Archive for January, 2013

On Studio H’s Design Vision and Process

One form of reflection we’d envision for the blog are design critiques and evaluations. This might be of products, learning environments, policies, what have you. The idea is just to look with a critical eye at something that somebody else made (ideally outside the class, so that we don’t have to worry about hurting feelings!). In this case, the reflection is actually on the design of a design intervention. Meta!


As one of our readings this week, we watched a TED talk about a design studio that became involved with a disadvantaged rural community, and, using design as a framework, worked to revitalize that community. I have to say that in general, from a design perspective, I was incredibly impressed.

The thing that I noticed most from a design perspective, and what I’ll focus on in this refection, is that they were designing according to a core set of principles. I think this is an incredibly important part of the design process, and they seemed to have nailed it. Here’s their list of principles:

  1. There is no design without (critical) action;
  2. We design WITH, not FOR;
  3. We document, share, and measure;
  4. We start locally and scale globally;
  5. We design systems, not stuff;
  6. We build.

So aside from nodding my head vigorously as I read each and every one of these, I would step back and just note the importance of having principles at all. For me, design is always undergirded by values and principles, even if these aren’t articulated. This is partly what I talk about when I talk about hacker literacies – how all technology is designed, and all designed things have politics, because all people have politics (whether they know it or not). To me, having a set of articulated design principles, even if we don’t always live up to them, is essential. It’s a sort of weathervane we can check against when we’re in the midst of the work, at the times when it’s hardest to keep perspective. It’s what makes sure we’re bringing action to our values, as opposed to just doing stuff.

The second piece that struck me in looking at the talk was just how well they seemed to have manifest their principles in the design process. All of the activities described seemed to be perfectly in line with that set of principles. Reflecting on it, I actually want to hear more about what the edges were, the kind of things that you usually don’t talk about in a TED talk. When was it hard to realize these principles? How did reality bump up against these values? To me that’s always the interesting part. And I totally acknowledge that that wasn’t the purpose of the talk, but I think from a design critique perspective that’s focusing in on this issue of having articulated design principles, I know that I’m really interested in hearing more as I reflect on the project.



Reflection on Constructionism

Evolved from Constructivism, Constructionism steps further to explore a more meaningful, interactive and participatory way of learning in the new century. Acknowledging the importance of meaningfulness in knowledge development, Constructionism seeks to build both intellectual and emotional connection between new knowledge with students’ prior knowledge. Additionally, constructionism puts emphasis on the social aspect of learning, which encourages students to take advantage of the human and artifacts as available and powerful resources to fuel their learning. The interactive spirit of constructionism can also be displayed as it facilitates the idea sharing and project design activities which combine students’ personal interest as well as the community needs (Kafai, 2006) Designing and creating objects play a central role in knowledge construction because of the process of building shareable artifacts can facilitate students’ knowledge construction, reformulation and expression.

According to Resnick, an ideal constructionism learning environment is a place where children feel free to explore their personal interest, to harness technologies and are supported by their learning communities(Kafai & Resnick, 1996). On one hand, the “learning by doing ”experience is believed to enable deeper and meaningful learning opportunities for students; one the other hand, concerns stem from this flexible-structured environment are related to the practical implementation into classrooms. For instance, this approach cannot provide clear guidance for teachers to measure the “appropriate degree” of their guidance, since they can neither obviously reveal the truth to students nor just post vague questions such as “why” and “how”. Because of the difficulty to implement, it remains a daunting task for practitioners.

What impressed me most of the constructionism approach is its compatibility for diverse epistemology styles, which allows for both tinkers and planners to feel free to explore; where the learning process is valued as well as the learning product; when self-reflection and collective idea-sharing collide with and inspire each other. I believe the belief and respect for young children can liberate children from their trapped school, and empower them to turn their wonderful ideas to powerful ideas.

Working in this Space

We envision this blog to be a place of reflection and collaboration as we engage in the design process. This should be a place to express thoughts and reflections as we read, discuss, and design. This should be a place to safely engage in debate as we theorize and challenge ourselves and one another to look at our designs from many different perspectives and angles. We expect that we will engage in productive discourse around complex concepts in the comments feature this blog affords, and that each member of the class will offer their insights freely and with respect.

On Designing the Syllabus

One of my favorite classes was one I took in undergrad on Shakespeare (a topic about which I was less than thrilled to be studying – says the English teacher) where we designed our own syllabus. As a teacher, one of my favorite things was designing my classes. With these experiences in mind, I have been excited to once again go through the process of designing a class. Of course, the process by which we are designing Designing for Change is very different than any process I have engaged in, and the challenge is exciting. By engaging in prototyping, our group has tossed around many ideas for the structure of the class as a whole and the parts that make it up, and those ideas have been challenged and refined. The resulting proposal encompasses the values and elements that we feel are important to this class, held together by the thread of Understanding, Engaging, and Theorizing about Design.

I have become very comfortable working independently and writing out my thoughts to think through and flesh them out. This hands-on group process has forced me to think and work differently, and while I’m still getting into a comfortable place using a medium other than words to create and design, as I reflect on the process I realize that I like the different perspective it has presented.

Looking forward and taking into account all of the ideas from each of the proposals, it is clear that we are a group of people after similar goals to understand, engage in, and theorize about design for educational and other spaces, and I am confident that our resulting class will be productive, informative, and will challenge our existing ideas and processes of design.