Paper presentation @ 2016 IDSA International Conference

June 22, 2016 2:00 AM

Peter Scupelli presented a paper he co-authored with Judy Brooks and Arnold Wasserman on “Making Dexign Futures learning happen: A case study for a flipped, Open-Learning Initiative course” at the 2016 Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) International Conference in Detroit, Michigan.


How do design educators make change happen to address new challenges? Currently, design educators are caught between challenges: first, teaching well-established design traditions based on craft and making; and second, training students to situate their artifact making within transitional times in a volatile and exponentially changing world. The tension design educators navigate involves teaching the core of a discipline in relation to an expanding periphery where multiple disciplines interact. The epistemic challenge is how to initiate students into the field’s crystallized knowledge at the same time as fluid, emergent knowledge. Some design educators may yearn for simpler times focusing on mastery of the deep disciplinary cores. Others may discount their own core disciplinary teaching in favor of exploration of the rapidly shifting disciplinary peripheries to meet new challenges and opportunities. We acknowledge both perspectives and further posit that students need exposure to both the core and periphery of design. This introduces an interesting learning challenge: an implicit contradiction for students of design where the core/making tends to reinforce short time horizon thinking; and the disciplinary periphery requires long time horizon visioning. We try to address this challenge by aligning short-term design opportunities with sustainable development plans for long time horizons. We merge design thinking and futures thinking to create “deXign” thinking. In this paper, we discuss a flipped classroom pedagogy that integrates design studio with an online component. The class we describe is called Dexign Futures. Dexign Futures is a required design studies class for all third year undergraduate students in the products, communications, and environments tracks in the School of Design at a North American tier-one research university. Because traditional design pedagogy poorly equips designers to integrate current human-centered design methods with long-range strategic thinking, a challenge we explore through the class is how to teach designing for the long time horizon. The Dexign Futures course is built on an elective three-course sequence: Dexign Futures Seminar (DFS), Introduction to Dexign the Future (iDTF), and Dexign the Future (DTF). The term deXign indicates an experimental type of design that integrates Futures Thinking with Design Thinking. In this paper, we discuss the process of making the Dexign Futures flipped classroom pedagogy happen by: (a) describing the online class modules in detail; (b) providing examples of in-class workshop activities; and (c) reflecting on lessons learned from iterative development of the online modules and in-class activities.

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