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Designers’ tools for Educators

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  • Tuesday, December 13, 2016
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    How teachers can be  designers.
    That education today is evolving is an understatement! It is so very different from what it used to be even ten years ago. With the ever present Internet and social media, students are much more aware of what is happening around them. Educators therefore need to constantly evolve their methods of teaching to deal with the challenges of contemporary  classrooms.

    Whether it’s about a student not faring well in math, or it's about making the classroom environment more engaging, or the staff room  brighter and more inviting, preoccupation with these routine problems tend to result in loss of productive time in school  and eventually take away creative energy  and focus from the overall physical, emotional and cognitive development of students as well as educators in our school spaces. One vital way of addressing this is through using  an approach that's gaining currency in education - design thinking.

    First of all, what is design thinking?
    Designers are always using design tools to solve complex problems in the world. It could be about improving sanitation facilities in the neighbourhood, or about better waste recycling in a community or just simply a better designed, fully functional handbag. The design world is limitless! Anything and everything can be designed.

    So why not design in education too? Teachers play a very integral role in the development of not just the children, but also the school itself. In more ways than one, teachers are designers. They design the atmosphere of the school so that kids want to go back to school the next day. They design the feeling of belonging and familiarity, a sense of trust and inclusiveness. They design the curriculum, so that students are learning with meaning. They design the system and morals of the school so that students  feel it is their second home. All these things hold value and bring integrity and identity to the school.

    So, how can design thinking be used in schools?
    Succinctly put, design thinking is a process. It's a process that involves identifying a problem, observing and understanding the causes and effects of the problem, arriving at an opinion, brainstorming, collaborating and ideating to come up with possible solutions to the problem, making quick prototypes and testing the solutions. The solution might not necessarily work, but it will offer a perspective on how to take the process forward and go back to the drawing board and to test the next prototype.

    At the school level, it may be about how to make a class more engaging and collaborative, or, about how to make homework more relevant and fun, or how to encourage students to think out of the box, or even about designing a vegetable garden for the school. The same human-centric process can be applied in solving many other common problems that educators face.

    In fact, the design consultancy firm IDEO, collaborated with Riverdale Country School, San Francisco, and came out with a Design toolkit for Educators that was tested by the school. There were guidelines for teachers to come together and collaborate to tackle some of the challenges they faced with school students and spaces in school in general. They brainstormed, came up with ideas, good and bad, with no one making any judgments and identified solutions that surprised themselves!

    The Role of Failure in Design Thinking
    The process can be very messy since no one knows the right answers, it is important to not be too dogmatic about where to start. It's more about moving ahead in the process. It is also important to know that it is alright to fail. Failing is an integral part of the process, and almost a necessity. In fact, failure is just the next step. What is more important is to understand why it failed and what you can do to make it better.

    So, why use design thinking?

    • It teaches us multiple ways to problem solve.
    • It teaches us to think outside the box.
    • It shows us how to be more aware of our surroundings.
    • It teaches us to be open-minded.
    • It teaches us to fail and move on.
    • It teaches us to be more understanding about other people’s problems.
    • Most importantly, it teaches us to be more empathetic.

    Encouraging these traits in a student or an educator can completely transform any space and make it much more inviting and inclusive. Design thinking can really broaden minds and help to get a better understanding of a situation. It lets you get perspective from several sides and promotes positive growth.

    Madhurima Kordale, 
    Architect & Industrial Designer

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