Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

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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