Informal Education: Kids Designing Technology for Kids

Two weeks ago, Groupshot finished leading a design workshop at the NuVu studio. NuVu studio is an innovation center for high school students to work on multi-disciplinary collaborative projects. Through applied design education, they are exploring an alternative model of high school education that support the traditional curriculum we are all familiar with. This trimester, NuVu was focusing on ‘Design for Development’, and Groupshot was invited to lead a two week studio for the first round of the term. As an innovative (and informal) education program and a educational development project in and of itself, we were excited to collaborate with the students.

Our NuVu studio, Learning Lab India, was put together in collaboration with Sesame Workshop, the organization behind Sesame Street, in India. Sesame workshop India has its own version of sesame street, called Gali Gali Sim Sim, and a series of programs to help deliver their educational shows to under-served communities, particularly urban slums, around India. As part of a growing technology strategy, Sesame Workshops is expanding their use of technology from mobile screenings to include new cell phone based programs — and so we began working with them and our students at NuVu to develop a suite of educational smart phone applications to encourage social, emotional, and physical health.

The particular challenge we posed was to develop a set of games on the android platform that could be played by about 4-6 students at one time to supplement classroom time. This meant re-envisioning the mobile phone as a social device and moderator–rather than the centerpiece of the game. While at first out group of highschool students were designing games that were phone driven, such as a game of snake that would require four kids to touch and watch a small screen at the same time, the students were eventually able to break free of the technology. By the end of the program, we had a series of six games which encouraged creativity, storytelling, imagination, and were all based on the real world beyond the screen–turning their environment into a living laboratory where they could play, learn, and explore collaboratively to supplement and support the limited formal education they have access to.

This type of education is an interesting departure from traditional educational games as well as the usual realm of classroom education. The emphasis on informal education, created by a combination of subtle material and equally subtle methods, is about the development of the complex skills that lead to creative, problem-solving, and well-socialized adults. What is most fascinating about our NuVu project is not just the creation of these new tools, but also the parallel stories of challenging the current paradigms and limitations of education around the world with innovative methods and tools, in Cambridge and Dehli alike, and the unique and particular value and insight that kids designing for kids brought to the table for this project.

The design studio format allowed the students in NuVu to grapple with projects and assumptions in an unstructured and effective way. As a supplement to an otherwise traditional school cheap oakleys curriculum, the opportunity to explore real world problems challenged the students to think outside of the box and beyond the classroom. The critique, discussion, and design exercises we shared with the students supplemented this challenge by asking the students to question their own approach as well.

The result is six fascinating games which will soon be entering a development and subsequent pilot phase, along with 9 compelling and enthusiastic students with a new passion for global challenges and thinking beyond their own point of view.

Read more on the NuVu Blog Post here.

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