Saturday, November 5, 2011

Design Thinking: A New Challenge

This is going to be one of those posts where I'm actually writing for me to try and make some sense of a whole bunch of ideas for the next steps in my multimedia course.

Until now, the term 'multimedia' has largely been a farce because I haven't dealt with a true variety of media with students. I'm a video guy, that's where I'm comfortable so that's what we've done. Everything has been about the end product that is due on day X and here's the evaluation rubric.

Now I'm excited to throw that out and start fresh next week.

Wrapping My Brain Around This
With my recent acquisition of a couple Makerbots I'm pumped to be able to take an idea for a product/object/implement that fills a need, draw out some sketches, model it with Google's Sketchup, and then print it in 3D. Take the model, try it out and make revisions as needed until it's completed to my satisfaction. 

The video below is showing part of the 16 hrs of work I've put into the Makerbot so far. 

Basically in a very simplistic way, this is a way of creation through the design process.

Over the past few days I've spent time looking for resources about the Design Process and found a few that were extremely helpful. Here's a Google Doc that I created to share them. It's pretty lean right now, but bear with me, I'll add more this weekend.

I stopped for a while today and thought about where else I could go for resources and inspiration for this, and TED seemed like a logical one. Tim Brown from IDEO gave a talk 2 years ago and it contains some interesting points that I've taken to heart:

"Design thinking [has] rapidly moved on to learning by making. Instead of thinking of what to build, we're building in order to think".

Pretty awesome statement.  He goes on to discuss prototyping as a way of speeding up the process of evolution of ideas. The faster the prototyping process, the faster our ideas can evolve. 

This presents an interesting situation for educators. We don't leave time in our lessons for multiple ideas to be pursued. The teacher traditionally has an idea of what the correct answer is, and is basically waiting for the students to spit it back at them. The students know this, and in order to play along with the game, they simply respond accordingly because it's a whole lot less painful. In essence we've trained passive thinkers. I reflected on this last weekend in a video (skip to 1:45):

Going through the design process with students is going to be tough for highly trained passive learners, and myself who is used to knowing where we will end up. Right now I don't know where we'll end up. Scary, but exciting. Tim Brown's talk highlighted the need for the population to be shift from consumption to participation. This hits the nail on the educational head. He remarks that:

"instead of seeing it's primary objective as consumption, design thinking is beginning to explore the potential of experiences that are meaningful and productive"

From their Educator's Guide, IDEO's Design Thinking Process details 5 steps:

1. Discovery – I have a challenge. How do I approach it? 
2. Interpretation – I learned something. How do I interpret it?
3. Ideation – I see an opportunity. What do I create?
4. Experimentation – I have an idea. How do I build it?
5. Evolution – I tried something new. How do I evolve it?

Bumpy Roads Ahead
Some great discussion ideas and  scenarios have come up in my research and from conversations I've had with Terry Kaminski and Neil Stephenson. 

1. What are the big ideas and  challenges that I can give students? Typically teachers give an end product as the goal of their assignments, such as an essay, a lab report, a free throw. This way of thinking is confining and narrow. I will probably need to have dedicated 

2. Technology might be a barrier to learning. Will JIT Learning (just in time) cut it with creating tangible prototypes once students take their ideas into Google Sketchup and other programs? I will need to spend some deliberate learning time concentrating on their sketchup skills to make sure it doesn't frustrate them. On the other hand, with all the online tutorials out there, perhaps recognizing that more discovery is needed will be part of the process. My job will be to guide them towards that realization. 

3. Reinforcing the process and re-iteration will be keys. Are students going to just want to get it done? How can I pose questions and help them look critically at their thinking, planning and prototyping? 

4. The end result in plastic from the Makerbot isn't what this is all about. It's a nice reward to have something they can physically take with them at the end of the project, but should take a back seat to the process. 

5. Maintaining enthusiasm. I can see several students ripping through the process just wanting to print things right away. This is where phrasing the challenge, and enforcement of the steps will be key. 

6. Balancing individual contribution while working in a supportive team environment. We all were in a group project in school where we were the one who did all the work or none of the work. By creating design teams, with cool names to boot, students can bounce ideas off each other, and then take the challenges presented to them and plan and interpret them in their own ways. Individuals an create their own designs and then present them to the group. The group may be inspired to take components of  several models and incorporate them 

7. Share awesome ideas with students. is buzzing with tons of awesome things to inspire.

8. The BIGGER the idea the better. Tim Brown's Ted Talk  had a slide at 13:50 had some HUGE questions that designers face today. Why not incorporate questions at this level to my students? Do I go HUGE global/issues based, or smaller local, challenge based with students creating household items and products that directly affect them? Start small and build up? What do you think? 

9. Get my class full of stuff. Paper, cardboard, scissors, glue, paper towel tubes, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, anything that students can use to prototype. I need to treat the plastic model as their 'final' prototype. It's not to say that they can't change it once they see the printed plastic model. That would actually be a requirement.

10. Blogging is a perfect fit for this process for students. 

11. Big questions bring big ideas. Is design thinking new? Or are we just quantifying and labelling a process that teachers often do in their teaching? That's another debate for another post. 

I've got a lot to learn still about the Makerbot, Google Sketchup and how I'm going to present the design process to my students. This will continue to be my "Learning in Public" project over the next few months. 

So, I put it back to you, the reader. What's your take on design thinking and implementing it in the classroom? What advice would you give me before I take off on this new adventure?

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