Thursday, August 2, 2012

Design Thinking for Educators: My Reflections on Week 1

I just finished my first week in the Design Thinking for Educators Workshop sponsored by edutopia, IDEO and Riverdale County Schools.

This week we had to redesign the morning commute of someone we knew.  The project required us to interview the person to "...learn about how they feel, what they wish for, what gets in their way." Our job was to ask great questions, listen and learn. And to never be afraid to ask "Why?"

My user initially mentioned being tired in the morning and then the discussion drifted over to stress because of all the road construction going on in front of her school.

But the stress wasn't so much about the traffic but the feeling of having so much to do before her students arrived in the morning; she didn't have enough time to feel prepared for the day.  It's hard for her to stay late after school because she has three children of her own and they are involved in activities that she wants to be a part of.

So her biggest need was to lower her stress level by being prepared for the day. So that no matter what happens at home or during the commute, she is prepared for her day and happy to see the students walk in the door.

After interviewing her for about ten minutes I brainstormed six different ideas. Then, and this is a really cool part of the whole process, I went back to her with my ideas to get more feedback and understanding to what she really needed.

She looked over all of my ideas and found that she liked the combination of two separate ideas: an automated teaching assistant and a smartphone app.

She liked the idea of the AITA (Automated Integrated Teaching Assistant) managing the day to day shuffle of papers, copies and printing through a mobile app.  

AITA will save teachers many trips to the copy room and stressful mornings putting together last minute lesson plans for subs or even themselves.  Never again be frustrated by a colleague jamming the printer again!

These are the areas that seem to suck up the most time and lead to the biggest source of stress.  The mobile app feature was her idea when she thought how she could start AITA working on a project on her way in to work so that the copies or printing was done before she ever walked in the door.

Design thinking is much more than just solving problems.  The heart of the idea is seeing the world through other peoples eyes and understanding that opportunities for innovation are all around us - we just have to look.  That is, look with a different perspective.

What great life skills for students:  in one hour I had to understand another person's perspective, see the world through their eyes, design solutions with them in mind and then get their feedback to design the absolute best solution.  

It is not too late to take part in this great five week course that is free.  

Week 1: Design Thinking Mini-Challenge - Design Thinking for Educators:

The course is well set up and utilizes all the best parts of social media:  sharing and inspiring. It changes the focus of the learning when you know your work and feedback is going to be shared among a community of creators and problem solvers. No longer can you hide in the corner; you are accountable and others will be paying attention.


  1. Thanks David! I will look into it now! I hope they offer it again..

  2. They are offering another session soon. Check the site