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How Design Thinking in Education Can Keep Software from Eating You

Software has deeply impacted my life as a teacher and learning designer, but it has not eaten me . . . yet. Here’s how I learned to protect myself.

After over a decade of teaching at the university level, I was fortunate enough to be targeted as a Subject Matter Expert (SME) for a series of online courses built in partnership with one of the world’s premier developers of scenario-based learning programs. My experience with the learning designers in that company built on my years of classroom experience and significantly contributed to how I think about teaching and learning today. It taught me more than my master’s degree in teaching had, too.

And yes, I did end up leaving the ivory tower for the world of online development.

After this second decade of my professional career, developing online courseware and large-scale revenue-producing programs for corporations and educational institutions, I am still convinced that technology must be incorporated into the learning process on every level. But I remain convinced that leading with the software presents barriers to the innovation in teaching and learning that we all want to be part of.  

Here’s a few reasons why.

  1. Software can address issues of access, but it doesn’t, on its own, replace the essential interactions that need to occur in order to facilitate successful learning.

  2. Software can support individualized learning, but it doesn’t, on its own, provide the blend of learning experiences that facilitate successful learning.

  3. Software can create an enhanced learning environment, but it doesn’t, on its own, provide the surrounding system of support that leads to successful performance once our kids move through the educational continuum to the workplace.

We need technology in education. But technology will not replace everything about education as we know it. We must work with the schools and other institutions of learning, whether formal or informal, to provide technology tools to optimize teaching and learning.

This is already happening, to a huge extent, with the successful partnership of companies producing blended learning programs, professional development tools, gaming programs and more for the PK-12 market. Let’s not ignore the input and feedback of the homeschool and unschooling movements in the efficacy of these tools in those learning environments as well.

If anything is eating the world, it is probably design thinking. But I’d venture to say that designers wouldn’t say we’re eating the world but rather working with the world to make it better.

If you haven’t already read the interview with Ben Stern and Daniel Rabuzzi that got me ruminating on today’s topic, you can do so here. Visit Software is Eating the World for more from the folks who introduced this concept to begin with.


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As of January 2024, Rewriting Paradigms is back and I'm writing about today's  issues, those that most test us and our humanity.

Designs2Learn blogs were originally published on a separate site devoted solely to educational issues. 

With the release of the Rewriting Paradigms site, we' ported them over to their new home.

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