Monday, February 28, 2011

'Uncovering' critical thinking through play

This is part 2 of my article on ideation using Playdoh, and I thought it was apt for me to highlight some key findings and observations.

In my first article written a few days ago, I mentioned briefly about how the use of Playdoh could overcome the brain block that most of our students would have when they were told to be creative and ideate. In this article, I would try to elucidate this further by touching on 2 examples that I have deemed to be creative, and that allowed me to make 'critical thinking' more tangible.

One good example is the idea of the door stopper done by one of the students as shown below. Moving away from the idea that a door stopper is always either located underneath or at the sides of doorways, this student decided to test out an idea on placing a door stopper on top of the door instead:

Design by Chin Wai Kit (Class of 1-07, 2011, SST)
What I really love about this idea was the fact that the student had considered firstly, the shape of his door stopper during the critical ideation and design phase. I thought that the shape and theme of his design was rather appropriate for the target audience of pre-primary school students (ages 6 and below). The fact that this was located at the top of the door, and not the bottom or the sides, also fulfilled the other requirement of the design challenge, i.e. the stopper must be able to be removed only with adult supervision.

The other critical thought that was apparent was when he was asked to pose for a picture. He realizes that the weight of the protruding section of his design was rather heavy when using the same material; it made him realize about the importance of detailing even further. Changing or using lesser materials, or redesigning that section, were some considerations that were uncovered when the student was asked about possible improvements. I thought this was a good and realistic example of how a teacher could leverage on an appropriate teachable moment, seize it, and have the students aware and reflect about it, more critically!

The other example was the idea of a mobile-phone charging unit that was able to store the charging equipment, and had a coiler element to prevent wires from getting entangled and becoming a mess. The student's idea is as shown below:
Design by Ragul (Class of 1-08, 2011, SST)
I thought the idea was creatively simple...being inspired by the shape of his hand. What I did like more about his concept was the fact that the student, upon being inquired, was able to articulate how his idea worked, and more importantly, the reasons for some of the product features. The fingers were not merely there to just 'complete' the idea, but acted also as coilers for the wires of the charging cables. The fact that the space allotted for the placement of the phone was rather wide, was also a design consideration, as the student reasoned that it was supposed to be designed for the general phone sizes, instead of just a particular brand or type of phone. I thought his idea of 'inclusive' design is interesting, coming from a situation whereby the focus was only for them to work on the type of mobile phone that they were familiar with, or were using at that point of time.

Of course there were more examples that I had uncovered that really enlightened me on how some of these critical thinking could be 'seen' or demonstrated. I do strongly believe that there were a lot more findings that I would need to uncover further, as I continue to study some of the works done by the students, as well as the sketches that they have followed up with in order to illustrate their ideas even clearer. It was really an interesting and elucidating moment, coming from an educator like myself, to see and visualise critical thinking really happening in front of me. I do hope that I could do and follow up with more articles and thoughts about my classes when time permits. But until then...

Signing off
Irfan Darian
design(ology) on Facebook

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