Building Engaging Assignments in the Digital Age
This is a reflection upon Brian Croxall’s Assignments and Architecture: Pedagogy in the Digital Age.
In this playful transcript of Croxall’s presentation, he explains some essential keys to teaching.
He jokes “TL;DR” at the beginning, so for my post today, I’d like to summarize his points and connect that to my own teaching philosophies.
This is my job. Simplifying complex academic topics for people who lack the time or inclination for dense reading.
Brian has four suggestions for instructors:
- Build for the Public
- Build with a Team
- Form ever follows Function
- Build something that hasn’t been built before.
These points are so simple, it is easy to miss the insights.
Remember, this is an analogy comparing architecture and class design.
- Build for the Public. Buildings are built for all who encounter them — The client, their team, their customers, their friends, and the world at large. This is also true for students. Learning is not isolated to an individual. The learning process and the fruit of that learning should benefit the student, the teacher, the community and the world at large. This may sound like a rule based in “The Greater Good”. More importantly, this rule exists because, what fun is it to learn if no one gets to enjoy that process with you? (IE: If a tree learns in the forest and no one witnesses it, did it really learn?)
- Build with a Team. Compelling buildings, just like compelling assignments, typically require more than one person to complete. It is very unlikely that one person will have all the skills and knowledge necessary to build something impressive. Additionally, collaboration and debate challenges assumptions, perspectives, and habits.
- Form ever follows Function. Why build rooms that will never be used? Similarly? Why force students to complete assignments which will never serve anyone?
- Build something that hasn’t been built. What good is rote repetition or imitation? Even imitation provides opportunity for innovation. Nurture innovation in every activity.
I hope if you get the time, you will enjoy the entirety of Croxall’s Assignments and Architecture: Pedagogy in the Digital Age.
A shorter, related piece is Publicity and Utility, from EdWeek. It is about the two essential ingredients for Project Based Learning: Publicity and Utility.