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  • Writer's pictureallisonjolester

Move Fast, Break Things: Why Education Needs Design Thinking Sprints



Imagine if education adopted the Silicon Valley mantra, "Move fast and break things." Picture teachers racing down hallways with prototype lesson plans, students hacking their own curriculum, and principals encouraging creative chaos. Now, before you clutch your pearls, let's explore why this concept, with a thoughtful twist, might just revolutionize education and program design.


The Current State: Stuck in Slow Motion

Education often feels like it's stuck in slow motion. Curriculum changes move at a glacial pace, new teaching methods take years to implement, and by the time a program is fully rolled out, the needs of students have already evolved. We need a way to inject some dynamism, flexibility, and innovation into our schools. Enter: design thinking sprints.


What is Design Thinking?

For the uninitiated, design thinking is a human-centered approach to problem-solving that starts with empathy and ends with solutions tailored to users' needs. A design thinking sprint is a condensed, time-bound process that rapidly moves from understanding a problem to testing solutions. It's like a creativity boot camp that gets results in days instead of months.


The Sprint Breakdown

  1. Empathize: Understand the needs and challenges of students, teachers, and stakeholders.

  2. Define: Clearly articulate the problem you're trying to solve.

  3. Ideate: Brainstorm a wide range of creative solutions.

  4. Prototype: Create tangible representations of your best ideas.

  5. Test: Gather feedback and refine your solutions.


Learning from "Move Fast, Break Things"

While "move fast, break things" might sound reckless, it embodies a spirit of experimentation and agility that's sorely needed in education. Here’s what we can learn from it:


Embrace Failure as Learning: Failure isn't a dirty word; it's a crucial part of the learning process. Design thinking sprints encourage us to view mistakes as opportunities for growth, not as setbacks.


Iterate Quickly: Instead of waiting for the perfect solution, try out ideas quickly. This way, you can refine and improve them based on real-world feedback. Think of it as educational Darwinism—only the fittest ideas survive.


User-Centered Design: Just like tech companies design with their users in mind, educators need to prioritize the needs of their students. Design thinking puts students at the heart of the process, ensuring solutions are relevant and impactful.


Why Education Needs Design Thinking Sprints

Agility in a Changing World: The world is changing faster than ever, and our education systems need to keep up. Design thinking sprints allow for rapid adaptation and continuous improvement, ensuring education stays relevant.


Boosting Creativity and Engagement: By involving students and teachers in the design process, we foster a sense of ownership and creativity. Education becomes a collaborative, engaging experience rather than a top-down imposition.


Real-World Problem Solving: Design thinking equips students with critical thinking and problem-solving skills. They're not just learning facts; they're learning how to think, adapt, and innovate—skills essential for the future workforce.


Implementing Design Thinking Sprints in Practitioner Inquiry Courses

Now, let me pull back the curtain on how I incorporate this thinking into my practitioner inquiry courses with K-12 teachers and administrators. Here's a sneak peek into my classroom, where design thinking sprints are the heartbeat of our learning process:

  1. Empathy Exercises: We start with empathy. Teachers and administrators immerse themselves in the world of their students, parents, and colleagues. They conduct interviews, shadow students, and gather insights that become the foundation of their inquiry.

  2. Defining the Problem: Once they've gathered enough empathy-driven data, we move to the defining phase. Teachers articulate the specific challenges they face in their classrooms or schools, honing in on issues that, if solved, would make the most significant impact.

  3. Brainstorming Bonanza: The ideation phase is where the magic happens. We have brainstorming sessions that are nothing short of electric. Ideas fly around the room (sometimes literally, thanks to sticky notes), and no idea is too wild. It's a safe space for creativity.

  4. Prototyping in Action: Prototyping turns ideas into tangible plans. Teachers create lesson plans, intervention strategies, or even new school policies. These prototypes are rough drafts—quick, dirty, and ready to be tested.

  5. Feedback and Iteration: Finally, we test. Teachers implement their prototypes, gather feedback from their students and peers, and iterate. They refine their solutions based on real-world data, ensuring that by the end of the sprint, they have a tested, improved, and ready-to-roll-out plan.


The Impact on K-12 Education

By integrating design thinking sprints into my practitioner inquiry courses, teachers and administrators are equipped with the tools to think on their feet and adapt to the ever-changing educational landscape. They're no longer just educators; they become innovators, designers, and leaders of change.


A Call to Action

It’s time to shake off the dust and bring some Silicon Valley-style innovation into our schools. By adopting design thinking sprints, we can create a more agile, responsive, and engaging education system. So, let’s move fast, break a few things (metaphorically, of course), and build an education system that prepares our students for the dynamic world ahead.


Ready, set, sprint!

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