Engaging Students the Imagineering Way
You don't need a thrill ride to Imagineer education
Imagineering is a term coined by Walt Disney to describe the process of blending creative imagination with technical know-how, particularly as it applied to the work of the incredibly talented team of artists, designers and engineers that he brought together to create Disneyland. For more than seventy years, the Imagineers have utilized their diverse talents to create iconic places and memorable experiences for all who visit Disney theme parks now spread across the globe. The principles that they use to engage and captivate their guests have been adopted by numerous industries throughout the world and can also be applied in educational settings to improve schools and learning in a number of ways. You don't need a thrill ride to make learning memorable and exciting; just a healthy dose of creativity, imagination and a "can do" spirit that the Imagineers are known for. Here is a brief overview of just a few examples of ways that you can Imagineer teaching and learning:
Imagineering emphasizes the importance of storytelling in creating immersive experiences. Stories are the key element to any Disney attraction. From the Haunted Mansion to the Jungle Cruise, those who ride are taking part in a narrative that's brought to life in three dimensions. In a similar fashion, schools can use storytelling techniques to engage students and make the learning that occurs in classrooms more memorable. Like Imagineers, teachers can use storytelling to contextualize content in ways that help students better relate to the lessons being taught.
Theming involves creating a consistent visual and emotional narrative that is carried throughout an experience and helps create immersion into the story that is being told. Imagineers are famous for the level of detail that they use to create the feel for each attraction throughout the parks. Likewise, schools can use theming to create a cohesive and engaging learning environment throughout the school and across each classroom within it. For example a history teacher could transform their classroom into a historic time period using props, music and imagery, or a science teacher could turn their classroom into a the look and feel of laboratory using similar techniques.
In order to stay relevant and up-to-date, Imagineering incorporates the latest technology to create immersive experiences, from new types of animatronics to the use of wearable technology that can help decrease guests wait times in line. In many ways, the mindset that embraces the use of technology should apply to schools as well, as they seek out and utilize the latest platforms to create engaging and interactive lessons. For instance, virtual reality, which can be used to take students on virtual field trips, or gamification through coding that can be used to make learning challenging yet fun and engaging.
Imagineering emphasizes the importance of collaboration between different disciplines and areas of expertise. Cross-pollination of ideas from those with different skills sets, talent, and points-of-view is really the secret sauce that makes their work so successful. This practice should be used by schools as well to encourage collaboration between students, teachers, administration and parents. Besides being one of the much-touted 21st Century Skills in which all students should become proficient, effective collaboration will benefit all aspects of the school, from teaching and learning to operations.
Walt Disney was fond of saying, "Around here...we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” This mindset has always been reflected in the principles of Imagineering that involves continuous improvement through iteration and testing as they push forward to provide the best and greatest experiences for their guests. School communities should also embrace this notion in order to continually improve not only the teaching methods utilized and the curriculum that is taught, but also the conditions of the overall learning environment as well. Experimentation, healthy feedback and a willingness to always keep the needs of students first will result in, as Walt said, leading schools down new and exciting paths.
These are only a few ways in which the principles and practices of the Imagineers can be used to improve teaching, learning and the overall school experience. If you would like to learn more about each of these practices as they apply to education as well as take a deeper dive into the benefits of creating immersive spaces and experiences in order to foster greater student engagement, then join us for our new online course, Imagineering Education, launching this Spring. To register for updates and special offers, click here.
We hope you'll join us and until then, keep opening new doors, doing new things, and stay curious, my friends!