Thirty Days of Making: sound booth

I’m starting a short series today: Thirty Days of Making . Every day for the next thirty days, I intend to make something, anything, that is in some way connected to school. There won’t always be pictures, and I reserve the right to credit myself for things that I help my kids make. But I’ve decided that I need thirty days of maker success and maker failure under my belt to be a better designer.

I’ve decided that artwork counts, but not writing (unless it’s part of the art, like calligraphy). Digital work counts, but it has to be useful or publishable.

Some days there will be pictures, some days there won’t be. Each blog entry will contain a list of some of the materials and tools, a quick review of the success or failure of the Making, and a reflection on what I think I learned from the endeavor.

the reason for the project: recording studio

My students in eighth grade are trying to record “this I believe” essays for English. I won’t let them move around the building to record; they have to work in the computer lab. One eighth grade class spent yesterday ragging and arguing with one another about how to do that. They got nothing recorded. Which is kind of what launched this 30 days of making project.

The object: recording booth

Here it is in all its pack of glory: a recording studio. It’s made out of cardboard sheets and Makedo parts.

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The two panels fold around a podcast recorder or two like sound shells.

They don’t work. They filter out casual sound but not noise. Someone yells or bursts into the lab— their noise will be recorded.

I demonstrated to kids what I wanted, showed how to use the makedo parts, and then kept checking in with the students to confirm that the designs were doing three things: rising off the ground, being more or less stable on the ground, and curving around a theoretical recording chair.

I’m counting this toward my effort for the day because I set the initial requirements and determined materials, and helped finalize the design on the left, the one that kept standing.

Results:

It doesn’t work. But the fact that I built them, and I was willing to try the design, and give it a whirl and make an experiment of it, helped the loud kids see that they were part of the challenge of recording. Everyone was a lot less noisy and a lot more polite as a result of the effort.

Reflection on my learning:

Two key pieces emerged for me from this work. First, that this was a computer class — but I went analog and physical and social to solve a problem rather than digital and computational. This wasn’t a problem I could solve with computers — I had to solve it by changing the dynamic in the classroom. Building a physical object, even one that didn’t work, resulted in a better social solution than simply asking people to be quiet. The fact that there wasn’t a simple physical solution meant that students bought into the social solution more rapidly. And I appreciate that a lot.

Reflection on Learning in General

I learned that it is always a good idea to try building something to solve a real problem. The real problem is that nine people or 12 people cannot record podcasts in the same room at the same time, if you expect the sound quality to be any good. Asking people to be quiet is unlikely to produce results. Everyone has a common sense of their own self importance. Trying to make a sound shield, and involving people in the room in building it, actually helps them understand that there was a social dimension to the problem. It raised their awareness a sufficient amount. There were other parts to the solution, a social one at an etiquette one. Get the failure of the built solution helped raise awareness of the social dimension of the problem enough, that a somewhat better solution than we originally had emerged from the chaos.

This should be one of the objectives of the design thinking program: Does a person who has a problem get off their chair, and go in search of tools and materials that solve the problem?

Rating:

I give this build a one of five stars. Something got built, but it was not a successful project. It did raise social awareness of a problem, but it didn’t solve that problem. A correctly completed project would have resulted in heightened abilities to record in the computer lab.

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