DESIGN THINKING, MAKING, & PLAY (even for adults!)
I am primarily a constructivist and I build a lot of project-based learning activities. I consider myself both a backwards designer and a design thinker – I focus on human-centered design and then ask "What do I want my audience to know, be able to do, and think/feel by the end of whatever this is I’m building?" I build everything with integration in mind – integration of both content/subjects, as well as integrated knowledge, skills, and attitude/beliefs, to encourage competency development in multiple areas. These ideas are reflected in my research projects.
I have been conducting research in the fields of instructional design, instructional technology, and sociology for the past decade. Combining these areas has made this research important because it takes into consideration the needs and social locations of the audience members that will be participating in the learning environments or activities. Too often educators design environments or instruction based on what they believe students need/want without ever consulting with the students. Incorporating the design thinking process into instructional design, while considering the audience, allows for more thoughtful, authentic, and meaningful learning experiences and improved outcomes.
Making and play are also essential elements of the design process, since they stimulate creativity, innovation, and motivation. Prototyping and testing in makerspaces helps designers troubleshoot and iterate rapid before rolling out large-scale project. Plus, it's fun to collaborate! Watch these graduate students in a Building Makerspaces for Learning course develop a game collaboratively and practice playing it with strangers.