Saturday, August 6, 2016



    After my year in Sleetmute, Alaska I was transferred to Hawaii where I worked as the designer of the Hawaii Curriculum Center. 

    The Center was a joint venture of the University of Hawaii’s School of Education and the State Department of Education. The mission: to develop creative educational materials specifically for the children of the State of Hawaii.

    This was actually my first design job, and while I had a degree in Industrial Design, I really had no experience in actually designing anything. But the Center was a wonderful place, full of very smart educators and psychologists totally dedicated to creating great new ideas for the classroom. I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time but  the products we were developing were based on 'peer-teaching' (kids learning from each other using our materials) were what we’d call ‘interactive’ today.

    One of my jobs was to take some rough prototype and make it so it looked and worked better. ‘Classroom management’ was also a big deal and if I could make it easier for the teacher to keep things together, I tried to incorporate that into the design. One of my most interesting experiences was with a product called PURPOSEFUL WRITING.

    PURPOSEFUL WRITING was a communication game where two kids would sit on either side of a divider on the table. There was a pocket on each side with cards that asked each kid to WRITE a message to the other kid and if that other kid could read, understand and do the requested task, the kid who wrote the message was therefore successful and would proceed to the next (more difficult) card.

    I made the divider into colored rainbows, blue on one side, red on the other and the cards had little colored stripes which 
corresponded to the side they were supposed to be on.

    The way things worked at the Center was that my design would be approved, made into a technical specification and bid package and  sent out to the local printers for competitive bids. Eventually a vendor would be selected and production began. We usually made a hundred or so 'prototypes' to test in our pilot schools all over the state. Usually the process took at least a couple of months and
I went on to my next project and pretty much forgot about it.

    Now The University of Hawaii had an Elementary School on its campus and one day, several months later, I happened to be walking by it and when I looked in, there on a table was ‘my’ PURPOSEFUL WRITING game being played by a group of tiny first graders. This was the very first time I saw a product that I had designed being actually used and without thinking I walked into the classroom and just stood there smiling, watching those kids writing, learning and enjoying themselves.

   The teacher, seeing this strange guy just standing there, was concerned and came over to me. “Can I help you?” she asked. Realizing that I had just intruded into her class I apologized and quickly introduced myself and explained that I worked at the Curriculum Center and that I had designed PURPOSEFUL WRITING and had never seen it in action before.

    The teacher smiled and nodded and, addressing the kids said, “Class, this is Stanley Resnicoff and he designed PURPOSEFUL WRITING.”

    These little kids all turned, looked up at me and then started to applaud with hands that were actually too small to make any sounds.

    I teared up. 

No comments:

Post a Comment