Why Your Classroom is Like Your Favorite Restaurant (or Why it Should Be)
Ever wondered why your students will spend hours immersed in the virtual world of a video game, but have zero attention span when it comes to your lessons? Or why the teachers in your school will show up for happy hour at the local bar but wouldn’t be caught dead in your after-school PD workshops?
The answer has at least something to do with Experience Design, and as a learning designer there’s a lot you can borrow from the field to get and keep your learners engaged.
I first learned about Experience Design in Library school. Back then, we called it “user-centered design” and it was all about developing empathy and using your insights to develop better interactions for users. Later, I started attending and facilitating at Big Ideas Fest and taking part in workshops at the d.school, exploring how students -- the users in my world -- could inform curriculum development.
Over time, UCD has grown and morphed and split into several disciplines, including Experience Design or XD. To understand Experience Design, think about the last time you enjoyed a meal in your favorite restaurant. Maybe you first went there for the food, or because you read a good review about the service. But chances are, over time, you came to love that restaurant because of the experience you have when you dine there. You eat food that tastes good, sure. But you also take in and enjoy the sounds and smells, take in the decor, and interact with the staff. In a great restaurant, all of these elements of your experience are intentional; they happen because someone -- the restaurateur usually -- has planned them for you, for the express purpose of ensuring you have a memorable and enjoyable time. Why? So you’ll return, of course, And so you’ll recommend the place to your friends. A strong experience for you means business results for them.
The same is true for that addictive video game your students love, or the bar where your teachers hang out. Someone designed that experience (whether it is a physical place you visit or a product you interact with) for a particular target audience in order to drive their business goals. But because Experience Design is nothing more than a practice or approach, it can be applied to helping you reach any kind of a goal -- including the goals you have for your learners.
Because, let’s be honest. As teachers, we are doing the work of XD every day when we create and deliver instruction. We are making choices about the experience our learners will have -- what content they’ll interact with, how our desks will be set up, what kind of classroom culture we’re creating. It’s up to us to decide how intentional we want to be about that experience design.