I co-designed these experimental learning experiences with two colleagues at the Stanford d.school. Our goal was to create learning experiences that happen where you are, when you want, without a teacher physically present. We aimed to create learning opportunities out-in-the-world. These experiments were influenced by the work of Scott Doorley at the d.school and informed by our qualitative study of Stanford students.
The Inspiration Walk
gain inspiration from the world around you
The Inspiration Walk is a guided audio experience that gets your body and mind moving to find inspiration on a challenge that matters to you. It is an exercise in observation and synthesis that guides listeners through an immersive experience outdoors. The listener is prompted to zoom in and out on a piece of nature, to savor the details, and write down thoughts. Then, they are prompted to force-fit the seemingly random bits of inspiration to a project or challenge they are facing in order to see the problem in a new light. Ultimately, we hope listeners will leave with the intention of making time to seek inspiration in unlikely, everyday places and create a practice around applying it directly to a challenge they are working on.
students learn in the streets of their cities
This micro video curriculum has been used in 18 d.global workshops in 9 cities around the world. The workshops were designed to help attendees build their creative confidence, and students spent the majority of the workshop out in the city without the teaching team. Each team left with an iPod preloaded with 5-7 videos. The teaching team recorded these micro-curriculum videos the day before in the same city. They include prompts like: “Engage with someone different from you and learn from their experience”, “Immerse yourself in a new experience”, and “Step away from your work." We kept the prompts jargon-free and open-ended so students could take control of the experience.
We learned that the context of a video is as instructive as the content. For example, shooting a video in Kyoto including us stopping strangers to ask for interviews sets a precedent for students, "this is possible here." We also kept the production quality of the videos very low (all shot on our phones and including some small mistakes). This signaled to students that we're not looking for perfect or polished performance; we just want them to get out and try, just like we did.
The video content was effective at moving students through a design process, and many students returned feeling energized and accomplished. The videos allowed us to guide students without being present and gave students increased agency to guide their own learning experience. We wonder if this type of curriculum would be used if it wasn't tied to a specific event or targeted to groups.
Designing Human Scale Cities
learn design thinking in the streets of San francisco without teachers present
This day-long d.school class took place off-campus, in San Francisco. We met students in the morning to give each team an iPod. Then, they were on their own until the end of the class. In groups of 4, they completed a design challenge around pedestrian safety. They used Detour, a location-based audio tour app, to learn about the history of Market Street while physically exploring it, and they relied on audio and visual instructions (produced by our team) on their iPod to complete the rest of the challenge.
At the end of the day, when we reunited to debrief the experience, students were buzzing with energy. They loved learning from the city and completing what felt like secret-agent challenges. We did experience technical difficulties with audio syncing and a live broadcast, but overall, the students were very pleased with the experience. This type of learning is easily scaleable and could run in almost any city in the world. As a teaching team, we still had one question: if this type of experience was offered free online but not tied to a certain date or time, would people use it?
learn the design skill of "reframing" using a personal challenge
We asked two questions when designing this experience: “What are important skills we think are fundamental to working as a creative individual?” and “How can we teach these behaviors often taught in design thinking classes without using design jargon or explicit process?”
This self-guided audio experience leads listeners through the process of reframing a challenge they are facing. The audio prompts listeners to frame a personal challenge, e.g. should I move back to New Zealand or stay in Berlin? Then they are asked to take action and shift their perspective. Last, they revisit the challenge and have the chance to reframe it based on what they've learned.
Through this prototype, we learned how quickly and affordably we can build audio curriculum (from conception to final audio files was about 48 hours) and wondered how we could encourage learners to engage with this experience if it was not tied to an event or class.