Monday, February 26, 2018

Reboot Your Teaching Practice with Design Thinking: 5 Tips to Get Started

Here's a sign of a powerful professional development event, your laptop, and cell phone never leave your bookbag once.  The idea that a 1-day workshop won't grow dendrites for teachers, has been exclaimed by researchers for decades, yet if the one-day event creates disequilibrium in the way you view teaching and learning it's possible that change can take place immediately.  Researchers say professional development needs to be ongoing and continuous, but when an adult learner experiences a surge of inspiration in a moment in time, the intensity of the experience can disrupt your practice.  

This was my experience at DesignCamp Monterey.  For those of you unfamiliar with #DesignCamp it is rooted in the philosophy of Design Thinking in which designers tackle problems by rethinking an issue in a human-centric way as a means to explore possibilities and unleash creativity.  This is possible with hands-on tasks that have a "low-ceiling and high floor" to engage all learners and promote as many solutions to a problem as possible.  Design thinking gets kids to think just like an engineer and view learning as ongoing process which occurs when designers (a.k.a students)  partake in an iterative cycle of sketching, prototyping and testing concepts and ideas. 

This model of instruction definitely shifts the role of the teacher from the director of information to coach and facilitator.  Students immediately take an active role in constructing learning and everyone has a voice and a choice for participation. The process of design is authentic in the sense that children quite naturally are curious, flexible in thinking, and willing to take risks (this reminds you of preschool right).

It is teachers who are most likely static in their approach to instruction, afraid of taking chances and rigid in their thinking.  So your biggest challenge might not be will my students be engaged in Design Thinking, but will I be able to get outside my comfort zone.  You see the process is learner-directed so the sage on the stage, is more like the coach on the sideline, you still have the expertise and the plays, but it's your students who will make all the moves.  

So what might design thinking look like in your classroom? Think of a concept you might be working on like:  
Common Core Math 5 MD.C3 Recognize volume as an attribute of solid figures and understand concepts of volume measurement

Then provide your students with a problem in which they must design a solution: 
Students will create and use a model that can transport freshwater over long distances with no human contact in between locations, design a water transportation model to scale, test it to ensure success, and then show and explain how it works.  Students iterate and record data as they improve their designs.

 This approach to instruction is interdisciplinary in construct and connects various disciplines across the framework of the Four C's: Creativity, Communication, Collaboration and Critical Thinking.  

At our #DesignCamp we participated in several tasks from designing a suit for the Winter Olympics Mardi-gras event based on the users' needs and interests, to building a rocket, and creating solutions to transport water.  

Children as young as Pre-K can engage in an activity that allows them to think creatively and apply solutions.  This is what children do naturally from the time they are born.  They are testing out their environment and seeing what works.  

Here are my 5 Tops Tips for Implementing Design Thinking: 

1. Begin with Empathy: when tasks are rooted in empathy the collaboration and culture of the school and classroom shifts to recognize all students as individuals, who they are, what they believe in, and what is important.  Building on students' funds of knowledge is what makes Design Thinking learner-centric, but when the task has meaning and value then students will go deeper with their learning and become passionate about what they are doing. 

2. Don't Go It Alone: If you are new to design thinking you need to share and reflect on your process and what you learned about your students during the task.  Create a team of teachers at your school site who can observe your students in action and help you make interdisciplinary connections across subject areas.  This is especially important at secondary schools as you will want to consider how you can integrate subjects: Want to see what this looks like in a middle school? Check out Vista Innovation and Design Academy in San Diego 

3.  Start with a plan and connect the standards:  Trying out Design Thinking without a solid plan might be the last time you take a big leap.  Your students might think it's fun, but are they learning?  Determine what your goals are for your students, consider the materials and resources needed, and the kinds of tasks that will hook your learner. Without structure, Design Thinking can turn into playtime at Chuck-e-Cheese. Look at these Design Thinking Challenges from Raft Resources that includes standards-based lessons, planning, and include materials and resources to get started immediately. 

Check out this video on how students turn trash into fashion for a deep dive into mathematics skills, environmental principles and fashion construction. 

4. Stay Connected and Continue to Learn: social media and twitter can get you digitally connected to teachers who have been developing Design Thinking tasks for quite some time. But it's important to know who to follow on Twitter here are my recommendations:  
Principals Dr Chagala  @drchagala and Kaleb Brashad @kalebrashad are leaders who are charging their schools forward with Design Thinking.  Science teachers Brian Delgado @bluedotbrian and Andrew Lerario @bluedotandrew and English teacher  Dan Ryder (@wickeddecent) are forging the way for teachers to jump on board with Design Thinking.  

5. Start Small and Stay Humble: this process is definitely not about perfection it's all about the process.  So be gentle with yourself and know that kids are still learning even if you're not getting the exact results that you want.  Learning can occur when mistakes are made and projects fail.  Failure is an opportunity for growth and a chance for kids to know that just because you fail does not mean you need to give up.  Here's an inspiring video of kids at HighTech High building a rocket 

So if you've got a growth mindset and a willingness to step outside of the box, then creating, implementing and facilitating a Design Thinking task is the right step for you.  Let us know what works for you, what are your challenges and where you need to grow, because that's what being humble is all about, and if we can't own our mistakes how can we teach empathy to others?

Join the digital conversation on our Facebook Group: Teacher Prep Tech 


  1. The implementation of design thinking can be difficult, but well worth it for my students. Many of my students do not know what their passions are (or do not want to admit them in front of others), so class time devoted to generating ideas and sharing them as a class would be necessary for my students to feel comfortable choosing their own topics to explore during a unit.

    Having students use backward design with an essential question/idea would also be helpful for them when planning out the process of what needs accomplished and what standards need to be met by the end of the unit. Keeping the end goal in mind throughout the planning process can help them stay on track to be successful.

    Giving students autonomy can be exciting for them, but teachers need to facilitate and make sure student ideas are well thought out before implementation or we may be setting them up for failure.

  2. This post is very beneficial for me. I've enjoyed reading this. It is very useful for me and my close friend who is member of ESD Dallas team. I would like to discuss with him and request to visit this blog once.

  3. Combining design thinking into our “genius hour” projects would be a great way to incorporate this in an elementary classroom. Students are already asked to think about and try to solve a problem that exists. The teacher could either open it up to a problem that exists in the world or have it more classroom based. Having them take it a step forward and actually create a model, by use of a 3D printer for example, would give them something tangible afterward. Students working collaboratively on their designs would benefit from their immediate feedback. This type of activity prepares students to enter into the global community and become productive, proactive citizens.

  4. That is really nice to hear. thank you for the update and good luck. Art prints posters

  5. While reading this blog post, and chapter 5, Cultivating Passionate Students, I began to jot down ideas for implementing the Design Thinking strategy into my fifth grade classroom. First, I would like to post the four C's in my room, and begin discussing each concept with my students. My next steps were developed from the blog posts five tips for implementation. I would reach out to my PLC group to share about this new to us strategy. We are currently doing lesson studies, and are able to observe each other three times a year, with time given for feedback. Our next lesson study is in May, which may be a good time to implement a unit developed around design thinking. Fortunately, I feel confident in the empathy aspect of this strategy. I take a tremendous amount of time focusing on our classroom culture. I strive to foster a room of collaboration and communication. One of our classroom mottos this year is, "Everyone is a learner. It might not be at the same time, or the same way, but everyone is capable of learning." Implementing an opportunity for students to learn about a standard in a meaningful way is empowering as a teacher. I enjoy that aspect of backwards planning. Looking at where we need to be, then tying in the standards. I also think that having your PLC group on board will help with the planning process, or any kinks you need help smoothing out before presenting to students. The biggest thing I took away from these readings are to start small. As teachers, we tend to get overwhelmed with trying to keep up in this field. There are so many strategies that we hear about at professional developments, and our districts can sometimes make us unintentionally feel like we need to implement EVERY strategy learned. It can be a lot to take in. Having a strategy that cherishes mistakes that might be made, or asks you to start with a small bit of the strategy feels doable. Also, it quite honestly may be more effective in the long run too. Knowing you have room for growth as a teacher is a relief! After all, don't we always teach our students to try, try again? -Kalee

  6. Good post you have published. I would like to discuss with my other friends who is currently working with Corbin Treacy Thanks for sharing this post with us.

  7. I think one of the biggest issues for teachers trying to implement design based learning is trying to define what kind of role we (the teachers) have in the classroom. Some teachers might see this type of individual attention as additional to what they’re already doing, and the typical expectations of this already demanding profession. But, really it’s shifting our job from presenters and assessors to facilitators. By abandoning traditional lesson plans, and copious amounts of grading, we will have time to give students the individual attention needed to guide their questions, their projects, and their self assessments. We become partners in the brainstorming process instead of someone who expects students to fit into a pre-designed mold. By providing this type of support instead of traditional assessment, we can ensure that students are not only reaching outside of Vygotsgy’s ZPD, but also making sure they are achieving that feeling of competence that Sanguras emphasizes. I think the first step to implementing design instruction is actually deciding what kind of specific role you will play in the students’ projects.

  8. There was never an attack on your personal spirituality, but when you use a term that has had a very specific and useful function--for many, many people--and decide that it will mean something different, you should expect push back. This has nothing to do with slavish devotion to a tradition, as you’re arguing above, and more to do with language conventions. You’re taking a word, emptiness, infusing it with a very personal meaning, then getting upset that people don’t validate your use of it.

    Can you imagine this in any other domain of social discourse? Could I walk into a Physics class and report that the word “gravity” would mean something slightly different when I use it and not expect people to have a different take on that?

    Paradigm shifts aren’t usually about people reformatting old vocabulary with new definitions--they are about leaving behind an old vocabulary for a new one, more appropriate for a new conversation.

    That said, I do think you will get the most mileage out of a term--which is a tool--if you use it within the vocabulary context in which it was generated. Again, this doesn’t mean unquestioned devotion to a tradition, but an understanding that vocabularies are a kind of ecosystem that function best when their vital components are kept intact.


  9. I find the idea of Design Thinking in education intriguing but immediately run up against whole slew of questions: DT obviously lends itself organically to STEM projects or even project-based learning, but how does it fit into a math or literacy program adoption? (We’re including these subjects, as well, in the range of what a student could be “passionate” about.) This is harder to visualize partly because (a) these program-based learning targets are typically not inherently about design, and (b) the scope/sequence and daily lesson plans are structured with very limited instructional freedom. I’m not saying program adoptions can’t be re-scripted to allow for DT, only that I think having examples would be greatly helpful. How did a 5th grade teacher from Portland use DT in concert with the Lucy Calkins’ Reading Units of Study, for example? We have one limited example in the Sanguras text (the amazon writing example), but I think teachers would need more.
    Even the Science/STEM work our district does isn’t informed by a DT process. Students do get opportunities to engineer and problem solve, but not with an eye towards “users.” While I totally love and support the idea of incorporating DT into these pre-existing units of study, they would often have to be re-worked fundamentally in order to allow for a DT framework to come into play. This is often where brilliant initiatives like this fall apart: it’s simply a matter of limited time and resources.
    In other words, DT really seems to lend itself to what most public schools in my district aren’t doing: open-ended passion projects that are not constrained by the scope and sequence of program adoptions.
    I definitely think aspects of this approach can be incorporated, though: nurturing and modeling passion, using innovating/progressive knowledge-constructing pedagogy, and, when possible, using DT.
    I’d like to, as a challenge, re-vision my instruction through this lens to see how it might work.

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  11. I really like the idea of Design Thinking in the classroom. It also scares me a little. I think it would really inspire students and be way more fun than giving a lesson and doing an assignment. I teach math and it's hard sometimes to get students motivated and excited about math. It would be nice to make math applicable and for the students to see how it is used in the real world, with real world problems.

    My fear comes from trying something new and the risk that it may not working. I would have to have buy in from the students and my administrators. I would also need support from the other members of the Math department. Then there is the fear that the students would fail or not actually learn the math that they needed to learn. With the pressures to ensure that our students pass the state test, it's a little scary to take a risk like this. Yet, this is what I feel teaching should be like. It should be more than bookwork. It should be action and doing. Design Thinking inspires me.

    I like the volume idea that was presented in the blog. I could also see doing something with the Pythagorean Theorem or slope. Maybe something to do with designing ramps for buildings in need of wheelchair ramps, etc. I’m sure the students could come up with lots of great ideas focused around those standards or any of the standards involving geometry.

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  13. After reading Chapter 5, "Cultivating Passionate Students" and "Reboot Your Teaching Practice with Design Thinking", I was left asking myself some difficult questions. Can I realistically make this work in my classroom? Can I get all of my standards taught to students? How will administrators feel about this? Although I agree that we as educators have to change things up to benefit our students in today's world, I feel as though we are limited by administrators who are driven by standardized test scores. Testing of students three and four times each year, to drive our instruction dampers things. However, with that being said, I agree that change has to happen! The change in thinking of our administrators, and teachers. Agreeing that through Design Thinking educators can implement multiple power standards into our lessons thus creating multiple ways for our students to learn is certainly reasonable. The time constraints and the number of CCSS's that are expected to be learned by students in nine months means we must be more creative in our designs of lesson planning.

  14. At my school, all 10th grade students complete a ¾ year long Personal Project which is quite similar to the Genius Hour assignment. Our students struggle with it because they often struggle with having passions. I feel that, if they were introduced to some “Design Thinking” assignments prior to grade 10, they might be more able to be successful at determining what their interests are.

    In my English curriculum, students are being asked to investigate the UN Sustainability Goals for 2030. I feel that a strong way to allow students to have a hands-on opportunity to investigate these goals is to try to solve one of the 17 goals in a country of their choice- anything goes. This will give them the ultimate in a sense of impact since they will be trying to solve goals that governments and world leaders are struggling to solve. Also, as none of the goals has yet been solved, students will be able to be really creative in their ways of solving the problem. Just as there are no right answers, there are also no wrong answers. Their learning will matter as these UN Goals were determined to be the most important things that need to happen to help the world be more sustainable for future generations. By working autonomously, the students are able to beat world leaders, feel successful and show their competence in a variety of ways. Hopefully, also, since there are so many goals, each student or group will be able to find one that speaks to them and can become their passion. If not, maybe they can just be passionate about it for the length of the assignment and branch off in a different way, but have found passion for a field for a short time.

  15. In Chapter Five of Laila Y. Sanguras’ Grit in the Classroom: Building Perseverance for Excellence in Today’s Students and Dr. Dickenson’s article, "Reboot Your Teaching Practice with Design Thinking", both authors discuss the value of design thinking to spark critical thinkers, fuel innovation, promote collaboration and inspire creativity. In reading these papers I was filled with ideas on how to implement this into my own classroom for myself and my students.
    What stood out to me was that design thinking prepares students to be productive and expansive citizens that are able to tackle challenges, solve real life problems and invent a brighter future. “By purposefully cultivating passion in our students, we can bring the fun back and get on with our mission to raise them to be responsible and gritty human beings.” (Sanguras, 114) When I read this I immediately thought of my Global Perspective course I teach at the 12th grade level. I thought about how I can implement design thinking aspects along with genius hour ideas and prepare strong student led projects. Ideas such as having student research a world issue they connect with, organize a way to raise awareness, design a current event website and/or invent their own portfolio idea. My biggest hope is that students find a passion that holds deeper meaning and that they take their inspiration and follow through with commitment to create truly unique and strong differences in the world. Design thinking is aligned with purpose and intention, which translates to stronger classroom community where students can express opinions, challenge themselves and explore new perspectives.
    My favorite aspects of design thinking is the focus on 21st century skills, such as innovation and collaboration, and pairing these skills with passion and creativity. “Building on students' funds of knowledge is what makes Design Thinking learner-centric, but when the task has meaning and value then students will go deeper with their learning and become passionate about what they are doing.” (Dickenson) This aspect spoke to my heart because I believe this builds meaningful intentions for our students and provides them with the opportunity to solve real life problems while also exploring their own interests. I connect this to my high school economics course, where students can work on projects in a Design Thinking manner, where they are hands-on and leading with their own autonomy.
    I love the purpose and strength behind Design Thinking, for it prepares students to be more expansive, collaborative, creative and intentional.

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  17. 9th grade English students at my school prepare for their personal projects and are introduced to service through community service of their choice. After attending an MYP/PYP training this summer, it became apparent how important community service is to students in terms of autonomy and choice of service in their own communities but also to begin thinking globally rather than just in the here and now. Although this is not considered Design Thinking, it would be extremely interesting to somehow design their community service hours into some global problem that they could work on solving and reflecting upon. As my colleague, Karen Taylor, stated in her reflection, her 10th graders have assignments that very much align with the Genius Hour project and Design Thinking so introducing some form of autonomy with their reflections and problem solving would be quite interesting in helping get them prepared for what is to come in 10th grade.

    Another observation I have about Design Thinking is I really like the emphasis on critical thinking rather than what the end result will be. Of course there is the expectation that kids will have an end result but I really enjoy watching my students think deeper about common assignments whether it be a literary device or problem solving so the emphasis on thinking with Design Thinking is something that I appreciate about this.

  18. The readings regarding cultivating passion in students were very inspiring, and definitely the way I would prefer to teach. I agree this is a more realistic scenario for students, one I feel is lacking in schools, and is therefore more engaging and conducive to growth. However, part of me starts throwing a pity-party when my excitement is so rudely faced with inevitable challenges. Those challenges come in the form of state and district “requirements.” I have worked in a number of schools during my career, and have been in experiences where administration expected all teachers to be teaching the same adopted curriculum lesson on the same day. Thus, ensuring all kids in that grade level band make it through the exact same curriculum by the end of each term. Although, I am beyond thrilled this is no longer my situation, it makes me realize this modality of teaching needs to start with teacher support. Therefore, I am choosing to begin by sending my principal to read this article.
    I feel I have dabbled in design thinking over the last few years, but haven’t been up to snuff. My goal for this year is to pick the subject I have the most freedom with (most likely social studies), and shift to a design thinking model for at least one unit per quarter. If even this seems too daunting, I’ll pare it down, as I’d rather have a quality experience.

  19. Implementing Design Thinking sounds inspiring as the teacher acts as a facilitator for students who brainstorm, create, plan and build an idea that became possible because of their ideas and teamwork. I can see the enthusiasm and passion that it would create but then I fall back into how do I do this as a math teacher? Chapter 5 Cultivate Passionate Students, second page caught my eye immediately when it discussed state testing and funding. My time is pushed to the limit trying to teach students to pass not only my class but the rigors of state testing. Yes I have been close to burning out from working to inspire interest in the subject matter, repetition to help build brain memory, and fight against the wave of student apathy that seems to grow rather than shrink. I want more of those “ahhh ah moments” where they finally get it and a light opens up. DT is a teaching tool that I could plan as a yearly project for the class to work together as a hands-on-learning real world problem to brainstorm, investigate, and solve for a problem; then implement a solution together. Students do feel empowered when they create or build something, this could lead to a community wide service project; such as, ramps, bridges, playground equipment, or more involving geometric shapes, volume and area. Also the use of probability and statistics if it was more than just a paper assignment. The CTE (Career and educational) and shop teacher would be open to helping with design and creative solutions.

  20. Implementing Design Thinking in my own classroom sounds scary, overwhelming, and extremely exciting. Many years ago when I began teaching I remember part of my philosophy was to be the “guide on the side” I wanted to encourage students to find what inspired them to learn more. I wanted to start down a road and find as many paths that split off from that as my students wanted and needed. I was able to do this, for a bit, and then it seemed near impossible with the way teaching was changed. I now had standards and many tests I was required to ready students for in a way that I was not used to, I had to teach the curriculum and not stray. This way that I wanted to teach, and I could see students wanted to learn by, was not exactly Design Thinking but it was cross curriculum, student centered and led, and maybe most of all fun. Students wanted to learn and I didn’t have to work so hard to help that happen.
    Implementing this type of teaching now would take some serious effort on my part because of what the past ten plus years of being in education has done to me, and my way of teaching. For me, the first place I would start with this would be to find as many ways as possible to combine all the subjects so students stop compartmentalizing each area and labeling them. I would want them to see the connection between everything so they can no longer say I don’t like math, or reading, or writing, or whatever the case. I would also have discussions so students are able to share their hopes, their discoveries, and their passions, which in turn plants seeds in other students, which they can then grow.
    I really like how this blog and the chapter five reading encourage getting excited about our passions. I know when I talk to my students at the beginning of the year so many are worried about math and say they don’t like it or they are bad at it, I was one of those students so I feel them. However, by the end of the year that has changed for so many of them and I really credit that to my excitement for it now as their teacher. I get so excited to do math with them and they know it! I have fun with them, and I help them discover the fun in it as well. I know this is just the beginning of implementing Design Thinking in my classroom, but hey I’ve got to start somewhere!

  21. After reading this blog post and chapter 5 in Grit in the Classroom, I feel inspired to implement Design Thinking into my classroom. I agree with other blog posts in that the obstacles do seem overwhelming; how do you make the time, how do you reach all of your curriculum standards, and what happens if you don't have administrative support. Both resources address these concerns and offer solutions, such as using cross-curricular lessons and 'letting go of something else' that you might feel passionate about in order to make the time. However, the idea of tackling these still seems a bit daunting. That being said, many components of DT are so appealing- I love the shift to a student led classroom and that students are all engaged and working hands-on. The chart in this blog post explains the student, teacher, and organizational shifts well. I love the idea that students develop their ideas based on empathy and that this allows for character value development at the same time. I love the focus on passion; with our generation Z students so focused on social media and how many 'likes' they have or what they might be missing out on at any given time, I think the idea of feeling excitement and interest in something other than themselves is so powerful. And finally, I love that these experiences have the potential to set kids up to be contributing members of society: they become thinkers and problem solvers.
    When I consider how I might implement DT into my own classroom, many ideas come to mind. I teach health and so there are many ways that my students can consider people and their needs. For example, those affected by heart disease, diabetes, drug addiction, and obesity to name a few. I envision allowing students to choose based on their interest and then each group working through the phases to generate their ideas and develop their plans. I appreciate the suggestion in the blog to use other teachers/staff as support and resources so I would utilize my department to bounce ideas of off and observe my students and then also perhaps teachers from other disciplines to assist in cross-curricular lesson planning.

  22. This article and chapter 5 in our text were quite thought provoking. Being a PE teacher, I am passionate about moving. I also learned in different college class that Generation Z needs to know why their learning is relevant. So, although playing with equipment or playing games is exciting, it's good for students to take their experiences in school into the "real world."

    I love the 5 steps outlined in this article about how to implement design thinking:
    1. Start with empathy for students' individuality.
    2. Create a team of teachers/students to support students.
    3. Start with a plan that connects to the learning standards.
    4. Be involved on social media so you can stay connected to teachers who have successfully implemented design thinking.
    5. Start small, focusing on the process, and remain humble along the way.

    As a PE teacher, we seem to problem solve all class period, but in an unstructured, playful way. And it's often based on social issues (sharing, following rules, etc.) I'd be interested in implementing DT into my classroom in a formal manner with the focus on how kids could add physical movement in their lives outside of school on a daily basis. After all, it's easy to get home after school and just veg out on some technology of choice. I'd be interested in posing this essential question to my students, who would be working in small groups: Describe a sports game you could invent with only using common items around your household. Rules: 1) The game must include running and 2) everyone gets an active role.

    The video above about the VIDA magnet school describes that they "trick them into learning." I believe this seems true because students are still used to sitting quietly in their desks, completing worksheets. One day, when project-based learning is the norm in our school systems across America, it won't feel like trickery at all.

  23. In reading Chapter 5 in the book Grit in the Classroom I am intrigued in the idea of implementing the Design Thinking process into my classroom. There were many things in the chapter that I feel I already relate to, or attempt to do in my classroom. I teach all 6th grade regular and basic math classes in my school. One thing that I use already are "Problem of Month" found on These problems are a low ceiling/high floor approach that allows students of all mathematical ability to persevere and attempt to find the answer. They also allow students a creative approach to solving math problems as well as a topic that relates back to their life.

    I also related to, "don't be afraid to completely geek out in front of your students." This is something that I try to do often in my classroom. I am very passionate about different approaches to solving math and try to make my room a place where it is cool to be passionate. I loved the quote, "Make your classroom a place where it's cool, welcomed , and required to be passionate." This is one thing that I definitely attempt to show within my walls!

    Finally, I am excited to use the raft website mentioned above on the reboot your teaching practice blog post. I have already explored a bit and found an amazing lesson entitled, "Mathematical Hopi Kachina Figurines." This lesson includes both geometry common core standards for 6th grade and also ties in the Indian Education for All aspect. This is something that I am excited to integrate as a part of the "start small," idea. I think that my students will enjoy the creativity involved as it is not something that you often find in a middle school math class.


  24. Design Thinking and how a teacher can implement hands on learning and creativeness in the classroom made me think of the many ways I have seen this used in schools I have worked in. I also like the idea of being the facilitator and the students being the ones to come up with their final project and presenting it to their peers. Honing in their interest on a subject matter can be tricky, but if done in a way where they feel they have autonomy of what their final project can be within the goals and objectives clearly stated then it can be a fun & an educational time for them. Although I am a school counselor and I have limited access in a classroom I do feel like I would want to incorporate a project based off of Design Thinking with elementary students in a Science lesson unit.

    I would use my interest of outdoors and nature specifically plants and trees & seeds as the baseline. I would want to teach students the importance of seeds and their mechanism of dispersal. I feel that this project would give students the skills to learn how seeds have adapted to survive and disperse, in order to replicate and continue the symbiotic relationship we have with nature.

    What I envision for this activity is for it to be student led after they are taught the basics about different seeds and mechanical dispersal. For this activity to come alive in the classroom I’d have different types of seeds in the classroom for students to observe with magnifying glasses and draw in their sketchbooks, so they could collect their data and write down how they would design their project. Once their observations are made I would want them to use the scientific inquiry method to continue with their project. It would be my hope to have them design their own seeds out of found materials (felt, velcro, feathers, tape, glue, rubberbands, straws, etc.) so they can test their design and see if they were able to replicate the seed disbursement process.

    I love hands on activities and it gives the students the ability to challenge themselves and brainstorm ideas with their peers. I also love the collaborative practice and how students can help one another thus building rapport and community in the classroom. The sense of accomplishment that students gain as they own their projects is a great thing to see in a classroom.

  25. I am excited to implement the design thinking process in my classes. This will provide students the opportunity to feel genuinely successful because the process asks them to put passion into a project that requires authentic results and empathy. I teach a course called “Freshman Success” that teaches students the academic, social-emotional and organizational skills necessary for success in high school. In my classes, we ask students to research a change agent, and then ask them to think about how they could be change agents themselves. I would like to incorporate design thinking into this process. I’ve struggled with how to have students authentically engage in this process of creating a change in their community, and I think the steps of studying what people need, generating ideas, making ideas tangible, then sharing the results will allow for a structured yet creative process. I can also see design thinking working well with Social Studies content. For example, I would like to ask students to generate a better Treaty of Versailles deal that ended World War I. Some historians cite the Treaty of Versailles as one of the causes of World War II due to its harsh demands of Germany and failure to enforce. Given the serious problem, students can use design thinking to come up with a solution that will prevent those issues. Looking forward to finding new ways to implement design thinking into the classroom.

  26. I have been contemplating both chapter 5 and this post for the last day or two. I keep coming back to the five steps for implementing Design Thinking (DT):

    1. Start with empathy for students' individuality.
    2. Create a team of teachers/students to support students.
    3. Start with a plan that connects to the learning standards.
    4. Be involved on social media so you can stay connected to teachers who have successfully implemented design thinking.
    5. Start small, focusing on the process, and remain humble along the way.

    When considering the courses I teach as part of the Theatre Department I see many ways to implement design thinking. We are constantly solving problems related to theatre design and there are many opportunities to give students in small groups “problems” and allow them to find a solution.

    When I consider the courses I teach as part of the English Department I have a harder time figuring out where design thinking fits. As someone above commented, I think it is easier to see where this fits in STEM classes, but where does it fit in an English curriculum? This is essentially what I have been pondering for the last few days. Going back to the five steps of DT I am inclined to consider the Genius Hour project as a means of encouraging DT in my English classrooms.

    IF I were to implement some kind of Passion Project/Genius Hour Project I could see ways DT could be incorporated. I actually think integrating a team/group element into the Genius Hour Project would be quite useful. Students could have a feedback group during the process, there would be people to continuously bounce ideas off of, support for project implementation would be available if the project gets to a point where assistance is needed, and students could help solve each others project implementation problems that are encountered along the way. The five steps actually almost outline the Genius Hour project. First you have to figure out what a student is passionate about and during the pitch process students would create empathy for other students’ individuality. Next would be an added step - creating Genius Hour Resource Teams. Third is the implementation phase but having students connect their project to the learning standards creates a whole new level of personal learning. Social media would be another way to document the process (though step four is technically about teachers connecting with teachers). Finally, step five transforms into reflecting on the process.

    While the five steps are technically ways for teachers to implement DT into their classrooms the steps kind of serve as a framework for implementing the Genius Hour Project.

    For me personally I think I connect most to the idea of being a “process expert” (term from the Compliance to Innovation graphic above). I identify with process because it is what I know from my work in theatre. In educational theatre we are always invested in process over product because a theatre production really becomes about what students are learning. We attempt to encourage better actors, better technicians, better designers, and better directors. The product doesn’t always work out the way it was intended but the most important part is to reflect on that process and recognize how a person has changed or grown and what they could have done differently to improve the final product.

    Overall DT seems achievable if you consider step number five: start small, focus on the process, and remain humble along the way. When you break it down to those three things, DT doesn’t seem like an overwhelming strategy and seems very achievable.

  27. This isn’t my first introduction to implementing a design model into the classroom, and I often think of it within the framework of project based learning. I love how the traditional model is flipped essentially, and students are able to become the masters of their own learning.
    I have used a similar design in teaching science units, giving students a problem that needs solved, putting them into groups or partners to collaborate, allowing time to design their plan, implement their plan, and then opportunity to reflect upon their solution.
    In the first week of school this year I plan to have my students design a house of cards for the Three Little Pigs. This project is literacy based, allowing teachers to connect to the standards, while giving students an opportunity to practice collaboration, creativity, empathy, and to experience a sense of impact.
    The project begins with reading a story about the three little pigs, poses the problem of needing a house that withstands the wolf blowing it down, and requires the students to design a house using only a piece of paper, a deck of cards, and tape. The students must first write about their plans, and draw their design. This incorporates literacy, art, and creativity. Groups of students must learn to work together to identify their strengths within a group.
    Next the students must begin building their house of cards. As you can imagine, it is a difficult task, that requires more than one student, and in a new class, tempers begin to rise. Student’s need to learn to be empathetic towards each other, recognize others abilities, and work together. The best designs are groups that can overcome the hurdle.
    The final step is testing and reflection. The houses are held in front of a fan, and students analyze what worked and what did not, and then they go back to writing their reflections. The assessment isn’t how well the houses withstand the wind, but how well the students collaborate, and whether or not they can analyze their learning.
    I am excited to learn more ways to implement a design based learning into my curriculum that incorporates the standards I am required to teach, while building empathy within my students.

  28. As a physical education specialist, it was not too difficult for me to wrap my head around the idea of Design Thinking. Like it was written in the blog post, the role of the teacher in this case is similar to that of a coach. In PE, as much as there is teaching of rules and boundaries and core skills, the learning experience of the student will often come through their own trial and error. Through games, they can learn their own strategies, allowing them to think about more than just the skills they have practiced. To consciously implement Design Thinking into my lessons, I plan to set up recurring challenges, in which I lay out different pieces of equipment, (mats, jump ropes, scooters, etc.) for each team, and have them use the equipment to complete a task such as getting each team member across the gym floor without touching the ground. Such tasks would teach the concepts of spatial awareness and teamwork, skills that are necessary for each of my K-6 classes. This would inspire Design Thinking in the students by allowing them to come up with their own plan, and having teams would allow for several different approaches to completing the task at hand.

    Besides specific lessons such as this, I plan to incorporate more design thinking in general this year and will be mindful of a collaborative approach to our goals. I need to be able to let go of “control” in the classroom yet still maintain a safe and organized environment. It will be a challenge but an exciting one.

  29. I have been chewing on this idea of Design Thinking for a few days now and I have to say that as a special education teacher, I am struggling with thinking of ways to implement this in my classroom. The former English teacher in me is excited about all the possibilities, but when it comes to academic support, I think I will need to think outside the box and get really creative.
    I work a lot with transition planning in my older students, and I think creating some kind of design thinking projects around problem solving through transitional obstacles could be interesting. I like the idea of creating some kind of job workshop or college navigation problem solving activities for students to work through in small groups. If students identify transitional questions or concerns that they have and then define and work through this problem using research skills and resources on hand, they will be using problem solving skills and social skills to navigate situations they will encounter in the future.
    Overall, I love the idea of Design Thinking and I strongly believe that my students need those problem solving skills even more than the general education population. If you have any resources on how Design Thinking can be used in a special education setting, I would love to learn more about this!

  30. I really love the idea of taking advantage of the flexibility of thought that students have. They are so great at problem solving and thinking in new ways, and I thought it was a very astute observation that it's actually typically the instructors that are more rigid in their thought processes, and more likely to be stuck in an instructional rut, so to speak.

    I think an amazing way to implement this in the classroom is in homogeneous skill level groups to design a piece of instruction, say, on a social studies topic, and use their instructional design to teach it to the rest of the class. Giving students this level of choice helps inspire passionate learners (and teachers!) I also think that this style of project would speak to the "empathy" point very well. Who can be more empathetic and understanding of seventh graders than other seventh graders? If anyone really understands this group of learners, it's themselves!

    A consistent theme throughout all of our readings for this course has been choice. Student choice is a vital and pivotal part of creating learners that are gritty and passionate. Without choice and a sense of individual responsibility, students aren't able to develop grit and passion for learning.

  31. I love the idea of design thinking and do attempt to implement it into my practice. The problem I have found is the lack of time to allow myself to be truly creative. It seems that when I lack creativity I get stuck in the rut of doing what I do and sometimes even, sadly, what is easiest. Design thinking takes thought and prep that are worth the time and effort.

    I had a K-4 craft class last year that demonstrated to me design thinking at its best. I began the year with very well planned out projects which the students enjoyed and did a great job with. However, as time went on they began to lose interest and I began to run out of really good ideas. One day I took a variety of supplies in to class and laid them out on the table. The instructions I gave were to make whatever they wanted but they could only use the supplies provided. It was interesting to watch the students who had lost interest in the class come to life. They were enthusiastic about sharing ideas with each other even collaborating to come up with some really cool projects. Those who prefer to be told exactly what, and how, to do something took a little longer to be drawn in, but eventually this became their favorite thing to do. As time went on thier creativity became more pronounced and brought with it a sense of accomplishment. Isn't this what we are looking for in all subjects and grade bands?

    My middle school history and writing class deserve to experience that same excitement in learning. I ask myself, "Can't I apply that same concept from the craft class?" There is information they need to learn and I am trying so hard to put it all together and have them learn it all in the same way. It seems that if I lay it out on the table and then give them the instructions to put it together however they want I/we would see some pretty amazing learning.

    This has prompted me to completely rethink what I am doing and to allow myself to bring back a lot more excitement and enthusasism to all my classes. Giving students the opportunity to be an activity part in how they learn what needs to be learned is the environment I desire. Being the coach/facilitator to direct and encourage is the shift I need/will make.

  32. The ideas presented in Chapter 5 of Laila Sagura's book, Grit in the Classroom, and in this blog post seem both exciting and necessary for education during these times. As an elementary school counselor I often work with teachers who are struggling to simultaneously engage and motivate students, and keep up wth rigorous pacing calendars and standards. The idea of cultivating passion with students is a crucial component. Understanding students interests and finding ways to help them demonstrate competence is foundational for young learners. At the primary level even the simple act of investing time into the often dismissed act of Show and Tell could be a first step for teachers to begin to get a better grasp of student interests and begin to cultivate passion. From this activity students could be further grouped together to create projects to share and feel a sense of competency as the "specialist" in an area.

    In reading this blog post about Design Thinking I appreciate the realistic view that this strategy comes with many challenges for teachers. Shifting from the old way of teaching (compliance) to the 21st century model (innovation) impacts the thinking of teachers, students and the organization. The graphic explaining this shift will be a helpful tool in talking with teachers about grit and passion in their classrooms. Many teachers in my building collaborate in their planning and instruction and often discuss inovative ways to reach their students. I plan to share this information about cultivating passion to grade level teams and to infuse it into discussion about behavioral and motivational challenges with their students, Additionally I hope to find ways to utilize this appraoch with classrooms and grade levels when discussing social issues and in developing leadership activities for my older students.

  33. To begin with, I'm going to reflect on passion in general, from Chapter 5 in Grit in the Classroom, by Laila Y. Sanguras. I agree that when cultivating passion in students we need to model a level of comfort being passionate (crazy) ourselves. Being a teacher that loves learning about math and science concepts myself it's easy for me to "geek out" in front of my students. This is a great way to inspire them to utilize academic vocabulary because they sound like scientists and mathematicians and praise for successful use is a fun way to support students feeling competent in the content. Math, especially, is a subject that many students come in feeling that they just aren't good at it. Boosting confidence by mindfully selecting these students to share their thinking and using their ideas to foster deeper group conversations allows them to not only gain confidence but feel they play a central role in our classroom community.

    Relating to the Design Thinking process, when getting to the “ideate” stage, it’s important to recognize that students who are struggling to come up with multiple solutions aren’t being lazy-minded and likely struggle with the executive functioning skill of Flexibility. This stems from a fear of being wrong, so gently lead them to offer ideas and be extra careful not to communicate any judgment through tone or facial expressions.

    As for implementation, our math content has extension activities built in called “Apply” questions. Often, we don’t utilize these because we have 13 units to get through and over half of our students not at grade level. So, we focus on skill-building and problem solving in small situations. However, these extensions could be an excellent way to incorporate design thinking. It would allow the students to apply the skills their learning to one problem to solve that carries through the entire unit. For example, ratios play a large role in healthy ecosystems and generally, students have an innate passion for animals. The Apply question in our Ratios unit revolves around wombats, many species of which are endangered. However, it wouldn’t be a stretch to offer choices out of a variety of endangered species and incorporating the idea of prey/predator ratios, connection to food sources, and the impact of human activities.

  34. Between “Reboot Your Teaching Practice with Design Thinking” and our “Chapter 5: Cultivating Passionate Students,” I feel excited to implement some of these strategies into our Ninth-Grade Sexuality & Health curriculum. As a second-year teacher, my passion comes from learning and sharing what I have learned with others (teaching). Our curriculum is very important and relevant to the students because it focuses on decision-making and enhancing health. Our department would like for them to take these skills beyond high school and apply them throughout their lives. Although some students might be taking the course solely to meet a graduation requirement, we want them to know WHY it is important and HOW it relates (or could relate) to them now (and in the future).

    (1) Beginning with empathy is very fitting to our curriculum, because we really need to promote a safe and welcoming classroom to work through our lessons. This allows for us to share perspectives and learn from each other’s experiences.
    (2) Not going it alone is important in building our class culture, norms, and expectations as well as spreading that out into our building’s community. Knowing that others share similar thoughts and standards can help the building be a more welcoming place. As the facilitator, it is meaningful to share this idea with the students in class.
    (3) Coming up with a plan while connecting standards allows for a smooth transition in potential change. Here, it is important to have a plan before implementing, but keeping a dynamic mindset to roll with some unforeseen challenges while going through the change.
    (4) Staying connected and continuing to learn is a mindset that I hope I continue throughout my career. This can carry over to classroom culture in the sense that we need to lead by example, and just because someone is the head of the classroom it is important for them to remember they don’t know it all.
    (5) Starting “simple” is not always the same as starting “easy.” As a new teacher, I am always wary of biting off a piece too big to chew. When I “fail” at something “simple,” it is definitely a learning experience as well as a humble reminder to make appropriate adjustments, but if I “fail” at an overly detailed plan it becomes discouraging.

    I think a great way that we can implement these 5 strategies into our curriculum (or at least in my teaching practices) is really setting the norms of the classroom and having the strategies serve as a skeleton to the classroom environment, and use feedback from the students to make appropriate changes in a timely manner. As I feel more comfortable with Design Thinking, I’d like to implement the web mentioned in Chapter 5 as a semester-long capstone project for students. Each of our 18 lessons could serve as a potential “issue” that one could face and the students could surround the “issue” with how it could affect the people in their communities (small:immediate:direct or large:drawn-out:indirect).

  35. After reading chapter 5 and this blog, my brain is spinning with ideas on how to incorporate passion and design thinking into my curriculum. I am fortunate to work in a district that values teacher autonomy and creativity; I have a great deal of flexibility in my instruction. I know my students well, and I have been endlessly thinking about the ways their passions could be addressed and turned into greater learning. Two of my 7th graders are obsessed with Teslas- what project could they work on that would focus on renewable energy and fossil fuels? Another student has taken up arms against plastic straws: how can we focus on a problem and include empathy in the mix? Overall, I tend to give my students a great deal of choice; I would like to increase that and help them focus their passions in a more organized way- I'm eager to explore Raft Resources, because at this point I'm not sure where to begin.

    ANother thing that really picqued my interest was the 100 day project. It seems like a simple and yet powerful way to have students (or myself!) delve into a passion and develop some discipline around that exploration. I'm looking forward to the spring semester of passionate problem solving!

  36. This is a fantastic post! It really got me thinking about my own implementation of project based learning (PBL) these last three years. While I am not perfect, implementing PBL in my classroom - even in an imperfect way - has made me a much more passionate and engaged teacher.

    And there is so much to love about utilizing project-based learning - even when implemented without 100% fidelity.

    I love how engaged my students are on a day-to-day basis.

    I love to see students practice meaningful collaboration skills, even when that can sometimes be a struggle.

    I love to see their creative ideas in action and their sense of pride at the end of a long and oftentimes challenging project.

    I love that PBL gives students meaningful choices to make about how to express themselves and that it empowers students to be in the driver’s seat of their own education.

    I love how my students light up when they get an email or letter back from a politician or community member about their project - their sense of pride is palpable.

    So things are great. But could they be better? Always! And for me and my students that might actually start by more fully utilizing the first few steps of the Design Thinking model. As I have implemented PBL, I tend to send students in a very specific direction on the outset of a project. While they are obviously given many meaningful choices in terms of topics and final products to create, I need to give my students the space to be critical thinkers and organize and prioritize their own research in a more meaningful way at the start of a project. I spend a lot of time with my teaching team coming up with great essential questions, but in over-scaffolding some of the work early on in a project I'm likely stripping out some of the student interest and curiosity that might be built earlier on in the PBL cycle.

    So what’s stopped me from doing this already? The main challenge with this is that it is slower and I only meet with my students every other day. So in an effort to save myself a good chunk of time I have historically traded off some student autonomy and creativity early in the project with more teacher-direction. But after reading this blog post and chapter five about cultivating passionate students, I think I see the value in giving students the space to explore the topics more openly early on - even if it takes more time and students have a bit more challenge up front with the initial research. While my students are fully engaged in our project, that engagement tends to build over the course of the project. More buy-in and engagement at the beginning of the project would be amazing. Following the Design Thinking model would seem like a great way to get there!

  37. First of all, I have to be honest in saying that I have not heard of the Design Thinking concept of learning. However, I am very inspired by this form of facilitating students’ creativity. After reading Chapter 5 of the book, “Grit in the Classroom”, I gained a better understanding of design thinking. Dr. Dickenson’s blog post, “Reboot Your Teaching Practice with Design Thinking: 5 Tips to Get Started”, helped to break the strategy down into more detailed steps with concise examples. Taking Dr. Dickenson’s course, “Fostering Grit in the Classroom” from the Heritage Institute has opened my mind up to many more innovative ways to teach and promote effective learning in my classroom.
    In order for me to put design thinking into practice I feel that I would need to see this model of instruction played out in a classroom. I would also like to take the time to research design thinking more in depth by taking an introductory course from IDEO U to learn about the foundational concepts and how to put them into practice in my own classroom. Another resource from Dr. Dickenson’s blog post included the Interaction Design Foundation website where I learned about Stanford’s The website gives an abundance amount of resources for educators in the form of videos, articles and activities to discover the creative model of design thinking. Now, I’m motivated to GET GRIT and learn how to be a DESIGNER! Thank you, Dr. Dickenson!

  38. My first thought after reading about Design Thinking was how thankful I am that I teach in a school, with an amazing principal, that not only embraces this idea schoolwide but has been open about allowing teachers to have learner directed lessons. An example of this comes when last year we had some students who asked our principal if we could have a sandbox for our playground. As teachers we had a lot of reasons why we thought this was not a good idea, but a few students would not let up. Our principal told them that if they could plan it out in all aspects, we could find sponsors for materials, and it would work than it would become a reality. Yes, we now have a sandbox! It was completely planned by a group of students from the measurements, the amount of sand needed, type of sand, where to position it on the playground, etc. Some students even helped our janitor build it.
    Many of our Design Thinking projects come from the students themselves. Once they show great interest then we do some planning and make sure we connect to the standards. We may change directions and reguide students but we try to stay out of the way as much as possible. Another important piece of the puzzle is connecting with all the grade levels whenever possible. Right now our students are working on the amount of food waste from our lunches. It is a concern that was brought to our principal from a few students who were helping in the cafeteria. It has now morphed into a schoolwide awareness of the large amount of wasted food. We are in the infancy of this project, but graphs are being built, food is being weighted per grade level trash cans, and discussions of change are continuous.
    Individually in my classroom we are working on how to change some of our writing processes to the computer. Many students finished typing their dragon stories (fantasy genre), created after they hammered open their own individual homemade eggs (I made these at home) with a plastic dragon inside, a little earlier than the rest of the class. A student asked if he could turn his story into pictures. This morphed into learning how to make a slideshow and summarize their stories to fit. Now we are working on biographies, after they interviewed a former student who now plays professional soccer, but on the side we are recreating some of the writing process onto computers.The students are once again taking the reins and I am excited to see where they lead me.

  39. Teaching empathy is already something that is being done in any given school day; creating classroom community, while teaching our social emotional curriculum, as we study characters from stories, and when reading biographies and current event articles. So as I think about implementing design thinking my mind jumps to building off what I’m already doing. The opportunities are endless. Change student seating arrangements? How about interviewing your new partner to learn about them...interests, strengths, areas of struggle and then design a gift to welcome them to your partnership. Reading a book like The One and Only Ivan? What about empathizing with animals in captivity and designing an enclosure that would enrich the lives of a type of animal in captivity? Just taught a lesson on being inclusive on the playground? Design a playground game that is inclusive to ALL the students in the class.

  40. As I was reading this blog on design thinking paired with my reading of Chapter Five, Cultivating Passionate students in the book, Grit in the Classroom, I was instantly hit with a great class project for my third graders. I have been reading the book, "A Long Walk to Water" by Linda Sue Park. This is a true story told by one of the "Lost Boys" from Sudan. I have many families from refugee camps, Students' families who have escaped a war torn countries. We have had rich discussions as I read aloud this book everyday. My design thinking idea is, how could you improve the water situation in remote villages. My students already have great empathy for the people effected by unclean water. They could come up with ways to purify the water, transport water, or find new water sources. The ideas are endless. I am excited to introduce this challenge and see where the students will take it.

  41. As a kindergarten teacher in my second year, the only time I feel brave enough to implement any kind of Design Thinking is when our class does a lesson regarding STEM. I introduce the topic, but then allow for students to explore, create, and evaluate on their own. One lesson that was a success was in regards to “force and motion.” For this lesson, we built ramps using rain gutters and blocks to increase the incline of the ramps to see how far a “toy car” might go, measuring the distance with popsicle sticks. Students worked in teams of 4: one person was a builder, one was a data recorder, one positioned and released the car, and one measured the length the car traveled with popsicle sticks. This lesson allowed for students to work on their writing, math skills (counting and number writing) and scientific development of an experiment. However, I have yet to implement Design Thinking in any other way other than teaching STEM lessons. I find it difficult to imagine a Design Thinking way in which to teach reading, and to an extent, writing. I do allow for creativity in writing, letting the students write about topics they wish, but reading at the beginning level is a subject matter I struggle to make “student led.” It could be my closed mind-set and older style of thinking, but I have always assumed that reading is something that involves predetermined guidance and instruction from teachers.
    One thing I am excited, yet nervous, to implement next year is a Genius Hour with a fifth-grade class. The teacher and I have discussed setting aside time once a week, like “reading buddies,” but for students to pair up and work together in a Design Thinking manner to create a genius hour project. What is also interesting about the curriculum I teach is that the math. While it is introduced by the teacher, much of the larger ideas and themes are student led. Rather than being told how to think, the students are asked their ideas, and the teacher helps them through their thinking process. I think what I find most interesting about Design Thinking and Cultivating Passionate Students is that I really thought these teaching models weren’t fully appropriate for kindergarten students. But it is possible, and more than that, it is necessary for students, especially in a society that seeks more creativity in the eventual job market. In order for me to be successful, I am going to have to work on my personal teaching style, and be less fearful about making a mistake. Overall, this will only engage students more, especially with the “growth mindset” theme that is prevalent in our district. This will definitely be a challenge for me.

  42. I love the idea of design thinking. Engage students with authentic learning experiences based on their passions and inspired by studying the needs of those around them. The autonomy in these activities ensures that most students will be engaged because they determine the direction to take their learning.

    In my previous role as an elementary classroom teacher, there were many opportunities to integrate subject areas and support students cultivating their passions while still targeting standards. I really had to reflect on this process to think about how to incorporate it into my current role as an RtI teacher.

    It seems that RtI instruction can be scripted and our time with students is limited. To use design thinking in my groups (1st grade and 6th grade), I think I would have students identify something that people or animals in our community need (interest) and generate ideas to address their needs. This can be as simple as students needing new playground equipment or helping local feral cats. To generate ideas, students would need to conduct research (the reading portion) and organize information (writing). Students would create ways to share their ideas and then share them with peers, teachers, and community members to gather feedback (communication). Students could use this feedback to refine solutions and continue researching. This would add student voice to interventions. My job would be to provide just the right amount of support for students so they are successful and can meet their goals and my academic goals.

    This excites me. I have been looking at RtI as very scripted. Interventions need to be intentional, but they don’t have to be boring. I’m excited to try this new approach.

  43. These type of projects are what brings learning to life and makes the work meaningful, creative and fun for students.When students can connect what they are doing to a bigger picture, they are more engaged and work harder. When students can choose what they want to focus on and have autonomy, they feel respected and know that they matter. Learning needs to be student centered and this is a pathway to that format. Everyone wants to feel connected to something bigger than themselves and wants to feel like they have something to contribute that is meaningful. When students see that their learning and work can connect people or ideas, it brings to light the amount of influence they really have. When teachers listen to their students and help foster their passionate endeavors, school becomes a place that feels like a second home and a place where kids can blossom. Since I teach elementary music, I am always trying to incorporate student's interest in my lessons and give them opportunities to create works that focus on what they are passionate about.

    I personally want to work on weaving in growth mindset into my daily lessons. Teaching this skill in as many ways as possible until it is something that students are extremely familiar with and hopefully choose to adopt.

    Although I am pretty comfortable with giving up some of the control in my classroom, I think I could work on being more comfortable with the "organized chaos" that these type of projects can bring about.

  44. Design thinking may seem like a new concept, but as a music teacher, I see it every day in learning music with my students. Design thinking is empathy based, as is teaching music. No matter what type of music I am teaching my students, there is a level of empathy that goes along with singing and songs. There is not a faster way to gain empathy for a subject, then through a song. According to a recent article published by Parent Co. on, “Several studies have determined that children exposed to music, particularly in groups or in correlation with rhythmic movement, have higher levels of empathy. Additionally, children are more likely to feel empathy for individuals who are familiar to them.” The article by Parent Co. goes on to say “Group interaction, particularly with rhythmic inclusions (such as drumming or singing), provides a sense of social-emotional connection and creates a feeling of responsibility for those in the group.
    Rhythm and music engage the mirror neurons in our brains, which are responsible for that sensation you get when watching someone do something – like throw a ball, or get hurt – and you feel as though you know exactly how they’re feeling. Music also stimulates the autonomic nervous system, which controls your heartbeat, and the limbic system, which controls your feelings and emotions.”
    All very exciting concepts, as a music educator, because this is what I teach every day! Just the act of singing the song can create a sense of empathy within the student. If one agrees that empathy happens when singing the song, one can argue that all other Design Thinking happens- maybe all at once- when a group of students learn and sing a song together. It can be argued that when singing together students “generate ideas”, students “make ideas tangible”, and students “share the results to spur others into action” (Sanguras, 2017). As a music teacher, I am excited that the structure of Design Thinking has really always been there when teaching students content and reason within a particular song. Consider the empathy, the ideas, the building of community, and the spurring of a people into action when people sing “The Star Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key, “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan, or “Imagine” by John Lennon.

  45. This idea is a great one to implement in my fourth grade class. I appreciate the model and how often it is the teacher's static mindset and fear that can prevent implementation. I believe that is where I would need to start. I would also take the advice of getting my team teachers on board with me, and working our way through the project together. I would model my thinking aloud, share which parts of the lesson are going well, and which ones are not. The curriculum area would be in energy, and energy transfer. I think asking kids to create a model that shows energy transfer would be suited to this design format. Kids would work in teams, so they would need to collaborate, be creative, communicate and think critically. They would plan a design, have it approved and then be allowed to create it. Throughout the entire project, they would be encouraged to make changes as things do or do not work. I feel like engagement in this activity would be spectacular.

  46. I really like the visual about collecting the dots vs. connecting the dots. That really made sense to me! I also like your 5th point: start small and stay humble. I often feel overwhelmed when I see all the great things that are happening in other classrooms. The encouragement to try something, even if it fails, is great.

    Next school year I will be going from kindergarten to 5th grade so I will be trying lots of new things and I am hoping to keep these older kids engaged. I will be searching out projects to help all of learn the standards.

  47. I love the new mindset that this instills in me. Coupled with our course focusing on grit, this article has a voice of confidence that any teacher can do this. Teaching kindergarten, I am so adamant about great management, kids on task, etc. I know that for myself, taking a step back and realizing that these kids are capable of so much more on their own, will be pivotal in moving forward. I have learned bits and pieces of inquiry-based learning, but I have little experience in teaching in that style myself. To let go and remind myself that it is okay for an activity to fail will be new for me. I know of several resources that have ideas for project-based learning. Trying brand new projects, allowing for discussion, and following the passion of my kindergartners will lead me down some new and exciting paths. I plan to take a step back, really get to know my kids on a personal level, and see how essential questions guide our discussions and explorations!

  48. After reading both the article and chapter five of the book, I feel confident in implementing some new strategies in my classroom with my students and co-teachers. Helping students find their passion in learning and watching them feel confident in the classroom is very rewarding and every teachers goal.
    The first step I would take in implementing design thinking in my class would be to get my co-teachers on board. There are three of us that share kids and gym space and a health classroom. All of us have to be on board for what we are teaching since we are often teaching together during 2/4 quarters throughout the school year.
    The area that stuck out to me the most that I feel we could start implementing immediately was to really foster the autonomy piece. In PE we have kids who love all the workouts we create for them and others that despise them. If we can create a system where students have more choices for what they are doing, I believe they would buy in and maybe find something that they would enjoy or be passionate about in that moment. We work really hard to create a mutually respectful environment and safe place for students to work, but giving them more options gives them the freedom of choice.
    Next year we will also be teaching helth to the same students so I think another piece we can really work on is creating that sense of impact. In PE and health we can teach them and show them exactly how what they are doing is impacting their health and well being. Finding direct correlations between their fitness levels and how they are feeling/sleeping will show their impact.
    My goal for all students is to have them find something they are passionate about in my class because they need physical activity for a lifetime so I am constantly trying to be creative with the design and activities we participate in. Continuing to do that and focus on more design thinking will only benefit my students.

  49. A reboot is what I feel I need! I enjoyed and was very inspired after exploring Dr. Dickenson's tips on design.
    One of the keys to passion I have read is, that it is cultivated not found or followed. Thus, one of my reboot tasks as an educator is to model first, "me being me". I will need to help my 5th grade students understand that "crazy IS the new normal". That crazy goes hand in hand with passion. Sparking student interest begins with role modeling. Another reboot idea
    I will pursuit has to do with an empathetic approach to learning. At the core of motivating others is an established relationship. Therefore beginning introducing any new concept involves teaching empathy with it. In other words putting a face to the task. Once this has begun ideas are generated through creativity and collaboration. This is the "how" of the design. The natural progression is designing and building the editable prototype. Again, collaboration is necessary in this step of design. Finally, feedback in an authentic manner that builds a sense of competency doesn't thwart further motivation for creativity. I want to implement these design tips into my classroom on a regular basis and also apply it to a longitudinal project like Genius Hour or The 100 Day Project. The Design tips may also be very helpful when introducing math concepts.

  50. Design! I find design challenges to be one of the most engaging activities for the most of my kids. Last year, I found out first hand how much planning is an essential part of having a successful design challenge. I heard about it from a colleague and thought I would just give it a try, and while the kids had fun, they didn’t learn nearly as much as I would have liked. We did have some really great conversations, though, about what we had tried, and I explained it from my point of view as well. I think it can be beneficial letting kids see that we try, and fail, too, especially when we discuss next steps.

    This year, I planned out my challenges to coincide with units which were currently underway and planned out questions and activities to address specific learning targets. I was able to observe much more learning and engagement from kids. It was really neat to see the different levels of engagement and how kids handled failure. Students who typically do well in standard lessons had to struggle with not easily having an answer. This was a great chance for me to observe their grittiness at work. I was also able to see kids who typically struggle in lessons and on assessments dive into challenges and persist after their first, second, or third plan failed. I also noticed a change in communication between group members. Ensuring that everyone on a team had a voice led to really wonderful discourse.

  51. I love the idea that design thinking gives a process for teachers to follow that enhance the passion of their students. You note that through the use of design thinking that students start thinking more like an engineer and are able to see learning as an ongoing process. Teachers yearn to instill a mindset for lifelong learning and now teachers can utilize design thinking to better obtain the love of learning. Thank you for providing five steps to follow when implementing design thinking. Design thinking in the classroom seems great when written on paper, but complex and massive when trying to actually implement in a lesson. Walking through the five steps makes it much more manageable and attainable in my own classroom. Thank you.

  52. When reflecting back on the reason for taking this class, a kept asking myself “where is the passion for learning in my classroom?”, from room transformations to song and dances during math, and still my classroom was full of unmotivated, capable students. Chapter 5 was full of
    ah-ha moments and creating an environment of passionate students. In order to cultivate passion and motivation, I first have to cultivate passionate students. This will me putting down the curriculum book and mountain high pile of worksheets, and get “messy” with our learning. As a “baby teacher”, this year being my third year, that can be challenging and taunting. But after reading about the idea of Design Thinking, I am onboard. When learning more about Design Thinking, I found myself taking pages of notes. Last week we learned about Genius Hour and I find them to be very similar except for one major difference; team collaboration. Design thinking has four critical components that create this model of student exploration to learning; creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking. Design Thinking has a direction or final destination for students to arrive at after their exploration/project. When I think about implementing this in my 3rd grade classes, I want to remember to start small and stay focused on the plan connected to the learning standard. During this weeks reading, I kept thinking about backwards planning and the role this can play for students during Design Thinking. Would it be possible to show my students or explain to them my steps of creating lesson plans, in order for them to think more critically about their next project?

  53. As I learn more about how to motivate my students and creating curriculum from their interests, the ideas from Design Thinking make me curious about, "how can I implement a Design Thinking within my classroom?" I have used the 4 C's before in project work to create presentations and creative work, but haven't yet used it to create a design outcome. I can see Design Thinking working well in all grades, but specifically middle school health class. Students are learning to build skills for High School and helps them have fun practicing. This type of curriculum design focuses on process, which helps students focus on effort and care. Design Thinking helps students build talent, choose something they are interested in creating, put in effort and care, and practice interpersonal communication with their peers and adults. This type of learning supports students working on mastery goal orientation, while supporting their cognitive engagement. I am looking forward to diving deeper into my primary question and finding an place to implement Design Thinking Project within Health education.

  54. Hello! My name is Mariah Purcell and I am commenting as a part of Dr. Dickenson's "Fostering Grit in the Classroom" class for Assignment # 9: Moving Toward Design. I'd love to see an example of this in the English classroom. I absolutely LOVE the idea, sometimes I just feel a little stumped until I see an example from my content area (I do really enjoy the math example though). One of my coworkers on our 8th grade team is starting Genius Hour projects this year. I think a great way for me to implement some of these reboot ideas will be to get involved and collaborate with her on those projects. The Genius Hour projects allow for active, high engagement, hands on, student-centered activities of the student's own choosing. I also like that I'd be pairing with another teacher to bounce ideas off each other and to help support our students across the curriculum (maybe we can even get the math and social studies teachers on board). I also think that by collaborating and working together, we can come up with a well structured plan that will avoid the major pitfall of Tip #3 which was being underprepared. This will be our first year implementing this project, so I think it is important to keep Tip #5 in mind as well and recognize that this is not only a learning process for the students, but also for us as teachers. We will undoubtably learn and grow as the year progresses, as will the students, and I'll be excited to see the end results at the end of the first semester.

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  56. My students have been learning to write informatively/interpretively and just finished a research project where they were tasked with choosing a current event topic (BLM, Transgender Exclusionary Laws, Refugees in America, and Climate Change) reading 4 academic articles and writing 4 informational paragraphs based on each article.
    While reading Chapter 5 and the blog, I kept thinking that to implement Design Thinking I could create an extended research project that would allow them to identify a specific problem or issue about the topic they chose and then however optimistic and grand, have them try to find a solution to that problem, researching the problem, their findings and a possible solution to it. Students could be grouped together based on their topics. From those groups, students could be placed into smaller groups based on what issues they wanted to address inside their topic. For example, I have a lot of students passionate about climate change. Students interested in addressing C02 emissions could be grouped together while those interested in how to stop deforestation could be grouped in another. Allowing them to pick a specific issue inside their topic would create passion by allowing them to go deeper into their topic, provide them the opportunity to practice their informative writing, while providing them the space to be problem solvers and forward thinkers with issues close to their heart. The extended project would follow the 4 C’s as well as fall easily into the designing process of empathizing, defining, ideating, prototyping and testing. I think with a lot of front loading, checkpoints, “small group instruction when necessary” and clear communication of standards and learning objectives, the extended research project could work well to build design thinking.

  57. My district had sent us to a Design Thinking workshop at the beginning of the 2019 school year. I had high hopes for using this in my science classroom, but I struggled. I still have high hopes, and I think after reading this blog, I might know why I struggled. I even took a Zoom workshop in the summer of 2020, but let’s just say that I wasn’t able to implement my plans for this because of the pandemic.
    Before the pandamic, I had trouble connecting my content standards with design planning. You think it wouldn’t be a problem in science, but it was for me. I was able to use parts of the process and I used more of an engineering design process. I never was able to start with the “empathize” part of this process.

    I think the reason why is that I was a little afraid of taking chances. My current principal is great and was all for taking chances, but our whole school had been burned by the previous administrator. I still had a problem justifying straying from content standards, and I felt alone. Our school has totally done a 180, and we are more concerned about deeper learning and 21st century skills. Also, we will be working with a team of teachers and we can integrate subjects. We have the green light to be able to do the design process.

    If my team of teachers can nail down a good design thinking project, it will help my students see the “why” or “so what'' of the project, and this should help cultivate their passion. It should help build that culture of respect for learning.

    In the fall, I plan to have a growth mindset and be willing to take chances. I am looking forward to the school year and working with a group of passionate teachers.

  58. I am a teacher, and I find this content helpful to me. DesignCamp Monterey is an awesome opportunity for teachers to develop their teaching skills. The design colleges in Chennai also provides great learning opportunities for students.

  59. The purpose of reading is to understand written information. Skilled readers typically read for two purposes: to gain knowledge or for pleasure. executive function

  60. As a first grade teacher teaching I am seeing a huge need for the 4 C’s: creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking. Most of my student, close to 50%, never stepped foot inside a school prior to this school year. Many of my students did not have the opportunity to attend preschool. Those that did had it cut short when we entered lock down in the spring of 2020. Over half my current students spend kindergarten remotely and never came to school for hybrid/in-person kindergarten. I am noticing there is a HUGE need for students to collaborate and communicate in a positive way with their peers. This school year I will be looking for every opportunity I can for students to be creative, collaborate with peers, communicate appropriately with peers, and think critically.After spending all of last year working on a computer I think students need opportunities to create and work with their hands. Design Thinking gives students a chance to use all 4 C’s while working on a problem or project.

    Dr. Dickenson’s five tips for implementation makes Design Thinking more approachable. Beginning with empathy should always be at the forefront of each lesson and project. I love the idea of teaming up with colleges to launch Design Thinking. Another idea is observing teachers who already use Design Thinking in their classroom. After reading this post I think there might be a few teachers in my building that are using Design Thinking but might not call it that. Asking to observe their lessons or meeting with them would be very beneficial to me.

  61. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Design Thinking is the Marshmallow Challenge. Students get in a small group and are tasked with building the tallest, freestanding structure out of spaghetti noodles. The trick is that it must bear the weight of a marshmallow. There is an awesome TedTalk from Tom Wujec that tracks the success of different groups, kindergarten - CEOs.
    Those that were successful understood the importance of communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. Kindergarteners were the most successful because they didn't have any biases about each other's ability level and treated every idea as a good idea. They also did the best at testing their structure, fixing their structure, and repeating this process until they had success.
    Cultivating passion in teenagers is challenging, but I find activities like the Marshmallow and Paper Folding challenges will cause everyone to work diligently until they succeed. It has been hard to find ways to integrate this type of learning into my classroom entirely. As many educators, especially in math, we are beholden to the standards and preparing students to be successful on the SATs. However, if we can find a way to incorporate this type of learning, then we help provide the soft skills that are not standards based.
    So far the only thing I have tied to the standards and provides ample opportunity to strengthen students communication skills during problem solving are the Problem of the Weeks. I do not help students with the how, but rather point them in the right direction to find help. Whether that is finding a partner or talking through the point that stopped them, I feel good about creating passion and creating connections.

  62. Thank you for sharing this blog post. The aspect of design thinking that especially sticks out to me is empathy being the focus and starting point. I appreciate your suggestions on how to get this started in our own classroom. When empathy is the focus, it can engage students in a different way than a "normal" project in the classroom.
    As I think about how to apply this to my own classroom, I want to continue to make empathy be the focus of the project so that we are tapping into the students' emotions as a drive for commitment to the project at hand.
    I would like to use design thinking in my classroom to allow students to create their own project from a problem represented. For example, we can learn about students who do not have a permanent place to live in our community and what we can do to help. Of course, we can't provide them with housing but what can we do to make a small impact on a big problem for children and families in our community? Another idea would be students who don't have friends to play with at recess, what initiatives can we take and encourage others to take to make an impact and lasting change? I would like to make these projects focused on issues that are close to home but also something that many students don’t think about often. By allowing the students to take charge and feeling that empathy for others, I believe that they will begin to make lasting changes in their daily lives that will impact others for years to come.

  63. I found this blog and Chapter 5 in Grit in the Classroom, by Laila Sanguras, very insightful and empowering. I appreciate their realistic take on all that teachers are expected to accomplish in the classroom. They both provide solutions to the problems we will encounter if we try to implement new teaching strategies into our repertoire.

    Dr. Dickenson breaking it down to 5 tips for getting started is very helpful for a linear thinker like myself when contemplating diving into a very non-linear type of teaching. It makes taking the leap much more palatable. It is also helpful to realize how much of the teaching strategies are already being practiced in the classroom. It just enables the teacher to let go of some of the “control” and let the students learn in a more organic, rather than structured way. We live in a world where it is pretty easy to find situations where empathy is needed.

    The idea of not having to do it alone is also encouraging. I am fortunate to work with a team and subject, science, that lends itself to exploration. My administration is very progressive and it is my responsibility to build a climate in the classroom where my students feel comfortable sharing their passions. We can then figure out a way to incorporate these passions into projects that cover the skills necessary to meet the various standards. Staying connected and learning about what other teachers are doing in their classrooms is very inspiring. The world is constantly changing and it is necessary that we change our teaching as well. Embrace the amazing technology that is available in our schools and communities.

  64. Design Thinking is exactly what I have been trying to move my history and government classes towards, but feel so overwhelmed in trying to do so.I found this Teacher Tip Sheet( and I like the succinctness of the steps but still think integrating this into my history classroom is difficult. I love the idea of beginning of every purposeful project centered around empathy. With each new grade level that comes in I feel like the majority of my students lack empathy and I'm constantly trying to find ways to incorporate empathy in my classroom. From chapter 5, the 5 tenets of passion: competence, respect, autonomy, creativity, sense of impact are areas I can and should be trying to improve upon every day. Some days, I feel like I do encourage this type of passion environment, but then other days I feel like a failure.

    One way I feel like I could incorporate design thinking into my classroom is to work with my local museum to help design new permanent or temporary exhibits. What eras or parts of our county history could use improvements and how can I use my students strengths to contribute? For government classes, we could start small with issues we have in the city...drainage ditch issues, infrastructure problems, and develop ways to solve them. I could see this being a great way to create a "jobs in government" class where I created partnerships with different local government entities to allow students to explore different jobs and tasks.

    Ultimately, shifting to a design thinking mindset just requires myself to ask more questions and ask for help and advice from colleagues near and far. I have a fire lit under me out!

  65. I recently attended a three-day training of our newly adopted math curriculum. At one point in the training, the presenter had explained how the curriculum developers used data regarding effective teacher 'moves' that impacted student attainment on standardized assessments. Now, I know some of you read that last sentence and rolled your eyes, however, the top ways to 'move the needle' of standardized test attainment were to simulate math (establish a real-life context for the problem) and to encourage authentic collaboration among students through math discourse. These together 'moved' student mastery by 1.2 to 1.75 standard deviations. The greatest shift in teaching that can move the mastery attainment in students, however, was group efficacy belief (the belief in the school/community that students can actually attain standards at grade level). So, according to the educational data, the growth gains were highest in classrooms and in communities that emphatically believes all students could meet or exceed benchmarks.

    Imagine a community so focused on learning and growing where students and their professional educators operate under the 'no failure' mentality. This is a tremendously powerful operating system that completely trusts, respects, and cultivates young brains to think critically, problem-solve and work out solutions to the worlds problems. This image is powerful for me.

    When I consider "Design Thinking," the term itself lacks power. However, contextualizing a space so relentlessly focused on cultivating learning and thinking and that meaning is transformed and made powerful. Syncing learning into a relevant context, such as cooking or mountain climbing, forces students and their teacher into a shared space of learning and, as a result, forces us all to grow. When we are able to provide opportunities for these kinds of safe risk-taking learning engagements, everyone wins.

  66. After reading Chapter five of Cultivating Passionate Students and Reboot Your Teaching Practice with Design Thinking", I was left asking myself some difficult questions. Realistically can I make this work in my classroom? Can I get all of my standards taught to students? How will administrators feel about this? Although I agree that things have to change in education to benefit our students in today's world, I feel like teacher’s need help with this from the big publishers who create and sell our curriculum. Change has to happen! It needs to start with the big state holders. They need to incorporate best practices that include Design Thinking and other best practices techniques so that educators don’t have to reinvent the wheel over and over again. In-depth curriculum based on research can implement multiple power standards into lessons thus creating multiple ways for our students to learn is certainly reasonable. I love project-based learning and kids do too. I think educators are feeling pretty overwhelmed and need some support in implementing these fantastic modes of learning.

  67. Chapter 5, Cultivating Passionate Students, of Grit in the Classroom by Laila Y. Sanguras resonated with me as I am a passionate and excitable person. I love to dig in and feel genuine excitement for ideas, hobbies, people, etc. I will refer to it as I revamp some class projects and think of new ones. I highlighted the text and then went back through those notes. I figured I would share these key takeaways to which I will refer back.

    Some parts that stood out to me include: “Passion is a critical component of grit. It’s the ultimate ‘why’....” “Passion is the energy that can fuel a project or task” (Kaufman)

    This might take some extra work but it is meaningful work that will make my job more fun. I never mind reflection, revamping, and innovation. Passionate students are way more fun to be around.

    “Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight, turns you into who you are tomorrow, and the day after that. Look at who you want to be, and start sculpting yourself into that person… Don’t let life randomly kick you into the adult you don’t want to become (as cited in Kantrowitz, 2013, para. 8).” -Chris Hadfield

    Don’t follow your passion or find your passion. CULTIVATE your passion.

    “Cal Newport (2012) suggested that people who enjoy their jobs, who in turn describe themselves as being passionate about their careers, are afforded competence, respect, autonomy, creativity, and a sense of impact. Their ‘passion’ comes from experiencing each of these regularly and authentically. So let’s talk about how these attributes can be emphasized in your classes.”

    Competence: Design learning experiences just beyond what a student can do alone but provide the support necessary to achieve success.

    Respect and autonomy: Choice, independence, not micromanaged.

    Creativity: Looking at the balance of power in the class can give students space to be creative. It isn’t just an extension activity.

    Sense of impact: Their actions and learning matter. Authentic assessment.

    Design Thinking: A strategic process for cultivating passion in students. Introduce a problem in order to incite curiosity (as they tackle how this problem affects others), conduct research, and offer a potential solution.

    1. Gather inspiration by studying what people need
    2. Generate ideas beyond the obvious solutions
    3. Make ideas tangible by building prototypes
    4. Sharing the results to spur others into action

    Similar to problem-based learning except instead of a problem or question, design thinking is rooted in empathy.

    Generating the questions around the topic (building interest)
    Gathering and organizing data (building passion)
    Generating ideas
    Creating a product helpful to the people

    Create open learning experiences for students to explore interests.

    Cultivating passion is an everyday endeavor. It should be subtly infused throughout your lessons and discussed often. Tackle content in ways that align with building passion.

  68. Reading about design thinking made me realize I’m on the right track in my classroom. As a middle school engineering teacher, I feel lucky that this type of learning can happen most of the time in my room rather than figuring out how to incorporate design learning in. One example would be student choice in our coding unit. After we have learned the basics, students can explore what type of coding project they would like to create. Students create a variety of video games, simple clicker games, animations, stories, or musical projects.

    One small difference is the use of the word empathy rather than define the problem. I see how there are slightly different connotations but almost semantics. At the beginning of each term, I introduce my students to engineering with a few videos about how many different types of engineers there are and the types of problems that they solve. Students then write a problem that they would like solved in the world on sticky notes and they get posted on the wall for the semester. These get revisited when students begin their independent projects to lead them into possible project directions. This also gives me a chance to see the passions that my students have.

  69. My thoughts after reading this article is that Design Thinking is a spin on Project Based Learning. Also it has not resolved the issues with project based learning in a math classroom. It does have some well defined characteristics. I especially like the approach to Ideate and Prototype. I have seen this approach to learning in other disciplines and higher level courses and it was often successful. I myself have done this within an elective course and it has worked very well. I can see the merits. I also have experiences with the downfalls.

    I currently teach 8th grade math, 9th grade Algebra, and Geometry. I am struggling with how this can be implemented at the introductory core levels of 8th grade and Algebra. Students do not come to me with appropriate toolboxes for their grade level. I have noticed a startling lack of retention and effort in this area and, compounding the problem, is a significant lack of prior skills from elementary school. Our 7th grade teacher does his best, but many students sent on to Math 8 only reach 5th or 6th grade skills by the end of his efforts. I take them from where they are in 8th grade and try to get them Algebra ready. Some years are better than others but these issues are getting worse, not better, in my district. To align a project with 8th grade level or first year Algebra standards they have to have a better background. I would need the time to teach the concepts first, then have them design a project that uses said concepts. It would be wonderful to be able to integrate a project across curriculums, however with our current staffing and scheduling issues, that is currently not realistic. The time is simply not available.

  70. My thoughts after reading this article are that I am inspired to try to do some in my own classroom! I am a 3rd grade teacher and teach all subjects. With the amount of planning required to teach 4-6 subjects a day, it has been easy for me to let go of project design and stick to the assigned curriculum. However, as I was reading I was reminded that it is not impossible and even if not every lesson is hands on and creating, even injecting some of this thinking can make a difference to students. We teach a geometry unit in the spring and never have enough time to dive deep into the vocabulary, and I think this would be a great opportunity for students to create something using shapes, especially if reading was integrated so they would have to read the vocabulary words as well.
    I appreciated that this seems to be possible to do for one day a week even, unlike PBL which can be all-consuming and unrealistic to do in a classroom unless the administration is "on board". I do think that my grade level team and I could design a project or two to do a month in order to have students creating and deepening their knowledge about math specifically.