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Designing the Future

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No matter the subject or grade, giving students engineering design process challenges encourages creativity, communication, innovation, and collaboration. In Designing the Future, author Ann Kaiser outlines how to enhance -- not increase -- what you are already teaching by implementing the engineering design process. Throughout the book, you will find more than 25 easy-entry, low-risk activities and projects you can begin incorporating into existing classwork.

Use the engineering design process for students to transform creative and critical-thinking classroom activities:

  • Explore the engineering design process (EDP) and unpack its stages: problem definition, research, brainstorming, prototyping, testing, and optimizing.
  • Understand how incorporating engineering for students creates a project-based learning environment that encourages essential 21st century skills, including creativity, innovation, and critical thinking.
  • Empower students to embrace the fundamentals of engineering design thinking, including: there is always more to learn, your solution will create problems, and there is no one right answer.
  • Learn how to develop and adapt engineering design process projects for various grade levels and disciplines.
  • Receive reflection tools that will empower you to revise and re-engineer activities and projects.
  • Incorporate elements of engineering and STEAM education lesson plans into your current classroom content.

Contents:
Introduction

Part I
Chapter 1: Building an Engineering Design Culture
Chapter 2: Deconstructing the Engineering Design Process
Chapter 3: Designing Projects

Part II
Chapter 4: Starting With Activities That Support Engineering Thinking and Skills
Chapter 5: Introducing Projects for Elementary School
Chapter 6: Introducing Projects for Middle and High School

Part III
Chapter 7: Reflecting On, Revising, and Optimizing Your Curriculum

Epilogue
Appendix A: Action Plan Summary
Appendix B: Challenge Creation
Appendix C: Engineering Notebook Forms
References and Resources
Index

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Chapter 1: Building an Engineering Design Culture

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CHAPTER 1

Building an Engineering

Design Culture

Without a doubt, the ability to connect the dots is rare, prized and valuable. Connecting dots, solving the problem that hasn’t been solved before, seeing the pattern before it is made obvious, is more essential than ever before.

—Seth Godin

I

s your classroom culture one of collecting dots or connecting dots? Are your students exploring the messy and complex world around them or moving along a very structured path from A to B to test time? In his book Creating Innovators, Tony Wagner (2012) notes:

Increasingly in the twenty-first century, what you know is far less important than what you can do with what you know. The interest in and ability to create new knowledge to solve new problems is the single most important skill that all students must master today. (p. 142)

Step back and think about how often you, or your students, say the following phrases.

• “It’s OK to make mistakes.”

 

Chapter 2: Deconstructing the Engineering Design Process

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CHAPTER 2

Deconstructing the Engineering

Design Process

Scientists discover the world that exists; engineers create the world that never was.

—Theodore von Kármán

H

ow can you channel all that culture-shifting energy to move from challenge to solution? The answer is easy: process, process, process! Use the EDP. Using the EDP to support your classroom culture will make that approach an easy fit as you frame larger-scale projects.

Creativity and problem solving have always been at the heart of engineering design. Most importantly, as Linda Katehi, former chair of the NAE Committee on K–12 Engineering Education, says,

“Design is not just an engineering skill. It’s a skill for everyone” (as cited in NAE, 2013, p. 21).

Engineering design requires innovative thinking, analytical judgment, the power of many minds, and the ability to defend and describe ideas.

Most students enjoy making and building things, but they will often resort to either a trial-anderror approach or a superficial “It looks good.” Again, keep the focus on the design process. Doing that enables you to support and assess skill development. In addition, it makes it easier to engage students in the introduction, discussion, and application of curricular content since they have a problem to solve. Following the EDP also ensures students justify their choices, fit modifications to meet constraints and criteria, and use a content-based rationale for design decisions.

 

Chapter 3: Designing Projects

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CHAPTER 3

Designing Projects

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.

—Antoine de Saint Exupéry

H

ave you ever faced the question, Why do I need to know this? The student who asks this question is no different than a boat builder who has never seen the sea. Without a sea to sail and places to go, the boat loses meaning. Supporting student-led learning and engagement requires you to flip that model. Don’t ask students to “build the boat” until you have shown them “the wonders of the sea” and the adventures they can have. Take your students out of the classroom and into the real world and then work with them as they learn what they need to know to develop solutions to problems. Show them the value and impact of what they will learn before they gather the facts. Give them “the beauty of the sea” before you give them the challenge of navigating it.

 

Chapter 4: Starting With Activities That Support Engineering Thinking and Skills

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CHAPTER 4

Starting With Activities That

Support Engineering Thinking and Skills

You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.

—Richard Branson

R

eading about the EDP is a good start, but including some of the practices and ways of thinking in your current curriculum is where the real learning begins. If you are convinced of the why, it is time to consider the how. Blending in small steps and short activities with what you already do can impact your classroom culture and establish practices that will make including engineering design projects a natural next step.

This chapter gives you some ideas for those small steps through activities tied to parts of the EDP and that focus on the skills so important for future learning and employment. These steps provide easy entry points to consider, and they support the culture shifts and hallmarks discussed in chapter

1 (page 7). They are short (generally one class or less) and easily adapted for and implemented in most classrooms. Some may also serve as hooks for the longer engineering design projects in chapters

 

Chapter 5: Introducing Projects for Elementary School

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CHAPTER 5

Introducing Projects for Elementary School

An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.

—Friedrich Engels

Think of things you can easily remember—something made these things more relevant, useful, or alive. Whether it was learning how to ride a bike, using various computer applications, playing a game, or finding the best way to get to work, much of our lifelong learning involves doing. No one would dream of teaching young children to swim by setting them at desks and showing them notes and graphics of different strokes. You need the sensation of developing a way to breathe and move when surrounded by water to truly learn how to swim. You need to sputter and blow some bubbles to learn how to avoid inhaling water; you need to feel the resistance of the water as it pushes back to figure out how to use your arms and legs effectively. And, as parents and teachers, we would never let a novice swimmer in the water without being nearby for support and assistance.

 

Chapter 6: Introducing Projects for Middle and High School

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CHAPTER 6

Introducing Projects for Middle and High School

What you know is far less important than what you can do with what you know.

—Tony Wagner

If you are a middle or high school teacher, chances are you have complained about how much content you are required to teach. Science, in particular, seems to be the focus of an ongoing debate concerning what topics teachers should teach and in how much detail. History curricula often become the subject of similar debates. The debate over breadth and depth is not new. The idea of exposing students to new ideas and preparing them for the future has always been at the heart of education. But the explosion in knowledge and information over the past one hundred to one hundred fifty years makes the task of imparting all known facts impossible. Newer initiatives and standards, such as the NGSS, stress the importance of core ideas or key understandings in a wide range of disciplines (NGSS Lead States, 2013). Yet, in many cases, textbooks and large-scale testing still embrace a broad survey approach. It is enough to make any teacher’s head spin!

 

Chapter 7: Reflecting On, Revising, and Optimizing Your Curriculum

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CHAPTER 7

Reflecting On, Revising, and Optimizing Your Curriculum

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

—Unknown

The final part of the EDP—analyze your test results, modify, and optimize—often gets shortchanged in the classroom. We often shortchange it in our work as educators, too—allowing too little time for reflecting, revising, and optimizing. Promise yourself that you will not skip this phase. It is what will make you see the results realistically and give you the courage to continue your efforts to include engineering design in your classroom. I have been in so many classrooms and have watched all sorts of projects and activities launch. Few first attempts are perfect, but I have never seen one fail to provide some magical learning moments. Don’t lose sight of that.

Reflection: The Luxury of Learning

As teachers, we are consummate learners. We learn more about what we teach, who we teach, and how to teach every time we practice our craft. But in the hustle and bustle of the normal school day, the needs of your students, requests from the office, and your life outside the classroom, time for reflection gets lost. I sometimes think finding some time for No project, no matter how critical reflection is the biggest challenge you will face when you opt to take this more well it is vetted and designed, active, project-based approach. But it is crucial to do so.

 

Appendix A: Action Plan Summary

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APPENDIX A

Action Plan Summary

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Designing the Future—Action Plan

Here is a summary of steps that can help you incorporate the ideas in this book into your classroom practices and culture, and then help you move forward to include projects.

Step 1

Deciding why:

Creating a vision

Priority

Notes

Real-world connections

Transdisciplinary learning

Highlight 21st century skills

Project-based learning

Student choice and differentiation

page 1 of 4

Designing the Future © 2020 Ann Kaiser • SolutionTree.com

Visit go.SolutionTree.com/21stcenturyskills to download this free reproducible.

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Step 2

Deciding how:

Focusing on classroom and culture

Possible Activities

Learning from failure • Paper Tower of Power

• Three-Legged Stool

• Flight of the Table Tennis Ball

Self-directed learning; developing need to know; observing others

 

Appendix B: Challenge Creation

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APPENDIX B

Project Planning

T

his template is the starting point for all of the project descriptions and plans found in chapters 5

(page 125) and 6 (page 149). The template helps provide an overview of any project you will plan.

It is meant to provide a place where you can identify the content and skills you hope to reinforce and the general “flow” of the project from introduction through the actual EDP and your goals for assessment. Under the EDP, I generally tie evidence to EDP forms (or other documentation) and artifacts such as the prototype. Use the Assessment section to highlight whatever skills and content will be assessed individually or by groups. You can also note what parts of the process and product might have some individual assessment (although most will be group assessment components). This form is basically a snapshot of your project.

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Project-Planning Template

Project Title:

Topic: �

 

Appendix C: Engineering Notebook Forms

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APPENDIX C

Engineering Notebook Forms

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Engineering Notebook Checklist

The following checklist represents the kind of documentation that normally appears in an engineering notebook. This is a great starting place, but feel free to add or modify what you feel you need in order to fully document the EDP. The Assigned To column simply means that the student is responsible for making sure the necessary information is there and that it is included in the notebook. Multiple students can work on any one form or document and many are assigned to all. Samples of the forms indicated with an asterisk are included in this appendix. Use the forms included in grades 5–12 with modifications for project complexity and project-specific questions if needed.

Name of Form

Assigned To

Date Completed

Initials

Jobs and Responsibilities

Background Research

Ranking Criteria (page 109)

Brainstorming Summary* (page 215)

 

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