Thursday, 22 May 2014

Heritage & Design - #hackyrclass week 3

The challenge for this week is design thinking and I will be the first to admit I'm struggling to find ways to get a really good grip on it! While the general ideas underpinning the philosophy ring true for me, including the processes it involves, and I can see it as a whole approach for learning, I think it's going to take me more than a week to implement!

So what are my thoughts on it?
My late father was an architect, an industrial designer (we used to call his profession a 'dusty shiner' as children!), and also a tertiary educator of design students at Unitec and AUT over the years.

Whenever I remember him talking about his designs, including the spatial design course he ran, his emphasis was always on people - how would people use the space? How would they feel within the space? out of the space? What purposes and functions could the space adapt to? All his design ideas came back to people at the heart of it. He was also obsessed with mathematical concepts like the 'golden ratio' and Fibonacci numbers - but not in the mathematical ideas themselves, but rather how these numbers and ratios made people feel more comfortable in spaces.

He was a very quiet and gentle man, and a very deep thinker. Everything was well-thought through and meaningful, if always extensively late and beyond due dates! But I am now realising how important it is to approach things, like teaching, with purpose and to accept that it will take time to develop ideas and pedagogies properly. The first time I try things, they may not be completely successful, and will probably need tweaking (with students providing the feedforward as to how to improve).

My own lesson in this: I tried to remember every lesson of design and architecture from my Dad when I drew up plans for our own house building last year. I kept us as a family in mind - what spaces did we need? how would we use them? what technically had to be located close by? how would we feel in the spaces? The final plans were very close to what I started us off with, but many iterations were needed to get there - tweaking and adjusting and sometimes going back to previous versions when 'brilliant' ideas didn't work out. It took much longer than we expected just to get final plans done - but now living in the house there is barely anything we would change.

So, how do I apply this to teaching? I know I need to give my current students more room to 'prototype' - they are very set in aiming for 'perfect' and 'right', and have been spoon-fed so much (not by me, but as a general rule to a certain degree!), they don't have well-developed skills in drafting & developing ideas. I want them to know that the process of truly developing ideas and answers can be scary and at times you're not sure that you're going in a forward direction, but that you can end up in a much more satisfying place than model answers can provide. (and this doesn't mean that there are no wrong answers - in science there certainly are wrong answers, just like in house building.... no, you cannot move that room there!... but maybe it is better for students to find their own way there).

I also have been pondering some questions - are our learners, who have always lived with the internet at hand, more likely to believe that there are answers to every question? When I say in class: "I don't know, how do you think we could find out?" are my students surprised that I don't know everything? Do they feel everything should be knowable? In my schooling days (yes, feeling a tad old now!), we didn't tend to look beyond our textbooks - and we weren't encouraged to question what our teachers told us, even if we knew they were wrong! (my sister tells a wonderful story of her form 7 bio teacher who disliked being questioned when he said that paternal was from your mother and maternal from your father!). Are our learners as resilient as we had to be in terms of finding answers? (are they more resourceful?) I remember at Uni, every time I wanted to find a research paper, I had to trek to the library, climb down 2-3 flights of stairs into the (completely scary!) stacks of journals, wind the handles to separate the stacks (hoping someone else didn't squish you between them!), physically find the journal I wanted, find the pages, trek upstairs and photocopy it. Was I more resilient or just wasting more time? ;)

Regardless, I am going to continue my learning about design thinking as it feels natural and genuine.... any advice welcome! 

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