Dream Project

Inspired by the Dream Project post idea here’s an attempt to flesh out just that.

I would like to work with several diverse groups of similarly aged children or young people. We would have two or three school days together to work  use a variety of design research methods to consider their preferred educational futures, We would do three things:

  1. Collaboratively create a speculative scenario focussed on an educational future. I would like to ground the stages of the work that follow in this co-created scenario (rather than simply presenting the children or young people with a scenario I have created).
  2. Respond to this scenario in a way that creatively articulates how they want education to be. The question remains to focus on one design research method or try and create a set of shorter activities utilising a variety of methods. The children/young people would work in smaller groups and have the opportunity to explore each others work.
  3. Create a public group display, statement or manifesto synthesising the children/young peoples work. Thereby giving them an authentic audience/outlet.
  4. A final fourth step might be to connect the different groups work to the current policy landscape. This could be done by utilising some type of trend map or final report.

An important part of this work is the diverse nature of the groups I would work with. Scotland – like any nation is diverse in all sorts of ways (geographic, cultural, socio-economic) there is an obligation to present the type of future forecasting I’m considering here in a way that reflects that diversity, rather than gloss over it.

This approach is inspired by a variety of sources discovered during my EFI courses and wider reading. These include:

  • Schooling, Education and Learning 2030 and Beyond (Published by Scottish Parliament & Scottish Futures Forum 2020)
  • Little Book of Speculative Design for Policy Makers (Imagination Lancaster 2020)
  • NESTA Playbook for People Power
  • The Future Everything Manual (Drew Hemment)

Making it concrete

grayscale photography of concrete blocksAs I get my project off the ground, one of the aspects I’m struggling with is context. I know generally what I want to work on, but I’m a little at a loss for how to ground it. More specifically I am trying to decide if it is best to ground using design research methods with children and young people to help them think about preferred educational futures in the general sense, or to tie it to a specific context. On the one hand having a very specific focus (for example influencing policy around a new pupil portfolio system) perhaps makes the work (for the children and young people involved) seem less abstract. On the other hand there is something appealing about keeping it general – it allows the methods to really be stress tested as it were…

Blog Task 2 – Methods & Research Design

a blank diagram of the double diamond service design model

Blank Double Diamond

What approach do you want to take to your research?

I know I want to look at how we might use design research methodology to help children and young people (C&YP) articulate their preferred educational futures. There are a few key questions I am currently working through. Namely:

  1. Do I concentrate on one method (for example using design fiction) or use a range?
  2. Do I concentrate on thinking about educational futures generally or take a specific practical element of educational policy currently being worked on? Here in Scotland we’re currently thinking how we might design and implement new forms of national assessment – specifically an e-portfolio for all learners aged 3-18. Using this approach my first question would again come into play do I use one method, or a range?
  3. More generally I have been struck by this article¹ on involving children in the design process. The authors argue for an understanding of children as protagonist and

encourage children to be the main agents in driving the design process and thereby to develop skills to design and reflect on technology and its role in their life. (Iversen et al, 2017)

In this was I think I can begin to make connections between design research and my ultimate goal of helping C&YP articulate their preferred futures.

What methods interest you?

Two two main strands are speculative and participatory methods. I think the Scottish Approach to Service Design is helpful here as it gives a formal, ethically appropriate approach to this work. Looking specifically at methods; design fiction and diegetic porotypes as well as storytelling around utopias seem promising as do more participatory methods like some of the activities from the Liberating Structures work as well as Lego Serious Play. I found NESTA’s Report Playbook For People Power a helpful overview on the practicalities of using some of these types of methods

What training or development are you pursuing to support your project and why? 

I’m very much coming at this as a teacher who is new to design research. To this end I am am grateful to have had the opportunity for some informal coaching from a colleague in the Scottish Government’s service design team who has experience of using exactly these methods in the educational futures space. I have also reached out to academics here at EFI who have been generous with time and advice.

I updated this title on 1-11-23 to make it clear the post was engaging with the research design task

¹Ole Sejer Iversen, Rachel Charlotte Smith, and Christian Dindler. 2017. Child as Protagonist: Expanding the Role of Children in Participatory Design. In Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Interaction Design and Children (IDC ’17). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 27–37.

Blog Task 1

a brutalist building with a large sign reading "the future"
Photo by Haley Truong on Unsplash


During the last academic year I was involved in creating and delivering the  pupil engagement sessions for the Scottish Government’s National Discussion on Education. While we had huge numbers of learners (26,000) take part and many pieces of evidence (20,000) submitted, sifting through the evidence, it was clear that children and young people struggled to articulate their preferable futures when it came to education. They had definite ideas about the liked and didn’t like about the present, but they didn’t have the tools or language to express what the future might look like.

Taking EFI courses last year showed me how design research methodologies might be one set of tools to help young people articulate educational futures. I want my project, therefore, to do exactly that. As I wrote in my last post:

Broadly speaking my interest is in using design research methods (particularly speculative design) to involve children and young in the creation of education futures. Following on from that I’m keen to explore how both how these methodologies might be usefully “packaged” so that teachers and other educators might use them, and how the outputs from might be used to inform policy making.

As I flesh this out further I have more questions than answers:

  • There is clearly too much in my initial ideas for one project – how best to narrow the scope?
  • I want to explore a range of participatory design methods, how best to do that?
  • There is part of me that is unconvinced in tying the use of these methods exclusively to “plan” the future. In other words, is a better approach to use these methods not to simply to help adults create a future policy direction, but instead to help children and young people make meaning of their present situations?

Introductory Post

Being in my 2nd year of the course my thoughts are both beginning to take shape and going off all sorts of tangents at the same time!

Broadly speaking my interest is in using design research methods (particularly speculative design) to involve children and young in the creation of education futures. Following on from that I’m keen to explore how both how these methodologies might be usefully “packaged” so that teachers and other educators might use them, and how the outputs from might be used to inform policy making.

There is clearly too much in there for one Masters level project and I’m hoping, as we begin the supervision sessions, to narrow things down.