Life Design

2020 Life Design Summer Institute Series: Week Seven

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This post is part of the 2020 Life Design Summer Institute Series, which offers a quick lesson recap and 3 teaching takeaways from co-creating a course on life design for students.

Week Seven of the 2020 Life Design Summer Institute focused on training students to relate their stories through defamiliarization. This post provides a quick overview of our approach to defamiliarization in helping students relate their stories and my 3 teaching takeaways.

This Week’s Lesson: Defamiliarization

This week, we aimed to get students in the mindset that they could relate their stories to a variety of audiences. In Week Six, students articulated their stories as it related to each of their imagined lives. This week, we took their storytelling even further.

Defamiliarization is an analytical tool used in various disciplines (e.g., literature, anthropology, etc.). Essentially, it aims to take something familiar and present it in an unfamiliar way in order to understand things from a new and different perspective.

This week’s lesson aimed at:

  • Introducing students to defamiliarization
  • Using defamiliarization to relate their stories via a resume

Michael created this week’s lesson and posted a detailed (and meme-ful) Twitter summary about it:

3 Teaching Takeaways

Here are my three teaching takeaways from this week:

1. Defamiliarization shows students how to reframe

I am so grateful to my colleague, Mike Gonzales, for incorporating defamiliarization in our curriculum. This powerful concept showed students how to reframe concepts that are deeply engrained.

In the future, I’m planning on teaching more topical and niche courses. I think this activity will be powerful in interrogating certain key concepts and terms that are integral to the course. In that instance, I will employ this activity early on.

2. Account for ample time to show how to make resumes relational

We teach students to think of resumes as dynamic and relational documents. That means resumes should be updated and adapted for each position or opportunity a person applies to. While it’s easy to tell this to students, it’s much more challenging to show them how to do it in a way that empowers them to iterate this process on their own.

The defamiliarization concept demonstrated diverse ways to describe a single term. When we transitioned to the resume activity – where they adapted the same resume experience for 1 out 4 real position postings – more time was clearly needed.

While it was helpful for students to see how other groups related the same experience to different postings, I think it would have been more powerful to give students the opportunity to repeat the activity at least once for another posting.

3. Zoom’s whiteboard is not too bad

The virtual environment can make engaging interaction challenging. I’m always on the lookout for various virtual tools to facilitate online activities (e.g., stakeholder maps via Google Slides). Unfortunately, many of us are getting Zoom fatigue and students are getting overwhelmed with all the different virtual tools they have to learn and use for classes.

I was pleasantly surprised that the Zoom whiteboard worked so well for our defamiliarization activity. It was quick and fairly simple to use. Most importantly, it didn’t derail the flow of the class.

Defamiliarizing the sun using the Zoom whiteboard feature

Closing Thoughts

This week’s lesson not only introduced a multidisciplinary concept, but showed its application in helping students tell their stories. It was amazing to see how quickly defamiliarization landed and how students directly applied them to crafting parts of a resume. I’m looking forward to see how this lesson will be scaled and applied in the future.

This post is part of the 2020 Life Design Summer Institute Series, which offers a quick lesson recap and 3 teaching takeaways from co-creating a course on life design for students.

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