Inspired to Ditch Activities and Design Experiences

Dr. Nathan Lang, an Ed Leader and Innovator, shared this graphic on his Twitter (@NALANG1) the the other day. In four words, it simplifies much of what we are working to achieve through Design Thinking in my school district.

When I was in school, I completed a lot of projects. I created clothing worn by a Native American tribe; I recreated a topographical map of California with salt dough; and I built a California Mission with sugar cubes. Most of us have similar memories from our school days. However, none of these projects truly prepared me for the challenges of life. Yes, I learned to work nicely with others, and clean up after myself. I even learned that, if I procrastinated long enough, my mom would work on my projects after I went to sleep. But the piece that was missing was that these projects were just projects. They were defined for me by my teacher, and were meant to teach a specific content standard. What each of these projects was missing was the creation of an experience.

In Design Thinking, we want students to learn how to solve problems and truly make a difference in their community. We want them to develop empathy for others, and then use that empathy to see the world through a different lens. We want students to grapple with solutions that aren’t black and white, wrong or right. Mostly, we want students to experience the world, and then make that world a better place…for themselves, their peers, their community, and hopefully, the world.

This is the work of Design Thinking in classrooms. To design experiences that ignite student genius and empower them to change the world. Without it, they’re just projects.

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