Teach.com

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Putting Together a Design Class in an IB World School (Part 1)

http://goo.gl/Tgxu4X
Well, that title should get some good SEO Google Juice. But I didn't write it for SEO reasons - it's what I've been doing today, and yesterday...and the day before that....

In an earlier post I stated that I would be updating my preparations for the school year. Well, that didn't happen. But now that I'm only a few days away from students in the classroom I thought I'd give an update about where I am in the process.

 I may be a 20+ year veteran of the classroom, but I am feeling like a  newb again because this is a new school, new subject matter, and I have to learn the IB specific items. For example, we had a PD day this week and the lingo, acronyms, and other words were flying by me at mach speed.  But I have now completed 3 days of planning and things are feeling a bit better.

On Monday morning I really had NO idea where I was going to start with my design class.  On Tuesday I met my hall-neighbor who teaches science. She told me "I want to do a project with Design this year!" (exclamation because she was very excited and animated). After some discussion it came out that she wanted to start the project in the first week of September! (exclamation because of my internal reaction to this news).

My PBL training/experience took over at that point.  No panic. It was time to do some backward designing. Of course this will be a project in two content areas, so I will need to have her thoughts and input on this. The science will be handled within her science classroom and I will handle the planning, building, and marketing of their design.  I drew an initial mind map:



The project will be the standard "Rube Goldberg Machine"  (not my choice - but there's always NEXT year, right?) that has been done by every science and/or engineering teacher over the years. Heck, the kids might have even done it in their elementary years. The spin I will take on it is purposefully looking at the design cycle. I will use this Design Thinking Cheat Sheet from a post by Guido Kovalsky:


Post test (where the line comes back over to the left and says "start all over...") is where we will go deeper with each of these parts of the design process before we get into our next design challenge. The key is that students will be building empathy, asking questions, reflecting on their work, and creating something. 

Design in the IB World is the KEY subject in the program. My early years of being a Math teacher taught me that math is the KEY subject that my students have to be good at because every year builds on the previous year.  My later years, especially my years as an Instructional Coach, taught me that reading is the KEY subject that we need all students to be good at. And these last 6 months have taught me that questioning, reflecting, and perseverance are the KEY traits we want our students to possess. Design, and in particular the design thinking process, is the one subject that teaches students to ask question, reflect and persevere.  

So, using my very poor knowledge of logic, it follows that Design is the KEY subject in the International Baccalaureate Program.  My job will be to teach my fellow teachers (like those math teachers) that Design is an important class and NOT just some elective. 

In the next post I'll talk about how I am putting together a computer science class for 20 10th and 11th graders who requested that the school have the subject - Gee, I wonder if any of these kids might know a LOT more than I do about computers?  Stay tuned.