Digital Learning Design Education Open Educational Resources School System Reform

Back to School the Designers Go

Its time to go back to school for the Navigation North team. So we packed up a few researcher friends from the Smithsonian, a videography team, and our own personnel and we went and knocked on some classroom doors to see if the kids could play.

Here were the questions,

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  • If kids could access anything that the Smithsonian has in its vast collections, what would they want to see?
  • What would they want to do?
  • How would they want to play with and learn from these items?
  • How would they want to modify, adapt, organize and show what they found?
  • What were the crazy, outlandish ideas they concocted that we couldn’t anticipate?

So we waded into the deep end of 3 different 6th grade classrooms and with the help of some incredibly talented teachers, engaged the energetic and boisterous hordes. While a

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video/audio team maneuvered through the sea of students, we explored Lincoln’s life and death masks and wondered aloud if we could find evidence that he actually was a secret vampire hunter as portrayed in a contemporary film.

We surfed through decades of lunch boxes trying to understand how the pop-culture and media of a given decade surfaced on the food containers of youth across the nation. From Howdy-Doody, The Lone Ranger, Yogi Bear, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Disco a’la Saturday Night Fever, to the Transformers, Star Wars, and Snoopy. It was all there. We then watched the kids hunt for items of their own interest. From Cute Cats, Creapy (sic) Spiders, Beast Swords, to UFO’s, Football Heroes, Joe DiMaggio,Mary Todd, and Triceratops.

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We then asked them what they would want to find, what they would want to do with stuff they found, and what more they would want to know and see and understand. This information will assist us in a project we will begin next month with the Smithsonian. Kids are wide-open with their criticism and directives when using digital tools, they want things to work, they want to modify, customize, share, mark up, and adapt. We have our work cut-out for us to be certain. Stay tuned…