119: Modeling & prototyping





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  1. Storyboarding
    • Series of images showing key elements and interactions of a new scenario
    • Purpose:
      • Shows concept in action
      • Visualize the future
      • Gain support from decision makers
    • Preparation steps:
      • Identify idea to develop
      • Create poster with 10-12 empty panes
      • Assemble diverse team
      • Provide drawing materials
    • Implementation steps:
      • Draft storyline
      • Determine setting and main characters
      • Draw key frames for future scenario
      • Add descriptive captions to each drawing
    • Helpful hints:
      • Explain ideas to others
      • Get inspiration from comic books
      • Use variety of angles (panoramic, close up)
    • Sample process:
    • School applications:
      • Teacher can use this technique to storyboard upcoming projects and upcoming activities with tricky logistics
      • Students can use this technique to brainstorm experiments, essays, reports, videos, etc
  2. Schematic diagramming
    • Outline of structure & essential components of a system
    • Purposes:
      • Shows structure of proposed solution
      • Work out functional details
      • Build shared understanding
      • Inform future design activities
    • Preparation steps:
      • Identify an idea or concept to develop
      • Assemble a diverse team
      • Gather drawing materials
    • Implementation steps:
      • Determine basic elements to include
      • Render each element SIMPLY
      • Compose elements in clear way
      • Adjust size and weight of things for emphasis
      • Arrange overall diagram in an orderly manner
    • Helpful tips:
      • Avoid realistic pictures
      • Keep it skeletal
      • Use grid structure to line things up
      • Use color sparingly
    • Sample process:
    • School applications:
      • Can use this to redesign complicated school systems such – professional development systems, systems that promote school culture
      • Can use this to design system of activities that scaffold skills over the long term such as scaffolding agency and collaboration
      • Students can use this to create a visual for a complicated system of arguments in a large research paper
  3. Rough & ready prototyping
    • rapid model of concept that mimics its appearance and function
    • Purposes:
      • Communicates shared vision of future product
      • Test ideas quickly
      • Iterative improvements
    • Preparation steps:
      • Identify concept to develop
      • Assemble small design team
      • Gather basic materials
      • Consider what to learn from prototype
    • Implementation steps:
      • Build rough model of concept
      • Simulate as much functionality as possible
      • Create readable and realistic content
      • Label incomplete areas
    • Helpful hints:
      • Apply good craftsmanship but don’t aim for perfection
      • Be resource – incorporate found objects
      • Use role to simulate interactions
    • Sample process:
      • Purpose: Envision new solution, test it early
      • Steps:
    • School applications;
      • Students can build rough & ready prototypes in the context of design projects to test their ideas before committing to a more developed product (or they can end the project at the prototype phase and test it and reflect on what they learned)
      • Teachers can use this process to develop model products for projects
  4. Appearance modeling
    • Refined model of ideas that emphasizes visual styling (not function)
    • Purposes:
      • Consider aesthetics
      • Reveal emotional qualities
      • Provide vision for future
      • Gain support from stakeholders
    • Preparation steps:
      • Identify concept to develop
      • Assemble small design team
      • Decide what to learn from model
      • Consider range of visual and emotional qualities
      • Assemble palette of colors and sample materials
    • Implementation steps:
      • Develop sketches to show possibilities
      • Hone in on a few treatments to refine detail
      • Draw realistic renderings of concepts
      • Produce models showing finished effects
    • Helpful hints:
      • Consider using 3-D printing
      • Use scaled-down model to show environment
      • It it’s a digital interface, place it on an actual device
    • Sample process:
      • Purpose: explore emotional and visual attributes of a concept
      • Steps:
    • School applications:
      • Students can go through the steps above to create appearance models for project products and can test these to learn about their emotional and visual impact
      • Teachers can use this process to develop model products for projects


Quick prototyping and testing can teach teachers and students how to bring ideas to life and how to use data to refine them.  It can use fast iteration to show people how to take and leverage controlled risks.


Preparation Steps
  • For teacher use:
    • Decide tasks / problems that could benefit from fast prototyping (examples: create model products to illustrate expectations, etc)
    • Select modeling method(s) that will can help generate the most useful prototypes
    • Design scaffolding that incorporates models to communicate and discuss expectations
  • For student use:
    • Identify points in projects where prototyping will be a useful activity
    • Design resources to help guide students through selected prototyping activities.  See above.
Early Implementation Steps
  • For teacher use:
    • Use models to communicate and discuss project expectations and to help illustrate project rubrics
  • For student use:
    • Scaffold activities aimed at creating and test prototypes
    • Follow-up with more design activities.  See hyperlinks above for ideas.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • For teacher use (understanding students):
    • Compare / constrast student work with teacher-generated prototypes in order to identify teacher and student strengths and areas of improvement.
    • Used what was learned from comparing teacher and student models to design scaffolding activities that help students become more efficient at skills that are gaps
  • For student use (understanding stakeholders for project):
    • Have students reflect on prototyping strategies – how did it work?  what assumptions were challenged? what new things were learned? what new ideas were inspired? how can this approach be used in other settings?

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