How to Design More Memorable Experiences
What’s something you remember learning in middle school? Why did it stick? What about it made that learning experience memorable, enjoyable, and safe?
These are the questions that Kai Frazier is exploring as an expert in designing experiences and products with her audience in mind. Kai is the founder and CEO of Kai XR, a company that uses Metaverse technologies to expose students to global educational opportunities so they can be better prepared for a highly technical future and learn in a more comprehensive way.
Listen to the full episode on the Creative Confidence Podcast to hear Kai talk about how VR is transforming education, tips on designing with an audience in mind, and how education can inform the future of tech.
An Education Startup’s Journey
Kai never wanted to be an entrepreneur—she was a middle school history teacher in Northern Virginia, and her school didn’t have a lot of resources. The school didn’t have computer labs or strong wifi, and even though it was located 30 minutes away from the free federal Smithsonian museums, it couldn’t afford the charter buses to get there.
But Kai learned an interesting statistic: when kids go on field trips, they're 95% more likely to graduate from high school because they're exposed to new ideas, new sounds, and new careers, which then dramatically changes their outlook on life.
Kai wanted to find a way to let her students explore the world around them and really connect with what she was teaching in the classroom. She had the idea of filming different experiences in VR and using phones to bring it to her students, and this eventually led her to starting Kai XR, an edtech startup that enables kids to explore the world with different technologies like VR.
The Intersection of Tech and Education
After moving to Silicon Valley, Kai realized that others in the tech industry held assumptions that weren’t necessarily true. For example, there was an expectation of being able to get wifi anywhere, when the students in Kai’s classroom didn’t always have wifi. She could see why innovation wasn't happening in the classroom—the people making technology that was scaling globally didn’t understand the reality of many students across the country.
Kai created Kai XR to bridge the gap between technology and education. As an interactive learning platform, Kai XR uses in-demand technologies such as VR to give students a headstart for the future. Students have the ability to go on more than one hundred virtual field trips that are aligned with their curriculum and help them to explore the world around them.
One of the first virtual field trips that Kai created was to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Many of the students who went weren’t born in the US and didn’t know who MLK was. Another virtual experience Kai XR had was a field trip to the official Obama portraits at the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery. To see that they were represented in the museum was important for her students. Experiences like these give students access to experiences that they might not have otherwise.
Find more tips and resources on designing better experiences in our course Human-Centered Service Design.
Advice for Entrepreneurs
In entrepreneurship, Kai says that you have to trust your vision, which will change and grow over time. When she was explaining Kai XR to other people, Kai used to say, “We take kids to different monuments and museums.” They would respond, “Like a virtual field trip, like the Magic School Bus?” Kai began to see how others understood her company and vision, and realized that her job was going to be constantly communicating that vision.
Kai also says that there are often sacrifices that may need to be made. People have an idea and think, “If only I had more time or more money.” Kai says that while you might not have a huge fund to get started, there are steps you can take to reach your goal, whether it’s living with your parents for a while to make the money, not going on vacations, or even selling your house.
Kai explains that the real key is to start where you are, start with what you have, and start with what you know. For her, she figured out there was a big technology gap in education, which is what she knew as a teacher in Washington, DC. She got her first 360 degree camera because she made an Instagram post about VR and Georgetown University reached out to her saying they had a makerspace. With that camera, Kai was able to create her first prototypes for Kai XR.
“You already have what you need to be successful, but are you willing to sacrifice to really trust and bet on yourself?”
Designing for Memorable Experiences
One common thing that Kai would hear from her students is, “Where am I in the history books?” A lot of her students of color would internalize early on that they were not a part of history and that their community’s contributions didn’t matter. Because of this, Kai wanted to make sure that Kai XR was intentional about bringing in stories that represented all students. Kai says that there are a lot of unique stories that never see the light of day, and she says those are the stories that need to be elevated.
In some popular VR or immersive experiences, the focus was on stories of oppression and trauma. Kai decided not to go that route, instead using Kai XR’s experiences to show examples of joy and triumph and innovation, things that students would really need to embrace their creativity and be the innovators of the future. She holds a create-athon for students and has them make their own metaverse movie, where she encourages her students to get their stories out there.
Kai also reminds people that technology like VR is a tool that can be used in education, but it doesn’t remove existing pedagogy. To create a meaningful VR experience, the curriculum needs to be considered. Before a VR experience, Kai will give viewing guides with pre-viewing questions to draw on and assess students’ background knowledge:
- If Kai is teaching about the solar system, rather than immediately saying “Let’s go on a virtual field trip to the solar system,” she’ll first ask students what a planet is and how many planets they can name.
- If Kai is sharing the Obama portraits, she’ll ask, “What makes a portrait? If you could have a portrait of anybody in your room, who would you choose?”
Kai also emphasizes the importance of learning objectives, such as analyzing, comparing and contrasting, or critiquing. If a learning objective says that students will be able to identify the planets in the solar system, then that means that somewhere in the learning experience, there has to be a callout where all of the planets are identified. Afterward, students can demonstrate their knowledge through post-viewing questions or by creating a model in a makerspace.
“We try to make sure we are showing examples of joy, triumph, and innovation that helps these students embrace their own creativity and encourage them to be the future of their generation.”
A Framework for Designing Experiences
Kai says that there’s a framework that she hears a lot from educators when thinking about how to design memorable experiences. It’s the idea of mirrors, windows and sliding glass doors:
- Mirrors: When a student can see themselves reflected, and feel represented
- Windows: When a student can look through and see people who are different from them, through other stories and cultures
- Sliding glass doors: When a student can enter and access a different world
Kai gives the example of entrepreneurship. Students will see many examples of young white males who go Silicon Valley to tackle problems. If students see that mirrored over and over again, it gives them a distorted sense of reality, because if they look through a window, they’ll also see that black women are currently the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs.
To Kai, an immersive experience that takes you through a day in someone’s life and creates a level of empathy is a sliding glass door moment. For example, Kai XR has a VR experience of aerospace engineering that shows the journey of Tiera Fletcher, who works at NASA as a rocket scientist. Kai says that not only is it great for Black girls to see that and be inspired, it's also great for everyone else to know that people like her can be in that career. Sliding glass door moments like these get students excited and show them what’s possible.
Create Moments That Matter
Experience design is about creating moments that matter—moments that will stick with people. If you want to go deeper into designing memorable experiences, our online course Human-Centered Service Design teaches you how to tie together human, digital, and physical interactions over time to create a truly differentiated experience for your audience.
“I wanted to make sure that we were being intentional in making all students feel represented.”
About the Speaker
Founder & CEO at Kai XR
Kai Frazier is an educator turned EdTech entrepreneur passionate about using technology to provide inclusive and accessible opportunities for underestimated communities. Kai is the founder & CEO of Kai XR, a company that uses Metaverse technologies to expose students to global educational opportunities so they can be better prepared for a highly technical future.
Kai served as an entrepreneur in residence at the Kapor Center for Social Impact Techstars' Social Impact cohort sponsored by Cox Enterprises and T-Mobile's Immersive Accelerator. Her work has been featured by Forbes, The U.S. Department of Education, NBC, the Steve Harvey Show & more.
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