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Design Thinking to Go

February 7, 2014

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Last summer I was introduced to the concept of design thinking at an ISTE workshop on apps for extending the design thinking process offered by educators at the Nueva School.  I had been working with teams of student designers, but struggling with the process. What as the best way to introduce brainstorming? How could I guide student inquiry? How could I keep my students working in “creative” mode? Suddenly, with just the outline of the design thinking process, all the balls I’d been juggling started to make sense.

Design Thinking Workshop

Co Barry of the Design School at Stanford led a workshop that extended my introduction to “Design Thinking” by stressing how it is best used to introduce a series of mindsets: human centeredness, mindfulness of process, showing rather than telling (concrete thinking), bias towards actions, radical collaboration, and creating a culture of prototyping.

Barry also introduced several exercises for priming the pump for design thinking. We interviewed one another and used images to illustrate our subjects’ key concerns; we created a group doodle; and we planned a party to experience the difference between responding “yes, and” rather than “yes, but.”  before asking us to take part in the process of collecting data from interviews and using it to build a prototype. One key element of the design thinking process that comes up again and again is building empathy. When we design for others, based on interviews, we suspend judgment and become more open observers. When we work on problems outside our areas of “expertise,” we actually come up with more innovative ideas.

 Idea Lab

After Barry’s practical, hands-on workshop, Jenny Velasquez, Garrett Mason, and Head of School Merry Sorrells hosted a visit to their new “Idea Lab” at St. Martin’s Episcopal School in New Orleans.  The lab showed off how students’ innovative thinking can be sparked with the right kind of space and resources to help teachers try out design thinking in their classes.  A little “idea paint” makes all the surfaces into spaces for writing, drawing, and brainstorming; comfy chairs invite collaboration, and access tools and supplies allows for on-the-spot creative thinking.

It was an inspiring afternoon and evening.  I’m looking forward to taking these ideas into my own classroom. Maybe I can convince my Headmaster to open an Idea Lab as well.

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