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Cape Town design company reinvents education through technology

If you visit Masiphumelele Primary School in Cape Town’s Khayelitsha today, you are in for a surprise. A previously unused classroom has been transformed into a vibrant, energetic space where children are able to have fun and learn at the same time. The Learning Innovation Design Lab allows learners from previously disadvantaged communities to engage with technology through computer games and creative workshops. The initiative has already inspired an interest in information technology and design in roughly 100 children who may not have been previously exposed to them.

An integral part of the lab is PLOXXI, a cardboard PC with Android computing power which can be manufactured for roughly R1000.

Michael Wolf, founder and creative director of Formula D interactive, the company who came up with the idea says, “We invented PLOXXI as an open invitation to kids to transform computer technology into something they can relate to. The box can be easily modified or painted. It’s like a prototyping kit for young designers.”

“We’re part of a new generation of designers who realize that co-design principles and tools like PLOXXI will give us a head start, not only in terms of understanding our users better, but also to generate better concepts by tapping into the creativity of learners themselves,” says Wolf.

Formula D interactive is a Cape Town based, specialist design consultancy that focuses on creating meaningful interactive experiences that support learning in museums and science centres, but also in corporate or school environments.

Recognized as an official World Design Capital project, Formula D interactive launched the Learning Innovation Design Lab, a Not-for-profit initiative, in early 2014. Designers, technology partners, learners and teachers have created a space to re-design education via technology. Their main objective is to address education related challenges in underprivileged communities in South Africa.

Marco Rosa, Managing Director of Formula D interactive, believes that local solutions could have the potential to inform global innovation. “We are very conscious of the value design has to take technology to its full potential in education in South Africa and in other countries”, says Rosa.

The initiative focuses on several key technologies and approaches such as learning games, mobile devices, tablet computing, augmented reality, natural interfaces and personalized learning. Over the next few years, a multitude of activities ranging from exhibitions and workshops to prototyping and the realization of tangible products, have been planned.

“The integration of technology into school environments can only be successful by applying human centred design processes. If designers put as much brains into designing a new school as they put into designing a new car, this world would be a better place,” says Wolf.

Right now, the Learning Innovation Design Lab is running a crowd funding campaign on Thundafund.co.za in an effort to secure funding to run the Masiphumelele Lab throughout 2014. The initiative accepts donations as small as R 200. Larger funding amounts will be rewarded with a unique PLOXXI cardboard computer.
Images: Play to Learn Lab at Masiphumelele Primary School set up using very old PCs running XP.

Formula D interactive is a specialist design consultancy that focuses on creating meaningful memorable interactive experiences in museum, science centre, corporate or school environments.

 

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