Monday, 17 October 2011


This is going to be the first of many 'end of the week' posts, covering what I've been up to in the past 7 days. Except this one is covering the last 2 weeks, and I'm writing it on the Monday of my third week. I'll get better at this blogging progress thing eventually!

The things that have been taking up my attention has been starting with the research and learning new skills.

The research I've been starting with is focusing directly at Problem Based Learning and Design Based Learning, both separate things, but sharing a lot in common.
Most of the PBL material I've been reading has been related to the medical industry, but there is also much written about PBL being applied to engineering disciplines. Both subjects are of interest, but interestingly, the medical papers touch a lot on PBL being used to teach ethics and morality; an interesting concept when applied to design, as you start to think about the ethical decisions a designer must face when designing a product. Is it something that would be thought about while hardware or interface prototyping? A medical product perhaps?

I haven't covered what Design Based Learning is on here yet, but I'll do a little post at some point explaining both PBL and DBL. There seems to be less written on DBL, but theres many sources of information I haven't tapped into yet. The most interesting paper I've found so far is entitled "Designing Learning through Learning to Design" (Mishra, Girod, 2006) which documents what a teacher witnessed when DBL was applied to her class, and an academic's interpretation of these observations.
It basically showed how an otherwise mundane subject can be turned into a very interesting and productive one when the tasks were to design and build models representing the core principles.

While researching different ways of teaching, I've also been teaching myself some new stuff.
In order to build learning environments around interfaces, it would probably be a good idea to learn how to create some interfaces to teach. So I've started with touch interfaces, and had my first play with Android App inventor.

Android App inventor is a very useful tool for people like me who are (at the moment) new to building apps. On top of that, it's also a very good example of the kind of stuff that would be good to put into the classroom, because of its very shallow learning curve. It works in two parts, like many app dev kits; It has a 'Designer' window and a 'Blocks Editer' window. Within the 'Designer' window, you layout the content of the app, buttons, images, sounds, moving elements and so on. But its in the Blocks Editor where you assign functions to each of these parts.
The 'Blocks Editor' function is the most interesting to me, because it is a good example of graphic-based code writing. In this, not a single line of code is actually written by the user. Instead, the logic of the program is in the form of blocks which the user drags into the main window. There, other blocks are attached to build up the code.
It is just the kind of thing I am looking for to introduce code to students who have never coded before.

One of the first apps I was able to create (thanks to the easy tutorials on the site), was a simple painting app.

OK, so maybe I was never good at finger painting at school...

Moving on from that, I've been diving into learning how to code with Objective C, which is what is needed to code iPhone and iPad apps. This is a little more challenging and is taking quite a lot of time to do. Thankfully, there are loads of resources on the web to help with this, the best so far being The New Boston on Youtube, who does a whole host of tutorials from C++ to 3Ds Max. I'm still at the early stages of this, no shiny apps to show yet!

This next week is going to be focused on progressing with very much the same things. Until next time...

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