The 2016-2017 Agency by Design Oakland Fellowship

Now that the school year has begun, and our research into documentation and assessment practices is off and running, we’re excited to welcome the 2016-2017 Agency by Design Oakland Fellowship cohort, a group of 28 educators from around the San Francisco Bay Area. This group will grow into a professional learning community together, engaging in ongoing inquiry around the project’s current research questions. In turn, we hope to learn from these educators, as well as their students and contexts, to inform how pedagogical ideas work in practice.

When designing a research project, it’s not just nice to have multiple voices in the room—it’s essential to learn from various perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences. Who we are impacts what we will create. The AbD Oakland Fellowship cohort is a diverse group of educators serving a variety of student populations, and from the beginning we’ve focused in on what this means for our work. To begin, we’ve taken a values-based approach to this research journey to best outline our own individual perspectives and values as they relate to documentation and assessment.

 

By partnering with these educators, 93% of whom work in or with California public schools, we hope to shift mainstream ideas about what maker-centered learning looks like, who it’s for, and how to document and assess it. The maker movement has seen a large number of makerspaces in independent and charter schools, which is why it’s noteworthy that 72% of the fellows work in or with district-run public schools. Furthermore, 68% of the fellows work in district-run schools in the Oakland Unified School District.

The geographic distribution of the 2016-2017 Agency by Design Oakland Fellows.

The geographic distribution of the 2016-2017 Agency by Design Oakland Fellows.

The cohort represents 19 different schools and organizations mostly based in the East Bay, including Project H, ACOE’s Integrated Learning, and the Oakland Public Library. Only 3 of the 28 educators work in informal learning environments; most work in formal classroom settings.

Our cohort of fellows is predominately based in Oakland, a city of more than 400,000 people that is known for its racial diversity but also its income inequality; for example, 71% of the student body in Oakland public schools qualifies for free or reduced-priced lunch.

The socioeconomic distribution of students in the learning environments served by the 2016-2017 Agency by Design Oakland Fellows.

The socioeconomic distribution of students in the learning environments served by the 2016-2017 Agency by Design Oakland Fellows.

Consistent with the interests of the Abundance Foundation, a major focus of our work is serving students of color in under-resourced public schools. Our AbD fellows work in schools that serve more than 5,000 students, who come from a range of backgrounds and learning needs, but who are predominantly high-needs and students of color. One notable data point: In the schools at which our fellows work 70% of the students are socioeconomically disadvantaged. Additionally, 33% of the students in these schools are classified as English Language Learners, and 11% are classified with a disability.*

The racial distribution of students served by the 2016-2017 Agency by Design Oakland Fellows.

The racial distribution of students served by the 2016-2017 Agency by Design Oakland Fellows.

As we embark on this second phase of research, we know that having a balance of grade levels and content areas will be important in getting a full view of what documentation and assessment in maker-centered learning looks like. To that end, approximately one-third of the cohort works at the elementary school level, one-third in middle, and one-third in high school.

The distribution of grade levels taught by the 2016-2017 Agency by Design Oakland Fellows.

The distribution of grade levels taught by the 2016-2017 Agency by Design Oakland Fellows.

Additionally, the cohort has a range of content diversity, including:

  • 8 educators who consider themselves maker, art, or design instructors
  • 5 math/science educators
  • 5 humanities and social sciences educators
  • 3 educators who teach technology courses
  • 2 librarians
  • 1 educator who teaches in a bilingual English/Spanish setting
  • 2 special education teachers

The AbD Oakland Fellowship cohort is led by the AbD Oakland Leadership Team, which comprises four educators working in a variety of settings. This team collaboratively guides the fellows in their inquiry with the AbD framework, and their exploration of documentation and assessment strategies for maker-centered learning.

 

Ilya Pratt

Ilya Pratt

Ilya Pratt is the Design + Make + Engage Program Director at Park Day School, the sole independent school represented in the cohort. Ilya has been a part of the Agency by Design project from its inception and has helped to shape the questions and research along the way, both as a teacher-researcher and project coordinator.

Aaron Vanderwerff

Aaron Vanderwerff

Aaron Vanderwerff is the Creativity Lab Director at Lighthouse Community Public Schools. He is particularly excited about collaborating with educators interested in adopting the Agency by Design framework to turn learning over to students in meaningful ways. Aaron has been integrating making into his teaching and school programs for the past 15 years. He joined the AbD Oakland team in 2015.
 

Brooke Toczylowski

Brooke Toczylowski

Brooke Toczylowski is an Art/Maker Specialist and Coach in the Oakland Unified School District. She was a teacher-researcher in the first phase of the Agency by Design project, in which she experimented with AbD ideas in her art class at Oakland International High School. In the second phase of AbD research, Brooke is the lead coordinator and coach for the AbD Oakland fellows.

Wendy Donner

Wendy Donner

Wendy Donner is the Education Program Director for the Abundance Foundation, the funder of Agency by Design. A former teacher and school administrator, Wendy has been overseeing the Bay Area based parts of AbD since its formation in 2012.

This project represents a strong collaboration between public school teachers, education coaches, and researchers. Both the Oakland Leadership Team and the Project Zero researchers are thrilled to kick off this year of thinking with such a diverse and engaged group of fellows, and we look forward to the work ahead.

For more information about this local group, check out Who We Are

* These numbers are based on School Accountability Report Cards from the 2014-15 year, filed with the California Departments of Education.

Professional Development Workshop: Agency by Design & Systems Thinking, Nov. 4 @ MoAD

This workshop (Eventbrite link here) is offered in collaboration with ACOE's Integrated Learning Fall Retreat, on Saturday, Nov. 5 at MoAD. Click on the link to sign up for ILSP's Saturday's workshop, titled "Integrated Learning and Museum of African Diaspora Mindmeld Event!"

Agency by Design & Systems Thinking, Friday, Nov. 4

Why is systems thinking integral to empowering my students to be change makers? How do I bring complex ideas into the classroom?

In this workshop we will explore systems thinking, perspective taking, contemporary art, and design challenges by employing thinking routines from Project Zero’s research project, http://Agency by Design. Through hands-on and brains-on experiences educators will take away key strategies and connections for developing a culture of thinking and making in the classroom, and beyond. This workshop is intended for K-12 educators in all content areas, coaches, professional development facilitators, and administrators.

By using the thinking routine Parts, People, and Interactions, we will look closely at and explore the complexity of malleable systems in our world. By examining how people in the system Think, Feel, and Care we will deepen our understanding of others’ perspectives while also examining our own biases. Lastly, we will find opportunities to hack, re-design, and leverage our power in the world by employing an Imagine If… thinking routine, leading us to be agents of change in the world around us. 

Workshop facilitated by representatives from the Agency by Design Oakland Team, including:

Paula Mitchell, Teacher on Special Assignment, Maker Education & Blended Learning, Grass Valley Elementary School, Oakland Unified School District

Brooke Toczylowski, Fellows Coordinator & Coach, AbD Oakland Leadership Team & Oakland International High School, Oakland Unified School District

A light breakfast, snacks and lunch will be provided. 

This workshop counts as Elective Credit in the Integrated Learning Specialist Program (ILSP).

REGISTER on the Eventbrite page HERE. 

Finding Depth in Paper Circuits

by Brooke Toczylowski, Arts/Maker Specialist and Coach, AbD Oakland Leadership Team

When Wendy Donner and I first started tinkering with paper circuits we knew it had amazing potential beyond the inevitable “That’s so cool!” experience. We wondered, How could paper circuits connect to an interdisciplinary generative topic? How could it make visible unseen aspects in our art, or demonstrate understanding of the world around us?

For our second day-long workshop with a group of art teachers at Santa Barbara’s Incredible Children’s Art Network (iCAN), we decided to use paper circuits to dive into “Illumination,” and “Systems.”

Inspired by NexMap’s 21st Century Notebooking we formed one of our guiding questions for participants: “How can paper circuits illuminate our thinking?” Using an accordion book as the thinking receptacle participants wrote thoughts on the Agency by Design capacities, concept mapped “illumination,” responded to a See, Think, Wonder thinking routine looking at the artwork of Jie Qi, and reflected on photo documentation printed on the modern version of a polaroid camera.

Here observers looked for evidence of the three capacities that support the development of Maker Empowerment: Looking Closely, Exploring Complexity, and Finding Opportunity

Here observers looked for evidence of the three capacities that support the development of Maker Empowerment: Looking Closely, Exploring Complexity, and Finding Opportunity

Next, instead of using a template or a demonstration to show how-to make a circuit we wondered: How can close looking at the circuit develop participants own capacity to create a paper circuit? So before tinkering with their own circuits participants used the Parts, Purposes, Complexities (PPC), thinking routine to closely examine simple paper circuits. After doing this a few times with teachers and students we’ve found PPC to be a generative and intimate way to first explore circuits. It also flips the classroom and allows students to develop their own expertise. This produces a list of questions about circuits, which can be explored as a whole group. Through these experiences we’ve learned to encourage participants to look at the “parts of the parts.” For example, it’s important to closely examine the two leads on the LED and the two terminals on the battery to better understand how those parts work together. 

After illuminating our accordion books in the morning we moved onto developing a sensitivity to systems in the afternoon. Our second guiding question was situated within the AbD framework: How does systems thinking develop a sensitivity to design? Always looking for inspiration in contemporary art we looked at artists who explore systems, including Nina Katchadourian and Julie Mehretu. We then generated language for systems and went on a systems hunt. Small groups chose a system from their hunt to examine closely through the Agency by Design thinking routine Parts, People, Interactions (PPI), which they mapped onto chart paper. One group mapped out the system of security in the building, another the electrical systems, and still another the iCAN organization as a whole. When they were ready groups used the Imagine If.. protocol to re-design or hack their system. They were then asked to demonstrate their understanding, thinking, or hacking of this system using a paper circuit!

This last step was deep uncharted territory and we weren’t sure if they could make the connections between systems thinking and paper circuits, but all groups did. For example, the group examining electricity in the building used the copper tape on the back side of the paper to demonstrate how all the wiring in the building is invisible. 

And in another example, the group that mapped out the iCAN organization reflected, “We first learned in the morning that when you’re using multiple LED lights with paper circuits sometimes one will turn on but then another will fail—and then they switch. This is like the political system where one thing will fall into place but then another part of the system stops working. It’s not balanced.”

photos by Brooke Toczylowski