Part II: Design in Education

There are a number of resources on the web to help teachers and administrators get started using design principles and processes to address challenges or opportunities in their schools and classrooms. Here are a few that I have stumbled across in my informal study of design.

First, when I think of design, I think like most people I think of the aesthetic or structural variety. And in many ways there is a powerful way in which architecture, ergonomic engineering and visual design can have profound of effects on learning and school environments. Indeed, there is a body of brain-based education research which emphasizes environmental design elements such as lighting, scents and sounds, and classroom configuration as major ways to leverage our natural neurological predilections for learning.

In this endearing TED Talk by Japanese architect, Takaharu Tezuka, he showcases an oval open plan preschool he designed and where his own child attends. He explains a bit about the process he went through to design for the end-user, both the teachers and the students of the school, and how he included input from both groups during that design process. The space is an urban preschool paradise, with wonderful natural light, open spaces, tight cubicles, trees growing out of the classrooms, and practical multi-use, storage-rich learning stations. It is an amazing organic space for young learners.

Next are a few web resources to both learn more about design in the classroom specifically and design education in general. As mentioned in Part I of my design series, the TD4ED organization is leading the way on adapting the design process for schools and engaging districts and charter organizations in its use. They have tweaked IDEO’s Human-centered Design process for schools, renaming and retooling the six steps to reflect the student end-user; define, imagine, explore, play, reflect and transform. The steps are reminiscent of the gradual release method that many teachers know and use today in their classroom.

If you are looking to connect with other teachers and schools who have already implemented design thinking or a design solution, the Design Thinking in Schools website has searchable map of worldwide resources and programs. You will find pins for the famed design schools like INNOVA in Peru, a whole cluster in Silicon Valley close to the IDEO headquarters and even a few in my home city of Seattle. Check it out and see if you can find and visit a design-forward school in your area.

Lastly, here a few more resource websites and Twitter handles to follow to round out your design in education education:

edSurge – This is their collection of resources to get schools, teachers and ed leaders to start using design thinking in their education communities without hiring an expensive consultant.

Design Education, California – This site is for design students and professionals, but is a resource rich clearinghouse for any interested potential design educator. (@designeducation)

Design In Schools Pinterest – Check out and follow my design board as I continue my professional development on design in education.

Intrinsic School Chicago – Read a Q&A with the lead architect of this revolutionary blended learning space and how they approached their design process with the end-users (students and teachers) in mind.

Biophilic Design in Schools – Stephen Kellert of the Yale School of Foresty and Environmental Studies on how to build nature into education.

@cooperhewitt – The Smithsonian’s design museum provides summer camps for kids interested in design.

@sawhorserevolu1 – A Seattle-based nonprofit working with high school students to design and build solutions for homelessness.

@ProjectHDesign – A 501c3 nonprofit teaching youth to design and build their future with heart, hands, and hammers.

@schoolstartup – The handle for Will Eden, former teacher and edtech expert now leading the launch of a Next Generation School in Alpha Public Schools, San Jose, CA.

@TeachersGuild – A beta community from IDEO and Riverdale School District to get teachers collaborating on design thinking for education with other teachers.

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Design in Education: Part 1

Design, and more specifically, the design process has been a growing interest of mine for the last few years. In 2012, I became a board member of Long Way Home, a small non-profit based in Guatemala that is building a sustainable green school out of repurposed waste material, training a local greenbuilding crew, and providing an environmental education to 60-plus local children. The board position demanded that I begin to understand how to turn challenges in a community of poverty into opportunities based on the needs and desires of that community.  And while I had been involved for several years in the small rural community where Long Way Home operates, assuming that I knew best how to solve problems for the locals, let alone my staff on the ground, would be folly.

Maintaining empathy for the community I was serving, balancing a worm’s eye view with a bird’s eye view and aspiring to create responsive operations systems within the organization was what brought me to learn about IDEO and Human-centered Design (HCD). It did not take long for me to realize that many of the HCD principles could translate well to the “end-users” in the American Title I school I was working in at the time; urban elementary students. If you are interested in student-centered learning, you ought to be reading something on design. Thus, I have endeavored to study the IDEO design process and consider how HCD and general design thinking can be put to productive use in my own classroom.

This is just Part 1 in an on-going and indefinite series on Design in Education. The purpose of this series is three-fold.

1) Collect and catalogue the different Design in Education resources and PD that I have found

2) Distill those design resources into some bite-sized takeaways for myself and other teachers

3) Reflect upon how and where I could implement design principles and the IDEO HCD process, in particular, into my classroom

There is no better place to start than introduction of IDEO and what Design in Education is at it’s core. Last November, during the Global Education Conference, Alaine Newland and Emily Havens of IDEO gave a keynote presentation introducing ways in which IDEO has already used design to improve schools the world over. Below is the Global Ed Con session recording and my notes on the presentation:

Alaine Newland of IDEO – Background connecting global and local communities in the non-profit sector.

1. What is HCD

  • User-centered process based in deep empathy for the user & their experience
  • Understand and observe, make it visual, consider the whole system
  • 4-step process: Inspiration, Interpretation, Ideation, Implementation
  • The goal is for “opportunities to become innovations, transform insights into action, implement new solutions with impact faster and more effectively”.

2. IDEO + Design for learning examples:

  1. San Francisco Unified student-centered school lunch
  2. INNOVA Schools, is a network of world-class schools in Peru that cost families just $130 per month

3. Reimagining the classroom : 8 tips for innovation in the classroom

  1. Pull don’t push – Empower students to seek their own answers & solutions
  2. Create relevance – activate student thinking around real world problems
  3. Reimagining skills – 21st Century Skills are not “soft skills”, they are instead core skills for problem solving
  4. Allow for variation – Learning menus, mastery, competency-based, “equality does not mean sameness”
  5. Teachers as designers – Permissive guidance may be more chaotic but fosters greater engagement
  6. Build a learning community – Partnerships, CBO’s, learning and presenting outside the school
  7. Be an anthropologist – Understand people through interviews, brainstorming sessions, etc.
  8. Incubate the future – How can you make your classroom issues-based so that students think about, explore and brainstorm solutions to problems that they will face when they are adults in the community

Areas of potential reimagination in the classroom:

  1. The classroom space itself
  2. Re Envisioned curriculum
  3. Inspire new behaviors and a creative confidence
  4. Design experiences that support learners and create design thinkers

4. OpenIDEO – Open innovation platform to get people to design for a better world, a community of 75,000 including professionals, students, and entrepreneurs. People collaborate rather than compete and have physical meetups all over the world.

→ Open Challenge Process starts with a big question and continues through the HCD phases

5. Ways to Engage: Emily Haden is spearheading efforts to expand offline engagement

  • Davidson College integrated a yearlong design fellowship into students’ gen ed classes and learning
  • http://www.designthinkingforeducators.com/toolkit/
  • Student meetup groups that meet offline to engage with an OpenIDEO Challenge
  • Campus-wide learning communities that move from awareness of a problem to designing and implementing actionable steps in the local community

Favorite ideas for my teaching practice:

“Teachers could use the design process to teach skills around interviewing and research.”

“HCD is rooted in thinking about the end-user. Empathy is the base of HCD and a way to structure the teaching of empathy.”

Related IDEO & design in education links:

Impact Design Hub interview with one of the founders & current Creative Director of IDEO.org, Patrice Martin:

https://impactdesignhub.org/2015/07/08/human-center-of-design-ideoorg-patrice-martin/

IDEO Method in Action – Story #154, Bezos early childhood support project.

http://www.designkit.org/stories/154

My IDEO HCD Pro Toolkit Tips collection

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8Ahbqb_1JzeTDA0djVyWHZWM0E/view?usp=sharing

Innova Schools in Peru and IDEO

http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-03-20/ideos-sandy-speicher-reimagines-education-in-peru