Design Thinking: Moving Creativity Forward

Educators are constantly trying to find new solutions to problems that exist in education. Teachers are inundated by new education fads and approaches that sound great in workshops and professional development, but when these approaches are put into practice it seems to generate the same stale results. Instead of looking at the needs of the education system, we should shift our focus to what our students need to be successful in the future. One approach that is on the rise in education is design thinking. Within this blog, we are going to look at what design thinking is and how it applies to education.

“We can’t solve our problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Is design thinking another education fad? We think it’s a great approach in preparing students for the workforce of tomorrow. As a society, we are entering a new economy being shaped by artificial intelligence (AI). To address these new and complex problems, students need to be flexible and creative when formulating innovative solutions. It’s what Jonathan Rochelle from Google called “confidence in the face of complexity.” Design thinking provides students with an opportunity to solve real-world problems using creative solutions that will emulate the workforce of tomorrow.

Now, design thinking is not a subject, topic or class. It’s more a way of solving problems that encourages positive risk-taking and creativity. The way we look at it- it gives creativity structure and movement through a process. Design thinking is a great tool for teaching 21st century skills, as students must solve problems by researching information, collaborating with others, iterating their solutions, and presenting their findings to an authentic audience. Design thinking isn’t just a process. It’s a mindset that is designed to help students solve problems using innovative solutions. This methodology begins with empathy and understanding of the problem, as well as incorporating failure as part of the design process. The design thinking mindset provides students the confidence that is needed to express their creativity in solving complex real-world problems.

How does it work? What do you need to do? First, breathe. There are a ton of resources out there and it can get a little overwhelming. The best resource for teachers that we found is the book, “Launch, Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student” by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani. This book offers 6 stages of the Launch Cycle to identify and solve problems with unique solutions.

  1. L: Look, Listen, & Learn– Students demonstrate a sense of wonder or an awareness of a problem or a sense of empathy toward an audience.

  2. A: Ask Tons of Questions– Fueled by inquiry, students ask tons of questions.

  3. U: Understand the Process or Problem– Students conduct research to understand their problem in more depth. This could be in the form of interviews, research articles, or videos.

  4. N:Navigate Ideas– Students brainstorm and generate concepts for what they will create.

  5. C: Create a Prototype– This might be in the form of digital work or a tangible product.

  6. H: Highlight and Fix– Students begin to highlight what’s working and fix what’s failing. Finally, students launch their work and share it to an authentic audience.

This book also provides some free design thinking lesson plans along with a variety of other applicable online resources that can provide the support and guidance you need to get started- Taking the first step is the hardest, but expanding and growing your craft is what makes an effective educator. Good luck. You got this!