It’s no big secret that the United States has a prison problem. We lock up people at higher rates than any other nation, and there are huge racial disparities in who we lock up. According to a study from The Sentencing Project, in state prisons, African Americans are incarcerated 5 times more than whites. There are lots of reasons why we may see these racial disparities, including law enforcement practices, crime rates, and punitive sentencing policies. Keeping so many people in prison is really expensive-- it costs about $80 billion dollars a year-- and it contributes to racial inequalities in America. As a result, there’s a big push among both Democrats and Republicans to reform our prison system. And one popular strategy many people advocate for as part of this reform effort is risk assessment tools. The tools use data to predict whether a person will commit a future crime. This video explores how these tools work and some of the controversy surrounding their use. This video comes with a student viewing guide.
Design Thinking is a process for designing something to solve a problem. It shares a lot of similarities to the Engineering Design Process you might learn in a STEM class and the Scientific Method you learn in science. However, it tends to work really well with creating solutions to problems that impact humans, also known as Human-Centered Design
In this activity, you’ll work with a team to identify a problem, come up with ideas to solve it, make a prototype of your best idea, test it out and ultimately share it. Your goal is to make a positive impact on the problem you choose.
When you have completed this activity you will:
be able to use research skills to understand real-world problems and develop ideas to solve them [Innovative Designer, Knowledge Constructor]
know how to use a design process to solve a problem [Innovative Designer]
be able to create and test prototypes to improve on a design [Innovative Designer]
be able to choose appropriate tools to organize and manage a process with team members [Innovative Designer, Global Collaborator]
be able to choose appropriate tools to share my ideas with a target audience [Innovative Designer, Creative Communicator]
understand Tinkercad design software basics [Empowered Learner]
know how to use Tinkercad software to design their own invention that solves a problem or changes how we interact with the world [Innovative Designer]
know that technology is something that solves a problem or changes how we interact with the world [Knowledge Constructor]
Have you ever had a complex problem that you needed to solve? This could be a math problem, science experiment, an essay you need to write, and coding and game design. It could even be as simple as planning the best route to school or baking your favorite cookies!
Computational thinking can be used to take a complex problem, understand what the problem is and develop possible solutions to solve or explain it.
Students will complete Quests to learn about the four stages of computational thinking:
be able to solve complex problems using computational thinking. [Computational Thinker]
be able to break down a problem into smaller more manageable parts. [Computational Thinker]
know how to look for patterns and sequences. [Computational Thinker]
be able to focus on important information only. [Computational Thinker]
be able to develop a step-by-step solution to the problem. [Computational Thinker]
know how to use coding to automate a task [Computational Thinker]
understand computational design by applying technology to a problem [Innovative Designer]
understand programming as you complete hands-on activities, solving problems encountered [Computational Thinker]
understand the coding your program creates [Empowered Learner]
Digital storytelling is one of the greatest ways to share and present your story using a variety of media to enhance it. Digital stories can include images, photos, audio, and video. Your task in this Thing is to research digital story examples and think about the story you want to tell. You will also begin to think about the media you might want to use.
create an original story with different media elements [Knowledge Constructor]
Networks are everywhere in modern society: roads, wires, water and gas pipes all connect one place to another. Computers are built of networks at many levels, from the microscopic connections between transistors in a chip to the cables and satellites that link the internet around the world. People who build networks often need to work out the most efficient way to make connections, which can be a difficult problem.
This puzzle shows students the decisions involved in linking a network between houses in a muddy city. It can lead to a discussion of minimal spanning tree algorithms for optimizing networks.
In this lesson, students use the problem-solving process from earlier in the course to solve a data problem. After reviewing the process, the class is presented with a decision: whether a city should build a library, pet shelter, or fire department. Students work in teams to collect information on the Internet to help them decide what should be built, then use this information to build an argument that will convince the city council of their choice. They map what they have done within the problem-solving process that they have been using throughout the course, comparing the general problem-solving process to its specific application to data problems.
Note: You will need to create a free account on code.org before you can view this resource.
Students will use the design circuit boards and create an app of their own design.
Students will plan, design, and create a physical prototype using block programming to control simple wire circuits using cheap and easily found materials.
To conclude this unit, students design a recommendation engine based on data that they collect and analyze from their classmates. After looking at an example of a recommendation app, students follow a project guide to complete this multi-day activity. In the first several steps, students choose what choice they want to help the user to make, what data they need to give the recommendation, create a survey, and collect information about their classmates' choices. They then interpret the data and use what they have learned to create the recommendation algorithm. Last, they use their algorithms to make recommendations to a few classmates. Students perform a peer review and make any necessary updates to their projects before preparing a presentation to the class.
Students, working with a partner or team will brainstorm physical devices they wish to prototype. Students have the option to design a new creation or recreate a device they have found in the "real world". Students will complete a planning guide to determine the resources (physical and digital) they will need to create their prototype. Students will design a user interface (typically an app or circuit board) that may control some output device (like a circuit board). It will be necessary for students to develop pseudocode or algorithms to aid in the coding process. Students will need to complete the problem-solving process during this lesson plan which will include testing a revising the prototype.
Note: You will need to create a free account on code.org before you can view this resource.
In this lesson, teams test out their paper prototypes with other members of the class. With one student role playing the computer, one narrating, and the rest observing, teams will get immediate feedback on their app designs which will inform the next version of their app prototypes.
Having developed, tested, and gathered feedback on a paper prototype, teams now move to App Lab to build the next iteration of their apps. Using the drag-and-drop Design Mode, each team member builds out at least one page of their team's app, responding to feedback that was received in the previous round of testing.
Building on the screens that the class designed in the previous lesson, teams combine screens into a single app. Simple code can then be added to make button clicks change to the appropriate screen.
Teams run another round of user testing, this time with their interactive prototype. Feedback gathered from this round of testing will inform the final iteration of the app prototypes.
In this lesson, the class applies the problem-solving process to three different problems: a word search, a seating arrangement for a birthday party, and planning a trip. The problems grow increasingly complex and poorly defined to highlight how the problem-solving process is particularly helpful when tackling these types of problems.
In the last few days of the unit, the class finalizes their personal websites, working with peers to get feedback. Then, the students will review the rubric and put the finishing touches on the site. To cap off the unit, everyone shares their projects and how they were developed.
The class works in groups to design aluminum foil boats that will support as many pennies as possible. At the end of the lesson, groups reflect on their experiences with the activity and make connections to the types of problem-solving they will be doing for the rest of the course.
This lesson introduces the formal problem-solving process that the class will use over the course of the year: Define - Prepare - Try - Reflect. The class relates these steps to the aluminum boat problem from the previous lesson, then a problem they are good at solving, then a problem they want to improve at solving. At the end of the lesson, the class collects a list of generally useful strategies for each step of the process to put on posters that will be used throughout the unit and year.