Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Design Thinking: Environment

From the Stanford d.school, Our Point of View . . . 

The d.school is a hub for innovators at Stanford. Students and faculty in engineering, medicine, business, law, the humanities, sciences, and education find their way here to take on the world’s messy problems together. Human values are at the heart of our collaborative approach. We focus on creating spectacularly transformative learning experiences, and inevitably the innovations follow. Along the way, our students develop a process for reliably producing creative solutions to nearly any challenge. This is the core of what we do.
In a time when there is hunger for innovation everywhere, we think our primary responsibility is to help prepare a generation of students to rise with the challenges of our times. We define what it means to be a d.school student broadly, and we support “students” of design thinking who range from kindergarteners to senior executives. Our deliberate mash-up of industry, academia and the big world beyond campus is a key to our continuing evolution.
Education in and of itself is a messy problem.  There are not nice, easy solutions on how to change education in the broad sense or how to engage students at a rigorous level or how to bridge the poverty gap or how to prepare students for jobs that don't yet exist.  As a result, we need to have a design thinking mentality when it comes to education.  Everything we do and the decisions that are made in the classroom/school/district needs to come back to one's vision and goals, or design drivers as Christian Long would state.  As a teacher, everything you do from lesson design to technology integration to creating collaborative opportunities to assessment should get at those vision and goals.  As a building leader, it comes down to designing faculty meetings to focusing professional development opportunities to aligning the budget to master scheduling should all come back and support the design drivers.

A critical piece to having a design thinking mentality as an educator and to create a culture where students crave challenging problems that require creativity and ingenuity is designing an environment that promotes these experiences.  It could be something little such as do you set up (design) your classroom space.  It could be something a little more robust such as painting your walls with dry erase paint to encourage spontaneous thinking and collaboration.  It could be something larger such as designing and repurposing a classroom or library.  Check out the Lovett School and The Story Studio Project.

In closing, think about this quote from The Third Teacher:
The child starting kindergarten this fall will graduate in the third decade of the 21st century.  All we can know abut the world she will step into is that it will have challenges and opportunities beyond what we can imagine today, problems and possibilities that will demand creativity and ingenuity, responsibility and compassion.  Whether this year's kindergarten student will merely survive or positively thrive in the decades to come depends in large measure on the experiences she has in school.  Those experiences will be shaped by adults, by peers, and ultimately by places, by the physical environments where she does her learning.  United in the conviction that environment is our children's third teacher, we can begin anew a vital mission: designing today's schools for tomorrow's world. 

I'm curious to hear how you as an educator are creating the school environment that promotes design thinking.


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