Agency by Design

Educational initiatives that emphasize making, design, engineering, and tinkering have been gaining traction in schools and organizations across the country. While maker-centered learning is not a new concept, recent and emerging trends suggest a new kind of hands-on pedagogy—a responsive and flexible pedagogy that encourages community and collaboration (a do-it-together mentality), distributed teaching and learning, and crossing boundaries.

Agency by Design (AbD) is a multiyear research initiative at Project Zero investigating the promises, practices, and pedagogies of maker-centered learning experiences.

The Framework
Resources
pictures of practiceT-Stool Project

T-Stool Project

In this picture of practice essay, educators Ilya Pratt and Jeanine Harmon share a community “Design + Build” project. Fourth and fifth grade students from North Oakland Charter School and Park Day School find an opportunity to work together to build T-Stools for classrooms.

Field NoteWhen a Ship is not a Ship—It’s a Sabre-toothed Cat! A Story of Maker Empowerment and Collective Agency

When a Ship is not a Ship—It’s a Sabre-toothed Cat! A Story of Maker Empowerment and Collective Agency

Ilya Pratt, AbD Oakland Leadership Team member and Design+Make+Engage program director at Park Day School, tells a tale of maker empowerment and collective agency through the story of Kyle and the saber-toothed cat.

thinking routines“联系互动” 的思考模式 (简体版)

“联系互动” 的思考模式 (简体版)

这个思考模式鼓励学生能够慢下来,仔细观察其中一个系统。通过这样帮助学生更好地认识具体系统里无论是直接或间接相关的人物,学生也会注意到系统里任何一点变化,也许都会有意无意地影响到系统的其它方面。

thinking routines“換位思考” 的思考模式

“換位思考” 的思考模式

這個思考模式鼓勵學生在一個特定的系統裡思考不同人物的觀點。其目標是幫助學生理解系統裡的不同角色,他們會用什麼形式去表達感受以及對系統裡其他人物和事物的關心。這個思考模式引導學生從多角度去提出問題並表達觀點。

Field NoteMaker Empowerment in the Making!

Maker Empowerment in the Making!

Oakland Learning Community member Ilya Pratt describes her experiences working with the concept of “Maker Empowerment” at a recent Agency by Design workshop in Oakland, CA.

documentation and assessment toolsLooking at Student Work Protocol

Looking at Student Work Protocol

A protocol that provides structure for collaboratively examining documentation that includes student’s products and processes and offers an opportunity for educators and learners to reflect back and plan for next steps.
Field NoteA TEDx Talk about the Maker Mind: Why Having a Sensitivity to Design Matters

A TEDx Talk about the Maker Mind: Why Having a Sensitivity to Design Matters

Agency by Design project manager Jen Ryan describes her experience discussing the “maker mind” at TEDxDirigo.

Field NoteTaking Apart to Build Stories of Change

Taking Apart to Build Stories of Change

This piece is based on a workshop titled “Taking Apart Racism: Using Maker-Centered Practices to Break Down Systems of Oppression,” led by Jaime Chao Mignano and Mark Perkins at the National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference (PoCC).

Like a lot of educators, I want my students to be empowered to impact the world around them. I want them to have social and political agency in a sense that is perfectly aligned with what Agency by Design means by agency—that is, skills and tools in combination with intention and impulse to action. When I task my students with dismantling systems of oppression, how do they know what that means? Do they feel ready to enact it? And how can I be a support?

This was the seed of a workshop for this year’s National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference (PoCC), a gathering of thousands of educators from around the United States to explore ideas and share experiences around equity and justice in our schools and lives. My colleague, Mark Perkins (Media and Theater Coordinator), and I wondered what insights we could offer by putting Take Apart practice in service to racial justice education. I was nervous to try to build under the conference throughline “Anti-Racist Teaching Tools” - the stakes felt so high. We had an inkling, though, that combining the enthusiastic engine of taking stuff apart with the resonant act of creating stories that reimagine existing narratives of power could be an important experiment.

Mark and I built a workshop we call “Taking Apart Racism: Using Maker-Centered Practices to Break Down Systems of Oppression.” The heart of the workshop is the idea that looking closely and exploring the complexity of an object can create a bridge of metaphor that helps us understand a system of racial oppression.  If we build the connection between these two systems—the system of the object and the system of oppression—then we can see the oppressive system in a new light and probe new possibilities.