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.

Coding in an Elementary Classroom

Is coding the new literacy? Even if you are not sure of the answer to that big question, you can begin to introduce your elementary classroom students to programming.  Some of the resources listed need technology and some just need your time to set up some centers to spark interest from your students.


Scratch Jr. as a website or an app is a great way for students to start to understand the “if you program this, then that happens” type of logic that is necessary for programming.  Some may not even catch on that they are learning actual programming due to the game atmosphere of this app.


Kids Get Coding is a series of books aimed at the K-3 grade level.  Each book explains one aspect of computer programming that will provide a foundation for students to begin to code. They also include tips about being a good digital citizen and how sites collect information about your identity to tailor sites to your needs.  It also cautions students about the importance of privacy and what information sites are looking for that you may not want to give out.  Although each book is only 24 pages long, each has a table of contents, and index and clear definitions of terms that are used in each book.  A website gives access to further content by book title to help educators further work with each subject area covered in each book.


Robot Turtles and Code Master are both board games that don’t need any technology to run them. Robot Turtles is for very beginning programmers and teaches logic as a introduction to the steps needed for good coders.  Code Master is a one player game and will challenge you students to code instructions on the board rather than into an app or website.  Both good options in a classroom to spark an interest.

Introducing the notion of coding and computer programming into your classroom is not as daunting as it may seem.  There are many books out now to challenge students to learn the rudiments of coding by playing games or working through actions of a robot or character.  Start with these resources and work through this next level thinking with your students.

Easy Portfolio- App of the Week

  • unnamed
  • Easy Portfolio
  •  Jarrod Robinson
  • Version 3.2
  • $2.29Cdn.
  • 23.3MB

Easy Portfolio is not fancy but it can certainly help you keep track of artifacts that are important for teachers and students.

Within this bland exterior lies a surprisingly robust app with considerable scope.  As a teacher, you can keep track of your own learning or you can add a whole class of students and the artifacts of their learning.

This app offers six different types of “records” that can be saved within each portfolio.   Upload or create within the app, video, images, and audio files.  Add text to create separate titles for each entry.  Add an entry that is just text, a reflection on an artifact or a quote, a philosophical statement, a goal. Keep track of important URL’s by typing them in or copying and pasting them into a record.  Finally, save documents that reflect your learning in some way.

Although some websites, apps or programs would allow further embellishment, this Easy Portfolio contains “just the facts.”  And sometimes isn’t that all you need?

This YouTube video gives you further information before you invest.  I like this app for teachers and for students.  It gives you a guaranteed place for those artifacts that are most important to your learning.