Years and years and years ago, I started a research project that became more of an obsession. Knowhere: finding ways to teach wayfinding was my attempt to develop education materials that would teach complex ideas of navigation behavior through direct observation. Students would roam the world, guided only by environmental clues and human behavior, documenting specific items as prompted by given assignment statements and instructions.
The results were better than I'd expected. The kit and resulting exhibit won various design awards and were showcased in a couple of eye-candy publications. I was invited to present my work at national design conferences. And my Behance page about the project earned more than a handful of "likes."
But beyond this, the students seemed to get something from the lessons—their work showed a more structured understanding of how navigation and orientation could play into physical and virtual environments. Not to mention the fact that my findings regarding how students learn, regardless of what they're studying, provided new paths for my research to follow.
Lately, however, I find myself stuck. Once again, after years of teaching design in an online environment, as we start bringing much of our online content into the onsite classroom, I find myself asking the same questions. How can I teach design students complex ideas in ways that will engage them? How can I frame these ideas in lessons they will retain? How can I avoid the blank stares and clear boredom witnessed when I'm at the front of the classroom giving lectures?
When faced with questions like these, sometimes it helps to look back at previous successes for ways of moving forward. And it's to this end that I now relaunch Knowhere within the infinitely shareable environment of the worldwide web.
In this iteration, KnowhereFast offers the same drawing and observation prompts given to students during the international workshops, as well as a few lessons (still in the works!) on what wayfinding is and how it works beyond ideas of signage. But it also opens new channels for sharing information, including Instagram and Pinterest accounts where students in all learning stages can explore and share ideas wherever they may find themselves.
So come on over. Check it out. Leave some comments. And help me figure out some new ways to teach design students.