Week 2 – Assignment

Dan Sawada

Phase 1 – Discovery

  1. Environments
    • In a car
    • In a airplane
    • In a library
  2. Activities
    • While driving
    • While flying
    • While riding a bus
  3. Interactions
    • Read
    • Listen
    • Fabricate
  4. Objects
    • Book
    • Lego blocks
    • Web sites
  5. Users
    • School girls
    • College students
    • Business person

Phase 2 – Interpretation

Normally, business persons and students have to commute from home to their work or school, either on a bus or car, or some kind of transportation device. During transit is a perfect occasion for people to get engaged in learning. For instance, students might check in on a list of vocabulary to prepare for their upcoming tests. Business persons might go to their iPad to read the latest stock market updates. Using technology to make the most out of the time in transit would be crucial, given the busy environment of our everyday lives.

Learning all the time

Qazi Fazli Azeem – Week 2 Assignment

IDEO challenge for brainstorming: how do we build platforms for learning at the Media Lab that extend beyond the physical Media Lab community?

“Discovery” phase (ethnographic process)

a) environments: where learning occurs
1) During Transportation (in bus, plane, train, car, walking, public spaces)
2) Traditional learning environment (boardroom, auditorium, lab, office, classroom, library, bedroom, quiet space)
3) Informal relaxed space (inside a cafe/during coffee break, forest, near water, beach, camp site, public square, lobby, garden)
b) activities: people engage with in learning
1) Listen/See (Those who concentrate using their senses, eyes to see, ears to hear)
2) Participate/Contribute (talking and adding their views, perspectives)
3) Share/Teach/Present ( present learning, share expertise and learning)

c) interactions: that lead to learning
1) Think/Reflect (thinking what they learnt)
2) Talking and Discussing  (discussions – open)
3) Trying things practically (making, trying)

d) objects involved in the learning process
1) Artifacts (presentation objects that can be used to infer a story)
2) Record keeping tools (pencil, paper, pen) to augment memory
3) Reference artifacts (books, external materials) for additional immersion
e) and users
1) People who NEED to learn (students, professors, technical professionals – eg doctors, engineers)
2) People who WANT to learn (those who cant afford it, those who can afford it, those with time, geography, social restrictions)
3) People who are underserved and need to learn for positive life change (prisoners, people with disabilities, women in developing countries)

Aspects of Learning

People learn in environments where they are encouraged to explore and experiment.
1) Science kits
2) Museums with AR applications
3) Do-it-yourself

People learn best when they are intrinsically motivated.
1) Project-based learning
2) Set personal goals
3) Reflect on learning experiences

People learn best when they believe they can do it.
1) Mentoring
2) Scaffolding
3) Peer-to-peer interactions

Help construct knowledge and track achievements.
1) Self-tracking tools
2) Computers & mobile devices
3) Creative use of objects around them

Curious minds.
1) Tinkerers
2) Students
3) Scientists


  • Environments: Civic spaces, private spaces, and virtual spaces.
  • Activities: Sense-making, rehearsing, and failing.
  • Interactions: Seeking, questioning, and connecting,
  • Objects: Tools, evocative objects, and media
  • Users: The puppy, the job-seeker, and the dead end


Environments: Learning can happen anywhere. Some environments are better served for making you reflect on your learning and connecting you with others. Environments where risk-taking is available and safe(ish) is also key.

Activities: Only the last part of learning looks like success. Mostly, learning is a mess and making meaning is hard, by yourself and with others, especially as the ideal state is that everyone has changed by the end of the process.

Interactions: While these terms could be applied to technological systems, I chose interactions that could be conducted between people. I just don’t buy that our brains have changed that much over time—we intrinsically seek each other and to solve problems.

Objects: I find this to be a strange one, but I gave it a shot. Much of the learning we do with our bodies is neglected and left unstudied, but the wonder we derive from the physical world is a key component of learning. Similarly, the physical expertise craftspeople develop with tools is a great reminder of how thinking can get in the way, but how we must sometimes unlearn what we have learned to use a tool better or achieve a new insight.

Users: People seeking the Media Lab brand for learning, an expertise  that may not be fully established, will attract some obvious typologies. The enthusiastic but uncritical puppy must not be disappointed. The job seeker (and other pragmatists) must feel confident that their time is not being wasted. The dead end must be shaken awake from her student-as-repository model and inducted into the messy world of learning from and teaching to others.

Learning through Action and Examples


1) Practicing new skills

Practicing new skills

2) Singing

Schoolhouse Rock

3) Role play

Role Play


1) Laptop/iPad

What Not to Wear

2) Build to learn rapidly

Build to learn

3) Build to learn with new technology

3D Printing


1) Meeting new people

Meeting new people

2) Building on the ideas of others

Building on the ideas of others

3) Exchanging Stories


1) Collaborative spaces

Collaborative spaces

2) Spaces that inspire learning


3) At home


1) People that want to solve wicked solve problems/change the world

2) The experimenters


3) The curious


Hermione, Curious George, and the Dude…

While this activity came fairly naturally in last week’s session, I did not know where to begin when I reread the assignment. How do we build platforms for learning at the Media Lab that extend beyond the physical Media Lab community?



This question is so big!  As I desperately tried to cling to one of those 19 words to find refuge from the overwhelmingness of that task, I was finally struck by a simple realization – the end goal of these new platforms is to serve actual people.  People with goals, interests, time commitments, jobs, families, favorite foods, spirit animals, bucket lists, and unfathomable depth.  In order to gain insight into their lives, I had to walk in their shoes and see through their eyes.  I present you with three potential end users and the the AEIO of their learning (and I guarantee you know someone that would fit the profile of each persona):

User Number 1: The Ambitious Type A’s (Hermione Granger)


Hermione says: “A course from the brilliant minds at MIT, oh wow, sign me up!  I think I can schedule that between my 1pm and 3pm every other Thursday!

User Number 2: The Playful & Inquisitive (Curious George)


George says: “That was such an interesting TED talk you recommended. I searched for more information online and wound up reading for 3 hours about that topic…

User Number 3: The Inadvertent Learners (The Dude)

The Dude says: “I was wandering around the park and stumbled upon this pop up science fair.  Turns out that the sun is made through the fusion of hydrogen into helium…the sun is just a giant ball of gas!”

Placing ourselves in each of these characters’ shoes gives us insight into when and how they learn (NOTE: these are neither mutually exclusive nor collectively exhaustive):

 User Environments where learning occurs Activities people engage with in learning Interactions that lead to learning Objects involved in the learning process
Hermione  Structured environments that promote or showcase learning – she attends because she thinks she knows it all She sets tangible learning goals for herself Competition with peers challenges her and pushes her to excel Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, riddles, brainteasers, games in general 
George  Informal and accessible settings, (such as internet communities, blogs)- he reads them for entertainment and can do so from the comfort of his own home He makes connections to peers and events that are relevant to his current topic of interest Accountability – he likes learning, but needs to be motivated by his peers (“dragged” to events, “feeling obligated” to participate in a club or group project, etc.) to ensure he takes it to the next step Mobile phone and tablet – he loves looking things up immediately whenever he doesn’t know or understand something… which naturally leads him to click on 7 or 8 suggested links after that
The Dude  In his face – he doesn’t mind learning if it happens at the exact moment he wants to do it Humor (cracking jokes, making contemporary references) actually helps him remember a lot of information Personal discussions – late night, happy hours, in line at the grocery store Beer & Pizza (external motivation) – serves as fodder for him to show up, stay out, and talk with new people

Final Thought: 


In creating these new platforms, I think we must separate the different audiences we are trying to reach.  Each will require a unique level of engagement and method of interaction from the intended learners.

Informal, unprompted learning.

It doesn’t happen very often, but my last trip to the car wash gave me a lot to think about.  I got to witness brief interactions between two employees that got me thinking about all the teaching and learning we do on a daily basis, without even noticing it.  Reflecting on this experience inspired me to look at spaces or environments where people are learning from each other in either informal ways, or ways that we wouldn’t traditionally associate with learning.

1 everyday social interactions: Car Wash Employees

I couldn't catch a picture of the two employees talking,  so bear with me and imagine them standing right past that window.

I couldn’t catch a picture of the two employees as they were talking, so bear with me and imagine them standing right past that window, which is exactly where they were.

environment: An informal place within a workspace.

activities: People at work but also engaging in social activities.

interactions: Partnership between one Haitian immigrant and one Salvadorian immigrant.   I witnessed the Salvadorian man help his Haitian co-worker say the word “better” in a more “american” way.  They walked together to my car, when a women with a stroller walked by and waved at the Salvadorian man.  He waved back.  He then looked at the Haitian man and said with a broad smile “You can say hi too!”  He waved his hand “hi” while making eye contact with him, to communicate that it was ok to say hi to people in the neighborhood.

objects: none.

users: Majority group of Salvadorian immigrants and one Haitian immigrant.  Both use English as a second (or presumably even third) language.

The two men, right after the second conversation I observed.

The two men, right after the second conversation I observed.

My Interpretation-
People learn, even in challenging situations (in this case, where one person doesn’t speak the language), with the help of other people in their environment.  People can learn valuable information about how to navigate a new space (in this case, in the form of social norms) in informal situations.  



2 social media:  Teachers at an elementary school using social media to build an online learning community.  

 Diana twitter Ashley twitter Laura Arce twitter


environment: digital, twitter.

activities:  teachers using social media to share their work with their colleagues and with parents.

interactions: Teachers share pictures of their classroom work and activities with other teachers, administrators, and parents.  In addition to sharing pictures, they include questions which could help other teachers plan for similar lessons or activities.  Some pictures, for example, are meant to showcase something the teacher might be particularly proud of.

objects: smartphones, computers, maybe even cameras.

users: teachers, administrators, presumably parents.


 My interpretation-

People learn by sharing ideas with each other.  My theory is that, when given the choice, teachers would showcase their best work, or work are the most proud of.  Therefore, a community like this one is likely to hold exemplars of teaching and learning that other teachers might learn from as well.  The network is informal, as it is not moderated or mandated by administrators or other guidelines, and still it is a valuable tool for peers to learn from each other. 



3  play:  Students rise to the challenge.

marshmellow chalenge

environment: Harvard Graduate School Education, Askwith Lecture Hall

activities: students were challenged to build the tallest structure possible, with a limited supply of spaghetti noodles, tape, some string, and a marshmellow (which they had to put on top of the structure they built).

interactions:  students worked in groups, with no predesignated roles, to complete the challenge.  The activity resembeled much more of a game and much less of a traditional, curriculum-centered learning experience.

objects: spaghetti noodles, marshmellow, string, tape, measuring tape, smartphones to document the experience.

users: students, teaching fellows, professor.

My interpretation-

People learn by working in teams to build something.  The process of building or constructing an artifact helps people immerse themselves in the challenge.  As a result, the participants of the learning experience feel invested in their learning.  The limited number of resources helps bring out people’s creativity.  


Week 2

Girls and Science Education: Extending learning beyond MIT Media lab community to engage more girls in science

Environment: where girls can learn about science in a fun way

  • Online: browsing science websites for kids (discovery kids, NASAkids etc.)
  • Home: conducting science experiments with everyday objects
  • Mall: the makeup counter at the mall may be a good place to learn the ‘science’ behind cosmetics

Activities: Girls learn science if they are engaged and do not feel judged

  • Sleepovers (a science camp may sound boring but a science sleepover!!)
  • Cooking can be a fun way to learn about plants and food, to learn measurements, and to follow (recipe) instructions carefully
  • Playing science games online or even creating ‘apps’ with friends

Interactions: girls learn better if their interactions are gender neutral/ gender sensitive

  • Teachers: when girls can connect with their teachers in a positive way
  • Parents: when parents engage with girls and encourage them to view science as fun
  • Peers: when being interested in science is not a cause for rejection by friends

Objects: any object can become a tool for learning about science

  • Household objects
  • Cosmetics
  • Computers/smart phones/tablets

Users: girls

  • K-12 school girls
  • Girls from low-income families
  • Teachers and parents


Blurring the Lines

– Environments rich in engaging content, new information, same information in a new light
– Environments free of judgement, competition, inhibition
– Environments encouraging curiosity, creativity, interpretations, with a promise of betterment
– Learning the meaning of a word on Merriam-Webster
– Learning a cake recipe on Food Network
– Reading a biography on Wikipedia
– Introduction to Artificial Intelligence on EdX
– Daily interactions with friends, family
– Formal education with instructors, mentors
– Encounters with strangers or self-reflection leading to epiphanies
– Mediums of content delivery
– Props for hands-on learning
– User creations that are an evidence of learning
– Active users seeking to learn something specific
– Passive users drawing learnings from daily engagements and reflections
– Accidental users learning by observing others
Interpretation: Learning transcends all boundaries, all restrictions. It is the sole vehicle for sustainable evolution, from one generation to another, from one way of life to another. So should platforms of delivery.  Learning needs to be clean, simplistic, seamless and transformational. Learners learn best when the focus is shifted onto the purpose and relevant content. Mode of delivery, sophistication of curriculum or use of technology only serves to augment inherently rich content, not replace it.


Learning happens best when it is a byproduct of having fun


  • Starting a new business
  • Launching a new product
  • Creating robots for fun


  • Workplace
  • Home
  • Lab


  • Market feedback
  • Teams
  • Purchasing parts from a hobby store


  • Raspberry Pi
  • Laptop
  • Lego


  • Children
  • Robotics Experts
  • Employees


  • People learning by doing
  • Learning happens everywhere, and is a lifelong activity
  • Each interaction is an opportunity for learning

Insight: Learning happens best when it is a byproduct of having fun i.e. when it is not the goal in itself, but happens accidentally in the process of achieving another goal.