As the Convergent Media Collective has grown, one of our great collaborators has been Mark Barnett. Mark is a STEM specialist based out of San Antonio who has worked for many leading curriculum development groups such as Region 20. He has also been a teacher and is a Maker enthusiast in general. This past summer we collaborated with him on Makerspace, a space for young children to learn about STEM oriented topics. We will actually be doing a full blog post about that experience later.
After observing Mark’s children’s Makerspace, it got me thinking about how the activities he was having the children do would also be very beneficial to my own students. So we began talking about it and I asked him if he would do a presentation to my students where they got a hands on experience “making stuff.” He said sure and we set a date to have him meet with my Fall 2013 Convergent Media I class. This course had never been taught before and as such it left room for exploration in terms of curriculum and general course experiences.
Mark put together a presentation using Design Thinking. Design thinking is a pedagogical technique gives learners the ability under take complex problems and break them down in such a way to come up solutions, whether they were an expert in the field or not.
Mark showed up with Mariah and gave them a brief overview about the idea of empathy based problem solving. Specifically they showed a video about a maker who’s a parent of a child with a physical disability and how he wanted his child to still be able to play video games. He proceeds to show the solution he came up with.
Mark then proceeded to have the students look at two case studies and break into groups of two. They then stepped through the processes of Design Thinking without being directly told that was what they were doing. This process was very fun to watch and I could see the students confidence grow as they went through each step.
Within an hour and a half from the beginning of the presentation he had the students fully through the Design Thinking process and ready to present their designs.
The students were very excited to learn “how to make stuff” without having prior knowledge. One thing I have always found amazing with good curriculum and pedagogical approaches is the ability to surprised the learner with their own capabilities.
Having communication art students go through this process show them their potential to be able transcend their own skill sets, while also re-enforcing their talents, it left them excited and motivated to make more stuff.
I would like to thank Mark and Mariah for setting time aside to help out and also thank the students for being participatory.