A lot learned in the pilot year of EDesign Lab (formerly called DTC Lab). There are various structural dynamics that make the real time needs of learners and teachers difficult to see, prioritize, and expertly address through designed solutions. The lab was able to bridge the expertise of creative technologists and teachers for user-centered prototyping. Part of the model’s inspiration borrows from witnessing the powerful solutions that can be developed within just a weekend long hackathon (commonly used in the technology industry), and simultaneously addresses the limitations of what can be thoughtfully made and persist beyond those types of events. Every lab member holds their primary full-time jobs as either a teacher or technologist. Thus teachers are bringing in the real time needs and experiences of their students, likewise the technologists are bringing in their real time experience of developing creative applications for their commercial clients. The lab sessions facilitated the productive use of this limited but powerful time together. In practice, the lab is basically an extended and strongly facilitated hackathaon/designathon — providing the forum and methods to enable longer term collaborative thinking and making. While meeting as a whole lab about 2-3 times per month and while holding other full time jobs , over ~ 3.5 month design cycles, we managed to rapidly generate and transform user-driven concepts into trial-able prototypes for students and teachers. The concepts ranged from re-imagining the discussion board to considering the benefits of karaoke. In our second design cycle, we built and engaged students with two prototypes Reading Robot, an iPad app exploring teachable agents to support active reading and Evidently, an open, youth scientific community.
Each prototype hopefully clearly articulates a real time need we identified, and offers tangible specs for a potential solution. Aside from what we made, a special community of interdisciplinary colleagues formed that will hopefully grow. Excited for its second year. More frequent updates on the lab’s site.