The challenge of creating an activity with DESIGN THINKING


I am a Design Thinker: I do believe in the power of creativity to solve any problem of life, no matter your age or your condition. Design Thinking is a process which allows us to think creatively but in an orderly way. It makes problems a challenge to solve, and Design Thinking is the key of the solution.

I teach Design Thinking in schools. And I can say that creating an activity with this model for students is a challenge in itself. But if we follow the steps of the Design Thinking process, we will come to a good end.

1.Discover= Empathize

Design Thinking is a human centered way to solve problems. When we are creating an activity to teach in schools, we are teaching in an innovative way. So the first step of the process is to focus in what we want to teach and what we want students to learn.

After that we must transform that issue in a «problem to solve». Even more: a problem that affects some people and that we must solve. In this way, subjects, assignments and tasks disappear: there is only a challenge to solve.

I think it is a really important step because they are designing for others. It is not about what they individually think, or know or want. They put themselves in someone else’s shoes and try to make other’s life better: they emphasize

In this step teachers show a range of people that is affected by a problem that we can solve: they will be the users students will design for.

2. Focus

What problems have people we are design for? how could we improve their daily routine? How might we…?

That is what this step is about. Here is where we, teachers, set the challenge. We select one problem to solve. Our teaching objetive becomes a challenge that students must solve to help people.

Teachers will provide pupils materials to make researches that allow them to learn more in order to better solve the problem. We are not playing: students are learning by doing.

In this step teachers set the challenge and provide students researching materials in order to better solve the problem.

3. Ideate

This is time for ideas. They know what they want to get, and who will be affected by their designs. But there are infinite good ways to solve a unique problem. The goodness of each solution depends on the creativity of the designer and on the knowledge of the issue he/she has achieve.

Ideation should be an explosive phase. We are looking for quantity, not for quality. Students should have lots of ideas, without judgement, without prejudice. They will finally chose one of those ideas: the best one.

In this step we look for lots of ideas that could solve the problem. We discard the worse and select the one that matches the best of all.

4. Prototype

Here is where the solution is built. It could be a product, a experience, a sketch, a storyboard…Building a prototype involves using all the knowledge that students have achieve about the issue they are learning and transforming it into a physical solution: from ideas to action.

Design Thinking can be used individually, of course. But its real power appears when students work as a team. They share ideas, learn from each other, work collaboratively or cooperatively with a target: building the best solution.

A prototype is not a definitive solution, it needs to be tested in order to improve it before the end.

In this step students transform ideas into a physical solution
Prototype of a hurdle race for blind people

5. Test= Try

Students have built their rough prototypes: let’s see if they really work. In the TEST phase they share what they are working on and gain feedback from their peers, from the teacher and, if possible, from the real users they are designing for.

None is perfect, all of them can be improved. But if something doesn’t work, it is not a failure, it is only an opportunity to make things better. Testing soon prototypes allow them to work on the good way. It’s no use getting to the end if they have made a mistake on the way.

How many times should they test their prototypes? As many as they need. The goal: building a good solution for the challenge.

Testing allow students to make sure they will hand on a good work. The excellence of it will depend on their creativity.

How it is creating an activity

I have depicted the process. It seems to be easy and seems to be able to adapt to every subject in school. And it is, of course.

Nevertheless, when I work in a new activity, it’s hard to find a good challenge. It should be engaging, motivating, funny if possible and besides, matching with curriculum. Thinking about a new challenge takes a lot of time because teacher must anticipate each step of the process. Creating an activity with Design Thinking involves transforming the academical content into engaging problems to solve. It means that we have to re-think the curriculum and provide students not answer, but questions.

Every new activity, for me, is a prototype: Some of them were a disaster, others were not as engaging as I thought, in some of them I had to provoke ideas because students didn’t have any one… all of them can be improved.

But in almost all of the activities, students enjoy working in a different way, they have amazing ideas, they learn what I want to teach and even make their own researches if we work in an issue that matters to them.

Does Design Thinking work is schools? Yes, it does.