Tag Archives: design

No Small Fixes: Design Thinking vs. Broken Tape Dispensers

19 Nov

20171114_1252331.jpgMy biggest challenge–and the greatest source of excitement–for this school year is a pilot elective I am leading: Design for Change Studio. For a few years now, a group of us at FIS have been asking how we can incorporate more design thinking and project-based learning into the wider curriculum. Of course, iterations of this work are already happening in Design/Technology, Visual Arts, and Performing Arts, and now Design Thinking initiatives are taking shape in all kinds of forms, all over our campus. Presently, my own efforts are fully focused on this one course.

To take the young designers through a quick design cycle, I asked them to solve a small, everyday frustration I have: broken tape dispensers. The new model of tape dispensers in the supply closet break too easily. When knocked to the floor, the flywheels snap and as there are no replacement spools at hand, the entire device ends up in the recycling bin. Also, I was wondering if there was a way to keep the dispensers from falling in the first place, without permanently adhering them to one spot.

This was not the most world-shifting problem I could think of, but I thought it would be a straightforward challenge for student design teams to tackle within a two-week time frame. The solutions they devised took much longer. But over a month and half, we learned so much that is informing the way we tackle future design challenges.20171016_144701

The students have done a really interesting job explaining what they learned from trying to fix broken tape dispensers. I include some of their posts here, and I hope you will be much more interested in reading their thoughts than my own. After the links, I share a few of my takeaways, too:

Student Blog Posts:

Twisha

Rosaly

Ben

Romi

Eric

Grace

Broken Tape Dispenser Blog Post Assignment Description

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#ELMLE2015 Sketchnoting

14 Mar

Workbook-400It’s been a month since I have posted something new. Know that I have been working away…but I have had plenty of shade tree time, too. It has been a busy but fulfilling winter in Germany.

In the past ten years, I’ve endured my share of light-starved, snowy Februaries. In both Boston and Frankfurt, winter days can feel as if we’re all just sitting inside of some enormous, frozen broom closet waiting for somebody to turn on the lights. A colleague of mine talks about the “ping pong ball sky,” as if we’re all just sitting inside of a ball trying to look out. It’s an apt image.

I fill these grey-white times by learning to do something creative. When I lived in Boston I took all kinds of continuing ed classes: boxing, rock-climbing, acting, singing, writing. This winter, my ambitions are much smaller, but I’ve been experimenting with sketchnoting. My wife bought me two books for Christmas, and we’ve both been practicing in the evenings while vegging out in front of Netflix. At this year’s ELMLE conference in Warsaw, I put my nascent skills to use.

I am not good at this by any means, but my teaching always improves when I embrace the rich learning that comes from doing something at which I truly suck. I am surprised by how much I enjoy taking notes in this format. I listen much more attentively, and the big ideas from each session become stickier. Not every session lent itself to this format, but here are my notes from the conference with a breakdown of the key points from relevant sessions:

My apologies to the presenters. None of you really look like any of my sketches…just chalk up your Quasimodolike effigies to my not-so-budding artistic skills.

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Design Thinking: It’s Natural to Be a Bit Confused

11 Oct

Socratic Ignorance can teach us something about our attitudes toward Design Thinking. Socrates earned his rep for being a wise man by admitting, “I don’t know.” When he wanted an answer, he would go to the experts of his day and unleash a series of questions that eventually lead to the politician, economist, philosopher, teacher, butcher, or farmer replying, “I don’t know.” Of course, in the process of all his questioning, Socrates learned much, but he never saw knowledge as static. Instead, he applied a consistent method to an ever-moving target.

I know that, for me, the concept of design thinking can feel like a moving target. Ask ten people for a definition of design thinking, and you’ll receive ten different definitions. And, what is the difference between design thinking, studio learning, Project-based Learning (PBL), Problem-based Learning (PBL), experiential learning and Challenge-based Learning? Honestly, I don’t know.

I’m being cheeky, though. I do know…kind of. There are subtle differences between these various approaches, but I am beginning to think these differences don’t matter much. In fact, I think these various approaches are different “brandings” for a very elemental concept that most educators intuit to be true and effective and elegant:

When we give students real situations they must navigate and use timely feedback and provocative questions to guide students in revising work until it is truly original, personal, and professional…real learning happens.

I have spent considerable time in recent years reading, researching, observing, and questioning just what design thinking means in the context of the classroom. In the process, I have learned much about how I can create student-centered learning experiences that put the onus of critical decision making on the students, not me. In this post I share some of the most useful resources I have found:

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