Ethics Lab, an incubator for morally complex projects housed at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.
How can Ethics Lab extend the reach of its innovative ethics pedagogy beyond its in-person offerings?
A suite of toolkits accessible to middle through high-school educators without a background in ethics or design. The toolkits pair ethics topics with design methods in a complete package that includes everything teachers need to facilitate an educational experience in their own classrooms.
In Ethics Lab, we use design tools and methods to help teach and to make a real-world impact. As a co-founder of the Lab, I've been intimately involved in the evolution of these methods. I helped to bring a variety of creative methods to unstick assumptions, re-frame a given context, and create new ways forward. In the Lab team's experience, using the designer's toolkit to examine moral issues encourages non-linear thinking, increases empathy, and pushes learners toward deep and authentic engagement with the granular details of a given situation or problem area.
As part of the Lab's growth, we are pursuing new avenues to spread our innovative pedagogy. To that end, I assembled and am currently leading the team of designers and PhD philosophers creating a suite of toolkits that pair ethics topics with design methods. The kits enable teachers to facilitate a discrete activity in their own classrooms without prior expertise in ethics or design. This empathy mapping toolkit is our first product which exports the experiences we provide in classes at Georgetown to the masses.
In this toolkit, teachers receive all the materials necessary to lead their students through an empathy-mapping exercise aimed at deepening their understanding of the ethical issues surrounding informed consent. The kit includes curriculum documents, scenario cards, sample informed consent forms, custom acrylic stencils, markers, and sticky notes. The included instructions provide a step-by-step guide to lead students through role playing scenarios that put them in the place of a patient whose consent is required for a medical intervention.
I employed a diverse skillset to realize this product. I led design sessions to develop kit ideas, I wrote detailed background and instructions on design activities, I edited curriculum documents, I produced the printed materials included in the kit, and I oversaw production of the custom laser cut boxes and stencils. As this is an ongoing project, I'm now leading user testing, marketing, and coordination with the relevant offices at Georgetown to ensure this revenue-generating effort complies with University policies and our intellectual property is protected.
Today additional kits are in the pipeline and we're currently testing the empathy-mapping kit with teachers in professional development workshops and in high school classrooms on the East Coast.
The Kennedy Institute of Ethics (KIE), a center for practically engaged ethics at Georgetown University. Established in 1971 with a founding interest in medical ethics, it is one of the oldest academic ethics centers in the world.
Revamp the KIE's massive open online course (MOOC), Introduction to Bioethics, for its second iteration to improve learners' experience, encourage deeper discussions, and allow for multiple paths through course content.
A new learning management system (LMS) dubbed the "living textbook" purpose-built to deliver humanities content through an intuitive interface.
The KIE had a problem: the best way to teach bioethics is through the presentation of multiple perspectives and respectful debate between peers, but they were stuck on a MOOC platform that wasn't built for this type of learning. After reviewing past course analytics, researching precedents, and talking to users, I built a series of LMS prototypes for in-person bioethics classes at Georgetown. Through user testing we saw that this evolving design would nicely accommodate the MOOC's ten week structure. It allowed for self-paced consumption of course content (video lectures, quizzes, readings, activities) in a responsive, infinite scroll format allowing users to stop and start at their convenience.
I knew this platform had to support tens of thousands of users simultaneously. To ensure reliability at scale, I made wireframes, user journeys, and system architecture diagrams that detailed functionality and streamlined common tasks. I then teamed up with a cloud-hosting expert to get the MOOC production ready: I built a custom WordPress theme that served as the content management system used by faculty and graduate students to input and update content. I used the WordPress installation as an API, retrieving each MOOC unit's content as JSON that was fed to a Backbone.js powered front-end. Separately, we stood up a Discourse instance to power our discussion boards. Laravel served as a single sign-on provider to synchronize accounts and create a seamless user experience across all the course's modules. Finally, this was hosted using a carefully orchestrated suite of Amazon Web Services including auto-scaling EC2 instances, S3, CloudFront, DynamoDB, ElastiCache, and RDS.
The platform served tens of thousands of learners and garnered acclaim from other departments at Georgetown and universities around the world who want to license the technology for their own courses.
National Geographic, one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world with a universally recognized brand.
Craft the online results experience for The Genographic Project version 2.0—part citizen science and part consumer product, users send in their spit for DNA analysis and receive information about their ancient ancestry.
Rich storytelling, paired with engaging maps and visuals powered by the complex integration of multiple APIs, frameworks, and technologies.
Since its launch in 2005, National Geographic's Genographic Project has used advanced DNA analysis and worked with indigenous communities to help answer fundamental questions about where humans originated and how we came to populate the Earth. I was part of the team that designed and implemented significant pieces of the results section for the launch of Geno 2.0, a consumer-facing website with hundreds of thousands of users.
Working with representatives from National Geographic's store, world-renowned scientists from their missions team, and the in-house digital team, I conducted user research through surveys and lengthy in-person testing. Our research led us to two overarching principles for our design work: build for beginners, but accommodate the experts; and build a great relationship between the users and the science. To make these findings actionable for our extended team, I created personas and user journeys that embodied these principles.