#IndieEdTech Design Sprint

This is part of a series of posts that reflect upon the Indie Ed-Tech Data Jam gathering.

Following our discussions on Indie Ed-Tech (which I now know is hyphenated thanks to the Hack Education style guide;), we moved into a design sprint that attempted to imagine a tangible product designed around a personal API.

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Photo by Troy Martin

We were separated into groups and began the day of discussing, debriefing, and designing. My group was made up of IT professionals, instructional technologists, freshmen, and graduate students. We discussed the plight of the student, tools used for learning (formal and informal), and landed on the difficulty that students have understanding course objectives, providing feedback to faculty, and communicating with other students.

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Photo of our group captured & tweeted by Erin Richley

Our solution had 4 components that were cyclical in nature:

  1. An unconference course creation. We hadn’t decided if this would be digital, physical, both, or even if it was feasible. The idea behind this is that courses would be tailored to students. I felt guilty asking for something like this because institutional culture makes it easy to forget that the university is there for the students. They pay to be there and they invest their time and energy into learning and making the university all that it is. Tailoring courses to student needs and interest can create equity in student/faculty relationships and can allow for self-motivated learning.
  2. Real-time student feedback in the form of course review. This could be private between instructor and student to address a small concern regarding the course, or it could be public and include samples of coursework. Providing this space for students to evaluate courses and give feedback to instructors can allow students who previously felt powerless to share their views on course issues, course improvements, and any other feedback to share these opinions. There are times when I have felt in a position where my feedback would be unwelcome because of power structures. Someone at the gathering compared it to a boss/employee relationship. My instructor isn’t my employer. They are there to help me learn and grow. As instructional design guru (and my professor) Andy Gibbons states, “learners and teachers should learn together. A course where this does not happen is a wasted opportunity.” This real-time student feedback would allow learners and teachers to learn together and improve courses, without compromising relationships.
  3. Dynamic messaging API. Students are overwhelmed with the amount of tools they are required to use, and many of those are messaging tools. The dynamic messaging API would aggregate these tools and allow interoperability of communication venues students prefer, without missing out on important course assignments.
  4. Last, and my personal favorite, was the idea of course ‘Slack’ channels. They do not necessarily need to be based on the slack platform, but should allow for some of the same functionality. Messages should be archived, groups should exist for courses, channels for assignments, private messages where the students can communicate, and this tool should be adaptable to student needs. Whatever the platform may be, this can move us away from contrived LMS chat tools and into a space where we feel comfortable talking about our learning.
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Photo captured & tweeted by Known (Ben & Erin)

We discussed our ideas with other groups, and were able to debrief and reiterate our designs. The feedback from others was thoughtful, nurturing, and productive: something every learning opportunity should embody. Our idea was underdeveloped compared to some of the others, but it was valuable to talk through some of the functions that APIs can allow within our institutions. After Ben & Erin walked us through a ‘goals and tasks’ brainstorm and discussed the sustainability of these projects, there was a tangible feeling that products were in the early stages of being created. Products that would marry student needs and APIs. I look forward to seeing what comes of this, I have high hopes.

There is much more I could say on the weekend, and I left feeling inspired, enabled, and very behind on my homework. Please take the time to read the blogs of other attendees, I can guarantee it will be worth every second spent. I will return here to link to all of the reflections from the weekend.

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