Can Educators Do Design Thinking?

I've observed a trend among educators recently (I, myself, am guilty of this) where after reading thoroughly about a topic and strengthening one's ability to discuss the concept at a level demonstrating distinguished interpersonal or presentational communication skills (ACTFL shout-out right there, language educator anyone?) then one has mastered said "topic." Mastery in the sense that one is ready to lead colleagues on content knowledge or go straight to implementing the concept in the classroom with students. Not that there is anything wrong with this self-identification of mastery, per say, because we need thought leaders sifting through knowledge and discussing ideas! However, other "industries" do have different approaches to mastery before hitting the application stage, like, iteration. Let me be more specific.

HCD = Human Centered Design, DT = Design Thinking

The topic of #edumatch's twitter chat session today was Design Thinking. Check out our transcript. Thanks to Sarah Thomas for organizing the panel and asking questions like, "Q2: What is design thinking?"

We also discussed resources teachers can use to learn more about design thinking.

  1. The Teacher's Guild

2. The Design Kit: The Course for Human-Centered Design on +Acumen is also a place to investigate. You could also start a Professional Learning Community with colleagues from your school and ask your admin for "credit." Whether or not it is considered an innovative use of PD time is where it potentially get's awkward, right? In asking you are suggesting that an online course you can take as a team with no admin oversight (or, even better, ask one admin to be part of the team with you!) is better than the PD offered by your district or in-house. (Search articles on Edsurge about the future of might find the word "personalized.") Then if teachers know their own learning needs and can meet them through online courses than the expectation for districts should be to create excellent hybrid or fully online PD for educators? Should this be extended to all 21st century educators (including our students?), that is, the ability to create high-quality flipped, hybrid, and online courses?

Here's a Snorlax:


3. Lastly, Rozinsky suggests the #launchbook @brianrozinsky: Thanks! I look forward to this read.


So, to go back to my original observation. If "we" in education are going to train in design thinking and incorporate DT, let's be sure we get this right. I pondered during our tweet n' chat:

"Should we be asking teachers to incorporate HCD into their profession if they have limited experience in the process? It is HARD to do well with out extensive practice and experience. How can teachers get experience beyond resources?"

If you are going to teach design thinking, you need to do be able to do design thinking, and you need to do it WELL. Practicing HCD is a FULL-TIME job, every inch of the process, all year long. It can be a life-long endeavor to master. It's not just one more differentiation strategy to add to your bucket-list. If you want to take your PD in the HCD direction, do so with intentionality and find the right supports. I suggest joining a non-profit or talking to colleagues at start-up who know the process in and out. You should participate in human design thinking on a team before you ask a team of students or teachers to go through the process. Do design thinking outside of education in several arenas before you take it to your school. Also, design thinking takes time. Admin need to know, understand, support, and prioritize that. It's a beautiful process that when done right can do the world mountains of greatness.

Oh, what is design thinking? It's how you ideate and innovate to find the best-fit solutions to some of the most challenging problems. Any educator reading that line knows there is value in it for them.

The #edumatch moderator, Valerie Lewis, challenged us to think about would happen if we applied human-centered-design to character education? I fell in love with the idea... Let's make sure we equip teachers to do it right, because then the outcome could be phenomenal.

Side note: I hypothesize that if educators go the HCD-PD route as a whole, we'll have to revision our relationship with standards-based everything. Starting with the user, being open to many different goals that answers your challenge... instead of starting with the end goal and getting you're user to meet it. There is some philosophical conflict of interest there but I do not believe they are 100% mutually exclusive. 

What do you think? Can educators do design thinking? Can we do it right? Who benefits? How can admin and teachers practice HCD in their communities before bringing to the classroom? During grade level meetings? What are the options? What is most likely to play out? Is everywhere going to become an ALTschool? (I don't think "we" are all qualified to start an ALTschool, personally.) Do you? Srta. Crowley, you're hand is clearly raised. What do you think?