Program or be Programmed? Teaching algorithmic principles to future designers

Nold, Christian (2023). Program or be Programmed? Teaching algorithmic principles to future designers. In: The 7th International Conference for Design Education Researchers, 29 Nov - 1 Dec 2023, London, UK.



This paper reflects on the development of a unit about algorithmic design in the context of a new undergraduate design course at the Open University in the UK. The paper investigates how to teach algorithmic design and explores what content should be taught by carrying out a literature review of pedagogical approaches and offers reflections on their implementation in the course. The review reveals that there is currently no accepted framework for teaching algorithmic design but highlights the widespread argument for teaching a programming language. What differentiates the approaches is how one teaches programming, whether as a technical tool or as an expressive and cultural medium. The Open University unit aims to teach algorithmic principles via a student project that uses code to design wallpaper for their home. By situating computation within the student’s own domestic context, the unit seeks to foster the development of personal judgment, sensitivity, and novel forms of algorithmic innovation. The paper aims to provide insights for design educators who are developing similar courses through face-to-face instruction or distance learning methods and presents a challenge to explore ways of using design pedagogy to situate algorithmic design within people’s lives.

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