By Matt Levinson
Schools are the perfect breeding ground for fostering students’ questions, a place to spark students’ interests and ideas for designing innovative solutions to real problems. Everyday, educators have opportunities to help kids develop the tools, skills and habits to come up with meaningful, lasting solutions to problems.
Take, for example, an incident that occurred in a first-grade teacher’s classroom at Marin Country Day School in Northern California, which provided an opportunity to understand design thinking. Students were struck by the sound of a bird that crashed into the classroom window and died. After the teacher brought in a lower school science specialist to give an in-depth look at the qualities and characteristics of the bird, from sight to body structure, she challenged students to come up with designs to prevent another bird from crashing into the window. The teacher took her students through the design thinking process to figure out a way to save the birds.
For students to come up with authentic, functional designs, they had to have a deep understanding of birds. In scientific circles, the process goes like this, according to Teaching Institute of Excellence in STEM President Jan Morrison: “Designing is cognitive modeling in which a person gains insight into a problem, determines alternative pathways, and assesses the likelihood of success between solution sets.”
So the first grade students had to first gain insight into the problem. This is where the lower school science specialist and her expertise with birds came into play. The specialist was able to help students better understand the features and habits of birds, so that students could then “determine alternative pathways” to help the birds survive and not crash into the classroom windows.
In addition, STEM classrooms need to be “equipped to support spontaneous questioning as well Continue reading
In step with the popularity and growing momentum of Maker Faire, the “maker movement” is going global with the help of the Exploratorium museum’s Global Studios.
After 40 plus years of work in this field, the Exploratorium, which is based in San Francisco, is stepping up its involvement in hands-on, informal science and technology education by working with groups across the world to spread and grow the movement. In addition to participating in all the Maker Faire events, bringing mini Tinkering Studios™ where visitors can experiment with the activities freely, the museum has also been called on to teach these ideas in far-reaching spots like Saudi Arabia and Italy.
“Tinkering offers an opportunity to decide for yourself what it is you are interested in learning”
“Tinkering is not something we invented or anyone invented,” said Luigi Anzivino, scientific content developer for the Tinkering Studio in the museum. “I think it’s a fundamental way that human beings have of being in the world. There’s nothing that we’ve discovered about this. So, it belongs to everyone. All we are trying to do is reveal that and allow people to let that come to the surface.”
The group’s goal is to leave a lasting impression on the sites they visit — what they call a tinkering disposition. “A tinkering disposition is something that tells you that the world is knowable; you can find out something about the world by yourself and you don’t have to be an expert in any one Continue reading
A group of Harvard researchers is teaming up with schools in Oakland, Calif. to explore how kids learn through making. Through an initiative called Project Zero, they’re investigating the theory that kids learn best when they’re actively engaged in designing and creating projects to explore concepts. It’s closely aligned with the idea of design thinking and the Maker Movement that’s quickly taking shape in progressive education circles.
Though it’s still in very early stages — just launched at the beginning of this school year — researchers and educators at the school want to know how kids learn by tinkering – fooling around with something until one understands how it works. They want to know what happens cognitively – how this learning process helps form habits of mind, builds character and how it affects the individual.
To do that, they are working with both private and public schools in Oakland, headed by the Harvard researchers and 15 participating teachers who meet in study groups every six weeks to share ideas and to form a community.
“It’s not a lesson plan; it’s not a curriculum; it’s a way to look at the world.”
Harvard will give teachers specific activities to incorporate into the lessons they already plan to teach. Educators will report back to the researchers on how the class behaved and what they noticed about their students through surveys and conversations. “Schools have been really open to this,” said Jennifer Ryan, the Project Zero coordinator. “It’s not a lesson plan; it’s not a curriculum; it’s a way to look at the world.”
Studio H's design/build curriculum in Realm Charter School in Berkeley.
By Melanie Kahl
Designers are privileged to work within a fascinating collision of fields at a time when the conversation could not be more pertinent. The intersection of design and education is ripe for exploration –– its metaphors, roles, spaces, and philosophies. These worlds have a lot to learn from one another.
The design field covers the gamut of industries in art and science of making ideas, mindsets, and methodologies tangible. And the education world comprises a collection of formal and informal institutions focused on cultivating and refining skills and knowledge. In our ever-accelerating and complex world, the fields of education and design are a powerful combination.
“The biggest thing that design gives students is this amazing sense of possibility…that everything and anything is possible.”
Bringing ideas to life is inherently empowering. And solving design problems with a community or team and seeing their immediate impact is that much more compelling. This simple and powerful act of creation is where we will begin our exploration recasting the role of students, teachers, parents, and education leaders as designers.
In fact, the classroom is a strong platform on which to tap into the principles of design practice: what can the classroom learn from the studio, and maybe more importantly, what can education Continue reading
Flickr: Corey Leopold
By Greg Stack
So much about how and where kids learn has changed over the years, but the physical structure of schools has not. Looking around most school facilities — even those that aren’t old and crumbling – it’s obvious that so much of it is obsolete today, and yet still in wide use.
1. COMPUTER LABS. Students are connected to the Internet everywhere except in school. Regardless of their income bracket, most kids carry around a world of information in their pockets on their mobile devices, and yet we force them to power down and disconnect, and we confine them in obsolete computer labs. A modern school needs to have connectivity everywhere and treat computers more like pencils than microscopes.
At Northern Beaches Christian School students learn everywhere.
2. LEARNING IN PRESCRIBED PLACES. When you ask people to remember a meaningful learning experience from high school, chances are the experience didn’t take place in a space designed for learning. Working in groups, while on a trip, while doing a project or learning while talking with friends — those are the lasting, meaningful learning experiences. Yet we don’t design schools to accommodate these activities and focus only on the formal spaces.
3. TEACHER-CENTERED CLASSROOM. Classrooms were designed for lecture and crowd control, with the teacher as the central figure of knowledge and authority. The teacher had knowledge to impart through direct instruction and the current classroom structure works pretty well for this. This basic classrooms structure is the same, though in some schools, the chalkboard has been replaced by the interactive “Smart Board.” In progressive classrooms, the structure has changed: small groups of kids working, project work, and student presentations require rethinking this model.
4. ISOLATED CLASSROOMS
. Tony Wagner of the Harvard School of Education and the author of the Global Achievement Gap says: “Isolation is the enemy of improvement” and yet most schools Continue reading
Teacher Karen Fierst tries out design thinking.
What do a designer and teacher have in common? Turns out there are a lot of similarities.
“Teachers design everyday. They structure all kinds of solutions,” says Sandy Speicher from seminal design firm Ideo. “At any given moment, they’re designing a response to a student and how they bring out content in different ways so kids can understand it if they’re struggling. All of these are design decisions.”
“This is about making what you already do more enjoyable and more effective.”
It’s just a much a matter of how they perceive themselves. When Speicher explains her idea to teachers, she says “there’s this ‘Aha,’ this shift to realizing that they do the have power of changing the situation in front of them.”
With the help of on-the-ground teachers, Speicher and her design colleagues at Ideo have come up with a toolkit, and an entire website called Design Thinking for Educators devoted to explaining how to use it, to help educators build the design process into their day. Continue reading