Friday, November 29, 2013

4 Things I Love about Design Thinking in Education.

You may be hearing a lot about Design Thinking lately (maybe just from me ;-). In my last post I laid out a Design Thinking lesson plan that I used in one of my classes. Here are a few of my favorite things about this process of learning and discovery.

1. Design thinking begins with problem finding. Learners might have a general idea of what they want to learn more about. However, it is only through interviews, observations and research that students discover what the problem really is. This makes it very learner-centered. It isn't the teacher asking students to solve the problem. It's the students coming up with the problem themselves.

2. Design thinking is not a linear process. Once students create a prototype and test it out, they may discover they actually have the problem wrong and have to go back to the beginning to redefine it. I think this is really an important element of the process because when a student encounters failure - it isn't the end of the line. It is just a faulty step along the way.

3. Design Thinking is fun. It gets kids off their feet. They use colorful post-it notes and sharpies. Who doesn't love a purple sharpie? They race to think of as many ideas as they can in a limited amount of time. They wander around like spies, collecting observational data on unsuspecting people. It is an active and exciting process.

4. Design Thinking is real. People in the "real" world really use this process in their profession. This is a skill that students can use throughout their lives, not just in the classroom.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Design Thinking approach to Digital Citizenship

Design Thinking is a problem solving methodology used by people all over the world to come up with new ideas. Recently there has been a lot of discussion about how to integrate this approach into education. This summer I took two Online courses to learn more about the process. I am very interested in ways to use this approach in my own teaching.

This fall I decided to apply this approach to my 7th grade Digital Citizenship unit which focuses on cyberbullying. It worked really well. There are many approaches to the Design Thinking Process. I chose to use this process from the Stanford Design School.

Here is my lesson plan. If you are interested in giving this a try at your school, I am happy to answer any questions.

Cyberbullying Design Thinking Activity (for 7th graders)

  1. Present the idea “How might we end Cyberbullying?”
  2. Explain the Design Thinking Process: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype,
  3. Tell students they are going to be interviewing each other to find out what their peers know/have experienced about cyberbullying.
  4. Divide students into groups of three. Students interview each other for 4 minutes each.
    • Student A interviews student B, Student C scribes
    • Student B interviews student C, Student A scribes
    • Student C interviews student A, Student B scribes
  5. Student share their notes and summarize what they have learned. What common themes did they see? (5 minutes)
  6. Each group shares with the entire class a summary of their discoveries.
  7. Individually students brainstorm 10 questions they still have about cyberbullying - Put on Post-it Notes.
  8. Put Post-it notes up around the room.
  9. Each student walks around and picks 3-4 questions to research before the next session.


  1. Students share with the class what they learned about cyberbullying from their research.
  2. The class uses this empathy map to take notes as people share.
  3. Groups generate 5 new “How might we" questions that are more specific (based on the research collected.)
  4. Groups share their new “How might we” questions with the class.
  5. Each group chooses a How might we question to focus on (It doesn’t have to be one of their own and it can be the same question as another group).
  1. Each group on chart paper brainstorms 100 ideas for solutions in 15 minutes.
  2. Post chart paper and all students look at all solutions.
  3. Each student has 5 post it notes and votes on the top 5 ideas they see (different color for each group).
  4. Groups pick one idea to work on.

We didn't have time to build a prototype. So instead students created a commercial for their product.
They had to address the issues of cyberbullying in the commercials in order to convince people to purchase their product.

Groups share their commercials.