Why is design an essential part of a school’s curriculum?

The most important benefits of Design classes and/or units in the curriculum are: complex thinking, development of technical skills, analysis of media and products around them and hands-on creating.
Design courses or projects have two specific purposes:

  1. To learn skills to become highly proficient in different technical skills
  2. To learn to use the process of designing for problem solving and to create authentic products for a specific client or audience.

What does this all mean?
First, students need to develop a variety of skill sets.  In order for students to create high quality products, they need to develop their skills.  In Design courses or projects, students can learn how to use tools and learn techniques in different areas such as:
Creating with resistant materials: Wood, Plastics, Metals and Composites
Graphic Design
2D & 3D Drawing for Laser Cutting and 3D Printing
Food Preparation Techniques

The second important component of Design in education is design thinking.
Students follow a process to create a product – this could be a materials-based product, a digital product or even a system.

Prototype of ISB Design Cycle


Student analyzing children’s Chinese storybooks to identify components to create their own.

First, students are given a guiding question or a problem to solve. Then they begin to inquire and do research. They define their goal and find an audience, empathize with their potential clients to gather a better understanding of what is needed. They then analyze existing products and do further inquiry and research.
In this stage of the design cycle, students create success criteria (design specifications) so they know what their product must have in order to be successful.  They develop a few design ideas and then justify the design they will try to develop.  Students then create annotated sketches to show their ideas on paper.  Finally, before creating, they  make a plan to organize their time, materials, tools and locations where they will work.
In this stage of the Design cycle, students first start by making a prototype of their design.  They reflect, gather feedback and test their product to see if it meets the success criteria.  They continually create and iterate to improve their product.

Students testing their polymers in a chemical engineering design project

Students, like all designers, reflect throughout the design process.  Students are expected to self reflect and have confidence to give and receive feedback from their peers to help guide them through their design process.
We also want students to share their process and final products with an extended community to make an impact and to have a larger audience to further their learning.
There are a lot of great design projects and design thinking happening at ISB and our design program is growing through the engineering strand of the Science curriculum, through middle school Design class, enrichments and other design integrated projects.  Later on in the year, we’ll be sharing more student design projects throughout the school.

Why We Blog

blog-684748_960_720Last year we made and effort in the Office of Learning to build #learnisb on Twitter and through our blogging platform.  Each serves a somewhat different purpose.  We use Twitter and social media as a way to open up our classrooms and share our work and the work of our students with each other.  We have many active tweeters on staff and look forward to continue the building of this community within the school.
Blogging is another way we want to share ideas from professional learning to interesting educational conversations etc. Following the blog is a choice as we do not send our all staff announcements of the blog. If you would like to follow it, you need only subscribe on the right hand side of this page.Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 8.48.36 AM
There are several good reasons to follow the blog:

  1. We share ideas you might be interested in.
  2. Our Twitter feed is loaded on the blog so if you are not on Tweetdeck or Twitter, this is a place you can come to see what is being shared on Twitter  by your ISB colleagues.
  3. Professional Learning, we have a professional learning calendar that lets you know about all of the PD available at ISB and in the region.  One stop shopping for all of your PD needs
  4. Key resources for departments in the Office of Learning (Curriculum, Educational Technology, and the Strategic Learning Office).

Please subscribe and we promise to share good things and to keep you informed about your professional learning opportunities.

Bang for Blogs

Post by: Pim Arora
At ISB, all middle and high school students have WordPress blogs.  In the elementary school, upper elementary students also use WordPress, while younger students utilize private blogs as an online portfolio.  This format allows parents to see their child’s development over the course of the year.  The school places an emphasis on students using blogs creatively to showcase their learning. However, we also want to ensure that they are using these online tools safely. The ISB Publications Protocol outlines privacy policies and blogging expectations for both students and teachers.

In the middle school, blogs are a great way for students and teachers to connect. It can serve as the hub of the class.

Teachers can use a blog to provide clarification on assignments, as a place for students to submit work, as a way to communicate updates or reminders for parents and students, and as a place for students to peer review work. This Edudemic  article details additional ways teachers can use blogging in their classrooms. Just recently, a student in our 8th grade student tagged an author in her blog and the author responded to the student’s post. This was a great surprise to the class and a awesome example to the other students to get active on their blogs.

As students move into high school, they may want to use the blog to “brand” themselves or as a place to showcase their work.  Blogs can be a repository for many things: writing, art, music, and/or multimedia presentations.  Online portfolios like this can be helpful when applying to colleges or universities.  Access to a student’s blog allows admissions representatives to get a much more comprehensive view of the student. Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 14.17.00 After a student leaves ISB, he/she can migrate their work from the WordPress blog to a new platform to ensure ongoing access.

Blogs aren’t just for students. In addition to the ways that teachers can use blogs in the classroom, there are many other personal and professional ways to utilize blogging. Just as students can use a blog to showcase their work when applying to university, teachers can also use blogs when recruiting.  By uploading sample assignments, classroom videos and other artifacts, teachers are able to provide potential employers with a realistic view of their teaching style and expertise.  Blogging is also an easy way to connect with like-minded individuals or learn more about the latest innovations in your field. Finally, a personal blog is a super way for expats to document their adventures and share these experiences with far flung friends and family.
Some tips for blogging include:

  • Blog as yourself or take on a consistent character
  • Blog responsibly, this a live publication
  • Blog regularly
  • Share your blog on social media
  • Use correct grammar in your creative writing
  • Know your audience

References to popular student and teacher blogs:

What Can an iPad Do That a Laptop Can’t?

Posted by Elvina Tong
Two school years ago, kindergarten began using 1:1 iPads in the classroom, with one Grade 1 class piloting 1:1. The following year, Grade 1 went fully 1:1 iPad and had done away with their laptops. This past spring, Grade 2 also moved to a 1:1 iPad model. And now, Grades 3 and 4 are looking at the pros and cons of making the switch as well. In addition, these year, we have 78 iPads in the middle/high school library for those teachers to borrow on a project basis.
Middle and high school teachers, you may be wondering, if my students already have a laptop, why would I need to borrow iPads? What can an iPad do that a laptop can’t? Isn’t it easier to type on a keyboard? Great questions.
I’m not going to pretend that there is a whole lot the iPad can do that a laptop can’t do. But the iPad does it so much more effortlessly. Contrary to what we adults use our tablets and smartphones for, there are actually lots of ways students can use iPads to create content seamlessly, quickly and without too much of a learning curve.
Creation vs. Consumption

Telling a story with the story mountain and ShowMe app.
Telling a story with the story mountain and ShowMe app.

You might have heard or read about students using technology for creation rather than consumption. The idea is to use technology to create – be it through images, audio, video. I would also add that the power to make their work public, shareable and partake in peer review makes the creation process meaningful. Consumption is when we are simply reading or watching on our screens. In a matter of minutes, a student can use an iPad to take photos and video, combine it into one movie and narrate it with text and music, then share it with others in another city or country. I’m not talking about making award winning masterpieces, but the possibility to create and share in the moment. We all know there are millions of apps for iPads and lots more developed every day. I think, however, the real power of teaching and learning with an iPad isn’t through digital worksheet apps but finding a few core ones that allow students to create content.
It’s part of their environment…

Not too young...
Not too young…

One afternoon, I was walking across the playground to return to my classroom. I stopped to watch a pre-schooler take photos with a point and shoot camera. Her teacher suggested that she show me her pictures. She started to swipe the display of the point and shoot camera. It did not have touch capability. Her teacher and I laughed privately. This happened five years ago. The iPad is only five years old but we are now working with a generation of students who don’t remember life without touch technology. To them, touch is not even technology, it’s part of their environment and how they live, interact and learn. The iPad doesn’t replace the laptop, it enhances it. We are fortunate enough to have both for our students. And don’t forget, it’s not about the technology, tools or apps, it’s how they are used. Let’s unlock the power of synthesizing these tools to allow our students to become creators rather than consumers. I for one can’t wait to see what they produce.
Kathy Schrock’s iPads4Teaching 
Langwitches Blog
iPads in Schools LiveBinder

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