The recently released IDEO Wise Report entitled, Thinking and Acting like a Designer: How design thinking supports innovation in K-12 education by Annette Diefenthatler, Laura Moorhead, Sandy Speicher, Charla Bear and Deirdre Cerminaro is a comprehensive snapshot of what design thinking is looking like in the global K-12 environment.
“If we want students to be creative, collaborative, communicative problem-solvers, adults – administrators, as well as teachers – need to act the same way.” (p. 44)
This quote, hidden deep in the text, is a very important point to make if we are to adopt the mission to embed a designer mindset in the K-12 classroom. Every one of the stakeholders in the school and the administration of that school must put on the cloak of a designer.
I feel many teachers are already there because they are accommodating students within their classrooms everyday. Students who need to stand or pace to get work done. Students who need headphones to tune out. Students who need an extra snack in the morning to help them concentrate. Many teachers are designing a classroom where their students find comfort, safety and success.
Wearing the cloak of the designer is much bigger than the classroom as well. Can we revisit many of the norms we take for granted within a school and classroom every year to change and adapt them to the current wave of students and stakeholders? Do we have to accept a schedule or routine or an environment that does not challenge every one to be their most engaged self?
This report does challenge the stakeholders in education to use design thinking in the design of schools, classrooms, curriculum and programs to encourage students and staff to be engaged in learning.
Embedding the curriculum with design challenges associated with real world problems surrounds students with the possibility of designing solutions for curriculum related, interdisciplinary problems. Key to the success of students using the design process is the modeling of all staff who think and solve problems using design thinking methods.
This document gives practical, real life examples of what design thinking looks like at many levels of K-12 education and would be a great read for anyone creating a culture of design in any education setting.
We finished up by teaching 11 workshops based on Design Thinking (the IDEO way) to around 225 second year Werklund students and Tammy and I have a few takeaways from the experience.
- The sooner the better. If we could teach “The Three Little Pigs” design thinking scenario to every student in the second year program during the first week of classes in January, everyone would benefit. There comes a time in the third week where students have already looked at the 5 possibilities (Design Thinking, Discipline-Based Inquiry, Project-Based, Understanding by Design and Universal Design for Learning) to solve their problem of practice where our workshop is really too late.
- No matter how much time you give, students want more. In this case, we actually had students prototype an advertising “pitch” for a product or program that would solve “The Three Little Pigs” scenario. Last year our feedback was that students wanted to prototype. We allowed time this year for prototyping and presenting (testing) and then used Today’s Meet to collect feedback from the other students in the class. Because of time limits, feedback was not rich with information to give groups ideas to change or rationalize why not to change their product or pitch. Students still felt we did not allow them enough time to digest the feedback.
- Instructors in the program should know what they are getting into. We should have clear information about the workshop we offer since we are now considered to be “the experts” on staff for Design Thinking. We tried to get students to come independently to the workshop in time away from class time. We had very little buy-in for students doing the workshop without their classmates. Given that students want to only come with their class, please see #1.
And we are already talking about changes we would make for next January. I still think that Design Thinking, the process and the workshop, are valuable tools to give students in Werklund School of Education. We would love to have a whole day, in the first week of January, with instructors and students to walk everyone through the process fully and completely but we are managing to give a good experience to those who sign up early and immerse themselves in the workshop.
We often hear this statement during or before any of the workshops we run about design thinking. Although this phrase appears in 2010 in an article entitled, “The Teacher as Designer: Pedagogy in the New Media Age,” by Mary Kalantizis, Bill Cope, referring to the process of Learning by Design, we use the more general description in our design thinking workshops.
The teacher as designer refers to every educator who designs a classroom, a lesson, a unit, a project, a school environment, a school atmosphere and/or professional development workshops for colleagues.
The design thinking workshops we offer have students work through the d.school five-step program using the “Three Little Pigs” story as an anchor. This use of the design thinking process is not the only way we see this technique being used by teachers.
Using it to break your students into groups in your class and work through a potential solution to a problem is just one way the process is used in education. It does reach all the current “c’s” of the modern classroom: collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication. It also provides an opportunity for students to practice many so-called “soft skills” as well.
In the secondary stream of our program, we often get feedback about the process not being conducive to the delivery of curriculum content in their grade level. Lesson and unit design can be developed using the five steps of design thinking. Starting with the empathy stage where a teacher looks at the lesson from the student’s point of view may be quite eye opening. Effective lesson and unit development can be completed using the design thinking process.
There may be school wide problems that are presented by other teachers or administration that can be solved using the design thinking process.
Each individual school has its own priorities and culture that is set by the administration, often taking into account staff and students ideas. As administration creates a certain identity for a school, staff may be engaged in the design thinking process to bring these ideas to life. Say, for example, a school seeks to be an integral part of the community in which it is situated. Connections with the community can be fostered through various means and the ideas may come from an design thinking session that features the empathy and definition stages. Moving towards ideation makes the collected research from these stages result in effective community connection for the school as a whole. Having many great ideas that don’t fit the needs of the community won’t engage staff and students like something that meets the needs of the surrounding area and makes an positive impact in the community.
In these three separate areas of teaching, teachers can take up the d.school, five step process and introduce design thinking into their school.
We have had some very successful workshops in the first week of working with the second year students from Werklund School of Education. We had both elementary and secondary classes working through the famous “Three Little Pigs” design thinking scenario with mixed results although most students came up with a convincing pitch to share with the class. From the “Cattlepult” to a “wonderful community where pigs and wolves live in harmony,” pitches for a “solution” to the pigs versus wolves problem abound.
Our final workshop on Friday afternoon offered us the least number of comments in the definition phase. We couldn’t cluster ideas or look for outliers. We were left with very few ideas to talk about or work through to a solution stage. Perhaps, students weren’t engaged enough to give back any evidence collected in the empathy phase but it was difficult to maintain any momentum through ideation, prototyping and the testing loop.
So here is the change we made to help with the definition stage. We backed up to the Empathy phase and instead of having pigs and wolves empathize with each other, we introduced two “consultants” into each group to ask questions and gather information from wolves or pigs. Each consultant was provided with a package of documentation containing some basic information about the pigs and the wolves that could prompt some entry points to begin to gather information.
This morning we worked through a class incorporating this change. We did get many more ideas to write up on the board for our definition stage and some great statements to anchor the ideation and prototypes. And, we gathered statements from each one of the four groups. We will try this approach again on Tuesday.
The ironic feedback we received on just one form was “…if the student switch roles. …can have a better understanding of different roles.”
We will work with the consultant model for now but we will keep an open mind depending on more feedback that will come with future workshops.
Did I mention that it is January again and for us at the Doucette Library, that means Design Thinking? The second year Education course, EDUC 546, is looking a little different this year, widening it’s scope to include Universal Design for Learning, Project-Based Learning, Understanding by Design, Discipline-Based Inquiry, and the Design Thinking from IDEO and Stanford.
Tammy and I will be, again, contributing to the learning by holding a number of workshops for the EDUC 546 classes following last year’s model based on the Three Little Pigs. Ah, but this year we have an extra few minutes in which to add PROTOTYPING! We will be adding the final two steps in the Design Thinking process, prototyping and feedback/re-test into the Three Little Pigs scenario in a way that fits into our new time constraint.
In this iteration of the workshop, we will be asking students to ideate using chart paper divided into 4 sections. We are hoping that students will come up with at least 2 different, viable ideas within the sections of paper. They will find that the more ideas you have, the better outcome you will have.
For prototyping, we are asking them to take one of the ideas to prototype but not as an actual artifact. Students will be coming up with a pitch or a way to advertise their chosen artifact. It is an interesting way to have each group present an idea and sway the rest of the class to think about their solution.
Feedback will be given by other students in the class though the website, TodaysMeet in a “room” for each workshop we are giving. A few minutes will be available for them to look over the feedback received in this fashion. Critique comments will answer questions like, “how well does the prototype solve the problem as stated in the defining question,” and “how effective is the pitch?”
We are still asking for feedback about our workshop. It helps to change what is happening in the Design Thinking teaching here at the Doucette. So stay tuned, iterations are happening.
Many schools (elementary, secondary and post-secondary) are including a MakerSpace in their square footage. People are reconfiguring spaces, libraries, learning commons, classrooms and basement rooms to include a MakerSpace. People are using grant money, parent council money, and other kinds of budgets to make this happen but I’m asking, does a makerspace have to be a space?
I mean it is nice if students have a dedicated space to do their making, designing and hands on learning but the space is not as crucial to making as the mindset.
Students and teachers may have a dedicated space to make with many fine kits and equipment but if the making is done as a “special” or unusual activity that must be booked and scheduled in, I feel students would not have the kind of making experience I envision.
Having a maker mindset that permeates a classroom with opportunities to try inventions and ideas out during the natural flow of learning creates an atmosphere where making is not a planned or scheduled event but an everyday occurrence.
The opportunity to embed this type of hands-on learning into each and every classroom suggests that the separate space idea may be just a short term measure to include making in schools. Teachers may move making directly into their classrooms as a way for students to express the outcomes of their learning in ways other than paper and pen or digital documents.
It’s great to have a MakerSpace but even better to have a maker mindset in every classroom for students who are tackling real world problems to be able to create many types of physical solutions as they continue to ponder solutions and learn original ways to problem solve creatively.
Now there’s a thought. What can you do with boxes or with cardboard that can be, often, gathered for free for your classroom?
The story of Caine’s Arcade, mentioned before in this blog, is the story of true making and playing. Bringing this playful atmosphere into your classroom can be a real bonus hands-on experience for your students.
There is an actual cardboard challenge that you can sign your class up to do or you can connect it to curriculum units that you are currently teaching. There are many ideas on-line to inspire you to connect building and inventing to content. And, as you may know, here at the Doucette, we are BIG fans of Pinterest so follow some Pinterest Boards for a variety of ideas.
Instead of the masses of tape you may use during such projects, perhaps invest in a few sets of the reusable Make-Do’s that help in cardboard construction.
Just a very simple, low cost, low tech idea to engage students in hands-on, innovative learning, planning, playing and showcasing with their own ideas.
Summer is a time to re-energize and have some time for new learning in a more relaxed atmosphere. That’s everything I love about summer reading except that the location can and be the beach or the deck. Set your sights on something you are interested in, get a big set of post it notes and away you go.
This summer, I am recommending two reads to reinforce the notion of the “Maker Mindset.”
Both books, while not published this year, are new enough to speak to the notion of making embedded in curriculum and in school culture more completely than a room called a “Maker Space” ever could be. That is not to say that having a makerspace in any facility that you educate in is not a great bonus but without a leading edge, expensive maker space, any educator can still advance the notion of making in any environment.
The first book is “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement is changing our schools, our jobs, and our minds” by Dale Dougherty with Ariane Conrad. Beginning with Chapter 1, “We are all Makers,” this book, published in 2016, gives a generous overview of the maker movement and some specifics about how it fits in education and more generally, how it is changing the real world. Chapter 7 specifically addresses the nature and conditions needed to adopt a “maker mindset.” This book is a quick read to give educators a great foundation in what maker is and what is looks like within each community.
The second book is by Edmonton’s own, George Couros, “The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower learning, unleash talent, and lead a culture of creativity.” This book speaks directly to educators no matter what stage they are at in embracing the maker movement. He addresses, because of his own experience, just how difficult it is to lead a revolution in a school system. However, the information contained here will give educators much to talk and think about. Many questions will be addressed, like how to create meaningful learning while having innovative students and educators leading the way.
Have a great summer and allow these two great books to help inform your practice in September.
Both books are currently being catalogued and will shortly be available in the Doucette Library.
A recent article in The Star entitled, “Virtual reality project takes student through time at black orphanage in Nova Scotia,” begins to open up the connection between students and history in a whole new way. Imagine donning a pair of VR goggles and visiting the inside of the black orphanage while listening to the first person memories of adults who were there as children. This experience will be piloted in four Grade 11 classes in Nova Scotia this fall with the help of Oculus Rift headsets. A few safeguards will be put in place like advance warnings that the content is graphic and may be disturbing to some students. The authentic voice given to the reconstruction of this time and place will be a valuable tool in the deep learning of these students.
The Herchinger Report weighed in on the subject of virtual reality with a column entitled, “Can Virtual Reality Teach Empathy?” And the conclusion of the column was “yes” virtual reality can help students develop empathy and self efficacy when they “experience” various VR scenarios. The New York Times 360 virtual reality series focuses on the refugee experience in various hot spots throughout the world. Students become more empathetic to these refugees through a VR lens. Imagine the learning that is possible as students virtually visit many scenarios that, until now, have seemed a half a planet away.
As learning to solve problems through Design Thinking become more workable in the K-12 environment, VR meets the needs of many students to allow them to experience real empathy for many situations.