Synthesizing Workbook and Project Portal

As Christian and I have been going through all the various deliverables and the different elements that we’re planning on including in each, we realized that there was some pretty good overlap between our plans for the Design Workshop and Capstone Project Portal, so we checked in with the head honcho and got the ok for a combined approach, so long as we hit the requirements for each. Sort of a design challenge in it’s own right to make it work as both, but we think it’ll be fun. Wanted to post about it here since Kylie mentioned other folks might want to take a similar approach. So, feel free to poach this idea!


Hitting up the literature to inform maker space design

So over the past week, Christian and I have been thinking about what sort of readings can support our work to come up with a redesign lab519. Wanting both practical as well as critical perspectives to inform the design of the fablab space, we ended up with two books that we’re going to focus on.

make space

The first, more on the practical side, is Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration, by Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoft (2012). This book is a showcase of various design methods for setting up space to optimize collaborative design processes. The book is non-linear in its approach and can be picked up at any specific location, or indexed to specific areas of interest as they might relate to a particular design consideration that a reader may have.

Building Change

The second is called Building Change: Architecture, Politics and Cultural Agency, by Lisa Findley (2005). Filling in our more critical perspective, the book follows four architectural case studies of buildings around the world that address issues of power and cultural agency through how the space is manipulated. The book also highlights the ways in which the architects and designers are sensitive to and tend to cultural issues within, both the structures themselves, and the space those buildings reside in. We’re hoping going through the case studies and issues of power raised in the book will help us stay critical in our final design phase.



Looking forward to digging in!

This Reflection Brought to You By the Letter “W”

As an activity to get into Schon’s Reflective Practitioner today, we were each given a toy. Here was mine:

photo 2

So I have the letter W as my object. The first thing that comes to mind for me is sort of theoretical – the letter W is a representation, so is implicitly about the process of making explicit through representation. The themes of implicit and explicit run through Schon’s work, most clearly in his discussion of three levels of knowing – knowing-in-action, reflection-in-action, and reflection-in-practice. To me, these three levels represent a spectrum of implicit to explicit, with the process of representation (and therefor my little W) becoming most relevant at the reflection-in-practice level, wherein a practitioner most actively is theorizing and communicating about their work over a longer timescale so as to understand patterns and regularities in their work. I can see the letter W really playing a key role in this process. : )

On dealing with critique

One of the things we haven’t touched on a lot yet in the course are the ideas of critique and feedback, ones that are both central to the discipline of design as well as to Papert’s theory of Constructionism. And of course, being a maker and a designer in a digital age means means being part of a culture where we share things we make regularly, and often with massive, sometimes invisible, audiences on the internet. This inevitably means that we’ll have to deal at some point or another with trolls, haters and general negative nellies. So, when I came across this wonderful video about how to encounter comments and critiques well online, I had to share.

And of course, feel free to critique in the comment section. ; )

What happens when you’re asked to do a Scratch project during Quals

Click for the full effect. Props to Jackie for the original remixed image. I guess this might be a remix of a remix then?
Scratch Project

Is Making Learning? Considerations as education embraces the Maker Movement

Crossed posted from


Grinding New Lenses summer program at Depaul University.

Of late, folks in my corner of the educational world have been jazzed about the intersections of maker culture and education. I’m super excited too – and even pleasantly surprised. A couple of years ago the bigger trend in my world was about games and learning, and while that’s certainly not gone away, the prominence of the more open-ended, tinker-oriented maker work has had a serious surge lately.

Audrey Watters over at HackEducation called the Maker Movement one of the top ed-tech trends of 2012. The burgeoning ed-tech news aggregator EdSurge has managed a good deal of reporting on Maker and DIY learning amidst its usual grind of MOOC’s and Learning Management Systems. Mozilla has fully embraced the “making is learning” stance in positioning its Webmaker initiative, which I’ve written about before (and, full disclosure, contribute to on occasion). And my own lab here at Indiana University just last week publicly launched the Make-to-Learn initiative, a research focused collaboration including some fantastic organizations including MIT’s LifeLong Kindergarten Group, the National Writing ProjectInstructables and the MacArthur Foundation, among others.

Clearly, making and learning is hot. And as with all things trendy, it’s easy for the core message to get lost amidst the hype. That’s why I want to (briefly) address a question any edu-hype-skeptic should be asking right now: Is making, in fact, learning? 

The short answer: yes, but it’s complicated. The longer answer is that the best maker-driven learning is never just about the making. It’s about all the things that happen around the making. That initial spark of curiosity, the investigation and early tinkering, the planning and research that follow, the inspirations and appropriations from other projects, the prototypes, the failures, the feedback, and, perhaps most importantly, the iterations upon iterations towards a better make. All of these acts are done in and contingent on well configured social contexts, in communities of practice and affinity spaces. This all goes back to core ideas of Constructionist learning theory and the foundational work of Seymor Papert. And it’s why I prefer talking about the Maker Movement as having strong lessons for learning, as opposed to just making, which can be construed as more solitary. Making in and of itself can sometimes involve the sorts of steps I described here, but not always. That’s why the answer is complicated. I’m willing to say that someone is always learning something when they’re making, but they learn best when it entails the sort of process, community and well configured structures of participation I describe above.

When I went to the Maker Faire last September, I wrote about how a revamped pinewood derby was set up in such a way that it embodied principles found in well designed learning environments. I talked about things like multi-generational engagement, clear contexts for using what’s being created, multiple avenues to success yet transparent and clearly defined standards. All of these things are about the interactions that are possible within a larger culture of making. Obviously, it’s the act of making that ties all of these interactions together, but the story around how the learning happens is always more complicated than the simplified idea that “making is learning”.

My sense is that so many of the folks taking up the making and learning mantle are nodding to all the things I’m saying here. These insights are obvious to anyone who thinks for more than a minute about what it means to be making in a way that might support robust learning via real world contexts. And the initiatives I’ve mentioned reflect this understanding. Mozilla is dedicated to creating a robust mentor community around Webmaker. The almost 25 thousand folks taking the MIT Media Lab’s Learning Creative Learning MOOC will be getting a healthy dose of Papert as they learn about maker-oriented learning environments. And reading Audrey Watters’ recent post on the case for a campus Makerspace tells me that she gets what this is all about too. I just want to make sure we keep the complexity, nuance, and real power of this pedagogical approach in mind as we start to build a movement around it. It would be such a shame if we watered down the real power of maker-driven learning.

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.