As an educator that has taught students from 7th grade to graduate school for the past ten years, I’ve had a front seat to the changing interests and contexts that influence the classroom. As a designer, the curriculum I create attempts to prepare students to engage with the world using a highly iterative, creative process. It’s been fascinating to watch how fluidly students adopt to new technologies. It was not that long ago that 3d printers, laser cutters and other cnc machines were first introduced to students. It didn’t take long for students and teachers to add these tools into their vocabulary. Prototypes and objects produced using these new technologies could tend to look the same until the designers pushed the boundaries of what was possible.
My own interest in making artifacts and prototypes in the classroom evolved to include more discussions and prompts that addressed how the objects we create are components of larger systems. Perhaps this was both a reflection of my own curiosity in addition to the questions that students were bringing to the studio. In the past several years, students have changed. I’m sure every teacher says that every ten years, but for me the difference is stark. Conversations are inclusive and peers challenge one another to consider different perspectives and the role of equity and inclusion. The very first course I offered at the college level was a studio course related to the production of Modular Furniture. Today I teach courses related to Gun Violence Prevention, Food Security and other themes that respond to urgent global themes. Students want to have a positive impact on the world.
What has taken the longest for me, has been the articulation of what design as a discipline or way of thinking, can actually bring to some of the intractable problems of the world. We are not scientists, policy experts or subject matter experts. Our contributions are made most visible when we are able to work with teams of multidisciplinary collaborators. I am optimistic that platforms like HighlyNriched will begin to build meaningful bridges between educators, designers and experts. If we are handing off the problems of our generation to the next, we’d better provide some tools to inspire them.