Design Thinking for Learning Experiences – WID Spring Institute – June 4 & 6

What do a spatula and a research assignment have in common?  They can both be well – or poorly – designed.  In both cases, the experience  that derives from good or bad design will have a conclusive impact on the desired outcomes.



Can design thinking help teachers create learning experiences that students will find awesomely engaging and intellectually challenging?  How might wicked problems replace generic topics as the focus for authentic disciplinary inquiry?  These are the guiding questions for this year’s WID Spring Institute.  We’ll introduce some key ideas of human-centred design, and explore the possibilities for adapting design thinking methods to the creation of new learning activities and assignments.   Participants will investigate how good design decisions can be supported by best practices for the thinking/writing process.

Activities in this two-day workshop place a strong emphasis on collaboration – and so we encourage teachers from specific disciplines to register as groups of two, three or four – although individuals participants are welcome too.  Workshop structure is based on the widely-adapted process of human-centred design: Empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test.  For example,

So, the preliminary sketch for the workshop process looks like this:

A.  Empathize + Define + Ideate

i) Meaningful Learning Experiences – SPACE students

ii) Why Design Thinking? – Ian MacKenzie, WID

ii) SPACE & Make Things that Matter : Ideation in Practice – Joel Trudeau, SPACE

B. Prototype + Test

iv) From Ideas to Prototypes: Backwards Design for Learning Outcomes – Jeff Gandell, DALC

v) Feedback on Prototypes – SPACE students


Lead facilitators: Ian MacKenzie (WID), Joel Trudeau (SPACE), Jeffrey Gandell (DALC)

June 4 & 6, 10am-4pm, room 3H.10.  Morning coffee and lunch provided.

Interested, have questions, or ready to sign up?  Contact Ian MacKenzie, WID Director at imackenzie@dawson… by May 30.

Interested in learning more about design thinking in education?  Drop in on the IDEO discussion “How Can Design Advance Learning and Education?” or visit Stanford’s to explore their view of a design approach to higher education.


Cinema and Communication: WID Project Progress Report W2018

Our project, Critical Thinking and Writing in New and Interactive Media, proposed the creation of an on-line ‘tool-box’ of pedagogical resources for teachers and students involved in new and interactive media production.  After a very productive and stimulating term, we’re very close to realizing our goal.

What exactly are new / interactive / immersive media forms?  Many will be familiar with the projections of Jenny Holzer, or have experienced the multifaceted MAC exhibition on the life and work of Leonard Cohen.  These are excellent illustrations of new and interactive media at work.

The Cin-Com WID project began by carving out the media terrain we would survey, establishing research questions to guide the development of learning activities, and sketching the outlines for a glossary of concepts and terms useful for visitors to the site. We decided to focus on interactive and installation/immersive modes of documentary production, with the orienting questions aimed at understanding the differences between new versus traditional media and the particularities of interactive and immersive media experiences.

At the next stage, we set up a blog as an intermediate platform and began to gather our resources. Over the course of the term we collected, reviewed and annotated relevant teaching, journalistic and theoretical materials, and also built an on-line archive of links to documentation of several, recent new media projects (in installation, interactive, immersive modes) to be used as case studies. At the same time we drew designs for the architecture of the toolbox, using Wix, a free, on-line website builder.

As the term draws to a close, we are completing two scaffolded assignments for courses focused on interactive storytelling and installation/immersive forms of documentary production, along with an additional, stand-alone assignment aimed at critically evaluating new media works. We are also putting the finishing touches on the site we’ve designed.

The next stages will involve completing the glossary and resource annotation, polishing the assignments, editing content and publishing the site. Keep an eye out for our new/immersive media storytelling site in the fall..

Myriam Rafla and Cheryl Simon

Call for Participants: 2018-2019 Faculty Writing Fellows


Across the Disciplines

Deep Roots

Writing – Critical thinking – Active Learning


Are you interested in exploring the contemporary literature on writing instruction, critical thinking in disciplinary contexts, and active learning?  In developing new strategies and materials in the supportive environment of a faculty learning community of teachers from across the college?

The Call for Participants for the F2018-W2019 Faculty Writing Fellows is now open.  Letters of application should be sent to Ian MacKenzie.   The deadline for applications is Monday, March 5, 2018.  Interested teachers should review the program objectives, application process and selection criteria. 

For examples of the work of the Writing Fellows, browse the Teaching Portfolios page.   There are now 77 Writing Fellows in 28 different departments & programs, and we welcome applications from both new and experienced teachers.  Before applying, please verify with your department chair that you will have a full teaching load for the Fall 2018 semester.  Contact WID Director Ian MacKenzie with any questions.


Browse some of the feedback from the F2016-W2017 Writing Fellows:

How would you characterize the experience of working alongside teachers from other departments in the Writing Fellows?

– Very good! I really liked having courses in common, like IS, to talk about and anchor new topics.

– It was wonderful to learn from and work with colleagues for other disciplines. We are too often siloed off from one another.

– It was great! Lots of interdisciplinary exchanges.

– C’est très intéressant et enrichissant. Pour la première fois depuis j’enseigne au collège Dawson, j’ai pu avoir des échanges à la fois éclairants et utiles avec mes colleagues, d’autres départements, la communication et l’échange entre les différents départements sont, selon moi, essentiels pour une démarche pédagogique cohérente et efficace.

Really wonderful to see how common lessons and frameworks can apply to different disciplines – I was surprised to what degree some of their applications also could be adjusted for my classes.

Has the experience informed, advanced or changed the way you think about and practice the teaching of writing in your discipline?

Gave me many more ways to think about how to incorporate writing, and appreciate low stakes writing activities in particular.  Helped me recognize the importance of student reflection on process, which is applicable in all courses, not just writing courses.

– Yes, I now pay more attention to audience and genre, and clarifying student expectations.

– Yes, I’ve incorporated some of these great ideas already into my courses.

– WID m’a ouvert les yeux surs les plusieurs aspects: l’importance d’une bonne planifaction des cours, la necessite de varier les exercises d’écriture, les bienfaits d’une bonne grille d’évaluation, etc. et surtout m’a aidé à acquérir plus d’assurance, plus de confiance dans ma démarche.

Yes, especially the utility of freewriting, and my ability to step away from copy-editing every piece of work that is submitted for assessment.  Also, I am thinking much more about audience.

Do you foresee these changes having an impact on student engagement and learning in your courses?

As I become better at incorporating writing, I see engagement increasing.  Asking students to do even brief  writing tasks keeps them involved actively in the class.

– I think – and already know from introducing new assignments – that my WID expertise will help students become more engaged.

– Hopefully an increase in engagement, learning!

– Je pense que tous les changements que je suis en train de faire en ce moment dans mes cours vont aider à concevoir des activites d’apprentissage plus motivantes et plus connectées à la vie réelle.

– I think when you show students “process,” and focus on praxis, they become aware that there can be a point to their writing, and especially when you talk of process & praxis that lead to persuasive, authoritative texts for different real-world audiences.