Looking Back with the DTC Lab
In addition to sharing our prototypes from our first design cycle, we thought it might also be helpful to recap our experience thus far. Where we’ve been, what we learned, etc.
In writing this post, we opted to write it as if we were interviewing the entire DTC Lab asking it penetrating no-nonsense Charlie Rose style questions. Figured it would make for easier reading. Read More >>
Take me through the process quickly. What did you do and why did you do it that way?
So the idea of the DTC Lab is to ask the question – what happens when you bring together creative teachers and technologists to go through a process of collaboratively coming up with ideas, building prototypes and iteratively tweaking them based on feedback?
There’s a translation process in two worlds meeting (eduspeak meeting techspeak and designspeak) and we’re all becoming more fluent in each others’ languages. Over a roughly 3 month design cycle, the process entailed initially coming up with lots of ideas (ideation) and then moving to deeper concepting where we started to put together documents/sketches that mapped out the learning interaction. Then we moved to actually putting together digital prototypes that we could then show each other, show teachers, and show students – to get feedback. We tried to explore ideas yet ground solutions in real practical teaching and learning challenges.
So how did the teams look? How did they get started coming up with ideas?
So we started off with a two-day “Imagination Camp” where we brought in people from organizations like the NY Times R&D Lab and Google Creative Lab to talk and brainstorm with us about technology and learning. From data visualization to augmented reality, we attempted to identify big emerging themes in our digital context and ways to reappropriate them for learning.
In our regular lab sessions, our teachers started talking about real challenges in the classroom and that’s where we really began …. from a design perspective. Our teachers shared their perspectives and we began to tease out potential approaches that could be taken, which eventually led to different concepts and the final prototypes which can be seen linked off our gallery.
What kinds of prototypes did the DTC Lab end up generating? Can you give us a few that stand out?
Well, I might be biased, but I think all of the prototypes are pretty cool. The prototypes each address some real world challenges in the classrooms of the teachers. We think these underlying challenges are likely common in classrooms across the country.
One project called My Learning Story works like a daily logbook/diary where students can input how they’re feeling, what they’ve read, who they spoke with and take a data analysis perspective on their own activity. Another project called Real Em In allows teachers to capture video and images while browsing the web and easily organize these pop culture references into “lesson hooks” that can be used to link academic concepts to real world instances of those concepts.
As you can see the projects really vary. Two incorporate game play. One project takes a twist on Karaoke to help special education students decode words, while another allows students to experiment with creating electronic circuits through a role-playing game. Two of them investigated peer learning interactions. One project involved students creating and commenting on peer-produced math tutorials, while another attempted to rethink the discussion board using a more visual multimedia interface and alternatives ways for students to respond to the persuasiveness of their arguments on each other.
So what does success look like for the DTC Lab? Would you say these prototypes were successful?
It’s a great question. In thinking about success we’re really looking at not just the prototypes themselves but also the collaborative process that supported the development of the prototypes, and so success is really a two-part thing.
In terms of the prototypes themselves, I think we were pretty successful in being able to generate six prototypes that we were able to gather feedback on what worked and didn’t. Where I think the projects are strong is that they all address a real education challenge and offer some tangible solution specifications and approaches that can be further built upon.
In terms of the process, I think we were successful in that we were able to change up the process and were self-reflective about how to improve the process and continuously iterate. One of the things we want to do at the DTC Lab is figure out a framework that can enable teachers and technologists to work together in a sustainable way. And while we didn’t start off with the perfect framework, we adjusted continuously enough that I think we have lots of data that has informed our second design cycle.
Well, what’s next? What does design cycle II look like? How can people not formally in the lab get involved?
We started our second design cycle in late January and plan to wrap it up at the end of May of this year. We’ve changed up quite a few things this cycle such as integrating new kinds of design methods, expanding the teams, tightening up the schedule to generate more paper prototypes more rapidly, and a host of other things. Overall we think this time around we’ll have many more ideas we’re playing with and also broader larger ideas underlying the prototypes.
For those that want to get involved I would say reach out to us. We’d love to have teachers come visit one of our lab sessions and provide feedback or just jump on the website and leave comments/thoughts. If any students want to lend their voice, we’d love to have more students involved. Check the website, follow us on Twitter and keep an eye out for our calls for feedback – we’d love to have the entire educator community involved in this.
A few of the projects from our first design cycle also seem promising to further develop beyond prototype for use by larger number of students and teachers. For coders and developers, interested in making an impact through a project-based gig, contact us.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us.
No problem, thanks for having us.