Lesson 1 (45 minutes): Introduce the Design Thinking model to the class using a PowerPoint or Google Slides. Model each stage of the process and introduce anchor charts (posters) for each stage. Discuss the value of Design Thinking and why it is important to build empathy and understanding of the task at hand.
After modeling, students will then begin research on a topic of their choice related to either blindness, color blindness, deafness, or a broken arm or leg. I have several books, iPad apps, and videos related to these conditions. Divide the class so you have at least three or four students for each scenario.
Lesson 2 (45 minutes): Model the entire design thinking process using a scenario created by the teacher. An example scenario can be something based on a story or classroom situation, but should be something they all have a common experience with. For my example, I am choosing to use myself as the subject. My problem? I woke up late and did not eat breakfast. Now I am at school and I am hungry. After explaining this sample scenario to the students, we will focus on building empathy. Students will be given an empathy map graphic organizer (like the one above) and one will also be displayed on the board. Students will use the organizer as a guide to ask me questions related to my situation of being hungry because I missed breakfast. From there, students will work with me to define a problem statement. In this situation, several possible problem statements can be generated, but they should all follow the frame of a “How might we…” sentence. “How might we help Mr. Ward wake up earlier in the morning so he has time for breakfast?” Or “How might we help Mr. Ward get a meal today?” are both good starting points.
Students will then continue to build an understanding of the disability they selected yesterday. Using props to help students respectfully experience these conditions will help students build empathy. Hand out a scenario for role-play and design thinking that is based on each condition. For example, “Robert broke his right arm after falling off his bike. The doctor put his arm in a cast, but Robert has had difficulty trying to write using a paper and pencil. As he tries to write, the paper keeps sliding around on his desk. It is also difficult to grip the pencil. Robert is right handed, so breaking his right arm has made the everyday task of writing very difficult for him. Yesterday, when trying to carry his lunch tray, his milk slid off the tray and he could not catch it in time. It spilled all over the floor and he was embarrassed.”
Lesson 3 (45 minutes): Model brainstorming with the class using the problem statement from the previous lesson. Review the brainstorming anchor chart with the class. To model brainstorming, select three or four students to sit with you in the center, with the remainder of the class watching silently and making observations. Introduce special roles, such as a time keeper, facilitator, and note taker. The teacher should serve as facilitator and introduce the problem statement to the group after reminding everyone in the group of the brainstorming rules. The time keeper insures the group stays on task. Time for this demonstration should be ten minutes. The note taker should have access to a whiteboard or large chart paper to write down ideas. Start with the problem statement in the center of the board or page, and draw or write all connecting ideas and sub-ideas as all members contribute their thoughts. When the group seems to run out of ideas, the facilitator should decide if they have enough to work with or ask some prompting questions to illicit more suggestions. Some prompting questions could be, “What if we had unlimited money to make this happen?” or “Does anyone have any crazy sounding ideas (that are still on topic)?” After watching the brainstorming demonstration, lead a discussion about what students noticed. What worked well? What did not work so well?
Students will then apply brainstorming to their scenario. The teacher should insure there is a time keeper, note taker, and facilitator in each group. Student focus should be on generating as many ideas as possible in the time given (ten to fifteen minutes).
Lesson 4 (45 minutes): Using the class model of a hungry Mr. Ward and all the brainstorming ideas collected previously, model the use of Post-It Voting and the Four Categories Method to filter and select the best ideas.
Students will apply a selection method for their brainstorming data. When ready, students may also begin to construct a simple prototype of their idea.
Lesson 5 (45 minutes): I have a maker space in my class that consists of an assortment of crafting materials and tools. My students are already familiar with how to use these craft materials. In this lesson, I will model how to create several different prototypes for our class example. Once the prototypes are created, students will test them and prepare a way to present them to their subject (I will take on the role of their subject so I can provide feedback). After receiving feedback, students will revise or improve their designs, or start over with a different idea.
Lessons 6 and 7 (45 minutes each): Students will use this time to work on their prototypes and create something closer to a final design. During these times, I will conference with each group to discuss their progress and ideas.
Lesson 8 (45 minutes): Students prepare a 5 to 10-minute presentation of their proposed solution. They can use a variety of presentation methods, including PowerPoint, poster boards, demonstrations, etc.
Lesson 9 (45 minutes): Each group will present their work and receive feedback from the class.
Once students have learned to apply the Design Thinking model, keep using it! Many classroom topics can be taught using this method. You can expect to see organized collaboration, lots of creative ideas, and a great deal of problem-solving going on in your classroom as a result.