Design Thinking for Education: What If?

Last modified on 2011-06-11 15:41:26 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Education is at a crossroads. It is the prime social space where our cultural and economic capital are created. People are credentialed and stamped with “approval” in the educational realm. Yet, this all-important arena where a process of “social alchemy” (in Pierre Bourdieu’s words) is supposed to transform people, is actually stagnating and our students and society are suffering. We need inspiration and a new direction.

Early Concept Image for Video Game (Singapore-MIT Gambit Game Lab)

One place to look is to the design thinking movement that is influencing educators. It comes down to having students realize that they can create their own future and take frameworks from other areas including video games that allow them to design their own participation and experiences. It’s an optimistic, proactive approach.

Design thinking is also a collaborative process. It encourages students to design the classroom and design their learning experience. Design Thinking for Educators brings design thinking into the educational realm. It takes educators through the phases of the design process. As they proclaim on their site: “Design thinking is the confidence that everyone can be part of creating a more desirable future, and a process to take action when faced with a difficult challenge. That kind of optimism is well needed in education.”

Stop for moment and consider that. Hope for a desirable future. Confidence. Optimism. These are all missing not only from education in general but also from our society. Like society, education often takes a problem-oriented approach as opposed to a solution-oriented approach.

At a recent TEDxSFED Conference, an offshoot of the TED conferences, educators, teachers, artists and inventors gathered around the idea of “mashEDup: re-imagine education.”

They asked what would happen if education and students were trusted enough to be leaders of change in teaching and learning? One speaker simply posed the notion of encouraging young students to ask, “What if?”

According to TEDxSFED, IDEO’s Sandy Speicher talked about how kids need to adopt notions such as, “I am aware of the world around me, I believe I have a role in shaping that world, and I choose to take action toward a more desirable future.”

TEDxSFED also linked to a Q & A with game designer Katie Salen. Salen talked about her students experiencing video game design and importing those principles into the classroom. She said that games have a framework that could be transferred to the classroom. It would be about students interacting in the classroom within a framework that allows them to take on social challenges as designers.

Salen says that a good game designer thinks about the same things that a good teacher thinks about. When you begin to see how games work, you can begin to see how a classroom might work as a better learning experience. The framework of how video games work can also be used to design class participation.

Most people know that the educational system needs reform. There are many thinkers working on this from many different perspectives. Mindworkers. Quest 2 Learn. Digital Youth Network. The Latino Family Literacy Project. Design thinking is another a way to see and embrace the world. It’s a mindset.

As Design Thinking for Educators says, “You can transform the world when you approach it with the goal of imagining and creating solutions.” They recommend design thinking because it’s a human-centered, collaborative, experiential, and optimistic approach. We need to hit the educational reset button and refresh the experience and the outcome.

Max Benavidez, Ph.D., for The American Show

This post is cross-posted on The Huffington Post’s Education vertical.

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