Student as Consumer, Student as Designer, Student as Innovator

Here's a BIG idea: What if we put students in the driver's seat of a new kind of R&D to transform education? One that provided a platform for engaging students more fully in a real world effort that also involved faculty, principals, school administrators, board members, parents and the community at large. Might we improve a student's education experience? Might we take it a step further and create an entirely new school? Dare we say we might create a whole new system?

"Children are the consumers of education. They know what’s good and bad about the design of their schools. So we need to listen to them and listen hard. Then, we stand a chance of designing better schools for the future.” ~John Sorrell, Sorrell Foundation

“I respectfully submit that #education should be considering, above all else, #studentexperience .” ~ me, naturally

For the past few years, the Business Innovation Factory’s (BIF) Student Experience Lab has been exploring how good design can improve the quality of experience for students by not only listening to the voices of the students but also engaging them in the conceptual development of wholly new experiences. We call it participatory design and it works. In the last few weeks, I've had the opportunity to share some of the killer work we've been doing in the lab with, for and by students nationwide. From an AAC&U conference in Miami, to Harvard Graduate School of Education, to a Data + Design convening in Providence, the reception towards this BIG idea has been incredible.

So what's the fuss all about? It's simple. The multi-stakeholder impact of bringing students into the design and innovation process is tremendous because it:

  1. Improves the knowledge upon which new education models are built.
  2. Creates the essential conduit for interaction, experimentation, collaboration and integration.
  3. Reduces resistance to change amongst all stakeholders.
  4. Democratizes innovation processes and educational models because students participate in decisions that affect their educational outcomes.

Don't take my word for it.

Check out the "Student as Consumer, Student as Designer, Student as Innovator" presentation I've been sharing which includes a case story of our student-led innovation initiative at Utah State University. And find out how, as John Allen, Dean of Utah State, exclaimed, "Participatory design changed the cultural fabric of this institution."

Then, listen below to the students themselves in the video below.

Guaranteed you'll find yourself wondering what more you can do to put students at the center of innovation in education.

Video Background

In 2011, 29 undergraduates at Utah State University spent a year attempting to create a "utopian experience" for students on campus. The work wasn't a breeze. It challenged many long-standing beliefs and assumptions about learning and education. In this 4-minute video, hear the struggles students encountered during the process, how they overcame them and what role they believe all students should play in the re-invention of education.)

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