The Unworkshop

As part of DTLT’s Digital Liberal Arts series, each month we will be offering something we’re calling “design sprints” — in which faculty will get together and in a short period of time, create something useful and meaningful for our community, our classrooms, and beyond.

Traditionally, the workshop has been the primary vehicle for faculty development — faculty come, listen to a facilitator, with nominal active learning interspersed, and leave with a few new ideas or strategies. But the format of the workshop often reproduces the kinds of teaching strategies we are seeking to avoid in our classroom practices: passive learning.

As I wrote in my post Arrested (Professional) Development:

The best professional development is participatory and connectivist. It is driven by the needs and interests of those attending and allows for collaboration between the facilitator, the participants, and beyond … It is, unsurprisingly, much like the learning environments we want to create for our own students.

The challenge for us this year is to explore, examine, and begin to answer the hard questions that arise when discussing what the Digital Liberal Arts are and what they mean to us, as a community of educators and scholars and students. The workshop is not the ideal method or vehicle for encouraging active and collaborative pedagogies.

Enter the Design Sprint.

Typically, a Design Sprint is used to rapidly brainstorm, prototype, and even test ideas. It uses concepts of design thinking to look at challenges and solutions differently. The “sprint” of course, is relative; some Design Sprints are meant to take place over five days, but the time can also be much more limited.

The core concepts of the Design Sprint are: get a group of smart, diverse people in a room, give them a challenge with some guidance and parameters (including a time limit!), and see what the group comes up with. As educators, our challenges are diverse and dispersed — ranging from problems in the classroom to real structural and institutional roadblocks to positive change. DTLT’s Design Sprint can and hopefully will be an opportunity to do some “magical thinking” around the issues we face daily but rarely find the time or energy to try and solve.

Each month, we’ll be featuring a different Design Sprint, focused specifically on the challenge posed and issues raised by that month’s Town Hall conversation. Our goal is to make more tangible the concepts and ideas that arise. By the end of the hour-long Design Sprint, participants will leave with an idea we can use almost immediately, one that came from the collective wisdom and problem-solving abilities of the people in the room.

The first Design Sprint, Redesigning your Discipline for the Digital, will be Tuesday, September 20th at 4pm in HCC 407. We’ll post additional information about each Design Sprint about a week in advance, so watch here for updates.

Image by Neslihan Gunaydin licensed CC-0