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How Will We Design The Next Wave Of Education Experiments?

How Will We Design The Next Wave Of Education Experiments?

by Paul Haluszczak

Education is an ongoing, never-ending experiment. Observations are made, questions are considered, research is conducted, new hypotheses come to the fore, small scale (or sometimes large scale) tests are conducted, data is collected and analyzed, results are reported, and new observations are made.

Round and round we go, year after year, generation after generation.

Although never-ending, the education experiment often comes up short in addressing the challenges found in the observations we make.

We ask: How do we create authentic learning opportunities? Yet, we retain rigid, standardized structures.

We ask: How do we support and honor multiple intelligences? Yet, we ask all learners to engage with the same learning materials through the same learning medium (most often neglecting any hands-on learning whatsoever).

We ask: How do we reach our most marginalized and underrepresented populations? Yet, we have systems in place that ask learners to leave their lived experiences at the school door and separate the “real world” from the “schooling world.”

The paradoxes could cold fill up an entire book. In fact, such a book was written by Gary Chapin and Carissa Carisa Carrow called 126 Falsehoods We Believe About Education.

Since education is an ongoing experiment and we tend to ask great questions but see minimal systemic change, what if we looked at an often neglected experimental strategy that puts the margins at the center?

Such thinking began in the 1960s and 1970s in Scandinavia under the moniker, cooperative design. When it made its way to the United States the name shifted to participatory design—as managers were hesitant to include their subordinates in change work that was all-inconclusive.

Of course, such a name change greatly slowed down the intention behind cooperative design, where, in the most inclusive sense, “all stakeholders of an issue, not just the users, [are included] throughout the entire process from research to implementation.”

Cooperative design can be seen in a more common design process called design thinking, a framework that one must be careful to approach as a flexible foundation rather than a rigid design formula so as not to dilute the original cooperative design intention of full inclusivity.

Given cooperative design’s inclusive nature, we can look at historical examples where “designing from the margins” or “designing with the margins centered” served everyone well.

Before you read that text

The idea of sending text messages was first formulated in 1984 by Matti Makkonen who “wanted to create a system that would help hearing-impared people communicate on mobile networks.” In 1992, the first text message was sent. In 2022, 18.7 billion texts are sent worldwide every day.

Could you help me peel the potatoes?

OXO is an everyday kitchen brand with a fascinating origin story. Founder, Sam Farber, noticed how difficult it was for his wife to use a metal potato peeler with her arthritic hands, so he designed a peeler with a comfortable, rubber grip. Arthritis or not, when staring down a mound of to-be-peeled potatoes, this rubber grip has been the preferred choice by everyone for over 30 years.

Hold the door!

The first modern day automatic doors were invented in 1931 by Horace H. Raymond and Sheldon S. Roby. The first use case was at a restaurant in Connecticut that was looking to increase the efficiency of staff moving through doorways holding stacks of plates and serving platters. Needless to say, the staff loved it.

Automatic doors quickly became the standard at grocery stores, banks, hospitals and hotels—a thankful reprieve for anyone without a free hand to pull open a heavy door.

As we think about cooperative design and designing for the margins, we can use these stories to inspire the next wave of education experiments that aim for equitable learning for all.

How To Safely Introduce Equity Conversations In Your Classroom

How To Safely Introduce Equity Conversations In Your Classroom

By Paul Haluszczak

This week, superintendents from across the country will be gathering in Nashville for AASA’s national conference. The theme? Leading for student-centered, equity-focused education.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a steady drumbeat of revelations by those who are in positions of power to accelerate meaningful change. When formal education couldn’t be siloed inside a single school building, the inequities children face in their everyday lives were illuminated brighter than ever before.

Before the pandemic began, 42% of households had limited technology access. By fall of 2020, that number was reduced to 31%—an improvement no doubt, but still an unacceptable figure if we are interested in ensuring every learner, no matter their background or circumstances, is provided a high-quality education experience.

Of course, inequitable access to technology isn’t the only challenge we have been called to quickly resolve.

Many have spoken about the past two years as a “twin pandemic”—one related to COVID-19 and the other related to racial injustice.

The very same day a national emergency was declared by then President Donald Trump for COVID-19, Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by police officers issuing a no-knock warrant. Two months later, the world witnessed the murder of George Floyd. Less than one month later came Rayshard Brooks. Two months after that, Jacob Blake.

As the majority of the country worked and learned from home, we were able to easily turn our attention to the latest news story—bringing renewed energy to a fight for racial justice that has been filling history books for centuries.

What these highly publicized events made abundantly clear is that what happens out in our communities impacts how our young people show up and engage in our classrooms. That impact deserves to be acknowledged and given space for discussion and reflection.

On February 7th, in partnership with Dr. Eddie Moore, Founder of The Privilege Institute, Thrively released the first-of-its-kind 21-Day Equity Challenge for young learners.

Start Your 21-Day Equity Challenge Today

In just 10 minutes per day, K-12 teachers can engage learners in honest and safe conversations about justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Best of all, it meets everyone where they are.

If an open-floor conversation about these hard but necessary topics is too big of a leap (for learners or adults), all reflections can be shared between each individual learner and their teacher without any of their peers entering the conversation.

Similar to how learners can engage in daily well-being check-ins through our Well-Being Index, they can learn how to explore complex and emotional topics one-on-one with their educators before taking the leap to group conversations.

Imagine if these conversations were happening in every classroom in your school and in every school in your district? What impact might that have in developing the empathy, acceptance of difference, and strong sense of community we know every healthy learning environment must have?

Now is the time to move beyond the paralysis that can often hit us when faced with racial equity challenges. When superintendents return from Nashville around February 20th, they will be primed and ready to take action.

What better way to showcase your own leadership by sharing the 21-Day Equity Challenge with them as a way for everyone (adults and young people) to take meaningful action toward creating an equitable learning environment in your community.