Monday, November 12, 2018

Visual Prototyping Helps Guide a Team in Unlocking California’s History for Classrooms Across the State

Recently, the California Historical Society had the pleasure of bringing on Navigation North as the firm that will help develop the website for our new Teaching California initiative. This future website will serve as a portal that provides classroom-ready curriculum designed to engage students in inspiring investigations of the past. Navigation North's team of educators and developers work with technology to re-imagine and re-design:

  • How teachers can be better supported in their practice 
  • How student learning, in and out of class, can be improved 
  • How education systems can be more readily adopted to integrate innovation

The following blog is written by Brian Ausland, Navigation North's principal researcher and systems design lead. He has worked in the field of education for 19 years and serves as the intermediary between the technology and learning communities he supports. He brings his classroom experience and teaching perspectives central to all systems, projects, and approaches.

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Navigation North traveled to San Francisco to do some early-stage visual prototyping with the California Historical Society team. In the heart of the CHS research center, amongst transitioning exhibitions, offices bustling with varied expertise and passion, and a blend of artwork and manuscripts that shape the history of the Golden State, a small room was set aside for a day of thinking and dreaming.

On the horizon for this team, is a new and vibrant site being prepared for California classroom teachers and students that will help provide key curriculum and resources tied to California’s new History – Social Science Framework.

With an audience of primary source specialists, curators, digital archivists and manuscript librarians, Navigation North led a reflective review of key findings around effective,research-based digital curriculum. Teams were then provided a chance to dream, design, and create. But first, we turned off the laptops, silenced our phones and broke out the crafts.
California Historical Society's Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian, Marie Silva, creating visual prototypes.
What was a respectable meeting room adorned with handsome, historical portraits from California’s past, became a free-for-all of poster paper, markers, yarn, crayons, sample artifacts, clothes pins, pipe cleaner, clay, common interface buttons, scissors, tape, and glue. With some guidance, discussions began on the topic of intentions, values, and calibration around common desired outcomes. Team members reviewed findings on teachers’ use of digital curriculum and reflected on the value of primary sources as keys to unlocking history, then engaged in creating prototype models that blended all of the above.

Once complete, participating team members posted their visual prototypes where their colleagues could make inquiries about their designs, discuss features, and proposed ways to help teachers and students, “analyze the primary source for its story”. Participants were asked to identify their favorite elements of each other’s designs. Navigation North staff recorded the data, captured pictures, and carefully collected all the resulting work items to bring back for further analysis and compilation of findings.

Staff from California Historical Society reviewing ideas for the Teaching California website.
As part of the Discovery Process, this was a simple first step towards helping diverse team members construct a more comprehensive and shared conceptual approach to a robust, digital, curricular resource. With additional steps pending, we were happy to see the team readily dig-in and engage the process. Stay tuned as this adept team crafts an incredible product to help bring more voices to the story of California’s past.

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