Sniglets and Reframing Problems

Part 1 – Seeing and Defining Something: Sniglets

This week my MSU tech design class (CEP 817) is discussing the second phase of design – defining. To kick things off, I was tasked with creating three Sniglets (if you want to see more Sniglet examples, check out this site). Coming up with these Sniglets was much harder than I expected! After much thought, here is what I came up with.

Sciation (si a shun) – n. An exhalation of disappointment or frustration from a science student when informed of an upcoming project.

Nurishwhine (nour ish wine) – n. A complaining cry or general uncontentedness from a child regarding the meal prepared for them.

Chromadoh (krōm a dō) – n. A chunk of Play-doh after multiple colors have been fused together.

(I thought I created and defined the Sniglets “Legoize”, “Toynado” and “Permadirt”. Then I Googled them just to be safe and found they already existed!  Bummer!)

Part 2 – What’s the Problem Really? Reconsidering and Reframing

In addition to creating Sniglets, I was also asked to identify and share an example of problem redefinition. Often, what we think is the problem is not really the case. After further research and exploration, we may realize that the root of the problem is something completely different. The redefinition of our problem will most likely lead to a completely different solution.

Students at a high school are given collaborative learning time (CLT) in their schedule. What this means is that most students take seven classes and have one CLT. Collaborative Learning is a bit different than a study hall as students have more freedom in terms of where they spend this time, who they work with, and what they accomplish. It was quickly noticed by teachers and administrators that many students were not accomplishing very much school work during their CLT. (However, the amount of YouTube videos being watched was quite impressive!) The first thought was that most students could not handle the responsibility of this open, unstructured environment. Therefore the leading solution was to move back to a study hall format where the students are stuck in small rooms with close supervision. However, after some more exploration, it was found that a major reason many students were choosing to watch videos, play cards and socialize during CLT was that they didn’t have school work to do! The schedule had been recently changed from having classes meet five times per week to only three times a week (a modified block schedule). However, despite meeting two less days a week, most teachers were not assigning the extra homework. Therefore, students had 40% less homework than before. When this was realized, the solution was no longer a study hall but rather to supply the students with meaningful tasks to accomplish during their CLT. Science teachers could expect students to spend part of their CLT time with their lab partners. Art teachers could require an ongoing project to be worked on. Other teachers could assign larger projects without wondering when the students would have time to get together. Once the teachers realized all the possibilities that CLT allowed, it no longer became a waste of time.

As can be seen from this example, the problem was not what it first appeared. Rather than being a problem of lazy and undisciplined students, it was a problem of boredom and lack of things to do. By redefining this problem, the possible solutions become very different. If no one had bothered to look closely at this problem, the issue of lack of work would not have been discovered or addressed.

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