Monthly Archives: December 2013

How might we use DT to improve our teaching?

In addition to teaching our students to view the world as designers, we are helping teachers to do the same.  As Sandy Speicher of IDEO told a group of educators, “All teachers are designers.  Once they discover that, they are empowered.”  So with that in mind, we set out to empower our colleagues.  

Wednesday afternoons are reserved for Professional Growth time at Town.  On a recent Wednesday, we held a design thinking workshop serving multiple purposes: to introduce the process to teachers, to try to improve each other’s day, to share the DT work we’ve done, and to provide resources for extensions all with the goal of cultivating a design thinking community among our colleagues.  With over a dozen colleagues choosing to attend and throwing themselves into the process, we think we stoked the flame.

The format was as follows:

1) Stoke design activity (5 minutes)

  • We played an improv game called “Let’s plan a picnic!”  We played in two rounds: leading with the phrase “No, but” in the first round, followed by “Yes, and” in the second.  It highlighted the generative result of building versus blocking ideas and got us primed to take on a design thinking challenge.

2) Design thinking challenge (40 minutes)

  • We introduced the design thinking process by having everyone take on a challenge to design for a partner in the room.  The challenge was, “How might we improve each other’s days?”  Grounded in a graphic organizer designed for students, the group was led through a rapid cycle of interviewing, defining needs, ideating, prototyping, and testing.  At the end, they “bragged on their buddies”, sharing the prototype designed for them with the whole group. We observed the diversity of designs: a portable heater, custom alert system, nap pod, and even a superhero robot! It was incredible that such disparate ideas stemmed from the same challenge, highlighting the range of needs in our community and open-ended nature of the process.

3) Reflection (10 minutes)

  • Everyone spent a few minutes sharing potential applications to their own teaching and asking questions.

4) Share our projects, website, and resources (10 minutes)

  • We shared this website with the group to show how we’ve collaborated to create design thinking challenges, as well as resources to help them learn more.  We also offered to schedule individual meetings with folks to discuss ideas for their own classrooms.  Since then, we’ve met with several different teachers to make connections to Kindergarten reading, middle school world history, and foreign languages.  

By framing curricular challenges as opportunities, teachers are embracing their roles as designers. We are looking forward to bragging on our buddies and sharing our colleagues’ projects on this blog!

Interviewing: need-finding, building empathy
Testing prototypes: hoping to get the portable heater to market!

Testing prototypes: hoping to get the portable heater to market!