Saturday, May 14, 2011

Design as Literacy

by Mike Kaechele

This week I had the privilege to attend TEDxGR. One of the speakers was Mickey McManus of the design firm MAYA. He talked about the need for a new literacy based on design. He mentioned SEL and STEM as being important emphasis in education but felt that there was something missing. He sees the missing piece as human centered design. His company starts with people and designs products based on people's needs. Their main clients were teaching their design principles to CEOs in successful companies. They decided to try teaching these skill to students in middle school students as an experiment. Check out the results:

This is a short film about a pilot program we (LUMA) ran in Columbus, Ohio. It shows the value of human-centered design thinking and real world problem solving to educating the next generation of innovators. Teachers were weeping by the end of the week and kids that wouldn’t even make eye contact at the beginning of the camp were presenting ideas based on real user research to heads of foundations and industry.

Now I am not sure that I think that this is a "new literacy" as what "is" or "is not" literacy causes many arguments that I am not sure that I even care about. What it does seem to be to me is an excellent example of a complex PBL environment. It is student driven, authentic, with both real world audience and problems. Students work in groups and use creative problem solving to design and have to present their ideas to testers where they receive feedback and then have to re-design until their idea is a working prototype. So it may not be a new "literacy" but I am positive that we need more of this kind of learning in schools. 


  1. Mike,

    Thank you for posting this! I am in discussions to recreate a class I teach for a semester and was hoping to find some inspiration. My ideas ranged from inventions to consumer reports. With this post and video I think INNOVATIONS is the key to naming and describing my class. Excited to see what 25 students strive innovate.

  2. This post kicks-ass. Nice work. Why do people think kids can't take responsibility for their own creativity and even design their own assessment. Besides the fact design requires creative thinking, which means using parts of your brain that tends to completely ignored by most 'professional development' as few 'experts' are either creative or know anything about design.

    Performance before competency - which is the opposite of how most teachers see their classroom.

    Nice work, look forward to more.

  3. I like this post.I inspire with you.I love designing and Dean is right kids can take responsibility for their own creativity.Goodluck!


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