11 November 2011

I'm a projechitect

I don't consider myself so much a teacher, as I do a project designer. Better yet, project architect. Even better yet, projechitect. As much as I admired and learned from my high school science teacher, who taught lecture-style, I've found that my own style has developed more into projechitect-style.

What is a projechitect? As you know, it's a word smash of "project architect," and I'm all about saving syllables. It's simple: someone who creates and assigns projects that are designed to help students learn through their own discovery. This person also has the ability to direct student discovery with creative direction along the way.

A well-designed project assignment consists of three things:

  1. It must be interesting enough to a broad student base as to engage them.
  2. It must have a limited scope as to be achievable by the largest number of students, while leaving room to still challenge the more gifted students.
  3. The parameters must be set in a way that causes the student to get significant practice with the tool or technique desired, one that is worth learning.
I don't want to expound on the theory, but the practice of projechitecture. I teach graphic design in my communications class, and one larger project I like doing is a poster design advertising an event at the school. 1. It's an event they might actually attend themselves, and their design could be used as an advertisement. 2. Poster designs can be as simple or as complicated as the designer wants it to be, and both can be considered good design. Students who struggle with the software can still create good stuff, and students who are talented have plenty to keep them challenged. 3. Depending on where the students are in their development, I emphasize the tools and skills they've learned so far. If the project takes several days, I offer small tips at the beginning of each class when I see a need, in addition to wandering around the classroom offering tips and help. If the project is at the culmination of the graphic design unit, they learn firsthand which tools are important to them for their design style, and hopefully they come to find out that I have given them the exact tools that they need to get the job done.

An aspect of 'architect' that I want to emphasize is that when the time comes for the students to turn them in, first they're given grades simply for their effort. Then I choose posters that have good ideas in them, and I expand them into professional designs. Students are proud to see elements from their designs chosen, and get to see how they could be turned into something even better. So far, students love this approach. Mine are only in junior high, so they're still at stage one of good design: learning to recognize good design from bad. (Stages two and three are knowing what's wrong when a design isn't good, and knowing how to fix it.)

This philosophy should come through as I post projects that the students and I have co-designed, and talk about how the project went. Until then, bye.

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