The Great Design Challenge: Introducing the MYP Design Cycle
Once again, I’m teaching grade 6 MYP Technology. This is my absolute favorite class to teach, and I’m looking forward to another fun year with our wonderful new sixth graders.
One thing is very different this year, though. For the first time, ever, in my teaching career, I have a colleague who also teaches MYP Technology that I can collaborate with! In the past, I’ve always been the only middle school technology teacher, but this year, I am very fortunate to work with Damien Pitter, who will be teaching grade 7 MYP Technology at YIS.
We’re starting off the year by introducing the MYP Technology Design Cycle in a fun way, through a 30-minute design challenge, one variation for grade 6 and something a little different for grade 7. Usually I like to bring in hands-on, non-tech, activities in various places throughout the year to focus on the concept of the design process and this is going to be the first experience for this group.
Here’s the plan, with a *huge* thanks to Damien (I ♥ collaboration): The Great 30-Minute Design Challenge
Start the lesson with a quick discussion about the difference between art and design, helping students understand the fact that design must include function and not only appearance. Then, introduce the challenge. For grade 6, they will be designing and creating a house of cards using only the materials provided (recycled index cards and tape). They will have 30 minutes to use whatever resources they have to learn how to create a house of cards (including their friends and their laptops, if needed), and to successfully create their house.
As they go through the process of creating their house, they will document (on this simple table, created by Damien) each step in their process. During the challenge, students may ask questions and help each other, but in the end, they must each create their own house.
After 30 minutes, we’ll do a short “Gallery Walk” to look at everyone’s houses. A class discussion about which houses have great design, which met the design specifications and which were most successful will follow. Ideally, this will prompt some thought about how to design: thinking about who you’re designing for, what the purpose is for your design, what will determine the success or failure of your design, and how effectively follow a process from beginning to end to ensure that your designs are meeting all of those needs.
Finally, we’ll talk through the various stages of the MYP Design Cycle in terms of this task, understanding the importance of each step. Students will fill in the table they started earlier by using the second column to label which stage of the Design Cycle they were doing for each step – even if they’re completely out of order. Hopefully this will prompt some class reflection about how important the process is, why each stage comes when it does in the Cycle, and help build their understanding of how they can apply it to all subject areas.
I’m excited to see how this lesson will turn out. Damien did his version last week (the grade 7 students designed a “Wanted” poster for their 30 minute challenge) and he said it prompted some great discussion. I’m kind of surprised I’ve never done a short introduction like this before. I think it’s because the Design Cycle seems so natural to me that I’ve never thought about it needing a specific overview lesson, but I’m sure this will help my students understand the purpose and structure of this course so much better. Maybe it’s just me, but I love the fact that this class focuses on the process over the product. Understanding how to manage a project, how to design for others (or yourself) and how to reflect on your own work is such valuable learning.
As Damien and I were discussing this activity, we kept coming back to the idea that the Design Cycle is visible in every subject area, like the writing process in English and the scientific method in, well, science, which is why I always use the Design Cycle when integrating technology into the classroom. One of my goals for this class ia always to help them see those connections more naturally, and to be able to be more effective “project managers” through their understanding of the design process. Hopefully, now that we’re moving MYP up through the middle school, there will be more opportunity for collaboration between departments to highlight these connections.
Oh, and by the way, how awesome is it to have a colleague who teaches the same thing as you?!
Do you teach MYP Technology? How do you introduce the concept of the Design Cycle to your students?
Image Sources, Creative Commons Licensed, Found on Flickr