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“Design is the transformation of existing conditions into preferred ones.”

                                                                        -Herbert A. Simon in the “Sciences of the Artificial” (MIT Press, 1969).



"Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success."

                                                                              —TIM BROWN, EXECUTIVE CHAIR OF IDEO

“How might we design a classroom habitat for plants and animals to co-exist?” Or, “How might we create machines based on historical models?” Or even, “How might we create a playground space for disabled students?”

                                         (Questions are taken from EdSurge- Design Thinking Is a Challenge to Teach ––and That's A Good Thing)

A design thinking education curriculum provides students and teachers the opportunity to immerse in a real-world problem solving. At the core of the design and problem solving there is a need to solve a problem through the needs of people or situation.

Students work collaboratively to pose questions when defining a problem such as:

This allows students to brainstorm possible solutions, plan, and test their products. The focus isn't about the product, but also the steps that are involved in the process. This gives the students a chance to rethink, revisit, revise, and recreate possible solutions before they move forward.

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What are the steps of the design thinking framework?

Hasso Plattner Institue of Design at Stanford ( pioneered the approach in K-12 education. The thinking model that was proposed by the proposes five stages in the design thinking framework: Empathise, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.

1. Empathise: In the first stage, the purpose is to gain an understanding of the problem from an empathic point of view. This means, getting to know whose problem will be solved and more background information about the environment. This part involves deeper thinking and using a variety of methods to collect relevant data to solve the problem. Empathy is important and is the center of the design approach. 

2. Define: This is where the problem is defined through the data that was gathered. Defining involves the focus of core problems and creating a problem statement in a human-centered manner. An example would be; instead of defining it as your own need such as,


“We need to increase our food-product market share among young teenage girls by 5%,” a much better way to define the problem would be, “Teenage girls need to eat nutritious food in order to thrive, be healthy and grow.”

                                                                                       Source:  Interaction Design Foundation

3. Ideate: In the ideating stage, students design solutions to the problems they have defined in stage two. This is where many ideas are brainstormed to come up with possible solutions and it is important to be as open-minded and diverse solutions coming from different students. Exchanging ideas through collaboration, this stage helps students to find ways of solving problems. Questions such as "How might we ..." are really helpful. For example:

"How might we design the most suitable bed for the Goldilocks family?"

Here is an ideation technique:

"It's not about coming up with the right idea, it's about generating the broadest range of possibilities."

                              -, An Introduction to Design Thinking PROCESS GUIDE

4. Prototype: This process consists of designing sample versions of the product that was created in the ideating stage. It includes features of the product and is generally tested to identify the best possible solution through an experimental approach. The possible solutions can be tried out and tested as much as possible.

5. Test: In the test stage, the completed design/idea is tested. This is an important part in terms of observing how the completed design had an effect or a relationship with the user. The conclusions are drawn from this and it is an informative phase to think of how people behave, think and feel etc. The design can ve revisited and redesigned again and find relevant information in the testing stage that could be helpful in another stage. The design thinking model is flexible and any part of the phases can be revisited.


Co-designing schools toolkit

The Teachers Guild x School Retool provides equitable resources for design process. Click on the image to go to the website.

IDEO's workbook can be used as a resource to design meaningful solutions in and outside of the classroom specifically for collaborative projects. Click on the book  below to download.

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Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, ( pioneered the approach in K-12 education. 

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Stanford provides three design-thinking framework challenges you can try in your class! Click on the image above to find out more, or you can download the pdf's here.

Foil Challenge

Re-design the gift giving experience

Re-design school lunch experience

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