My sons don’t have much to envy about being an adult. They have a lovely school and home life, few responsibilities, and an endless appetite for fun, and so they see very little benefit to this whole idea of “growing up”. However, there is one notable exception when my boys do seem to envy me, and that is when I leave the house in the morning to embark on a day of Design Thinking (DT). When they see the materials I use for prototyping and listen to the ideas generated by the DT group, they are wide-eyed with fascination and ask if they can come to work with me the next day. On more than one occasion, I’ve caught my younger son “borrowing” my DT materials to create his own inventions, the latest being a skin cream for Martians (assuming, of course, that such creatures have skin). When we talk about DT, they say, “We would love to spend the day playing like this!”
“Play” is the key word here, and it is the reason I am writing this article. I believe that each of us can derive joy from being creative and making things. DT is a means of tapping into this. Moreover, I am convinced that there is no better place than school to release this potential, because DT is not just a method for facilitating the creative process. It is a mindset and a tool that can effectively boost the creativity of educators and students of any age.
If you chose to take part in the M-Powered Projects Design Thinking course, you will have the opportunity to get to know the whole DT process, explore it, experience it, reflect on it, and eventually prepare to implement it into your work.
Below, are just a few ideas of how to apply DT in an educational environment.
1. A creative problem-solving lesson
I can imagine a lesson that lasts a whole day. Students are divided into groups. Each group receives a specific problem to solve, for example, plan a holiday for a family in France in the 18th century, or develop a solution to a fictional conflict between teenagers, or design a 100% accessible and inclusive school. The potential topics are infinite! They can be based on what was learned in class across a wide variety of topics, from literature to physics. In this type of task, DT can serve as an excellent means of evaluating problem-solving skills gleaned from classroom learning and to gather feedback and ideas for future teaching. The beauty of these lessons is that they are interdisciplinary and focus on cooperation between students to achieve a specific goal, while also including a sense of competition and fun.
2. The dream school
This is a proposal for progressive school managers, which I’m sure you are! For this DT lab, you can invite students, parents, teachers and maybe even friends to work together and design their dream school. It is necessary to establish certain parameters first, for example, it must be workable in the school’s current building, or it must adhere to legal standards, etc. But, everything else is allowed!
Participants work together to create the perfect learning space. They can focus on one subject by creating the perfect room for studying physics, for example, or they can make interdisciplinary spaces and design a super lab for studying all sciences and how they interact with one another. They can prototype the perfect room for reading, studying, doing maths homework, or even just for quiet reflection. And, last but certainly not least, they can create the perfect faculty room too so that, in this dream school, even staff get to enjoy a comfortable and functional space at work.
3. The future school
Have you ever wondered if your school is truly preparing people to deal with the modern world? What kind of competences does this world require? Is this what you teach? These are hard questions, but here is one more: Are your students receivers of information or shapers of knowledge? The DTprocess can help you to access entirely new ways of thinking and practicing. Thanks to DT, you can refine and reframe your curricula and create a school for the future. For these workshops, invite teachers, parents, and the students themselves, but also representatives of the local community, employers, policy makers, artists, etc., for true synergy and innovation.
4. The social responsibility of schools
This is an increasingly popular topic, which is demonstrative of the important role schools play in the community. Schools have tremendous potential to make real and lasting change through creativity and development. How will your school harness this potential? How can it contribute to solving social and educational problems? The DT process can help to generate ideas for interesting local projects, for example, reaching out to vulnerable people in the community, supporting local voluntary organisations, or getting involved in local politics and policy making. The value of such activities is enormous. It builds the students’ awareness of their responsibility, not just for themselves and their education, but for their communities and fellow citizens. In this context, school is not just a place where you come to acquire knowledge, but a place where you build your social awareness, where you find out how you can use your abilities to serve others. It shows people that everyone can make a difference, no matter their age, capacity, financial status, or educational background.
5. Transnational cooperation projects for schools
The Erasmus+ program offers many interesting opportunities to schools. It can not only co-finance training for teachers and educators, but can also fund transnational projects, for example, student exchanges and exchanges of experience and knowledge between schools from around the world. In such projects, DT can be used as a project design tool and can help formulate their scope, objectives, and specific activities. This process would start with the empathy phase to determine the needs of the school and its community. Even if the project is not funded, the results of this DT workshop can be used in many others situations. The DT process can also be used within the project itself, as an activity or work package. For example, a project could include an international workshop during which students from different parts of the world work together on a specific shared challenge or problem. It is a safe, innovative activity, embedded in a simple structure, creatively stimulating, and full of cooperation and commitment. And, it’s fun!
There are so many possibilities for using DT in education. It has many tools for creative work, which can even be used independently. My favorite one is the “moodboard”, used in the empathy phase, which helps us to understand the needs of others. This tool could be very effective in a pedagogical context. During our DT course, which we run in beautiful locations, such as Leenane (Ireland) and Krakow (Poland), we will work together on this by examining the DT potential for your school and how you can use its tools and techniques more effectively.
You can read more about the DT process in our previous blog.