Why Design Thinking?

13 Mar

What excited me initially about this process was the opportunity for teachers to be able to focus on creating transformational learning experiences for students. Through this process students develop a way to produce creative solutions to any posed problem.

Nice brief overview video (3:01) created by IDEO.

Design Thinking allows students to be confident enough to tackle any challenge because they have the right tools and resources or know how to ask/get them. Collaboration across grade levels, tapping into cross-curricular areas, and inviting other stakeholders allow for a variety of insights, experiences and unimaginable learning. It’s scary because it IS DIFFERENT, but through this process, students learn how to personalize it, internalize it and apply it to their own lives.


I like how Stanford’s has established the process of:

  • Define the problem by developing empathy through asking what different people need.
  • Iterate the problem which a variety of possible solutions.
  • Create prototypes and test them out.
  • Reflect on the process.
  • Repeat any part of these steps until a final acceptable solution is achieved.


To the Challenge!

In order to get people to understand the Design Thinking process, they MUST actually try it out. Shared below is a short, 40 minute mini design challenge that one can start out with to introduce it to colleagues and/or students.

The mini design challenge can easily be run with 2-3 people working together as a team. It is important to have materials available for each team to use (like clothespins, pipe cleaners, glue sticks, scotch tape, straws, a variety of paper, scissors, pencils, sharpies/felts, aluminum foil, pompoms, yarn/string, foam objects, etc.)

Each team is tasked to try to design, build and promote their product or service. This specific challenge that was presented to participants who attended the recent Educational Technology Council of the Alberta Teachers Association (ETCATA) sponsored Makerspaces event. (The three images below show actual participants working through the mini design challenge.)

The challenge

  • Each person is a designer at a specific company.
  • That company is trying to win a contract to produce a personal or professional product/service.
  • The team of three people are tasked with creating a working prototype that will utilise a specified technology to solve a specific issue. (Each team was given two words to incorporate into the prototype. For this challenge, I issued each team with a technology tool and a silly word such as internet + kitten, printer + frizz.) Complete List of tech tool and silly words.
  • The team, using the Product/service pitch sheet and provided materials, will design, build the prototype and develop a one minute pitch all in 35 minutes.
  • If there are a large number of teams working on this at the same time, three teams can get together and pitch their prototypes and then choose a ‘winner’ of the contract within their group.

ETCATA_designteam ETCATA_designteam2 ETCATA_designteam3


Next Steps for the Classroom

Great questions being asked by teachers via IDEO video clip (1:45).

I also love the way IDEO has developed a Design Thinking Toolkit for Educators (free download) and although I the above challenge is based on Stanford’s Design Thinking process, you cannot go wrong with using the toolkit as you explore this design process with your students. You can also use the above mini design challenge with your colleagues as a quick introduction OR if you want to go deeper and take the Virtual Crash Course from Stanford’s, do check it out as it runs 90 minutes. The course includes the toolkit, video and an amazing gift challenge that you won’t soon forget!

Other Design Thinking resources:

Whatever you decide to dabble on, I know that it will change the way you plan, create and establishing learning practices in the classroom environment. Enjoy!


2 responses to “Why Design Thinking?

  1. slitech

    March 19, 2015 at 1:58 am

    Just searching my Twitter feed and I came upon this gem of true Design Thinking in a PhysEd class!

  2. slitech

    March 19, 2015 at 2:11 am

    Also check out the amazing graphic and info found at Design Thinking, Deconstructed | MindShift


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