Digital Explorations

On March 10, 2020, as part of the Specialist High Schools Major program at the Peel District School Board, we spent a day at Woodlands Secondary with high schools students who have a focus in arts and culture to explore an important question: 

How can we improve the way we bring live performances to students in an educational context?

Led by design researcher Margaret Lam, 40 students along with teachers, administrators and artist facilitators participated in a user journey mapping exercise. We were interested in capturing the perspective of the different roles in terms of how they experience a school performance.

Breaking out into 6 groups, they each created a journey map to capture the experience of one of the roles in 3 phases: pre-performance, actual performance, and post-performance. As the students warmed up to the concept of user journey maps, interesting ideas about how to improve the way live performances are brought to an educational context began to emerge.

A full research report, which will include results from a survey we sent to teachers, will be completed by May. As a preview, here is a summary of the insights that we captured that day:

Pre-Performance: There was a resounding call for more student involvement, so that the students are involved in the process of selecting and planning what shows come to the school. This phase of the “journey” offers ample opportunity to prime students for maximal engagement when the performance arrives. 

Performance: Having artists to come all the way to the school is a special experience, and the students wished that there were more opportunity for dialogue or interaction. Conversely, students who had an away game, or has a disability, should have other options for experiencing the performance. Tip for theatre producers: student participation in a show makes it much more memorable!

Post-Performance: Questions sometimes don’t come quickly to students, who are taking in a new experience for the first time. Students also find it easier to discuss the experience with a peer, rather than with a teacher or the artists. There is an overall desire to have more opportunities after the show to process the artistic experience with pedagogical support.

By the end of the day, the students had a glimpse into the world of design thinking, and had a chance to share their perspectives on their experiences of school performances. As we develop a better understanding of students’ and teacher’s realities in the digital age, we can better imagine new ways of delivering artistic experience and educational resources schools across Ontario.

Special thanks to Lata Persaud and Tara Burt at Peel District School Board for supporting this initiative, Roseneath Theatre and Theatre Direct for collaborating, as well as Britta B, Carlyn Rhamey, Jessica Greenberg, Pragna Desai, and Madeleine Brown, our fabulous artist facilitators.

This workshop was funded by Canadian Heritage’s Spark Initiative.