Design Thinking

Design thinking has become a bit of a buzzword in education over the past few years.   In our classes I do not want it to become (and have no intent in it becoming) reduced to a buzzword.  

Design thinking is a process and a mindset.  It cannot be reduced to a simple checklist.  Lessons and projects for students should include empathy, experimentation, prototyping, reflection, and redesign.  

Abandon prescriptive scenarios.  Facilitate activities that let students “problem find,” practice empathy, interpret issues and find meaning leading to the generation of new ideas, experiments, and iterations.

Students can learn these valuable skills centered on empathy, collaboration, prototyping, and iteration if we set out to create opportunities to include these mindsets in our instruction.

The interesting thing about design thinking is that teachers are inherently designers of instruction, beginning with empathy for their students’ needs.  Ultimately, we need to support our teachers with time to create projects that allow the students to practice design thinking.  


Here are some great books to introduce kids to these mindsets:

What Do You Do With an Idea?


What Do You Do With a Problem?


The Most Magnificent Thing


Here’s a good resource to get started:

Design Thinking for Educators



Pear Deck


Our teachers love Pear Deck!  

Along with being a really easy to use (it integrates with G Suite for Education), and a great engagement and formative assessment tool, below are some of the specific features of Pear Deck that our teachers like.  In another blog post, I’ll dive deeper into our systems processes for choosing educational technology.

Check in with students

Self-paced mode

  • Present lesson through Gradual Release of Responsibility
  • Allocate time for students to work independently on a portion of Pear Deck slide deck
  • Utilize multiple Pear Deck slide decks as differentiated “Station” Activities
  • Utilize differentiated Pear Deck slide decks in small group instruction
  • Pear Deck Student-Paced Overview

Take-Aways – turn the slide deck into a Google Doc for each student

  • Students can receive their individual responses on a slide deck
  • Google Doc can be used for studying and to continue the learning
  • Teacher can use comment feature of Google Docs to provide feedback on a student’s response to a question
  • How to Publish a Pear Deck Takeaway

Google Docs & Forms to Differentiate

I recently presented at the EdTechTeam GAFE Summit held in my school district, Marlboro Township Public Schools.

It was a great event! I learned valuable new instructional strategies and ways to use emerging instructional technologies.  As we approach the start of the school year, I’m sharing and have attached my presentation slideshow on differentiating with Google Docs and Google Forms.

It’s a simple concept in that the teacher can share a Google Doc with a student and set him/her off on an individualized project and learning paths or provide specific links to differentiated content or activities.  Additionally, if you’re using adaptive learning programs like Study Island, ST Math, or others, you can link directly to those websites and sign-in pages.

Below is a skills checklist to get yourself started and a link to my slideshow and resources.

  • Understand basics of Google Docs and Forms
  • Understand Sharing Settings of Docs and Forms
  • Can insert hyperlinks into a Google Doc
    • Understand concept of linking Docs to Docs
    • Insert Link Shortcut Keys (Ctrl + K)
  • Can utilize Google Search to find resources, texts, videos, etc. to curate information
  • Can insert YouTube Videos
  • Understand how to add Sections in Google Forms
  • Understand new Forms Quizzes feature

Google Docs & Forms to Differentiate NJ GAFE Summit16 Slideshow

Adaptive Learning Flowchart for Google Forms

I wanted to share this Adaptive Learning Flowchart that can be used when planning a formative assessment in Google Forms.

I don’t recommend trying to make Google Form assessment that verges on the complexity of advanced adaptive learning programs.  However, the flowchart I’ve provided should give you some assistance in planning a form that leads a student through a differentiated path or an adaptive type assessment.


Flowchart Graphic
Flowchart Graphic