The purpose of this lab was to take a big idea (Like the meaning of life or the value of creativity) and create a physical representation of that idea. One thing I struggled with was deciding on a big question to tackle and then figuring out how to encapsulate that idea into something I could physically make. Once I decided on my view of the meaning of life (as the topic) I still struggled with how to take that idea and turn it into something physical. So, I took some time to incubate the idea and did some chores around the house and it hit me.
In my first and second year of teaching I really dove into work. Part of this was the necessity of the job and having new preps each year, but part of this was my own doing as I quickly looked for innovative ways to teach. I spent a lot of time at home working on teaching (beyond simply grading papers and planning). I still get this way sometimes and have found that I need to regularly keep myself in check because the key to a fruitful and happy life is balance. That’s what I created out of my daughter’s play colander and cardboard: a balance. Each wing of the balance represents a different area of my life. The play dough represents my daughter and, more generally, family. The old dead iPhone 4s represents technology which constantly needs to be kept in check. The headphones represent recreation and my hobbies. Finally the #miched pin represents my career. Each one of those can potentially take up a disproportionate amount of time, for better or worse, and this balance is a reminder to constantly reflect on how I’m allocating my time.
A few thoughts on the process
My big takeaway from this activity (and this was also echoed in the prototyping process for my problem of practice) is that it feels good to get ideas out of your head and into reality. That prototype gives you something to work with and build on. I felt a bit of affirmation that the ideas bouncing around my head were actually feasible. I worry we don’t give students this experience enough. The experience of having an idea and seeing it through to reality, even if it’s a simple project like this lab, is a good feeling. I find this in teaching quite frequently when developing new tasks, especially in collaboration. My colleague and I will spend time over coffee bouncing ideas around, which is fine, but the real fun is actually creating the stuff we think up. Then seeing those ideas physically manifested and implemented in the classroom is even more exciting. And when those initial ideas end in something that is effective in the classroom, the feeling that results is addictive. It drives you to continue innovating and creating. This lab is a representation of that. The process of taking an idea and manifesting it in something physical valuable.