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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

What Is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is an approach to addressing challenges in a thoughtful and fun way, where you get to apply the 4Cs -- collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication –- to your own work as you develop new solutions for your classroom, school, and community.
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How might we engage students more deeply in reading?
-- Karen, learning specialist

How might we create a classroom space that is more centered around the needs and interests of the students?
-- Michael, second-grade teacher

How might we create a more collaborative culture for teachers at our school?
-- Patrick, third-grade teacher

How might we connect more with our neighborhood community?
-- Maggie, principal

How might we create a district-wide approach to curriculum that engages the 21st century learner?
-- Lisa, district administrator


As educators, we are designing every single day -- whether it's finding new ways to teach content more effectively, using our classroom space differently, developing new approaches to connecting with parents, or creating new solutions for our schools. Outside of the classroom, schools across the world are facing countless challenges, from integrating technology to increasing parent involvement to managing daily schedules.

Wherever they fall on the spectrum of scale -- the challenges facing educators today are real, complex, and varied. And as such, they require new perspectives, new tools, and new approaches.

Design Thinking is one of them.

Design Thinking is a process and a mindset

Engineers, businesses, social entrepreneurs and other innovators have used design methods and processes for decades to create new solutions for many different types of challenges. But Design Thinking isn't just about specific steps to follow in order to innovate -- thinking like a designer can transform the way you approach the world when imagining and creating new solutions: it's about being aware of the world around us, believing that we play a role in shaping that world, and taking action toward a more desirable future. Design Thinking gives us confidence in our creative abilities and a process to take action through when faced with a difficult challenge.

It's human-centered

Design Thinking begins with understanding the needs and motivations of people -- in this case, the students, teachers, parents, staff and administrators who make up our everyday world. We talk with these people, listen to them, and consider how best to help them do good work. Design Thinking begins from this place of deep empathy and builds on the power of these empathetic questions and insights.

It's collaborative

Designing requires conversation, critique and all-out teamwork. And that's something that might be a bit of a shift, because despite the fact that educators are surrounded by people all day long, teaching remains an often solitary profession. Still, addressing complex (or even not-so-complex) challenges benefits significantly from the views of multiple perspectives, and others' creativity bolstering our own.

It's experimental

When we are designing new solutions, we are committing to trying something new. Thinking like a designer gives us permission to fail and to learn from our mistakes, because we come up with new ideas, get feedback on them, then iterate. Given the range of needs our students have, our work will never be finished or "solved." It is always in progress. Yet there is an underlying expectation that educators must strive for perfection, that we may not make mistakes, that we should always be flawless role models. This kind of expectation makes it hard to take risks. It limits the possibilities to create more radical change. But educators need to experiment, too, and Design Thinking is all about learning by doing.

It's optimistic

Design Thinking is the fundamental belief that we all can create change -- no matter how big a problem, how little time or how small a budget. No matter what constraints exist around us, designing can be an enjoyable process. In short, Design Thinking is the confidence that new, better things are possible and that we can make them happen. And that kind of optimism is well-needed in education.

In a five-week online experience, this workshop will help you and thousands of your new collaborators learn the tools and methods of design, and discover how to integrate this process and mindset into the ways that you work.

Design Thinking Workshop Archive

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