Since moving into the role of PYP design teacher I have been playing with ideas about how to provide students access to their design space, which at my school we affectionately call The Pit. The students come to me two or three times every 8 day cycle for 45 minutes at a time and whenever possible I try to facilitate connections between their regular homeroom classroom and my classroom. Check out that article about transdisciplinary design, here, as well as some of the work I’ve done to move towards a fully articulated design curriculum, here.
What I’ve found is that, as scheduled as we would like to make it, sometimes students need help with designing at times that fall outside of their designated design specialist time. I wish I could be more open to students coming in at any time of the day to ideate with me and grab materials, but I’m usually rather occupied when I’m teaching another class’s lesson. There’s got to be a way to create a just-in-time model for The Pit that can provide students with more opportunities to access design teachers, tools, and materials.
What I really need is some sort of digital “Take a Ticket” or reservation system that can allow students to book slots with me. I imagine something akin to waiting at the bank or registering for college classes except that students can just book from their iPads in homeroom and continue their learning there, uninterrupted. In the past I’ve had a rather simplistic version of a help desk for math in my 4th grade class but I would need something that could be scaled up across all elementary classes. Plus I don’t have Moodle anymore at this new school. Here are some of the systems I have considered and play around with, but as I will describe, they are far from perfect:
ClassroomQ is a pretty basic help desk that has a huge child-friendly button that students can press. In addition, students can ask a question when they make a reservation so I can either accept or reject their request. Unfortunately there is only one-way communication between student and teacher in this way because it doesn’t have a chat or comment feature that would allow me to explain to the student why I’ve decided to rejected their request. It’s also 19.99 for the year, which for such a simple program that doesn’t come with an app, it doesn’t seem worth it.
The other idea I had was to use Padlet with the column format so that students can put their name in the queue and I can just drag them over and sort them while giving comments. Of course, there are no notifications that would remind students to come down at their time slot, or any sort of time stamping that could prioritize those that have been waiting longer, but it is free and sort of customizable.
Of course, there’s always e-mail, but the lag between when a e-mail is sent and when I might open my inbox is just too delayed for my purposes. Also, younger students tend to experience more trouble (and stricter restrictions/protections) with e-mail communication than older students.
Of course, there is always the trusty sign-up sheet, but my timetable wouldn’t be able to accommodate this just yet. The problem is that there are so few pockets available in the timetable available for student contact times (I have to plan for lessons, too!). Perhaps a revised timetable, such as this one below, could work to open hours up for students to book times to work on their designs. I’ve named the role “Design Aterlierista” as a nod to Reggio-inspired programs, and the Design Pit could open up to provide three open days that students could use to sign up for design mentorship and assistance in the “atelier”.
Maybe there is a different system out there that you have used to get students to be able to access your design/STEM/makerspaces and your materials? Feel free to comment below or to hit me up on Twitter, @mrzachg
– Zach Groshell
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