I first learned about design thinking at EdCampWesternMaine in 2016. Dan Ryder (@wickeddecent) led a session where he not only explained the design thinking process but also took us through a flash lab. It was intriguing, but I just didn’t quite get it. I didn’t have a maker cart and I didn’t really see how I would be able to implement it. Plus I knew I hadn’t really wrapped my head around the whole thing. I have been learning to not jump right in with every shiny cool idea I learn about on Twitter and at EdCamps–I guess I’m maturing.
Over the past year design thinking had been on my back burner. I’ve seen Dan share out the challenges his students do, and I’ve continued to be intrigued–especially by the tiny house challenge he does with his students when they are reading Of Mice and Men. I decided it was time to learn more about design thinking and see if I could implement in my classroom.
Many EdCamps, when you sign up, give you a chance to say what you’re hoping to learn. Usually I go without an agenda, but this year when EdCampWME rolled around, I was eager to learn more about design thinking. They ended up with two sessions on design thinking; one a general “this is design thinking” session that was quite packed, and a smaller session focusing on design thinking in upper level English classes. I attended both.
This time around I got it. The pieces clicked into place for me and I saw how to introduce, structure, and incorporate design thinking into my English class. I just need to find the right moment to begin.
I started graduate school this semester. I am in Antioch University New England’s M.Ed for Experienced Educators Problem Based Learning using Critical Skills program and I am loving it! An assignment for my class on facilitation was the perfect push to get me started on design thinking.
Using the Manila Folder Challenge, I introduced my 9th & 10th graders to design thinking. In the discovery stage we brainstormed what brings joy and what steals joy. This class is a 90 minute period, and we had done some work on reading the Odyssey during the first part of the period, so I wanted to get them up and moving. They did their brainstorming on sticky notes and put them on the white board. For the empathy interviews I had already decided the pairings. They were a little put out to not be able to work with their chosen friends, but one of the points of the challenge was for them to work with someone they might not know as well. Most of these kids have been in class together for years. The pairings worked out really well. I was watching the clock–I needed to give them a time constraint, but I also didn’t want to run out of time for the entire lab. I ended up rushing them a bit. When we moved on to the experiment stage, most of the students actually skipped the doodling/sketching of ideas and went straight to producing. Again, they were rushed.
It felt a little chaotic, though not out of control–I have a small room. I need new markers. I wasn’t able to observe everyone the way I wanted to. One of my goals as a facilitator was to guide without interjecting my own ideas. I was pretty confident I’d be able to do that as I had no preconceived notion of how the end products should look. I had one student that I needed to remind of the creative constraints, but overall the students took to the challenge. Several of the results were incredible creative. Some students were frustrated with the lack of time and others with the lack of good markers. The time constraint was necessary, but it still felt too rushed. I was amazed at the end when students started cleaning up without me having to ask them. Many of the students kept their manila folders (I have seen them hanging in their lockers), and the post activity reflections on Seesaw have been thoughtful.
Future labs I will do earlier in the period so that we still have the time constraint, but not in a way that limits the students’ creativity. I succeeded with not interjecting my ideas, but I would like to be a better observer of more of my students. I felt there was a lot going on that I was missing. I also think that as we do labs connected with literature and other ELA topics, there will be more challenge to me as a facilitator. I will need to use boomerang questions as students wrestle with abstract representations. Using design thinking is going to help my students develop their abstract thinking as well as their critical thinking and their ability to analyze literature and support their analysis. I am thrilled with the success of this challenge and my students’ response to it. I am excited to continue to develop design thinking in my classes.