How can I use Design Thinking?

This blogpost is the third in a series of five where I intend on exploring Design Thinking in an education context. I want to come back to the questions we have about design thinking when we’re first starting out. I want to think about what design thinking is, why we might use design thinking, how we can use design thinking in schools, where to go for resources and help, and finally, how design thinking can transform our schools.

DT

I recently spoke about my passion for design thinking at educampwelly. In my quick-fire Smackdown presentation (so, under 60 seconds) I said, slightly hyperbolically, that for me if there is a silver bullet for education, design thinking is it.

So far I’ve said a little bit about what design thinking is. In the last blogpost, I spoke about why I think we should use design thinking. This kind of boiled down to the idea that if we want creative, innovative problem finders and problem solvers, then design thinking offers a structured yet flexible, empathetic way to this. So now, let’s get a little bit more practical, and think about the possible applications of design thinking in our current educational context and climate.

Um. It can be used every way.

Yep, I really mean it.

You can use design thinking to shape a one-off lesson. While maybe not ideal, this could be a great way to introduce the overall scope of the method. You can use design thinking to shape a whole unit of work. My preference would lie here, and you can see such a unit I created with a class of Year 8 English students here. Of course, you don’t need to be a ‘slave to the process’, and the design thinking mindsets can be used at any time to enhance the specific context at hand.

Beyond the scope of a ‘one subject, one hour’ secondary school timetabled environment, design thinking offers an excellent way to bring subjects together in a naturally integrated, cross-curricular way. The current New Zealand Transport Agency’s game design competition is an excellent example of an authentic, purposeful activity that would lend itself perfectly to design thinking, and I know of a school that’s doing so.

Beyond the classroom, design thinking can be used as an approach to professional learning. I use it to shape my own learning, and it can also be used from a facilitator’s perspective to help inform the shape of a professional learning session. In fact, my eFellowship research looked into this idea in more depth, and you can read about that here. I believe there are strong links to be made here to the New Zealand curriculum’s model of teaching as inquiry, as well as Timperley et al’s spiral of inquiry (2014). The latter in particular, with its central focus on meeting the needs of the learner.

Beyond professional learning, design thinking can be used as an approach to leadership and strategic thinking. Steve Mouldey has written about this. What if we structured whole school initiatives using a design thinking model? Wouldn’t staff and students and the community feel involved? Wouldn’t we have a diverse, wide range of ideas and perspectives to pull from? And wouldn’t this equate to more innovative, targeted and collaborative solutions? I’d recommend Grant Lichtman’s #EdJourney as well as Ewan McIntosh’s How to Come Up with Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, as places to start thinking about this.

Basically, I find that the more you explore design thinking, the more you see that it’s an overarching approach, not dissimilar to choosing to adopt a growth mindset, and that you are limited in applying it only by your imagination.

Sources:

Lichtman, G. (2014). #EdJourney: A roadmap to the future of education. San Francisco, USA: Jossey-Bass.

McIntosh, E. (2014). How to Come Up with Great Ideas and Actually Make them Happen: A Pragmatic Strategy Handbook for Education Leaders, Innovators and Troublemakers. Edinburgh, UK: NoTosh Publishing.

Timperley, H., Kaser, L. and Halbert, J. (2014). A framework for transforming learning inschools: Innovation and the spiral of inquiry. Centre for Strategic Education, Seminar Series Paper No. 234.

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IALT

learn

It’s six months since I wrote this blogpost on my ‘word for the year’. In summary, a previous school principal used to challenge the staff to choose a word for the year as a focus point. I much prefer this to New Year’s Resolutions or even goals because it’s significantly easier to keep one single word in mind. I have a strong preference for verbs as an action point. This year, being in a new job – and my first job outside of the traditional classroom – and being a CORE Education eFellow, it seemed quite natural to settle on the word Learn.

To my surprise and delight this blogpost became popular, with other teachers also choosing their own word to shape their year. When this occurred, I thought we’d better follow this up with a six month review. We often write on classroom walls ‘WALT’s – we are learning to… – so here’s my ‘IALT’s – I am learning to…

Actually, when I reflect over the past six months. And boy, has it ever been a journey, I think what I’m mostly learning about is myself. I expected to learn techy skills (and I am, I made my first playdoh piano with a MaKey MaKey). I expected to learn about content related to The Mind Lab postgrad course (and I am, I’m getting my head around the LEAN canvas, startup jargon, and agile-based approaches). I expected to learn more about the power of design thinking practices (and I am, I had some amazing feedback about this from the current Wellington Mind Lab postgrads), but I didn’t expect to learn so much about myself.

So, here’s a snapshot of the things I’ve come to learn about myself in the last six months:

  • I’ve got to feel as though I’m making a difference.
  • That listening is a profound act of love and respect.
  • That WellyED is a force to reckon with, and is something that brings me great joy and pride.
  • That before we can shift practice (and what a presumptive act that is), we must build empathy.
  • That ‘building a plane while flying it’ (as the educators of Hobsonville Point Secondary School often phrase it) is tough, demanding, and, at times, deeply unpleasant. But with huge rewards as potentialities.
  • That working collaboratively can be exhausting, and, as an introvert, I need time by myself to work on my portion of the project, but overall the project is better for working in this way. (But I’m dubious whether many hands do make light work…)
  • That I like the opportunity to think ‘big picture’.
  • That I have a complicated relationship with the future and with school.
  • That my leadership practices are different to others’, and that’s okay.
  • That we must never stop asking why?
  • That ‘thinking’ is my core educational value.

So fellow bloggers, I challenge you to share your 6 monthly reflection on your word for the year… What has happened? Have you managed to keep your word front and centre, or has it become a four letter derivative? Let’s share and support one another on our learning journeys.