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Information abundance, emerging technologies, broad ranging social connections via social media, and the ability to create, produce,and share original works of writing, art, inventions with authentic audiences have created a new age of learning, one that is qualitatively different than the 20th century. Tony Wagner, author of Creating Innovators: he Making of Young People Who Will Change The World, stated “”The world doesn’t care what you know, but what you can do with what you know.”
Schools need to reflect these changes. Schools are doing Education 1.0; talking about doing Education 2.0; when they should be planning and implementing Education 3.0. Some of the characteristics of of those living and working in a Web-Education 3.0 world include:
- Understanding learning as a process; the how-to’s of learning.
- Knowing how and where to search for resources, people, information when needed, also known as just-in-time learning.
- Being able to make social, intellectual, interest-driven, and academic connections both face-to-face and virtually.
- Adding to current fields of study, knowledge bases and content areas through giving feedback, sharing resources, creating content.
Design thinking has great potential to aid both educators and learners in developing these 21st century living, learning, and playing skills, Many, including the Stanford’s d-school. are working towards integrating these ideas into educational settings to help insure that education is more aligned with real world skills and needs.
This movement to build a generation of design thinkers could not be more timely or more relevant. We are living in an age of increased complexity, and are facing global challenges at an unprecedented scale. The nature of connectivity, interactivity, and information is changing at lightening speed. We need to enable a generation of leaders who believe they can make a difference in the world around them, because we need this generation to build new systems and rebuild declining ones. We need them to be great collaborators, great communicators, and great innovators (Design Thinking in Schools: An Emerging Movement Building Creative Confidence in our Youth).
The intent of this article is to interest and motivate educators in using design thinking to approach their instructional strategies and curriculum from a fresh perspective; to learn and promote skills, attitudes, and knowledge that are more specific for their students as well as having them develop skills for being 21st learners both in and out of school.
Every day you design ways to interact with your students around content. You can follow a design process to be more intentional about connecting this content to the interests and desires of today’s learners by finding out more about the things that they do outside of school and connecting that to the content you are bringing to them (Design Thinking for Educators).
So simply put, when implementing the design thinking model, the educator approaches his or her learners with the question, “What do you want to learn?” and then uses the process of design thinking with his or her learners as co-creators to develop the curriculum and learning activities specific to their interests, desires, and needs.
- How can the educator use design thinking principles to inform instructional and curricular decisions?
- How can the educator include their students in creating a learning environment informed and influenced by design thinking?
It is understandable that given today’s school climate of accountability, testings, standards, and scripted curriculum, going into a classroom without a plan other than to use design thinking to design the curriculum and learning activities can be a more than a little disconcerting or seem like an impossible endeavor. But for educators who want to prepare their learners for functioning in today’s and future worlds, this process can be invaluable. Benefits can occur even if the educator can devote some of the class time to this process (e.g. 20% time),
- The first and most important step in the design thinking process is knowing and empathizing with the audience, in this case, the learners. Learning activities such as interviews, learning surveys, get-to-know one another activities, and empathy development are used so the educator gets to know the students; students know the educator; and the students know one another. This is crucial step so that instruction and curriculum can be selected and tailored for each specific student group.
- The focus is on processes – producing, assessing, developing, creating, revisiting, revising. Learning content becomes secondary to developing the how-to skills for how to be a learner in the 21st century.
- Ambiguity is normalized and failure is seen as iterative. Reframing Failure as Iteration Allows Students to Thrive.
- Group skills for design thinking include active listening, collaboration, conflict management are integral for the process. Participatory, democratic, inclusive principles and methods guide decision-making. Design thinking honors all voices; acknowledging that everyone – educators and learners alike – have valuable input into the design, implementation, and assessment of the learning activities.
- Continuous feedback loops for and by the educator and the learners help inform the process. Feedback or assessment is not a separate step or entity as is typical in the classroom. The educator and learners engage in continual evaluation of the efficacy of the learning activities through group discussions, writing, informal assessments, making revisions, alterations, and detours based on this feedback.
- Deep reflection is part of the process. Related to continuous feedback is building into the process the skills and attitudes of being a reflective practitioner. This permits both the educator and learners to take a step back to analyze what is working and not working within and throughout the design process.
Benefits of Bringing the Design Thinking Process Into the Classroom
Some of the benefits of integrating design thinking into the classroom for both teachers and students include:
- The curriculum becomes tailored to the student group being served. Because the focus and intention is on tailoring learning to the student group as well as individual students, differentiated instruction and universal design for learning become inherently and naturally part of the process.
- The educator and students learn the process to address ambiguous problems and concerns. The result is the development of tolerance for and skills to address ambiguous problems which is more aligned with how the real world works.
- The educator and students develop skills related to innovation, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving – those skills valued by today’s workforce and society.
Resources for the Educator as a Design Thinker
Ideo. (n.d.). Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit - http://www.designthinkingforeducators.com/about-toolkit/
Pfau, P. (2014). Rethinking Education with Design Thinking - http://www.metropolismag.com/Point-of-View/February-2014/Rethinking-Education-with-Design-Thinking/.
Speicher, S. (2013). Design Thinking in Schools: An Emerging Movement Building Creative Confidence in our Youth – http://gettingsmart.com/2013/11/design-thinking-schools-emerging-movement-building-creative-confidence-youth/
Teachthought. (2013). 45 Design Thinking Resources For Educators http://www.teachthought.com/teaching/45-design-thinking-resources-for-educators
Video Teacher Voices: What does design mean to you? http://vimeo.com/46066703
Schooling and institutionalized education have become removed from true, instinctual, and human/humane learning. Humans have been learning since the beginning of time with major discoveries and innovations historically and currently emerging in spite of school. This is the biggest problem I have with schools – most are contrived and coercive and do not honor the innate human need and desire to learn, discover, and evolve.
If order to fully understand the purpose of school, the history of its evolution as an institution needs to be understood. What follows is part of A Brief History of Education in the Freedom to Learn series published in Psychology Today:
If we want to understand why standard schools are what they are, we have to abandon the idea that they are products of logical necessity or scientific insight. They are, instead, products of history. Schooling, as it exists today, only makes sense if we view it from a historical perspective.
Adults in hunter-gatherer cultures allowed children almost unlimited freedom to play and explore on their own because they recognized that those activities are children’s natural ways of learning. With the rise of agriculture, and later of industry, children became forced laborers. Play and exploration were suppressed. With larger families, children had to work in the fields to help feed their younger siblings, or they had to work at home to help care for those siblings. Children’s lives changed gradually from the free pursuit of their own interests to increasingly more time spent at work that was required to serve the rest of the family.
As industry progressed and became somewhat more automated, the need for child labor declined in some parts of the world. The idea began to spread that childhood should be a time for learning, and schools for children were developed as places of learning. The idea and practice of universal, compulsory public education developed gradually in Europe, from the early 16th century on into the 19th. In America, in the mid 17th century, Massachusetts became the first colony to mandate schooling, the clearly stated purpose of which was to turn children into good Puritans.
Employers in industry saw schooling as a way to create better workers. To them, the most crucial lessons were punctuality, following directions, tolerance for long hours of tedious work, and a minimal ability to read and write. From their point of view (though they may not have put it this way), the duller the subjects taught in schools the better.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, public schooling gradually evolved toward what we all recognize today as conventional schooling. The methods of discipline became more humane, or at least less corporal; the lessons became more secular; the curriculum expanded, as knowledge expanded, to include an ever-growing list of subjects; and the number of hours, days, and years of compulsory schooling increased continuously. School gradually replaced fieldwork, factory work, and domestic chores as the child’s primary job.
Schools today are much less harsh than they were, but certain premises about the nature of learning remain unchanged: Learning is hard work; it is something that children must be forced to do, not something that will happen naturally through children’s self-chosen activities. The specific lessons that children must learn are determined by professional educators, not by children, so education today is still, as much as ever, a matter of inculcation
From the Time Magazine article, How to Bring Our Schools Out of the 20th Century
There’s a dark little joke exchanged by educators with a dissident streak: Rip Van Winkle awakens in the 21st century after a hundred-year snooze and is, of course, utterly bewildered by what he sees. Men and women dash about, talking to small metal devices pinned to their ears. Young people sit at home on sofas, moving miniature athletes around on electronic screens. Older folk defy death and disability with metronomes in their chests and with hips made of metal and plastic. Airports, hospitals, shopping malls–every place Rip goes just baffles him. But when he finally walks into a schoolroom, the old man knows exactly where he is. “This is a school,” he declares. “We used to have these back in 1906. Only now the blackboards are white.”
It really is a sad statement of the school system when some of our world’s greatest scholars have such strong critiques of institutionalized schooling:
I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. Mark Twain
Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. Albert Einstein
It is in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curious of inquiry. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty. Albert Einstein
In school I encountered authority of a different kind than I had ever encountered before, and I did not like it. And they really almost got me. They came close to really beating any curiosity out of me. Steve Jobs
I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Anne Sullivan
Knowledge that is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind. Plato
Since every effort in our educational life seems to be directed toward making of the child a being foreign to itself, it must of necessity produce individuals foreign to one another, and in everlasting antagonism with each other. Emma Goldman
Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality. Helen Beatrix Potter
What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook. Henry David Thoreau
Education is one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought. Bertrand Russell
Some of the overt and covert values and messages of our current institutionalized school system include:
- Learning is difficult and involves hard work, discipline, repetition.
- Obedience and conformity are valued.
- There are winners and losers. Winners are those who get the good grades; losers are those who do not.
- There are experts, the teachers, the textbooks, the administrators, who know it all and should not be questioned.
- Learning involves being quiet and sitting still in a desk.
- Traditional paper and pencil tests can measure student learning.
- Learning is about studying what has been and what is rather than what could be.
These educational practices are often taken at face value without being critically analyzed, dissected, and/or tested for truth. Educators and all related stakeholders do not engage in serious contemplation around the question, “What is the purpose of school?” in order to analyze the efficacy of these practices.
I am not advocating for the abolishment of school. Schools offer children and youth many resources they might not be able to get otherwise – communities of learners, mentorships, physical resources, emotional support. I am questioning, though, the broad acceptance by many that institution has to be the way it is. Isn’t a goal of education to learn the process of citizenship, democracy, the betterment of humankind? If so, shouldn’t all of the stakeholders – educators, learners, parent, community members, politicians – engage in a continual process of evaluating and modifying the school system to best meet the needs and desires of all? Evolution as defined as “
The argument, the questions I propose are not new but until change occurs, they are worth revisiting and reconsidering,
As a parting shot, when discussing the purpose of school, can be summarized by a statement made by Daniel Katz in Reflections on Ferguson — What does education mean in a world like this?
School is an enterprise that is premised around hope and purpose. In order to truly engage with the operation of school, a child has to believe that there are reasons and purposes that make sense and has to have hope that school will lead somewhere desirable.
I am facilitating an in-service on Growth Mindsets for Educators. I created an infographic, Thinglink, and Slide Presentation of resources that I am sharing below:
Thinglink that contains links to Growth Mindset Resources http://www.thinglink.com/scene/549674394805338114
I self-published an eBook: The Educator as a Maker Educator. It is available through Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Educator-as-Maker-ebook/dp/B00LYLQT0Y/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1405867667&sr=1-2
The Maker Movement and the accompanying Maker Education are inching their ways in both formal (school) and informal (after school – camp) settings.
Whether it’s a paper airplane or a robot that walks, kids have always wanted to create functional objects with their own two hands. These days, many educators are channeling that natural urge to build with help from the wider maker movement, which has spawned maker faires and dedicated make spaces” in classrooms and media centers around the country. Pam Moran, superintendent of theAlbemarle County Public Schools in Virginia, contends that American classrooms of the past regularly fueled this type of creativity, and now is the time to bring back that spirit of innovation. “I see the maker movement as being a reconnect, both inside schools, as well as in communities, to redevelop the idea that we are creative individuals,” Moran said. “We are analytical problem-solvers, and we are people who, in working with our hands and minds, are able to create and construct. We are makers by nature.” (http://thejournal.com/articles/2014/04/30/the-maker-movement-conquers-the-classroom.aspx#1lvxqXlR6YpCS9DU.99)
Those involved in the maker movement have noted the problems with the type of learning occurring in the formal educational setting:
Formal education has become such a serious business, defined as success at abstract thinking and high-stakes testing, that thereʼs no time and no context for play. If play is what you do outside school, then that is where the real learning will take place and thatʼs where innovation and creativity will be found.
Our kids can be learning more efficiently—and as individuals. We imagine that schools can become places where students learn to identify their own challenges, solve new problems, motivate themselves to complete a project, engage in difficult tasks, work together, inspire others, and give advice and guidance to their peers. (Makerspace Playbook)
The potential of maker education and related STEM, STEAM (science, technology, education, arts, math), and DIY movements to transform education in transformative ways cannot be understated.
The maker movement has the opportunity to transform education by inviting students to be something other than consumers of education. They can become makers and creators of their own educational lives, moving from being directed to do something to becoming self-directed and independent learners. Increasingly, they can take advantage of new tools for creative expression and for exploring the real world around them. They can be active participants in constructing a new kind of education for the 21st-century, which will promote the creativity and critical thinking we say we value in people like Steve Jobs. Learning by Making: American kids should be building rockets and robots, not taking standardized tests
When a kid builds a model rocket, or a kite, or a birdhouse, she not only picks up math, physics, and chemistry along the way, she also develops her creativity, resourcefulness, planning abilities, curiosity, and engagement with the world around her. But since these things can’t be measured on a standardized test, schools no longer focus on them. As our public educational institutions continue down this grim road, they’ll lose value as places of learning. That may seem like a shame, but to the members of the growing DIY schooling movement, it’s an irresistible opportunity to roll up their sleeves. School for Hackers: The do-it-yourself movement revives learning by doing.
The following interactive video, made with Mozilla Popcorn further describes Maker Education – https://experientiallearning.makes.org/popcorn/1fjc
This ebook is a compilation of blog posts I wrote about Maker Education. They can all be found online but this compilation permits for easy access of all of them online and offline. The eBook includes theoretical ideas and research, some suggestions for implementation, the role of the educator as a maker educator, example units, and some informal research-observations.