LXD: Class Workshops + Readings
This is a collection of thoughts on the activities and readings relevant to Learner Experience Design.
Lateral Thinking with Adams
Despite being broad, these first couple weeks of Learner Experience Design have been a nice first step into the ocean that is the learning+teaching experience. As students who have learned and are constantly learning, it was nice to start out by looking at what we know — or think we already know — about learning types and processes, and then categorizing those things in a variety of ways based off our own intuition and understanding.
Letting these groupings grow organically was helpful because it felt less like I was just memorizing a list and we were forced to actively think about the learning experiences and how they compared to each other. We weren’t completely blasted with a ton of technical information right off the bat — in fact you could almost say we were in the process of creating schemas for learning processes so we could more easily understand them?! (I just finished the Augoustinos+Walker reading) This makes the readings more bearable since they’re grounded in reality with insightful activities.
Organizing the learning topics as a class was also useful in broadening my initial definition of what ‘learning’ is, and what could be a potential topic for our upcoming project. While I was more focused on the odd learning experiences I’ve had in unusual class settings, I failed to think about the more ‘untaught’ skills like behavior and social norms, or becoming an adult. Going forward into the semester, I’m thinking that I would like to focus more on one of these untaught skills. I’ve always been interested in the different aspects of identity and what makes people different, whether that’s a personality characteristic or gender or race, identity is something that almost everyone struggles with and there is no right answer for. I’m not sure what this would entail yet — whether that’s revealing the stereotypes surrounding different identities, a technical analysis of identity, or making a World Survival Guide as an X or Y — there is still grey area I need to wade through.
Adam’s list of perceptual blocks also reminds me of another learning exercise I’ve experienced in a biomedical engineering class on inventive problem solving, where we used the TRIZ method developed by Genrich Altshuller — a Soviet engineer who outlined a set of inventive principles derived from patterns he saw in successful patents — to approach a problem from a variety of different perspectives in an effort to redirect your brain. These types of principles can be a bit limiting if they are your main/only source of inspiration, but I think that they’re both good supplementary activities once you’ve hit a wall and need something to jog your thinking.
The challenge of getting college students to go experience museums is interesting, especially in the age of accessibility and the internet, because I am definitely one of said college students who doesn’t go to museums often/at all. And while I’ll admit to not being much of an art or history buff, there have been a few occasions — Copenhagen’s Experimentarium, Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry — where I’ve actually really enjoyed them and I drew a lot from those past experiences.
Through the blockbusting exercise in class, we were able to cover a lot of ground with our initial ideas, but it was through the perceptual blocking prompts that we were able to specify more clearly what we believed were the roots of the problem. We tried to focus our efforts equally on the outward communication to the college students as well as the internal experience within the museum. However I think that we tended to feel more limited by the physical boundaries of the space, and we were a bit hesitant to suggest huge renovations. I’m always a bit hesitant about throwing technology at things in order to make them more interactive and engaging, so we focused on other ways of changing the nature of the space to be more inviting and less stiff, to create a variety of community spaces in the museum to draw more traffic, engage them with the content in different settings, and eliminate the stereotypes that museums are exclusive and out of date.
Addressing Knowledge Gaps with Ambrose
Analyzing the learning gaps in my topic with another person in class was useful because it gave me a chance to discuss this project more in-depth and to really see how someone else was approaching these activities as well. It really forced me to lay out my thoughts in a different way, and each time I need to explain it, it becomes a little more refined.
This reading reminds me of an NPR article I read recently about education and digital natives, and the changing world of education. (ex. when you can google any facts, what facts should you require students to know?) In a way it makes the case for teaching processes over teaching facts, and they raise the questions ‘how do you make something un-google-able’, or ‘how you make the process of googling in itself a learning opportunity’.
I can also draw a lot of parallels to my own learning experiences, and it’s eye opening to me to be able to be able to understand why I have had a difficult time learning certain concepts in my class (ex. learning about physics concepts vs. understanding how to apply said physics concepts to mathematical problems).
It’s fairly easy to tie this reading into my previous understanding of schemas, because if schemas are general categories and principles that are built off of prior knowledge, so if our prior knowledge is insufficient, inaccurate, inactive, or inappropriate, then any future knowledge will either fit into the wrong schema or it won’t fit into anything at all.
Aiding Memory with Weinshenk
You can prime people to be more likely to remember certain things depending on how it is ordered and verbally presented. For example, you’re most likely to remember things at the beginning and the end — this is something that harkens back to my high school days of AP Psychology. But this also infers that there is information that is not getting remembered, and from a teacher’s standpoint, isn’t all information learned in the classroom important? The challenge of deciding which information is more or less important to remember is an interesting one, especially in the age of Googling, because it forces you to really narrow down what exactly you want someone to remember. Even when using a ‘sticky’ linear process like telling a story, you can’t expect someone to easily remember the exact details of every step in the process, and you need to design for that. One of the most significant things that stood out to me was designing for forgetfulness, because funnily enough that seems to be something we always forget to do.
Motivating with Dirksen
In an exercise about motivation, we did a group assignment analyzing the website slaveryfootprint.org, which is meant to tell you about modern day slavery and the effects you are having on various people of the world through your everyday items.
How does this website its audience to continue learning?
You can both read about it and do an interactive survey documenting your material goods, living situation, etc., and while it was certainly shiny at first, the ‘shiny’ things were not necessarily connected to the greater learning objective. For example, as you personalize your answers, little moving graphics of food fall down the screen, but they don’t advance the learning experience because they are not providing any additional information- only visual clutter.
Your answers are also not quite personalized enough to feel like they’re your own- when ’Starting with the Basics’, you can have peach skin, brown skin… or blue skin, which I guess is better than yellow skin (or any other stereotyped minority group)? Each of the multiple choice answers are based off of very restricting stereotypes, and there is no changing information or feedback given after each answer is selected. There’s no progression of learning throughout the activity despite various opportunities, only a single answer at the very end with no connection to how your answers affected it. Even though there is a small fact with an engaging headline on each page, the fact is not always relevant or connected to the activity on the page.
Analyzing this website was interesting because it does look very ‘designed’ and fancy and it looks like there was a lot of work put into it, but because the graphics seem arbitrary and you’re not getting personalized information along the way, it gets very boring very quickly.
Teaching with McCarthy
Looking at McCarthy’s 4MAT diagram of different teaching styles, we took a learning style assessment in order to see our learning preferences and ideals.
This was an interesting assessment to do because I did anticipate that I would end up in the lower right quadrant of processing reflectively and perceiving abstractly. I tend toward more systematic approaches and I always think a lot about things before I do them, and I’ve always found that extremely difficult to turn off. However I do see a lot of the value in becoming a successful thinker in all four of these quadrants, and I’m curious about what the best way to overcome these natural tendencies are. Is it just out of sheer willpower? What are the tips and tricks to help people overcome these tendencies and become strong learners?
Looking at our design studio classes as an example, our professors often push hard to get us into Operationalizing (How does it work?) and Renewing (What if?), looking at problem solving through making. And while looking back on my process I always wish I had started making things earlier, in the moment it’s always extremely difficult to feel ready, prepared, or confident in the personal creation process. It often seems like a leap of faith in a way, to trust an alternative method, and I’m curious as to how you make that learning experience less of a leap for students who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with all of the different steps in the process.