Tag Archives: design

Design-thinking & Future-thinking with Kids

A group of NYC cultural institutions tapped me for a fun design project, work with students to design education in 2050.   Given 2050 is rather abstract, our mission ratcheted down to redesigning current products for “the future.” Aside from soaking in the imagination boost that 5th graders radiate, I was surprised by some of the thoughts that surfaced.

When you ask adults to imagine the future of education, they often gravitate to algorithmically individualized learning and interactions with objects.   Yet in nearly every storyboard scenario created and every conversation on how they would use products to learn, the students gravitated to highly valuing social and face-to-face interactions.  When asked how they would use the “virtual helmet” they designed, the high schoolers replied,”[to connect] at home.” One of many take-aways is that we must design for both personalized learning and social learning.

Each imagining session was rapid (1/2 day long) , but importantly, we started by posing the question of how you learned something (understand the problem you are designing a solution for).   The fifth graders produced some colorful storyboards (with common themes arising of learning from hands-on, context-rich, out of the classroom experiences).


We asked the fifth graders to examine (purpose/problems/strengths of) the desk, the whiteboard, and the notebook and to then redesign them.   One product that emerged was inter-connected big/mini boards that filled the needs of ESL students through auto-translation and verbal command features.   Similarly we asked high school students to map out how they learn and challenged them to define the purpose of the lecture, the homework, and the test and then to create new products for improving those learning processes.  The students presented their product designs last week at MobilityShifts and impressed at least one reporter as young designers of learning futures.


Reimagining Virtual School

Last winter, I lead a small team in analyzing the landscape of virtual learning environments and engaging in an ideation process to reimagine what virtual learning (in public school) could look like.  The goal was to deliberately spend time examining user experience.  An important question and design principle was thinking about learning as life-long and everyone as a potential learner or expert.   If a teacher is a potential student and a student is a potential teacher, what could be ways of organizing experiences for meaningful discovery and collaborative creation?  A second important question was thinking about how to filter, mashup, and matchup the growing universe of content for learning in a way that could provide relevant opportunities for interaction and demonstration of mastery.

This is a rough interactive prototype we developed to articulate a few ideas that emerged (sketch of functions and flow in two scenarios, not the ideal visual user interface)

Click to view Wireframe Video Demo or written PDF narrative summary

This landscape is quickly changing with new entrants, however a preliminary scan revealed that a majority of existing educational platforms still mimic textbooks and classrooms, print to pixels.   The scan purposely included coverage of emerging platforms outside of education to spark conversations about what elements could be borrowed from YouTube, Wikipedia, Blogspot, XBOX Live, Meetup, and various open source initiatives.   Click to view summary of landscape research pdf