Design for America – an incredible realization of empowering real-life problem-solving students.

From Liz Gerber, “Design for America: A Network of Students and Designers Solving Real-World Challenges,” published on GOOD, January 23, 2013 at 8:00 AM:

When I was an engineering student, many of my professors assigned me to a team and asked us to solve invented problems, like how to propel a ball across a room using only cardboard and rubber bands or how to build the tallest structure out of toothpicks and marshmallows. Other professors asked us to design specific things, such as laparoscopic suturing devices or fetal monitoring devices. But my favorite professors allowed me to choose my team and encouraged us to find our own problems to work on. Those assignments were the ones that made me feel I was helping others most. As a design engineer, I wanted meaning—and I wanted to choose my team.

And, a bit later:

What kind of community could I create to help students think that they were capable of helping others? What kind of process could I teach that helped students to think that they could collaboratively tackle the messiest and more daunting problems such as our obesity epidemic, failing schools, and polluted waters? As a professor, my job is to teach students how to reliably and creatively come up with answers to engineering design problems. Could I create an organization or environment that, like the Obama campaign, would inspire students to carry out their mission—as they envisioned it—in their own creative ways?

Here’s what I created: Design for America pulls together teams of volunteer faculty, students, and professional mentors in a local community. Interdisciplinary student teams meet weekly. Anyone who wants to be part of a design team can be. The only requirement is that participants must work, not just talk about the enormity of the problems. DFA doesn’t give students problems to solve; it guides them to walk around their community to find problems they believe are meaningful.

It’s like Synergy 8, but for college. (Link to the Synergy 8 category on It’s About Learning)

(HT to @SAISNews for making certain that I saw Liz Gerber’s DFA piece!)

Disruption, GOOD #FutureLearning

In “Graduating All Students Innovation-Ready,” Tony Wagner ended his piece with this question about courage:

Our students want to become innovators. Our economy needs them to become innovators. The question is: As educators, do we have the courage to disrupt conventional wisdom and pursue the innovations that matter most?

Recently, GOOD published a piece about a few of the disruptors – those who are pushing us to consider the bigger possible (r)evolutions in education. It’s great material for a bit of optimistic brain stretching…


Future Learning Short Documentary (12:50)

More about the film
GOOD Video: How Do We Make Learning Relevant to Students?

[Thanks to Govantez Lowndes for putting me onto the documentary on GOOD. I had missed it.]