Week 7

To celebrate Global Service design Jam, I decided to do a Mini Jam with my students.

After all, thanks to the GSJam ... I met many like-minded folks who eventually became my core team members of SDN NYC. I want to make sure the spirit of jam lives within the best of my ability, given we're not throwing an actual Jam at NYC this year. Moreover, I want my students to experience the fun of the jam, so that they know Service Design is fun :)

In case you're unfamiliar with what the service design jam is about. Our conventional knowledge of a jam is about music. To jam is to improvise music without extensive preparation or predefined arrangements! A service design jam is basically the same except you jam about a service. To explain the concept further, below is the official definition for the GSJam site —

"Imagine a Jam session in music. You come together, bringing your instruments, your skills, your open mind. Someone sets up a theme, and you start to Jam around it. You don't overanalyse it, you don't discuss it to death, you Jam. You bounce your ideas off other people, and play around with what comes back. Together, you build something which none of you could have built alone. And at the same time, you are learning new ideas, discovering more about how you work and whom you best work with, sharpening your skills, and having a great time. And who knows, maybe there are one or two ideas there which might make it to the next album. Or maybe you Jammed so well, you decide to form a band..."

While I was very excited to orchestrate the jam, I did face a couple of logistical uncertainties since I've never done a virtual jam before. Should I prepare them a research packet, given it's not as easy to go out there to intercept strangers for interviews? Are they going to be "okay" with a secret theme (which is the GSJam tradition) or I should give them something concrete? And how are we going to prototype a service virtually? I am used to grabbing materials from recycling bins and prototype... do I want to ask students to do another storyboarding? What other ways they can prototype virtually? All these questions marks were on my mind...

As always, I know the best way to learn (aside from prototyping) is to crowdsource ideas. I did my initial research on social media to see which group (in the world) has done a virtual jam this past year. For the ones I heard back, I set up 1:1 calls to learn about their experience in preparation and execution. While most of the ideas were valuable, I soon realized I could not replicate their approach because 1) my students already have "some" prior knowledge of service design (and have done DT bootcamp with me) and 2) the limited short amount of time we have in the class which is different from most other virtual jams. And of course, most importantly, the goal of the jam is slightly different from other virtual jams. Many of the jams served a purpose for people to meet, network, and create something fun. The goal of my jam is for students to go through the design process and prepare them for their final project. As a result, I started from scratch :) Unlike my usual keynote slides, I created a completely different theme because I wanted to demonstrate a different tone of the class session! I prepared a presentation to talk about why we jam and a brief jam history with video clips. I also created my own "ambiguous theme" as well as some concrete examples in case students want to see them (and to my surprise, no one wanted the concrete examples, they eventually explored and brainstormed on their own). I also encouraged students to role play their service story rather than showing a storyboard (which wow they all did a really great job within the limited amount of the time they had)

With the "surprised theme" provided, I explained to students the sequence of events they could do in the first hour and the second hour of the jam. I provided them a Mural canvas for them to go through the steps. After the first hour, I brought them back into the main room and showed them a prototype I did when I was a student to inspire them with their role-play prototype. Then I sent them back to their breakout rooms to carry on the activities for the second hour.

During this process, I got worried whenever I didn't see any activities in Mural but as I visited them in their breakout rooms, I soon learned that they were all carrying great discussions which were something you don't get to see in Mural :)

While I was worried if role-playing out the service is too much of a challenge, I was very surprised and impressed when I visited their breakout rooms and learned they were all rehearsing their ideas! No one was stuck and in fact everyone was laughing and enjoying the process of acting out the service!

When it's the show time, my mind was blown away because both teams did an amazing job to articulate their stories and were super resourceful with any materials they had in hand to help them tell the stories. Some students used artifacts they made for other classes to be part of their skit while some just simply made a quick prototype to show. I was also very impressed in their storytelling where they incorporated the value proposition (which is something they haven't learned) and thought through the end-to-end journey including troubleshooting!

In their retrospective, I learned that students really enjoyed hands-on activities like this. They also cherish the time they get to spend with their classmates (which is something I've learned for weeks). Moreover, many students said this is one of their favorite classes.

The next time I do a jam, I want to make sure to incorporate time for "feedback" session. I also want to make sure to include time for debriefing, so that students can explain to each other what their creative process was. Overall, I'd say my first virtual jam was a success and I'm glad I decided to keep the jam instead of replacing it with a lecture!

P/S Using Spotlight in Zoom was super helpful when students are role-playing because we can clearly see who's presenting. Thanks to Vandad for teaching me this new feature from our class 5. I also shared this tip with other educators that I've connected and interested in having their students role-played in class after I've tried it in this jam :)

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