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.

MYP Technology Design Cycle

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.

Building castles in SpainAs 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.

Final Thoughts

Boston - Zakim Bridge "Intersecting Cables"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

27 thoughts on “The Great Design Challenge: Introducing the MYP Design Cycle

  1. Just wanted to leave a note of thanks as I plan and prepare for teaching CT to MYP for the first time and wanted a fun way to introduce the design cycle to them. This is it! I love collaboration and sharing too. Thanks for posting!

  2. Kim,

    I really enjoyed reading the description of the design project that you used in your MYP classroom. You are right, it can be used in many subject areas to develop understanding. I am thinking about how this could be used in my ToK class.

    I look forward to reading more.

    1. @G Baker,

      Thanks! The Design Cycle is great – so relevant and natural – works for any subject. Would love to hear how you implement in your TOK class.

  3. Hi,

    Today, I started and am in fact in the middle of, my first day as the Technology teacher at an international school in Germany. I haven’t flexed my tech muscles yet, as we don’t start regular schedule until next week. However, we’ve planned our first unit as an Intro for 6th and Review for 7 -10 of the Design Cycle. I like this more tactile approach. I was planning on giving students the scenario of being a manufacturer of any category of products they like – electronics, furniture, etc. The task would have been to create a process for deciding how to design and build products. Even as I type it, it feels muddy and daunting. I’m so happy you’ve posted this, because I’m going to shift into this direction I think. Thanks! However, we’ve planned 2 weeks for this unit, 2 forty minute periods a week. So, I might still incorporate and clarify the original concept. Thoughts?

    1. @David,

      Best of luck with the new course! You are lucky to have 2 weeks for your introduction, although with just 40 minutes per lesson, I would imagine just the activity above would take at least one week. What about if you did something along the lines of what I’ve described above, and also had your students issue a design challenge – maybe in partners or small groups – that the other students could tackle? You could give them specific limitation so that the challenges aren’t too big to handle in a 40-minute period (something like, recycled paper is the only “material” allowed). Would love to hear how it goes!

      1. Well, it’s gone OK. We had problems with our network for the first couple weeks and so we were a bit handicapped. This actually made it easier because I didn’t need the computers for this activity, other than for research. There was some connectivity, so kids were able to find videos and research the building of a house of cards. It did lead to conversations about process and the importance of having some criteria for the creation/building of something. I followed this with the orginial idea I had where students would develop a process for making something (video games, board games, tv ad, etc). This felt too long and too challenging for the younger kids (grade 7) and too easy for the older kids, (grade 10). 8th and 9th seemed to do better with it. However, it did serve to give me an idea of the pacing and guidance each grade level will require (never taught any of them until now) and it let me do a bunch of “house keeping” like getting accounts set up and such. I’ll probably do something different for the next group for the following term, but I’ve got a great basis to start from.

  4. Hello Kim,

    I am student at the University of South Alabama majoring in secondary education. This semester I am in an education class that immerses students in the new trends and capabilities of technology. We have a lot of work to do from blogs to podcasts. I am glad to see a teacher as excited for the new school year as you are. The design cycle that you use is “nice”! It does use a natural cognitive process, but having the process on paper along with this amazing layout, makes it valuable in my eyes. If you won’t mind I am going to pass this on to as many people that I can. I know I will be using in my future, so for that I say, thank you!

    Jason Jackson

    1. @Jason,

      Glad I could help! Look forward to hearing what you do with the Design Cycle!

  5. It definitely seems awesome to have someone teaching the same things that you are teaching. And the idea of 30 minute challenges is one that I really want to try now – but in my case, with kids in the PYP. I notice in the Google Doc that you have a table the students were supposed to only fill in on the left-hand side. What did you use the other side for – Reflections – Modifications?
    Thanks for the inspiration.
    Tom Johnson´s last blog post ..Gone are keyboards: Surface Computing

    1. @Tom,

      On the right side they end up filling in which stage of the design cycle they were doing at each step in their process. They end up realizing that, for the most part, they skipped straight to the create stage, with not much time in Investigate or Plan. This helps them realize the importance of following the whole process.

  6. Hi Kim

    Not a bad model. I teach design at a university in New Zealand. My colleagues and I don’t know too much about how design and technology is taught in schools (I’m sure it differs from country to country). However, creative problem solving (and problem finding, or opportunity identification) is common (and important) in other disciplines as well. Creativity knows no discipline (sometimes it is rather undisciplined) and we need to help students (and everyone) to exploit their creative potential, whatever subject they are studying. Design offers different ways and modes of thinking and communicating (take your graphic model, for example), and these multiple modes invite learners to “speak” in different “languages” (drawing, audio composition, video, 3D models, information graphics, etc.). We find ourselves learning new languages all the time, as technology enables new ways to think through a problem and communicate what we have found to others.

    I hope you are enjoying life in Japan (a country I have not yet visited).

    Mark McGuire
    Mark McGuire´s last blog post ..Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! (TED Talk 2010)

    1. @Mark,

      Thank you! It’s great to hear that the work we’re doing in K12 resonates at the university level as well (which, of course, we hope it does). Love your language metaphor, I use that idea a lot with students, which helps them understand how to switch from one tool/technique to another (since they are often seamlessly switching from one language to another in their everyday lives – ie: English to Japanese). Japan is a wonderful place to live! Let me know if you’re every planning to travel to Tokyo and I can offer some travel tips :)

  7. Kim, great idea. Two questions: did you specify number of cards to be used? Can you give us an idea of guidelines for Wanted poster?

  8. Hi Kim,

    I am teaching myp design with grade 8’s and grade 9 ‘s. like you I plan to have student keep a blog as part of their deign portfolio. I would love to be able to have our students share comments back and forth on their blogs. Your thoughts?

    1. Hey Craig,

      coming to you from Louisville. I just read your post and we are in the process of doing the exact same thing. We are wanting students to be able to upload pictures of their artwork, video, or audio files for other students to comment. im guessing you are looking to do the same thing. i am meeting with some other personnel this week about how to do it. we could share what both of us have found on here? always looking for a collab buddy!!

  9. Hi Kim!! Great starter project!! My school is in the authorization process of IB. I am in the early stages of learning the Design Cycle. My job is to collaborate with the core content classes for one/two weeks to integrate technology. I have an entire computer lab, digital cameras, & a couple of flip cameras to use. I’ve had student make a comic strip to explain math equations, flip camera to film a 30 second PSA on recycling. but i was hoping to get some other ideas. i’ve searched the web and just wanted to get some feedback from another “design cycler”. any suggestions?

  10. Hi Kim
    Just starting out in IB as Tech Coach – have been a Tech Coach/Teacher and Project Officer in Digital Pedagogy in previous life and stumbled upon your site! Will be dropping in every now and then! Thank you!
    Jane Ellem´s last blog post ..My Tribe

  11. Does your teaching partner for 7th grade have any “handout” or lesson plan how he did his somewhere. I love both of these ideas. Have been teaching this subject for several years now and am always looking for new ideas! Thanks for sharing.

  12. Hi,

    Wonderful activity! I tried this with my students for an introduction to the design cycle.And kids just loved it.It is easy to do and drives home the importance of the design cycle. I made the teams to reflect on their experiences – It was a great learning experience.
    Thank you!

  13. Dear Kim,
    I’m a new IB MYP design teacher in Macao, I find your article really inspiring:))) But the photos are no longer available, do you mind to upload again, thank you loads.

  14. Dear Kim,
    Great activity, can’t wait to do it with my students. I have a question … you made a reference to the specifications of the activity and the house that was built. What are the specifications? Did they have to use all of the supplies?

    1. @LGC

      They made their own specifications based on what they think a house should be, and then they were trying to meet those. They could use whatever materials they liked, including what I had, but not limited to those or required to use all of them. Hope it goes well!

  15. Your approach to finding the difference between art and design uses compare and contrast which is a powerful instructional strategy. Good thinking! I love how you are using every-day items (playing cards) with material constraints to promote ingenuity and reinforce concepts as well–I am a fan of this. Using the MYP Design Cycle to integrate technology into the classroom makes good sense. You are so correct that MYP Design is visible in all academic subjects. It’s beautifully interdisciplinary and promotes project-based learning. Thanks for your post!

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