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.

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