Generating Ideas

Generating Ideas could be challenging and overwhelming if you think you have to stick with ideas as if they were fixed. Throughout working on the different projects at my master's, I learned that one of the main characteristics of a design process is that ideas evolve, change and even get disposed of, and that 's ok!

This insight is liberating to me, it means that ideas could be tested in different stages of the process. And, with the input of others through critique, feedback, observations, interviews /focus groups, and other ways of gathering data, these ideas could become better and better in each refinement and iteration. This systematic process helps ideas become decisions that guide the design toward helping learners achieve their learning goals. In this process, some ideas might be left behind along the way so that other ideas could come. This iterative, collaborative and flexible process for idea generation and refinement is now an essential part of my practice as a Learning Engineer.

And where do ideas come from?

I also have learned that ideas can come from all different places... Some of where I have found good ideas for the projects I 've work on are the following:

From the literature

I find it very useful to revise the literature early in the process to learn about; what others' have done in the past in similar challenges (or with similar/different populations), and revise theoretical frameworks from the learning sciences to inform the design as lenses to keep in mind along the way to create coherent and consistent experiences, and to learn from areas of opportunity of previous research (what not to do, what to do differently).

For example:

  • In the sustainable self-care workshop was imperative to understand what has been useful and what are possible barriers in driving people towards sustainable choices before jumping into the challenge.

  • In the Curiously App, theoretical frameworks such as Islands of Expertise and the 7 Design Principles for Children in Nature were lenses that guided critical design choices on features and desirable interactions.

  • Similarly, in the Telling Science project theories such as constructionism, research on cueing from cultural forms and anchoring instruction provided keys for connecting and developing ideas.

From teams & collaboration

Brainstorming, sharing and discussing ideas and building on each other's expertise and previous experiences with team members is a good strategy for coming up with rich ideas that could help address the design challenge, or look into the literature.

For example:

  • On the Empathy Games project it was very useful to brainstorm early in the process to clear expectations on the design and come up with ideas. My teammates and I had lots of great ideas that helped build an early draft of a storyboard. Further in the process, we narrow it down accordingly to the project's scope and goals.

From previous projects

Sometimes you don't have to start from scratch to generate ideas for a design. Work and research done on previous projects could inform the new design in different ways, and one of them is providing ideas to build on.

For example:

For the Telling Science project. I worked with a colleague that was working at the time on a project related to getting girls interested in STEM. I was working on developing an app for families (Curiosly). We decided to take ideas from both projects and jointly create new ones backing them up on the literature review for our new project!

From observations

Observing the learner population, observing designs in use

From iterations, prototyping and testing

Each iteration of testing and prototyping provides new ideas.