Research and Development
To learn more about the users we were designing for, PDI Studio 5 took four trips in total to the ARC School in downtown Troy, New York. The goal of each trip was to narrow down and specify the design for the final educational product.
Trip 1 was an exploration of our users’ thoughts, ideas, and opinions through conversation and interaction. The first of all lessons to learn was to know how to grab the students’ attention if there was an objective at hand. If a sense of authority was not established at the start, you were treated as another student, with nowhere near enough respect for the students to listen properly. The second issue was ensuring fair and equal interaction/ attention for each student as some were more outspoken. The main take away from the visit was that the students are extremely impressionable; so, if there is something to be said, say it loud and clear while not standing for any student treading on your path or another student. The challenge would be establishing authority and order without infringing upon the students’ freedom, ensuring they are focused on the subject and happy with being guided. ———————————————————————————————–
The first time bringing in a device was the main experience of trip 2. Seeing how the students interacted with our resistor network was a lesson in complexity of education. The device we made consisted of circuits lacking the correct resistance to function. From the start, students were given a brief lesson and the mathematical formulas to determine which resistors to plug in. The students required a lot of extra help, leaving us, the observers, to do most of the leading and hinting. The students were not enthused by the math, but enjoyed the spinning motor action very much, especially the boys as there were Dragon Ball Z characters attached to the end (sugar-coating the goal at hand). We learnt that how much info we require the students to learn depends on how interesting the subject is, and math was not interesting enough. Establishing authority and creating order was not an issue, but keeping attention up after the subject was introduced was the next issue to be resolved. The subject either needed to be changed or conveyed through a new medium. ———————————————————————————————–
After seeing how the math portion of education can be devastating to keeping the students’ attention, we aimed for a more intuitive device, only requiring that wires be connected, no math necessary. The students all joined in, with no lengthy introduction lecture, just letting them know how to power the motors and LED’s. The students learned that as metal contact metal, electricity is transferred, powering the devices. The students were having fun and learning at the same time, but we questioned if they could be learning more. At some points it seemed as though the students were just randomly plugging in wires without thinking, which is not necessarily bad, but displays a major lack in any analytical thinking which should be part of the education process (using both hemispheres of the brain, thinking creatively and analytically, for a truly intuitive experience). Two new thoughts were developed during this visit, that math needed to make a comeback through a simpler medium and that banana plugs were the students’ favorite method for connection components.
The final device was complete and contained the desired mathematical education as well as an intuitive experience with completing connections in a circuit. The mathematics of resistance were discarded and a much simpler, fraction addition medium was put in place (coincidentally, the students were working on fractions in their curriculum as we set up our product). The goal of the students was to power parts of the device by determining the correct fractions to add up. Once they had determined the correct fractions, they were to connect the corresponding posts to the ‘ground’ and ‘device (motor/LED).’ There was not much introduction needed as we solved that issue by handing out worksheets with almost all of the necessary information. After successfully completing their first connection, the students soon caught on and attempted to power all four devices before their time was up. In some groups this process was faster as adding fractions came easier to some students more so than others. The project proved to be an overall success, creating the drive to solve math problems even as math proved to be a boring subject matter. Some students were still not swayed due to a lack of proper testing beforehand in regards to fine tuning the mathematics and ensuring a sufficient amount of sugar-coating.