We have had an amazing relationship with the education experts and leaders at local Primary School, Ainslie School, for many years. So when they were very suddenly immersed in a rapid shift from so-called ‘regular school’ to something altogether different in Home Learning, they knew they needed, amongst other things, an artefact that would support the shift in service expectations.
The importance of an artefact in design – or, as we often say ‘something real to point at for reference’ – is that it provides a key role in change. It may be a visualisation, information design, a ‘poster’, or a source of digital images that can be dropped into any channel, but the point of it is:
- It has a specific audience of service users – we are after all service designers, not communications experts or graphic designers.
- It provides a defining position by the Maker for a point in time – that position might be to guide, help users make decisions, or give people a visualisation of how things actually are (such as an experience map).
- It is relatable on an experiential and human level – it must be understood in ‘plain English’ or appropriate audience jargon, but also must reflect the voice and intent of the Maker.
In discussion with Principal, Wendy Cave and Deputy Principal – Pedagogical Transformation, Sophie Bissell there were three key messages they wanted to express:
- Define exactly what ‘home learning’ was in a simple way (and also what it wasn’t)
- Describe how teachers and parents/carers could expect to connect practically over time – daily, weekly, per term.
- Provide Ainslie’s clear strategic foundations that underpin, not just this Home Learning service, but all of their education service delivery and expertise.
This artefact was about providing a level of confidence in parents/carers in the continuity of their child’s learning. But we wanted to also give them some ‘relief’ from the perception of expectation in their communities.
- Home Learning is the name of the service – not ‘Home Schooling’, not ‘Online Learning’, ‘Remote Learning’.
- We explicitly empathised with service users who may all be moving through different levels of response to the COVID-19 public health emergency as parents/carers, employees, and possibly newly/unexpectedly unemployed. This was without judgement or expectation that there is a ‘place’ to get to – the deception of the ‘new normal’ when the reality is we are moving through ‘right now’; the difference for the adults between ‘Working from Home’ and ‘Working from Home During a Crisis, Trying to Work’1.
- With the school approach to deliver ‘playful and sophisticated educations services’ this artefact must follow that with imagery and colours. Whether it was saved to the desktop of a computer or printed and put on the fridge, we wanted a lightness and ease of access about it.
Wendy and Sophie were able to consult with teachers and some parents before it was finalised. Since it’s distribution we’ve heard directly from teachers and parents:
“Love that poster – I have it over my computer right now”
“My parents love it – it’s really helped them”
And the Principal Association’s of South Australia and Victoria are sharing it with their members.
There are so many artefacts, messages, communications, all vying for our attention right now. But, success will not be measured the same way it was when things were normal.2 The measure of success for this artefact is:
- It has a specific audience of service users – So does it provide confidence to the primary audience?
- It provides a defining position by the Maker for a point in time – So does it support the Teacher relationship with their students, and their student’s Parent/Carer?
- It is relatable on an experiential and human level – Does it support people experiencing collective trauma to cope with the ‘now’?
1 and 2: Extract from a @ShaindelBeers tweet from her employer, Blue Mountain Community College, Oregon.