Inspirations

This weekend we’re headed to Philadelphia for EduCon 2.3, a conversation and “an innovation conference where we can come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools.” We’re excited to meet other educators from whom we can learn and share our ideas about design in education.

Carmen and I are excited, too, to get a little inspiration for our thesis projects. We’ve spent the past four months immersed in our subject areas. It’s always helpful to get out of studio and into the world to talk about our work.

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“I Never Knew I Could Get A Job Doing Design”

October 22nd, 2010 by Carmen Dukes | No Comments | Filed in Curriculum, Inspirations, Sketching, Teaching

On week 4, we left the classroom and entered the design studio. 13 students from Project: Interaction visited R/GA to learn about what it’s like to work as a designer from five amazing and inspiring Interaction Designers, Copywriters and Visual Designers.

When we arrived, we were eagerly greeted by Bertha Deshon, a recruiter for R/GA who along with VP, ECD Interaction Design and Friend of SVA IXD, Chloe Gottlieb, helped organized our visit. As we shuttled through the hallways, the girls remarked on everything – from the awards on the walls, to the decorations inside offices, to the well stocked coffee bar.

Waiting for our students when we arrived at the conference room was a table of snacks (Whew!), so as the girls enjoyed pretzels, chips and soda, the panel discussion begin with a few videos showcasing R/GA’s award winning work.

The panel included five talented women from a variety of design backgrounds. They talked about how they discovered design and what their jobs at R/GA. The discussions also touched on the different types of jobs at the agency and what goes into a successful project. I probed the panel on how they valued sketching in the design process, so the girls could understand why it’s so important to sketch.

When the floor was open for questions, the girls had plenty. Many wanted to know where everyone went to college, some were interested in how photography fit in at a digital agency, others had questions about R/GA’s work. One of our students really wanted to know what an algorithm was. I love the curiosity!

Because of the distance between R/GA and UAI, we were only able to stay an hour, but it was an hour of inspiring moments – for Katie, myself and the girls. It was awesome to see the girls hanging on to the words of everyone who spoke about their experiences. We remarked later how we could see sparks coming off of some of the girls in attendance. I think we opened up their eyes with this trip to all the exciting opportunities that come with a career in design.

Katie and I were up for the task of chaperoning our students from school to Times Square and thank goodness it was uneventful. Of course, we had occasional moments of ‘was this a good idea?’ The first was as the subway door started to close on Katie and one of the students at the Borough Hall station prompting us to do exactly what the MTA says not to: hold the closing doors. The other, maybe not surprisingly, also involved the MTA. The MTA pass that I was given allowed us to travel on the subway for free, but what I didn’t realize is that during rush hour the pass is invalid. The MTA official, not so kindly, told me this fact and I guess the concerned look on my face as I was thinking ‘how do I get all of us back to school?’, prompted a change of heart and she let us through. (Whew! x2)

For next week, we’re talking about mobile and bodystorming! Yay!

New Friends & Post-Its

October 12th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Inspirations, Programming, Sketching

Over the weekend we set up space at Re:Form School in SoHo, joining them in their three day gallery show to promote arts education in schools. We had a blast!! We were there for three hours and had a steady flow of folks coming to our room. We were excited to share our project with them and they were very happy to share some sketches with us.

We asked everyone who came by to help us by contributing a sketch or an idea to our wall of Post-It art, focusing each mini-drawing on the words invent, design or change. Everyone jumped in to help out and add their voice to the wall.

Sitting, thinking, sketching

By the end of the day we had a huge collection of art, a full email sign up sheet and no business cards left. We talked to countless inspiring teachers and enthusiastic artists and designers. We are so happy that our program is a catalyst to connect all of these thinkers.

Wall of Post-Its

DESIGN detail

Over the weekend we surpassed our Kickstarter fundraising goal of $7500!  We still have a couple of days left to complete our project. If you’re interested in helping, please donate to our project!

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Invent Design Change!

October 7th, 2010 by Katie & Carmen | 1 Comment | Filed in Inspirations, kickstarter, Schools, Sketching

Join us Sunday from 3pm-6pm in SoHo!

In the last three weeks we’ve brought together an online community of people on Kickstarter who are passionate about design education. Now we’re inviting our online community to join us offline for an event this weekend to support arts and design in education.

We’re teaming up with Re:Form School, a REDU project that has transformed an abandoned school into a gallery of art for the enjoyment of all.

Please join us!

  • Record your own story answering “How did you first learn about design?”
  • Contribute your ideas and sketches to our giant wall of sticky note art!
  • Meet other awesome people who love art, design and education!

Can’t make it but still want to help? Donate to our Kickstarter campaign!

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How did you first learn about design?

October 7th, 2010 by Katie Koch | 4 Comments | Filed in Design, Inspirations, Interviews, Videos

We asked some of our favorite designers
How did you first learn about design? Was it a person who shared it with you, or another moment of inspiration?

They said:

“How can I come and do what you do?”

Matias Corea, Co-founder & Chief Designer at Behance

“I can really distinctly tell the difference between Garamond and Goudy.”

Ian Curry, Lead Interaction Designer at Local Projects

“I was already running for student council, just so I could make posters.”

Jessi Arrington, Co-founder, Creative Director at WORKSHOP

Rock and roll!

Russ Maschmeyer, SVA Student & Strange Native

“My father… insisted that the things in our household were well designed.”

Paul Pangaro, CTO and Founder at CyberneticLifestyles.com

“You can never really stay within the lines.”

Liz Danzico, Chair, MFA in Interaction Design

“It’s that moment [with Legos] when you build something not out of the instructions on the box.”

Carl Collins, Information Architect at Temboo

“It was take your daughter to work day, and I thought my own mom’s job was really boring…”

Katie Koch, Co-Founder & Designer, Project: Interaction

“Playing with the world around you, and reassembling it.”

Bill DeRouchey, Creative director at BankSimple

Inspired by a unique blend of Tufte and Bringhurst

Nick Disabato, Author, Cadence & Slang

“I knew I wanted to be a designer when I went to Pittsburgh”

Carmen Dukes, Co-Founder & Designer, Project: Interaction

Feeling inspired?

We have just a few days left to raise $2483. Share your story with us here and support Project: Interaction on Kickstarter!

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Greetings from Rhode Island

October 4th, 2010 by Katie Koch | 2 Comments | Filed in Design, Inspirations, Resources

Carmen and I went to Providence, RI this weekend for the Better World by Design conference, put on entirely by Brown and RISD students. We were excited and inspired by what other students and professionals are working on in the topics of urban renewal, sustainability and social entrepreneurship.

We met a lot of new friends and ran into some old ones, too. We had a great lunch with Robert Fabricant, VP of Creative at frog design and one of our SVA faculty members. He was excited to hear about the progress we’ve made with Project: Interaction over the past six months and we were happy to get the update on his work, too. I was especially excited to see my former colleague Kendra Shimmell from Adaptive Path speaking on the health care panel. She’s a lively and enthusiastic voice in this niche design community, and an asset to any conversation on the topic.

Our thoughts on some of the great sessions we attended:

Katie with socks
sketches and socks

Rapid Prototyping
On the first day we went to a rapid protoyping workshop led by Project M and Brute Labs, where we were challenged to quickly come up with a lot of ideas about how to more effectively provide resources to Providence’s homeless population. The fun really got started when they handed out 10 pairs of socks to each group and challenged us to reimagine what they might be used for. The groups came up with some amazing product ideas for the homeless population, including a woven sock blanket, a loofah for cleansing, a water filter made of socks, and even a sling for carrying loads of plastic bags. In only a 20 minute session we were able to collaborate and come up with more ideas than any one person could have alone.
Nathan Shedroff: Consumerism
Nathan was scheduled to report back to the community about sustainability as a followup from his talk last year. He dropped a bombshell by opening his talk with a slide, “I’m sick of talking about sustainability. Aren’t you?” Instead he suggests we focus on Consumerism as the real problem, and find ways to make products more meaningful to have lasting value for the people who use them.

Damon Rich: Design & Deliberation
Damon Rich wants to make the invisible visible by creating compelling opportunities for citizens to get involved with the policy issues that matter to their communities. He presented ways that we can use conflict as an opportunity for education. In all of the examples he showed he talked about the importance not only of doing these investigations but also sharing them with more than the immediate audience it affects. It’s important to give back to the greater community to achieve a better understanding of the issues that we all face.

Ethics in Design
The discussion on this panel was inspiring and motivational, with every person walking away feeling empowered to be a better designer and a better person. The theme of the conversation was that it’s time for designers to take responsibility along with the great power we have to change the world. The best line from the day came from Maria Giudice of Hot Studio: This is the best time to be a designer because everything is f*ed up!

A great takeaway from the conversation is that design is about people. It’s an inherently social activity, and we can’t forget that everything we create is used by people, whether it’s a product or a brief for a project being written and read by people. Maria’s analogy was thinking of designers as midwives; designers see the world differently and are able to connect the dots.

Activism in the Arts panel

Activism in the Arts
In a moment of triumph, Ian Russell combatted the idea that one person can’t make a difference by sharing his point of view: a collective group of people who work together to distill values into change can make a bigger impact. On the topic of compromise being an “icky” word, it was refreshing to hear Noah Scalin remind us that you don’t have to compromise your ideals as you mature, but you do have to accept that you have different values, and those may not include a mansion and a four-car garage. Noah confirmed a thought that often circles around my head as I scan my Google reader and twitter feeds: Too much consumption makes you feel bad about yourself. Go create instead.

Design and Business
Carmen attended this panel discussion, and took a few important lessons away:
To differentiate yourself from competitors you need a vision, a voice and something unique. We’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as we try to communicate the value of our program to potential partners, teachers and, most importantly, the students in our class who may not stick around if they’re not convinced of our greatness.

Learn to speak the language of the people you’re interacting with. For us, we’re learning to speak the language of not just the designers we work with, but also the educators and students who might be interested in working with us.

Have empathy. When working with people it’s extremely important to build a relationship with them, which includes understanding their point of view and needs. They are often more complex and deep than what you may initially expect.

Carmen at the Expo

The Expo
For the first time the conference invited participants to come together and share their ideas with the conference community. We snuck in at the last minute and were able to share a table in the education corner. (Phew!) We met a ton of people interested in what we’re doing, with our audience ranging from architects, design students, engineers, and even a couple of middle school students who eagerly wanted us to come to their high school next year.

Kate Orff
The last session we caught was an invigorating talk by Kate Orff of Columbia University. Her team developed an innovative solution to cleaning up the Gowanus Canal by creating oyster reefs that will act to reduce coastal contamination and the effects of rising sea levels. The reefs will create new community space in the Red Hook and Bay Ridge neighborhoods, and in time will change the relationship New Yorkers have with the shoreline. If you’re curious about eating the oysters, they’ll be safe and edible by 2050!

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Try, Fail, Rinse, Repeat

September 29th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Inspirations, Interviews, Videos

We interviewed Jordy Mont-Reynaud, entrepreneur and former youngest ever US chess master, circa 1994. Jordy talked to us about what he’s learned about the virtues of failure by playing (and losing) a lot of chess games. He told us how he defines success, and he gave great advice for young people who are just now discovering passion in their studies and work.

Project: Interaction Interviews Jordy Mont-Reynaud from Project: Interaction on Vimeo.

Jordy lives and works in San Francisco, CA, where he’s busy developing his latest adventure called Goal Mafia, a social game that helps people “execute” their goals. For more thoughts on the value of failing, check out his original post about failure on his blog.

We’re still going on Kickstarter! Only 14 days left to join our community.

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A Little Inspiration at Orientation

September 24th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Inspirations, Teaching

It’s been quite a long time since Carmen and I were in high school, so when we received an invitation to attend the UA Institute’s parent-student orientation last night of course we said yes! We got to step out of our busy grad student lives and take a glimpse into what it’s like to be the parent of a high school student in Brooklyn in 2010.

Everything we saw at the orientation affirmed our enthusiasm for working with the UA Institute. During 9th and 10th grade the school is already offering PSAT prep and speaking to the girls in very real terms about what life will be like after high school. The school offers resources for preparing for tests and college applications, and students can go on a school-sponsored trip to stay on campus at out-of-state colleges. By the time they’re ready to make a decision about their future they’ll have been exposed to a ton of options, including what it’s like to stay in a dorm. I had no idea about these things when I was 15!

Pics from UA Institute activity at Habana Outpost

During the presentation, one of the principals mentioned the college application essay that many students fear having to write. I remember my days as an admissions representative interviewing high school students and looking for their passion for something they do. I realized that many of our students may not have found theirs yet.

We introduced ourselves and the program to the crowd at orientation and were excited to see a few students shuffling their papers, looking to see if there were any open spots left. Afterward, several girls even came up to the after school director wanting to switch into our class!

We are so excited that the girls are eager to join our class. We would love to come to the first day and find a class full of motivated students, ready to learn about something new. We met two of them last night already, and the mother of a third who wants to be an architect. For the first time I saw that these girls are real. Just like me when I was 15, they’re starting to understand who they are and how they fit in. I’m so happy we can play a part in helping them find their passion and go for it.

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The Future of Teaching

September 23rd, 2010 by Carmen Dukes | No Comments | Filed in Inspirations, Research, Schools, Teaching

Katie and I attended Teaching + 30: The Future of Teaching, a Y + 30 Meetup event. The panel discussion included some of the brightest minds in the field of education including David Levin, co-founder of Kipp Schools and Joel Rose, Founder of School of One. All of the panelist were very opinionated about what’s wrong with education today, some saw the system as not broken but just in need of a slight redesign, while several of the panelists talked about the need to bring more respect to the teaching profession.

When it came to talking about the future, many of the ideas for change centered around technology. Jose Ferreira, Founder and CEO of Knewton, an adaptive technology learning program, spoke of the need for more data in education – data to assess the progress of students to help identify learning styles and difficulties and to also evaluate the effectiveness and capabilities of teachers. Joel Rose concurred as he talked about the success of School of One and their use of technology to provide lessons based on student performance. Alex Grodd, founder of Better Lesson, a curriculum sharing platform, and a Teach For America Alum, was the biggest advocate for teachers. Grodd talked about the need to give teachers more resources to connect with each other and build their community.

However, despite the call for technology to help augment classroom lessons, curriculum planning and student development, all the panelists agreed that no amount of technology could replace the intimacy of teaching. The personal relationships that teachers build with their students through mentoring, tutoring, and one-on-one instruction is truly irreplaceable. So as we go on a path of deciding how teaching will change in the next 10, 20 or 30 years we must remember that the human connection is still very relevant and critical to the teaching and learning experience.

Photo from Flickr: BenLego

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