Category Archives: Creative Thinking

Unlocking Design Thinking

Greg Kulowiec (@gregkulowiec) has been tweeting some very helpful graphics for Design Thinking, using the hashtag #unlockingdesignthinking.  I asked his permission to post the ones for Ideate (Brainstorming) on here, as that is often one of the most difficult phases for my students, and I really like his suggestions.

Here are his two Ideate posters close up:

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created by Greg Kulowiec (@gregkulowiec)

I love the two strategies above, which I’ve never used with students before, to extend their thinking once they’ve generated possible solutions.

 

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created by Greg Kulowiec (@gregkulowiec)

I have more about the SCAMPER method here.  For some additional suggestions to encourage brainstorming in your class, you can also refer to this post.

If you like these posters, and would like to see the rest in the series, search for #unlockingdesignthinking on Twitter, and be sure to follow @gregkulowiec.  I will be doing a guest post for another site in March on “How to Use Design Thinking in the Classroom”, so stay tuned for more details!

Recycled Toys

Last nine weeks, I co-taught an Electronics class for our 7th grade elective.  I say “co-taught” even though my colleague, Kat Sauter, actually did nearly all of the planning and teaching – and I learned nearly as much as the students.  One of the projects that the students did was to take apart old battery-operated toys to identify the different electronic parts.  After dissecting the toys and making posters that illustrated diagrams of the inner workings, the students could make new toys using the parts and any of the tools we had in Zorro Astuto.  This group was particularly proud of the musical toy they transformed into a UFO, complete with 3d printed alien pilot, laser cut acrylic laser beam, and very confused 3d printed cow.

One of the resources Kat used for ideas was this “Toy Take Apart” project from the Exploratorium.  You can find some more ideas in this article from User Generated Education.  You can also see some other fun examples by looking at #toydissection on Twitter.

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Tinkercad Design Slams

For anyone new to 3d design, Tinkercad is one of the best options out there.  This free online design tool is an excellent introduction to creating .stl files that can be saved and imported into your preferred 3d printer slicing software.  When I think of the dearth of 3d printing/design thinking resources that could be used in schools, especially in elementary, five or six years ago, it is heartening to see all of the curriculum, tools, and tutorials that have popped up since the days when my colleague and I started using City X with our students.   Tinkercad has been a huge contributor of these resources, making it very educator-friendly.

Last November, the Tinkercad blog featured a post on “Design Slams”  that has links to curriculum that was developed for 3 different grade bands: preK-5, 6-8, and 9-12.  You can use these as starting points to integrate STEAM in your classroom and/or you can choose to enter the #AutodeskMakeItReal contest, also linked in Kellyanne Mahoney’s post.  The themes of these units (Make for Everyone, Make it Green, and Make Justice, respectively) all have the common goal of teaching students to think about how they can impact their communities with design thinking.

New to Tinkercad?  Don’t forget you can go to the “Learn” button at the top of the site to access tutorials to help you get started.

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Image by ZMorph3D from Pixabay

 

Using Zorro Astuto

In the last two posts, I’ve talked about our “makerspace” at Advanced Learning Academy, Zorro Astuto Studio, and how we have incorporated a new badging system.  Today I wanted to give an overview of how the space is used.

ALA at Fox Tech serves students in grades 4-12.  Zorro Astuto is located on the 3rd floor, where we currently house grades 6-12.  Our goal is to give all of our students access in some way to this unique area for creation.  Because there are many tools that need training and supervision, this can be a bit tricky.

The first way that we give students access is through classes they can take.  Grades 4/5 have are currently doing a 3d design class using Tinkercad (1/2 are doing it first semester, and 1/2 will do it next semester).  They are taking the classes in another room, but will be learning how to use the 3d printers that we have in Zorro Astuto and one that is in their wing.

6th and 7th graders can choose from 9 week electives that we are offering such as: Intro to Design Lab, Carpentry, Robotics, 3d Design, and Electronics.

8th-12th graders can also choose from these electives, which also utilize tools in Zorro Astuto in Project Based Learning activities: Principles of Applied Engineering, Principles of Arts, and Engineering Design and Presentation.

The second way students may use Zorro Astuto is through interdisciplinary projects within their other classes. ALA offers Genius Hour, Wonder Courses, Tech Theater, and opportunities within core subjects to create artifacts that often involve fabrication on all levels.  In addition, we offered several “Teacher Tool-Ups” at the end of last school year to introduce some of the tools to teachers so they could consider possibilities for future Project Based Learning products.

And, lastly, we have Open Studio time twice a week after school.  For an hour and a half on Mondays and Thursdays, students who have signed Safety Contracts can come to Zorro Astuto to make whatever they want from the scraps we have.  Whether they are in a registered class or not, they are welcome to get certified on our tools and to use them for passion projects or school assignments.

In these ways, we hope that every student at ALA is inspired to learn and create.  As most teachers know, technology and required skills may change over time, but problem solving and creativity will always be needed.

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Zorro Astuto Badging

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we have made some changes to our makerspace this year, one of them being to rebrand it as Zorro Astuto Studio.  Another major improvement we are implementing is a badging system for all students who create in Zorro Astuto.  Throughout grades 4-12 (all of the levels that attend our school on the Fox Tech Campus) students can earn badges when they reach certain criteria for each of three levels.  The criteria for Level 1 includes students getting a 100% on the relevant safety certification test and creating a project with that tool or software.  Levels 2 and 3 increase the expectations, and students who reach a Level 3 in any area will be prominently featured on our “Studio Masters” bulletin board, which is in the mall area outside our space.

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Once a student earns a badge, we laser-cut a physical one using special acrylic from Inventables.  We provide them with a small chain so they can hang it on their backpack.

In addition, we wanted to digitally manage the badges.  Our intention is to keep a running record for students as they move through grade levels.  We also want teachers to have a quick reference.  This will allow teachers, when students ask to use Zorro Astuto resources (like the 3d printer) for projects, to know if the student already has experience or will need to spend time learning a new tool or software.

I researched many digital badging systems and ultimately decided that the Flippity Badge Tracker would best serve our purpose.  Although it is does not have as many features as Mozilla Open Badges or others, it does have simplicity going for it.  With as many students as we have going through Zorro Astuto, we needed something that would work with multiple users and could be easily accessed by teachers across campus.

Tomorrow I will talk about who comes through Zorro Astuto, and the many ways we are trying to make it a place where all of our learners have multiple opportunities to create.

Zorro Astuto Studio

My colleague, Kat Sauter, and I teach in what used to be the Cosmetology classroom at Fox Tech High School.  In the newly formed Advanced Learning Academy (this is its 4th year), our room has become known as “The Makerspace.”  Kat and I felt like this generic term, which has come to mean many things to many people, did not quite fit our learning environment.  We set about to rebrand it.

The building where we are housed was named after the principal who was a strong advocate for technical and vocational education, Louis Fox.  In honor of him and our shared beliefs in hands-on, place-based learning, we decided to call our space, “Zorro Astuto Studio.”  “Zorro” means “fox” in Spanish.  “Astuto” means “clever or crafty.”  We think it fits our program perfectly.

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After much blood, sweat, and possibly a few words of mild profanity, Kat and I got one room of the studio repainted before school started.  With the help of Kat’s sister-in-law, our larger room is almost done.  Students who used the space last year have been very complimentary about all of the changes we’ve made.  We  have several areas that showcase past student projects – such as 3d printed Fiesta medals, skateboards, and inspirational signs – but we are also trying to leave room for future ones as well.

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So, what’s happening in this transformed space?  Stay tuned to this blog, our Twitter account (@StudioZorro), and our Instagram (@StudioZorro) for more on how our students in grades 4-12 will be using this space to create!

The One Word Project

One of the challenges I faced this year in the Makerspace was that our classroom got double-booked for the second nine weeks during 7th period.  This meant my Principles of Applied Engineering Class met in a Spanish classroom – and the students who were eager to use large tools like the saws were disappointed at the temporary change in venue.  (We ended up doing a 3D Design project that nine weeks.) I knew when we returned to the Makerspace at the beginning of January that the students would not want to be put off any longer, and racked my brains the entire Winter Break for a project with a purpose that would finally allow them to explore the tools.

Our Makerspace is relatively new, set up in the school’s old Cosmetology classrooms, and it’s definitely a work in progress.  With upcoming renovations we will be getting another space, but we’ve been trying to make this one functional and inspirational in the meantime.  Other than tool storage, our walls are somewhat blank.  With that in mind, and everyone’s New Year’s Resolution tweets about their “One Word” for their year flooding my Twitter feed, the idea came to me that the students could practice using most of our tools while creating signs to hang up on the walls.

The students brainstormed words that they felt represented the Makerspace, and each group of 2-3 students chose a word.  They made construction paper prototypes of their signs, planning out the measurements of the letters and the plaques.  In the meantime, they did some flipped learning with online videos and safety tests for each of the tools they would be using.

All of the students used the table saw and miter saw to make their plaques.  I have to say that this is one of the most fulfilling aspects of my job.  Like me, many of these students are fearful before they use these powerful tools.  After watching a few people do it without chopping off any fingers, they hesitantly try.  Their smiles afterward remind me of my daughter’s reaction the first time I convinced her to ride roller coaster.  “Let’s do it again!”  The female students, especially, seem the most empowered after they finish.  There is a noticeable difference in their self-confidence as they continue with their projects – some of them asking to cut other people’s projects so they can repeat their experience.

Once the plaques were made, the students were required to learn how to use at least 3 out of 4 other tools for the more precise designs of their letters.  Each tool requires  different software for design, so that was a bit challenging.  The students could use: 3d printer, laser cutter, Silhouette cutter, or CNC mill.  I encouraged them to use different fonts and types of “stock” for each letter.  They could use acrylic, plywood, vinyl, cardstock, copper, aluminum, and filament. (Students could “earn” access to more expensive materials by meeting certain benchmarks on time.)

One of the cons of this project was that many students needed my help or supervision for different things at the same time.  If I do the project again, I will plan more “mini workshops” about the software and schedule times to use certain tools.  Another con was that our brand new CNC mill has a huge learning curve, and we lost a lot of time and material to mistakes. I think I’m finally learning its idiosyncrasies, so that shouldn’t be a huge problem in future projects.

Despite those issues, I felt really good about this project when we finished.  I decided not to assess the actual signs, or to give any kind of team grade.  Instead, students were assessed individually on their safety tests and on their final reflections of the design process.  These reflections, which required pictures of different stages of the project, will be included in the online portfolios our school is required, and were very informative about how much the students understood about problem-solving and learning from mistakes during a project.

Here is what one student wrote, after describing some of the challenges encountered during the project, “That was all fine because that is how life is. You never truly know what is going to happen next and it allowed me to think on my feet a little better and reevaluate my plans; it was a reality check between what was possible and what I could accomplish if absolutely nothing went wrong, which isn’t life. Life is messy and that is beautiful.”

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