New Maker Resources

After all that Design Thinking work, making seems to be an easy topic to go back and look at.  Two new series are interesting for teachers who have a bit of money in invest in some great resources.

The first series, Be A Maker! Maker Projects for Kids Who Love … (Games, Animation, Robotics, Graphic Design, Music) by various authors feature complete analysis of the area in the title.  For example Maker Projects for Kids Who Love Games gives a brief overview of a few skills, like collaboration, that you will need to be a game maker.  After a two page spread on the history of games and another about the development of Monopoly, discussion around what a games needs to be a game begins.  The first real maker challenge is a “hack,” take apart an existing game and investigate why is works.

After a section that discusses the design process, the next challenge features a few pieces from home or classroom and helps learners develop a game using the pieces.  Through various steps to invent the game, makers are pushed to create with what is available.  In the “Make it better!” section, makers reflect on the constraints of the activity.  Would fewer or more pieces help or hinder the design?

The final section of the book discusses prototyping and testing.  The final task sets makers up for designing a game from beginning to end, testing, revising it and testing again.  In this way, most of the books work through a design thinking process to show students about making.  This series would be great to have in classroom that is set to make.


The second series, Connect with Electricity, contains titles like How LED’s Work, How Batteries Work, How Sensors Work, and How Conductors Work .  These resources would work best in a grade 4 – 7 class with interest on either side of these grades. These books are considered a very thorough introduction to the subject areas with a table of contents, glossary, answer key, selected bibliography, further resources and index.  Photographs capture the essence of each component as well as the historical context it can be viewed in.  And, I learned things from these books that would help set up a foundation for using electricity in various formats in making activities.  These books would make an excellent addition to your Maker Library of Resources.  They include some projects to build skills and others to promote a maker mindset in the classroom.


Get your students thinking about making by having resources like these in your classroom library.  Both series make for interesting browsing.

Design Thinking – Final Reflections

Final Reflection by Tammy Flanders

In reviewing the workshops, we taught over the last two weeks, both Paula and I feel more certain that sticking with the Three Little Pigs scenario for both the secondary and elementary level students will be the way to go in the future. The feedback we got from the two classes of secondary students who had the opportunity to work through both scenarios felt it was the one that facilitated their understanding more. However, I feel sure that we will get push back from some secondary students who will see the fairy tale scenario as being too juvenile.  It will be up to Paula and me to ensure that the focus is on the design thinking process and NOT on the task. We just have to make it known to the students.

Upon further reflection, we feel that offering two examples of design thinking (one being the IDEO video where a shopping cart is redesigned and two, displaying our own work as represented in the workshop) is worthwhile. The shopping cart is a great example because the process results in a concrete object that has obviously undergone some significantly physical changes.  It is easy to see the prototype.

Presenting the workshop as a second example demonstrates what a less concrete application might look like. When students are trying to tie the design thinking process to their own classroom practice according to their curriculum specializations (humanities vs. science, math, and kinesiology) there is often a struggle as to what this will look like.  Prototyping is so strongly associated with producing a product that it becomes difficult to know that ‘thing’ looks like when it is not concrete. In the humanities especially, the prototype or product might not be an actual physical thing. It might be a concept, a program or a workshop.

Final Reflection by Paula Hollohan

After all the Design Thinking workshops we did, I firmly believe one thing.  As student teachers this explanation of the process must be experienced and that experience can be the lens through which you see the curriculum.

Students will be going through a few projects to live the design thinking process.  At the end of these five weeks, design thinking will be a lived experience for each of them.

As students prepare for their final practicum and for their own classrooms in September, it will be interesting to see which parts of the curriculum they view “through the lens of design thinking.”

Elementary specialists may feel they have the luxury of time for their students to really experience design thinking.  Secondary students, who feel their time is more regimented, may have to begin by seeing one curriculum unity through the design thinking lens.

Most articles cite the remarkable engagement of students in every grade who are tasked with learning with design thinking.  The adoption may be slow in secondary but will be fed through the invested, engaged students led by engaged teachers.


We do want you to visit our Research Guide about Design Thinking and Makerspaces.  Also visit our blogs that provide curated resources for various classroom settings.  Tammy’s blog is Apple with Many Seeds and Paula’s blog is Doucette Ed Tech.  We also have a variety of resources showcased through Pinterest Boards and some technology ideas collected on these boards.  All of these resources can be accessed even after graduation and are updated fairly regularly.

It was a great experience to teach the Design Thinking process to so many students and to have so much feedback on the process.  The count down is on for next year’s iteration.

Design Thinking – The Final Day

By: Paula Hollohan

Design Thinking and Project Based Learning

By just after noon today, we had completed our Design Thinking workshop schedule for this year.  And we have learned so much about what students understand about Design Thinking and how we think about it.

One question, today, led us to a discussion about the differences between Project or Problem Based Learning and Design Thinking.  Many students have had the experience of Project or Problem Based learning but have not worked through the process of design thinking in a classroom.

Project based learning starts with a defined question in mind and works towards answering or giving a solution to that specific question.  As students work through their research process, experimentation and learning, they are working towards answering the specific, given question.

In the Design Thinking process, students are looking at a task or a series of resources that frames a situation for them.  They may be looking at, as in our scenario, the story of the Three Little Pigs.  As they took part in the round table storytelling, the empathy and definition phases, students began to formulate what a guiding question that addressed the situation would look like.  The investigation stages of empathy and definition led to the question.  Students did not begin with a question. It was up to the students to define what the problem was depending on the chosen character, Pig or Wolf.

Over the 9 days of teaching design thinking, our workshop evolved to include a pause before the ideation brainstorm to articulate the question or to define (or redefine) the problem as students now see it after living through the empathy and definition elements of the process.

This small amount of time in table discussion given to articulate the guiding question helped to focus the ideation sketches and mind maps.  For our prototype, we included these questions on the 545/550 page in the Libguide and called attention to the process by showing students the questions as an example.  While many students worked from our questions, others came up with other guiding questions to form the basis of their work.

We are developing content and learning along with the students about how Design Thinking looks and feels within a classroom.  For their 2nd task in 545/550 classes, they are developing PD for their practicum school centred around learning Design Thinking.  I think they all noticed that Tammy and I had just worked through one type of this task with them.

Next week, we will do a final blogpost that summarizes our experience with teaching Design Thinking to all the students we saw over the last 9 days. It was a wonderful experience.  We felt confident that we were giving them a solid introduction and the language to begin their design thinking journey.


Design Thinking – Day 5 (Week 2)

By: Tammy Flanders

In reviewing last week’s workshops, I’m still wondering how the students who are headed to secondary schools would have accepted the scenario that we did use with students looking to teach at the elementary level.

Originally, Paula and I had thought to design a design thinking task around the scenario of the three little pigs and the big, bad wolf.  Because we felt that the point of the task was to teach about the process of design thinking and less so about the ‘content’ of the scenario that this would work.

One of the instructors recommended coming up with a scenario for the secondary students that would appear less ‘elementary,’ afraid that they wouldn’t buy into it. We did have other instructors also teaching secondary students who didn’t think this would be a problem.

So with this little encouragement, I’m still tempted (at some future time) to use the scenario based on the fairy tale with the secondary students. I think the advantages would balance the negative perceptions. For instance, we need to manage the expectations and make sure students understand that it’s the design thinking process that is the most important part of this.

Also, we think the ice breaker that goes with the three pigs’ scenario gets the students into talking more quickly and with less hang ups. This is done as a ‘roundtable storytelling’ where every student adds a line or two in retelling the story.

Compare this with the scenario that we do use with the secondary students that is based on current events around refugees coming to a new country and the challenges they face. The session starter for them is Paula and I reading/book talking the picture book, Home and Away by John Marsden and Matt Ottley. Next we have them chat about what they know about refugees or immigrants from things they’ve read or know personally. Many of them felt that they just didn’t have enough information about refugees in general and that thinking specifically about the Syrian refugees in Canada curtailed their imaginations. They just couldn’t seem to place themselves in the shoes of any new arrival. They were afraid that they would end up creating stereotypes.

However, the three pigs’ scenario wouldn’t have the same baggage as this is such a fanciful story that we encourage students to extrapolate on and take in any direction they want.

Today we had the opportunity to try this out.

Two classes that came to us last week, went through the workshop again (though not in its entirety) using the fairy tale task instead of the refugee scenario. They certainly had fun with it and came up with some really creative ideas.

Because they were already familiar with the introduction, we skipped that and focused the tasks around the scenario giving them lots of time to work through the empathy, definition, ideation and prototyping sections. This was much more hands on as we had the full 80 minutes to let them really get into the role playing, interviewing, defining and ideating and finally ‘building’ a prototype. Even though we brought out many of our building kits (wood blocks, Lego, foam discs, straws and connectors, etc.) many created prototypes that were programs or written informational literature instead.

Over all, I think these second workshops went over well with students but I can’t say for certain whether they would have bought in to it the same way if this had been their first exposure. We did ask if they would have felt it too elementary and some said yes. They also acknowledged that they could see how it would work using the fairy tale.

As I said before, maybe it’s all about managing expectations of the students from the first and reminding them the focus about the process not the actual task.

Thoughts, anyone?

Design Thinking – Day 4

By: Paula Hollohan

“I must govern the clock, not be governed by it.” – Golda Meir

Well, after 4 solid days of Design Thinking workshops, while I agree with the sentiment of this quote, I feel we are still governed by the time allotted to us by the set timetable.

But we did make one noticeable change that helped us all relax and enjoy the workshop so much more. As yesterday evolved and we started the first of the two elementary workshops today, we took the pressure off the students.  They don’t know it but we did.  That’s the great thing about 25 new students in each iteration, they don’t know what they are missing or what they have gained.

Tammy mentioned it right after the first workshop today.  “I like it more when we don’t say, you have 4 minutes to complete this task!!!!” And I agreed.  Saying to the students, “we are gong to give you a few minutes to discuss this part with your table group,” helps focus them but doesn’t pressure them with a deadline.  And it worked.  We looked for when the conversation started to lag or the writing and drawing started to slow down and we moved on from there.  Most impressive was the fact that, even though we had timed it to the minute on our outlines, when we left it to students to pace the discussion, we came in on time in both sessions.

Two things might be at play.  We have done the workshop ten times now so our pacing will naturally become easier to fit within the 80 minutes we are working with but, and I still think of this as magic, students are suitably engaged to have short, deep conversations and move through the process in the time limit given.

We are tired but in a good way.  We have walked about 200 students through the steps of Design Thinking.  We have 8 more workshops next week so stay tuned…

Design Thinking – Day 3

By: Tammy Flanders

We had four workshops today – two for secondary level students and two for elementary level.

It was great having an opportunity to work through the elementary scenario of the three little pigs and the big bad wolf a couple more times. There is definitely a marked difference in the tone of activity between the elementary and secondary students. Whereas the secondary students worked through a more real life example (helping an immigrant/ refugee settle in a new country which they took very seriously) the elementary student teachers were able to let their imaginations go and have some fun.

Paula and I still think there’s merit in having the secondary level students work through the fairy tale scenario just to introduce a bit of levity into the workshop and highlight that the work is about the application of the process not the specific scenario we’ve centered the task around. We just have to screw up our courage and try it out.

Paula and I, in reflecting on today’s teaching, have noted that we have added an element in the definition component of the design thinking process for the sake of clarity. If you read through the literature written about the design thinking process it never actually suggests coming up with a defining problem that will then be ideated. But we found that students struggled to get down to the ideating part, the part about coming up with ideas that look for possible results to help move forward with whatever problem they might be working on. Giving the students a couple of minutes to focus on an actual question or problem made the process a little more apparent.  They had something to ideate or focus on.

Another recommendation that has come up in several of the workshops for the secondary level student teachers is providing them with ‘character cards’, that give them an immigrant character to become when doing the interview with an aide worker.  Some students did get into the role playing and came up with characters who had children, who had never worked before, had specific job skills (ie. Doctor, engineer) they were looking to transfer, etc.  Other students felt like they didn’t know enough about immigrants to make up a character.  Paula and I have resisted this idea so far thinking that using the imagination was of value. We’ve since reconsidered and will make up a few characters that students will have the choice to assume or not.

Stay tuned for tomorrow – two more sessions.

Design Thinking – Day 2

By: Paula Hollohan

Today, for the first time, we gave our Elementary edition of the Design Thinking workshop and then another iteration of the Secondary version.  The only difference is the task that the students work through.  In the Elementary version, our task follows the story of the Three Little Pigs.

Here’s the thing.  Students are requesting that we supply curriculum connections and that our task be something they can experience and then replicate in their classrooms.  We are not trying to connect design thinking to a specific part of elementary or secondary curriculum simply because we want students to create those links themselves.  In order to show some examples of these links we are collecting information about various tasks on our libguide and we will be adding to them as we come across other great examples.

Using Design Thinking in the classroom will require students to choose the curriculum content that they feel best suits this process.  They can then plan what the process will look like in their classroom and see how it develops.

Design Thinking lends itself to the study of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects very well but is harder to imagine in Social Studies or English Language Arts.  Our rationale, in tying both workshops to familiar stories, is to show how design thinking can be used in the humanities.  The work around this use of design thinking is really just in its infancy and showing students the example connected to these resources shows them a path less traveled.

Why don’t we prototype something practical like a toothbrush or a play structure?  We are hoping students see that it may be easier to plan for design thinking within the science curriculum.  In grade 4, Simple Machines, students can be given tasks like playground design that will include most simple machine illustrations.  This process would take some time and developing a prototype would definitely be at least a class on its own.  Unfortunately, in our 80 minutes, we can introduce students to the process but would have to give up too much to include the prototyping.

And so we come to Thursday. Tomorrow we will teach 4 workshops in a row and will try to publish a blog by the end of the day if we are still standing.

Design Thinking – First Feedback

Contributor: Tammy Flanders

I’m only going to take up three points that came from the student’s feedback in today’s workshops.

1.A few of their points, we felt came from not meeting their expectations. Even though we set up the introduction to outline our objectives and how we meant to achieve them students felt that we had come up short.

For example, they wanted to see specific examples of design thinking in a physics, math and English classroom. Someone else wanted to know “Why design thinking?”. Finally, more students wanted to be even more involved in some of the activities.

Let me elaborate.

As an introduction workshop, Paula and I did not consider presenting specifics about integrating design thinking in content areas. Or why design thinking was a focus within this particular course. These questions would be better addressed in their regular class and will likely become clearer as they engage in the process when doing their assignments.

So, how to better to meet student expectations? A stronger introduction stating what we will and will not cover, recommend the Design Thinking library guide for examples of different teaching situations, and following up with their instructors.

  1. The comments about having the students doing more of the work were excellent points. Having students write their own post-it notes as they generated ideas, questions, problems related to immigrants/refugees instead of Paula and I doing this work, we agree would be better. Or having students rework their ideas created during the ideation component would also be fantastic and reflects a more realistic process. Design thinking is about revisiting your work over and over again.

But TIME was our major factor here. Eighty minutes isn’t very much time when working through this.

The rationale for doing this the way we have was strictly done as a consideration of time. Based on Paula’s experiences teaching other workshops having participants generate ideas in this way or revisiting and reworking their ideas, requires a considerable amount of time.  Having experienced this, myself at conferences, being pushed through this process in a couple of minutes is frustrating and sometimes results in confusion.


The questions then are:

What other sections can be significantly shortened or removed from the workshop?

If one section is given more time than the others, will this make the other components weaker?

What else can we come up with to overcome time constraints yet still give a meaningful workshop?

How much tighter can we make the introduction (i.e. talk less about the process we’ve undertaken in designing the workshop) before there isn’t enough information there for students to get any real meaning?

For the moment, we’re sticking with our format but will consider if there are other ways of doing this.

  1. Another point that a few students brought to our attention was the ’inauthenticity’ of the scenario we had them work through. As Paula has described above our scenario was based on immigrants and refugees settling into a country different from their own and how to go about meeting their needs in terms of employment, accommodation, food and finding community. We thought by using the two books to give them the mindset of a new arrival and talking about what they knew about Syrian refugees, or other situations based on their own experiences that would be enough for them to take on the role of either an immigrant or a social worker. By interviewing each other as a way to derive more information about the problems associated with a new arrival, we thought we had addressed empathy in an interesting way, a technique that could be used in their own classrooms, perhaps.

However, some participants felt this was a difficult undertaking and were not comfortable being an immigrant or refugee in case they misrepresented or based their representation on stereotypes.

Paula and I are not convinced that this is a real problem (at this point, at any rate). It may not be entirely authentic, granted, but taking up roles is a way to learn about what our biases are, what other kinds of information we need to learn about to really understand the situation and problems that come with living in a new country. This only highlights the importance of empathy for us. In the real world, you would of course go beyond an interview and research data from multiple sources.

What this really speaks to, in terms of our own teaching is the challenge of task design. To read more about designing task please visit a couple of other posts Paula has written, one from October 19th, 2015 and October 27th, 2015.

Stay tune, folks.   We are making changes to the workshop as we go and we’re so much through this process. Hopefully, you will too.



Design Thinking – Iteration #1 and 2

And so we began, first thing this morning, to introduce 2nd year Werklund Education Students to the Design Thinking process using the prototype of our own workshop to show them, through a humanities based task, to incorporate empathy, definition and ideation (and not present but also discussed, prototyping and testing) into their teaching.

We began with our objectives and what the workshop meant to us.  We showed the video from 1996 (some students mentioned how old it was) from Nightline that showed the whole process in the IDEO studio to design a shopping cart that is safer and easier to use.

During the second workshop, we felt that a tight summary of what went on in the video would be a good idea.  Examples were given from the video for empathy, definition and ideation.  The summary tied it together for students to give vocabulary to the vignettes they saw in the news story.

Again, we walked students through our experience, having conversations to create the empathy piece in our workshop and showed our thinking process through the definition stage.  We have all of the outlines we used as the evidence of the ideation process but did not present them in either workshop.

We, then, moved to student work.  Tammy presented the story of Home and Away by John Marsden and Matt Ottley while I showed the pictures from the book using the document camera. This picture book powerfully records the experience of an ordinary family, forced by war in their country, to become refugees.  In the interest of time, we chose this book for the secondary level pre-service teachers because of its impact and message.

Prepared packages of images from The Arrival by Shaun Tan, featured immigrant experiences captured in his graphic novel of finding food, shelter, employment and community in a new country.  In the second workshop, we removed the general immigrant experience images from the package and just left the specific subject area images.

Students used these images along with their own personal reading and watching of social media to form an impression of the immigrant experience in a new country.  Table groups were asked to brainstorm ideas about this immigrant experience within the context of the four areas mentioned above.

In order to experience empathy with the scenario at hand, students were divided into groups of two, where one student took on the role of the immigrant and the other was an aid worker.  We made some assumptions for this activity like that all immigrants could speak English, that you use all the general information you know about this issue to facilitate your understanding and that money is not an object.  Once the interviews took place, we asked students to tell us the identity they had assumed and the ideas that had come from their interviews.

Once we had recorded this information on post-it notes, we looked for patterns and clustered like ideas. From here, students were asked to ideate, picking a problem they wished to focus on and to start to write these ideas on a big sheet of paper with markers.  They were asked to draw or capture an idea that may be an outcome or a solution to their problem.


We had some interesting ideas from an all-in-one living and services building to people who would take public transportation with the new immigrant to places to get familiar food for them.

After a quick review of the process they had just experienced, we returned to the discussion of our “workshop as prototype” and asked for written feedback from them about whether or not we had reached our objectives.

Students, overall, felt they had a better understanding of the process and especially the three points we covered in the task:  empathy, definition and ideation.  We will address several of the comments over the next several blog posts and reflections.

For us, the number one factor in the design of a new workshop was addressing the limited amount of time most workshops allow for processing all of the Design Thinking process.  Most of the initial feedback we have received mentioned that the time allotted was suitable.  More comments came in about task design and the practical application of Design Thinking especially in the secondary classroom.  We will address more of these concerns in following blogposts.

Design Thinking Workshop Prototype

And this is the last peaceful moment we will enjoy at the Doucette for some 5 weeks.  Beginning on Monday, what seems like the sprint to the finish for 2nd year Werklund pre-service teachers will begin with the shot of a starting pistol (only figuratively) and continue at a break neck speed until February 14th.

Not that we, here at the Doucette, have been quiet.  Quite the opposite.  We have been developing a workshop for those same 2nd year students as they test the process of Design Thinking within their grade level and specialty teaching areas.  In order to end with a bang that we are metaphorically beginning with, a Maker Faire will be held here to showcase all of the prototypes of their learning on that final day, February 14.

Back to the workshop.  My partner in teaching, Tammy and I have been generally frustrated by each Design Thinking Workshop we have attended.  We began to visualize what the perfect workshop would look like in order to savour the language and process of Design Thinking.  During the brainstorm of our successes and disappointments, the number one reason for most of our frustrations was TIME.

In infomercial style, many workshops offered complete Design Thinking Training in 30 minutes or less.  And in order to experience Design Thinking, we bought into these workshops to soak up the process we had been reading so much about.   Let’s face it, spending two minutes to empathize with a real world problem is not enough.  Coming up with ideas to alleviate said problem with a 5 minute deadline is dreadful.

Developing our own workshop using the Design Thinking process embedded us in the steps to create a great learning experience for our students.  We decided, (listen carefully), to develop the workshop using the Design Thinking process making the workshop our prototype and having students test and give us feedback.  With me?  Okay, then we developed two humanities based scenarios to work with students through the first three defined steps of Design Thinking: Empathy, Definition and Ideation.

And so we begin the journey of walking 300+ students through the Design Thinking process using our workshop as prototype.  Beginning Monday, I will try to blog at the end of each day to let you know our successes and inspirations to change for new iterations. Notice how the word failure does not appear in this blogpost.  “Inspirations to change for new iterations” is the new failure where failure is, clearly, not an option.

Hang on, it is going to be a bumpy ride!