Future Factory
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Future Factory

4MAT System & Framing

The McCarthy reading helped our team rethink about what ‘sustainability’ can mean for our learners and what might impact them the most. It allowed us to focus from the more outcome based direction that we had previously, such as providing learners with the platform to find resources that the school may not be able to provide to achieve a specific goal, to a problem space that focused more on the learning experience. We wanted to be able to provide our learners with knowledge on systems thinking and to know how to process complex problems they may have trouble understanding. Thus allowing them to know how to take the next steps for taking initiative.

Then by breaking down our more narrowed problem space with the 4MAT system, we were able to frame our problem in the perspective of our learner and as a educator that may provide the learning experience. This exercise allowed us to take the ideas we wrote in our opportunity gap and think about why this may be relevant to our learners, brainstorm about new ideas to bridge the learning gap, and expand these ideas into a broader world applications.

Brainstorming on bridging learning gaps
Using the 4MAT method to expand on these gaps

We started with drafting our 4MAT system as shown above and as we completed our first 4MAT mapping, we were able to brainstorm what an educator might do to provide a system thinking learning. But to further understand what type of solutions we could start focusing on, answering specific questions for the learners such as “This (topic) is important/relevant to me because… The information I’m gaining focuses on…. I am able to figure out how it works by…. I can imagine applying what I’m learning more broadly by….” helped us further think through our problem space.

placing the relevant questions above the learning quadrants helped us understand better the 4MAT system

Our second iteration of the 4MAT system allowed us to reframe some of the thoughts and discussions we’ve been having before and make more sense of how a learner goes through the cycle of concrete/abstract perception and reflective/active processing versus an educator.

Summarizing our learning cycle

It allowed us to see if this is what learners are thinking of, what corresponds on the educators side or is most applicable, and vice versa. For example, for processing actively, if learners feel that conducting research/interviews, finding patterns and analyzing pos/neg behaviors, then looking to the educator quadrant, what ideas could best fulfill these needs? In our ideas, would volunteer experience, a competition like program or a guided workshop best support this?

This can help lead us to our next steps in laying out the better approaches for an educator that might fulfill the needs of our learners and narrow our potential solution.

Our next steps would be to communicate directly to our stakeholders, through surveys and interviews, to validate our assumptions about what learners want/are lacking. This will help us analyze our ideas and work out a more narrowed path for a solution.




A guided experience on systems thinking and designing for the future.

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Patricia Yu

Patricia Yu

Industrial/Experience Designer, Human Computer Interactions and Physical Computing at Carnegie Mellon University

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