Year 8 Integrated Learning

We talk a lot in education about risk taking and the ability to learn from our mistakes, but how often do we match our rhetoric and our action when we ask students for “polished” products and rarely investigate the process. With this in mind, the Library partnered with Year 8 Integrated to engage the students in real world Design Thinking Methodology as part of their Human Influence Task.

In Integrated Learning the Year 8 students were asked to respond to the impact humans have on the environment by investigating a number of environmental issues and selecting one to research further. Their chosen issue needed to present a significant challenge for our stewardship of the earth and as such become the subject of a picture book entirely devised by the student. The students were responsible for coming up with the concept of the picture book, storyboarding it and designing a two page spread representing what the entire book would look like were it completed. Their picture books needed to serve a dual purpose – engage readers and deliver an important message.

The Year 8s enjoyed a change to the routine by visiting the library for Research Lab and Inspiration Hub. In Research Lab they were shown how to use the library catalogue to access resources, conduct a federated search for scholarly articles and optimise their Google searches. In Inspiration Hub they drew from the rich collection of picture books in the library and examined some of the clever ways designers and illustrators have paired text and image. We collectively discovered that effective visual design is not dependant on being an extraordinary artist– one of the picture books we looked at used stick drawings and a piece of red string and another cut out the shapes of religious buildings from photocopied pages of religious texts.

Armed with both knowledge and inspiration the students wrote ‘problem statements’ for the creation of their book by considering who they were writing for and what they ultimately wanted to achieve. Next we undertook ideation by putting the students into groups of four and assigning them a fruit. Person one (or banana) had 60 seconds to explain their basic idea to the other members of the group. The group then came up with as many ideas as possible in the next three minutes – writing each idea on a Post-It note. The next three minutes were spent discussing the many weird and wonderful ideas they generated. The process was repeated until each student had their idea discussed. The rules of ideation are simple – there are no bad ideas and no judgments. This is the phase where we encourage divergent thinking (as many solutions as possible) rather than convergent (arriving at the perceived ‘correct answer’). If students got stuck they could draw from a deck of cards in the middle with questions like, ‘What if ninjas were the main character’s in the book?’ and ‘What if the book was a game?’. Listening to the way the girls freely expressed their ideas, positively listened and encouraged one another was absolutely delightful and at the end of the ideation session each student walked away with a bag full of potential ideas for their picture book.

The next step was prototyping. Having had some time to think about their bag full of ideas each student was asked to decide on the three best ideas. A quick peer feedback session helped them select the best idea or combination of ideas to prototype. The prototyping phase is about experimentation and risk taking rather than a polished product. It is a chance to trial an idea, to gauge how the concept will work and to create something their partner can interact with using only the materials made available. Our students had twenty minutes to prototype something from their picture book using an assortment of craft items and found objects. While many students found the task daunting they each rose to the challenge with the Mary Ward Learning Centre becoming a hive of creative energy.

In early Term Two students will ‘pitch’ their picture books and three successful creators will be given time to complete their projects with the eventual goal of being added into the library’s collection. While the chance to be a published author is certainly exciting, the learning journey each and every student undertook is where the real merits of the task lie. As adults we all know that we won’t always succeed at everything we put our hand to, but we will learn a lot along the way if we are open to it. Perhaps the old adages about slowing down in order to enjoy the ride and learning by your mistakes can teach us a thing or two about innovation because if we are always rushing towards the goalposts we are invariably doing what we have done before. Experimentation and trial and error might just give us the space to realise that the goalposts have shifted.

 

Ms Liz  Green

Knowledge and Learning Strategist