Throughout TLISI 2016, eight groups of professors, staff, students, and researchers started their mornings at the Productive Open Design Space (PODS). In its second year, PODS offers teams the opportunity to work on a project related to teaching and learning in a flexible studio environment as part of TLISI. In 2015, teams produced a wide variety of projects including curricular assessment plans, curriculum redesigns, a proposal for a new graduate program, a digital edition of a medieval text, and a digital capstone assignment.
This year, the projects included: (1) promoting well-being on campus through the creation of a self-care program, (2) developing ways to substitute research papers for editing Wikipedia pages, (3) creating a humanities PhD, (4) disseminating resources and materials for faculty and peer advisors, (5) implementing virtual patient simulations in the School of Medicine, (6) creating an assessment for the humanities, (7) alleviating the “sophomore slump,” and (8) advocating for experiential learning at Georgetown.
Although most of the work took place in separate groups, each PODS session began with activities that brought all of the groups together. On the first day, Dawan Stanford, Design Strategy and Operations Director at the Education Design Lab, gave a talk on the process of project development and the essential questions for determining where you are in any given project. After each group introduced themselves and their projects, the session convened for an activity in which participants were asked to draw a vase, and then to draw the best possible experience of flowers. In so doing, the activity revealed the importance of how we frame questions and activities.
Then came out the sticky notes. Dawan encouraged each group to write down their top three priorities and attach them to their respective poster boards, provided to facilitate the mapping of ideas. Over the course of TLISI, the sticky notes accumulated and the boards overflowed with ideas.
The second day began with discussion around the issue of ambiguity and resisting the desire to immediately rush to solutions. As part of this discussion, each group presented their biggest difficulty thus far in the project development process. Problems ranged from management of scale to complexity, from choosing platforms to approaches, from practical details of fostering collaboration to transcending current limitations and imagining different realities.
For the third day, Dawan presented on “Visualization and Working Larger,” encouraging participants to sketch out ideas and concepts in order to aid memory, facilitate group interaction, and engage pattern recognition. During this session, participants were also offered the opportunity to describe their projects and PODS experiences in one-on-one video interviews.
On the final day, each group had the opportunity to pose one question to everyone, the responses to which were provided on notecards and collected for future reference. “What is the best way to market a self-care program at Georgetown?” “What do the humanities currently offer Georgetown?” “How can we start an interdepartmental dialogue?” “How can we sustain student interest in our program?” These questions and more resounded through the Productive Open Design Space, revealing the deep commitment of all participants to the Georgetown community in particular, as well as academia in general.
In approaching large-scale projects, the first difficulties that come to mind revolve around the project itself: What needs to be done? Who’s going to do it? Who’s going to fund it? These questions often overshadow the most basic, yet no less important, difficulty: finding a time and place for all participants to plan. PODS resolves this logistical concern, enabling participants to focus on their projects, rather than their overloaded work calendars. As Assistant Dean Erin Force puts it, the PODS program provides “a real opportunity to slow down [and] to step back a little bit within the luxury of these few days. Instead of just taking the materials and plopping them in one spot, we’re conceptualizing and visualizing and thinking about what’s larger than the project itself: who are the people, what do they need, and what do we want them to be able to do?”