Keeping Design Alive

We have a dilemma at AIS Kuwait. We weren’t able to find a high school Design teacher on the recruiting trail. Because of this, our two K-12 technology integration coaches may have to each teach 2 classes next year. To be clear, I think coaches teaching can be a great idea in some situations. However in our case we have 2 educational technology positions for a student body of 2000 students and over 200 staff.  I am eager to see both Design and educational technology thrive at AIS.

There’s still hope…but only if we can find and hire the right candidate. Please spread the word to anyone still looking for international teaching jobs for next year. Jeff or I would be happy to answer any questions you have. And Dave Botbyl is eagerly awaiting your application.

Need a little more information about IB MYP Design? Read on…

From the IB MYP Design Guide (2014):

Nature of Design
Design, and the resultant development of new technologies, has given rise to profound changes in society: transforming how we access and process information; how we adapt our environment; how we communicate with others; how we are able to solve problems; how we work and live.

Design is the link between innovation and creativity, taking thoughts and exploring the possibilities and constraints associated with products or systems, allowing them to redefine and manage the generation of further thought through prototyping, experimentation and adaptation. It is human-centred and focuses on the needs, wants and limitations of the end user.

Competent design is not only within the reach of a small set of uniquely skilled individuals, but can be achieved by all. The use of well-established design principles and processes increases the probability that a design will be successful. To do this, designers use a wide variety of principles which, taken together, make up what is known as the design cycle.

  • Designers adapt their approach to different design situations, but they have a common understanding of the process necessary to form valid and suitable solutions.
  • A designer has a role and responsibility to the community and the environment. Their decisions can have a huge impact and, therefore, their ethics and morals can and should be questioned regularly.
  • A designer should have the ability to maintain an unbiased view of a situation and evaluate a situation objectively, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of a common product or system.
  • Good communication is a key trait of any good designer through visual and oral presentation.

Designing requires an individual to be imaginative and creative, while having a substantial knowledge base of important factors that will aid or constrain the process. Decisions made need to be supported by adequate and appropriate research and investigation. Designers must adopt an approach that allows them to think creatively, while conforming to the requirements of a design specification.

Both the ideas of design and the process of design can only occur in a human context. Design is carried out by a community of people from a wide variety of backgrounds and traditions, and this has clearly influenced the way design has progressed at different times. It is important to understand, however, that to design is to be involved in a community of inquiry with certain common beliefs, methodologies, understandings and processes.

MYP design challenges all students to apply practical and creative thinking skills to solve design problems; encourages students to explore the role of design in both historical and contemporary contexts; and raises students’ awareness of their responsibilities when making design decisions and taking action.

Inquiry and problem-solving are at the heart of the subject group. MYP design requires the use of the design cycle as a tool, which provides the methodology used to structure the inquiry and analysis of problems, the development of feasible solutions, the creation of solutions, and the testing and evaluation of the solution. In MYP design, a solution can be defined as a model, prototype, product or system that students have developed and created independently.

A well-planned design programme enables students to develop not only practical skills but also strategies for creative and critical thinking.

The MYP expects all students to become actively involved in, and to focus on, the whole design process rather than on the final product/solution.

Aims of Design:
The aims of MYP design are to encourage and enable students to:

  • enjoy the design process, develop an appreciation of its elegance and power
  • develop knowledge, understanding and skills from different disciplines to design and create solutions to problems using the design cycle
  • use and apply technology effectively as a means to access, process and communicate information, model and create solutions, and to solve problems
  • develop an appreciation of the impact of design innovations for life, global society and environments
  • appreciate past, present and emerging design within cultural, political, social, historical and environmental contexts
  • develop respect for others’ viewpoints and appreciate alternative solutions to problems
  • act with integrity and honesty, and take responsibility for their own actions developing effective working practices.

The MYP Design Cycle:

Every designer may approach a problem in a different way. Depending on their specialism, designers tend to have their own methodology, but some general activities are common to all designers. The design cycle model underpins the design process.

The design cycle model (Figure 3) represents the MYP design methodology of how designers develop products. The process is divided into four stages: inquiring and analysing; developing ideas; creating the solution; evaluating. This incremental process allows the designer to go from identifying a design opportunity to the testing and evaluation of a solution. This process leads to the creation of solutions that solve a problem.

It is important to note that, while the design cycle includes several successive stages, the design cycle is an iterative and cyclical process. When using the design cycle, students will often need to revisit a previous stage before they can complete the stage they are currently working on. Solving design problems is not always a linear process.

COETAIL, Course 5

We finally started!

After much anticipation, we were finally able to start our unit last week! Looking back, I can’t believe it has been 2 months since I first started experimenting with using Tumblr as a Design Folder. Lindsay and I updated our unit planner (mostly her!) and after much anticipation, I’m pretty excited to get started on my project!

[a little review of the unit]

Day 1 – Class started with our unit title (The Medium is the Message) on the board as students walked in. Their bellwork was to try to figure out what that meant. After a short discussion, we let them go explore the school to take pictures with whatever device they had. After 20 minutes they came back and picked out their ‘best’ photo. I also had a discussion with them about school vs personal use of social media in order to introduce the idea of using Tumblr. Their homework was to create a Tumblr account (using my directions), write a post with their best photo (and why) and submit their Tumblr URL to us.

Days 2 to 4 – Day 2 the students shared their photos with the class, discussing why they thought they were good (thanks for the idea Julie!). I’m eager to talk to Lindsay about what she thought of this as a formative assessment and how it affected her plans.

Lindsay took over for a couple days of direct instruction about photography and introduced our statement of inquiry (The media used to deliver a message affects audience perception globally.).

During this time…we ran into some difficulties that I had not anticipated. Seventh grade students are mostly 12 and 13. Twelve year olds can’t sign up for Tumblr (duh! why didn’t I think of this?!). I wrote a short letter for parents and sent it home with the students. We still had one mother who had concerns and contacted our principal directly. I was a little nervous about my response but I addressed all of her concerns and she has since responded that she will allow her child to use Tumblr for this unit. Yay!

Day 5 – Yesterday was a big day for the Design piece of the unit. Bellwork was one of our factual questions (Today, in our society, what are the different media used to convey a message?) followed by a short discussion that I geared toward social media. I then introduced the Design Cycle (with which all of them are familiar) with a deserted island scenario and discussion. Our students don’t seem to understand the importance of the Design Cycle and Investigate in particular so I have found this discussion useful! After introducing the problems, we discussed the differences between the two. I got students to point out that one was a positive campaign (tourism) and the other negative (littering). We talked about changing people’s behavior and what their photos would look like. We’re really hoping that the students will pick their problem based on their personal preferences and not pick one just because their friends are.

I’m pretty pumped for Brian & Yuko of Photohoku to join us in class tomorrow! I can only hope the students are half as excited. We gave them homework so that they come to class prepared. We’re hoping to use do a Google Hangout On Air so that the students (and you) can watch the recording later. A little nervous…but can’t wait to see how it all goes 🙂

Check out the slidedeck below to see what we did in class:

COETAIL, Course 4, Course 5, Kuwait

Looking ahead to course 5 – MYP Design & Art

The specialist classes in the middle school (French, band, art, drama) previously met 3 days during an 8 day cycle. This year they now have .5 credit (3 out of 8) and 1 credit classes (6 out of 8). In an attempt to give middle school students more flexibility in their schedule, our MS principal decided to pilot incorporating the MYP Design Cycle into the full credit specialist classes. This makes it so that not all students have to take a formal Design Tech class. Two units in each of the specialist classes during the 2013-14 school will be assessed on both subject and design criteria. It was agreed last year that the technology integration coaches (there are 3 of us PK-12) would be the ones to assess the design cycle criteria.

I have been assigned to work with the French and art classes. During a meeting with the MS principal (Dave Botbyl) and the art teacher, Dave suggested that I use a unit in art next semester for my COETAIL final project. Genius! 🙂

We are using the the ‘old’ design cycle and not the new one from the next generation materials.

I have shared the course 5 final project details with Lindsay (our MS art teacher). Next semester her classes will be doing a unit on photography. It is a brand new unit that she will be building from the ground up. She has agreed to let me write the unit with her – yay!

After learning more about problem-based learning, I’m excited to incorporate the design cycle into art. I think there is a lot of potential! But it is also a lot of pressure…a brand new unit with a brand new concept. Solving problems with design and art just makes sense. Lindsay is currently doing a unit on logo design with her 8th grade visual arts class. It looks like a great unit and I’ll be eager to see the results.

I’ve started brainstorming for the photography unit but Lindsay and I haven’t sat down together to plan yet so it’s all pretty rough. A recent presentation to Language B teachers about visual interpretation had me mulling over how these tools might be applicable to the photography unit. When I think about SAMR and redefinition, the ability to collaborate, share and learn from others around the world is where my mind goes. Below is a working list of ideas. I’ve shared the document and made it open for comments – I’d love any input from YOU!

COETAIL, Course 4

Problem-based learning = IB MYP design cycle?

Problem…or Project?
I recently mentioned the variety of X-based learning vocabulary that has invaded the education world. When I first saw PBL for this week’s blog I had to do a double take – I thought the P stood for ‘Project.’ So I needed to do a little research to understand the difference between Project and Problem -based learning.

In Project Based Learning (PBL), students go through an extended process of inquiry in response to a complex question, problem, or challenge. Rigorous projects help students learn key academic content and practice 21st Century Skills (such as collaboration, communication & critical thinking). (source)


In a problem-based learning (PBL) model, students engage complex, challenging problems and collaboratively work toward their resolution. PBL is about students connecting disciplinary knowledge to real-world problems—the motivation to solve a problem becomes the motivation to learn. (source)

Twitter and Google searches also helped aid my understanding between the two models. John Larmer contends that problem-based learning is a subset of project based learning and provides a helpful table to differentiate between the two. In Geoff Krall‘s opinion the two biggest differences are time and order and he also provides a great pie chat of the differences and similarities.

With a clearer picture of what these two models actually are I definitely see advantages to them. Just as I do with several of the other X-based learning models (game-based learning, challenge-based learning…).

IB MYP design cycle?
One of the features of problem-based learning is the ‘steps that can be repeated and recycled.’ The inclusion of authentic problems and the prescribed steps remind me of the IB MYP design cycle (and design thinking).
MYP Technology Design Cycle


The core of why I like the MYP design cycle, and all the X-based learning/thinking, is that they are student centered and move the teacher from the sage to a guide. What is best for my students is the question I always want to be reflecting back on. Are these models (or a hybrid or them) best for my students? Probably!

As for technology’s role this these models – it becomes a tool for learning, not the base of all learning. You could actually go through the entire design cycle without once using technology. Would it help facilitate the cycle? Most likely. But is is absolutely necessary? Not always. Design and X-based learning models have the potential (if done right) to give true meaning to technology integration.

Disclaimer: I don’t actually teach the MYP design cycle nor have I received official training. I’d love to hear opinions from any of you that do teach it / are trained!

COETAIL, Course 3

My blog design

Creating my blog
As a perfectionist, I wanted to make sure that my COETAIL blog looked decent before I unveiled it to the world (and wrote my first post). I first chose a color palette that was appealing to me using Adobe’s Kuler. After picking my WordPress theme, I passed my palette on to my husband who created my header in Photoshop. I love that my header has a little bit of my personality in it! I then changed my professional blog so that the two looked nearly identical.

Another look
After reading this week’s articles, I took a closer look at my blog. Although it is appealing to me, I didn’t love the organization of my right side-bar widgets. I took Brandon Jones’ advice and did some moving around. I’ve tried to clean up the side-bar and make it a little less overwhelming. You can compare the screenshots below to what it is now. (On the left was the top section, on the right was the bottom section. Unfortunately I lost the middle section that contained a tag & category cloud).

Coetail side bar 1                                             Coetail side bar 3

My ideal blog layout…
Speaking of side-bars…there are some other things I’d like over there. Instead of a text link to my other blog, I’d really like to have icons for my other blogs, twitter, diigo and linkedin. I really like the look of icon links instead of text (thanks to Beth for sharing the article!). After reading the article from Slate, I would also like more control over the font of the page.

Guest Blogging
Before reading the week one material, I had written a rather lengthy guest blog post (I compiled a few posts I had written on my other blog). Although I wasn’t able to make it too much shorter, I did decide to break up the sections (similar to what I’m doing with this post).

What do YOU think?
I believe it is most important what my readers think. I want my blog to show my personality while still appealing to the readers. I would love if you completed the ‘Exercise to Test Visual Hierarchy‘ in the comments!

  1. List the key information points that you are seeking.
  2. Assign values (1-10) according to their importance.
  3. Now, look at the actual design again.
  4. Assign values (1-10) according to the actual visual importance as you see it in the live design.
  5. Consider: Does the expected importance match up with the actual designed importance?

Thank you! 🙂