Posts Tagged ‘class’

A Deep Dive Into Structure & Content

November 18th, 2011 by Carmen Dukes | 1 Comment | Filed in Teaching

Great to Be Back

This was my first class since the start of this semester of Project: Interaction. It was great to see some of our students from last year as well as meeting all the new students. Equally awesome was being back at UAI and teaching in tandem with Katie. We were jetlagged from our trip, but excited about another week with our students.

You Went Where!?!?

Katie and I opened the class talking about our trip to Hong Kong. The girls were curious, asking questions about why we went and what sightseeing we did.

Deeper Dive

We started the class revisiting the sitemap the girls had architected last week. We talked through each section and determined the different types of goals users of the site would have. We identified a good set of goals from “Applying to Project: Grow” (Student), to “Checking Attendance” (Parent), to “Updating Class Information” (Teacher).

From there, we challenged the girls to create user stories for how a teacher, student or parent might use the website to accomplish one of the goals we identified. We encouraged them to sketch out all parts of the experience – how the user found out about the site, how they navigated the site and the steps they took to achieve their goal. Katie gladly gave a demonstration of a quick storyboard before letting the girls go off to create their own.

We wanted the girls to sketch quickly, but it didn’t work out that way. They spent more time on the aesthetics of the storyboard, then the story itself. I think this is partially because they have few opportunities to get creative with markers, crayons and colored pencils and such.

The girls presented their storyboards and we were really impressed. Most had great narratives of how a user would navigate the site. One even included the offline interaction that would lead to finding out about the Project: Grow website. A great teacher moment for us.

In a future class, I would like to revisit creative stories and narratives. While some girls got it right away, others simply drew storyboards of one screen to another, leaving out the most important part: the user. Maybe I’ll share some of my favorite comics and an excerpt from Scott McCloud’s book, Understanding Comics, in the next few weeks.

We finished up the class, asking the girls to create a paper prototype of one page from the site. In teams of two, the students used different colored post-it notes to represent the various content types. They were more excited to share these than the storyboards; maybe because this activity was more tangible than the previous one.

While the girls were working, Katie and I revisited the original “brief” we received from the after school program directors. While the girls had nailed most of the work, we realized we may need to include more content just for the girls, as one directive we received was that the site needed to be “girl-friendly.” To that point, we are also missing the social part of a web experience so we will need to talk to the girls about how that can be incorporated into the site. I’m not sure how social they are online, although one of our students mentioned the need for comments on the web.

No Sitting…Or Very Little of It

The girls sat at their desks most of the class and it definitely affected the energy level in the class. We have to remind ourselves that our students have been sitting all day and incorporate “think on your feet” activities to keep them engaged.

We Need More Sketchbook Volunteers

I would really like to see all the girls jumping out of their seats to share their sketchbooks. And I hope to experiment in the next few weeks with some creative ways to motivate them to sketch and share. I’m thinking some kind of game or competition. More thoughts on this to come…

More Surprise

Katie and I are thinking of creating a set of five or so buttons specific to this project. At the end of class, the girls who participated last year asked if we had any new buttons. So we think it would be a nice to include a special set for this class as well.

Next Week…

We are still planning next week’s class, and hope to include some activities that give the girls an understanding of how web pages work. We also hope to come up with a few activities to make the overall project seem more tangible. Briefly we’ve been thinking about making their efforts appear more 3 dimensional and tangible by representing the building of a website and related interactions with blocks, food, or people.

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Introducing Abby Covert

October 25th, 2011 by Katie Koch | 1 Comment | Filed in Design, Interviews

Carmen and I are both working full-time this fall and doing a bit of traveling to talk about Project: Interaction around the world. We’ve brought on a third teacher to lend a hand (and a brain!) in the classroom.

Please meet Abby Covert, who has been a tremendous help already in our first two classes. We’re looking forward to Abby teaching our next class on research while Carmen and I are off speaking in Hong Kong.

More about Abby on her website.

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High School Stories

November 15th, 2010 by Katie & Carmen | No Comments | Filed in students, Teaching

We had a bit of excitement in class this week! We invited two of our friends to visit our class and tell our students about what they do for a living.

As usual, we started class by asking students to share their latest sketches in their Moleskine Sketchbooks.

What’s your story?

Rachel Abrams started by telling her story. She began with a career in geology, then studied policy and lawmaking before transitioning into her work as a designer. She has a wonderful way of talking about the apparently unrelated events of her life story in a way that makes it logical that each should lead into the next. The girls absolutely adored her, especially her English accent!

Prior to Rachel speaking, we asked the students if they knew what a design strategy consultant does. One of our students, Tessa, brilliantly described the role and we were happy knowing that we had something to do with that.

We asked the students to take notes on post-it notes during the presentations. They were able to create pretty complex little thought sketches during the time they were listening.

Our second guest was Matias Corea, a graphic designer and co-founder of Behance. We were so excited to have Matias join us! He started his story by pointing out everything in the room that has been touched by a designer. He talked about his evolution from being a terrible student, not into math or English or anything else, to transforming into an excellent and motivated individual through design. One of our girls wrote on a note, “He was destined to design.” If you have a conversation with Matias, you will immediately see his passion for design. We’re so happy he could bring that to our class!

(Special thanks to our guests for speaking, and for being flexible with our lack of technological accommodations!)

Interviews!

During the beginning weeks of Project: Interaction, we discussed ways for the girls to get to know each other. Since we have a mix of 9th and 10th graders, it is likely that the girls don’t have classes together throughout the day. We thought it was important to give them an opportunity or two to get to know each other and possibly dispel any assumptions they may have about their fellow classmates. Interviewing seemed like the best activity to do so. So for the remainder of class we randomly paired the girls up and asked them to interview each other using a set of five questions.

If you had a million dollars what would you do with it?
What’s the most embarrassing thing that happened to you at school?
What do you want to study in college?
If you had a superhero power what would it be?
Name your most recent act of kindness?

We then asked them to choose the most interesting response and tell a story about it. We encouraged them to tell stories in different ways, and they took our challenge! One student performed a skit, a few drew a comic strip about their story, and one student wrote her story.

At the end of class we asked them to present their ideas, with commentary from our guests. We can definitely see how they girls have improved over each class. They are becoming more confident in their ideas, eager to sketch and draw their thoughts, and have continued to develop their presentation skills. We are so excited to see how far they have come since our first class! It is also always great to see the girls support each other and give positive feedback during these very quick presentations.

Next week we’ll be kicking off our final projects with a workshop with Transportation Alternatives. We’re really excited to see our students put all their new skills to work!

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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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“It smells like Coney Island!”

October 15th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Curriculum, Sketching, Teaching

Wednesday was our third class at the UA Institute. We saw last week how excited the girls were when we asked them to show off their sketches. This week we were really impressed; almost all of them had drawn something they wanted to share!

The focus of Week 3 was Observation. We wanted to teach our students the difference between their memory of a place and how it actually exists. We started a conversation about the street outside the school, asking them what kinds of things they see there each day. They shouted out the answers we expected: Trees! Buildings! Crazy people!

Then we led them downstairs to the street, armed with a set of open ended questions to guide their observations. We asked them to write each observation on a Post-It note, and most importantly, not to talk while they’re observing.

One of our students, Olivia, was lucky enough to talk to one of the people she had been observing. A woman approached her and asked what the Post-Its were all about. When our student told her she was observing the plaza, the woman (an architect) launched into a tirade about the failure of the space as a public venue. Olivia was totally fascinated by everything the woman said to her, and got a great lesson in why user research can be an exciting and inspiring way to learn about a problem.

When we got back to the room we talked about everything the students observed. This time they were able to give me specific examples of the things they’d seen, including tiny architectural details, sounds and smells. They discovered that a certain part of the plaza smells like steaks and another part smells “like Coney Island.” Yuck!

We talked about ways that we might group our observations and came up with a few significant clusters: Sounds, smells, behavior, nature, outside objects and architecture. Each student placed her Post-Its in the appropriate category, and when we were finished we had a whole board full of observations about the plaza. For each category the students were able to tell a specific story about what they saw. For example, Nia told us about a behavior she saw, a guy illegally riding his bike through the plaza wearing headphones. When we probed, she was able to tell us more and more details, including that they song was an “old school” one. Like from the 90s.

Another student had an exciting observation in the plaza. She bumped into one of the benches and discovered that the pointed corners can be quite painful! She suggested the bench’s design could be improved by rounding the corners to avoid a dangerous interaction in the future.

At the end, we asked them why observation skills might be important for designers. Quickly they could identify that it’s important for designers to know a lot about the things they make, and it’s important for them to really see the details they’re addressing.

We wrapped up class by introducing our expectations for our field trip next week. We’re heading to R/GA for a tour and introduction to the jobs designers perform in a large organization. We can’t wait!

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Wow, That Went Fast

September 30th, 2010 by Katie Koch | 1 Comment | Filed in Curriculum, Teaching

Getting Started, Calming Nerves

We arrived at the UA Institute yesterday at 2:30pm, just moments before we would meet our first group of students. We were mostly prepared, but had spent some of the day texting and emailing each other to coordinate logistics. I was a little nervous heading there, until I ran into the school’s development director, Mara. She was reassuring and helped us get set up in the room before we headed down to the cafeteria to meet the girls.

The students have a scheduled snack time for about 20 minutes between the end of their day and the beginning of after school activities. It was a really great opportunity for us to meet them in an informal setting and get to find out some things about them while they’re still candid and one-on-one. One of our students told me about her old high school, from which she had just transferred, and how one of the best parts about UAI is that the bathrooms are cleaner and there are no boys to stink everything up. I guess it’s the little things!

Warming Up

When we got to class our first challenge was taking attendance. I’ve spent my whole life correcting teachers during this activity (my name shows up on rosters as Kathryn Koch, usually mispronounced as “kotch” instead of “coke”). As I tried to read the first few names on my list I had a fleeting moment of those memories and suddenly empathized with every substitute teacher I’ve ever had.

iPod video

We started our class by talking about a familiar object – an iPod – and the qualities of it that help us know what it’s used for. These girls are sharp!! Right away they were able to identify the two ports as a clue that it has power and connectivity, and could identify the play, pause and headphone icons as indicators of the media associated with the iPod. Many of them pointed to the screen as evidence that we might be able to see a moving image, and the forward and back arrows as indicators that there is more than one thing that the device does, possibly in sequence. They called out the back of the iPod being a mirror for checking their hair and makeup, a function probably not intended by Jonathan Ive.

We then handed out images of objects for them to write about, including scissors, a chess set, a hammer and a digital alarm clock. We gave them some time to write their ideas down and then moved on to introductions, telling them about us, the program and our expectations.

We were so excited to give out notebooks to the girls! For being part of the program each girl has her own Moleskine Folio notebook to sketch, doodle and write in. We encouraged them to use the sketch books as much as possible and for any purpose they see fit. We expect they’ll find ways to capture their thoughts that are beyond our hopes for them.

Lecture: What is design? What is interaction?

For the rest of class we led a group discussion centered around defining the concepts of “design” and “interaction.” I volunteered to lead the lecture, and it was thoroughly exhilarating! The girls started by naming anything they could think of that represents design to them: fashion, clothes, sneakers, art, colors, ideas, computers, creativity, drawing, community, style, entertainment. Then we named the things designers do: sketch, brainstorm, simplify, observe, imagine, research, identify needs, test, record, think, listen. We encouraged them to practice all of these skills during our class and in their other classes.

Defining the idea of “interaction” was surprisingly easy with this group. We first introduced the idea of a feedback loop by demonstrating an action and reaction. I asked them what happens when they swipe their MetroCard. Every girl in the room could shout out a different piece of feedback that comes out of the turn style: a beep, a green light, the word Go, a message telling you how much money is left on the card, and the sound of the turn style unlocking. Through this example they instantly understood what feedback is, and how this experience is defined as an interaction with a machine. It was pretty amazing.

Suddenly class time was almost over! Mara gave us the five minute warning so quickly put the girls in their groups to come up with a team name and logo. They had a lot of fun coming up with a creative name and getting draw and color in their logos. It was a great, familiar way to end class. We gave them all their own INVENT DESIGN CHANGE buttons and sent them home!

Our students working on describing an object

Success!

The things that worked really well were having the girls start the class with a quiet, individual activity. It was a great way to reduce the chaos of the first day of class and get them comfortable with talking about some of the stuff we’re teaching. The lecture portion was great, too! We were a little worried about making them sit still for so long, but they seemed entirely engaged in coming up with a definition for interaction design.

Challenges: Questions for Next Week

We quickly discovered that high school girls are more interested in talking about television and music than about the designed characteristics of a chess board. Next week we will be better at keeping side conversation to a minimum.

As with any class, there are a few students who aren’t interested in participating in every activity. It’s okay if those students aren’t shouting out every answer, but we want to make sure they’re still paying attention. How can we engage each and every student on a level that’s appropriate for them, knowing that not every person in our class is enthusiastic and outgoing?

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