Posts Tagged ‘classroom’

Teacher as Experience Designer

January 25th, 2011 by Katie Koch | 1 Comment | Filed in Design, Personal Stories

For my thesis I’m creating an interactive toolkit that helps teaching professionals build a reflective practice. My thesis is that if teachers are able to reflect upon their work, they’ll be more inspired to be creative. If we reframe the idea of teaching as a practical art, there is a lot of overlap with the practice of experience design.

In Ralph Caplan’s By Design, he states, “College professors plainly ought to be designers of situations, but they rarely are.” He continues:

Students are not the product. The only educational product schools can be reasonably charged with designing is the educational environment – not just the classrooms and dormitories and recreation centers that college presidents dedicate their energy to acquiring, but the situations in which students interact with each other and with faculty members. (Caplan, 148)

I believe this same concept should be applied to teachers at the high school level. They are charged with presenting a certain body of knowledge to their students, but the difference between a mediocre teacher and a great teacher is in the environment he or she creates for her students. If a teacher is a designer of a classroom experience, then why not engage that teacher in the habits of designers, including critique of her own work?

My thesis is coming along, with the final deadline in April some time. I’m conducting my first interaction prototype next week where I will gather content and feedback for my next steps. If you’d like to participate, please let me know!

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Graphic Jammin’

October 8th, 2010 by Carmen Dukes | 3 Comments | Filed in Sketching, Teaching

How many ways could you describe “social” or “community” if we only gave you a pen, sticky notes, and 2 minutes? Or what about “happy” or observe”? Would you be stumped or run out of sticky notes?

Wednesday’s class was all about brainstorming. Our students are familiar with the concept of brainstorming through class assignments and projects, so Katie and I wanted to give them a unique experience that would get them sketching like crazy and out of their seats.

Looking for a fun way to brainstorm, we decided to adapt a game called Graphic Jam, from the book, Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown and James Macanufo. The game challenges participants to visualize words that often seem too abstract to imagine in a tangible way. Participants are given two minutes to sketch as many ideas as they can to represent the chosen word.

We thought this would be a great assignment for our class for a few reasons. Many of our girls keep saying to us that they’re not any good at drawing, and we are determined to break that mindset and get them comfortable with thinking visually. And, we want them to know that having lots of ideas is critical to finding the right idea. We also wanted them to know that brainstorming can be more alive than just writing words on paper.

The Graphic Jam was a huge success! Each word generated tons of tiny sketches. When time was up and the alarm rang, the girls rushed out of their seats to post their sketches to the chalkboard, with over half the group eagerly volunteering to explain their sketches in front of the class.
Running to the board
Presenting

At the end of class, we had a chalkboard full of of colorful post-it note sketches. Students who volunteered to share their sketches got the “Stand Up, Say Yeah” button for Volunteerism. Yeah! What was the consensus from the students? “That was fun!”
Our classroom
Social

Show Me Your Moleskine Notebook!
We handed out “Sketchtastic” buttons to a few girls who shared their sketches, poetry and pictures from last week. We’re hoping to see more next week and share a few on the blog.

Week 2 Lessons: To Stick or Not to Stick?

  • Standard post-it notes don’t stick well to dusty chalkboards.
  • We need to be more aware of the moment when conversations go from relevant to not. Our students are awesome, but in the end they are still 14 and 15 year old girls.
  • It’s easy for us to get wrapped up in the fun of our activities, but as teachers we need to remember to ask the “hard questions” and challenge students to think more critically about their ideas when they present them.

More Supplies, Please?
Students are asking us if they can take home some of our materials, and others have requested pencils for sketching. After our class is through we’d like for our students to be able to continue sketching, collecting, and creating on their own, but many of them don’t have access to the materials that we take for granted in our work. We’d love to be able to give them a small grab bag of designer goodies to continue their explorations.

The Final Days of Kickstarter…
There are only 5 days left in our Kickstarter campaign and we’d love to see your support. We need less than $2500 to make our goal! Please support our program with a donation or spread the news to your friends!

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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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The Value of Standing Up

June 15th, 2010 by Katie Koch | 1 Comment | Filed in Design, Inspirations

One of the first concepts taught to blossoming interaction designers is affordances. At its most basic definition, an affordance is a quality of an object that allows an individual to perform an action. For example, a pot’s handle is an affordance to pick up the pot. It fits conveniently into our hands, and is less hot than the rest of the pot.

Once understood, it’s hard for a curious designer to escape the constant questioning of the world around her. Which objects have affordances? Which ones do not? How far can I stretch the definition?

I was recently admiring the well-executed plans for Stanford’s d.school in an article from Fast Company. After I finished drooling over the notion of having a room entirely covered in whiteboard paint I came across the following item:

The deliberately annoying periodic table is designed to keep people moving. It’s a little too small for four students to use comfortably and a little too high for sitting. “We put students in a slightly uncomfortable position to push them into adapting to slightly uncomfortable behaviors,” says Doorley.

periodic table

My first thought was that the designer of this table has surely mastered the concept of affordances; the table’s design prevents unfavorable behavior. And then I thought about how great it would be to have a table that forces you to be uncomfortable if you try to sit down! I know I always think more clearly when I’m standing up, marker in hand, ready to act upon a fleeting thought.

One of our first and most important values in the design of Project: Interaction’s curriculum was to make sure every lesson is hands-on. Like the d.school, we don’t think sitting down is the best way to study design. Design is as much about practice and experience as it is about studying and planning. We’ll make sure to have both parts covered, even if it means we have to take away the chairs.

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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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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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