Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Liberatory Design with Year 9 and Sustainable Cities

Liberatory Design Thinking

As part of my Boma Fellowship  I attended a 2 day intensive workshop at the Stanford d School at Stanford University, let by David H Clifford. This introduction to Liberatory Design  (LD) has had an impact on my own thinking. It has led me to create a series of micro-credentials as well create a unit of learning, where students went through the process of LD to design sustainable buildings as part of a sustainable city project.

What is Liberatory Design?

Liberatory Design was co-created by David Clifford and the National Equity Project . It is about bringing equity into the design process:

The image above shows the LD process and it has several components that encourage the designer to examine equity in their design through: Notice, Reflect and Empathize. To me this way of thinking allows the 'human' to remain at the centre of the design rather than the 'product'.

Sustainable Cities, LD and Year 9

Students in our integrated curriculum class (Science, English and Social Studies) have had their learning structured around the SDG's and Global Citizenship. Students have undertaken a series of student led inquiries and project based learning. In Term 3 we used the Liberatory Design process to structure the student learning program.

Students were in groups and each had an aspect of city. The premise was a new island was going to built off the coast of Christchurch and it must be a sustainable city. Each group was assigned a different aspect of the city e.g. industrial, residential, business... 

We first took them through the 'Notice' phase where we discussed things such as bias and assumptions. This was more challenging than I had anticipated with some students declaring they had no bias. I sort some advice from the Boma Ed Fellows and David and based on their advice designed some games. This helped to create some light-bulb moments for students where they realised they did have bias. One student reflected that her role was to create a sports centre and she had focused on netball which was her favourite sport and passion. She then examined her own assumptions and redesigned her sports centre. Other students noted how they had male/female toilets and this may not be the most equitable design in catering for everyone (these are only two examples) - this was directly related to addressing their own assumptions.

Prototype in Minecraft Edu

Part of our challenge was getting students to think beyond the easy solutions. A way we did this was work in 'Chance' over the course of the term. For example, after students had decided on their power sources, we took away the lithium mines - it had been in the news and we worked it into the lesson. This meant that students had to go back from ideate/prototype back to the 'define' section after re-examing the 'notice' and 'reflect'. Some students were frustrated at starting again. However, when we spoke to them about how this related to building their capabilities in relation to perseverance, problem solving and overcoming challenges as well as working through the design process, the students got it.

As far as the prototype stage, we had students do at least three and this was related to 'Chance' challenges. Students for the most part opted to prototype in Minecraft EDU. What was interesting were the students commenting that it was easier to do it in Minecraft than with the card. That it was hard to visualise with just card and then how to actually create the building. We required their final prototype to be done with card, cello-tape and glue. Students created QR codes to display their Sway's, or Power-point or video on the what the sustainable features were and other aspects of their design.
Students had to have at least 3 sustainable features and at least 1 additional sustainable feature focused on well-being.

Sports stadium:the QR code will work if you have a QR reader on your phone

Recreation Area (QR code has been black-out)

Rather than the 'Test' phase we did have students reflect on their learning and the process. We also invited teachers to a presentation where students shared their learning.

There was a lot more to this than the summary above but I hope to highlight some key moments. A key learning for me was the the 'Notice', 'Empathize', 'Reflect' aspects of Liberatory Design which needs to be worked into the curriculum through-out the year. By working on this through-out the year students would be able to go deeper when looking at equity and challenging their own bias/assumptions and that of others/systems/issues.

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