ReInvent your Neighborhood at Makers and Co Festival Amsterdam

groupmaking

As part of a series of workshops engaging children in the art of social design, we held a session called ‘Reinvent your Neighborhood’ at the Makers & Co Festival in Amsterdam. The aim of Unexpect is to both to teach children new skills as much as to share the amazing inventions and designs children can create.
The 13 children, all of whom are members of the Weekend Academie in Slotervaart, ranged in age from 9 to 12. We kicked off with a creative energzier to get to know each other before introducing the topic of the workshop and getting down to mapping the different groups of people who might live in the neighbourhood including themselves and what their needs might be.

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Mapping people and challenges in the neighbourhood.

The children named challenges such as old ladies with heavy shopping crossing the road slowly, the police who couldn’t catch the robbers due to slow cars, mothers wondering when their children would come home at night and boys who couldn’t play football because there was dog poo on the grass.

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For inspiration we checked out a number of recent inventions such as Google Glass, 3D printers, Sugru (one of my favorites), and Smart Highways from Roosegaarde Studio. Then the children choose one topic to work on and set out to imagine a solution.

The-Google-glass

LittleBits

For protoyping we worked with LittleBits, while they are attraction in themselves, they are also quite an effective rapid prototyping tool. Some children preferred to just draw their ideas or work with clay, carton, straws or of course a combination. Thinking with your hands!

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So what did they make?
My two favorite inventions probably would be the sound warning system for the dogs to keep them off the football field, for which the boys also made a prototype (using the littlebits sound senor and noise output). The other invention was for the mother worried about her children out late, through a repurposed phone, they could send coded light signals, red meaning ‘You need to come home now’ and green for ‘I am on my way’.

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Other inventions included a park bench on wheels for the old ladies, an air canon for rubbish and a ‘friend house’ for children with no friends.

 drawing1 protoype3

Showing their work

Thanks to Harriet Robijn my co-facilitator, the children of the weekend Academie and Mira de Graaf and Diana Krabbendam our hosts at the Makers & Co Festival.

Check out our Flickr Set of the workshop. http://www.flickr.com/photos/91070382@N02/
Photographs by ACHT film & fotografie

What would your children design for you? (Can children become Social Designers?)

To an extent they already are! Children’s potential is oft overlooked in every field. Their capacity for empathy and creative thinking positions them perfectly as social designers. And let’s face it, we need all the help we can get. Unexpect hypothesis is, ‘Children can creatively solve some of the world’s problems’ (problems usually created by adults). We are researching this hypothesis through a series of design workshops and manifestations. Looking specifically at the questions:
Under which circumstances can children tap into their design potential?;
What types of social and environmental problems can children best work on?

This week in a prototype workshop with 16 children in the age range of 8-9 years, we worked on the topic ‘Designing for your Parents’  The workshop was about two hours in length.

massagemachine

A floating massage machine for father, as he suffers from a slipped disc (hernia).

We kicked off the workshop, with a game, to encourage creative thinking and feelings of empathy. (if you would like the workshop program, download it here Unexpect#2 (in Dutch). Then we invited the children to draw the outline of an adult in their lives and map onto it any problems, they knew of. Most children choose a parent or a grandparent. They described problems such as, broken hips, black lungs from smoking, red spots on hands, being too busy, always having to work and sadness due to divorce.

oma&opa

A 3d printed hart for Grandma and a wire for better hearing for Grandpa.

Then we looked at a number of new and future technologies and talked about their potential. Such as 3d printing, eye lenses which react to the wearers blood- sugar level, jet pack, Google’s self driving car, huge touch screens.

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Lenses which react to the wearers blood- sugar level, for diabetes patients.

Next up was to envisage in what way a new technology might provide a solution to one of the earlier mapped problems. Most children went eagerly to work and had plenty of ideas, a few children struggled. Such as the girl whose father was sad due to the divorce, she didn’t know how to help him with that in a structural way, another problem she perceived was the lack of color in her father’s wardrobe so she decided on an app to give him clothes advice every morning.

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The clothes color advice app, on the right the different screens. 

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A cigarette which turns into a rocket and takes off, as anti-smoking device

We closed the workshop by sharing solutions and followed up the next day with an evaluation and checking if there were any concerns from the home front and to check if all the children knew where they could go to if they felt troubled.

Through the workshop and evaluation we learned a number of things:

– the workshop scored high in the children’s estimation with girls scoring it higher than boys;
– of the four workshop parts, the opening game and designing solutions scored the highest, followed by the new technologies and as last the mapping or problems;
– the children are well aware of their parents and other adults problems
– children are motivated to alleviate parents distress or discomfort.

Questions that were raised:
– how do we deal with the privacy of issues raised by children revealing adults issues?
– how do we channel creative thinking into applicable solutions

If you have any thoughts or suggestions, we’d love to hear them, drop a comment or mail us at workshops (at) unexpect.nl

This is the second in a a series of test workshops for Unexpect. Unexpect cultivates young people’s creativity for beauty, resilience and solutions to social and environmental challenges. In a nutshell, ‘Social Design Education.’

unlogo

Why you SHOULD use Design thinking approaches in education!

After reading a number of articles today criticizing Design Thinking, even one specifically against it’s use in education I feel called to respond. My professional experiences using Design thinking have revealed a great potential for education, both for teachers in their own practice and for students (young and older). For the new ‘Nederlandse School‘ (I’m in the design team), the curriculum concept is ‘Ontwerpend leren’ and partly informed by design thinking.  Similarly the methods of  Unexpect ‘Creative Thinking for Social Good’ have overlap with design thinking. Both projects in the education domain.

What is Design Thinking anyway?
In short, design thinking is about applying the typical design cycle to new domains. The design cycle, moves, generally speaking, from (user centered) research to creative thinking to prototyping to testing and implementing or indeed going back to the beginning of the design cycle to start again. Very important here to note is that most proponents and users of design thinking use their own version of the cycle, paying relatively more attention to one or another stage, or indeed simplifying the stages or changing the language used to describe them. Most folk also develop their own tools and sub methodologies with the cycle. Just like each village in France makes it’s own cheese, most design studios have their own signature design thinking approaches.

For example: The well know IDEO in their University Toolkit talks about the stages of : The brief – Inspiration – Concepting  – Refinement – Realisation; Design for Change, referenced below, in the ‘I can’ method calls their stages: Feel – Imagine – Do – Share; At Butterfly Works we worked with: Social Need – Research – Ideation – CoCreation Workshop – Making – Pilot – Scaling; and the ‘Creation Flow’ of  the THNK Creative Leadership program, uses the stages: Sensing – Visioning – Prototyping – Scaling.
And probably that is key in this discussion about the pros and cons of design thinking. Design thinking is a powerful method, when done consciously with methods continually under development and adapted to the caucus at hand, by experienced practitioners.

So do I have any doubts about design thinking?
Not fundamentally. As a designer by trade who has applied the design cycle, aka design thinking, in many forms, to a number of domains, from international development to conflict prevention, youth participation to education, across some 16 countries, with good effect. Effects such as heightened engagement of participants, ownership of long term solutions, unexpected solutions and development of cross-disciplinary partnerships. The key is in the authentic doing. If one would take design thinking as some copy paste process or a hat of tricks, it will have little or no effect on the run of the mill practice.

Concerns?
Yes, where some, design thinking process fall short in my view is on three points:
1. The re-frame of the original brief;
To explain, the step of re-framing the original question posed at the start of the design process is fundamental to a good design cycle, this is regularly understated in the approach. Question the question.
2. The presumed availability of creative thinking skills;
While everyone is essentially creative, many of people have the creative confidence knocked out of them at an early age and little attention paid to developing their creative thinking skills thereafter. Any design thinking process would be greatly enhanced by people who have had the opportunity to hone their creative fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration.
3. Experienced pattern recognition;
Creating ideas is one thing, choosing the best one for the situation at hand, is where the real brilliance or experience comes in.

The articles this post was triggered by are:
– ‘Design thinking is a failed experiment. So what’s next? by Bruce Nussbaum, one of design thinking earliest and longest proponents of design thinking,
–  ‘Why design thinking doesn’t work in education‘; a well written and researched article yesterday from @onlinelearning!
Beyond design thinking in education and research by Jordan Shapiro in Forbes.

Taking the them one by one.
Bruce’s Nussbaum’s main point of concern as I understand it, (with which I totally agree) is that as Design Thinking is usually prescribed as a step by step process many people have followed it in form but not in essence, thus missing the essential creative experience. My answer to Bruce would be, just because people are using a method badly, don’t blame the method. The attitude with which you go into and through any design process has to be one of open curiosity, you have to be able to delay your judgement long enough to allow new insights to arise.  And it’s at this point in the process that many (groups of ) people want closure and they go for the easy or known solution, almost defeating the purpose of the design thinking exercise.

@onlinelearning! concludes in her article that design thinking with it’s user centered approach can be helpful for instructional designers and teachers to enhance their methods but for children it’s a bridge too far, for their level of knowledge and understanding to be able to use design thinking. With the second part of this conclusion I couldn’t disagree more strongly. To me, if anything design thinking is particularly suited to children’s levels of curiosity, their ability to ask good questions, to help enhance their creative thinking skills and in making  education contextually relevant to them. The best example of doing design thinking with children has to be the Indian Design for Change, running in some 180 countries.

Jordan Shapiro, in his Forbes article asks, what the heck is this design thinking that he is hearing all the hype about and wonders if a healthy skepticism about solutionism can exist simultaneously with design thinking. To which I would answer with a resounding yes!. The rest of the article shares ideas about a particular application of design thinking within medical research. A main point here being that innovation is rarely an individual effort.

In sum, while Design Thinking, is of course not a one size fits all methodology nor does following it’s  steps guarantee one  success or creativity, it is a potent formula for any age group to have in their toolbox. Indeed, have you ever had a serious question that didn’t deserve to be critically and creatively appraised? I say bring on authentic design thinking, let young people learn it and assess it for themselves. I’m glad it’s finally become a buzz word, let’s hope it goes main stream.

Note: Other terms often used for similar processes to design thinking:
Co-creation
Service Design
User centered design
Co-design
Social Design
Design research
Meta Design
Critical Design
Design Management
the list goes on.

10 Principles of Creativity

10 Principles of Creativity
Davis (1992)
:

1. Creativity is not just for artists, inventors, scientists.

2. Creativity is a way of thinking and living.

3. Creative people are “creatively conscious.”

4. Creative people see things from different viewpoints.

5. Creative people do not grab the first idea that comes along.

6. Creative people are willing to take some risks and fail.

7. Creative people are aware of conformity pressure and are not afraid to be different.

8. Creative people play with ideas and act like a child and think up “wild” possibilities.

9. Creativity is not mysterious; it is the modification of an old idea or new combo of old.

10. Creative people use special techniques and talents to find new idea combinations.

Teaching is a Creative Profession. Interview w @JelmerEvers

I interviewed Jelmer Evers, to find out more of his ideas on education reform in the Netherlands and wider. This is part of my THNK Challenge on the Future of Education.
Jelmer is an avid blogger, tweeter, teacher and education reformer. He teaches at UniC in Utrecht, NL and has, together with his students experiemented with a number of new forms of teaching such as flipping the classroom. He says ‘ Students must become the owner of their own learning process’

jelmer

Skype interview. January 8th 2013.

Let’s kick off with the role of the teacher in the class, how do you see it?

Jelmer: That depends a bit, on the level of the students, mainly I believe it’s about helping the students to find their own voice. It’s been a big introspection on my own learning experiences and this has shaped the way I teach. Sometimes you deviate from your plans, and sometimes students prefer more formal methods, it’s good to note that children between 12 and 18 also need structure. Too much structure doesn’t work and too much freedom doesn’t either. What I can say is that across the board, all students like practical assignments. Theoretically minded and practically minded students alike they like working on real assignments.

Let’s talk about the role of the teacher in the designing of curricula

Jelmer: Ownership of your topic and autonomy in how you teach it, is essential to good teaching, you should really enjoy teaching your subject, you have to own it and shape it. In my vision, a teacher should help students to become makers, so you need that quality of making and designing yourself in order to pass it on. If you want good teacher’s they should also be instructional designers too. Instructional design was only a small part of the teacher training in the Netherlands, that should have been more. Teaching is a really creative profession.

And how does Holland compare to Finland, the walhalla of Education

In Finland they teach maybe 500 hours or less to a class, while Holland has one of the highest rates with nearly 700 hours of teaching. Check out the OECD comparison here. This difference is key, those are the hours that teachers can spend on lesson development and building their own capacities, keeping up with new developments. People designing education don’t seem to have a clue what it really takes time wise to teach. You have to allow people time to be the best teachers, it’s a key component in the mix.

In UniC, where Jelmer teaches, they work as a team, in developing a path through the curriculum, curating the contents from available sources. He is just about to spend three days with his co-teachers of  History, Geography, social sciences and economics to make a shared curriculum. If you design your own path through the curriculum, it can also save you time down the road, as you own the process.

Jelmer on education Reform in Holland.

The system really needs to change, many of the things we do in schools now are a complete waste of time for students. The system needs to change both from the top down and from bottom up. That’s where Jelmer and his ilk come in. There is a history in Holland of top down change which hasn’t worked. What’s needed for bottom up change is to allow teachers to innovate and to keep the innovative teachers in the profession. The Ministry of Education can benefit by having more people working there who are active teachers, as opposed to only listening to educators or policy makers. It’s just too easy to underestimate the tenacity of the system.
Teacher’s are needed to co-create education reform.

And which education visionaries inspire Jelmer?

Here are some of his favorites:

Andy Hargreaves, The Fourth Way.

Will Richardson, blogger and former teacher.

Pasi Salberg, Finnish researcher.

And the classics such as John Dewi, Maria Montessori and JeanPiaget combined with technical disruption.

Steven Downes, who invented Moocs, toegther with George Siemens.
He preaches a new version of social constructivism, called connectivism.

Steve Wheeler, with a focus on new technologies.

Dylan William, professional education.

Daniel Wilingham, educational pyschologist, gives teaching and learning. Gives teaching more fundaments. and combines teacher practice and research.

Aside: Are there no ladies in this field?

And finally, too many people leave teaching, Jelmer is trying to combine, his passion for teaching with his other passions such as teacher trainer and blogger. He really enjoys teaching. Let’s hope he stays, students need great teachers like him.

Motion Graphics for social messaging

Here is a collection of Motion Graphics otherwise known as Kinetic Typography which I selected, I quite love this new genre of communication. The combination of moving letters, spoke word, icons, sounds and then meaningful movements of the letters to bring the message across.
Which ones do you like? Have you noticed this upcoming genre too?

Human Rights

Television is  a Drug

Pyschotic answering machine / helpline?

Retro style – Health Messaging

Entrepreneurs will change the world