Systematic educational environment of the future
Product, service and system design
Business strategy design
Design strategist Industrial designer
The goal of education is to prepare the youth of today to become the leaders of tomorrow. As such, it must be a forward-thinking enterprise, ready for adaptation whenever necessary. Schools must respond to innovative research and incorporate new technologies in curriculum development. Public education systems in the U.S. have largely maintained historical social hierarchies that prevent the implementation of these innovations. In order to compete in the global economy, public schools must break through these barriers to innovation and establish curricula that serve the needs of today’s diver's student populations.
“Education is a basic human right—like all human rights, it is universal and inalienable. Everyone regardless of gender, religion, ethnicity or economic status is entitled to it” (UNICEF, 2014). We believe that in this globalised world, we must extend our collaborative efforts across national boundaries. As cultures interact in the new global society, it is important to celebrate the diversity of each, despite trends of cultural homogenization. It is exactly our individual and cultural uniqueness which sparks creativity, producing novel solutions for the human condition.
COSMOS plans to break out of the typical classroom model, using flexible furniture and technologies. We envision an educational platform variable enough to encompass the diversity of human experience: a classroom environment that engages the full spectrum of human senses, seamlessly translating different cultural values across national boundaries.
Evolution of the idea
During our design phase we reached out to two schools in the Rochester Area, the Genesee Community Charter School and the Harley School.Both of these institutions are progressive in their approach to education and their use of technology in the educational setting. However, they still rely on the typical classroom layout. Genesee Community Charter School is located on the grounds of the Rochester Museum and Science Center; the administration of the school informed us of what a great resource it was to have such an institution within close proximity.
Museums spend more the $2 billion a year on education, three-quarters of which goes to K-12 schooling, providing 18 million hours of instructional service each year (aam-us.org, 2015). While this already seems like a significant investment, how could an education system tap into these funds to more efficiently spread both the knowledge and mission statements of Museums to a larger community that might not ordinarily have the opportunity?
A collaborative built environment needs to be coupled with a collaborative virtual environment as well. Over the last few years, the increase in cloud computing offers a powerful tool for the sharing of information. Could a global database of student work be collected? And how could this new information facilitate greater learning?
While everyone should receive an education, the requirements of that education—, which at its heart seeks to produce a useful member of a specific culture—, will be different as per its context. COSMOS strives to offer a framework accessible across all cultures and times. As such it is designed as a temporary inflatable structure. This lightweight and rentable system can thus be easily transported and constructed all over the world, for usage in rural towns, major cities, remote villages, and refugee camps.
“You cannot predict the outcome of human development. All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish” (Ken Robinson, Feb. 2006). Instead of using one teaching methodology, and thus one level of intelligence, we hope to access intelligence through the multiplicities of thought. The inherent vagueness of form, a byproduct of an inflatable environment helps promote a creative atmosphere. The inflatable system is a built design logic unlike any other in the world. Its simplicity and foreignness allows the user to imprint it with their own histories, values, and beliefs; creating a polysemous zone.
COSMOS aims to bring the museum model into education. Our hope is that by doing so we can consolidate the discrete ideas of classroom, library, playground, and laboratory under one scope. The “museum provides an excellent environment which enables students to learn while living and experiencing that can contribute to their mental, physical, affective, cognitive, and social development” (Dogan,2010). The system is divided into four zones, each operating at a different scale, but the similar logic helps to foster interactions between users. Group activities and individual exploration of a single theme can all be initiated concurrently.
COSMOS will celebrate the diversity of culture and thought by offering feedback through its linked database. The touchscreen surfaces allow different groups to use the system and have information transported back and forth across the globe. Users will leave traces of their thoughts in the process. We hope that this will foster an understanding of different cultures as well as provide insight into the minds of our fellow global citizens. As this information is uploaded to the museums that sponsor COSMOS, other information that the museums possess can be added to the project, creating a feedback loop between the remote users and the museum system.
COSMOS aims to promote critical thinking skills through the exploration of a theme. Learners can curate their learning process, utilising the skills with which they are most comfortable. and at the same time remaining in proximity with others who challenge them to think differently. We believe that it is these skills of communication and exploration that will be vital to the youth of today as they develop into great citizens of the future.
For rent or for sale?
Due to the advanced technology of COSMOS, selling it at a price appropriate for all markets while maintaining a high level of quality was an impossibility. Nowadays, many popular businesses, such as Amazon or Citibike (in New York and other cities), allow customers to have access to quality products at low prices through rental agreements. My goal was to find a way to make COSMOS available to as many people as possible without compromising the quality of its production. In order to achieve this goal I would need to collaborate with UNICEF. The non-profit organization has a large budget for supporting free education, produces educational supplies, works with designers to make a better world, has a wide network, and has an established professional relationship with the USPS. UNICEF was the best option for securing a budget for the production of COSMOS.
UNICEF would also provide opportunities for developing cutting-edge educational software content for COSMOS. The organization’s relationships with important museums such as MOMA (New York) and Tate Modern (London) could facilitate collaborations on the creation of new, updated themes. Elizabeth Meritt notes that “the museums spend two billion dollars annually on education1 .” The participation of such powerful investors would ensure that software development would be top of the line.
UNICEF has supported the design of many objects, such as cards, toys, and bags, the sale of which helps protect kids all over the world. The organization works with graphic designers, product designers, and design students to solve a variety of problems. “has a long standing partnership which has included projects and classes developed with UNICEF, as Art Center’s Designmatters Department well as an annual student fellowship with the Innovation Unit in New York.”2
Renting products is a new idea for UNICEF. Instead of selling COSMOS, UNICEF can rent it to schools at low costs. The money generated from rentals would be used to update software themes. Because UNICEF is committed to making education available to all, the rental price of COSMOS is only one dollar per day. UNICEF could also provide COSMOS free-of-charge to help kids in war zones, refugee camps, natural disaster sites, and other locations where providing education is extremely difficult.
To accept the UNICEF trust as one of my stakeholders to give money to produce the COSMOS, my chosen design company is IDEO.org. IDEO.org is the non-profit organization under the globally-known design and innovation firm IDEO. It has supported many non-profit projects around the world along with UNILEVER and other organizations. IDEO.org is committed to the idea that “the most potent weapon against global poverty is design. The solutions, systems, and social innovation that arise from truly understanding and designing alongside the poor are the most likely to offer hope and improve lives.”3
High quality products and technology, new entrepreneurship, new business and design for all
This new product, which aims to change the future of education, needs a high quality advertising. MONOCLE is a magazine that supports new entrepreneurs worldwide. The publication produces videos and a radio channel. MONOCLE is sensitive about social activism and has an established relationship with UNICEF. Due to its commitment to the promotion of positive change in the world MONOCLE would be another fitting collaborator for COSMOS.
Who could rent COSMOS?
COSMOS is a borderless site of learning. COSMOS’s main consumers would be schools all around the world. Schools could rent COSMOS according to their favorite themes and software would be made available in many languages. Schools could create inquiry-based learning environments that are enjoyable for their students to use.
Additionally, museums and galleries could rent COSMOS to supplement their collections with a space that is fun and informative. Smaller towns and villages without museums could bring contemporary art, science, history, and other information to their communities which they otherwise would not have access to. Even shopping malls could rent it for special festivals or family events. The portability and ease of use of COSMOS would make it possible for it to be set up in refugee camps and disaster areas which might otherwise not have opportunities for providing education to children.
One laptop per kid is the biggest competitor of COSMOS. “Worldwide over 2.4 million children and teachers have xo laptops”4 They aim “to provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop”5. To this end, they “have designed hardware, content and software for collaborative, joyful, and self-empowered learning. With access to this type of tool, children are engaged in their own education, and learn, share, and create together. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future”6. One laptop per kid was designed for kids but the customers are governments. They also have a donation system. Like COSMOS, they focus on spreading free education all over the world.
The second potential competitor is PHILIPS. With its development and research department, it designed a new interactive fabric which is used for presentations and exhibitions.
1 Elizabeth, Meritt . “Building the Future of Education.” Center for the Future of Museums.
2“Stories of Innovation.” UNICEF.
4“One Laptop per Kid.”
5“One Laptop per Kid.”
6“One Laptop per Kid.”