DESIGN CHALLENGE: iFarm (2 of 2)

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Students will be able to 1) present an agricultural technology to the class and 2) develop an agricultural technology solution that meets the needs of the "other 90%"

Big Idea

Agricultural technology has evolved to meet needs of the food industry that often negatively impact the environment. How might we redesign agricultural technologies to reduce their negative impacts?

FRAME: Technology as solution and problem

In the previous "iFarm" lesson, students explored the history of agricultural technology and began to develop presentations about this exploration. By the end of that lesson, successful students were be able to identify a number of current technologies used by farmers, as well as explain in broad terms how technology has changed over time.  Successful students also began to develop presentations that highlighted the the needs that agricultural technologies meet as well as the problems that technologies cause. 

Students will present their work in this lesson through formal presentations.  As with previous presentations, they will continue to track their development of targeted presentation skills. After presentations, students will virtually visit this Cooper Hewitt exhibit and design apps or other technologies to solve an agricultural or environmental problem of today. Successful students will have effectively presented an example of an agricultural technology, explored design solutions for the "other 90%", and submitted original design ideas to meet the needs of population described by the Cooper Hewitt exhibit.  

By the end of this DESIGN CHALLENGE, successful students will have met these objectives:

  1. describe how agricultural technologies have modified the physical environment over time
  2. develop solutions to environment problems created by agricultural technology.
  3. present an agricultural technology to the class 
  4. develop an agricultural technology solution that meets the needs of the "other 90%"

RESOURCES NOTE: The attached prototype activity guide contains a skeleton structure for the learning experiences in these lessons. The reading passages in particular will likely need to be modified to meet the skills and needs of students.

ATTRIBUTION NOTE: This lesson was modified from ideas in the PBS developed lesson of the same name.


40 minutes

What is the purpose of this section?

Student groups present an agricultural technology to the class and receive feedback related to presentation goals.  The teacher facilitates the presentation process as well as a discussion of common themes among presentations.  By the end of this activity, students should be able to explain how agricultural technology has addressed at least one problem and how this solution may have created other problems.

What will student do?

First, students will have 10 minutes to finalize and prepare for presentations.  Then student groups will have approximately two minutes to present work.  After each presentation, audience students will have two minutes to discuss content and finalize notes as the next presentation group gets ready.  Classes average six presentations; these will take approximately 25 minutes.  Successful presentations answer each of these questions:

  • What is the context?  
  • What was the need?  
  • What was the solution? 
  • What were the impacts (positive and negative) of this solutions? 

What will the teacher do?

The teacher facilitates the presentation process through careful timekeeping.  Framing the time boundaries before presentations is essential.  Students need to understand that they will be cut off at two minutes; this is not a personal attack, it is simply a requirement for all students to be able to present.  

Additionally, the teacher will facilitate a debrief of these presentations.  Did these technologies successfully solve problems?  Did the use of these technologies create even more technologies?  Can everybody use these technologies or will there be problems if they are used too widely?  Who do these technologies benefit?  Are they for everybody or just a few? 

What are the student needs or misconceptions that arose from these presentations?

DISEASE:  This group did not provide sufficient content for the topic and also did not explain the impacts of the Bordeaux mixture.  Additionally, individual members with presentation goals of speaking to the audience for at least 10 seconds did not participate.  I debriefed this presentation with the group and we agreed: 1) that before the next presentation the group would show me a written description of context that I would have to approve; 2) that nonspeaking members could research the impacts of the Bordeaux mixture on root systems; and 3) that group members that did not speak would write a short script and practice with another group member before the next presentation.

INSECTS: This group contextualized the problem and describe two solutions that address the problem of insects eating crops.  I commended the group for developing a comparative context, but I also communicated that I did not hear anything about the negative impacts of these solustions.  Additionally, as with the DISEASE group, a number of nonspeaking group members did not meet their goals of speaking for at least 10 seconds.  We agreed that the group would use a requirements checklist for the next presentation and that group members that did not speak would write a short script and practice with another group member before the next presentation.

EVALUATE and EXIT: Cooper Hewitt design challenge and design focus share

15 minutes

What is the purpose of this section

Students build on student presentations and content in the Cooper Hewitt "Design Other 90" virtual exhibit to iterate on an existing technology that addresses agriculture and the environment.  Successful students will select an existing technology, describe the problem it solves, suggest a way to improve the existing technology, and provide a picture that capture the appearance and functionality of a prototype.

What will student do?

Students explore resources of the ongoing Cooper Hewitt/United Nations exhibit "Design with the Other 90%."  This exhibit highlights solutions that improve access to water, sanitation, food security, health, transport, and other essentials of life. Students are tasked with the goal of iterating on a current solution to an agricultural problem.  They will meet the following criteria:

  1. What is the problem? 
  2. How was it solved? 
  3. How do you think that this solution could be improved? 
  4. Create a drawing that explains your iteration.

Students are also provided with additional resources that they might use to inspire their iteratoin ideas.  These are:

  • Timeline: A History of American Agriculture Timelines focusing on agricultural innovation, from Growing a Nation: The Story of American Agriculture, a chronological presentation of significant historical events focuses on the important role agriculture has played in America's development
  • Video: Horses Versus Tractors Interactive movie comparing horses ploughing to tractors, from the Living History Farm
  • Food and Tech Connect: News and analysis, data, and infographics focused on how information and technology can bring transparency, economic growth, accelerated innovation, equity and sustainability to the food supply chain

Students begin this work in class and submit before the next class.  All students develop their own iteration.

How should a teacher assess this work?

The primary teacher move for this activity it to provide students with research supports that might be helpful for developing new ideas. Such support will require availability outside of class time.  I set "virtual office hours" for this assignment and corresponded with students through Edmodo chats, email, and shared Google docs.  I found most often that students were overwhelmed with the variety of resources.  Two changes to make for the next time I teach this course are more carefully curating these resources in the future and using a jigsaw activity to help students grasp the range of content ideas. Teachers wanting to simplify this process might consider eliminating all additional resources except this SOLUTIONS link.