Product Design: The Student

As a designer, I have spent most of my academic career doing work in a field that has a non-traditional setting. This has broken me from the mold of K-12 learning that we continue the hear about. A lack of creativity, a lack of critical thinking, a lack of courage.

But are the conditions truly like Sir Kenneth Robinson suggests? Do we have an educational Death Valley that will allow our students to thrive when given the chance to grow independently of a system designed to produce. Our students are produced from an educational system that has one goal. To produce workers for the next generation. But one thing is how can we, as designers or students, as teachers Change the Education Paradigm?

Even Mark Taylor, whose quote we see in the “Rethinking Education” video, believes that even at the University level we have a consumer, producer, and product relationship. The consumer is the company desiring a compliant employee. The producer is the university that makes the worker, which is the product. All of this is done through the assembly line of higher education, churning out products every year. But is that product an antique now? Not the kind of antique you want to collect and enjoy, but something old, and constantly degrading in value.

The problem with the system that we currently use is that it is homogenizing! Throughout the history of product or industrial design we find that humans, even back to our neolithic ancestor found conformity, or consistency safe and aesthetically pleasing. In this manner, the consumer can trust the product to be viable and have a desirable output. The worker works. The consumer consumes. The cycle continues.

The question then becomes: how, how how can we harness the collective intelligence that can be generated from a homogenized populace?

We need to break the product mold.

We have perfected over time an ability to create a student, a particular type of student that does not analyze, but knows a list of fact and knowledge. They do not know how move past the what and to get to why. People were always asking why when they were children, ready to explore and learn everything. With the current student mold, inquisitive children are pressed into shape, or left behind. With undesirable characteristics deemed incompatible with the system.

We can change our direction even a little and change for the better. It is the links both literally and figuratively between people that will allow our students to move beyond the traditional classroom and into Education 2.0. We must work towards this goal, or find ourselves left behind.

But what is a vision of students today? Michael Wesch shows us it might not be what we think it is. We find that the distribution of tasks is different from what it was 200, 100, 50 or even 10 years ago. We find that the student populace is constantly evolving, but is then sent back in time when educated.

Michael Wesch found that there are 26.5 hours of tasks for a 24 hour day. Oh, but the students could just manage their time better. No, there is no time management only time selection. Tasks are selected based on desires, not necessity as we now know. So how do we get things done? They are multi-taskers. They have to be. Or this happens.

We find that while students are told they are not engaged, many actually could have been, or are engaged in what interests them. You as a teacher must be interested in their success. Without engagement, students will passively move through their education unprepared for the problems they did not create, but will have to deal with or even solve.

But do the students know the questions or problems to pose in order to learn? There is this one:”What do we need to know for the test?” But is that what we as teachers want to hear?

No. This question is a reflection of the students knowing that education is a hurdle to pass, not a lifelong task to be engaged with. (hint, it should be the latter) We need to give our students a reason to learn, not only a new means of learning. We want to hear engagement. We need to know that they recognize the future of an increasingly global and inter-connected society. Our students need to know that they have the power to shape their futures, not simply exist in them.

We need to  teach our students how to navigate the realm of knowledge, not simply memorize facts and figures. If we treat the internet as a void, constantly filling with knowledge, is there a point at which the internet will fill up? Probably not. can a single person memorize the internet? No. So, if we teach our students how to find information, analyze it, and determine whether or not to trust such information, we can succeed.

[thanks for listening]

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