Archive for the 'reading reflection' Category

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. : )


Spiral Gear – Circular Reflection


My object is a spiral spinning toy and it makes me think of the circular nature of reflection. As we reflect on our practice, we can improve upon our actions. By reflecting on our reflection process, we become aware of our learning process and can be more attentive, autonomous thinkers. This spiral is infinite as it spins, as is the reflective cycle through which we can grow and change and iterate our practices. The magnet on the back of this toy signifies the strength of reflection if we attach it to practice. Once attached, it can grab hold and stick, but it can also easily be removed if we are not careful. We must stay attentive to our reflection-in-action and continually reflect on our reflective practice.


Situating Constructionism

As I join in the last part of class, and listen to the class recordings, my thoughts about constructionism is kind of evolving. In reading Papert’s Mindstorms, I had tried very hard to understand the Math examples, seeing powerful ideas as some form of domain specific idea that can be represented in microworlds. In class discussions, we talk about not pre-defining the idea, but letting learners generate the ideas, like the Computer Clubhouse model. I was also struck by the issue of “power” in ideas, how they all exist in social structures consisting of power relationships. What are powerful ideas will be determined by politics, economic powers etc., especially when we talk about the educational system.

I have read the book chapter “Situating Constructionism” before, but reading the article now, with the context of our discussions, illuminates (literally!) my understanding. Papert and Harel (1991) say it would be “oxymoronic to convey the idea of constructionism through a definition since, after all, constructionism boils down to demanding that everything be understood by being constructed”. They further discuss that the idea of constructionism was in evolution, and there is a need to keep intellectual doors open. The important question or vision is: which approaches favors dreams and visions, setting off catalysts for good scientific and mathematical ideas?

They then go into the discussion of the epistemological dimension. How constructionism is concerned with “e;epistemological.e”, raising issues relevant to the nature of science and debates in psychology. Feminism is discussed – where people (in Africa) fight for the right not only to think what they please, but to think it in their own way.

The book “Constructionism” focuses on “noncanonical” epistemological thinking from ethnographic study of laboratories, intellectual movements inspired by feminist concerns, and trends within computer cultures. The paper we read last week on Brandy, even though published in 2012, is yet another example of “noncanonical” epistemological thinking.

The article is available on the web. Read it when you can!

Papert, S., & Harel, I. (1991). Situating constructionism. From Constructionism (pp. 1–11). Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Papert Chapters 3 and 4

Chapter 3: “These examples show how the continuity and the power principle make Turtle geometry learnable. But we wanted it to do something else as well, to open intellectual doors, preferable to be a carrier of important, powerful ideas. …” (p. 63).

Heuristics can aid the learning of complex concepts. The process though which students use Turtle geometry to learn complex concepts and debug their program and their thinking helps them develop reflective and metacognitive skills.

Chapter 4: The centipede story, p. 95. The centipede story brings to light the importance of learning to debug not only one’s programs, but one’s thinking as well. The metacognitive processes of reflective thinking should not be a stumbling block, but an empowering tool through which one can access and make sense of complex and powerful ideas.

When Are Labels Appropriate (or are they?)

After finishing Mindstorms, I have a better sense of the kinds of learning that happen in LOGO and the concepts of which students make sense. I really like the idea of experiencing and exploring concepts  prior to learning the “official definitions” and terms used in a particular domain. It allows the learner to make sense of the material in a way that is meaningful to them, so that when labels are attached, those concepts have more meaning than they would if they were being memorized for an exam.

I am still curious, though, about how readily the knowledge learned in LOGO can transfer to a physics class. When do you start teaching the labels for the concepts the learners are exploring. It is a delicate issue because the learners need time to internalize the concepts before making them formal, but I feel like they should become formal at some point so that they are recognizable when learners run into them again in a different setting. Or should they? I’m not sure.


Designerly Play

This post comes a bit late, because it involved digging up a paper I found long ago and rereading it more carefully. Thus, this post is more about Resnick’s Tinkering chapter than about this week’s IDEO readings. When I read Resnick’s description of tinkering as a “bottom-up” approach that begins with “messing around with materials” that only later leads to the emergence of a goal from these “playful explorations,” I was reminded of a paper I read long ago, about a child messing around with paper, markers, and scissors.

Two years or more ago, I began engaging in a dialogue about children’s creativity with a grad student who was studying creativity at my undergrad institution. His work focused on adults, but he was intrigued by my idea of children’s creativity being a playful, open-ended process not necessarily characterized by an end product. I don’t remember if he found the paper, or if I did, in my attempt to strengthen my conversation with him. All I remember is that it struck a chord with me, and I just had to find it again, now that the tinkering chapter brought it to mind again.

And guess what? I did find it again! Here’s the URL for it:

The first thing you’ll notice about this article is how its title relates to our class. It’s called “Designerly Play.” It begins with two detailed examples of children’s play behavior that the author, Ken Baynes, believes involves aspects of the design process. These vivid stories are what stuck with me after all this time. I enjoyed reading them just as much the second time around. The first example involves an elaborate game the author played as a child with his friends and father, in which they all invented an island’s history, from its emergence from the sea, to its evolution of plant and animal life, to the arrival of humans, to the onset of the Industrial Revolution, to resource struggles over the building of cities and railway lines. No one ever won this game, though it was competitive. The second example is what came to mind when I read the tinkering chapter: the three-year-old boy who explored what it was like to cut paper, and then had an idea for a drawing based on the shape he had cut. The drawing turned into a shark, in which he cut a hole, and then it became a monster mask. He continued in this way for quite awhile, one idea leading to another, new “goals” emerging organically from playing around with the materials. Baynes says of this, “In adult design the synectics game that we played, with one idea leading unpredictably to another by creative association, is recognised as a ‘design method’.

The rest of the article is less interesting. I don’t think I even bothered to read it two years ago. Baynes relates different categories of play to aspects of the design process, such as relating “animistic” play–in which a child pretends that an inanimate object is alive–to the designerly ability to “imagine and understand what other people need.” The connections he draws, however, appear to be purely speculative, and, indeed, I think speculation was the purpose of the series of papers of which this one is a part. It would be interesting to see if there are any studies that actually provide some evidence that, for instance, animistic play leads to greater empathy. I agree, though, that play can be designerly.

I have many reasons for bringing up all this. The tinkering chapter was really inspiring, and reminded me of another inspiring paper I read, in which “tinkering” (though Baynes never calls it that) in play is characterized as “designerly.” I think this link between play, tinkering, and design is insightful, and shows what we’re all capable of if we let ourselves go a little bit. I’m not sure exactly what my final design project will turn out to be, but after the readings we’ve done so far, I’m quite sure I want it to be an intervention encouraging tinkering and playfulness. Now I’m wondering what other people think about the design processes we’ve discussed so far. Do they allow for playful tinkering? In particular, I think the IDEO process is extremely structured, and while it provides room for creative associations and encourages crazy ideas, I’m not sure those ideas will emerge if you’re so worried about adhering to all the steps they lay out for you. The solution is probably to simply not worry about all those steps, and I would imagine that, in most cases of using this toolkit, the process ends up looking far different from how it’s laid out in the handbook. What do the rest of you think?

Thoughts on the Design Thinking for Teachers

As I look at this workbook for educators, and compare it to the d.School Bootcamp, I see an extended version of Empathizing and Defining. Here, the Discovery and Interpretation stages go in-depth, with stages of research and interpretation. I find this interesting because after being a high-school teacher in Singapore for about seven years, I feel that thinking among the teachers, or in the school can be “locked in” within the culture of the school. I think the identification of sources of inspiration (from users, from experts, from peers observing mentors, from people’s self documentation) are critical in helping teachers understand their challenge, and to develop design thinking. The interpretation process of searching for meaning and framing opportunities engages the teachers in rethinking the original challenge defined.

What strikes me too is the deliberate attempt to create a designer mindset – this can come in the form of setting up a space, even if it is a wall, for putting up of project plans, ideas and notes as the project evolves. Having such a space can “condition” the teachers to put on the “designer cap” (We do that too in class, and in the Creativity Lab!).

My thoughts are also influenced by the article by Tapscott (2009). Although he has specific recommendations for Education 2.0, I see the need for a paradigm change in the teachers’ mindset as the eventual determinant of change.

I do have some questions relating to the practicality of the design process – will the school be able to commit this amount of time and resources into the process? If a teacher wishes to use the workbook himself/herself, how can she find relevant resources? Is this achievable on an individual basis (perhaps on the curriculum level)?

Regarding Education 2.0, and having a one-size-fits-one education – how feasible is this – in terms of actual implementation and cost?

Constructionism vs. Constructionism

The discussion on constructivism vs. constructionism made me recall an article I read by Ackermann (2001). Constructivism is a big thing in Instructional Design, and there are relatively few articles on constructionism. Here are the points that helped clarify my thinking:

Piaget’s Constructivist Theory is a way to see how children learn, at different stages of development, and how their ways of doing and thinking evolve over time. Papert perceives an overlook of the role of context, the use of media, and individual preferences or styles. To Papert, the projection of inner feelings and ideas is key. Also Papert was incorporating Vgotsky’s idea of the role of cultural artifacts (tools, language, people) as a resource for drawing out every person’s cognitive potential. Hence, Papert’s Constructionism focuses more on the art of learning, “learning to learn” and on the significance of making things in learning. The conversations with their own or other people’s artifacts can boost self-confidence, and facilitate the construction of new knowledge.

The other differentiation is about the kinds of thinking. According to Piaget, formal, abstract thinking is the highest form of intellectual development. Piaget revalues the concrete, the local and personal – situated learning. He stressed that alternative epistemologies are possible – and reclaims the deeply grounded, experience based and subjective nature of human cognition.

So Piaget’s Theory would be in interested in the construction of internal stability, or assimilation – how the cognitive system maintains internal structure and organization at different levels of development. Piaget’s constructionism looks at the dynamics of change. Intelligence is defined as in-situ, situated, connected and sensitive to variations in the environment. Empathy is at the service of intelligence. The focus is on how knowledge is formed and transformed within specific contexts, shaped and expressed through different media and processed in different people’s minds. There is a view of the fragility, contextiality and flexibility of knowledge under construction.

I have a question about constructionism vs. instructionism. Would constructionism be in tension with IST (Instructional Systems Technology)? I have been reading about this too, and would love to hear your views.

Source: Ackermann, E. (2001). Piaget ’ s constructivism, Papert ’ s constructionism : What ’ s the difference? Future of learning group publication. Accessed 20 Dec 2012 from

Foundations of Design

I’m trying out a new approach to note taking by using OneNote, here are the screenshots of my note on the Kafai and Resnick pieces.





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.