Friday, December 13, 2013

Thinking about Design

As my friend Ania Zielinska has said...when you 'integrate' something, you may be 'disintegrating' it: in this case, meaning....infusing tech into the curriculum might lead to big pieces of it being owned by no one, and getting lost by the wayside.

That's what has happened with some components of tech learning at our school: in the mechanics and pedagogy of integrating 1:1 into the classrooms, we've lost programming, game design, etc. Courses we once taught, but now we don't have a department that 'owns' them so they (and the skills they endorse) aren't being reinforced or taught.

But now that everyone has a laptop and the teachers are settling into their groove, students are starting to look for these offerings again. So a month or so ago, I started making movements in the HS about creating a Tech Curriculum.

I wrote a plan for a range of Technology courses. I say "range" because it felt to me that things like Programming fell into one end of some sort of spectrum, while things like Robotics fell at the other end, and I wanted to offer a selection that would appeal to a wide variety of students.

I've recently grown to understand my instincts: Sylvia Martinez, who is a Maker proseletyzer, mentioned that Programming is the 'Rosetta Stone' for all other forms of technology use, while more applied technology use (like robotics and game design) are in the arena of "Physical Computing"... a form of 'design tech' where technology plays a crucial, but non-central, role in the process of designing something. So thanks to her for validating my instincts and giving me some terms to define those endpoints. But most important to me was that term "design tech" as referring to a project where technology was necessary for success, and also the term "design cycle" which is a crucial part of the process...where you create, test, modify and improve in a cyclical, reiterative cycle.

In my musings about the future of technology in schools, it grew on me that there would be a decreasing pool of schools who needed support and guidance in rolling out a 1:1 program, and an increasing pool if teachers who were empowered to find and leverage tech tools in their curricula. So the future role of ICT Facilitators like myself was going to change.

But how?

I'm now thinking that the tech facilitator role is going to become more and more responsible for finding powerful ways to teach those pieces of tech that are not being addressed in the mainstream classrooms....things like Programming, spreadsheet use, data gathering and analysis, etc. Certainly some aspects of that are addressed in some classes (data analysis in science, for example), but not at a very high level and not at the expense of the science curriculum.

And 'design tech' courses like Robotics might be just the type of experience that will do the trick. Courses that put the kids into situations where they need to learn programming or coding to achieve success are powerful motivators, so I want to better understand this 'design cycle' and how it works.

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