Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Lending a hand at the Yale Education Leadership Conference

March 27th, 2011 by Katie Koch | 2 Comments | Filed in Business, Design, Inspirations

Last week I was asked to help facilitate a workshop about the Digital Classroom at the Yale Education Leadership Conference. Below is my recap of the rewarding day, originally posted at pixelkated.com.

Expanding Solutions for the Digital Classroom

What happens when a group of designers lead a brainstorming session with teams of school administrators, MBA students and educational policy makers? The future of the digital classroom…

On Friday my SVA classmates Clint and Derek and I took the morning train to New Haven, CT to join the Yale Education Leadership Conference. We joined a panel session about the Digital Classroom hosted by Larry Berger, CEO of Wireless Generation.

Larry invited us to work with his team of designers to lead a workshop with the group of administrators, management students, and education innovators at the conference. We stayed for the day to iterate on the solutions that came out of the workshop session.

The Brief

After watching a short panel presentation from four leaders in classroom software development, each designer led a workshop with a group of 4-7 participants.

Each group addressed a common problem:

It may be too time consuming for many teachers to keep track of all of this student data, to locate patterns in the data, and to understand how to prioritize certain information about their students in order to design lessons and small-group activities.

And worked on a single task:

With your group, design an interface that would allow a teacher to visualize data collected regarding students’ progress toward the common core math standard below. Ideally, this interface would allow the teacher to see student mastery of specific sub-skills in order to create differentiated small-group lessons.

The Workshop Experience

All of the designers agreed beforehand on a common framework for the workshop.

  1. Lead a discussion about the problem space to establish a common language among participants. Since the groups would be assembled of a variety of people with different backgrounds and ideas, this step is important to beginning a productive conversation.
  2. Define a unique problem statement to solve during the session. What does our group care about? Choosing a specific angle helps all group members be more invested in the session.
  3. Discuss what we already know about the problem. The 45 minutes allotted for the workshop isn’t enough time to do research. A quick and dirty research method is to leverage the knowledge of each group member to define the problems and opportunities in the space.
  4. Rapid sketching and solution generation. The more ideas we can produce, the more likely we are to come up with a great solution.

In my group we began with a healthy discussion about the problem of real-time data collection and visualization, which I captured on Post-It notes for everyone to refer to as the conversation progressed.

We reached a hurdle in the middle. Everyone was content to politely discuss existing solutions, but there was very little movement toward ideas for new solutions.

The tone changed when I reframed the conversation with a new question that directed the group’s thoughts back to our users. “Think of a teacher in a classroom with 25 students. What is the most important piece of data the teacher needs to see?” Suddenly one woman announced she had an idea. She began describing her idea to the table. I handed a marker to her and asked if she would be able to sketch the concept she had just described. She gladly accepted the challenge and started drawing on the communal poster paper in the middle of the table.

Once the first person started sketching it broke the barrier between group observation and collaborative generation. Instantly everyone at the table was able to talk about the new idea, adding on improvements and creating new sketches for similar concepts. The energy was tangible as my group of quiet talkers suddenly came alive.

The Design Studio

After the workshop all six designers gathered to share and discuss the outcomes of our separate groups. Across our many ideas we saw a clear solution for how a real-time data visualization system might be built. We decided to pursue three parts of the system: student input on a mobile device, teacher dashboard, and a group display visible to students and teachers in real time.

We spent the next few hours brainstorming around the three different touch points and sketched a few detailed drawings for how the solutions might work.

Teacher Facing

May and Jeremy worked out a web app and iPad app design based off the rubric used for standards-based grading. Jeremy had the idea to include social features allowing for peer review with other teachers and among students.

Student Facing

Clint, Takao and Courtney envisioned a system of dynamic mobile devices that would allow students to collaborate by subject matter and assignment within a classroom.

Group Facing

Derek, Mo and I started with the idea that we could use games and a highly visible “leaderboard” to give students the sense that they’re all contributing toward the common goal of learning. We designed a game that would reflect each student’s progress in a lesson.

A Day Well Spent

I headed into the workshop with an understanding of how to move a group of high school students in the direction of a solution. It was much different working with my group of educated adults whose heads are already full of optimized solutions. I quickly saw the value of throwing out wacky ideas and adding or removing brainstorming constraints to get them to think outside of what is normally expected.

Spending the day with a group of talented folks was enlightening and enriching for me. As is often the case, I learned as much from the workshop participants and other designers as they might have learned from me.

Sharing in the mutual exchange of knowledge and awareness was refreshing and delightful. I look forward to many more workshop opportunities to come!

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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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How did you first learn about design?

October 7th, 2010 by Katie Koch | 4 Comments | Filed in Design, Inspirations, Interviews, Videos

We asked some of our favorite designers
How did you first learn about design? Was it a person who shared it with you, or another moment of inspiration?

They said:

“How can I come and do what you do?”

Matias Corea, Co-founder & Chief Designer at Behance

“I can really distinctly tell the difference between Garamond and Goudy.”

Ian Curry, Lead Interaction Designer at Local Projects

“I was already running for student council, just so I could make posters.”

Jessi Arrington, Co-founder, Creative Director at WORKSHOP

Rock and roll!

Russ Maschmeyer, SVA Student & Strange Native

“My father… insisted that the things in our household were well designed.”

Paul Pangaro, CTO and Founder at CyberneticLifestyles.com

“You can never really stay within the lines.”

Liz Danzico, Chair, MFA in Interaction Design

“It’s that moment [with Legos] when you build something not out of the instructions on the box.”

Carl Collins, Information Architect at Temboo

“It was take your daughter to work day, and I thought my own mom’s job was really boring…”

Katie Koch, Co-Founder & Designer, Project: Interaction

“Playing with the world around you, and reassembling it.”

Bill DeRouchey, Creative director at BankSimple

Inspired by a unique blend of Tufte and Bringhurst

Nick Disabato, Author, Cadence & Slang

“I knew I wanted to be a designer when I went to Pittsburgh”

Carmen Dukes, Co-Founder & Designer, Project: Interaction

Feeling inspired?

We have just a few days left to raise $2483. Share your story with us here and support Project: Interaction on Kickstarter!

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Greetings from Rhode Island

October 4th, 2010 by Katie Koch | 2 Comments | Filed in Design, Inspirations, Resources

Carmen and I went to Providence, RI this weekend for the Better World by Design conference, put on entirely by Brown and RISD students. We were excited and inspired by what other students and professionals are working on in the topics of urban renewal, sustainability and social entrepreneurship.

We met a lot of new friends and ran into some old ones, too. We had a great lunch with Robert Fabricant, VP of Creative at frog design and one of our SVA faculty members. He was excited to hear about the progress we’ve made with Project: Interaction over the past six months and we were happy to get the update on his work, too. I was especially excited to see my former colleague Kendra Shimmell from Adaptive Path speaking on the health care panel. She’s a lively and enthusiastic voice in this niche design community, and an asset to any conversation on the topic.

Our thoughts on some of the great sessions we attended:

Katie with socks
sketches and socks

Rapid Prototyping
On the first day we went to a rapid protoyping workshop led by Project M and Brute Labs, where we were challenged to quickly come up with a lot of ideas about how to more effectively provide resources to Providence’s homeless population. The fun really got started when they handed out 10 pairs of socks to each group and challenged us to reimagine what they might be used for. The groups came up with some amazing product ideas for the homeless population, including a woven sock blanket, a loofah for cleansing, a water filter made of socks, and even a sling for carrying loads of plastic bags. In only a 20 minute session we were able to collaborate and come up with more ideas than any one person could have alone.
Nathan Shedroff: Consumerism
Nathan was scheduled to report back to the community about sustainability as a followup from his talk last year. He dropped a bombshell by opening his talk with a slide, “I’m sick of talking about sustainability. Aren’t you?” Instead he suggests we focus on Consumerism as the real problem, and find ways to make products more meaningful to have lasting value for the people who use them.

Damon Rich: Design & Deliberation
Damon Rich wants to make the invisible visible by creating compelling opportunities for citizens to get involved with the policy issues that matter to their communities. He presented ways that we can use conflict as an opportunity for education. In all of the examples he showed he talked about the importance not only of doing these investigations but also sharing them with more than the immediate audience it affects. It’s important to give back to the greater community to achieve a better understanding of the issues that we all face.

Ethics in Design
The discussion on this panel was inspiring and motivational, with every person walking away feeling empowered to be a better designer and a better person. The theme of the conversation was that it’s time for designers to take responsibility along with the great power we have to change the world. The best line from the day came from Maria Giudice of Hot Studio: This is the best time to be a designer because everything is f*ed up!

A great takeaway from the conversation is that design is about people. It’s an inherently social activity, and we can’t forget that everything we create is used by people, whether it’s a product or a brief for a project being written and read by people. Maria’s analogy was thinking of designers as midwives; designers see the world differently and are able to connect the dots.

Activism in the Arts panel

Activism in the Arts
In a moment of triumph, Ian Russell combatted the idea that one person can’t make a difference by sharing his point of view: a collective group of people who work together to distill values into change can make a bigger impact. On the topic of compromise being an “icky” word, it was refreshing to hear Noah Scalin remind us that you don’t have to compromise your ideals as you mature, but you do have to accept that you have different values, and those may not include a mansion and a four-car garage. Noah confirmed a thought that often circles around my head as I scan my Google reader and twitter feeds: Too much consumption makes you feel bad about yourself. Go create instead.

Design and Business
Carmen attended this panel discussion, and took a few important lessons away:
To differentiate yourself from competitors you need a vision, a voice and something unique. We’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as we try to communicate the value of our program to potential partners, teachers and, most importantly, the students in our class who may not stick around if they’re not convinced of our greatness.

Learn to speak the language of the people you’re interacting with. For us, we’re learning to speak the language of not just the designers we work with, but also the educators and students who might be interested in working with us.

Have empathy. When working with people it’s extremely important to build a relationship with them, which includes understanding their point of view and needs. They are often more complex and deep than what you may initially expect.

Carmen at the Expo

The Expo
For the first time the conference invited participants to come together and share their ideas with the conference community. We snuck in at the last minute and were able to share a table in the education corner. (Phew!) We met a ton of people interested in what we’re doing, with our audience ranging from architects, design students, engineers, and even a couple of middle school students who eagerly wanted us to come to their high school next year.

Kate Orff
The last session we caught was an invigorating talk by Kate Orff of Columbia University. Her team developed an innovative solution to cleaning up the Gowanus Canal by creating oyster reefs that will act to reduce coastal contamination and the effects of rising sea levels. The reefs will create new community space in the Red Hook and Bay Ridge neighborhoods, and in time will change the relationship New Yorkers have with the shoreline. If you’re curious about eating the oysters, they’ll be safe and edible by 2050!

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