Design for Learning

When Walter Gropius discussed the “training of an architect” he identified the very first years of formal education, Nurseries and Kindergartens. In truth, the early years of play are critical in establishing a pathway for individuals to become creative thinkers. Friederich Fröebel recognized this as well, and embodied a pedagogy of “playful learning” when he developed his “gifts” – a set of creative learning manipulatives for children. Fröebel then was not only an educator, but also a designer of objects. These artifacts, although simple in nature, held great educational potency, that in time influenced an entire generation of artist and designers.

This seminar looks beyond spatial concerns for educational environments and takes a critical look at how we craft learning objects with learning experiences to bring improvements to K-12 education. Play itself then becomes an object of study. Participants will design learning objects of their own throughout the course of the semester. Designers will be asked to think like educators and educators asked to think like designers. To do so, students will be introduced to seminal learning and design theories: Constructivism, Algorithmic Thinking, Visual Calculation, and Tangible Learning (to name a few).

Each seminar will be anchored in text that covers the topic for that week. Invited authors that offer deeper insight on some of these topics will join the class periodically for informal lectures. Partnership with the Boston Children’s Museum will further allow participants to develop their projects as students will have the opportunity to test their final projects with museum staff, parents, and children visitors. The final deliverables for the seminar will be a playable prototype of a learning game, toy, or manipulative accompanied by a written document outlining how it fits in a specific K-12 curriculum.