December 21, 2014

Introducing the AbDLC

bryce_resizedWhat happens when you put 32 maker and design educators in a room together for six hours? On a crisp fall afternoon this past November we did just that—we also added a few tools, some objects, time to think, learn, reflect, discuss, and have fun—and the results were fantastic.

After wrapping up the first phase of our action research collaboration with the Oakland Learning Community (OLC), on November 14, 2014 the Agency by Design team brought together maker and design educators from across the United States to launch the Agency by Design Learning Community, or AbDLC.

This talented group of techies and tinkerers hails from Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Toronto, and the golden state of California. Members of the AbDLC represent maker and design education programs in schools, after-school settings, museums, libraries, and a variety of makerspaces.

AbDLC members Mariah Landers (Alameda County Office of Education) and Rebecca Grabner (Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA) explore the inner workings of a coffee grinder during the November 14, 2014 AbDLC launch event.

AbDLC members Mariah Landers (Alameda County Office of Education) and Rebecca Grabner (Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA) explore the inner workings of a coffee grinder during the November 14, 2014 AbDLC launch event.

After spending two years developing a suite of Agency by Design thinking routines with our teacher partners in the OLC, we’ve brought together the AbDLC to pilot test our new thinking routines and provide real world pictures of practice of these routines in action. Consistent with Project Zero’s work developing learning communities, an additional goal of the AbDLC is to catalyze a national community of maker and design educators.

During our November 14 launch event, members from the AbDLC experienced the AbD thinking routines firsthand. Working in small groups, the AbDLCers employed our thinking routines to look closely, explore complexity, and ultimately find opportunities to build, tinker, or hack a variety of objects and systems. In addition, the AbD thinking routines provided prompts for AbDLC members to take the perspectives of the various people who interact with the objects and systems they worked with, as well as to consider how they could redesign these objects and systems to be more effective, efficient, ethical, or beautiful.

Technologies old and new were used to explore objects and systems during the November 14, 2014 AbDLC launch event.

Technologies old and new were used to explore objects and systems during the November 14, 2014 AbDLC launch event.

Using a dissected electric pencil sharpener as their inspiration, AbDLC members map out the parts, people, and interactions affiliated with the school system.

Using a dissected electric pencil sharpener as their inspiration, AbDLC members map out the parts, people, and interactions affiliated with the school system.

Project Zero researcher Jessica Ross organizes participant responses during the November 14, 2014 AbDLC launch event.

Project Zero researcher Jessica Ross organizes participant responses during the November 14, 2014 AbDLC launch event.

AbDLC member Steve Davee (Maker Education Initiative, San Francisco, CA) uses AAA batteries "borrowed" from a nearby computer clicker to revive "the sounds of our childhood": the clicking beats of a rotary telephone.

AbDLC member Steve Davee (Maker Education Initiative, San Francisco, CA) uses AAA batteries “borrowed” from a nearby computer clicker to revive “the sounds of our childhood”: the clicking beats of a rotary telephone.

While we prepare for a world release of the AbD thinking routines later this month, members of the AbDLC are already test driving these new educator resources to see how they work—and how they may be tweaked to work even better. To document and share their experiences, the AbDLC is interacting via a Google+ community—and we’ll be periodically checking in with them through a series of Google Hangouts to see how things are going.

We are grateful for all of the time and energy the AbDLC has invested into pilot testing our thinking routines—and we are excited to learn from them. As we do, we’ll be sure to share what we learn with others. In the meantime, watch this space for the upcoming release of the AbD thinking routines—coming soon!

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