In my design theory class, we’re talking about general design principles and practices and how they can be applied to education. My general impression so far is that most teachers in public schools, for a myriad of reasons, continue to follow in the footsteps of traditional education methods and practices that originated 50 to 60 years ago.
If the goal of good design is to meet the constraints of a problem with a relatively elegant solution, those methods rarely do either. Programs that include project-based learning initiatives seem like a great way to get beyond the old ways, meet the constraints imposed by 21st-century learner needs, and (sometimes) end up with something elegant.
How about this project as an example?
Habitatmap is a non-profit that specializes in mapping-related education projects that take on environmental problems in innovative ways. In this case, Habitatmap is partnering with some engineers at City University of New York (CUNY) to involve high school students in a citizen-science project that will attempt to connect physiological changes to environmental conditions.
Many savvy folks already use fancy pedometers that upload data to a central server–there’s an app for that (of course). What Habitatmap is doing is more or less combining that information with environmental data obtained with cheap, small monitors (that will also plug into a smart-phone), and of course it’s all tied to GPS data, so it will have a spatial component as well.
Students involved with the project will be able to collect data when they’re walking around, and when they are back in class they can analyze the data and draw some conclusions. This is the stuff science is made of, and, given the interdisciplinary nature of the project, wellness and environmental justice can be tied in as well.
Now that is some instructional design worth emulating.