About the Course


NMDS 5323 / CRN 8361, Spring 2017
6 East 16th Street, Room 611

Thursday 4:00 - 6:45pm

Office: 79 Fifth Ave, 16th Fl, Rm 1622
Hours: Tuesday 3:00 - 6:00 pm (by appointment)

Instructor: Prof. Nitin Sawhney, Ph.D.
Email: nitin@newschool.edu

Co-Instructor: Pauline Gourlet
Email: gourletp@newschool.edu


Course Description

How do we design to make learning more engaging? What is the role of making and play to create imaginative tools and environments for informal learning? How can we devise more inclusive and empowering modes of learning that support critical action and reflection? In this studio course we explore concepts, practices and inventive approaches for learning through experiential, participatory, hands-on making, tinkering and playful modes of engagement. We examine pedagogical concepts and critical theories of learning exposed by Edith Ackermann, Seymour Paper, Jean Piaget, John Dewey, Paulo Freire, and Vygotsky; these include constructivism and constructionism, child-centered experiential learning, psychology of play, pedagogy of the oppressed, narrative and multimodal literacy. Class sessions will include hands-on activities, design workshops and critical discussions of readings. Exploratory class sessions will be held at The New School Making Center as well as at museums and other informal learning contexts. For their projects, students will work collaboratively to identify and investigate Scenarios of Learning, conducting creative inquiry, participatory design and reflection with co-learners. The goal is to inspire imaginative approaches to learning, critical design and playful engagement.


The course is designed to allow students to excel individually and collaboratively in ways that are most meaningful to their own learning goals. The course seeks to foster a participatory learning environment, through shared contributions, ongoing peer-review and collaboration. Students will devise their own “Self-Learning Probes” to creatively assess and reflect on their goals, learning and outcomes. Students should document feedback from learners, constructive peer review and guidance from instructors and invited guests. The probes may examine critical investigation, conceptual design, co-learning and sharing, active field experimentation, and reflection/assessment of outcomes. The expectations for the course include:

- General participation including class attendance, discussions and presentations

- Reponses to readings, peer-review and online reflections on the course blog

- Fieldwork and participation in suggested events, hands-on activities or workshops outside class

- Midterm project concept and visual presentation (in groups) with reflective write-up (individual)

- Final project presentation and written essay (group) with reflections from learning probes (individual)

Academic Honesty: By taking this course you agree that you will adhere to the New School University’s Standards of Conduct, as well as the New School Academic Honesty policy. The work you do for any assignment should be your own and due credit should be given if developed in collaboration with others in or outside class.

Online Platforms: We will use Canvas for course announcements. To access it go to http://my.newschool.edu and select “Designing Engaged Learning.A.Sp17”. Site: https://canvas.newschool.edu/courses/1340785

We have setup a custom WordPress Blog for students to regularly reflect on readings, share illustrative examples, and ongoing progress on their design projects. http://www.lopendoc.org/del/

Zotero will be used as an online course repository for sharing suggested articles and write-ups among class participants: https://www.zotero.org/groups/designing_engaged_learning_2017/items

Participating in Activities outside the Class: Besides the weekly sessions, we expect students to engage in informal workshops and hands-on sessions at the New School Making Center and around the city in museums and afterschool programs throughout the term. https://www.newschool.edu/parsons/making-center/
Participation in these suggested activities is highly encouraged (if possible to attend at least 2-3 of them) but is optional depending upon student availability and interest, however they will provide invaluable opportunities for greater immersion and learning of new skills in real-world settings that complement the class.


Recommended Readings: (partial list only, other readings will be assigned based on topics of interest)

Ackermann, E. Cultures of Creativity and Modes of Appropriation: From DIY (Do It Yourself) to BIIT (Be In It Together). In Cultures of Creativity. David Gauntlett and Bo Stjerne Thomsen (Eds.), LEGO Foundation Report.

Ackermann, E. (2004). Constructing Knowledge and Transforming the World. In A learning zone of one's own: Sharing representations and flow in collaborative learning environments. M. Tokoro and L.Steels (Eds.). Amsterdam, Berlin, Oxford, Tokyo, Washington, DC. IOS Press. Part 1. Chap. 2. pp. 15-37.

Ackermann, E. (1996). Perspective-Taking and Object Construction. In Constuctionism in Practice: Designing, Thinking, and Learning in a Digital World. (Kafai, Y.,and Resnick, M., Eds.). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Part 1, Chap. 2. pp. 25-37.

Ackermann, E. (2007). Experiences of Artifacts: People’s Appropriations / Objects’ ‘Affordances’. Key works on radical constructivism. Ernst von Glasersfeld. (M. Larochelle, Ed). Rotterdam, Taipei. Sense Publishers. pp. 249-259.

Blikstein, P. (2013). Digital Fabrication and ’Making’ in Education: The Democratization of Invention. In J. Walter-Herrmann & C. Büching (Eds.), FabLabs: Of Machines, Makers and Inventors. Bielefeld: Transcript Publishers.

Connelly, F.M. & Clandinin, D.J., 1990. Stories of experience and narrative inquiry. Educational researcher, 19(5), pp. 2–14.

Dewey, J. 1939. Creative Democracy, The task before us.

Dicks, B. (2006). Multimodal ethnography. Qualitative Research, 6(1), 77–96.

Edelson, D. C. Design Research: What We Learn When We Engage in Design.  The Journal of the Learning Sciences, Vol. 11, No. 1 (2002).

Freire, Paolo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Continuum International Publishing Group, Inc, 2003.

Gaver, W. W., Boucher, A., Pennington, S., & Walker, B. (2004). Cultural Probes and the Value of Uncertainty. Interactions, 11(5), 53–56.

Jewitt, C. and Kress, G. R. Multimodal literacy. New York: Peter Lang Publishers. 2003.

Kafai, Y. and Peppler, K. Youth, Technology, and DIY: Developing Participatory Competencies in Creative Media Production. In V. L. Gadsden, S. Wortham, and R. Lukose (Eds.), Youth Cultures, Language and Literacy. Review of Research in Education, Volume 34. 2011.

Papert, S. Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas. Basic Books, Inc., New York, NY. 1980

Resnick, M., Maloney, J., Hernández, A. M., Rusk, N., Eastmond, E., Brennan, K., Millner, A. D., Rosenbaum, E., Silver, J., Silverman, B., & Kafai, Y. B. Scratch: Programming for Everyone. Communications of the ACM, 2011.

Sawhney, Nitin. Voices Beyond Walls: The Role of Digital Storytelling for Empowering Marginalized Youth in Refugee Camps. International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (IDC), Workshop on Digital Technologies and Marginalized Youth, Como, Italy, June 3–5, 2009.

Whitebread, D. and Basilio, M. Play, Culture and Creativity. In Cultures of Creativity. David Gauntlett and Bo Stjerne Thomsen (Eds.), LEGO Foundation Report.

Vygotsky, L. S. Mind in Society. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press. 1978.