Posts Tagged ‘environment’

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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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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Environment & Learning

April 20th, 2010 by Katie Koch | 1 Comment | Filed in Discovery, Inspirations, Research

A child from a family rich in books is 19 percentage points more likely to complete university than a comparable child growing up without a home library.”

In this New York Times post, it is revealed that having more books (and other valuable resources, perhaps?) in the home increases a child’s chances of academic success.

In our thinking about design education we’ve been very focused on how to promote creative thinking in the classroom and at the school environment. Of course this is where we have the greatest amount of access to the way students learn, but it makes me wonder if there are solutions we can consider that affect the ways in which children are learning in their home environment, outside of the classroom and their peers. Without access to design classes at a K-12 level, this is the space where designers learn how to think. Many young designers are self-propelled, seeking out the necessary resources to learn about design without guidance or formal academic support until the undergraduate level.

The NYT article reminded me of the Creative Mornings talk with Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, founder of Apartment Therapy. He began his career as an interior designer and transitioned into elementary education. He spoke about his unique position at a small school where he was able to visit his students’ homes once a year. His discovery was similar: the students whose homes were organized and clean performed better at school.

How does environment shape a child’s capacity to learn? How does it impact his willingness to think about new ideas and possibilities rather than simply following a prescribed educational track?

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