What Is Design “Thinking”? And Why Does It Belong In Our Classrooms?

Antonopoulos, Stacy

Strauss, Valerie. “Perspective | What Is ‘Design Thinking’? And Why Does It Belong In Classrooms?” The Washington Post, WP Company, 8 Oct. 2019, http://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2019/10/08/what-is-design-thinking-why-does-it-belong-classrooms/.

Summary: The article shares a modified chapter of the recently-published book, “Designed to Learn: Using Design Thinking to Bring Purpose and Passion to the Classroom.” The article profiles Fauquier High School in Virginia, and illustrates its use of design thinking to create an interdisciplinary mural which was created by students. The project was spearheaded by one of the school’s teachers in order to highlight the connections between the various disciplines, and to create unity. This project came together in large part to the use of design thinking, which focuses on understanding the applications of the content learned. In other words, the focus is on real-world applications. There are five principles which guide design thinking: “understand for empathy; identify and research; communicate to form innovative ideas; prototype and test; repeat and reflect.” Instead of reading and writing about labor unions, students researched about child labor rights, and made connections to their own consumption by learning the country of origin of the clothes they were wearing, so rather than learning about unions, they are experiencing the impact of the problem which leads to the formation of unions. In this way, they are prepared to contribute to solving the problem. Design thinking focuses on the why of learning, so that students understand how the information can be used. Rather than learning passively, design thinking asks students to apply the knowledge as it is learned. It assumes that young students are capable of creating change, and that learning does not occur in a vacuum. It shifts the greater weight toward student voices, empowering them to have an impact on their community.

Reflection: Though I am familiar with the process of inquiry thinking, design thinking was new to me. After watching several videos that explained the process, I enjoyed this article which showed it in application. The purpose of the article is certainly to introduce readers to the idea of design thinking, but also to draw attention to the excerpted text. Since I am now looking to purchase the book, I’d say the article was successful in its purpose.

Looking at shiny things: Design for How People Learn by Julie Dirksen

Summary: It is easy to subconsciously think that students have a slightly different brain than we do. But do you ever wonder if you yourself would want to participate in the lesson you just planned? Julie Dirksen explores this idea with a light and yet practical touch. Designed something like a fun textbook, “Design for How People Learn” explores research on how and why people learn and boils it down into practical tips. It turns out, if you get information overload pretty quickly and often gravitate towards bright and shiny things, so do your students! Dirksen makes the argument that we need to appeal to the visceral, emotional and intuitive sides of people’s experiences as well as the “intellect.”

Opinion: What is interesting about this book is that it is not only geared towards teachers, it is also geared towards any professional that is hoping to impart knowledge in some way shape or form. For that reason, and many others, this book is a refreshing take on how to really make something stick. This book got me thinking more creatively about how to increase storytelling, and other more visual, visceral, emotional and intuitive elements into my teaching practice. Not every part of the book is relevant to a teacher-librarian, but it is easy to skip around and find something that could be useful.

Dirksen, L. (2016). Design for How People Learn: Second Edition. San Fran: CA: New Riders.

Inviting the User – Making the Library More Like a Bookstore

Solomon, Samantha


Cornwall, G. (2018). How Genrefication Makes School Libraries More Like Bookstores. [online] KQED. Available at: https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/51336/how-genrefication-makes-school-libraries-more-like-bookstores. [Accessed 2 Oct. 2018].

This article describes genrefication and includes interviews with librarians who have a range of experience around it. The article includes several before and after stories and includes arguments on both sides of the debate from real librarians in the field.

I was drawn to this article because my library is genrefied and I feel very strongly about how that serves my students. When I have kids who come in and say “Do you have any horror books?” It is SUPER easy to show them where that section is and then just let them browse. In talking with other librarians about their feelings around genrefication, it seems that schools with more developed cultures around reading feel they don’t need it as much as schools with more nascent reading cultures.

Design Thinking

Bader, Devorah


Dam, R. and Siang, T. (2018). 5 stages in the design thinking process. Interaction Design Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/5-stages-in-the-design-thinking-process

A linear description of design thinking with detailed explanation of each step of the process.

I think this was a very instructive article. It discusses the linear description of design thinking but also tackles the idea that design thinking isn’t always done in a linear way. It gives concrete questions to ask your students to help them think in a design thinking perspective.

The Design thinking Deck

Elizabeth (Betsy) Snow

Plattner, H. (2010). Bootcamp bootleg. Design School Stanford, Palo Alto.


If you have not had the chance to visit the Stanford d.school website lately, it is worth a visit, now that many modules are online. This “Design Thinking Bootleg” is a great resource for jumpstarting the process, whether in your classroom or in your library/media center/learning commons.

I foresee using this deck whenever teenage complaints arise, as a way to invoke empowerment and change among rising teen voices.

Download the link here:

Click to access dschool_bootleg_deck_2018_final_sm+%282%29.pdf

How Design Thinking Can Empower Young People

Kinsella, Jason

ID (Inquiry and Design)

How design thinking can empower young people. (2013). Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/video/how-design-thinking-can-empower-young-people

When it comes to design thinking, it’s helpful to see it in action. This eight-minute video documents teens who are living in a homeless shelter engage in a collaborative design thinking challenge to improve the space and services at the shelter.

I really like the way they frame design thinking as a three-step process: Dream it. Design it. Do it. I think this simplifies what may seem like a complicated process into something easily understandable. However, it is important for viewers not to forget about the reflective and iterative aspects of design thinking.

Lastly, this example of teens completing a design thinking challenge shows teens engaged in a real world problem–an essential element to the design thinking concept. This is a great resource, in my opinion, for anyone first learning about student-centered, inquiry-based teaching and learning.

Kidding Around with Design Thinking

Galang, Johnny

Design Thinking

Fouché, J. & Crowley, J. (2017, October). Kidding around with design thinking. Educational Leadership. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct17/vol75/num02/Kidding-Around-with-Design-Thinking.aspx

This article presents a case study of design thinking in action in a second grade classroom. It makes a case for problem-based learning and provides some insight into the steps in the design-thinking process (without hexagons!) The author also spells out how engaging in problem or project-based learning is directly connected to Next Generation Science Standards.

This is a valuable resource since many other articles only present case studies and real-world examples from grade three and above. The case study, however, is presented in a rather rare environment where the school has a farm on campus. The challenge would be to apply these concepts in less resource-rich schools.

Making personalized learning projects possible

Sasaki, Lori


Schwartz, K. (2017, December 4). Tips and Tricks to keep kids on track during genius hour projects. KQED Mindshift. Retrieved from https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2017/12/04/tips-and-tricks-to-keep-kids-on-track-during-genius-hour-projects/?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=ExactTarget&utm_campaign=20171210Mindshift&mc_key=00Qi000001WzPsREAV

This article outlines one teacher’s advice and experience around Genius Hour, or “20 percent time projects.” The teacher shares anecdotes and examples (including a student video) of the challenges and successes in implementing this kind of student-centered learning.

There is not a comprehensive explanation of the entire project, however the article touches upon various important stages, such as defining the problem, staying organized, and assessment. The tangible tools and tips (with lots of links to resources) for managing personalized learning projects helped to make this kind of learning process seem both inspiring and realistically do-able.

What is the SAMR model of technology?

SAMR Model Musings

Schrock, K. (2013, November 21, 2013). SAMR model musings. Retrieved from http://blog.kathyschrock.net/2013/11/sarm-model-musings.html

Kathy Shrock has an innovative method of explaining the SAMR Model. She states, “My feeling is this model supports teachers as they design, develop, and integrate digital learning experiences that utilize technology to transform learning experiences. Along the continuum, the student engagement becomes more of the focus and students are then able to advance their own learning in a transformational manner.” Each part of the SAMR model is explained in detail and has pictures to further elucidate the model.