Friday, September 13, 2019

Minecraft and Design Thinking #MakerEd @PlayCraftLearn

My first lesson for my Design and Innovation class needed to be something that would engage the students immediately. Minecraft is huge in our Middle School and I thought that would be a wonderful way to get students thinking about design. Luckily, we have Minecraft Education Edition rolled out for every student in our Middle School.

The goal of the fist design challenge was to design a house for me. The students were not allowed to ask me any questions. They just had to build me a house based on what they think I might like. They were given 20 minutes to put together a prototype. The kids were understandably frustrated, but they all worked very hard to create something that they hoped I would enjoy.

We discussed the mostly completed houses and I would tell them what I did and did not like. Next, I allowed them time to ask me questions and dive deep into what I do like and what I need in a house. The reason they had to build the first house without the questions was to show them the value of listening and asking questions.

In design thinking, you want students to have empathy for the person they are designing and you can do that with the help of asking the right questions. Having the students see the value of asking questions allowed them to embrace this part of the design process. Kids love to jump to the ideation portion of design thinking because it is more fun, but they really need to spend time focusing on empathy.

The kids asked so many amazing questions and really focused on what I liked to do with my spare time and how I move about my own house. I could see they really were looking for questions that didn't just give them one answer (Do you like carpet?), but for questions that could provide a multitude of information (What do you do when you are bored at home?).

Minecraft is a wonderful tool for this intro to design thinking for students because it was so easy for them to log in and start crafting. Students were put up houses of all different shapes and sizes in a matter of minutes. That is what I was really hoping was going to happen and it was awesome to see them all working and helping one another. No grades really seems to help them take their time and try different things. One student built a red stone operated door that was protected by a golem. Ya, that was a weird sentence to write.

After their second version of the house, I walked the students through the rest of the design thinking process following the handout created by the Stanford d. School. I modified their handout that can be found here.  Next week, students will pair up and go through the design process with a partner and try to create the perfect vacation experience in Minecraft. This is their chance to really stretch and see if they can find empathy for their partner and really build something amazing for their partner.



Here is a quick example of using SeeSaw to post images taken from Minecraft to demonstrate what was built.


Stay tuned for more exciting adventures in the design class!


NP

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Back to work #DesignThinking #PBL

Today I go back to the proverbial front of the classroom.

Over the past two years, I have been working with teachers and building a makerspace for our school. It has been a fun experience, but I have always missed out on having "my" class and the challenges that come with it. Today, I will be teaching a class I will be building from the ground up.

Since I started at University Liggett School, there has been talk about creating a class for the 6th graders that would focus on problem solving and critical thinking. There was talk about a Makerspace class, but I did not want to teach a class on how to use 3D printers. However, teaching students how to approach problems and use different tools to create solutions sounded amazing.

I spent the past 6 months diving into what a class that is a trimester long might look like and I found myself drawn to the Design Thinking model of problem solving to create a base for the class and using that to jump to other design ideas. As a trained ELA and Social Studies teacher, I feel a bit out of my element, but excited to learn with the students and see what happens. I'm also excited to implement things I have always dreamed of doing in a class.


  • Mindfulness - I will be starting each class with a few minutes of mindfulness. I am using the Calm app on my phone. My class is after lunch, so I want to take a few moments to calm the bodies and mind before asking them to dive into problem solving and critical thinking. I'm nervous to as Middle Schoolers to sit quietly and look inward for relaxation, but I feel it is important and I'm going to give it a try. 
  • Portfolio/Project Based - This class is going to be based on what they create. Everything will be stored in SeeSaw and that is where my feedback will live as well. Students and I will be able to have an ongoing dialogue about their work and how it evolves over the course of the trimester. 
  • No Homework - I will not assign anything that requires students to work at home. My goal is to create an environment where students are excited about their projects and want to work at home and share with their family. I refuse to add more work to their busy schedule at home. 
  • No Grades - I will not be giving grades for this class. Students will have a 1 under the assignment if it is completed and we have met to discuss it or a 0 is the project has not been completed and we have not conferenced about it. I feel like giving a grade to a student who solves a problem one way and a different grade to a student who solves it another way is just not what this class is about. I also think by getting rid of the grades, students will be more likely to try big ideas and embrace failure instead of taking the easy route to finish the work. I could be way off here, but I love that I get to try. 
I have some ideas for projects that might be super fun, but I will have to roll them out and see what the kids think. I will be starting with the Wallet Challenge from the Stanford d.school and then moving to a Minecraft for Education challenge to create the perfect vacation destination for a partner. I will be trying Chindogu with my students to bring a fun, light approach to design and I'll see how students might repurpose underutilized areas of the school. I also have an idea for students to create a small line of products that people might want to buy and setting up an Etsy shop to see how that goes. IDK. Lots of ideas and I can't wait to see how much of it works and how much of it blows up in my face. If it does, than I'm modeling exactly what I want to see from the students.