Design Thinking

*This is a cross post with my blog at Cohort21 (
Tonight I came across an article on Design Thinking, specifically for educators.  This summer while I was at the Klingenstein Summmer Institute for Early Career Teachers I was exposed to ‘Design Thinking’ for the first time. If you have not heard about design thinking before you can check out the d.School: Institute of Design at Stanford University as a starting point. Design thinking is a different way of approaching problem solving and is focused around the idea of empathy and creativity.  The image below helps to explain the Design Thinking process visually. The first step is to empathize with the problem, the define the problem, ideate solutions to the problem, and then prototype a solution and test it. 
As part of my elementary cohort at the Summer Institute, we spend a day focused on design thinking and how we could incorporate it into our classrooms. Just like any new tool or teaching technique, the first thing that we did was experience what it was like to go through the design thinking process. We did the 90-minute Virtual Crash Course which is focused on the gift-giving experience. This is a great tool both to experience what the process is like as a learner, and if you are looking to explain it to your staff!
After we went through the crash course, we then went through a design thinking based activity centered around examining a student in our class that was challenging and how we could adjust the learning environment to better meet their needs. I found this process to be very enlightening and I was surprised at the solutions my partner and I were able to develop through this method of thinking. It was surprising how the structured process of design thinking allows you to be more creative, innovative, and stretch your thinking when you are provided with the proper framework.
The facilitator was discussing ways that she had incorporated design thinking into her classroom. One specific example was related to her unit about the 100-mile diet/local farming.  Her students went to a  local market and interviewed local farmers to find out what problems they were facing, then the define the problems and created solutions to assist the farmers. I wish I could find the website to show you! It was such a great way to have the kids using their higher order thinking skills and stretching the traditional classroom to incorporate the community and action.
I would love to incorporate more design thinking into my classroom. Presently, I have utilized this framework with my FIRST Lego League team to help them approach the challenge for this year ‘Senior Solutions’.
Have you tried Design Thinking in your classroom?
Would you like to try the Virtual Crash course?
Can you see this being an effective tool for incorporating higher-order skills into your classroom?
Please share your thoughts!

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