Archive for the ‘Programming’ Category

Our Second First Class

October 25th, 2011 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Programming, Teaching

This fall we’ve teamed up again with the Urban Assembly Institute for Math & Science for Young Women in Downtown Brooklyn. They were such an incredible partner school last fall we’ve decided to continue our relationship with them.

This time around we’re making a website! The girls all participate in an after-school program through Girls Inc. of New York City. Girls Inc is a nonprofit organization that inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. At UAI the students participate in a specific division called Project GROW. Having been around for two years, it’s time  for this small but mighty organization to have a web presence.

Before our class began we vetted the project by speaking with Odette Nemes, Director of Project GROW to make sure we’d have enough work for the girls. From Odette:

I would like to see them make a website that’s more girl friendly, not something for the parents or teachers, but for the girls to use.

In our first week we asked the girls to introduce ourselves to us through a short video interview. (Unfortunately they’re all a little Vimeo-shy so we’ll just keep those to ourselves!) We asked them to share the most beautiful thing they’ve seen recently, a great way to break the ice into talking about design.

For the rest of class we talked about what design is, and dissected what interaction design is. We made a HUGE list of the things we use the internet for and talked together about how and why design might be important to those tasks.

Then, we dove into the meaning of words. We did an iteration of Graphic Jammin’ around some words that we think are important to website designers: community, emotion, social, and communication.

We ended the class by handing out new sketchbooks to the girls, encouraging them to decorate and take ownership of their thoughts and drawings there.

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A Visit from Transportation Alternatives

November 22nd, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Programming, Teaching

Last week we were so excited to welcome Julia de Martini Day from Transportation Alternatives! We’ve been working with Julia over the past few months to develop a lesson that would be meaningful to our class of students. We wanted to structure the lesson to include many of the skills we’ve used so far: things like sketching, brainstorming, problem and solution definition, and refinement and presentation. That sounds like a lot of stuff to cram into one lesson, but our students are getting used to quickly thinking through ideas!

Julia began the lesson with a presentation about safe streets and what it means to engage in healthy living in an urban area. It was really interesting to see where each student stood in our “human barometer” test at the beginning. Most were in the middle between agreeing and disagreeing with the statement, “The best way to stay healthy is to walk and bike around my neighborhood.”

Human Barometer

Julia did a wonderful job explaining the mission and goals of Transportation Alternatives to our students. She put activism in terms that were easy for them to understand, like describing protests: “Sometimes the people in charge don’t listen to us, so we get a lot of people together who can talk really loudly together!”

For the rest of class, we all looked at the intersection of Jay St. and Tillary St. near the students’ school. Many of them cross this dangerous intersection each morning to get to school. When Julia asked them to sit down and talk about the problems with the intersection they had no trouble coming up with a ton of ideas.

Group Work

After each group defined a set of problems, they focused on one problem that they could attempt to solve. We asked them to come up with a quick solution and sketch it, either on the map we provided them, or on a separate sheet of paper.

At the end of class, each group presented their ideas. Not surprisingly, there was a lot of overlap in the problems each group defined. It was really exciting for us to see how thorough they were in their definition of the problems in the space.

Presenting projects

Problems/Solutions

Our Reflection

This was a tough week for us in class. Carmen and I are feeling the strains of our own course load increasing near the end of the semester, while also working with students who are feeling the pressures of their semesters coming to a climax. And, as much as we valued the lesson from Transportation Alternatives, it occurred to us after class that teenagers may have trouble grasping the value of the message “don’t drive, use alternatives instead.” They’re right at the age where they are dying to get a car and drive, and the idea of voluntarily not having one may have been lost on them!

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On the Move

November 1st, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Programming, Teaching

We started our class by recapping last week’s field trip for the girls who couldn’t join us. Overall, they were all super excited about R/GA and its work. Thanks again to Chloe, Chris, Bertha and the others who hosted us and made the day really special for the girls.

Jumping right into our lesson, Carmen led a discussion about the concept of “mobile.” What does it mean if something is mobile? What are some things we use mobile devices for, other than texting or making calls? There were all kinds of ideas that came up, including watching videos, listening to music, using the internet, and also going to a museum or exhibit and using a mobile device there.

In preparation for our class activity we discussed the most basic elements of a story: establishing context, conflict, and resolution. The girls knew a lot already from English class, and they were quickly able to pick apart the key elements of any story.

Carmen talking about design

Bodystorming!

We divided the girls into groups and had them work together to act out a few scenarios. The catch? They had to randomly choose a year in which to act it out.

  • PAST 1990: No cell phone, no personal computer, no text messaging. (You can use: Phone booths, which cost 25 cents per call, the people around you, paper maps, cable television, a walkman, landlines, etc.)
  • PRESENT 2010: Cell phone, GPS, personal computer, internet, texting, YouTube, Wikipedia, etc.
  • FUTURE 2030: Assume you will have everything you have today, and whatever you can imagine. What will you have? What would you like to be able to do?
The scenarios we used:
  • You’re meeting a friend at the movies tonight. You’ve already made plans. How will you find each other once you get there?
  • You’re late for school. How will you let your parent or guardian and the school know you won’t get there on time?
  • You’re at Foot Locker checking out a new pair of sneakers. You want to compare the cost of the Nikes to the Sauconys you saw at the Sports Authority. How will you find the prices?
  • You get to your neighborhood subway stop and see that the train isn’t running. How will you find an alternate route?
  • You just left your friend’s house after hanging out all afternoon and you can’t find your way back to the subway. Assuming you can’t go back to your friend’s house, how will you find your way home?
  • You are a design intern and you are delivering a package for your boss. When you get to the office, the receptionist tells you that the name of the person that you are suppose to deliver the package to does not work there. How do you get the package to the right person?
  • You are going to take the train to Philadelphia. You need to purchase your ticket for the train, but the line is really long and the train leaves in 15 min! How can you purchase a ticket for the train?
  • Your friend is coming over for dinner and you know they love deviled eggs. Unfortunately, you don’t know how to boil egg! How can you find out how to boil eggs?

We encouraged them to incorporate emotions and a variety of characters into their skits, posing the challenge to add richness to the story by making up details that enhance the plot. For example, what does the phrase “You’re late to school” really mean? How can you communicate the anxiety you feel in that scenario in a way that is compelling for the audience?

Girls planning

It was really interesting from our side of things to see which girls took the lead in their groups. Just like in our classes, and it collaborative groups anywhere, each group had one person who led the sketch. In most cases we weren’t surprised to see who it was.

They had some really funny ideas for the past, like in one sketch where the main character had only a paper map to find her way home, but it was the wrong borough’s map. It was great to see what the girls came up with for the future, too. At first they wanted to just make everything a hologram, but when pressed to come up with alternate ideas they were able to dream up some more creative solutions, like beaming in a professional chef to your kitchen to teach you how to make eggs.
Future of egg making

Dominique (middle) is figuring out how to make eggs in 2030. D'Leslie invented a futuristic vehicle using the lid of our supplies box as a door.

train to philly

Tessa (left) is taking a train to Philly. In their story, Tessa missed the train because she got distracted talking with her friends.

The bodystorming activity also led us into some interesting discussion about communication. For many of the present time period groups we talked about why texting may or may not be useful as a method of communication, bringing up the point that there’s little to no feedback from the system. In essence, you can text your friend all day long without knowing whether she got your messages, or whether she cares to respond to them. In some cases it might be better to call.
They even made us do our own sketch, using the scenario of needing to find our local polling location in 1990.

In the end they could clearly see the value in acting something out. They were pleased with the ability to describe their ideas over time, and to communicate about technology and new ideas in a way that actively holds the audience’s attention.

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New Supplies

October 27th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Programming, Resources

It’s been a busy week around here! We’ve been planning our class this week and are seriously excited to teach it. We’re teaching about the importance of mobile technology in the ways we find people and information. Students will be asked to consider a series of scenarios in each of three different technological points in history: 1990, 2010, or 2030.

For example:

Your friend is coming over for dinner and you know they love deviled eggs. Unfortunately, you don’t know how to boil egg! How can you find out how to boil eggs?

How would you learn to make eggs today, armed with an iPhone, YouTube and hundreds of people to call for help right in the palm of your hand? How would you have learned about the delicate art of egg boiling in 1990? Called your mom? Looked in a cookbook?! (gasp!) And what about 20 years from now? How will our ability to find information change in just two decades? It’s going to be a challenging exercise, but we’re hoping the girls will take a lot away from the lesson.

We’re also thrilled to give a BIG thank you to our friends who have sent us goodies from our Amazon Wish List. In the past couple days we’ve received a whole parade of boxes filled with giant sticky paper pads, foam board, Legos, origami paper and even a Flip camera.

Katie Koch & Carmen Dukes with supplies

If you’re interested in contributing to our classes by donating supplies,please send them through our Amazon list!

And, a special thank you to the folks at Busy Beaver who are keeping us supplied with buttons. We just got all of our reward buttons for our friends on Kickstarter!

Project: Interaction buttons

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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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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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