How might we equip educators of at-risk youth?

A design thinking approach exploring how we can give teachers the tools to better prepare kids for a successful future, especially the ones that need guidance most.

Design Thinking with PBS

During the summer of 2015, I took an 8 week long design thinking course. The class partnered with PBS to come up with solutions for how the studio may better leverage its network and resources to equip and empower educators of at-risk youth to make a difference in their students' lives. The solution needed to be inclusive to everyone, take advantage of PBS' already existing resources, and invite collaboration between PBS partners. The ideal solution was expected to reduce structural and systematic gaps at-risk youth often face in access to resources and pursuit of opportunities while fulfilling PBS' mission to be a public service provider to the nation.

Time Frame

Summer 2015

Skills Utilized

User Research


For the first stage of the design process, we interviewed students who, during their high school years, were in some ways at a disadvantage compared to their peers when it came to factors such as financials, at-home life, and family background. We also talked to teachers who had worked with students like this. We found that students often don't have role models like themselves that they feel they can relate to. We found that teachers, while they try to give each student the attention they need, don't always have adequate time to devote to each student. We found that for children of immigrants or first generation students, navigating college applications and finding the right career path can be daunting without guidance.

Developing Design Criteria

After the research phase, my team reconvened to uncover insights. We pored over our interview notes, brought attention to the details that alluded to attitudes, beliefs, and feelings held by the participants, and grouped them by affinity. Then we used the insights gained to develop the parameters our solution would need to meet. Some of these parameters were that the solution should be usable by the student both in or outside of the classroom, that it should reach students who are at the age where they would most benefit from advice on careers and colleges, and that it should involve correspondence between a trusted adult or role model.

Brainstorming and the Napkin Pitch

Based on our design criteria, we started brainstorming. Our brainstorming process involved picking different prompts to quickly elicit ideas, which we wrote down on sticky notes. The prompts were meant to spark outside-of-the-box thinking, such as "What would you do if money were no object?" or "What would be a really bad solution?" We then did an exercise where we mixed different components of each of these ideas. We also did other exercises such as testing the assumptions we had about the problem and presenting individual concepts to PBS stakeholders in an effort to co-create solutions. Based on this exercise, our design critera, and previous insights, we worked to develop our solution: An online platform for students that provides information about different careers and the opportunity for an online mentor in your chosen area of interest.

The Solution

PBS Learning Media provides a plethora of resources for teachers to use in the classroom, but some of the content would be better utilized if it was written directly for the students. For example, the site has many articles about possible career paths, but they won't be seen unless a teacher shows it to their students. Our solution sought to repurpose these resources on a web platform entitled, "PBS See Your Future". The platform would utilize PBS' exisiting resources in a new way, aimed at helping students find a career path. In addition, the site would aim to leverage PBS' powerful network to match eligible students with mentors from the field of their choice. Through long distance skype chats and emailing students could gain career advice, guidance, and valuable relationships that would help them in their chosen field.

Paper Prototypes