Last week, we announced a new collaboration with Stanford’s d.school. You can read the details here, but in short, Ei is teaming up with the design education giants on a class that’s focused on exploring the future of higher education. It’s called @Stanford and it’s backed by one of the most stellar teaching teams around.

Currently, the class is seeking to redefine how four key areas will shift and impact the future of higher ed:

  • The Library
  • Resident’s Life
  • Accreditation
  • Experiential Learning

Each area has a team of students, two team leaders, and five weeks to present their current problems, potential solutions, assumptions, and possible future experiments.

After a week of brainstorming, each group was given a time/day to launch their project with the rest of the class. This made for an exciting array of presentations, exercises, theatrics, and challenging questions.

For our team, specifically, we’ve decided to unpack three main areas surrounding experiential education:

  1. How can a student better define their motivations and learning objectives for higher education?
  2. How does a student choose or create experiences that best fit those objectives?
  3. How can someone best relay an experiential learning journey to peers and/or future employers?

Colleen, our “Process Lead,” and the four Stanford students have taken time to ask questions about Ei’s Founding Class to find what has and hasn’t been working. We’re using these learnings to give us a ‘head start’ on the questions above.

Then, for our launch presentation on Wednesday, we invited the entire @Stanford class to the d.school for an interactive session around our three questions.

We began by asking each person about their own motivations for attending their undergraduate or graduate programs. Each individual was given a stack of options to sort in order of importance.
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Then, we divided the class into five groups and asked them to envision a “Rockstar” Engineer, Entrepreneur, or Teacher to tackle the second question of “how to choose or create experiences…” In classic d.school style, we handed out stacks of sticky notes and told each group to choose one of those professions and list every possible experience that led to a successful and accomplished career.

“Where did your “Rockstar” go? Who did they meet? What did they learn and how? etc.”

The stories were spectacular, fun, and insightful. Hardly anyone mentioned a traditional university context. There were grand stories about opportunities to work with certain leaders, create meaningful work, and endure certain struggles.

On a personal note, this was incredibly surreal. Two years ago, I was doing this very exercise for myself as I began thinking about Leap Year Project and how I could create my own version of a Master’s based on experiences. Now I was watching an entire classroom of bright, passionate, caring people do the very same thing — all in the hopes of finding a way to make this type of thinking more widespread. It was a moment I’ll never forget.

Finally, we asked them to choose the six most valuable experiences to present in a storyboard format. This gave us a glimpse into ways we could replace traditional modes of accreditation with portfolios, references, and even storyboards.

The entire launch was a great exercise, showing us where we needed to refine our focus and what aspects are on the right track. Also, attending the other group launches revealed a slew of questions and ideas I had never considered. The students, the team leads, and the @Stanford crew have created a platform for us to freely dream about the possibilities.

And, though we know we are only scratching the surface, each group is packed with energy and doused in hope that these small projects may someday be used to improve how we educate, empower, and connect the next generation of leaders and creatives.

I could write a novel about the rest of my time here and the amazing people who have been gracious enough to share a conversation or brainstorm about Ei with me. But, for now, just know these are great steps forward for everyone involved. And, they’re just the beginning.

4 Comments

  • Absolutely love the direction this collaboration is going. I’d love to have been a fly on the wall for the Ei launch presentation as well as Resident’s Life and Accreditation. Sounds like the makings of one helluva class.

  • Victor – I love your description of the “surreal” moment when a room full of students was doing what you had done a couple years ago when preparing for Leap Year. 🙂

    I was thinking about having a room full of students ask the question about what experiences make a rock star, and thinking that it would be valuable to also ask the same thing of the rockstars themselves, i.e. the master teachers, engineers, and entrepreneurs. But then wondering how accurately any of us can identify the times and places where we “became” who we are. I think you could improve accuracy by (instead of just interviewing them in the abstract), getting permission to follow them around on the job, asking “…I noticed you did X – how did you learn that?” “…and you said Y. Do you remember where and when you learned that to be true?”

    Looking forward to hearing more about how it’s going out there, and to what you and the students come up with.

  • Re-reading the post…Looking at the three questions you’re working to unpack. One of the things about learning is that the journeys take on a life of their own. One path leads to another. It’s important to pursue an idea, a topic, a course, an experience without knowing exactly where it will lead; often, without it being tied to an end career goal or conscious “learning objective.” I think about my taking a ceramics course my sophomore year of high school, mostly because I was taking lots of honors classes and wanted something that would give me a break from all the academic work and, honestly, not have too much homework. And I end up meeting my teacher Cindy Boughner, who would take a sabbatical the next year and plan the alternative high school that would open and that I would attend my senior year. And throughout her sabbatical, we wrote back and forth about questions like: What is intelligence? what is creativity? What kind of environments foster creativity, and help develop intelligence? What’s the balance between freedom to pursue individual passions and goals, and the value of being part of a community with shared experiences? What’s the role of the teacher in a system that understands that most of our important learning does not happen by listening to direct instruction? Questions that I’m still working on 20 years later.

    So how do we account for this element of unexpected but invaluable learning? How do we encourage exploration and experimentation and taking risks, while also maximizing the probability of long-term usefulness and value? How do we build systems that help students connect with experiences that are going to be valuable to them, but whose value might not be apparent yet?

    Some more questions for the mix…

    • I can totally relate to the importance of this element of exploration and not knowing what’s going to happen or where I’m going to go. Seemingly unrelated experiences are what have led me to joining the Experience Institute as a student and are definitely key aspects of my first apprenticeship currently in Australia.

      Is there a way to foster this kind of creative chaos and channel it into the framework of an education? Is it something that can be intentionally created or does it need to arise spontaneously?

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