This is an archive of the 2013 version of ocTEL.

My recent learning

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    It is really hard to separate out the recent things I’ve learnt because there are so many in so many fields coming at me all the time – including all the ocTEL stuff! I’m sure anyone reading this post will agree!! However, recently (in a roundabout way prompted by last week’s ocTEL work) I found myself undertaking a free, short Open Learn (OU) course on Design Thinking. It is not a new topic to me but the course was partly looking at things in a different way than I usually approach or teach this. I wondered if it would be useful as a summer project for my uni students. Then on Friday I took a group of students to the Design Museum to see Designs of the Year. There was much linkage. My area is graphic design and both the course and the exhibition focussed on all kinds of design, inc product and fashion too. I really felt that I learned a lot – a kind of affective buzz! But trying to place what I got from it on this table, here goes:

    i: Know that

    I-a Facts : recall, description, identification, etc.

    I’m piecing together more generic info about design in general and trying to relate some facts about product design to graphics. For example, the theory that design works in a framework of legal, conventional and logistical parameters. I undertook a reading about how walking is governed by these parameters (signs, kerbs, barriers etc). I tried to relate this to a double page spread and wondered how it might be if a designer had to lay out a very sensitive article, say on rape or racism, and how these boundaries would impact on the final appearance of the magazine piece. I think this overlaps with the bit below.

    I-b Concepts: discrimination, categorization, discussion, etc.

    The museum show divided its sections into disciplines like architecture, fashion, graphics and digital, but also included wider concepts of design, such as memory, use and  texture that spread vertically across the disciplines. There was also the “unspoken” division (ie my thoughta) of design that is useful to society  – anti diarrhoea packs, liquid lenses specs for children, 3D printed armatures for kids with muscle disabilities (amazing!) and design that was for fun or entertainment – zombie running apps, plates that come to life via an app (lot of apps), polka dot fashion. Yes, it is hard to weed out the facts from the concept contexts.

    II: Know how

    II-a Reasoning and procedures: inferences, deductions, etc. + procedure application

    Well, I guess I found that first bit above fairly straightforward because I already have a knowledge base from which to draw my inferences and deductions when faced with new facts and ideas. It probably also helped that I had people there (colleague and students) to chat about these things,  to draw out the threads and lead them into new threads. Using specific examples, such as the page layout, to transfer knowledge also helped make ideas less abstract.

    II-b Problem solving and production strategies: identification of subgoals + application of heuristics/methods

    I was keen to blog about this exhibition (sub-goal) and the wider implications of it. I took photos but I also bought the book because I knew I’d forget the details of names etc (Know that – recall). I’ll be able to get some press images from the museum so I’ll have to check those to see which ones they are and bend my thoughts to highlight them. Took some notes on my phone. But I’m also, incidentally, planning a stall for a convention so I was looking – problem solving – here and in other events I’d been to this week for ideas and inspiration about curation, promotion and engaging learners quickly. Amazing how an outside agenda (motivation) helps you learn, reflect and synthesise.

    III: Knowing in action

    III Situated action: action strategies in complex and authentic situations
    I think the thing I just said about motivation/agendas applies here. I also feel very engaged when I see exhibitions, do courses, hear speakers etc and think about how I can turn this into a class activity or online project. If something (design-wise, especially) excites me then it might also excite my learners. I always keep an eye open for what the students that I’m with are looking at and finding interesting. Why? How? What bits that are worthy pass them by on the interest front?

    Ironically I’m always looking for the authentic situation – how can you make classes meaningful and relevant to the community of practice that you are trying to get your learners into. I’m always blending pedagogy and subject specific info in my immediate reactions to the things I’m learning. I think my permanent question is how direct and raw can my learners take this information or in what ways should I modify it?

    IV: Other

    IV Other: e.g. motivation, emotion, reflection, i.e. elements that could intervene in all the other categories

    I haven’t been able to separate these items form the things I’ve already said. If I’m too hungry or have a headache all the above is negated!  (That’s Maslow – but Donald Clark says he is discredited!)

    I was disappointed with some elements in the Design Thinking course which referred me to little technological “games” to design a rule of thirds poster and to make some negative space imagery. They didn’t work properly, in my browser were overlapped by another web page column and above all they limited the scope of the design thinking. What happened to pencil and paper? That spoilt my engagement both logistically and emotionally.

    I’ve covered motivation. Reflection is always necessary and it helps if you have, as I do, a colleague with whom you can discuss it. Throwing ideas around a bit helps. Sometimes new learning jumps straight into shiny ideas that won’t actually work. I saw a great quote on Twitter about Henry Ford coming into a meeting one morning and announcing, “I had a great idea last night! …but I didn’t like it.”

    Sancha (@GrapDesProject)


    PS: Excuse the lack of paragraphs above, which were in the orignal – I have tried to edit/update this but it remains the same!

    David Jennings

    Hi Sancha, good work, and sorry about the paragraph breaks — I’ve edited further and hopefully it looks better now. The removal of paragraph breaks is a common problem in WordPress, I’m afraid, which we’ve tried to mitigate using stylesheets, but this is only a partial solution.


    Hello Fellow Design Thinker – nice example and very thorough!  You might like this:

    I didn’t know the company Farenheit 212 so looked them up  – ‘ a new kind of consultancy, helping big companies innovate by melding the best of Ideo and McKinsey’.

    I am going to tackle downloading and implementing Hootsuite, which as a techno-muppet will be interesting / comical / frustrating.  Obviously currently procrastinating with a nice Design Thinking moment, so thanks!


    Thank you!


    Thanks for the link. Interesting and nicely designed too. I think the phrase Design Thinking is bandied about in all sorts of directions and I’m never quite clear which path any given resource/course/company will be upon. So to have it exposed to scrutiny will be great and I’ll keep an eye out for the results.

    Procrastination??? Dunno what you mean!


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