When a Plan Comes Together

Since Phil Holcombe’s Monday discussion with our classes on the value and methods of branding, we’ve been discovering the common signals that seem to emanate from the documents we’ve explored about this class and others like it.

Today we got to the point where the two classes had (as smaller groups) defined their common signals and studied the common signals in light of our mission, vision, and values.


The students were helped along in their evolution of thought by the creation of Point-of-View statements, each group receiving a different stakeholder to design a persona for.   One group received notice that their user was a student who knew nothing about NOVA Lab.  Another group received a member of the school board who knew little about the class.  And another was asked to create the persona for an administrator in the building who knew something but not much.

The magic in the creation of these personas was beautiful.  I wasn’t sure how the trip would be taken by the different groups, but I was sure we’d end up closer to understanding our brand and our marketing task.  And I wasn’t wrong.

The group who was given the generic character of a student who knew next to nothing about NOVA Lab came up with:

“The inquisitive, perplexed, dynamic) high school student needs to find a course that makes him/her feel that their ideas matter because it will make them feel secure in combining their creativity with their academics.”

This was amazing because it shows a good deal of empathy* for a group of people who are not even in our class but who very-well should be.  They nailed the “feel” section of the statement as well.

Another group who had received “a parent of a student thinking about the class” created this persona:

The skeptical, weary parent needs to attain information in a way that makes him/her feel reassured because she is unsure whether the class is productive or not.

I pointed this out to the students, but here I want to say two things.  First, I’ve learned so much by listening to and watching the creation of these statements.   Students dug into their own experiences or revealed discussions they’d had with peers or faculty, all in an effort to help make what we do in NOVA Lab more transparent and move it from something people take because they believe in the concept to something they will take because of the things we DO.

361gwdWe’ve started the doing, and if this is any indication of the capabilities of this community of learners, I’m going to be writing a boatload of effusive posts.

We’ll be putting the branding on hold, most likely, until we have a number of student projects in the hopper.  Following the question of one of my students about “How do you design for something that you don’t even have yet?” Phil Holcombe’s response was “give it time and space”

And so we shall.

*  Of course, if we want to be a stickler about it, this is very low-level empathy building, and the kids know it.  The next step (and some of them already talked about it) would be to go out and do empathy interviews with the different people behind their persona’s.  But I don’t want to turn this, at least not right now, into a year-long project in brand creation.  If some of the students want to devote time to that because the learning they are taking away from it feeds their ideas for their future college or career lives, that’s great. 

Published by Garreth Heidt

Designerly Minded High School Humanities and Liberal Studies Teacher Faculty Mentor FIRST Robotics Team #7414--PV Retrobotics. Constantly learning, trying to be more a maker and less a consumer of culture. I believe in the infinite value of a liberal education and the power of design thinking to help make the world a better place.

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