Daytime: Design Thinking with 8th Grade CEC Class

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Design Thinking.  What is it exactly?  I’ve been trained to be a “Design Thinker,” yet I’m not quite sure how to use it in a class….

Yes. That sounds like a commercial introduction, but since I’ll be teaching a gaming course next semester I’ve been asking myself that exact question.  Dating back to my early days as a student, I always followed the mantra that the teacher knows all; they were the experts who historically directed me on exactly what and how to learn, and I always respected their knowledge and encouragement. Becoming familiar with Design Thinking, however, has encouraged me to step away from that model and to consider an academic culture where teachers facilitate learning by allowing students to learn by doing.

The D.School at Stanford describes design thinking as follows:
At the d.school, we learn by doing. We don’t just ask our students to solve a problem. We ask them to define what the problem is. Students start in the field where they develop empathy for people they design for, uncovering real human needs they want to address. They then iterate to develop an unexpected range of possible solutions, creating rough prototypes to take back out into the field and test with real people. Our bias is toward action, followed by reflection on personal discoveries about process. Experience is measured by iteration: students run through as many cycles as they possibly can on any project. Each cycle brings stronger insights and more unexpected solutions.

I asked myself how this definition would be relevant to me as I begin to plan the coursework for the gaming class I will soon be teaching. Jenn Vermillion and Rene deBerardinis reached out to me a few weeks ago to gauge my interest in co-facilitating a design-thinking project with Rene’s eighth grade CEC class.  The goal of the project is to create a virtual tour for prospective students to highlight various aspects of life at SCH. Considering that I participated in the Design Institute at the Nueva School in August of 2010 and took part in the Lime Design training this past summer, you might think I’m fully prepared to develop a design thinking learning experience for students, right?  Wrong!  I know, and I’m certain you do as well, that there is a significant difference between understanding this model and actually using it in class.

The Faculty Design Thinking Resources created by Ellen Kruger, Stephanie Kasten, Betty Ann Fish, Debbie Gress, and Caitlin Sweeney, as well as the 9th Grade Design Thinking Training facilitated by Ellen Kruger, have been invaluable in helping Rene and me craft a fun challenge for the students.  As a result of time spent planning, in addition to the resources made available by the SCH faculty, I understand that design thinking is a mindset that lets me think creatively and imaginatively.  It’s not a pre-defined set of rules that I must follow to achieve my goals, and it’s not up to me as the facilitator to solve the problem for the students.

Today was Day One of the gaming course. We presented the challenge, provided an overview of the design process, and discussed empathy.  The level of engagement of the eighth grade boys was at a level that I had not anticipated.  They asked questions, made suggestions and participated in a group conversation that excited me to see where this project will take us.  Ultimately, we’re hoping for an app that prospective students and their families can use during the admission process, one that emphasizes all that makes SCH a great school. Meanwhile, we will have introduced a creative way to approach and define questions while imagining creative problem-solving solutions.  Who knows? Perhaps one of these eighth grade boys will solve our country’s financial issues, reduce unemployment help smokers quite addictions, balance the budget……

Be sure to check out the recent article in the Chestnut Hill Local written by Paula M. Riley that discusses the recent 9th Grade training SCH and Jenks offer students new programs.

I leave you with a funny image from Imgur.comNow, after 30 years, you can carry all of this in your pocket

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6 responses to “Daytime: Design Thinking with 8th Grade CEC Class

  1. Vince – this is a great post. Thanks for sharing it with us and the photo at the bottom is priceless. You are doing great work!

  2. Ellen (Kruger, I’m assuming??), thanks! Me being able to put out training into practice was in large part due to the work that you’ve down with the teacher resoures and 9th Grade training. so thank you!!

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