«Design thinking» projects for teens with integrating learning methods


How can “Design Thinking” help teachers and students in middle and high schools achieve more integrated learning?

In Switzerland, Lehrplan 21 has had a tough start as overloaded teachers are challenged to incorporate the new curriculum demands into their lesson planning. In America adapting the new Common Core standards is taking time with high stress on students and teachers alike. But in both countries education experts and managers are working hard to respond to the rapidly changing context of; ICT integration in education, career path prep.-advising in a very dynamic marketplace and human needs and best practices for learning and achieving competence. It’s a challenging time for everyone. Using Design Thinking process and skill development tasks which apply math, science or writing skills to achieve a project realization goal greatly improves student engagement and learning. They see why and where the subject they learn can be applied and an eventual career competence.

IDEO a leader in all facets of design and the creator of Design thinking and Human Centered Design approach has put together a platform to help teachers bring the best from their situation. http://www.designthinkingforeducators.com

“Design Thinking” is a set of methods for guiding learning and development through a structured approach for working on complex issues through goal driven integrating project based learning. It is based on design development methods which have been evolved since around 1950 and involves a iterative approach where cycles of research, creativity problem solving and prototyping – output develop solutions which fit the client or to learn networked knowledge and while achieving learning goals. Especially, for high school students, this means creating together simple projects which are curriculum and age relevant, a project week or workshop series using Design thinking tools toward the praxis of  product development can help integrate theory and practice in the creation of a product, promotion or service. School projects show the relevance to knowledge/research professions, applications and service professions as well as business and public policy. In short design applications in high school help student and teachers create and motivate students to work at learning because they begin to see how they fit into the ever faster future.

screwtheory      glass-thread       Archimedes_screw



So who is our typical high school student, what do they want and what can they do?


phone-projector     DIY-Betahaus4   Teencoder

_ Teens over the whole globe are challenged to grow their character and presentation skills faster because of social media, as well as, deal with local, family, educator, activity roles. For some, this pressure to perform in multiple roles produces a longer shyness or inactivity period. Switching between roles smoothly is an adult skill set.

_Teens have always been more open to stories and media from outside their location than their parents.  But in the last 10 years this generation has erased all geo/political borders as they surf for what is “now”. Many perform on multiple channels growing their character and lifestyle  and even business persona on the web. Presentation is the new hyper relevant competence. As many have observed, the current generation are “digital natives” that is, they live a good part of their daily lives in various virtual spaces as; watchers, creators, contributors and critics.

_The context, media content, environments which are evolving for teen market groups are regenerated by the minute from millions of suppliers, users and communities. There is huge potential for learning from their choices, engaging them in development and they are willing customers. Marketing departments and DARPA have know this for decades.

To this point, what is relevant to them, what they think is relevant to their career path and what is relevant in their educators are three separate things.  AND all three environments are evolving at different rates.

When teachers create projects and reference topics which build off of these natives abilities the knowledge transfer happens faster, lasts longer and builds a strong learning network for further engaged learning. In short a small investment using an engaging design thinking project can set the stage for whole classes to catch active learning as individual and group affirmation.

In the current system the exceptional smart students may get rescued by a mentoring teacher. With poor teacher or challenging intercultural situations where the classroom experience is under productive, many get bored, preoccupied by what they can do online and loose interest in academic training as simply drudge work. Students who are less academically proficient are over challenged and loose motivation to build their conceptual understand and work through the practice assignments and therefore fail to stay applied using well ordered learning methods. Intensive project weeks which show students how to work effectively can help rewrite this negative scripting.

Students and teachers need; integrating content, adapted to the school curriculum and teaching methods as well as tools and media to help them bring relevance to this situation. Some of this is being provided by the Pädegogische Hochschule teaching materials and the slow to react publishers who deliver content for schools. But students and teachers can generate their own resources by designing and making together fresh projects that fit not just learning goals but develop analytic, production and presentation skills so that knowledge transfer becomes productive learning.

Several model programs in the USA have taken on these challenges using Human Centered Design strategies. Apple and IDEO education programs work to bring design into schools have made some small impact. see more at:  ACOT Principles and

We are really fortunate in Switzerland to have such a high standard of education, with great training for teachers, passionate teachers, Administration and school infrastructures that support a good learning culture and the individual within that context. With so much good work happening, making the steps- building the structures to take lots of students into dynamic self motivated learning is not only possible it is a necessity to bring the next generation the tools it needs to master our ever growing challenges.