Crossing the streams

Alastair Somerville
8 min readOct 6, 2019

Jenny Theolin (@jennytheolin) asked this question on Twitter this week:-

If there was one digital education (programme or course) missing in the world, what would it be? Any competence you’re struggling to find talent for?

It relates to her deep work in User Experience (UX) and digital education at places like Berghs School of Communication.

There were a number of responses: teaching impact-centered rather than process-based UX came up strongly. This would be a good shift: the obsession with process and tool is a major problem with UX

This post is just a few ideas that the question raised from my perspective and in the work I’m doing and planning at the moment.

School and syllabus

A fake week planner for a UX course with subject topics

My family home-educate in the UK. We use a method called Unschooling.

What this basically means is we do not use a formal syllabus and we try to build education around the evolving interests of our children.

It also means we have to self-interrogate our intents and expectations about how and when learning happens. Both my wife and I were school-educated and that means we are patterned by ideas of teachers, school years, topics and syllabuses. The ideas that knowledge is dividable into specific silos, sliced into a specific order and then learnt over a specific timescale.

School and syllabus is a 19th century solidifiction of older ideas of pedagogy. It’s the industrialised and productised version of education.

It leads to odd arguments today:

  • Should STEM be STEAM?
  • Should everyone be taught to Code?
  • Did everything fall apart when Latin was taken off the syllabus?

Everything is tidily separate.

Everything is about subdividing knowledge acquisition over time.

Structure and control enable appropriate education.

This may be a fine pattern when preparing children for adult life and work (tho I’d be wary of that) but it certainly can be no way to enable adults as professionals to learn to work in complex and complicated realities.

Alastair Somerville

Sensory Design Consultant, usability researcher and workshop facilitator. Twitter @acuity_design & @visceralUX