What is the draw of design thinking? For many educators, it teaches students how to think differently. This doesn’t just mean thinking creatively, but thinking empathetically and putting oneself in someone else’s shoes. Design thinking encourages students to fully realize their ideas. Understand, observe, ideate and define is only the first part of the equation. By assigning projects to students, educators can guide them to complete the prototype and iteration aspects of their ideas. Here are a few starter projects to bring into the classroom.
3 Fun Design Thinking Projects:
1. Instant Ramen Project: Website d.school has more than a few starter projects to help facilitate design thinking in the classroom. However, one of the more interesting ones is the Instant Ramen Project. While instant Ramen might be quick and delicious, it is not exactly the most nutritious food choice. The Instant Ramen Project sets students to the task of designing a more nutritious meal around this college diet staple. More so, it asks them to take something grounded in a particular culture and redefine it for their target audience.
2. Classroom Redesign Project: We’ve already written about how the architecture of the classroom factors greatly into the productivity that takes place within it. This project asks students to think critically and creatively about the factors that affect the performance of themselves and their peers. Students can arrange their desks to better facilitate group work and designate spaces for bouts of physical activity. Allowing students to redesign the layout of the classroom can be a fun exercise that pays off down the road in the form of increased student engagement and a more manageable environment for educators. Most significantly, designing their own space with little teacher interference can yield a greater sense of learner autonomy for students.
3. Persona/Problem Project: This is the project that Simon Tyrell assigned students at the 2nd annual Designathon. Designed to engage empathy, this project largely leaves students to their own devices. The Persona/Problem project sees students creating a persona with information garnered from their peers. Once they’ve created a detailed persona, they need to identify a specific problem faced by that persona. The students draw on their own real life experiences as well as those of their peers in order to identify real issues and assign them to their persona. Then, they are given 15 minutes to brainstorm 50 solutions. There is no limit to how ridiculous the ideas can be because the students will eventually present their most feasible solution to the class. Using feedback from their classmates and the educator, students then set about designing and creating a prototype of the solution.
While we support the use of paper and pencil, digital technology can optimize student performance. Design thinking and its subsequent projects put a heavy focus on collaboration, and LiveTiles Mosaic, a free UI design solution for grades K-12 with an Office 365 tenant, enables teachers to create a digital classroom that facilitates collaboration.
Mosaic allows for social media integration as well as the sharing of documents through applications like OneDrive, as the screen shot below illustrates. Students can communicate with each other about aspects of their products through social media and then share feedback and documents with each other. This enables educators to track student progress and provide immediate feedback on aspects of their projects.
This feedback is integral to design thinking, and further transforms the educators from lecturers into guides. It gives learners more control over the learning process and provides the necessary tools of empathy and creativity with which to dissect this process. With a national focus on STEM education right now, it is important that we not lose sight of the creative and emotional aspects of education. With its inherent adaptability, design thinking lets us do just that, no matter the curriculum.
The above project examples are just a few ways to implement design thinking into your classroom. We would love to hear about more ideas, especially from educators who have had success with design thinking projects.