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

 

 

What Do You Do With An Idea?

What Do You Do With An Idea?

 

My two-year-old son recently received the book, What Do You Do With An IDEA?  He loves the illustrations and how the story changes from black and white to color.  I love the message that this book delivers.  When my children are ready, I’ll definitely spend time discussing it’s theme.

I also found that this story struck a chord with me, both personally and professionally.  I often have a lot of ideas myself.  For those that know me, you might say I’m sometimes a “flight of ideas.”  In fact, just this weekend my closest friends outside of education teased me about this.  However, this website and blog started with an idea and although sometimes the first step in any journey is the hardest – we just have to start.

This also speaks to the message of the book – sometimes people will think you are silly, foolish, too ambitious, or even crazy – and you need to be resilient, thick-skinned, determined, and not easily discouraged.  I would also add that we need to teach children to be open to constructive criticism, different perspectives, new ideas, reflection, and the capability of iteration.  Of course, rejection doesn’t feel good, but rejection can lead to the next iteration – an improvement, a redesign, a different perspective.  Like in the book, our ideas need attention and love – whether that be research, redesign, time – until our idea is ready to be released.

This process is different for all people and creatives.  As Malcom Gladwell recently examined in his Revisionist History Podcast, some ideas are “perfect” on the first few iterations, while others, take years upon years of iteration.  As educators, the theme in What Do You Do With An Idea?, also speaks to the design thinking process.

Finally, as educators, it behooves us to inspire curiosity in our students.  This starts with a love for learning, understanding the learning process, and becoming self-directed.  If we do not, their ideas – “crazy” or not – will only remain ideas.