Technology, Engineering, & Design Magazine Project

I’ve been thinking alot about the previous entry (activity playlist)  and how I can do a similar thing in my new TED course. I have to say….I’m REALLY excited about an idea I have. I want to offer students a menu or playlist or activities like what was suggested above. I also have at least two other goals that I feel are important: 1) I want students to collaborate – not merely work on their own chosen activities and 2) I need students to consider different areas of engineering that I had already outlined in my course description (Biotechnology, communications, energy, entertainment and recreation).


Here is the plan….students will create and publish 4 issues – one for each unit – of an e-magazine. The look and feel should be something of a mashup between Wired, Fast Company, and Popular Mechanics. Because the course is called Technology, Engineering, and Design, I need to be intentional about incorporating each of those disciplines. In a broad sense the magazine itself will contribute to the majority of the design element. My vision of the mag is to be highly designed using LucidPress and have the styling of glossy magazine like Wired. Within the magazine will be a variety of entries that will cover both the engineering and technology components. An unit specific infographic might be an additional demonstration of design learning.  Specific to engineering, I will expect students to submit DIY articles like you would find in Popular Mechanics or Instructables. I imagine students designing a communication devices using arduino in the communications unit. A step by step tutorial of how to build the device could appear in the magazine as a demonstration of the student’s engineering learning. In the realm of technology, I really want to focus on human issues with technology (ie. ethics, socio-political influences, product lifecycle commentary, technological privacy issues). Here I imagine student editorial pieces about GMO’s in the biotechnology unit for instance. All together students will be bounded by the magazine issue topic (goal #2) and will have to collaborate to put an cohesive magazine together (goal #1). In essence, the magazine project itself is PBL-esque that can take care of the design component of the class and will also serve as a sort of portfolio of student work.


I still need to wrap my head around how I facilitate the right amount of articles of each type in each issue while also maximizing student choice of assignments (like the playlist idea). If I assigned a group of students to the “written editorial” section on this unit and then the “diy tutorial” section in the next unit, would that preserve enough student choice and create the differentiated experience that got me excited in the first place?


Would love some feedback…is this an idea worth pursuing?  OR scrap it?


Assignment “playlist” and hacking a curriculum

This tweet came across my feed that really got me thinking about delivery of Technology Education.


Via@Learn21Tech: HMW create an assignment bank similar to this one used in an online cc@boadams1#playlist


The link takes you to an online course, ds106 (digital storytelling), where you will find a list of assignment categories.  The categories are not necessarily anything new.  There are writing assignments, video assignments, web assignments, etc.  There are some, however, that piqued my interest a little more….audio assignments, 3D printing assignments, and design assignments. As I dug deeper, I found that the suggestions for these different types of activities are really cool! You find things like create an infographic for your favorite movie, mash two different 3D models together before printing, create a self reflection podcast, and create a poster worthy image from schematics found on patent searches. I would love to take this class!


What is super intriguing is that the course seems to be totally student driven and differentiated according to students’ interests. I wonder how a teacher might require that each student completes each type of assignment? I suspect that only doing writing assignments for example would not qualify as a pass for the course. This particular teacher rates each assignment “suggestion” on a difficulty scale from 1-5. The teacher might suggest then that students earn X amount of stars in each category. Brilliant! I really want to use this idea for my new Technology, Engineering, and Design course next year.


Backwards Design for Post Secondary Experiences

There is definitely tension between teachers who lean more toward the “habits of mind” side of the spectrum, those on the discrete learning outcome side of the spectrum, and those who are somewhere in between. I struggle with the balance as well. I feel pretty confident that the mindsets are what students most need to know (embody?), but I feel pressure to not pass on science students to another teacher who might expect certain discipline specific prerequisites.


In the end, the pressure to add learning outcomes stems from what feels like an academic arms race. At some point, which I think is soon, the addition of more standards/APs/tests becomes unsustainable. Innovation is part analytical thinking and part intuition. The analytics may say APs and test scores make for a collegiate “minimum viable product”, but intuition and experience tell me that these figure little into the overall success and happiness of a person.


I wonder what it would look like if our focus was not only to prepare students for post secondary acceptance, but really pushed to guide students toward the best possible post secondary experience. In UbD fashion, if we want the best and most personalized post secondary experience for students, than we should start with an imagined student future beyond college. I guess my point is – there is a broader definition for “college ready” than just checking boxes next to learning outcomes and test scores.


My hypothesis is that the university does not make a person. Rather, those who have the foresight, and sometimes bravery, to seek out the absolute best fit post secondary experience will be more successful (how ever they define it), and more importantly happier and self fulfilled.


So, here are some hopefully disruptive HM-dubs.

How Might We….
  • weave career exploration into core classes?
  • prep students for alternative post secondary experiences like tech schools, trade schools, culinary schools, 30 weeks, or Singularity University?
  • repurpose books like “what color is your parachute”  for academic way-finding in addition to career considerations?
  • get students involved in career and technical student organizations (CTSOs)?
  • loop parents into the conversation of a more personalized education and career path for their child?
  • make an optional track – outside of “school” – for consultation, networking, and building of entrepreneurial spirit)

Engineering Design vs Design Thinking

I have been posed the question before, and was most recently solicited on twitter: What is the difference between engineering and design thinking. As most of my colleagues know, I’m a fan/student of design thinking. My intuition tells me it is right for use in school. However, this particular conversation really forced me to lean in and think about specific differentiators between the two.

One bit of information that I left out of my “argument” was perhaps my all time favorite definition of designing thinking as proposed by Roger Martin – @RogerLMartin – of the Rotman School of Business. Martin describes design thinking as the overlap between analytical thinking and intuitive thinking.



His visualization of design thinking is so elegant to me – perfectly capturing the tension between the analytical (ie. engineering design; “prove it”) and the intuitive (ie. trust your gut; “love it”).

Matin's Definition of Design Thinking (1)

Anyway, I captured the previously mentioned twitter convo using Storify.  How did I do? How would  you differentiate between engineering design and design thinking?

Quick Post: Is this what school should look like?

Charles Tsai at Good sought to find out and did some fantastic work.

Interested to hear some feed back. These students are inspiring and ambitious. Would this format work for all (or even most) students?

Reblogged from Good:

Tsai, Charles. “What If Students Designed Their Own Schools?” GOOD. N.p., 14 Feb. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2013. <;.


The Big Beacon | A Movement to Transform Engineering Education

Not 5 minutes after publishing my last post, I came across a tweet from Dave Goldberg of The Big Beacon. The timing could only be described as kismet. I’m so happy that it reminded me to re-read The Big Beacon’s manifesto on rethinking engineering education. I’ll be posting these norms in my classroom next year as a reminder to both myself and my students to keep things in the right perspective.

The Big Beacon | A Movement to Transform Engineering Education.

Making STEM a verb

While most edu folks are familiar with the STEM acronym, it seems to me that few (myself included) have a clear understanding of exactly how to implement STEM.  That is, STEM feels like an adjective to me.  “This is a STEM activity” or “We are a STEM school”.  Does that simply mean that the activity incorporates elements of science, technology, engineering, and math? Does it mean a school only teaches those subjects? STEM has got to be more nuanced than that. As a classroom teacher, I want to know how to STEM. Turn it into a verb for me. William Dugger defines STEM as “integration of [of these subjects] into a new transdisciplinary subject”.  This begs the question(s): What is the difference between inter-, multi-, and trans- disciplinary education? My feeble mind classifies them this way:


Multidisciplinary = within walls; simultaneously; using multiple disciplines at once; typical of pre-scripted project based learning; ex. a one room school house

Interdisciplinary = without walls; siloed disciplines collaborating; can be asynchronous; ex. english + drama / bio + environmental sci / History + health

Transdisciplinary =  begin with overarching complex problem and use disciplines as needed; ad-hoc but anticipates using all core disciplines if problem is chosen correctly.


It seems, then, that most applications of STEM in the US are interdisciplinary in nature where Science and Math courses take the lead with their learning outcomes and use T & E to support relevancy. In this way we might view the acronym as SteM.  It could be argued that “technology” is the broader term where science, math, and engineering are sub-disciplines. At the same time, technology and engineering are closely linked through their philosophical goals. If STEM is best taught in an “integrated and cross-curricular manner” as Dugger suggests, then shouldn’t we lead with a more broad and overarching construct?

In an elementary schools STEM seems to fit nicely due to the one classroom setting. However, in high school it can be harder to meaningfully integrate all four topics when they are each separated by time periods, four walls, and different teachers. Perhaps this is an argument in favor of intentional technology and engineering programs in high schools where the acronym becomes sTEm. What if we led with T & E where math and science was a happy consequence? I don’t intend to devalue science and math, but enhance relevancy by leading with wicked problems in technology & engineering in a transdisciplinary way and asking students to support potential solutions using math and science.