Saturday, July 28, 2007

Learn Before You Leap

Well, so much for twice a week posting. Guess that's the summer for ya! I've been keeping busy with...well, television shows, a bit. Took a break from the city over a weekend, spent some time out on Cheung Chau Island, love that place.

Anyways, today's topic, "learn before you leap", is related to my growth as a Technology

Now I have no technology training, and I'm not sure if I have any particular qualifications to teach the subject other than being logical and as a male holding the belief that I have an innate ability to Solve Problems by Tinkering with Stuff. Last year my principal asked if I would help to teach the technology courses, and I found myself with half a teaching load of middle school technology. I threw myself into the task, loved it, and am teaching more of it this coming year.

Teaching International Baccalaureate Technology for middle school focuses on this thing called the "Design Cycle". Basically the idea is that you can use the steps of the Design Cycle to solve any problem you encounter, to complete any task, from making a website to baking a cake.

Below is the image of the Design Cycle by IB - key is how they've presented it as a cycle, the steps are things you go back and forth through, not just check off a list.

It's the sort of thing that sounds simple, right? Maybe too simple...I found it hard to really teach my students to Investigate thoroughly, and to be able to use each of the steps when they were needed.


Well, after this weekend, I think I finally "get" how to use the Design Cycle.

Why? Because I caught myself using it.

I had a problem I couldn't solve: add a photogallery to a website. So first I Investigated: I searched for other examples on the web, having to refine my search a number of times to find the best possible formats for my photogallery. And as I searched, I crossed off possibilities from my list of potential solutions (Evaluate). At the end, I had two options. I Evaluated each of them, found one of them had a key defect, and chose to pursue the other option.

Still left in my mini-Technology project is the implementation of the chosen solution; I can already tell from skimming the site that I will need to install two new programs before I can upload photos (guess that would be Planning). And once I have the programs downloaded, I need to learn how to use them (Investigate again). At the same time, I will need to Design the way I want the photogallery to look; no point in learning how to make a slideshow if I don't think that will look good in the overall Design.


Reflecting on how I'm completing this project is also leaving me with more ideas about how to teach the Design Cycle. Last year, I gave out a few big projects that had every step of the Cycle included; kids couldn't help but approach it like a checklist.

I see now that each of these steps is not really a big phase; they are more like umbrella categories that have lots of small skills inside of them. For example, refining keywords as you search the web is an important skill for Investigating. Evaluate is not a one-off end of project task; it is kind of like opening your eyes as you swim to make sure you're not veering off the mark, or checking your watch as you train for a 5K.

Musing out is still fundamentally a project-oriented class, where real-world solutions / creations are the focus of the curriculum. So perhaps I'll aim to teach these smaller skills in bite-sized openers to lessons, then let students spend the rest of the time on their project.

Also, this is definitely a case where a teacher Thinking Out Loud could be very beneficial for students. Modeling use of the Design Cycle = key.

Maybe I just typed out the outline of that Think Out Loud lesson, huh?


Thanks for reading,


PS Click here to see my other site. Not close to professionally done, but I've done my best on it. And, the photogallery is as of July 28 not up there, is it. Still gotta implement my chosen solution.