Maker Faire 2.0

We are happy to say that we have successfully held our second annual Maker Faire in the Doucette Library.

Amid the bubbles, limbo, musical instruments and dress up clothing, we hosted about 300 students and their prototypes.  For anyone quick enough to think of the implications of this many prototypes in one place, they photographed lesson plans, materials and prototypes for a file of great ideas that may suit their teaching sometime in the future.

What exactly were we doing?  There was method in this madness for many reasons.  We were showing students what a Maker Faire in their school or classroom may look like.  We wanted students to see what kind of celebration students would take part in after working through their own problem solving using the design thinking process to prototype ideas and various outcomes.

We also wanted students to feel the engagement that is prevalent when design thinking is introduced into a project.  Creativity and innovation abound when few boundaries are put in place and students are allowed to draw on their own strengths to research and work through a problem.

We wanted also to celebrate the amazing work that has taken place over the last two years by these pre-service teachers.  As they launch to schools for their final practicum and to jobs in the teaching workforce, we hope they remember the Doucette Library has amazing resources for them to draw upon and that they return to make use of them.

And at this moment, I would like to thank my “partner-in-crime,” Tammy Flanders whose wonderful ideas and willingness to wear a tutu for a cause are second to none.  If you have a partner teacher like my partner librarian, your work life will be a breeze.  And I would also like to thank Dr. James Paul and his continual endorsement of the Doucette Library.  Our Maker Faire was a success because of all of the people involved.


Design Thinking – First Feedback

Contributor: Tammy Flanders

I’m only going to take up three points that came from the student’s feedback in today’s workshops.

1.A few of their points, we felt came from not meeting their expectations. Even though we set up the introduction to outline our objectives and how we meant to achieve them students felt that we had come up short.

For example, they wanted to see specific examples of design thinking in a physics, math and English classroom. Someone else wanted to know “Why design thinking?”. Finally, more students wanted to be even more involved in some of the activities.

Let me elaborate.

As an introduction workshop, Paula and I did not consider presenting specifics about integrating design thinking in content areas. Or why design thinking was a focus within this particular course. These questions would be better addressed in their regular class and will likely become clearer as they engage in the process when doing their assignments.

So, how to better to meet student expectations? A stronger introduction stating what we will and will not cover, recommend the Design Thinking library guide for examples of different teaching situations, and following up with their instructors.

  1. The comments about having the students doing more of the work were excellent points. Having students write their own post-it notes as they generated ideas, questions, problems related to immigrants/refugees instead of Paula and I doing this work, we agree would be better. Or having students rework their ideas created during the ideation component would also be fantastic and reflects a more realistic process. Design thinking is about revisiting your work over and over again.

But TIME was our major factor here. Eighty minutes isn’t very much time when working through this.

The rationale for doing this the way we have was strictly done as a consideration of time. Based on Paula’s experiences teaching other workshops having participants generate ideas in this way or revisiting and reworking their ideas, requires a considerable amount of time.  Having experienced this, myself at conferences, being pushed through this process in a couple of minutes is frustrating and sometimes results in confusion.


The questions then are:

What other sections can be significantly shortened or removed from the workshop?

If one section is given more time than the others, will this make the other components weaker?

What else can we come up with to overcome time constraints yet still give a meaningful workshop?

How much tighter can we make the introduction (i.e. talk less about the process we’ve undertaken in designing the workshop) before there isn’t enough information there for students to get any real meaning?

For the moment, we’re sticking with our format but will consider if there are other ways of doing this.

  1. Another point that a few students brought to our attention was the ’inauthenticity’ of the scenario we had them work through. As Paula has described above our scenario was based on immigrants and refugees settling into a country different from their own and how to go about meeting their needs in terms of employment, accommodation, food and finding community. We thought by using the two books to give them the mindset of a new arrival and talking about what they knew about Syrian refugees, or other situations based on their own experiences that would be enough for them to take on the role of either an immigrant or a social worker. By interviewing each other as a way to derive more information about the problems associated with a new arrival, we thought we had addressed empathy in an interesting way, a technique that could be used in their own classrooms, perhaps.

However, some participants felt this was a difficult undertaking and were not comfortable being an immigrant or refugee in case they misrepresented or based their representation on stereotypes.

Paula and I are not convinced that this is a real problem (at this point, at any rate). It may not be entirely authentic, granted, but taking up roles is a way to learn about what our biases are, what other kinds of information we need to learn about to really understand the situation and problems that come with living in a new country. This only highlights the importance of empathy for us. In the real world, you would of course go beyond an interview and research data from multiple sources.

What this really speaks to, in terms of our own teaching is the challenge of task design. To read more about designing task please visit a couple of other posts Paula has written, one from October 19th, 2015 and October 27th, 2015.

Stay tune, folks.   We are making changes to the workshop as we go and we’re so much through this process. Hopefully, you will too.



Design Thinking – Iteration #1 and 2

And so we began, first thing this morning, to introduce 2nd year Werklund Education Students to the Design Thinking process using the prototype of our own workshop to show them, through a humanities based task, to incorporate empathy, definition and ideation (and not present but also discussed, prototyping and testing) into their teaching.

We began with our objectives and what the workshop meant to us.  We showed the video from 1996 (some students mentioned how old it was) from Nightline that showed the whole process in the IDEO studio to design a shopping cart that is safer and easier to use.

During the second workshop, we felt that a tight summary of what went on in the video would be a good idea.  Examples were given from the video for empathy, definition and ideation.  The summary tied it together for students to give vocabulary to the vignettes they saw in the news story.

Again, we walked students through our experience, having conversations to create the empathy piece in our workshop and showed our thinking process through the definition stage.  We have all of the outlines we used as the evidence of the ideation process but did not present them in either workshop.

We, then, moved to student work.  Tammy presented the story of Home and Away by John Marsden and Matt Ottley while I showed the pictures from the book using the document camera. This picture book powerfully records the experience of an ordinary family, forced by war in their country, to become refugees.  In the interest of time, we chose this book for the secondary level pre-service teachers because of its impact and message.

Prepared packages of images from The Arrival by Shaun Tan, featured immigrant experiences captured in his graphic novel of finding food, shelter, employment and community in a new country.  In the second workshop, we removed the general immigrant experience images from the package and just left the specific subject area images.

Students used these images along with their own personal reading and watching of social media to form an impression of the immigrant experience in a new country.  Table groups were asked to brainstorm ideas about this immigrant experience within the context of the four areas mentioned above.

In order to experience empathy with the scenario at hand, students were divided into groups of two, where one student took on the role of the immigrant and the other was an aid worker.  We made some assumptions for this activity like that all immigrants could speak English, that you use all the general information you know about this issue to facilitate your understanding and that money is not an object.  Once the interviews took place, we asked students to tell us the identity they had assumed and the ideas that had come from their interviews.

Once we had recorded this information on post-it notes, we looked for patterns and clustered like ideas. From here, students were asked to ideate, picking a problem they wished to focus on and to start to write these ideas on a big sheet of paper with markers.  They were asked to draw or capture an idea that may be an outcome or a solution to their problem.


We had some interesting ideas from an all-in-one living and services building to people who would take public transportation with the new immigrant to places to get familiar food for them.

After a quick review of the process they had just experienced, we returned to the discussion of our “workshop as prototype” and asked for written feedback from them about whether or not we had reached our objectives.

Students, overall, felt they had a better understanding of the process and especially the three points we covered in the task:  empathy, definition and ideation.  We will address several of the comments over the next several blog posts and reflections.

For us, the number one factor in the design of a new workshop was addressing the limited amount of time most workshops allow for processing all of the Design Thinking process.  Most of the initial feedback we have received mentioned that the time allotted was suitable.  More comments came in about task design and the practical application of Design Thinking especially in the secondary classroom.  We will address more of these concerns in following blogposts.

Design Thinking and the Undergraduate Student

The beginning of January is the harbinger of another whirlwind term for our second year undergraduate education students.

The coursework for much of their time centers on design thinking and working through the process to successfully complete a task based on the tenants.  Many instructors call on us, Tammy Flanders and I, to walk their students through our “Introduction to Design Thinking” workshop.  There is one problem – time.

The perennial problem with every design thinking workshop we have ever been to is time.  Not enough time.  In working through the five steps of the design thinking process:

  1. Empathize
  2. Define
  3. Ideate
  4. Prototype
  5. Test and Re-Test

students are expected to work through an authentic task to develop their knowledge of the process.

If we do our workshop and help them to learn the Stanford-inspired language for Design Thinking and how we have worked through each individual step, then we are forcing the experience and requiring creative solutions on the spot.

In our most perfect world, our Design Thinking workshop would take place over days, in which students would have time to empathize with the end user of their prototypes.  They would have time to define the task at hand, mull it over and return to further define the task.  Upon further contemplation, various parts of the solution would occur to each group and there would be time for them to consider each aspect of each solution.  Prototyping would come quickly with on-the-spot feedback and testing and re-testing would prove to be a valuable learning experience.

In this current framework, we touch on the deeper thinking nature of the first three steps and hope the prototyping and testing will take care of itself.  We hope that this rapid introduction to the steps and process of design thinking leave them wanting more through the Doucette’s Research Guide.

And so we spread the word about Design Thinking and the authentic learning prototype it can bring to each classroom but we struggle to give it the time it needs to fully be explored.

Five Design Thinking Steps

Design thinking, to some teachers, may seem like a huge undertaking to introduce into a classroom but if we break it down, the individual steps may seem more manageable.

Let’s call the first step “Discovery.” The best problems come from student discussion.  Students who have input on the initial real world problem they are interested in solving feel some ownership of the work that follows.  Ask students to articulate the problem, including many details and specifics.  Look at the problem from many angles.

Step 2 – “Interpretation.” Define the problem using data. Keep in mind that the data that carries the most weight should be from the sources closest to the problem.  Is there an interview with the person who most benefits from this invention?  That information would rate a higher priority than some quantitative or qualitative data found on the internet about similar problems.

In Step 3, the “like” ideas from step 2 are “clustered” together to help see patterns in the collected data.  Are some ideas “outside the box?” Are many ideas focused on one aspect of  the problem? This step is “Clustering Like Ideas.”


Step 4 is the step that begins to show outcomes of learning.  In this step of design thinking, students begin to “Ideate” through brainstorming and collaboration.  Here, the sketching and drawing of a few solutions uses particular parts of the brain to interpret the outcome.  Without the use of words and writing, students are drawn to visualizing a concrete and realistic solution.

Step 5 is the creation of the “Prototype.” This step involves experimentation and evolution in prototype design.  Test drive the first prototype then revisit the challenge.  Does this prototype meet all the expectations of the challenge?  Does it need fine-tuning or major changes? Repeat this process until the outcome solves the initial problem in the most satisfactory way.

Discovery, interpretation, clustering like ideas, ideating, prototyping. Work through one step at a time.  See if students continue to be engaged through the process.