Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.

4.1.a Design Process

Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.

4.1.b Design Constraints

Students select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process that considers design constraints and calculated risks.

4.1.c Prototypes

Students develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.

4.1.d Open-ended Problems

Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.

To innovate means ‘to do something in a new way’ (merriam-webster.com).  Technological innovations have drastically changed the learning environments, and educators are compelled to create learning spaces that inspire and enhance innovation, creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving abilities (Neumann, Dion & Snap, 2021). Establishing high expectations for all our students necessitates their ability to be innovative in both what they learn and how they learn it. How can students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new and imaginative solutions (ISTE Standards for Students, n.d.)?

Students relish the chance to innovate – whether they are in the makerspace, in dance, music, art class, or in any learning space, for that matter. They rise to the occasion when they can create a design stemming from their ideas, aiming for a specific result or outcome.

In my blog post called, “How can innovative design skills and computational thinking impact the writing of elementary students?” (link to blog post), I shared different ways on how innovative design skills elevate the writing of students. Emphasizing specific insights from Angela Stockman (2017), I would like to highlight some ideas on how these concepts not only apply to writing but also to other educational areas. 

Design thinking is an immersive experience.

When students begin to perceive themselves as authors, their writing is elevated to the next level. They infuse their writing with their persona, knowledge and life encounters. Gradually, they cultivate a distinctive voice in selecting their topics and shaping their characters, drawing from a blend of personal experiences and newly acquired skills. They utilize the design process in writing (1.4.a), that is, the stages of brainstorming, planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing to produce writing that instills a sense of pride.

In the inquiry unit on migration, students were given prompts to get their migration stories started. As they began to collect more information from parents, grandparents and friends, they generated their own ideas (1.4.a) to extend their investigations by asking their own follow-up questions. Some have connected with family members overseas via Zoom, or via email and acquired answers through photos, videos and interviews. 

Design thinking is iterative.

The daily work of writers is an important reflection of the cyclical nature of writing (1.4.c). Students develop their thoughts by creating drafts that are open to revisions. They learn various craft moves from mentor texts, and receive feedback from their teachers and peers to help refine their ideas. They use a checklist like this to reflect on and improve their own writing.

Figure 1: Student Writing Checklist

Design thinking builds stamina.

Students require stamina to accomplish tasks successfully. As they gradually assume more responsibilities, they build resilience to cope with challenges, such as when projects do not turn out as planned or the design is flawed and needs adjustment.

At the end of the writing unit on list articles, students publish their articles using Canva (https://www.canva.com/).  Each student chooses a template to work with, or they can also create their own template that suits their style. They look at examples of published work from other students who used Canva and they envision what their own published work might look like. 

When students use apps like Canva and Book Creator (https://bookcreator.com/) to publish their work and share it with others, they select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process (1.4.b). They learn to navigate design constraints by making adjustments through revisiting their design or revising their work. 

During UN week at school, one of our activities is a design challenge based on the theme of working together. We use this design cycle to guide this activity. 

Figure 2: The design cycle

The task: each group, which represents one of the following environments – mountains, river and forest – is to build a community that shows a source of water, a source of food and a source of shelter. Each group has its own set of materials to start with: mountains group has paper, river group has clay and forest group has wood.

Figure 3: UN Week Challenge – Why work together?

The essential questions that guide this inquiry are: How will students design their model of a community that has a source of water, source of food and shelter? How will they work together to ensure each group has everything they need? These guiding questions help students to develop perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems (1.4.d).

Through acquiring skills as innovative designers, students are being cultivated to adopt the mindset and behavior of problem-solvers. They develop the ability to overcome challenges with endurance, consistently seeking creative and novel solutions for everyday situations.

Sources:

Neumann, M. D., Dion, L., & Snapp, R. (2021). Teaching computational thinking: An integrative approach for middle and high school learning. The MIT Press. https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11209.001.0001

Stockman, A. (2017, August 9). Five ways design thinking elevates the writing process. AngelaStockman. https://angelastockman.com/blog/2017/08/09/five-ways-design-thinking-elevates-the-writing-process/

3 Knowledge Constructor 5 Computational Thinker