My focus for action this school year is around the planning and design of MYP Design at my school. In recent years design has been integrated into the arts, but at long last we are now offering it as a stand-alone credit for Grades 7 & 8.
Now, I am not a design teacher by training, I am a design teacher by interest; and much like my ‘home subject’ of Geography, I am interested in the human realm of the subject, or in this case, ‘human centered design’. My interest came from the natural synergy between the ‘wicked problems’ faced by the world and the ability to apply design thinking to resolving them. That of course, is big picture. The reality I face now is how to bring those interests into a flow of content geared towards middle schoolers that will scaffold the skills they require to build their tool kit to the extent they can someday tackle the ‘wicked problems’ facing us all. In mentally prepping myself for this new adventure this summer, I was thinking about two things: 1. WHY do I want to do this and 2. HOW am I going to do this?
Let’s start with the WHY …
Last year on a quest to learn more about innovation in education and desiring to up my creative approach I read ‘Creative Confidence’ by Tom Kelley & David Kelley. It was a wonderful read, one quotation from the American writer Mark Twain really resonated, “It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t so.” Their advice – to “seek out opportunities to observe and update your worldview.” Having been a teacher for 20 years now, I realize that my approach to teaching in the 21st century needs to shift to remain viable. No longer do I need to be the person with all the answers, knowledge is everywhere, it’s accessing it, analyzing it and collaboratively using it in creative ways to solve problems and improve conditions for humans and the environment… THAT is where I need to focus my ‘levelling up’.
And now the HOW…
Would it sound strange to say that in planning and designing this course, I am also learning how to be a more relevant / effective 21st practitioner? When I look at the ‘most urgent needs’ that I identified (with my students in mind) back in October, I cited: perseverance, failing well & creative confidence as my top three. I’ve sat on this homework for several weeks now, and in this time I’ve noticed that in fact their needs are tied to mine. I have been lucky to have a tech specialist support my design classes as the tech world is not my natural habitat (though I appreciate and respect its role in innovation). I have been learning from her and from the evening classes I’ve been taking to learn Adobe Illustrator; but I have depended on her to lead the tech portions of each lesson. The other day, she didn’t. I was at the front, working in Adobe and I just kept going with the project we were working on … I was making mistakes left and right. In front of my students. I wanted to call her over; I was massively uncomfortable. But I didn’t, and she didn’t. It felt like the moment where the parent releases their grip from the banana seat (in my case) bicycle. I realized then, that I was modelling ‘perseverance’ and my mindset / internal dialogue changed immediately. There have been other moments where I have totally messed up some things in Google Classroom – also a new experiment for me this year, and thought; am I ‘failing well’ in front of my students? I think the ‘creative confidence’ piece will come naturally for my students; the nature of their projects is inherently collaborative and this generally enhances creativity. In an unexpected twist, I think my students have already begun to build my creative confidence – they are as patient with me, if not more so as I hope to be with them.
In terms of the power of three … I intend to flip these questions to my students but also to other design teachers.
For students, I’d like to ask:
1. Tell me about a time when you demonstrated perseverance? What were you doing? What did it feel like?
2. Tell me about a time when you ‘failed’ something? What were you doing? What did it feel like? What were your next steps?
3. What does creative confidence look like to you? Can you describe a time when you felt confident in your creativity?
I am designing the Grade 8 course around these ATL skills, and will use this feedback to help build those evaluations.
For teachers of design I’d like to ask: (I’m looking at you @mhoel and @ljensen !)
1. How do you support your students when they become frustrated? How do you encourage them to persevere?
2. How do you work ‘failure’ into the design process so that it is re-enforced as a part of the process?
3. What activities have you had success with in building student’s creative confidence?