In the intricate dance of human societies, the interplay between individuals and the systems they inhabit is a central theme. This dynamic relationship is encapsulated in a fundamental concept known as the “structure-agency” debate, a cornerstone of sociological and anthropological thought.
The structure-agency debate explores the extent to which we, as individuals (agents), shape the systems (structures) we live in, and conversely, how these systems shape us. It’s a question of influence and control, of creation and adaptation.
Are we the architects of the systems that govern our lives, or are we products molded by these systems?Tweet
Consider the history of public education. A group of individuals, driven by the incentive to train people for the workforce, created a system that has since shaped generations, molding minds and influencing societal norms. But as we stand on the precipice of a new era, one dominated by artificial intelligence and technology, we must remember that we are not merely products of the system. We are its architects.
In the words of Seth Godin, “There’s no need to be a victim of a system that has outlived its usefulness. Instead, right here and right now, you have a chance to lead. To create the conditions for change. To enroll people in a journey that creates connections, dignity, and possibility. Leadership is a skill and an art, and it can be learned. We can lead together.”Tweet
In the realm of change management, numerous frameworks exist to guide us. While these can be valuable, they often require significant time and resources. Traditional workshops can span days or even weeks, demanding substantial commitment. In our fast-paced, technology-driven world, we need a new approach. One that merges evidence-based practices with the power of AI to accelerate the process of change.
Instead of spending days in a workshop, we can achieve the same outcomes in a fraction of the time. This isn’t about cutting corners or compromising quality. It’s about working smarter, not harder. AI tools allow us to process information, generate insights, and design solutions at a speed that wouldn’t be possible with traditional methods. In essence, we’re leveraging AI to do more with less – less time, less resources, and less stress. This approach allows us to focus on what truly matters: envisioning a better future, focusing on the right problems, and sparking meaningful change, faster than ever before.
This is the spirit that underpins our new framework: Speak AI. Stay Human. It’s a call to action, a rallying cry for us to seize the reins and shape the future of AI in a way that amplifies our humanity, rather than diminishes it. It’s a reminder that in a world increasingly driven by technology, our greatest advantage is our inherent human capacity for creativity, empathy, and connection.
As we introduce the different components of the Speak AI. Stay Human framework, we invite you to reimagine what’s possible. To envision a future where technology serves us, not the other way around.
At Designing Schools we see AI not as a threat, but as a tool that can unlock unprecedented opportunities for growth, innovation, and human connection.Tweet
The structure-agency debate reminds us that the future of education is not a rigid blueprint, but a dynamic architectural design. It’s a construction site, waiting for us to lay the foundation. So let’s put on our hard hats, and build a structure where we Speak AI, but always Stay Human.
Our framework consists of three components – DREAM, FOCUS, and SPARK – that provide a comprehensive set of exercises and strategies to reimagine the future of education, to shape the systems that govern our lives, and to unlock our human advantage in a technology-driven world.
DREAM: Futures Thinking in Education
Our journey begins with DREAM, a futures thinking approach that encourages us to envision the education system we desire. It’s about dreaming big, about stepping outside the confines of what is to imagine what could be. It’s about identifying our aspirational future, analyzing our present reality, and mapping the path from here to there. It’s about exploring diverse future scenarios and planning routes to each one. In the realm of DREAM, the future of education is not a fixed destination, but a spectrum of possibilities waiting to be explored.
FOCUS: Problem Framing in Education
From the broad envisioning of DREAM, we move to the focused problem framing of FOCUS. With our future landscapes established, FOCUS narrows our view to the current challenges, grounding the innovation process in real-world experiences and needs.
A brilliant solution to the wrong problem can be worse than no solution at all.
Solve the correct problem.
– Don Norman
FOCUS helps us do just that, shifting our perspective from business questions to human-centered ones, fostering a culture of innovation that’s not just strategic, but also responsive and meaningful to the people it serves.
SPARK: Solution Design in Education
The final stage of our journey is SPARK, where we shift from problem understanding to solution creation. SPARK is an advanced method of prompt engineering, using AI prompts to accelerate our ability to move from idea to impact, from aspirations to actions. SPARK takes the insights from DREAM and FOCUS and transforms them into actionable solutions. It’s about turning the human question from FOCUS into a tangible, transformative action plan. It’s about grounding innovation in empathy and aspiration, aiming for solutions that resonate with stakeholders and catalyze meaningful change.
In the world of SPARK, we don’t just dream of a better future – we build it. Through the power of AI and the art of prompt engineering, we can quickly and effectively translate our dreams and focuses into real, impactful actions. We can shape the systems that govern our lives, and in doing so, we shape ourselves. With SPARK, we harness the power of AI not as a replacement for our humanity, but as a tool to amplify it. We use AI to enhance our learning, to expand our possibilities, and to create a future of education that is more human, more compassionate, and more inspiring than ever before.
The Iteration of our Framework: From SPARK to DREAM, FOCUS, SPARK
Our initial journey began with SPARK, an advanced method designed to harness AI tools to generate desired outcomes. This powerful tool was our first step into the world of AI in education. However, as we continued to observe and learn, we realized a critical missing piece: the power of dreaming.
We noticed that while people were using AI tools to incrementally improve and speed up their existing tasks, they were rarely leveraging these tools to reimagine the ways they were working or learning. The prompts we saw people engaging with were basic, and the outcomes they were asking for were limited. It was as if people had forgotten how to dream. This observation presented a significant challenge. If we use AI within the structures we have, we risk perpetuating a system that graduates students who are more machine than human. We risk losing our jobs to automation. We risk missing the transformative potential of AI.
This realization led us to reflect on the wisdom of Don Norman, who said, “We must design for the way people behave, not for how we would wish them to behave.” True to the spirit of design thinking, we understood that iteration is a crucial part of the process. Putting SPARK out into the world was our first iteration, and the insights we gained from this experience allowed us to refine our approach.
Recognizing this, we added two critical components to our framework before SPARK: DREAM and FOCUS. DREAM, based on futures thinking, encourages us to envision the world we want to create. It invites us to dream big, to step outside the confines of what is and imagine what could be.
Once we have a vision for what we want, we then engage in FOCUS, a process of framing our problems. As Don Norman wisely said, “A brilliant solution to the wrong problem can be worse than no solution at all. Solve the correct problem.” FOCUS helps us do just that, shifting our perspective from business questions to human-centered ones.
Design thinking is not about getting it right the first time; it’s about learning, iterating, and improving. It’s about designing solutions that resonate with real human behavior and needs. With these three components – DREAM, FOCUS, and SPARK – we have a comprehensive framework that truly empowers individuals to shape the future of education in an AI-driven world. This framework represents our commitment to iterative design and our dedication to creating a system that amplifies our humanity rather than diminishes it.
What’s Next: Embrace Change and Make Your Mark
In the words of Steve Jobs, “Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you, and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. The minute you understand that you can poke life, and that if you push something in, something will pop out the other side.
That you can change it and you can mold it…that’s maybe the most important thing… Embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it. Once you learn that, you’ll want to change life and make it better. You’ll never be the same again.”
As we navigate the future of education in an AI-driven world, let’s remember that we are the architects of our own lives. We have the power to shape the systems that govern us, to reimagine the ways we work and learn, and to unlock our human advantage. Let’s embrace change, make our mark, and build a future where we Speak AI, but always Stay Human.
Bring AI Literacy to Your Organization
As we navigate the future of education in an AI-driven world, it’s clear that we need to equip ourselves with the tools and knowledge to shape this future effectively. This is not a journey we have to embark on alone. If you’re inspired by the potential of the DREAM, FOCUS, SPARK framework and want to bring its transformative power to your institution, we invite you to join our AI Bootcamp. This immersive program is designed to empower educators and leaders like you to harness the power of AI in a way that amplifies our humanity, rather than diminishes it.
Alternatively, if you’re interested in a more tailored approach, we also offer customized courses that can be brought directly to your campus. These courses are designed to meet the unique needs and challenges of your institution, providing targeted training that aligns with your specific goals and context. By joining the AI Bootcamp or bringing a customized course to your campus, you’re not just investing in your personal growth or the growth of your institution. You’re making a co
mmitment to shape the future of education, to create a system that graduates students who are more human than machine, and to unlock our human advantage in a technology-driven world.
I believe that the future should be designed. Not left to chance.
Over the past decade, using design thinking practices I've helped schools and businesses create a culture of innovation where everyone is empowered to move from idea to impact, to address complex challenges and discover opportunities.