Time can be the greatest challenge to schools when seeking to provide an atmosphere of inquiry, curiosity, iteration, design and prototyping. In previous posts here on Creator's Studio, I've expressed my anxiety in hoping students can complete their projects. In various cases, students have come in at lunch or recess, after the term has ended, in order to finish a project they valued. It had nothing to do with the grade, since I evaluate the process and the documentation over the product. Rather, students wanted to finish because they believed in the work they were doing.
How can we successfully take students through an engineering design cycle, or the Design Thinking Process, and allow them to thoroughly experience the process of ideation, prototyping, testing, iteration, in 45 minute time blocks every other day? It is an extreme challenge, and unfortunately one for which I don't have an answer.
For me, the most valuable use of time during class is to serve as mentor, coach, guide. I can help students along the learning journey, but that journey is theirs to take. Class time, in my opinion, should be filled with those precious moments when we can discuss, confer, share, bounce ideas, test assumptions, make mistakes, and go back to the drawing board. It would seem that the learning of procedural tasks has little space in an environment such as this, and yet we cannot hope to adjust our 3D print if we don't know how to use the 3D software. We cannot refine that wood component if we don't know how to use the saw or sander.
If we can offload some of the more procedural tasks using technology, we can capture more class time for what we do best.
In this regard, I have devoted an entire section of this site to video instruction. These are open to the public and available on my Youtube channel. In addition, I ask my students to log in through Grovo, which provides the same videos accompanied by assessment questions and a tracking system. In this manner, I can monitor their progress and learning. These lessons are often assigned as homework, so that students can learn and "get certified" before coming to school the following day. Lessons range from how to design in 2D and 3D, to how to solder or use the drill press.
To further increase the immediacy with which students (and teachers, parents, visitors) can access these video-based lessons, I have posted QR codes throughout PIRL and PIRL Terrace, strategically located near the tools for which they are designed. Using free tools like QR Code Generator, one can easily create the QR code to point to any website resource.
As I mentioned, I don't have a complete answer as to how we might create the ideal conditions for learning within the time constraints of traditional schooling. But given those constraints, creative methods can be found for managing how we organize and prioritize the quality time we spend with our students.