I could chat for days about the importance of creative thinking and why we need to teach kids to be media makers, not just media consumers. But chat is cheap. Today Trevor and I got off our computers and into the classroom to work with some first graders at my elementary alma mater.
After a nice 7-year-old boy solved all of our technical difficulties with the Smart Board, we settled in to talk about app design. I asked the class what they already knew...which was a lot. One child proudly explained prototyping to his classmates, and another gave a good definition of interaction design.
We wanted to inspire the students by first showing them our finished app with final graphics and tech, and then showing them all the quick and dirty sketches and prototypes that led to the finished product. When kids can see the basic notes and artwork behind the scenes, the design process suddenly feels more accessible to them.
I related the process of making Musical Paint to the work they do in class, to help them realize that a) their work is important and b) they are already designers. In first grade, kids are exploring writing. Storyboards can be related to outlines, prototypes to rough drafts, and iterations to revisions.
“Do you ever get frustrated when your teacher asks you to redo something you’ve already done? Like re-write a story after you already spent a lot of time on it? Well, it turns out she’s just helping you make it better. That’s what we do when we develop apps, too. We try things, test them, and then we change them to make them better. Sometimes it’s frustrating to re-do our work, but when we see how much kids like using Musical Paint, we’re happy we took the time to change it.”
Collaboration was also a key part of our discussion. Trevor and I highlighted the importance of teamwork and communication. We explained that you can communicate using words, pictures, videos, and more.
The class had some great questions for us, including: “Why do we have to have deadlines?” and “How did you get Musical Paint on the App Store?” We answered as best we could.
After discussion about our design process, I asked the kids to turn to their neighbor and talk about an app they would like to design. The room was full of energy. We encouraged the students to document their ideas, and reminded them that some of the best ideas are written on a napkin or sketched in the sand at the beach. You don’t need fancy software to document design.
Trevor and I left their class feeling inspired and motivated, and I think the feeling was mutual. So, if you’re walking on the beach in Encinitas and you come across a storyboard in the sand, it might just be the next great app concept from one of the talented first graders at Ocean Knoll Elementary...