Designing Voice

 ”…To assess curricular needs around the theme of immigration and identity, focusing on US Mexico migration in K-12, and find innovated ways to assist the teachers with their lessons using design thinking methodologies and communication skills.”
Gala Narezo, Professor and co-founder of Public Project at Pratt Institute

1. Jon Dicus worked with Gala Narezo to develop the overall branding for the project, seen above, and throughout the supplementary projects as well. This will allow further projects to be developed and expanded upon under the Designing Voice umbrella.
2. Engagement was developed by Charlene Sequeira and Lena Lin on the basis of finding a simple and effective way to incorporate STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) education methodologies into the classroom. They created three categories of topics (culture, art, academic subject) via printed cards, or a spinning wheel device. Based on a given lesson, the students would be tasked to incorporate the randomly selected elements into their project. This would then guarantee a creative component to the lesson, work to accomodate learners of all types, and add a fun element of surprise.
3. Expression was the largest group project in the class. It included the collaboration between Mona BaglaRachna BatraJon DicusKarin Storm WoodAmanda Sepanski, and myself. Our focus became to attempt interjecting communication design practices directly into the classroom. Through our research, we found that the ability for students to refine an idea and effectively communicate it through visuals, language, or their combination, was lacking. We came to the conclusion that developing the ability to effectively do such things will help students to develop their own voice, and ultimately their own identity.
The photo above shows a couple examples of our groups own visuals from a “dry run” of our lesson, as well as the video we made to explain our process better. Due to time constraints, we were not able to test out our methods in the classroom, but hope to do so soon and be able to refine our ideas further.
4. Language was developed by Sarah Alfarhan, incorporating her own life’s journey as a bilingual/ bicultural person, and the development of her own identity in the use of language. For the project, Sarah developed a workbook to help students understand themselves and others through the vehicle of language as well. The photo above displays a sampling of the books she researched and referenced for this project.
An introduction to Designing Voice:
Designing Voice is a project that resulted from the 2012 Fall Design Advocacy Class on Immigration and Identity at Pratt Institute. The class began as a collaboration between the Graduate Communication Dept. at Pratt, CLACS (the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies) at NYU, Indocumentales, and several New York public school teachers on residency with NYU. The goal of this class was to assess the curricular needs around the theme of immigration and identity, focusing on US Mexico migration in K-12 and find innovated ways to assist the teachers with their lessons using design thinking methodologies and communication skills.
This unique opportunity presented itself during a collaboration with Jen Lewis at CLACS on Indocumentales: The Mexico US Interdependent Film Series. We realized after conducting many screenings, dialogues and workshops that there is a real need for materials on immigration and identity in our schools and in our community. How issues of race, immigration and identity are addressed in our society and from an early age is an important issue. Exposure to the topic can lead to tolerance, understanding and acceptance of oneself and others cultures and this in turn can lead to more peaceful societies.
Why involve designers in curriculum development? At first some of the students wondered that as well. They soon came to understand how their particular talents, research skills and capacities to creatively translate an “academic need” into a communication opportunity made them a perfect partner. Teachers communicate information through their lessons all day long and need to find interesting ways to keep their students engaged. Designers are schooled at creating innovative delivery systems as well as communicating information, so why not include designers in the process of designing curriculum as well.
In many ways the challenge of addressing the specific curricular needs of US Mexico migration was daunting. After listening to academic experts, watching documentary films and visiting New York City public schools there was an understanding that in order to speak to a particular immigration story one had to pull back and look at the universality of the “immigration story.” By encouraging all students to explore their history and tell their story there would be an opportunity to engage them on the topics of identity, race and culture while learning how to use their voice.
This term long collaboration resulted in three projects that will be offered through the CLACS website titled Designing Voice. Each of the projects speaks to a specific aspect of voice. The Designing Voice: Expression lesson presents a set of teaching tools to promote the use of student voice for creative expression. It explores how students can use design-thinking methodology to address a communication challenge and create a visual solution. Designing Voice: Engagement is an engaged-learning tool that encourages educators and students to creatively explore their culture in new ways while simultaneously improving academic competences.
Designing Voice: Language is a workbook that allows identity exploration and reflection through the usage of multiple languages (English + Spanish, or English used at home + English used at school, or English + drawing). The workbook contains mini assignments, some of which are based on a short documentary and on a wordless picture book.
We hope that these projects will find their way into many classrooms across the country!
- Gala