makerspaces

Design Thinking for the Research Process (e.g., the IBO Extended Essay)

Design thinking is pretty mainstream these days, infiltrating many domains (e.g., see the Harvard Business Review article, "Design Thinking Comes of Age" in the September 2015 issue).

When it comes to libraries, design thinking is usually invoked as a methodology either for group-solving problems related to the functional aspects of a library, or for patrons designing and creating things in a special "making" space in the library.

From Michelle Ha Tucker presentation, cited below

From Michelle Ha Tucker presentation, cited below

 "Design Thinking for Libraries: a toolkit for patron-centered design," published by IDEO in January 2015, exemplifies the first -- where the human-centred approach and process mindset of design thinking is applied to finding creative solutions to challenges in the day-to-day life of a library. 

Michelle Ha Tucker from IDEO recently gave a short presentation on "Innovation By Design" at the Leadership Roundtable on Library Innovation, hosted by the Aspen Institute.   She argued libraries are a perfect place to try design thinking because they are "living laboratories" with a steady stream of users to observe and create experiments with, on top of the fact that librarians are great service designers.  Watch a video of her presentation via Jason Griffey's blogpost here. (John Seely Brown's talk on "Re-Imagining Libraries" is also worth watching; I like how he suggest libraries are a place where you can/should find the intersection of homo sapiens (thinking), homo faber (making), and homo ludens (playing).)

From Michelle Ha Tucker presentation, cited above

From Michelle Ha Tucker presentation, cited above

Libraries, both public and school, are increasingly involved in the makerspace movement -- providing people with access to materials and equipment (especially 3D printers, laser cutters, milling machines, and programmable chips like the Arduino) in a space where they can come together to be creative and make things -- and design thinking has obvious applications to the maker culture.

But for school librarians, the design thinking conceptual models coming out of IDEO are probably of greatest application to the inquiry/research process

Rather than a rigid framework with specific steps, design thinking encourages a mindset of being creatively confident, recognizing that projects always start off very foggy, and only through mindful, iterative effort to "see" (via reading and exploring a topic) do possible resolutions emerge.  That research should always open up new questions and inquirers need to be comfortable along the way with ambiguity, rather than quick answers.

In my own situation, design thinking offers valuable meta-cognitive support to our high school students doing the IBO (International Baccalaureate Organisation) Diploma Extended Essay (EE), an independent, 4000-word research paper.

My drawing of Tim Brown's cycle - based on a drawing in his 2009 book.  I noticed that in Michelle Ha Tucker's slide, the word "Implementation" is now "Iteration."

My drawing of Tim Brown's cycle - based on a drawing in his 2009 book.  I noticed that in Michelle Ha Tucker's slide, the word "Implementation" is now "Iteration."

In a previous blog post, I compared Tim Brown's design thinking process to Carol Kuhlthau's - see http://www.thelibrarianedge.com/libedge/2013/01/carol-kuhlthau-meets-tim-brown-guided.html

And since then I've only come to appreciate it more.

Our EE program is divided into three parts over the course of a year -- which roughly conforms to the three design thinking stages -- Inspiration, Ideation, Implementation.  From November 1st to December 15th, our grade 11 students are introduced to the Extended Essays and asked to think about something that interests them and do broad reading and inquiry -- the Inspiration phase -- in order to turn that idea into an acceptable Research Question (RQ). 

Phase two of the EE is from January to August -- which is the Ideation and draft writing phase, and from August to the end of October is the Implementation phase, for final editing and polishing -- and submission.

Below are images of the pamphlet we hand out to each student in November (yes, a paper copy).  It's an A3 printout, folded into an A5 brochure, with the inside A4 space showing the timeline, and the A3 inside, unfolded sheet showing the Checklist for students and supervisors.

In design thinking, two important constraints come into consideration after you get an idea (something you desire to design) -- viability and feasibility.  In his book, Tim Brown quotes the famous designer Charles Eames as saying the mark of a designer is a willing embrace of constraints.

The IDEO intersection of innovation -- taken from www.ideo.com/about

The IDEO intersection of innovation -- taken from www.ideo.com/about

As we ask each student to follow their passion, we must also help them to appreciate the constraints on their inquiry, in terms of the IBO and their school.   Does their research question (RQ) satisfy the requirements of the assignment, i.e., the EE subject brief as set by the IBO?  And can our school provide the necessary support for the research question, in terms of a knowledgeable supervisor, material and equipment for any experiments, and other resources?

For the EE, the ideal Research Question (RQ) satisfies student interest (Desirability), IBO requirements for a subject area (e.g., if doing a History topic, the research question must be on something at least ten years in the past), and our school's (United World College of SE Asia- UWC) ability to provide support and resources (books, databases, equipment, etc.) for such a research question.

For the EE, the ideal Research Question (RQ) satisfies student interest (Desirability), IBO requirements for a subject area (e.g., if doing a History topic, the research question must be on something at least ten years in the past), and our school's (United World College of SE Asia- UWC) ability to provide support and resources (books, databases, equipment, etc.) for such a research question.

I then show students this design thinking concept -- alternating divergent and convergent phases of inquiry. When they come to me for help, I ask them which phase they are in.  Do they want me to help them find more material?  Or do they need me to help them sort out what they've found and pick the best ones, before going back out to look for more?  Do they think they need more? 

The design thinking "Inspiration - Ideation - Implementation" cycle also repeats itself, as new information comes to light. 

Which reminds me of one of my favorite library science papers -- "New shit has come to light: Information seeking behavior in The Big Lebowski" - by Emily Dill and Karen L. Janke (2010).  Go treat yourself....

Summer camp for teachers (way beyond the old Crafts Cabin)

Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez have been holding a very special 4-day summer institute in New Hampshire for the past 7 years.

"Constructing Modern Knowledge" (#CMK14) provides teachers with a learning space and enough time to the fail -- and succeed -- at doing what we are always exhorting our students to do:  learn something!  make something!

I got involved by virtue of having put Stager and Martinez's book -- "Invent to Learn: making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom" -- on display in my library to coincide with the Learning 2.0 conference last October (see my previous blog post on it).  Brian Smith (from Hong Kong International School) immediately began to talk to me about the book -- and the related conference.  Considering I spend my summers in Maine (a stone's throw away), it wasn't hard to decide to sign up.  At 21st Century Learning in HK in December, I also had the opportunity to meet Gary, who exudes enthusiasm for messy learning and hard fun.

4 days, 180 participants.  You can see the Vimeo videos here and the Flickr group photos here.  All in a Radisson Hotel in ManchVegas.  (Yes, I guess that's what they call Manchester, NH -- as it's the region's hotspot.)

Who were we?  The informal hands-up survey at the beginning indicated mainly teachers from private schools, from all over the US, plus a few internationals.  I quickly found Tina Photakis, from Australia, to hang out with.  The crowd was seeded with plenty of highlighted helpers, like Brian Smith (and his daughter), young Super-awesome Sylvia Todd (and her father), Peggy Sheehy (one of the few librarians), Dan and Molly Watt, Cynthia Solomon, etc.

How did we decide what we were going to build in our 4 days?  By shouting out suggestions that got put on giant post-it notes on the wall, followed by a massive gallery walk and sign-up.  Then we gathered by our top favorite post-it -- and groups were formed.  It worked admirably, better than most unconference events I've experienced.  I loved the range of ideas:  a light-sensitive chicken coop, a robot dog, an interactive recycling bin,  an interactive tree, an interactive garden, interactive clothing, etc.

One proposed project was "wearable speakers" -- and having attended two conferences this summer, I wish there were a smart-phone app for that right now.   How can it be that we don't have a way to make ourselves heard in big groups, e.g., questions from the floor, where no one can hear the question.

I wanted to work on a noise meter of sorts, as I'd had a Design and Technology IB student create a (unfortunately non-working) prototype for my library, using an Arduino.  So I knew I wanted to play with sound input creating some sort of visual output.  (Imagine: students in a supposedly silent study room with windows, where I am outside and can't tell how much noise they are actually making; when decibels go above a certain level,  colored lights began to flash -- indicating to both them and me that the room is no longer silent.) 

In the end, I went with a group interested in "sound sculpture", which eventually split into three or four smaller groups.  Gordon, Wendy, and I decided to see how we could get sound through an Arduino to display different colors, based on volume and frequency.  Gordon and Wendy wired the 3D matrix of lights, while I fooled around with programming an Arduino Esplora (a device which can take a variety of input).  We didn't get a fully-functioning integrated model, due to time and other limitations, but we sure learned a lot.  For me it was such a throw-back to my programming days.  Oh, the frustrations of imperfect code!

A major highlight of the conference was a field trip to the fabled MIT Media Lab, thanks to Gary and Sylvia's connections.   A talk by Mitch Resnick, founder of the Lifelong Kindergarten group.  (Here's a recent video of him doing a talk that is similar to the one we heard - on Projects, Peers, Passion, and Play.)  A chat with 87-year-old Marvin Minsky, one of the three pioneers immortalized in the lobby of the impressive building, the other two being Seymour Papert (represented at CMK14 by his daughter, Artemis, and granddaughter), and Muriel Cooper, who died 20 years ago.

Marvin regaled us with memories of his time at Bell Labs with Claude Shannon.  Re his artificial arm.  Though he lamented that no one wants to work -- nowadays -- on something so pedestrian as a former invention.  So no improvements are forthcoming.  He talked about being enthralled by nanotechnology.  The wave of the future.   He talked of computer games, and his belief that 4 year olds might play games, but 5 year olds should be moving on to making games.   His advice when getting stuck in life?  Ask the experts.  Which for him were Claude Shannon and Robert Oppenheimer.

We took advantage of the chance to wander down through the building.  So many windows into projects and the learning going on.  It was a wonderful evening in Cambridge/Boston.

Click here to see all my photos of the conference -- including plenty taken inside the Media Lab.


Back in Manchester, there was plenty of time for work, for reflection, and for inspiration from speakers interspersed in the schedule.

Edith Ackermann, an MIT stalwart and "play" expert, gave a fascinating presentation.  She talked of so many things -- she deserves a separate blog post.

Pete Nelson is famous for building treehouses.  I didn't know about him before, but now I appreciate he has his own reality TV show, Treehouse Masters and a treehouse center where you can go and stay.

He told the story of how his childhood passion for treehouses eventually led to a very public and remunerative vocation.  (Creating a coffee table book on treehouses of the world was an important first step!)  I'm sure most of us sitting there were thinking of old trees we wanted to create houses in.  He made it sound all so feasible.
 
Overall take-away thoughts:
  • Re the sharing of resources:  the organizers had an incredible array of materials available to us, but the trick was, whatever we took, we needed for the four days.  There wasn't much that you just needed short-term access to.  So the sharing was limited.  I wondered how libraries with a makerspace would cope with this.  Would someone be able to check out or reserve, say, an Arduino Esplora, for three days?  What is realistic for what time period of exclusive use?  It makes me think that individual hardware, such as Raspberry Pi's and Arduinos, is better suited to a teacher-class situation, where a learner can work with one set of materials over time.
  • How best to handle differentiation?  In this situation, some of us at a table had NO experience, and some had CONSIDERABLE.   I was conscious of trying to balance the time I spent floundering on my own and the time I spent getting help from others.  One thing for sure: we were in charge of our own learning.  It was fascinating to wander around, seeing the vast range of projects and skills on display.
CMK library:  There was a room at the conference where Gary and Sylvia laid out all their personal collection of books related to making and creating.  I took photos of most of them -- and have searched Amazon, making a "list" of them.  See the booklist here:  The Maker Movement and Constructing Modern Knowledge.

Also see this Reggio Emilia bookshop for more.

p.s.  Just discovered Gary and Sylvia maintain their own recommended booklist on Amazon -- see here.

p.p.s.  Here's another related booklist -- one from the International Design Technology teachers' conference, held at our school in May.  These were all the books I had on display during the conference.

Making and Tinkering to Learn

If you want to have a good read about the history and future of the "making" movement in education and tinkering as "a mindset for learning," I highly recommend the book "Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom -- by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager.

Go to their website for an overview of the chapters, with links to extended resources for each.


The best thing it did was to send me back to read/re-read Seymour Papert, the grandfather of the movement.  (I didn't realize the roots of his projects were in Maine.)

I also refreshed my acquaintance with the writings of Mitchel Resnick (head of the MIT Lifelong Kindergarten group) re the cycle of imagine, create, play, share, reflect, imagine.  And a biography of Nikola Tesla is on my "to read" list.

A few notes/quotes from the book:
Stager's hypothesis:  "A good prompt is worth a thousand words." -- where 'good' means it has (a) brevity (e.g., can fit on a post-it note), (b) ambiguity (let the learner be free to satisfy the prompt in their own voice), and (c) has immunity to assessment. (60-61)
Learners can exceed expectations with the following four variables in place:
-- a good prompt, motivating challenge, or thoughtful question
-- appropriate materials
-- sufficient time
-- a supportive culture, including a range of expertise (60)
"Great teachers know that their highest calling is to make memories." (67)
"Constructivism is a theory of learning that doesn't mandate a specified method of teaching.... Constructionism is a theory of teaching.  We believe that constructionism is the best way to implement constructivist learning." (71)
Advice: skip the pre-load, don't overteach planning, encourage continuous improvement, allow reflection. (77)
Assessment interrupts the learning process.  Even asking a kid what they're doing is disruptive. (81)
"Writing, filmmaking, and presenting information are the low-hanging fruit of creative expression in the digital age." (84)
"The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge." -- Seymour Papert (157)
 Educators need to be reminded that it is possible to learn without being taught. (202)


Reading the book, I remembered my father's workshop down cellar in the house in Maine where I grew up.  We loved to make things with him.  My biggest project was a bookcase that would double as my bed's headboard.  Mainly we marveled at how he could fix things.  He was definitely a tinkerer.

A few years ago it was time to clear the workshop out.  After all, he'd been dead for some twenty years and no one was using it.  But I took some last photos.

IMG_4571 
Full Flickr set here 

Reporting back: On being with 26,000 other librarians for five days

I started this year's ALA* (#ALA2013) experience with two very practical all-day pre-conference workshops.
  • Library Makerspaces: The Field Trip -- at the Chicago Public Library, which focused on the spaces being created to allow  kids to experience hands-on tinkering, especially with flexible, inexpensive digital/electronic components.  Various people presented, on various aspects. All-day interesting.  Separate blog post coming. 
  • RDA: Back to the Basics -- which explained, in illuminating detail, the benefits to libraries of the new metadata Resource Description and Access standard and how to gradually implement it via existing MARC data records.  Welcome, worthwhile. Separate blog post coming.
 The conference itself involved shorter sessions.  Highlights included:
  • Friction: Teaching Slow Thinking and Intentionality in Online Research -- a presentation by Debbie Abilock (NoodleTools) and Tasha Bergson-Michelson again (see above).  See presentation slides here.  Not only was I thrilled to finally meet Debbie in person, having known and interacted with her online for years, but this was one of the few sessions which managed to involve the audience effectively.  If you go to http://bit.ly/FrictionALA, you can get links to the ten Google Docs used to record the small group discussions. 

    I liked the idea of focusing on "friction points" in the research process -- where students could or should be prompted to use System Two thinking (as in Daniel Kahneman's book, "Thinking, Fast and Slow" - one of my favorites).  More on on this in another blog post.
  • Studying Ourselves: Libraries and the User Experience -- a panel presentation by a professor and two university librarians, each of whom had studied the library environment -- and students' use of the library -- using sociological and/or anthropological research methods.  The sociology professor, Andrew Abbott, was particularly fascinating.  Again, more in another blog post.
  • LibrarARy Orientation: Augmented Reality in the Library:  Reality -- a quick session by the University of Houston librarians on how they are using Aurasma, a free augmented reality app, to enhance their library orientation sessions.  Click here for their Prezi presentation.  I had already played with Aurasma and found it interesting to see how they were using it.  More on this later.
  • Bleak New World: YA Authors Decode Dystopia -- a panel discussion by four top-notch dystopia authors, from old to young: Lois Lowry ("The Giver"), Cory Doctorow ("Little Brother"), Patrick Ness ("The Knife of Never Letting Go"), and Veronica Roth ("Insurgent").  As Ness said, the best YA books promote the question, "what would you do if....?" And another of them said, dystopia is not a story, but a way to tell a story.
  • Jaron Lanier: Who Owns the Future? -- An auditorium presentation by a major player in the making of today's digital world, unafraid to criticize it with compelling economic arguments in his new book.  Also thoroughly charming. I'm a long-time follower of his thinking, so I felt like it was a fireside chat with an old friend, bringing up scary topics (too true, big data is a big danger), but also reassuring that we can change history by raising awareness at critical moments. (What a lovable hippie....).  Google him for all kinds of resources, starting with his homepage.
  •  Ping Fu: Bend Not Break -- An auditorium presentation by a woman who grew up in the worst of China's Cultural Revolution and today is a cutting edge American entrepreneur in the 3D digital "maker" space, thanks to her company, Geomagic.  Her story is fascinating - as she started out doing comparative literature in China, while computer science was her ticket to success in the States.  In the photo below, note her her shoes and scarf are both 3D-printed objects. 

    For more info re her book, see her website: bendnotbreak.com -- though she has come under a lot of scrutiny for some of her depictions of the Cultural Revolution.  Has she exaggerated or mis-remembered?  Google it yourself, if you're interested in the controversy.  I still enjoyed listening to a rags-to-riches-via-technology American immigrant woman on stage -- and hope some of my students will read her autobiography.

  •  Beyond Genre: Exploring the Perception, Uses, and Misuses of Genres by Readers, Writers, etc. -- a panel discussion by three popular writers (for adults, not teens or children) -- crime novelist Laura Lippman (wife of David Simon, if that name means anything to you fans of "The Wire"),  Margaret Dilloway, and Naomi Novik, fantasy writer and analyst of fandom fiction.  All new-to-me authors.  The comments that stuck with me include:   "Never forget, literature can be done within genre; the author is potentially limited, not the form."  Also a reminder of the benefit of genre lists, i.e., booklists that help young people in a library looking for the next thing to read.  NB:  Since the session the organizers have posted a long list of resources related to genres -- it's well worth a look:  Beyond Genre: Research and Trends PDF.
Next year ALA is in Las Vegas, a place I would normally not go near.  Now it sounds quite attractive.

*ALA - the American Library Association's annual conference, held at the end of June (convenient for those of us on the northern hemisphere school calendar - and for me regularly winging my way from Singapore to Maine - so any US city is "on the way".... this year it was Chicago...).  A conference that attracts 26,000 librarians/attendees.  Yes, think mega-library.  Below is a photo which gives an idea of the expanse of the exhibition space -- which I navigated, iPhone in hand, snapping books and ideas to pursue later.

All photos taken by me.