'I wondered, 'How can design advance our systems of education?''
Back in 2003, when I taught visual communications at Washington University in St. Louis, I realized that there was a big gap between what my students understood about world events, what the world demanded of them and how prepared they were to engage with the world. The expansion of technology gave them access to information like never before in history; yet it became increasingly clear that our K-12 system was not keeping pace with these changes. My students felt overwhelmed.
I wondered, “How can design advance our systems of education?” This epiphany led me to imagine what I could do with my capabilities as a designer. I felt the best way to explore this question was to step out of teaching and enter a graduate program that would prepare me to tackle this question.
I discovered the Learning, Design and Technology (LDT) program at Stanford and intuitively knew that it would be the best program for me. After all, design was at the center of this program, and I thrived in an environment where I didn’t just think about things, but also made things.
One of the core requirements of the LDT program was an internship. I was, admittedly, bummed about this since I had been working for 10 years and wanted to take a year off from work. Nonetheless, I arranged an internship at IDEO, a global design firm which, ironically, offered as much opportunity to learn and grow as Stanford did.
Today, 13 years later, I am a partner at IDEO. I feel very fortunate to be a part of shaping new answers to edgy problems, such as:
- Designing an affordable, scalable school system in Peru to create new opportunities for the emerging middle class
- Creating tools to help first-generation college students persist through graduation
- Developing a global program for middle school students to help them realize that they can make a difference in their communities
All of this really began at Stanford, where I was able to step back a bit in my career, reflect on what I was most passionate about, build new skills and knowledge and make new friends. The GSE enabled me to put all those pieces together into a whole new trajectory that I would have never imagined.
I continue to collaborate closely with the many friends that I made at Stanford, and return often as a program advisor, to teach classes at the GSE and the d.school and to connect with current LDT students as they develop their masters projects.
Sandy Speicher earned an MA in Learning, Design and Technology in 2005. She is a partner and managing director of education practice at IDEO.