New seminars for winter semester

Two new seminars have been announced for the winter semester (details in German). These seminars are open to all students starting from 3rd semester.

»Data Transformation«

Lecturers: Prof. Dipl.-Des. Oliver Wrede

A seminar for information design interactive media in the context of topics like »Data Journalism«, Generative Gestaltung, »Big Data«, Datenvisualisierung, »Information Mapping«, Informationsgrafik, Data Mining, Open Data, Organic Information Design. Eventually we will use Processing for a lot of the practical aspects.

Seminar blog:

Note: There have been two older seminars to similar topics some years ago: »Code Visual« and »Dynamic Information Design«.

»Multi-Channel-Design – Design of holistic User Experiences«

Lecturers: Dipl.-Des. Wolfgang Gauss und Dipl.-Des. Markus Strick

The title says it all in this one. Students will work on topics like Responsive Design, Liquid Layout, Dynamic Layout, Scaled Content, Flexible Grids and Images, Responsive Imaging, Responsive Adds, Responsive E-Mail, Responsive Video, Cross Channel, Multi Channel, Smartphone, Tablet-PC, Touchpoints & Transmedia Story Telling, Customer Journeys, Use Cases, Device Complexity, User Experience Design, Interaction Design

Seminar blog:

New seminars – summer semester ’08

The new seminars for summer term 2008 are fixed. It is always a very exciting moment to think about new topics for projects… or rather: to pick the best from the ideas floating around.

And I always love to define topics with a leightweight appearance but at the same time much depth.

Here are the two candidates:

Project seminar: »Habits«
Design research about our habits and how they shape our daily life and how we use things.

Project seminar: »PIM«
Design for Personal Information Management systems.

Do you remember early assignments in study projects?

One of the important things you need to work out as a design educator is what you will give out as first assignment in a seminar or project. It is like a warm-up for a project, something that helps you to move into the problem domain quickly.

Of course there is usually plenty of material to research, collect and talk about almost everytime — but while these things help with orientation in the subject matter, it does have the tendency to cast a damp over experimentation and form-giving.

So in early assigments I seek to propose a task that is technically easy to do on the one hand (in terms of tools you need). I think there are two types of early assignments:

  1. a practical task that does not require much investigation and yet again is complex in regard to the possible solutions
  2. a research task that only involves observation and critical thinking

The goal is to help students to make an observation they didn’t expect or did not yet think about and to encourage them to use creative “out-of-bounds” thinking. At the same time it is desired that the extent of the “larger” design problem unfolds as well as all options available to solve it.

If you every have studied design – do you remember any the early assignments you got to get you in that loop?

Weblogs and learning

I was staying away from discussion about weblogs in education for a longer time. Partly because I had other things to do and partly because I wanted to refocus my thoughts (thus getting outside the loop was good).

I found that a some articles have quoted the »Weblogs and discourse« (new URL!) paper. One is »Blogging as pedagogic practice: artefact and ecology.« by Marcus O’Donnell (probably written in May 2005). He referenced an article by Tamsin Haggis called »Constructing Images of Ourselves?« (British Educational Research Journal, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2003).

O’Donnell writes:

Just as importantly the ongoing use of blogging as a reflective form of metalearning would also foreground broader issues of academic literacy. As Haggis notes many of the underlying assumptions about the “good student” which underlie current popular theories of education make unrealistic assumptions about their pre-existing skills and general academic literacy.

And continues to quote Haggis:

What often seems to remain unacknowledged is that the attitudes and values which characterise the model’s description of the ideal learner have in fact taken academics themselves many years to learn. It is unlikely that even the most well-educated post-school student arrives in university with the strategies that enable them to learn in [such a developed way]. (2002:98)

Unfortunatly I could not find an online version of Tamsin Haggis’ original document, but I found a disputation of her article by Delia Marshall and Jennifer Case published in the same Journal in April 2005) [PDF here, 100KByte].

In relation to blogging the positions remind me to rethink the difference between “surface learning” and “deep learning” (see here for info). Does the mere activity of blogging ultimately turn into a “deeper” learning process just because of the authorship weblogging usually requires?

I think it is really a question of what kind of “author” a blogger is able to turn into. Many blog posts are by far not “authored” beyond selecting some other blog post and republish that in a new context (e.g. a local learning group or seminar). The blog post as such does not require an intellectual investment (e.g. if you just want to keep some item found online, like this post here). Students blogging like this are more defining their social role within the group as being an active and reliable partner for the research work ahead.

But if you are actually writing a blog entry as a result if a thinking process, with the effort of prioritizing thoughts and communicating ideas, then this this is “intellectual work out”, that will help to get into a “deep learning” mode. The role of the educator is to highlight the benefits of thoughtfully crafted blog posts and to foster interaction and discourse among learners. Thus, his task is to shape a motivating context and to help with “detecting nonsense” so to say.

Students will have a beginner’s phase where they feel the quality their writing falls blow the quality of their thinking. No one learned to swim without getting wet.

Seminars in winter term 2005

This semester I am feeling like thinking about the next seminars quite early. If plans do not change one of the next seminars will be called »Continuity«. The seminar will research flow theories, the nature of immersion and pre-concious decision making. Sounds strange though, but it’s going to be fun.

I am still keeping the idea of setting up a »Personal Information Management« introductory course. But right now I don’t really know how this could fit into the curricular structure.

Inspired by the discoveries and upcoming developments in location based services I also think of defining a seminar project that will work on service models and interfaces for that.

I am keeping a growing list of things that could be an interesting seminar topics. It is an expected result of supplementing the former seminars with weblogs: there is always something sparking off there.

Conflict in design education

I recently had to think about design education again. I sense some divide between approaches of design education. The devide is to some degree a difference between classical and novel ways. I try to identify the differences in these two conceptions:

The classical way

  • all theoretical implications are researched in the moment they are required through the practice of work
  • designs situations that are supposed to be simulations of working life: assignments are seemingly similar to the kind of jobs you are supposed to do as job starter
  • suggests that design methodology and practice basically is fully understood and only tools changes from time to time
  • sees success as question of structuring the curriculum into staged levels of increased difficulty
  • argues that students start from a very limited base of competences and usually would need to acquire a defined set of competences in a consecutive way
  • claims that experiences have shown that students will not be able to identify their lack of knowledge and therefore would not be able to select wise learning goals
  • defines professionalism as something that can be reached by affirmation and “learning through observation”
  • educational topics are often recruited from mainstream media
  • counts high quality results more than the quality of processes

The novel way

  • does not necessarily disqualify the classical approach but it strongly questions that this alone will not lead to good design or skillful designers
  • regards theoretical implications and practical implications as equally important areas of research
  • locates design competence not primarily in the domain of talent, creativity and skills but rather in the cognitive domain
  • argues that design and methodology itself is changing (not only the tools) or has yet to be discovered
  • says it would be practically impossible or useless to “just” simulate the working life because it would not create the intellect and personality required
  • claims that students would not learn to deconstruct, recontextualize, rethink or transfer if only challenged the classical way
  • argues that learning strategies that assimilate research strategies play a crucial role (experiment, critical thinking)
  • suggests that there needs to be a quest for new questions and not only new answers to known questions
  • says that students start with a broad set of competences and experiences and first and foremost need help to be able to reframe their knowledge to foster design processes and attach any useful new experiences
  • argues that professionalism can only be reached by a combination of affirmation and inventive thinking
  • encourages students to autonomously define their own learning agenda if possible
  • suggests that educational topics should not only be recruited from mainstream media but also to great extend from science topics
  • counts the quality of the process and the quality of the results as equally important

The problem is that proponents of the “classical way” disqualify the “novel way” as a waste of time, not very effective, anti-disciplinary and over-demanding for students. Usually neither party has to offer empirical data beyond personal experience to support the claims. The same few statistical data about employment rates are often used to support contradicting arguments. There does not seem to be a consensus.

Content vs Context – a contradiction?

Peter Baumgartner reminds us about the role of usage context for quality assessment of learning materials:

In all the projects funded by the German BMBF we have tried to deliver excellent e-Learning content. As chairman of the “audit commission” I led a group of experts who recommended the ministry a change of gears: Instead to focussing on the creation of correct and well presented content a new call for bids should concentrate on the quality of the didactical integration of this content. We coined the saying: Context instead of Content.

I’d call this “content without context approach” a “corpus centered approach” (while corpus is the material body: texts, images, articles, assignments, etc).

The problem with the context hypothesis is this: Do we really have a good understanding about what context we are talking about? I think it would fall too short to read it as “learning situations”. I’d approach the “context” notion much more fundamentally.

So if Peter suggests

One impact could be that we do not have to put all our forces in “excellent” presentation of content. Instead we should design content for certain situations (context).

then I think we should have a very clear understanding about these situations. I suspect this is in part a reason why “personal web publishing” and “weblogs in education” are an ongoing discussion among educators: To some degree the weblogging activity is about learners can start to actively create own context.

But what is “own context”? I have to admit, that I currently lack the time to think (and write) about it. But I’d currently suggest to think of it as the opposite of a “reality distortion field” that affects personal aspirations and motivations.

Educational scenarios

Will Richardson on Weblogs Creating a whole new Campus Culture:

Article about the Weblogging program set up by a student at Reed College in Oregon where any student who wants one can have one. He’s got 147 going right now. An interesting read that gets to both sides of college level use of blogs and points to a number of other heretofore unknown colleges that are starting to use them, one even for recruitment purposes!

Blogging is a relatively small but quickly growing phenomenon in the world of Internet users, and, like other online technologies, it is slowly invading college life. Professors are using blogs to teach and publish. College administrators use the diaries to recruit. Students use them to learn, to opine (and whine), and to network. In the Reed case, blogging has led to a student community beyond the borders of the campus, a community that Reed administrators can’t control but can peek at.

What they didn’t teach me in Design & Usability school

Scott Berkun was program manager at Microsoft for Internet Explorer. He wrote a nice essay about what he missed in university (and what might have been the reasons for it). Looking back on his work experience he summarizes what is important:

The challenge is that what makes you credible to a developer, marketing executive, documentation manager, or any other person you have to deal with might be different for each one, and what earns you credibility won’t always be tied to your design or usability brilliance. Instead, work towards helping the team get stuff done. Be useful. Then when it comes time to bring your grand design vision to the table, you’ll have built the respect and trust necessary for them to be helpful to you.

Tinderbox in class

Jon Buscall describes how he uses Tinderbox in class:

“As a teacher, it takes ages to create a set of worthy lesson plans. If you keep lesson plans/details as a hard copy you often have to make changes, can’t get a quick overview of your work and they tend to get tatty stuck on your shelf. It can also take a lot of time sifting through your email program, print outs, handscribbled notes to keep track of what you are doing.
Once you start to use Tinderbox you realise that you can simply drag everything into this nifty program, set attributes to categorize your information and set up agents to organize your work into subject or date related fields or anything that you care to use.”

I am sure I am going to use Tinderbox more (since I started to publish the weblog with it). It is definitely helpful to read about best practices. I have started a section with my own experiences as well.

Constructivism, Education, Science, and Technology

Moses A. Boudourides: “The purpose of this paper is to present a brief review of the various streams of constructivism in studies of education, society, science and technology. It is intended to present a number of answers to the question (what really is constructivism?) in the context of various disciplines from the humanities and the sciences (both natural and social). In particular the discussion will focus on four varieties of constructivism: philosophical, cybernetic, educational, and sociological constructivism.” [via Weiterbildungsblog]