Portal Schools x Wavetable: Edutainment 3.0 Design Challenge

Building a career-connected learning initiative for young people

“This is the first time I’ve seen anyone reference a techno DJ on LinkedIn - and make it relevant”

That was the first time I encountered Ivan Cestero. I’d just posted a riff about how the international DJ and record label owner John Digweed had got his career start. Ivan saw it (thanks, algorithm) and got in touch.

Over the following months, we had a bunch of energizing conversations covering the future of education, career-connected learning, entrepreneurship… and yes, electronic music.

During this time, Ivan started a new role at Portal Schools. Portal is on a mission to revolutionize the future of school to dramatically impact the pursuit of happiness and economic mobility for the next generation.

Their network of micro schools deliver high school, college, and career immersion all in one place, and each microschool houses no more than 60 students per campus.

The Provocation

As part of their innovative career-connected learning initiative, Ivan and his team wanted students to practice complex problem solving & gain insight on professional practice.

They spun up ‘Portal Consults’, immersive design challenges with local and global industry partners.

Working from custom briefs, student teams would use design thinking and entrepreneurship tools to develop and present solutions, documenting their journeys along the way.

Having explored our Edutainment 3.0 trend report, Ivan sensed there was an exciting opportunity to bring students into the world of edutainment.

Would we like to become an industry partner?, he asked.

Design Thinking?
Career-Connected Learning?
Scenario Challenges?
Empowering Young People?

Using the Derek Sivers' decision making framework - this one was a Hell, Yes.

The Setup

The list of partners was impressive:
* Portal’s campus hosts Belkin
* boutique creative agencies in LA & London
* an international NGO
* a major university 
* a major social media company
* ed tech startups
* a film director

Oh yeah, and us.

Over the course of a few weeks, we worked with Ivan to co-create a brief for the students, based on our Edutainment 3.0 report, but applying its insights into the real world.

This was harder than it looked. We needed to find the the balance between simplicity and ease of access for a group of young people who hadn’t done a project like this before, along with enough depth to make the project interesting and challenging enough.

It turned out V4 of our Google Doc was the one.

We pulled out some key insights and case studies from the report [see footnote 1], framed them around the trends of ‘Brands as Educators’ and ‘Tackling Wicked Problems’ - using H&M as our sample client.

Our provocation:

How might we use edutainment to highlight what comes after fast fashion, and present this to a brand like H&M?

In Action

Over the course of 4 weeks, student teams worked on the brief - following a design thinking process from research and ideation through to problem and solution definition to prototyping and presenting.

Team Calendar
Team Roles

Each team had to deliver both a prototype of their solution, and an 8 minute presentation to the rest of the class, their teachers, and the pro partners.

Each week, we worked with our student team to help guide through the process, answer their (very good) questions, coach them on challenges they were facing, and provide creative direction and feedback on their ideas.

The Result

Tuning in on Zoom, we were nervous and excited when our team went up to pitch. They seemed relaxed - we were probably more nervous than they were.

They hadn’t shared their final concepts with us beforehand, and we got more than one surprise.

There was a live trivia game, demo of a prototype of an app, AND a fully produced edutainment TV news show. All produced in less than 2 weeks!

Check out the full rundown here:

The Payoff

As with any design thinking process, where we ended up looked very different to where we started, but we couldn’t help but notice how both the ideas and the students grew during the process.

Students and the Portal team both reported a significant uplift in what Portal measure as “Creative Confidence”, and we’ve already got plans to extend the project into a second phase - as well as bringing in students to help us extend the Edutainment 3.0 report into new terrain.

Lucky I posted that riff about John Digweed…

[1] Some of the best in class case studies we sharedincluded:

Go Henry – UK Bank for teenagers - cash app + financial education. 
How edutainment is featured: customizable, in-app lessons about investing, credit and budgeting,  and gamified dynamics. 

Miss Excel. TikTok teacher sharing tips and tricks on how to use Excel more effectively.
How edutainment is featured: humor and high energy presenting skills to make a difficult and sometimes dense topic, fun and engaging. 

Skam: This teen drama is similar was critically acclaimed for its handling of issues like homophobia, sexual assault, and mental illness. It also layers content into multiple formats and platforms. 
How edutainment is featured: adding narrative, storytelling and character development, for developing greater empathy.

NikeLab x Virgil Abloh: the NikeLab Re-Creation Center. Hosted in Abloh’s hometown of Chicago, the center offered free creative workshops for local youth, and 10 creatives received eight-week mentorships.
How edutainment is featured: this example follows a trend of Brands as Neo-educators, companies giving audiences a behind-the-scenes look at their business. They did this through active learning (workshops), facilitating an immersive experience (access to a design studio) and  learning from experts from a wide range of fields. This example sits at the intersection of marketing, innovation and active learning. 

Garnier x National Geographic: Garnier’s Green Beauty launched an educational campaign that’s dedicated to sustainable consumption.
How edutainment is featured: co-created content that features a high level of production value while addressing topics important to Garnier’s commitment to sustainability.

Featured Work

Portal Schools x Wavetable: Edutainment 3.0 Design Challenge
Building a career-connected learning initiative for young people
Wasserman x Wavetable: Creating a team Off-Site that’s worth the 2 year wait
Fostering fresh thinking, new connections and co-creation vibes for a global leader in experiential marketing
Portal Schools x Wavetable: Edutainment 3.0 Design Challenge
Building a career-connected learning initiative for young people
Accelerator Program
NYC.gov x Wavetable: AMP NYC accelerator program
Designing AMP NYC: New York’s finest small business accelerator.
Product Marketing
Amplitude x Wavetable: Product Education goes interactive
Co-creating new paths to community engagement with product evangelist John Cutler.
Live Experience
XP Conference x Wavetable: Experiential Workshop Program
Co-creating the future of MENA’s creative industry at the inaugural XP Conference
Learning Ecosystem
DIG x Wavetable: DIG Academy
Making small bets to develop a category-defining education platform for a mission-driven cooking company
DIG x Wavetable: CIT Orientation
Creating an interactive game-filled Orientation for new hourly employees

Let’s get down to business.

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