The "Human" in Human-Centered Design

A picture is worth a thousand words. It’s a story - frozen, captured in time - one that both our visual cortexes can make an absolute mess of.

Every picture contains a story that its creator hopes is accurately portrayed. But our greatest deceivers, our eyes, craft a counterfeit by design.

What do I mean by a counterfeit? Imagine a photo of an active learning environment, a bustling classroom. What do you see? Flexibility, yes. Digital and analog tools like computers, pens and papers. Mechanical tools, occasionally. Engaged learners and teachers. Buzz words on writeable surfaces; you bet. Students are learning, teachers are teaching, all is right!

Now dig deeper and really look at the elements and people in that photo. Do you really know what’s going on in that space? While the photo tells an overarching story about learning, there are individual personal stories captured as well. Somewhere in that photo lives the WHY, the drivers behind the personal interactions and the physical space.

Why is that little girl seated at a desk using a notepad and pencil while another is standing at a table swiping away on an iPad? Why are several students enthusiastically working in a group while another is quietly reading in the corner?

You notice groupings of desks, cubbies for storage and chairs stacked in the background. How will those be used to achieve the teacher’s goals? The space is the conduit for connection and the catalyst for engagement, always supporting unique human needs.

These personal stories inform the larger picture. Many times though these personal tales are lost. Someone knows the true intention of that learning space but the meaning is muddied as the photo is passed along. The photo becomes one of the thousands of images we see on a daily basis. Ultimately our eyes deceive us, leading to a “me too” moment. I’ve been there, seen that, I know what’s going on in that learning space.

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