Posts filed under ‘Teaching Methods’

DI-LAB: New course in Santiago de Chile for Engineering Design

DILab13_Promo Slide UC_DNO-web

Pic: Compiled images from experiences at NC State

Having a big interest in education, as a method to achieve transformation, we will impart an innovative course in Santiago de Chile starting in August 2013 at the School of Engineering at PUC. The DI-LAB  is a unique course for all engineering and design specialties where the students engage with an American-based company in solving an ill-defined forward thinking “issue”. It works with design-anthropology, negotiation and visual thinking among other lines of thought. The companies that will partner with us entail a wide range of typology, from successful ex-startups to big companies that are leaders in their area.  The companies are:  Design Central, Teague Associates , Oracle , Ziba and  Artefact  . If you are an engineering student at PUC you can get more information at . Like us on Facebook  in order to get our latest news.

If you are not a student at PUC or you are out of school already, don’t worry, we love open source! We will be posting interesting stuff on the student’s process at the DI-LAB website and on our Facebook page .


July 17, 2013 at 7:31 pm Leave a comment

CoAT Program: Training graduate students to become better educators

Blog 13_CoATPic: CoAT Website.

This post does not only entail education in Design or Engineering. It touches upon the CoAT program at NC State University, in the US, which is part of the PFL (Preparing Future Leaders) program. The Certificate of Accomplishment in Teaching (CoAT) is an initiative from the graduate school for developing pedagogy skills in graduate students from different disciplinary backgrounds. These g.students will soon become the educators of future professionals. Being close to people (including myself) that came to the US with a focus on improving Latin American education (to achieve equality), this program caught my attention. Furthermore, having experienced it made me a believer that programs like this make a difference and have an impact in an educational environment.  This was my experience:

As a Design PhD student and instructor (from 2009-2013), me, and a group of other PhD students, fulfilled a series of workshops focused on higher education instruction. In addition, we were exposed to “actual hours of instruction” where (more…)

July 1, 2013 at 10:18 am Leave a comment

Good Primers for new design approaches: some good reads in Design and Thinking (don’t underestimate that comma)

One of my friends who working for “Teach for All” asked me today about good readings for a quick immersion on Design. Why? Because design strategies seemed appealing for them as a form of “elicitation of creativity and participatory work among organizations. I didn’t want for him to be trapped in the “Brainstorming/ Post It” cloud, which is usually what consultancies offer. So here are some of the readings that I thought could be more helpful in clarifying the picture on design.

First a disclaimer. As Lucy Kimbell states (quoting Rylander 2009),  “it’s hard enough understanding design and thinking, let alone design thinking. So it is not a surprise that those who support its application to business or more broadly to public services or social problems, have trouble articulating what it is, whether all designers can do it…” The articulation of “Design Thinking” is messy, and yet, for me, OVERUSED! So please do refer to particular aspects of design when you are working within these matters. A bunch of the design thinkers can be categorized as “snake charmers” or “encantadores de serpientes” like we would say in Spanish. The same goes to the so-called “innovation” term.

JournalBeing consequent, I would begin reading Lucy Kimbell’s article “Rethinking Design Thinking published on the 3d Volume of the journal “Design and Culture”. In this article she puts forward a lot of the controversies that design practice and recent theory-building (mostly translated to the business world) brings. It highlights the strengths of design and its biggest problem. Also, it touches on the history that most people don’t know about. The preIDEO, pre-marketing buzz Design-Thinking term. Read this article in order to get a grasp of what real designers do, and what real design oriented researchers or thinkers have written about in the past. As a researcher and design-anthropologist, I value the critical thinking Kimbell poses and the way she draws a line between management and a more cognitive and culturally sensitive form of design thought configuration.

A component that has been critical to design, or at least on how we use design nowadays, is
Interaction Design”. As mentioned before in this blog, interactions “are said to frame the relationship between people and a variety of artifacts like products & systems, which convey the aspect of function, which has always been part of design [Dubberly, Pangaro & Haque, 2009] “.   Interaction design has migrated from what was software or Internet design to what is design in products, systems and even social systems. To learn about this I would recommend:

coverTo know about history I would get Moggridge’s (RIP) “Designing Interactions” (The MIT Press), which is an easy to read history compendium of interviews with designers related with this matters. Dan Saffer‘s (ex Adaptive Path)  “Designing for Interactionis an easy recipe-like paperback edition that will give you applicable knowledge on how to use interaction design techniques. So you can think on users and people in general in order to make better design solutions.
Lastly but not least, there is a powerful interaction design tool that is called “Personas”. This is a tool that is used more and more to create empathy between designers and the end-user of their creations. I’ve found that this is the tool that has more potential among organizations as it gives a democratic instrument for everyone to become more empathetic towards their human network. Inmates asylum bookThroughout the years, I’ve realized that students are taught about this method but not really told where it’s application come from (in the interaction design realm, in anthropology it would be different). To know about this I have suggested in this previous post to read about Cooper’s The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity” published in 1998 introduced the use of personas as a practical interaction design tool. Based on the single-chapter discussion in that book, personas rapidly gained popularity in the software industry due to their unusual power and effectiveness. “

Foto_Design-Systems thinkingThe last two books that I would suggest in reading have to do with two of the most (according to me) interesting developing areas for design nowadays: Service Design and Systems thinking. Both are connected. Systems thinking explains the way service design can be approached. Donella Meadows (RIP) a pioneering environmental scientist has a simple primer called Thinking in Systems”. In an affordable book, she introduces tools, concepts and ways of tackling problems through this lens. She uses stories and some basic graphs to illustrate her points and also touches on “leverage points” (like information flows, critical nodes, etc.), which are one of the basics for assessments of systems through design. Lastly, I would recommend that you readThis is Service Design Thinking: Basics. If you are not a design/engineer researcher or an anthropologist writing theory on design, this book should be enough. Service Design ThinkingIt is definitely a Primer. With a very cute and useful information design layout, the authors just put upfront basic concepts and useful canvases to work with service design tools. If you enjoyed Alexander Osterwalder‘s Business Model Generation book, you will enjoy this 23 international author’s textbook as it works with the same formula. An application-based visual thinking material that portrays cases that can be replicated or used as learning platforms.




December 26, 2012 at 1:29 am Leave a comment

Escaping “assembly-line instruction”: Design.ed as a desirable education style?

Diagram: CM, Adapted from Dr. Barbara Rogoff 2011 

Education has been a topic touched by various disciplines, organizations and governments. But as important as it is, not many radical moves have been undertaken in places like in my home country. Today I attended a lecture in the “Center for Children, Relationships and Culture“, part of the Human Development Dept. at the University of Maryland where Dr. Rogoff presented research on the way kids [her biggest studies are from indigenous Mesoamerica or kids with that heritage] learn. Her insights suggested that kids from this area have what she calls a learning through Intent Community Participation. As she mentions: “where children are included in a wide range of activities, they are keen observers and learn through contributing to the ongoing activities of their community.” On the contrary, the way the average American is educated is through what she calls: “Assembly line Instruction“. She indicates: “Unlike learning through Intent Community Participation Assembly-Line instruction controls learners’ attention, motivation, and behavior in settings isolated from productive contributions to the community“. In her work, she exposes the benefits of going for a more engaging education that touches reality and ongoing participation.


As soon as Dr. Rogoff presented the characteristics of Intent Community Participation instruction, I started to think: this looks very much like education in design…. Diagram: CM, Adapted from Dr. Barbara Rogoff 2011

No wonder why people are talking about incorporating some design-ed strategies in the schooling system. Design, (more…)

April 26, 2012 at 4:13 pm 2 comments

Strategies for writing a positional paper in design [and other disciplines]

PIC: Amber’s Class [CM]

It happens [once in a while, hopefully more and more] that our design students need to write a thesis or a paper. How do we make that process more cognitively approachable for their academic training? Amber Howard, PhD candidate and instructor at NCSU [previous posts on teaching Mobile Technologies] College of Design has been taking students through what was her own writing process for the dissertation proposal. She is helping MGD students to identify and structure positional papers as an exercise for their thesis writing. 

PIC: Amber’s Class [CM]

[1] With three colors, students had to identify: sources, evidences and big ideas in articles found in particular (more…)

February 16, 2011 at 3:01 pm 1 comment

contact + citing (CC license)

Constanza Miranda PhD(c) design.anthro
* Currently @ DILAB
* Ex.VR @ Stanford's Center for Design Research [DesignXLab]
* Ex.Instructor @ PUC Chile [Design+Engineering]
Use citations ¡Citar es ético!
Creative Commons License
Design for Social Innovation initiative by Constanza Miranda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at