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PlusUs rewrites educational methods with 'design thinking'

As education rapidly digitizes -- think online charters, virtual textbooks and "teaching" monitors -- PlusUs is bringing workshop-based learning back to the classroom. The certified B corporation unites educators and designers, delivering "human-centered" educational programing solutions for clients, including the Franklin Institute and the Public Workshop.

"There’s a lot of resistance to education reform," says cofounder Phil Holcombe. "There’s a lot of good ideas, but they’re being injected from the outside without buy-in from educators."
PlusUs, which operates out of Culture Works in Center City, allows clients to direct their project’s development and employs local educators as consultants. Holcombe, a designer (his cofounder Jake Thierjung is a teacher), believes approaching educational issues with "design thinking" changes the processes.
"I don’t think typography or color is going to change the face of education," says Holcombe. "It’s about the way a designer thinks and the way they can objectively look at problems."
So far, projects have centered on educational spaces and curriculums -- "tool kits" that enable teachers to engage students in real-world scenarios. At the Franklin Institute, PlusUs worked with the Science Leadership Academy to help students prototype new uses for New York City’s payphone system. PlusUs was also hired by the promotional department of a Nascar team to create a distributable math curriculum based on race car engineering. They are currently developing the layout for the  Department of Making + Doing.
As part of their B Corporation idealology, PlusUs also taps into client-funded projects to develop solutions for programs without a budget. Ultimately, according to Holcombe, PlusUs is providing a new path for educational reform.
"Educators are designing, but designers are also educating," says Holcombe. "When two entities start to work together, that’s when change can happen."

Source: Phil Holcombe, PlusUs
Writer: Dana Henry
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