EXPLORING THE REAL SHIFT: Educator, parent, and blogger, Mr. Will Richardson concedes he "has not been all happy, happy lately." What vexes him is how the media too frequently trumpets shiny, new technology in school as a "revolution." He writes: "If we keep allowing stories like these to set the bar for change, we're shortchanging our kids....[we're] conflating teaching and learning, of not fully understanding the shift to self-directed, personal learning that technology and the Web support." Transformation, he adds, means "shifting the balance of power to the learner." Well Mr. Richardson, we'd love to get you back to happy writing over this initiative from the Chicago Architecture Foundation.
DiscoverDesign is a student-centric web application that builds on the Architecture Handbook, CAF's initial attempt to move architecture education beyond drafting to design and problem-solving. Responding to teachers' needs for more project-based learning, DiscoverDesign offers individualized learning modules in the form of design projects. All the projects are constructed around artifacts typically found at school--lockers, bike shelters, and cafeterias. The projects also provide practical opportunities for students to design impactful solutions that they can then use to share with, connect to, and compete with other young designers around the world. Most importantly, professional mentors have a way to provide meaningful coaching that goes beyond the "parachute in and leave" approach most must take during the work day.
Ms. Jen Masengarb, lead writer of the Architecture Handbook, and Senior Manager of Educational Research at CAF, reports that there are still a few wrinkles. Teachers incorporating DiscoverDesign, for instance, must learn to move from "standing over the shoulder to interacting with students online." Failure to do so minimizes the tool's ability to provide a continuous learning experience. There's also an ongoing effort to train professionals on what constitutes effective student feedback. Not to worry; CAF is working through these issues and much more. Ms. Masengarb reports that while the tool will remain student-centric, a "teacher toolkit" is in the works!