This week Connected Learning teamed up with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Education Technology and hosted the first ever Urban Education Design Challenge here in St. Louis. Thanks to our gracious sponsors at the CIC (4240 Duncan Ave) and the Innovative Technology Education Fund (ITEF) for providing us a venue and refreshments for this special event. We had a packed house of professionals from a variety of fields come together to go through the design thinking process together and work toward improving St. Louis education. The design thinking process started from the Stanford Design School and is a step-by-step method for imagining and then implementing new solutions to everyday problems.  Here is the format we used for our Urban Design Challenge:

With the the groundwork in place, the rest of our challenge rested in the hands of the participants and the first step was to empathize. We had the participants learn about each other’s educational backgrounds. In order to overcome the challenges of urban education, and especially given the history of race in St. Louis, it was a critical starting point. We invited all these strangers together to tackle a major issue and in order to work together design thinking requires you put yourselves in each other’s shoes to see the problem from a new perspective. 


The next step was equally as important to the night’s success: defining the problem itself. The ultimate goal for the night followed this template: “How might we ACTION WHAT for WHOM in order to change SOMETHING by A TIME?” And each group came up with their own rendition of the equation. They used this as a jumping off point for the ideating and prototyping phases of the design thinking process. Here are examples of how each group defined the problem:

Then, each team had to brainstorm like crazy to create as many solutions to their specific problem. We had so many post-it notes all over the room that showed just how many possibilities are out there to defy our conventional solutions to urban education.

   

 

 

After the brainstorming period, we separated the team members to go learn more about the other teams’ solutions. Then, the entire room could fuse together a solution based on all the ideas in the room. Each group then constructed a prototype solution using unconventional materials to convey their solution to the other teams.

   

 

 

The first ever Urban Education Design Challenge produced well-defined problems and creative solutions to tackle issues facing St. Louis schools. Connected Learning now looks forward to testing and re-ideating these solutions to improve education for all St. Louis students.