Thursday, February 28, 2013

Design School Manifesto

Further refinements to our design school manifesto.  Feedback is welcomed....

Design School Manifesto

Process Over Product
Even though the finished product is important, it is crucial that builders/designers/innovators reflect on the creative process and self-assess their growth.

Learning is Natural
We should give ourselves and each other permissions to; pay attention, listen deeply, listen differently and notice the unlikely.

Experimentation and Failure
Do not be afraid to fail.  Embrace experimentations and the concept of prototyping.  Failure is not punitive but instead an opportunity to learn, make adjustments and grow.

Consciousness Over Conditioning
Begin anywhere- John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.

No End In Terms Of Growth

Love Your Experiments
Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.

Research Out Of Necessity
Research should be self-initiated

Everyone Is A Leader
Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone lead.

The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.  Embrace conflict, paradox and ambiguity.

Synthesis From Within

Learning Occurs Everywhere
Live the wide-awake life.  Be mindful of your surroundings.  Take time to stop, reflect, think, observe and analyze.  

Nothing Is Ever Finished Or Permanent
Every movement leads to more questions.  Always seek competing perspectives or view through a different lens.  There are always questions to ask, improvements, places to go...

Go Deep
The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.

Work The Metaphor
Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. Work on what it stands for.

Work Is A Naturally Extension Of Your Life
Pursue happiness both in and outside of school.  Work to blur the boundary between school and not school

Collective Will
Embrace the responsibility for helping one another to grow.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Future Fabrication Lab

Thinking about building a few fabrication labs in our schools.  A fabrication lab is a small-scale workshop offering digital fabrication.  Activities in fabrication labs range from technological empowerment to peer-to-peer project-based technical training to local problem-solving to small-scale high-tech business incubation to grass-roots research (  There is not a set list of tools, but generally fabrication labs contain the following resources:

  • CNC Machine
  • 3D Printers
  • Laser Cutter, Vinyl Cutter
  • Milling Machine
  • Programming Tools
 I have been collecting resources related to fabrication labs and in particular the use of 3D printing.  Below are some resources I have archived related to building a fab lab.  Offer this to others who are exploring a similar objective and even to those who are further along the process and can offer feedback.

1. Transformative Learning Technologies Lab (Stanford)-  overview of what is a fab lab and shares information about FabLab@school, a partnerships between the university and schools.

2. Southview Middle School Gets Grip On Design With Dimension 3D Printing- highlights the experiences of 8th graders using 3D printers during the design process

3. Nike Debuts World's First Football Cleat Built Using 3D Printing- As a world's first, Nike introduces its next wave of football cleat innovation at the 2013 NFL Combine: new Nike Vapor Laser Talon, the first football cleat to use 3D printing technology.

The contoured plate of the cleat is fabricated on a 3D printer with Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technology. The SLS process uses high-powered lasers to fuse small particles of materials into a 3-dimentional shape, allowing Nike to prototype a fully functional plate and traction system which is impossible with traditional manufacturing methods. In addition this also allows designers to update the design within hours instead of months.  

4. The Case for Campus Makerspace (Watters)- author makes a case for establishing makerspaces on college campuses

This is a very long-winded introduction to my case for the campus makerspace. It's a case that invokes some of the educational practices that we know work well: small group discussion, collaboration, participatory, project-based, and peer-to-peer learning, experimentation, inquiry, curiosity, play. These practices, their values as we help students learn to build and make their own knowledge.

5.  Wired's Chris Anderson: Today's 'Maker Movement' Is The New Industrial Revolution- Chris Anderson talks about his new book and the importance of the maker movement
“The real revolution here is not in the creation of the technology, but the democratization of the technology. It’s when you basically give it to a huge expanded group of people who come up with new applications, and you harness the ideas and the creativity and the energy of everybody. That’s what really makes a revolution…What we’re seeing here with the third industrial revolution is the combination of the two [technology and manufacturing]. It’s the computer meets manufacturing, and it’s at everybody’s desktop.”

 6. Why I Love My 3D Printer

7. Scott Summit- The Future of 3D Printing


Peter Grimm, an industrial technology teacher at Southview Middle School in Edina, Minn., has challenged his eighth-grade pre-engineering students to find a solution for this messy problem. And the Dimension the uPrint® Personal 3D Printer is helping students find creative answers. - See more at:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Constantly Innovating

Yesterday while the family was discussing interior design at the Anthropologie store in Chelsea Market, I made my over to a small newsstand located near the 9th Avenue entrance.  While browsing the selection I came across a recent release from Fast Company about the world's 50 most innovative companies.  I figured the trip through Anthropologie could take some time so I bought the magazine and started reading through the piece about the 50 most innovative companies.

I was somewhat surprised to see that in their estimation Nike was the most innovative company for 2012.  However, Fast Company presented a compelling argument as to why Nike has such an impressive year.  In 2012, Nike's experimentation yielded two breakout hits in the FuelBand and Flynit Racer sneaker.  The FuelBand is an electronic bracelet that measures your movements throughout the day.  Buttons on the device will tell a user how many calories one has burned, the number of steps taken and generally assess your activity level.  The Flynit Racer is a revolutionary shoe that is ultralight and because of its construction method could reduce long-term production costs.  

Throughout the article several prominent Nike employees were interviewed.  Nike CEO Mark Parker was one of those quoted in the piece.  During Parker's tenure which started in 2006, Nike's profits are up 57%, its market cap has more than doubled along with the fact that Nike owns half of the running market and 92% of the U.S. basketball shoe business.  For me, there are two memorable moments from the article both attributed to Parker.  One, Parker states the need for Nike to be innovative and not solely rely on celebrity endorsements and the culture of the swoosh to boost sales.  In talking about this point, Parker says the following:

One of my fears is being this big, slow, constipated, bureaucratic company that's happy with success.  Companies fall apart when their model is so successful that it stifles thinking that challenges it.

The other enduring segment was contained in a discussion about the disruptive potential of the Flynit Racer.  According to Parker, the Flynit Racer is one of those technologies that has incredible potential, not only within running, but across multiple categories.  The innovation lies in how the shoe is constructed. Fast Company explained the change in the article.  

The old Nike model involved cutting rolls of prewoven material into pieces, and then stitching and assembling them.  But with Flynit, a shoe's upper and tongue can be knot from polyester yarns and cables whicc gets rid of all the unnecessary excesses.  The Flynit Racer is 5.6 ounces, roughly an ounce lighter that its counterparts with Nike only using as much thread as it needs in production.

We have also been reminded over the past couple of weeks that yesterday Michael Jordan's 50th birthday.  As Jordan literally and figuratively soared above the NBA, the swoosh became the most recognizable symbol world-wide.  Even with the end to Jordan's playing career a decade ago, Nike has continued its international dominance (also helps that Basketball has become more of an international game in large part to Jordan and the 1992 summer Olympics).  Despite Nike's popularity, it is clear that the Company and its CEO feel the pressure to push the envelope of design and innovation.

Parker's commentary about an organization becoming constipated frames the argument for prototyping and experimentation.  Furthermore, the Flynit Racer reinforces the ideal that we should embrace disruptive innovations.  While there is plenty to criticize about Nike and in particular its well documented suspect labor practices, the article pushes each organization to consider the potential harmful effects of complacency and fear of disrupting what is familiar.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Last Night...

One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house. 

Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote. 

Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.
The families of Newtown deserve a vote.
The families of Aurora deserve a vote.
The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote. 

Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country. Indeed, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I’ve outlined tonight. But we were never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can, to secure this nation, expand opportunity, and uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government. 

Moral, ethical and practical.  Hopefully, regardless of where one falls on the political spectrum, this call to action will be answered in a meaningful and enduring way.

Design School

Sharing a document worked on today during our design school development meeting.  We used today to get some ideas on paper in regards to a core philosophy and driving principles behind a potential Design School.  Most of the ideas were internal but a few came from Bruce Mau's Incomplete Manifesto for Growth and from the Thompson School District Innovation Lab. We view these bullets are core principles that would guide develop of the school.

Driving Principles
  • process over product

  • action before analysis
    • learn from doing
    • value PLAY, live like a Kindergartner
  • learning is natural if we give ourselves and each other permissions to:
    • pay attention
    • listen deeply
    • listen differently
    • notice the unlikely
  • stakeholders embrace mistakes, experimentation and failure
    • fail often
  • cognition over content
  • consciousness over conditioning
    • mindfulness, stop and think, observe, analyze
  • learner owns the learning, when respect for every voice is the soul of the learning community
  • goal of instruction is to push and lift students
    • no end in terms of growth
  • Love your experiments
    • Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.
  • Everyone is a leader
    • Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone lead.
  • Collaborate
    • The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.
    • embrace conflict, paradox and ambiguity
  • it’s about asking questions
    • consider perspectives, lenses
    • every movement leads to more questions
  • learning occurs everywhere
    • live the wide-awake life
  • learning is a collaborative process
    • we are all responsible for helping one another grow
  • nothing is ever finished or permanent
    • there are always questions to ask, improvements, places to go...
  • Go deep
    • The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.
  • Begin anywhere
    • John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.
  • Work the metaphor
    • Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. Work on what it stands for
  • work is a naturally extension of your life
    • blurring boundary between school and not school
  • Do what matters most
  • grit, curiosity, flow, eudaimonia
    • pursuit of happiness

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Worth Reading...

Sharing some articles, posts and videos from the last couple of weeks.

1. The Case For A Campus Makerspace (Watters)- a talk that makes a case for creating a makerspace on college campus.  Certainly applies to the K-12 world where these spaces value small group discussion, collaboration, participatory, project-based, and peer-to-peer learning, experimentation, inquiry, curiosity and play.

"Making" rather than "writing" final projects for a class still demand students research and plan. But it also demands they prototype in ways that neither an essay or an exam really do. Making projects can be -- horrors! -- relevant and relevant. It can be experimental. And it can be technological -- or it can have used tech tools in its construction. It can be technological whether you're a classics or a computer science major. And arguably, these days it should be.

2.  Where I Work: Creative Serendipity (Brown)- building a space that invites serendipitous interactions

we continue to create new spaces and work arrangements that invite inspiration, collaboration, and serendipity. Our spaces are ever-evolving prototypes.

3.  Meet The Champs (Kristof)- article written about the success earned by the chess team at ISS 318 in Brooklyn.  This middle school chess team is to focus of a documentary Brooklyn Castle and has been referenced in several publications as well.  

More astounding, these aren’t even high school kids yet. In April, New York’s Intermediate School 318 in Brooklyn, where 70 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, became the first middle school team ever to defeat kids about four years older and win the national high school championship. The champs are kids like Carlos Tapia, a Mexican-American in the eighth grade, whose dad is a house painter and mom a maid. The parents can’t play chess and can’t afford to give Carlos his own room, but they proudly make space for his 18 chess trophies. 

4.  Self-taught African Teen Wows M.I.T.

5.  Internet of food: Arduino-based, urban aquaponics in Oakland 

6. Mine Kafon | Callum Cooper-  A short documentary portrait on a designer who has created a low cost solution to landmine clearance.
Mine Kafon | Callum Cooper from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Worth Listening To...

On Monday I delivered a presentation for our Board about the high school's growth towards becoming a 21st Century Learning institution.  To help define the conversation I turned to the National Council of Teachers of English definition of what it means to be literate in the 21st Century.  I have always found NCTE's benchmarks statements to be a strong guide for preparing students.

It was perfect timing that I was working on the presentation and also came across Andy Carvin's interview on the Brian Lehrer show.  Andy Carvin is NPR's senior product manager for online communities, and author now of Distant Witness: Social Media, the Arab Spring and a Journalism Revolution.  In the interview Mr. Carvin discusses the role of Twitter in reporting and about his experience using social media to follow developments during the Arab Spring.

While listening to the interview I kept thinking about the NCTE benchmarks and in particular the following outcomes:
  • Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
  • Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information 
There is an important intersection between the Carvin interview and what we do in schools.  I think the intersection involves the expanding definition of literacy and the implications this has on instruction, planning, and assessment. In the spirit that all of us are in essence backpack journalists,  are our students capable of being a reliable source of information?  As the Arab Spring and other developments have shown, the traditional model of media dissemination has been radically altered by something as convenient as an iPhone. Our ability to help students leverage available tools, build evolving social networks and design and share information with others is ensuring that students are literate.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Design School

I am working with a few other educators to craft a school within a school.  The end product is to craft a Design School.  We held out first brainstorming session today.  I figured it would be beneficial to share our process with others.  Hopefully, this will generate constructive feedback as our progress is shared via various social networks.

Today was an initial meeting to pose questions and ponder a few ideas until our next formal sit down.  I copied below some of the ideas we are reflecting on.  We agree to use our next meeting time to put on paper or a white board a list of core principles in the hopes of crafting a mission statement and a Bruce Mau Manifesto inspired beliefs statement.  Regardless of how the program evolves, it needs to be anchored by a clear vision and core set of non-negotiable beliefs about education, teaching, and learning.

Feel free to comment and offer any suggestions as we move through this journey.

Ideas to Ponder
  • developing entry level courses around design thinking, cognition, key learning outcomes
    • year one Detox sessions
  •  build an experience over four years- from introductory courses to the design of self-directed inquiries
    • build towards students designing spaces and engagements
  •  how to build relationships between students and experts outside of the building
  •  explode the idea of time in the program, make room for internships, connections with the professional world
    • time for exploration within the school day
    • time for teams to meet, collaboration requires time beyond a scheduled block
  •  incorporating authentic observation into the program- getting out of the building the observe for both teachers and students
    • key component is observation and developing true sense of empathy
  •    Create the following
    •  3-5 year growth plan
    •  mission statement
    • Manifesto of guiding principles (Think Bruce Mau)
  •    creating a common language (vocabulary of roles within the program)
  •    Teachers as learners- involved in personal inquiry projects as well as the students (Rosenstock concept    of rigor)
  •     shifting roles of how one views their role within the program 
    • mentor
    • apprentice
    • designer
    • architect
    • craftsman
    • head learner
    • learning coordinator
    • connector
    • teammate
  •     public exhibition as core tenet of the program, capstone projects, learning is transparent for all involved
  •    team taught courses, leveraging expertise between multiple mentors