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.