The pedagogy–design process

So far, most of our blogging has been about the physical environment and the materials/tools we have incorporated into our makerspace. The clubs have been so successful, it’s easy to write about them! But as we begin to introduce maker concepts into our instruction, this is where the real learning for us begins.

My teaching assignment involves  giving release time to Brian, Carole and Irene. I only see their students once a week for 40 minutes, so we are somewhat limited in what we do. Over the past few months, I have been introducing Design Process to the students. (author unknown)

Although there are many visual models of Design Thinking, this is the one I chose to use. I like the logical flow, that there is no set entry point or end, and it’s pretty easy to understand. Students can see visually, that, within this process, they may start at different steps depending on what the problem is and what they already know about it. And they also see that there is no set ending place.

I really wanted to open this up and observe student reaction, so I didn’t structure this too much. I modelled a simple life problem (I can’t wear my gloves and use my smartphone), then modelled how I would move through the process.

Students chose to work alone or in small groups, and found their own life problem. This in itself could have been a barrier, but most students were able to come up with a problem. Here are some examples:

  • I can’t play football while wearing my gloves
  • The HWDSB ipad covers are ineffective
  • the wind blows my hood down
  • sometimes my ipad gets wet

Then, they brainstormed possible solutions–I asked them to come up with at least three. This was a struggle for some; asking students to imagine beyond what already exists isn’t easy. Next, they chose one solution and created a materials list. Some also sketched a plan.

Over the past few weeks, students have been creating and testing their prototypes. Some have moved quickly and are improving and retesting. Our final step will be a reflection within this blog.

Student reaction has been quite positive. Most of them are enthusiastic, motivated and invested. The collaboration and the communication within groupings has involved critical thinking and problem-solving. Many of them have embraced Design Process fully. Some are working on their projects at home and in the makerspace at nutrition breaks.

There have been a few opportunities to show the value in failure. One group was attempting to use hardened white glue as an eraser. They realized that their containers were too big, and the amount of glue used was too large, so it wouldn’t harden enough. When they pulled out the thick, malleable glue, they realized they had made putty. Two awestruck and excited students! Another group was building an insulated coffee cup holder, and when I tested it, I dribbled coffee all over! They weren’t the least bit upset, but immediately started chattering to each other about how to improve their prototype.

I’m hearing discussions about what their next problem/creation might be. They are engaged and interested. So heartening to see and hear.

Carole recently found this amazing resource, Teaching Design Process in Makerspaces . There is a great graphic organizer on the page, and I think I may use it for students who need it. A comprehensive assessment piece if it is used through the entire process.

Next steps: I will try doing this again, and relate it to science or social studies. Carole, Irene and Brian are thinking about how Design Process can be applied to classroom instruction (language, science, math, etc.).