Empowering Students with Design Thinking

What is Design Thinking and why is it important?

Design Thinking is a process to explore open-ended, ill-structured problems and it’s an awesome tool to share with students.

Why? We believe the Design Thinking process is the best framework to teach students how to dig into big, messy problems - the types of problems that entrepreneurs try to solve for their customers everyday. But it’s more than an entrepreneurial process - the Design Thinking process reflects strategies everyone in the real world, regardless of their profession, uses to approach problems and come up with innovative ideas.

Is Design Thinking just a buzzword? 

We don’t think so. The term “Design Thinking” may be relatively new (many consider IDEO and the Stanford d.school as “founders” of this product development method), but the process of understanding problems and developing solutions is something educators have been doing with students forever! What can be confusing is that, depending on the context, people may refer to the same stages of the process using completely different terms. As you learn more about Design Thinking, consider the best ways to mix and match whatever process vocabulary works best for you and your students.

Design Thinking is a flexible (and magical) process

Another awesome, but often challenging, facet of the Design Thinking process is that it's flexible and fluid. While often articulated as a series of stages, like a recipe, it's actually applied more like a continuous cycle where you can dive in at any point! The beauty is that you constantly go back and forth between the stages as you learn more about the problem and begin testing your solution. It's great when students have the time to complete an entire Design Thinking cycle, but there's also a lot of value in introducing the various stages to students in smaller pieces through scaffolded activities. 


The Epiic Solutions Design Thinking Process

We work with a lot of teachers and schools to develop their own in-house Design Thinking vocabulary. In our programs, we often categorize the process into 4 distinct categories: Explore, Imagine, Create and Share.

Each stage of the process includes a variety of hands-on activities that help students dig into a problem; apply a human-centered approach of direct engagement with various people involved in the problem; synthesize and analyze what they learn through their research; design, build and test multiple solution ideas; and present their work to an authentic audience. 

We are constantly amazed by what students accomplish when they are empowered to be in control of their own learning through the Design Thinking process. 

Tell me more - what does this actually look like?

There are tons of resources available online and in books to help you use Design Thinking with students. Take a look at the key ideas we cover in our programs, and continue investigating the process with some of our favorite Design Thinking websites. 

Epiic Solutions' Design Thinking Process Guide

Epiic Solutions' Design Thinking Process Guide

Design Thinkers we love:

We find inspiration in lots of places and have shared a number of our favorites- don't be overwhelmed! There are tons of resources available to help you learn more about the Design Thinking process and how to use it with students. We encourage you to start small, be flexible and have fun! 

If you know other Design Thinkers or resources that should be on our radar, send us a note. Thanks!

Design Thinking in Schools: place to see the global design thinking movement unfold and help like-minded educators connect

edX Course - Design Thinking for Leading and Learning: hands-on course for education leaders to learn about design thinking and explore how it can transform classroom learning and school communities.
Shameless plug: Blake Sims, Founder & CEO of Epiic Solutions, is the course's Design Thinking Subject Matter Expert

IDEO: global design firm that takes a human-centered, design-based approach to helping organizations innovate and grow

K12Lab: group at Standard working with edu innovators of all kinds through partnerships and prototypes to imagine new possibilities for the role that design thinking can play in teaching and learning

Nueva Design Thinking Institute: school with an Innovation Lab that provides resources and hosts workshops that explore “How can we implement Design Thinking in our schools?”

OpenIDEO: global community working together to design solutions for the world’s biggest challenges

Stanford d.school: a hub for innovation, collaboration and creativity at Stanford with a mission of helping people become everyday innovators, everywhere

The Change Agent: a design thinking toolkit for the classroom

the TEACHERS GUILD: teachers designing better solutions to solve the biggest challenges in education today