Extraordinary Design Thinking: The Extraordinaires Strike Again!

On Monday, July 18, I had the opportunity to get back into the Professional Development sphere.  Working with PlusUs , I was able to do a 1/2 day of professional development for teachers in Philadelphia’s University of the Arts “Professional Institute for Educators.”  The class is being taught by Phil Holcombe, founder of PlusUs and an instructor for the PIE program.

It’s been almost a decade since I’ve done any kind of teaching at the continuing ed level outside my own district, but stepping back in was easy.  I pulled out a couple of improv games to set the culture (thanks @wickeddecent and @lndeutsch), organized my deck of Prof. Development activities, bought about $25 worth of toothbrushes (my “go to” object when asking people to look for innovative designs and to read intention out of those objects–post a comment if you want to know more about toothbrushes and how my concern for dental health lead me to design), grabbed my Extraordinaires Design Studio and a few bags stuffed with materials to run the Cooper Hewitt’s “Ready Set Design” activity with the Extraordinaires as the client.

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I’ve said this before, but there’s no better way to help someone understand what design and design thinking are than to actually engage them in a short project that’s deep in empathy for the user and allows them to work quickly and collaboratively.  Reflecting afterward sets the learning and allows it to serve as a touchstone for all the other activities and learning to come this week.  (It’s a week-long class.)

Again, if you’re trying to help people understand the “what” of design and design thinking, I can’t recommend the Extraordinaires enough.  In 30 minutes learners can run through empathy, definition, ideation, prototyping, and feedback.  Running that order the first time through, for first time design thinkers helps develop a familiarity with DT as a heuristic.  Second and third iterations are possible, and a more organic approach to DT starts to take over.

 

 

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A View from the Crossroads: Rethinking College Admissions

THE BEAUTIFUL DANGER OF COFFEE AFTER 2PM

Saturday night, somewhere around 12:20 AM, I was searching my twitter feed and came across a post from Grant Lichtman.  The tweet linked to a report from the Harvard Graduate School of Education entitled, Turning the Tide:  Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions.”  (Yes, I was up at 12:20 AM.  That warning about coffee after 2PM?  It’s true.)

I fell asleep looking at the report, but had the presence to mark it so I could check it when I woke up.  I’m glad I did because it represents work that has the potential to create a sea change in education at all levels….

Check out the rest of this post at Plusus.org

A View from the Crossroads: Design as Liberal Education

The emergence of design thinking in the twentieth century . . . lies in a concern to connect and integrate useful knowledge from the arts and sciences alike, but in ways that are suited to the problems and purposes of the present.  

All men and women require a liberal art of design to live well in the complexity of the framework based in signs, things, actions, and thoughts.

–Richard Buchanan, “Wicked Problems in Design Thinking”

Complexity Rules

The world is not getting any simpler.

Ok, I have a firm grasp of the obvious.  But let’s be clear and clichéd: children today will inherit a world we can hardly imagine  Little of what we teach them will be relevant even 10 years from now.  What, then, do we do to help our educational system, which always changes at a glacial pace, keep up with an increasingly shifting and complex world?  

A.J. Juliani and John Spencer’s new book, Empower  (2017) offers a reframing of the issue when they write:  “Our job as teachers, parents, and leaders is not to prepare kids for ‘something,’ our job is to help kids prepare themselves for ‘anything.’”  Such inspiration is wonderful, but what does this preparation look like?  What are its implications for education?

Please check out the rest of this blog post at Plusus.

 

Extraordinaires Design Club: Designerly Minded Teachers

As followers of this blog may know, I have been working with and observing a group of Middle School learners since late November as they meet weekly to play and learn with the Extraordinaires Design Studio.  We started in November and December by getting to know one another,  learning about user-centered design and empathy’s central place in that endeavor, and exploring the Design Studio kits.

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In the intervening months, we have learned more about visualizing ideas, practiced the ancient Greek technique of “ekphrasis” with a high-school student and a Hollywood writer/producer/director, built 20-minute prototypes from Dollar Store parts; we even skyped with Rory O’Connor, one of the designers responsible for the Extraordinaires and generally had a lot of fun imagining how the world might be a better place, not only for the extraordinary characters who are the Extraordinaires, but also for us.

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However, the most interesting and rewarding event of the year and the one that holds the most promise for moving design-based learning into more of the classes in my own district was the Extraordinaires Design Sprint we held for teachers at Perkiomen Valley Middle School East on Wednesday, May 17th.

Over the course of four club meetings, the students in the Extraordinaires Design Club and I organized an experience for teachers that combined the Extraordinaires Design Studio, design activity sheets from the teacher’s resources page of the Extraordinaires website, and the Cooper-Hewitt’s “Ready, Set, Design” activity.  Teamed in pairs, six teachers from different disciplines received an Extraordinaire, a Project Card, and a Think Card.  They also received a brown paper bag containing equal parts of “structures, fasteners, and surfaces.”  Pairs squared off against pairs to compete for awards. Two teams designed cooking utensils for The Giant, two teams designed an object to clean yourself with for The Robot, and two teams (had we had more in attendance) would have designed a music player for The Superhero.

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I’ll not detail the full lesson here.  If you would like to run the lesson with your students, use it in professional development sessions, or just play around with it on your own, you can find a link to it here.  (If you do use the lesson, drop a comment back to me letting me know how it went, what modifications you made, etc.)

The club has one more meeting, next Wednesday, May 24.  We’ll be sharing ideas and stories from the year, reflecting on what worked and what we could have done better, and developing positive, critical feedback on the Extraordinaires product itself.

Design Lab: The Last Update?

The first iteration of Perkiomen Valley High School’s Design Lab is over. Here’s one student’s reflection on the semester’s successes and opportunities.

Adventures of a Teenage Dreamer

Design Lab ended…

The semester was officially over on Friday, and with it goes an amazing class that I will never forget. As a quick rundown, Katie and I made a slideshow for our project which we presented to the class, some administrators, and two of the designers from the business PlusUs. I think it went really well given that we only had 8 minutes to present our entire project from start to finish, and everyone else also did a great job.

After the presentations on the 18th, Katie and I have just been cruising along with rest of the class as we couldn’t really do anything in a week and a half. Mr. Heidt surely knew how to keep us busy though, and he planned for us to have a guest speaker on the 25th and another final discussion/presentation to the assistant superintendent for the last day. The…

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