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Learn and understand each other better through stories

An online platform that uses real-world experiences as shared learning contexts to build intercultural knowledge, empathy and engagement.

Photo of Ning De-Eknamkul
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The Context

Increasing racial, socioeconomic and cultural diversity meant that students enter the classroom with a diverse range of backgrounds, needs and goals. Students living in marginalized areas may struggle academically and emotionally due to the effects of poverty and discrimination. While students living in affluent communities don't share the same negative experiences, they may suffer a similar degree of helplessness in the face of challenges outside their comfortable environment. A curriculum focused on testing and academic achievements alone cannot bring forth grit, understandings and purpose for students with increasingly diverse experiences. 

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The Problem

"As a student myself, I can definitely attest to the fact that the formal education system tends to have a narrow perspective and can often overlook the life skills that can be gained from interacting with a diverse set of peers."

1. Formal education system provides limited space and opportunity for diversifying perspectives and developing intercultural knowledge and empathy.

2. Social culture of school (e.g. Lunch table cliques) is often not conducive to connected learning, collaboration, and interaction with a diverse set of peers. 

3. School learning is often disconnected from the contexts of relationships, shared practice, culture, and identity where young people find meaning, social connection and empathy. Students are not engaging.

My solution is to provide an adaptive and collaborative platform that uses real-world stories and experiences as shared learning contexts to build intercultural knowledge, empathy and engagement.

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My goals are to:

1) Create the intellectual sweet spot -- a space that enables meaningful interaction and collaboration between learners by leveraging the compatibility of their different interests and needs.

Based on my prototype experiments, this is where two learners share a common vision (e.g. improving education) and exchange similar or different perspectives on that particular area of interest. This connected learning enables learners to develop "21st Century skills" such as systems thinking, problem solving, critical thinking, adaptability, self-direction and empathy.

2) Marry culturally and personally relevant content (e.g. stories and arts) with useful tools of learning and thinking. The long-term mission is to afford students with both the tools to drive deep learning and the flexibility to adapt and affect meaningful changes in the world.

Concept: Tap what is important in students’ diverse worlds to establish relevance and trigger curiosity

True learning happens within the optimal zone between what we know and what we don’t know–where unfamiliar experiences validate or challenge our own familiar beliefs.

Based on this concept, the platform meets learners exactly where they are in terms of their interests, knowledge and experiences. The system provides each student with appropriate learning materials by establishing a connection between her interests and learning goals. 

The system uses this intellectual sweet spot to set up a self-driven learning framework in which each student learns about new things she's curious about in the context of what she already knows. 

The hypothesis is that once students identify how new information applies to existing knowledge structures, their knowledge or lived experiences, they are inspired to question current assumptions about their world, engage with the observed issues, and work out ways to improve them. 

How it works: Match what I don’t know with what you know

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You can read more about how it works in the original submission of my idea here.


User Journeys

System and Curriculum Modeling

UX Overview and Features

Design Exploration

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Envisioned Use Case Model


In higher ed settings, I envisioned the idea being used in several ways. Here are some examples:

  • Provide interactive contexts for group or individual project sessions and classroom discussions
  • High school may offer a "Reading the World" class which immerses students in the understanding and evaluation of new different perspectives and sharing of stories/experiences.
  • Teachers use learning data derived from the platform (e.g. what topic are my students most engaged in, what real-world examples my class have been exposed to) to tailor instruction and design lesson plans.
  • Teachers facilitate student's self-directed learning, for example by recommending how their interests and goals can shape their learning path and what courses or action they might take to further their understanding.
  • High school advisors/mentors and students can use the platform as a foundation for discussing student's potential academic or professional career e.g. in what areas might you see yourself making an impact and for what reasons.

Design and Implementation Challenges 
The OpenIDEO community has helped refine my idea by raising potential design and implementation challenges. Issues include:

  • Accessibility
  • Incentivizing contribution
  • Credibility of platform and moderation of content
  • Assessment Methods
  • Algorithms Tuning
  • In person vs online interaction

I plan to address these challenges through future user tests and prototypes. You can read more about how I plan to address them here.

Light Weight Prototypes

Prototype #1: Field Interviews - Summary and Insights

During the first two weeks of the Refinement phase, I set out to talk to a diverse set of 18-24 years old students. The main goal of the conversations was to get more insight into a variety of student experiences and challenges and validate my hypothesis that the incentive to interact with others at a deep level is the key to building intercultural knowledge and empathy.

Prototype #2: Interactive Storytelling - Demo

As part of project development, I had the opportunity to connect with one of OpenIDEO's community prototypers, Daniel. During our talk, we exchanged our ideas, backgrounds, stories and goals. The conversation made me realize that we are the two different ideal users for my platform. Just as we were brought together by OpenIDEO, my platform aims to connect and facilitate interaction between students with shared vision and potential. So in this prototype I tried to capture and imagine the experience of live interactive storytelling.  

Prototype #3: Cal x OpenIDEO Ideation Session

In collaboration with OpenIDEO SF Chapter, we invited 30 UC Berkeley students to the IDEO San Francisco for a Design Thinking workshop. The purpose of the session was to introduce a new perspective on how students can take part in social causes they care about and pursue lifelong learning even after college. During the session, we captured the experience to gain insight into how they learn and interact with other students.

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Through this opportunity, I was able to test two of the main three hypotheses proposed by my idea:  

1. The Intellectual Sweet Spot: You learn best at the space between what you know and what you don’t know. Learn from people who are different but have something in common (commonalities as bridge to new knowledge).

2. The Power of Empathy and Storytelling in Learning: Empathy bridges the gap between pre-existing knowledge and new information or perspectives.  

Activities, Results and Insights

Summary of Insights

What target learners need 

During the field interviews, I mentally divided up the students I talked to into two categories:

  1. Students from particularly difficult socio-economic, familial, cultural or educational backgrounds who may or may not be in college.
  2. College students or recent graduates who have struggled at home, in school or community in some ways.

In each interview, I asked the student to tell me their story up to this point in life. I let them go into detail when it comes to their educational and transition experiences. Finally, I asked them to talk about their goals and what is next for them.

Blue represent Group 1 students and yellow Group 2. 

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Who the early adopters are

Self-motivated learners who might:

  1. Know what they want
  2. Don’t know what they want
  3. Love helping, teaching, sharing
  4. “Absorb” people - love hearing stories and seek connection
  5. Be feeling defeated, dejected, disconnected in school
  6. Come from a unique background and seek social-emotional integration

Where the Intellectual Sweet Spot is 
Based on the prototype experiments, we found out that students are the most engaged when interacting with partners who share a common vision and exchanging similar and different perspectives on that particular area of interest. Very similar learners are the most engaged but only when discussing deeper topics. Learners often connected and engaged when they gain a new perspective after interaction.

Insights from Self-Reflection Activity

Empathy and Storytelling fosters Learning and Action

“Almost everyone seems to agree that experience & interaction are the best teaching tools.”
    1. Emotions are important because they motivate us. Knowing that something is important is helpful, but it can’t compare to feeling that same knowledge.
    2. Empathy can foster prosocial action, or action focused on helping others.
    3. Stories can be used to cultivate the awareness that superficial differences like race are nothing compared to our commonalities, to break down bias and foster inclusiveness.
    4. This mindset helps learners develop a sense of connection and improves learning experiences and outcomes.

Read how I plan to iterate my solution based on new insights.

Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine higher education to support the needs of tomorrow?

For every student, especially learners seeking new perspectives with little learning support at home or in school. It reimagines higher education by
1) Recognizing a student as a whole human being with a unique set of learning needs, trajectory and potential
2) Using real-world stories and contexts to diversify pathways to opportunity and meaningful social participation
3) Utilizing diversity and global interconnection to make learning relevant to everyone regardless of their background

This idea emerged from:

  • An individual

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

I would love input and guidance in all aspects of design and development, especially technical functionalities. What is the most practical and efficient way of making this concept work? Pedagogical input would be tremendously helpful in testing and validating my vision. Experts in technology implementation and curriculum design can suggest ways in which my idea can be implemented in school, homeschool or other learning settings. What are possible challenges and ways to overcome them?

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Do a physical pilot test in a classroom where a small pool of students from different backgrounds mimic my proposed steps:
Create Learner's Profiles
Write stories and create Storyboards
Storytellers and seekers match, meet and share content
Assess their learning experience (if they meet their learning goals)

Find out:
1. What significant factor(s) could impact a learner's choice or motivation to learn
2. The nuances of matching learners in real life and how it affects the algorithm.

Tell us about your work experience:

Recent graduate in History and German from UC Berkeley, now a Product Designer exploring the intersection of education, technology and culture in San Francisco.

How would you describe this idea while in an elevator with someone? 2-3 sentences.

An online platform that uses real-world experiences as shared learning contexts to build intercultural knowledge, empathy and engagement. It's a place to learn and understand the world better through stories. The platform enables meaningful interaction and collaboration between learners by leveraging the compatibility of their different interests, experiences and needs.

What is the specific problem your idea is trying to solve? 1 sentence.

Formal education system provides limited space and opportunity for developing intercultural perspectives, empathy and the life skills that can be gained from interacting with a diverse set of peers.

How is your idea different or unique from what is currently on the market?

My solution combines personalization with contextualization and is focused on learners. It addresses multiple dimensions of student reality, not only academic performance, and meets learners exactly where they are in terms of knowledge, environment, experiences and learning needs. The platform uses holistic student data to align learning purpose, activities, assessments and outcomes -- offering an opportunity for long-term curricular innovation.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

During pilot tests, I plan to assess the student's progress and engagement in different ways:
- Improvement in the quality of Storyboards and Learner's Profiles
- Degree of interaction with the platform
- How they perform in self reflection exercises (e.g. ability to connect the dots between old and new ideas)
- Are students meeting their learning goals they've set up? (alignment of their learning outcomes, learning experiences and learning goals)
- Student, parent and teacher feedback

How might your idea be transferable to a large number of people?

The solution will be web/app based and built to work across all platforms and browsers for accessibility. Students can download content to their mobile device through an app when they're connected to Wi-fi and use it offline. A lightweight/low-bandwidth alternative will be made available with prioritized features and low data requirements.

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

Examine how to use insights from prototyping to inform design and future prototypes,
High-fidelity design and iterate solutions,
Address design and implementation challenges through more prototypes, research and tests,
Build a team - gather a small team of dedicated designers, engineers, education innovators and experts.

Attachments (1)

Inspired by (1)

Human Library


Join the conversation:

Photo of Noble charles

This is the best idea

Photo of Sanjna

I found the concept of using stories and experiences of peers as a learning tool to be very valuable. As a student myself, I can definitely attest to the fact that the formal education system tends to have a narrow perspective and can often overlook the life skills that can be gained from interacting with a diverse set of peers. I wanted to know more about how the contributions made by users will be filtered and checked for accuracy. Running quality tests will be necessary to ensure the credibility of the platform is maintained and keeping it uncluttered. Also what be the model for incentivizing contributions. If students are required to contribute as part of school programs, the user generated content might lose its originality and uniqueness, in order to align with classroom requirements. This would defeat the purpose of creating a new stream of knowledge that doesn’t need to confine to the typical education model. Therefore there must be some motivation for individuals to contribute on a regular basis.

Photo of Ning De-Eknamkul

Hi Sanjna!
Thanks for your thoughtful feedback :) I agree that the credibility of the platform and content is an absolute priority. Accuracy of contributions is an ambiguous concept because stories are mostly subjective. I think what's more important is the learner's ability to distinguish biases, misleading information and unreliable elements when evaluating a story. This is one of the skills I hope this story-driven learning platform could help students accomplish.
Inappropriate, disrespectful and offensive content, on the other hand, are something we should be extremely mindful of.
Here's how I think the moderation of content could work:
- In an open community setting, like Quora or Facebook, users can flag inappropriate content. Content that violates the community guidelines would be taken down (although this might not be the best filter).
- If the platform is used in classrooms, teachers are the moderators. Every time a student submits a pin, the teacher can review it and suggests improvements according to the the platform's community guidelines.
As part of my vision, the teachers will have a dashboard that allows them to manage their class and track their students’ activities and progress. Every time a student submits content, his/her teacher will be notified. The teacher will review the work by following the platform’s community and curriculum guidelines.

We will establish our own community requirements which promote originality, uniqueness and exploration beyond the typical education model. Teachers do not force classroom requirements upon students but facilitate them in the submission process. They make sure that the students’ work align with the platform’s mission and community guidelines. This would help maintain the quality and authenticity of student-generated content.

My current research addresses the incentive question. The goal is not just to offer external incentives like rewards but to build intrinsic motivation by tapping into learners' natural curiosity and interests. My idea argues that the intellectual sweet spot, created by the shared contexts between two learners, functions as a natural curiosity and motivation stimulus. However I learned that this only works well if learners already have little barriers to sharing their perspectives and the incentive to interact with others at a meaningful level. That's why it might be a good idea to incorporate interactive games and social-emotional learning activities such as penpals. The question to tackle next is how these incentives can be imbedded in the platform through design.

Appreciate your thoughts!

Photo of Daryl Wang

This idea you have is very interesting and it is very clear the benefits it could have when implemented. Some of the things i particularly liked was that you mentioned the sweet spot by combining experiences within user groups of similar interests. With a platform like this, there are endless possibilities for people to learn anything they want. However, my personal thought on this is that with the increased digitization within our society, it is discouraging students like myself to actually go out and learn these multicultural contexts. A platform like this eliminates many of the fears and risks of exploring the world and those are some things you cant learn online

- Daryl

Photo of Ning De-Eknamkul

Hi Daryl,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I would say that the ultimate goal of the platform is to encourage individuals to go out and learn these multicultural contexts in real life. I'm aware that digitization can discourage us from connecting with our present world. However, being outside or travelling doesn't always mean learning. You can visit Finland on a vacation and learn nothing about their culture. This learning platform is a learning tool that teaches you about perspectives that have significance in real life. It helps you think differently when you go out and meet people. It doesn't eliminate the fears and risks of exploring the world but reassures you that it's okay to embrace those fears and risks. It encourages you to confront them even when you don't have the opportunity in real life. As a learning tool, the platform cultivates a mindset and changes the way you interact with others, not just offering benefits of bringing people together online. I know it's a noble thing to say but it's a path I believe in pursuing.

Let me know if you any other thoughts! Would love to hear.

Photo of sangwon

Dear MindFeels,

I adore the concept of recreating the human rapport in metropolitan lives that recent college grads live in.

However, I have a concern that is inherent to the Mindfeels's value proposal.

If Mindfeel's objective is to create rapport between two individuals through using algorithm and profiler, wouldn't it match only those that have similar ideas? If so, wouldn't the company cause homophily and cluster of similar ideas rather than share&communication between individuals with different ideas?

If your algorithm matches the individuals with starkly different backgrounds or experiences, how would you encourage them to talk beyond their barriers?

Thank you for considering my comments.

Photo of Ning De-Eknamkul

Hi Sangwon!

Thanks so much! We would design the algorithm so that learners are matched with those who share the same vision/goals but have different interests, experiences and perspectives. Based on my idea and research, this is the 'intellectual sweet spot' where you feel comfortable and incentivized enough to share and communicate with individuals with different ideas.
Tuning the algorithm just right for this optimal space to happen is a tricky challenge but in theory it's definitely possible. For example, the way we organize the Learner's Profiles not only based on ideas they have but also experiences, goals and backgrounds gives us a holistic view of each learner - so no two learners are exactly the same. Even you are paired with a very similar partner, you'd be surprised by how much you can learn from them.
Our intention is to avoid matching learners with starkly different backgrounds/experiences. But in practice this might not be the case. A major part of my current research is how to create authentic incentives for learners to interact beyond their barriers. One approach that proved quite effective from my experiments is incremental inquiry mixed with storytelling. You start by responding to an icebreaking question that leads up to the next question encouraging you to think more deeply. Then you share a story that has shaped a particular perspective you've discussed. It's counterintuitive but sharing something close to you is a great way to break through your own mindset barriers. It activates the incentives of curiosity and trust. My goal is to create a learning culture in which these incentives are embedded so that even two very different learners can share their stories and forge a bridge following their curious instinct.

Hope this addresses your questions! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.

Photo of Fahad Jamal


I think this is a great idea. One area I would improve is in making the 3 sentence pitch clearer with a narrower goal. It seems very broad right now, and could be interpreted in multiple ways. Understanding the exact goal of this project will be extremely important in driving its success, and I look forward to seeing where it will go next.

Photo of Ning De-Eknamkul

Hi Fahad!
Thanks so much for the feedback and interest! Absolutely agreed that understanding the exact goal of the project is incredibly important. I've really had a hard time simplifying my idea into a 3 sentence pitch especially when my idea/goals are still evolving everyday. If you have any thoughts on pitching this idea, I would love to hear more!

Photo of Anna Beridze


I like the idea of using the experiences of diverse people to help add different perspectives to an individual's life. And I see how this will help build empathy amongst the users, but how will this differ from other forms of social media that already exist now? Although such platforms help us reach people from different backgrounds and locations, I think it also disconnects us with our present world, which will go against the main purpose of this platform.
I think, you should definitely try distinguishing this platform from other social media platforms that help connect people and also think of a way to not encourage users to spend a significant amount of their time forging only virtual relationships.

Wish you best of luck!

Photo of Ning De-Eknamkul

Hi Anna!
Thanks for your question and feedback! I will for sure keep this in mind in the design and execution stages.
In terms of concept, the purpose of my platform is educational -- to create a new online culture of learning and storytelling. The emphasis is not on consuming on but understanding, engaging with different perspectives and making friends through authentic experiences. I know it's easier said than done but it's about building a deeper sort of connection that in-person interaction often fails to establish, as we are limited by our own mindsets. I'm aware of that spending too much time for whatever purpose can disconnect us from our present world. But the disconnection effects of social media are not only to do with technology but also the culture of mindless overconsumption in the age of instant gratification. This is a critical area that my solution addresses and what distinguishes it from for-profit, ad-driven social media platforms. I think real, meaningful engagement with the present world can happen anywhere in any format whether physical or virtual. What we need is a mindset shift. More thoughtful, more flexible, more constructive way of thinking, learning and communicating.
The platform would promote learners spending time forging meaningful relationships because that process takes time and consideration. I think OpenIDEO is doing a great job with this one by providing an authentic incentive to communicate rather than making communication a habit. This is definitely a mission worth pursuing.

Let me know if you have any other thoughts! Thanks again for your response!

Photo of Ashley Sun

Hi Ning,

Your idea of using the experiences of others to connect with peers and further learning is a very well-intentioned plan. My only concern is that all your testing is performed during in person interactions with others. However, it sounds like you are looking to pursue an online platform for your idea. Incentives for interacting in person versus online are very different, and it is unclear to me which exactly you are looking to pursue. Furthermore, depending on if you decide to pursue an online or in person platform, your audience base is going to differ substantially. While you may reach more people with an online platform, it will be harder to build those meaningful connections that your project is based upon. Meaningful connections are much more easily forged during in person interactions, however that would limit the crowd of people you could reach.

Best of luck!


Photo of Ning De-Eknamkul

Hi Ashley,
Thanks for the feedback! One of my research goals was/is to understand the differences between incentives for interacting in-person and interacting online - is it possible to dissolve those differences by creating a different online learning culture? I'm looking to create an online learning platform to reach a wider audience base as you said. The challenge is how to create a space that enables learners to build meaningful connections and how technology can enhance the quality of interaction instead of compromising it. Because of the time crunch and limited capacity I wasn't able to conduct the same experiments in an online setting. However, the physical, in-person testing did give me a lot of insights into what online interaction might and might not be able to capture. In fact, I did a video-chat interactive storytelling session in which I hoped to recreate an in-person interaction experience and understand the nuances that virtual interaction fails to capture (Prototype #2). Although this test was different from what my idea initially proposed, it introduced a foundation for elucidating the theory that incentives for interacting in person versus online are different. What makes them different? Is it possible to recreate/improve those incentives in an online environment? This is something I hope to understand more through future research!
From my personal experience, I was surprised to learn that the incentives are not so different. As my in-person test findings showed, meaningful learning takes place where two different individuals share the same vision but gain new and different perspectives through the lens of shared goals. The most important condition for forging this meaningful connection is the incentive to open up and communicate at a deeper level. Obviously this doesn't always happen during in-person interaction. In fact, some people have more incentive to be honest and go deeper when they feel comfortable in their own space - something that an in-person setting might not allow. What is important to me is the ability of tech-enabled personalization to create that space just right for an individual. How is the question I'm investigating through this project.
I hope this addresses your concern. Let me know if you have any other thoughts. Really do appreciate it!

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Ning and team,

There are a few hours left in the refinement phase if you have any questions feel free to reach out to me.

Photo of Ernet M Williams

Hi Ning,

Your project sounds quite innovative and very well-intentioned, but the question remains of what kind of students will this platform benefit? It is already exclusionary in the fact that is it completely web-based and thus assumes that the average student has access to the a computer while they are at school; and unfortunately this is not the case. As late as 2014, it was found that 64% of high schoolers do not have access to a computer, let alone online learning platforms ( Citing this statistic, it is not unreasonable to assume that the 36% of high schoolers lacking access to technology as standard as a computer are those assigned to the poorest and most underfunded school districts. Although your project would benefit all school-aged children, it is the children who live in low-income, racially-homogenized neighborhoods, whose learning environments have been mediocre and underwhelming, and whose families cannot afford to travel and experience different cultures that need this type of innovative and sustainable education the most. With your current plan of action, I'm afraid it largely ignores these types of children. The schools that can afford to and are willing to add this project to their curriculum are same schools that are well-funded and attended by children that already have some form of access to diversity and culture. How would remedy this asymmetry, if you planned to at all?

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Ning and team,

There is just a week left of refinement. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me.

Photo of Erin Crisp

Lovely idea. I'm intrigued. I'm an instructional systems technologist who works in higher education with adult learners. My specific role includes assessment and evaluation of the effectiveness of instruction, and I can think of a beautiful use case for your design that offers a measurable way to make a case for return on investment for an institutional subscription. AAC&U has created a series of VALUE rubrics that are intended to help colleges assess (and teach) empathy, interpersonal skills, communication, ethics, value for diverse perspectives, critical thinking etc. Many institutions struggle to teach this skills in relevant ways. I'd love to apply the VALUE rubric for Intercultural Knowledge and Competence to collect baseline students from data, have them interact through the platform you describe throughout a course or series of courses and then reapply the rubric to look for growth. This would give you some quantifiable evidence for the impact of the platform related to Intercultural Knowledge and Competence. Faculty also have a need to grow in this area. Many universities recognize that their faculties are not as diverse as they should be and they have initiatives to help faculty develop cultural responsiveness, but most efforts are somewhat contrived and artificial. Faculty could also benefit from the platform and activity. I can see it becoming a required professional development component for many employees.

I think I'd like to see the purpose tightened up a bit. In the elevator pitch it sounds a little broad. Why not focus on the development of global awareness, empathy, cultural responsiveness, gender equality, intercultural knowledge.... and then branch out from there if it seems appropriate.

Best of luck to you!

Photo of Ning De-Eknamkul

Hi Erin Crisp 
I LOVE your idea of applying the VALUE rubric to measure growth and impact of the platform. Thank you for pointing me to these amazing resources on AAC&U. I looked at the rubric and found the framework incredibly helpful in designing assessment methods. My question is how to accurately benchmark students against the Intercultural Knowledge and Competence criteria. How do we evaluate to what degree a student is culturally aware and receptive since these qualities are fluid and harder to quantify?

Intercultural Knowledge and Competence is a great term for what I hope my platform would achieve because it encompasses a wide range of components including cultural self-awareness, communication, responsiveness and empathy. I agree with you that faculties have a need to grow in this area. I've never thought about my platform in context of professional development and think you could be onto something here. Do you have examples for the initiatives that you think are contrived and artificial? How do you think they could be improved?

Thanks for your advice on the purpose statement! Will definitely tighten it up. Those are great vocabulary and I'll make sure to include them :-)

Appreciate your feedback!

Photo of Danyelle Sage

Hi Ning De-Eknamkul 

I really like your user journey and user profiles. This something I'm a bit stuck on. I am also factoring in cultural context. What was your starting point / thought process?

Photo of Ning De-Eknamkul

Hi Danyelle Sage 
Thank you! It was a process of connecting the dots. I'm still working to improve my user profiles/journey and create different versions based on my conversation with people.

Basically, I thought about different real life scenarios using my vision as a guiding framework.
I started by thinking about my experiences - how the cultures of where I live/have lived shaped my learning journeys. I talked to friends about their experiences and tried to understand how they are similar and different to mine. I used this information to put together my "ideal" user personas. Then I found articles online with case studies and examples that might add dimensions and depths to my user personas.
For example, I was inspired by a 16-year-old, homeschooled student turned Internet celebrity and rapper who had produced a music video that went viral. He raps about inner city life - police brutality and income inequality on the streets of Jakarta. He's my example of a storyteller who can fill his "Storyboard" with real-world content.
Then I thought about the framework. I identified what specific types of learners/teachers would benefit from my solution and how it might play a role in their life. I narrowed down my users to three categories - storytellers, story seekers and teachers - and imagined in detail how each would use the platform and benefit from it.
For example, I could see a 17-year-old girl lying in bed scrolling through her Instagram feed (something we all do). She is scared of going to bed because she dreads waking up and going to school where she feels disconnected, bored and purposeless. What if we could turn her endless scrolling-through-Instagram moment into an engaging learning experience? She is my example of a story seeker. Others' stories could inspire her purpose. This user scenario gives me a framework for inquiry. What kind of world does this person live in? What is happening to her? What are her motivations? I used answers to these questions to inform my user profiles.

I hope this helps!

Photo of Teo John

Hi Ning,

(1)What is a typical user journey map of the learner?
(2)Other than I&E criteria, what significant factor(s) could impact a learner's choice or motivation to learn?
(3)How could we enhance the user experience of your prototype?

Photo of Max Noble

Hey Ning,
Nicely done outline and great pictures. I like the 3 learning stages. I've been using something similar, except my concept is for projects. When people sign up for a project they choose one of the following:

Never done it
Done it
I'm a Pro.

This was using paper forms, I hope with the AI I can transition to a more accurate 0-10 scale.

Photo of Ning De-Eknamkul

Thanks Max Noble ! In your experience, how effective was your method of matching students for projects? Any special results you observed?
What specific roles would the AI be playing in developing collaboration/project-based learning? Is it something like what Sidekick Learning is trying to do?

Photo of Max Noble

We have been practicing matching on several dimensions, skills, roles, work habits...etc. We have a network of 5000 people that we run projects through. However, its getting too complex to manage with a human brain and hence we need computerized decision making.

The AI would manage parts of everything. the database, human selected info stream, people schedules, learning dynamics, APP interface, machines...etc.

SideKick would be about 10% of Futureschool, company projects are one of the outputs. Most companies have had bad experiences with students projects. The project results are not worth the input costs. Students need to fail to learn, and most companies don't want that happening on their time. So only the top students are eligible for real company projects. After training at Futreschool, students can excel at company project work. And we only work with forward thinking companies doing good work around the world.

Photo of Ratana Magee

Hi Ning,

Goof job with the idea!

I see the importance of "learning purposes" as a guide to how the assessment steps can be planned out. If a learner can identify a learning purpose(s) at each study/lesson, perhaps, the system might be able to find a closer match as well. I think this could help with your assessment targets.

(Alignment of : Learning outcomes/purposes - Learning Activities - Assessments)

In the virtual world, how can one be certain with the accuracy/reliability of the stories? In a supervised environment, this can be verified. If the learning in your innovation does not care about the accuracy of the contents, only use the contents as part of the learning process, a sentence to stress this may clear such concern.

As for lightweight experiment, a 'physical' pilot test can be beneficial to test out the idea. This can be done in a classroom in conjunction with a Creative Writing lesson where students mimic your proposed steps,
- write their stories
- compile their profiles
- make story boards
- initiate 'interest/experience/learning purpose market' where story provide and seekers meet, match and share content
- follow the rest of the steps as in your proposal emphasizing on how to install "effective and on-target" learning assessment processes.
I think this physical platform will give valuable input into your design especially the matching step. The algorithm matching will match bits and bytes of learners' inputs but, in the real world, our minds have more nuances than bits and bytes.

Hope this helps and relevant to your project. Excited to see this project come to live!

Have fun refining and best of luck!

Photo of Ning De-Eknamkul

Hi Ratana,
This is priceless feedback! Thank you so much.

This is a terrific idea. I'm making the alignment of purposes, activities, assessments and outcomes one of the goals for the platform. Establishing this thread would be useful for unifying the learning experience from learning goals identification to impact assessment.

Accuracy/reliability issue
In this case, accuracy is a more ambiguous concept due to the subjective nature of storytelling. I think what's more important is the learner's ability to distinguish assumptions/biases/unreliable elements when evaluating a story. This is one of the skills I hope the story-based platform could help students accomplish.
Inappropriate content, on the other hand, is something I think we should be mindful of. Here's how I think the moderation of content could work:
- If the platform is used in classrooms, teachers are the moderators. Every time a student submits a pin, the teacher can review it and suggests improvements according to the the platform's community guidelines.
- In a free community setting, like Quora or Facebook, users can flag inappropriate content. Content that violates the community guidelines would be taken down.

Pilot test
I love you idea of an in-class pilot test! I will definitely carry it out once there's an opportunity. I'm currently developing prototypes to validate my idea. Please let me know if you have any other suggestions on how this should be done. What would you like to see on a working prototype and what kind of results would you expect?

Truly appreciate your input.

Photo of Eileen Walz

I really like the sphere's of knowledge and think we need to acknowledge how new knowledge connects to existing knowledge more in our approach to learning. Do you have a working prototype of this idea? I would love to see what even the pairing of people with transparency of where they overlap and diverge could do!

Photo of Ning De-Eknamkul

Hi Eileen,
Thanks for your feedback! I'm working on constructing the prototypes - from creating learner's profiles, storyboards and matching learners. Please let me know if you have any other suggestions for how this could be done :)

Photo of Andrea Zelenak

Hi Ning!
Congrats on making it to the next phase!
A few ideas I had for your idea would be
1. The ability to link this profile to a job site, such as LinkedIn. It shows personality, interests, and dedication.
2. Prompts or questions that would inspire stories/experiences for people to post. Ex: What are some unique aspects of your life that others can learn from? or If you had a class, what would you teach? I can imagine these ideas getting on the site and contributors answering questions to help spark ideas!

Photo of Ning De-Eknamkul

Hi Andrea,
Thanks a lot for sharing you great ideas! The question I'm considering now is how to connect the experiences and insights students gained from the stories with their personal, academic or professional life. The LinkedIn capability would be a great way to reflect a different, more unique side of their potential.

I love your prompt examples! A big aspect of the platform that I haven't delved into is student collaboration/collaborative contributions. The questions you suggested are a great place to start. I'm thinking of incorporating them in the 'post-learning activity', which provides students the opportunity to use the context of stories to generate inquiry and respond to this kind of open-ended questions.
Appreciate your input!

Photo of Steve Parkinson

Hi Ning,

Really nice idea. I love ideas exploring both the human side of tech enhanced learning, and ways of adapting learning to the individual.

Just thought I'd pop a few of my initial thoughts down. I work in developing learning systems for higher education and I've been caught out before by things like this, so I thought I'd mention them just in case. They may or may not be of use.

I agree that your trickiest challenge will probably be tuning the algorithms just right. Determining matches through engagement is great but also has the small risk of a filter bubble developing. Students may be inclined to engage more with content that conforms to some extent to their pre-existing views. It's also useful to be clear on how you define 'engagement'.

Have you thought about moderation of the pins? For example, would it be up to viewers of pins to report anything that may be offensive? Who might determine if such a pin is offensive or not?

From a technical point of view (algorithms aside) I don't think developing the platform would be too bad. We have developed something similar (but without algorithms) to help design students curate and critique work collaboratively. Students have found this sort of 'pinning' and sharing activity engaging and effective. The likes of Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook have set some informal design/process standards that we know work. Building on these gives a great foundation.

Depending on how diverse you want your user-base to be have you considered a low data/offline lightweight version for those users who might not have access to reliable, fast internet and decent hardware? In a similar vein, in terms of diversity are you thinking about those with disabilities? If so it's worth making sure you consider accessibility from the start. And language - would people be matched by language, or would you include a translation capability?

Anyway, just a few thoughts. Really enjoyed reading your concept. Some exciting ideas in there. Good luck!


Photo of Ning De-Eknamkul

Hi Steve,
Thanks for your incredibly thoughtful input! Some of these questions have been swimming around my mind for a while, so I'm glad I have the opportunity to think through them. Sorry for the super long response!

You raised a great point about the risk of a filter bubble. I think it makes sense that students are likely to engage more with content that conform to their pre-existing views. The question is how to leverage them as a bridge to unexplored views. I would define engagement as the student's degree of interaction across perspectives (connect the dots between old and new views, understand their relationships and differences). Measuring the level of engagement can go beyond the amount of time spent interacting with the content. Here are some ideas:

- Student evaluation: After each learning session, students rate/review their learning experience in a simple and interesting way, e.g. responding to questions using Facebook style reaction emojis, including "How relevant is this to your interests/experiences/goals?", "How do you feel after learning about X's experience?" (Super Inspired/Motivated/Slightly anxious/Sad), "Would you recommend this to your friends?", "Did this experience change your view in any way?", etc.
- Post-learning activities: I imagined a space where students can generate inquiry, discover resources, take further action, or develop action plans to connect what they've just learned/felt inspired by with real-world opportunities. May be the system can track the student's subsequent activity path as evidence of engagement (e.g. click "Explore more" button, click "Like" or "Save" pins, input their personal inquiry).
- Pins to Profile conversion: students have the option of adding viewed pins to their Learner's profile. This might indicate that the lessons have resulted in a growth of perspectives and purpose, suggesting engagement.

Moderation of pins
- If the platform is used in classrooms, teachers are the moderators. Every time a student submits a pin, the teacher can review it and suggests improvements according to the the platform's community guidelines.
- In a free community setting, like Quora or Facebook, users can flag inappropriate content. Content that violates the community guidelines would be taken down.
- Open to any ideas you may have/have experimented with!

My ideal user-base is very diverse - pretty much anyone who can look things up on Wikipedia. My hope is that anyone with a smart phone/tablet/smart device would be able to access and use the platform from the signup to end-to-end learning experience. Keeping in mind that many low-income schools don't have tablets, computers or reliable internet service, students can download learning content to their mobile device through an app when they're connected to Wi-fi and use it offline. Smart phones are likely to be more available in low-income homes. I'm not an expert but low data lightweight alternative might be possible depending on the platform's technical and data requirements.

Diversity and linguistic challenges

Language: English would be the main language of communication (as the platform scales, Spanish, Chinese and other languages would be included). During the sign up, students can enter languages they speak/are learning. If I was American, I might put English (my native language) in the "Super Familiar" bracket, and put Spanish or any second language I'm learning, in the "Unfamiliar" bracket to indicate that I'm hoping to learn more about it. Translation support is incredibly important in connecting diverse learners. But I'm also aware of complications concerning the translation of linguistic nuances. And that's a whole different challenge.

Disabilities: The beauty of stories is that they can be experienced through multiple senses. The platform would capitalize on the multi-sensory benefits offered by technology (auditory, kinesthetic, and visual) to make learning accessible to those with disabilities. Once I have a prototype, I'd be able to figure out usability challenges and issues that might occur (e.g. verbal text input, natural language processing)

Thanks again for your thoughts! Please let me know if you have any extra feedback. It really helps my idea grow.

Photo of Teo John

Hi Ning,

There is an attached connected learning research report in my posted idea which contain some case study which might provide some insights on the implementation of your proposed idea.

Photo of Ning De-Eknamkul

Hi Teo John ,
Thanks for the incredible resources! I found the Guiding Design Principles for Connected Learning section tremendously helpful. Do you have suggestions for how I might collaborate with other people/ideas in this challenge or contribute to a Connected Learning/Adaptive Curriculum project?

Photo of Teo John

Hi Ning,

Consider viewing some of Connected Learning Alliance chat with some CL leaders and innovators in their field. Maybe you could linked up with a few of these people.

Photo of Andres Felipe Vera Ramirez

Great effort !
I really like the concepts Unfamiliar, Familiar, and Super Familiar, and the Personalized Learning Dashboard with "associated questions and learning activities". And, I see a great potential in the Storyboard.

I don't if you have heard about the Job To Be Done Theory of Clayton Christensen (, but it might be particularly helpful for you. According to him -I'm reading his book Competing Against Luck now- the "job" looks more like "stories" (of struggles to make progress) than statistics, so there is a lot of potential behind your stories if you can identify the 'jobs to be done' of students, from their stories.

PS: My idea of an Open Media Lab is not in the Refinement Phase, but maybe you may find something valuable for you in there:

Photo of Ning De-Eknamkul

Hi Andres Felipe Vera Ramirez !
Thanks for the awesome recommendation. I'm currently translating my idea into more specific features and found it helpful to frame them in terms of actionable outcomes -- how can the tool help students identify what the 'jobs to be done' are? In what ways might it help students convert knowledge--insights gained through stories--into action to address their everyday struggles?
Bridging the gap between the arts (stories, cultures, human experience) with tools of learning and understanding like system modeling is as exciting as it is challenging. The MIT Media Lab article on the Age of Entanglement was a fascinating read. It reminded me of the concept in a Ted talk that the secret to learning/understanding the world is the ability to change perspective. From the perspective of systems and patterns, maths can be imaginative art forms and even serve as gateways to empathy. I think this might be the essence of what your Open Media Lab idea captures. You may find this talk interesting!

Photo of Andres Felipe Vera Ramirez

Thank you so much Ning De-Eknamkul  !! ... Looking forward to know more about how this idea evolves, and how it becomes a tangible project.

Photo of OpenIDEO

Welcome to the Refinement phase Ning! We've added new Refinement questions to your original submission that we'd love for you to answer. Please check out the Refinement Phase Toolkit for instructions on how to answer the new questions and other recommendations we encourage all idea teams to consider in the upcoming weeks.

Refinement Phase Toolkit:

Lastly, here's a useful tip: When you update the content of your post, it'd be helpful to indicate this in your idea title by adding an extension. For example, you can add the extension " - Update: Experience Maps 02/01" to you idea title. This will be a good way to keep people informed about how your idea is progressing!

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Ning,

I hope you are having a nice day.

There are two ideas from previous challenges that you might be interested in looking at:

Vykarious in our End of Life Challenge - - has a great user journey and identification of personas and visualisation of feedback of the idea.

"I Know Something" (IKS) - also in the End of Life Challenge - is a peer-to-peer storytelling platform built on short, first-person video stories and simple reflection exercises -

I would recommend really digging down into what is the problem, how is this solution and think about what the competitors are to demonstrate that this a ‘need to have’ and not a ‘nice to have’.

Photo of Ning De-Eknamkul

This is amazing! Thanks for sharing, Kate.
Yes, that's a really challenging part of the Refinement process. Will definitely do my best.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Ning,

Welcome to the refinement phase, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me by using @ and typing my name.

Take care,


Photo of Ning De-Eknamkul

Hi Kate Rushton ,
Do you have any recommendations for people and projects in this challenge I can potentially collaborate with? Could you connect us? I found projects that are relevant to my idea but most of them already seem to have their own established platform (e.g. Future School 's Curriculum Adaptation Methodology idea). So for my idea specifically, what would be the best way to go about developing it? I've worked on this project individually and I'm figuring out what steps I should be taking to make the most of this opportunity. May be form a team?

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Ning,

Nice to hear from you. Usually, over the first few day's people will be reading all the ideas and there is often offers of collaboration from other ideators and other people coming to the platform.

What skillsets would be on your ideal team to develop your idea? I want to make sure we are on the 'same page'.

Teo has posted a link below that might be of help.

Photo of Ning De-Eknamkul

Hi Kate,

Thanks for the response. I plan to design the interfaces and prototypes for this idea, but need to determine what the priorities are. If possible, I'd like to collaborate with the following:
1) Storytellers - presentation and user journeys
2) Designers - input and feedback gathering
3) Engineers/technical-minded fellows - development and prototyping
4) Innovators/anyone - concept refinement and implementation roadmap

Appreciate your help.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Ning,

Thank you!

You might want to check out What have you learned? and Less About Grades: Portfolios & Websites for Experiences which have some similarities because they utilise storytelling.

There is one finalist idea from a previous challenge you might want to see . They have a video that highlights the pain point and solution in a really nice way and the competitors to Cobuy.

I have my thinking cap on and will get back to you on the others.

Photo of Kate Rushton

The ideator behind this post might be interested in collaboration -

Photo of Andrea Zelenak

Hi Ning!
Awesome idea and beautiful graphics. You should check out A Global Classroom: "International Show & Tell" and Human Library (there is a good discussion on there) if you want inspiration or to collaborate even more!

Photo of Ning De-Eknamkul

Hi Andrea Zelenak ,
Thanks so much for the recommendation! The Human Library definitely deals with the idea that I'm exploring-- borrowing real people and real-world experiences instead of books to challenge your preconceptions and beliefs. Thanks Kate Rushton for sharing the project with us.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Ning,

The Human Library are quite open and responsive. It might be worth asking them for feedback on your idea.

Photo of Teo John

Hi Ning,

For the matching algorithm to create your personalized learning dashboard, you might want to consider integrating AI API into Google Assstant. The video will explain the how-to:

Photo of Ning De-Eknamkul

Hi Teo John ,
Thanks for the suggestion--exactly the kind of advice I'm looking for! Let me look into it.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Ning,

Great idea!

How can you see the role of higher education in the idea? Could this be used in the context of project sessions e.g. gaining different prospectives?

Could this be used for lifelong learning in the work place?

Photo of Ning De-Eknamkul

Hi Kate Rushton 
Thanks for posting the questions and helping refine the idea!
Higher education plays a role in this idea in several contexts as you have mentioned:
- Provide interactive contexts for group or individual project sessions and classroom discussions
- High school may offer a "Reading the World" class which immerses students in the understanding and evaluation of new different perspectives and sharing of stories/experiences.
- Teachers use learning data derived from the platform (e.g. what topic are my students most engaged in, what real-world examples my class have been exposed to) to tailor instruction and design lesson plans.
- Teachers facilitate student's self-directed learning, for example by recommending how their interests and goals can shape their learning path and what courses or action they might take to further their understanding.
- High school advisors/mentors and students can use the platform as a foundation for discussing student's potential academic or professional career e.g. in what areas might you see yourself making an impact and for what reasons. I believe experiencing the larger world through the platform would help students answer the "why" part.

As I pointed out, an interesting issue to explore is one of student motivation--how to convert curiosity into lifelong learning that is setting-agnostic (high school, college, work place, home, museum, backyard).

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Ning,

Great to have you onboard! We noticed your post is currently unpublished. Was this your intention? We'd love to have it be included in the challenge. You can publish it by hitting the "Publish" button at the top of your post. You can also update your post by clicking on the "Edit Contribution" on top. We're looking forward to seeing your contribution in this challenge.