2 articles Articles posted in Reflection

My Year Teaching Year 10 MYP Product Design

Students independently working on their products.

Last school year I took on a new professional challenge. The MYP Design department at NIST needed a someone to teach one more class, so I put my hand up to help out. I took 10E Design in the design lab for a year of product design. It was fun to transfer my knowledge and understanding of MYP Design to an older age group in a new field and it was a great opportunity for me to refind my teaching skills in a new setting. I also learned a LOT about all of the tools we have available to the students, from laser cutters to 3D printers, bandsaws to drill presses.

The boys working together to use the laser cutter.

It was also fun to see these students so much more often than I was used to. For 5 years in Munich, I was teaching MYP Design on a rotation basis and before that, I was in Japan where I taught technology classes, but I would only see each class once a week. So seeing 10E every other day helped me to developed some really great relationships for the first time since I was an elementary homeroom teacher.


Using the bandsaw to cut some wood.

The students inquired into some really interesting problems, developed some creative solutions, where they designed, built and evaluated some high quality products. They developed a range of skills throughout this process, from specific things like bending acrylic, to transferable learning skills like planning out long term assignments. I was extremely proud of my students, they taught me so much and authentically engaged in the design cycle process so well.

Bending acrylic.

As a learning coach, you see so many roles and positions I would like to pursue further as a future career path and being an product design teacher is definitely one of them, especially after getting a taste last year. I just wish I could clone myself so I could teach all the classes that interest me.

The girls working together to create wood joins.

Swift Playgrounds VS Duolingo: The Different Between Game Based Learning & Gaming

A super powerful game I’ve played and had some students play is called Swift Playgrounds. It is an iPad app that walks the user through learning how to program using Apple’s Swift coding language. It’s super engaging and fun, but also highly educational. You become engaged in the game of it all, without realising you are learning how to code! It walks you through levels by progressively building skills over time. There are a lot of similar games like this that teach coding and computational thinking, but I think Swift Playgrounds is the most polished, engaging and powerful of all of them. When you finish the game you have enough skills to build your own app from the ground up, which also adds to the motivation factor. The only downside that I see is that this learning experience is only possible on iPads (and new ones at that). If it were available on more platforms, then I think it would be extremely popular.

Duolingo on the other hand is an app that tries to teach you a new language through a game based approach. It’s a similar model to Swift Playgrounds, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark as you get lost in the game instead of learning. At first, you are super motivated to play as it makes learning new languages accessible and fun. You fly though the first few levels, the instant feedback grounds it in learning, you receive notification to keep playing if you haven’t played for a while and you get in game encouragement and positive reinforcement. It all sounds and feels like a super powerful way to learn a language. However, after a while I realised that I was simply ‘playing the game’ and getting positive feedback, level ups, etc. but I wasn’t actually learning any new vocabulary. Maybe this is what Moore & Pflugfelder (2010) are referring to when they state that games can be less disengaging for student because of a “the lack of pedagogical direction” (p.250)?

It’s interesting that both apps use a very similar model and approach, but their education benefit can vary so differently. Has anyone else played these games before? I’m curious if you had a similar experience?


Moore, K., & Pflugfelder, E. H. (2010). On being bored and lost (in virtuality)Learning, Media and Technology, 35(2), 249–253.