Design activity #3: Final prototypes

In today’s design activity, we finishing the first prototype and readying it for the first testing in school. We will present the prototype to the teachers, that have volunteered to participate in testing the game in their classroom.

Decisions and discussions on materiality
Lene and I have been discussing the materialities of different solutions and whether the first prototypes should be made in e.g. cardboard or wood, the consistency in the graphical expression of the single pieces of the game, the correlation between the analogue and digital part of the game and how to balance the game in order to both constrain the students into a specific fictional genre and afford openness to let the students’ imagination and creativity flourish.

Our considerations on materialities are also based on which kind of feedback we want to get from the teachers. For us, this concerns the balance between presenting a prototype, that looks done but not as a completely finished design. We don’t want the teacher to be concerned with the time and work put into the prototypes and thereby eventually limiting their evaluation. our hypothesis here is, that if the teachers think we have too much ownership or put to much work into it, then that will limit their evaluation and honesty towards concerns or critique of the design.

Lene checking the quality of the pieces and preparing them for the final finish

Lene and I have chosen to make the pieces in wood – and we used a laser cutter to cut and engrave the pieces. We created four sets of the game. The choice of material is bot aesthetic, but also from a thought on the robustness of the material. Since we will use it in fifth-grade classrooms we believe, that a cardboard solution would quickly result in broken or dirty pieces. By choosing wood we believe the pieces will in a better we withstand the usage over a longer period of time. Another consideration involves aesthetics. We find that since we chose a quite limited graphical expression, engraving the outlines into wood follows through on that concept. As mentioned above, we have chosen this “primitive design” to enable the children to create their own pictures of the different elements – thus expanding the possibility to create their own stories. (I will get into more detail on the design principles in the next post).

Design activity #2: First prototyping

Since sketching the raw ideas of the game my colleague (Lene Illum Skov) and I went through the first initiating design workshop. The aim of the workshop was to get closer to which elements we want to include in the game and how these would serve a specific purpose in regards to supporting the students’ creation of interactive stories.

The approach chosen in the project borrows it’s methodology from the field of participatory design research as described by Spinnuzi (2005):

As the name implies, the approach is just as much about design—producing artifacts, systems, work organizations, and practical or tacit knowledge—as it is about research. In this methodology, design is research. That is, although participatory design draws on various research methods (such as ethnographic observations, interviews, analysis of artifacts, and sometimes protocol analysis), these methods are always used to iteratively construct the emerging design, which itself simultaneously constitutes and elicits the research results as co-interpreted by the designer-researchers and the participants who will use the design.

Spinnuzi, 2005

With that in mind, the design workshop is part of the research and the conversation unfolding during that proces of great value for the choice made.
During the workshop some important choices were negotiated e.g.:

1) How did we want the tokens and pieces of the game to look?

2) Which text parts would be the best to include, keeping the storyline as open as possible?

3) Which materials would suffice and be suited to the job?

4) Simplicity in the expression of the artwork

Lene cutting and glueing pieces of the story to fit with specific tokens of the game

Playfulness and game activities provide what Eva Brandt calls “dream material” (Halse, Brandt, Clark & Binder, 2010) that supports participants in playing out different versions of futures and outcomes. The process of designing the game could be seen as such, providing both Lene and me with opportunities to see meaningfulness and purpose while being engaged in developing ideas and artefacts.

The final outcome of the day. Not finished – but one big step closer

Design activity #1: First ideas on designing a game for computational thinking

The mock-up and ideas

The basic ideas.
Today I started on the basic idea of the game for fostering algorithmic thinking and pattern recognition within the subject area of danish as a mother tongue. Many thoughts have come up, but the basic idea is to combine tangible objects with digital artefacts in different ways to support the creativity and thinking skill of the students when writing stories. The tangible object (computational things) will function as structuring resources scaffolding the students when they outline their stories. Right now I want to use the student’s mobile phones as well by using QR-codes to give them excerpts from an existing story, to create basic plotlines. With the use of tangible objects, the students can fill out the missing parts linking the plots. To do this the students involve (to some extent) pattern recognition and algorithmic thinking (my hypothesis).

From analogue to digital artefacts
After the students have finished the basics of the story, we want them to transform their ideas into interactive stories in the tool called Twine
The great thing about Twine is, that it both works as a tool for transforming the student’s creative ideas into a story others can engage in and also gives us researchers an opportunity to follow the students when they “program” a story in a tool, that uses basic programming syntax to function. E.g. creating a link requires the student to write a small command: [[ text ]]. Again the student also needs to involve both algorithmic thinking and create logical patterns to create a coherent story.

Collaboration as a way to investigate how students think!
The game is designed towards as a collaborative enterprise. We think, that the only way to investigate the problem-solving and computational thinking-strategies the students put to use, is by letting the work collaborate and communicate about their design ideas and actions.

Next steps:
The next steps will be a lot of further idea generation and sketching. Much is to be considered and learned. Both I regards of different properties of materials and how to design and manufacture the desired idea in the final steps. Right now designing in Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape and the like seem to be the next step, as well as trying to work with different forms and game formats.