ASIJ opened a new Creative Design Center this year. The new space provides a focus for students to develop a maker mindset, and it provides an opportunity to distinguish between design thinking and design technology. We chose to adopt design thinking because it is human-centered and action oriented. As David Kelley points out, “Being human-centered is at the core of our innovation process. Deep empathy for people makes our observations powerful sources of inspiration” (Creative Confidence, Chapter 1, para 1). Over the past two years, we have started to develop a common language to support students to think and work like this. Design thinkers approach and respond to situations in a particular way. They switch between different phases or parts of the cycle. These phases include discovery (immersion), making meaning (synthesis), brainstorming (ideation), and try it (prototyping). Collaboration with others and feedback loops are also essential elements of design thinking.
Teachers have been designing learning experiences that allow students to practice all or part of the design thinking process in different subjects and at all grade levels. This approach to learning is not new. For example, there are many similarities between this approach and project-based learning. We chose design thinking because of the focus on generating empathy for others. The intention is to introduce new strategies to students throughout their educational experience to help expand their capacity in think and act with creative confidence in each of the phases. Learning new tactics and having time and opportunity to practice the art of, “Noticing that something is broken is an essential prerequisite for coming up with a creative solution to fix it” (Creative Confidence, Chapter 4, para 1). Which bring me back to the new design center. Although design thinking is often associated with tangible design solutions (products and systems), ASIJ sees that it has wider applications and that it is complementary to other learning approaches, e.g. the research process, the writing process, scientific inquiry. For this reason, it is important that our focus is on the dispositions and mindset that all students will develop by working this way rather than limiting design thinking to our maker courses or spaces.