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A weekly periodical
  • Writer's pictureallisonjolester

Why Design to Learn?

Have you ever sat through a dreadfully dull professional development session, your eyelids growing heavier with each passing slide, your mind wandering to literally anything else? We've all been there.

As an educator and an incurable design addict, I've dedicated my career to saying "no more!" to the land of nod, and "hell yes!" to vibrant, engaging, and – dare I say it – human learning experiences. But how did I get here? Pull up a chair, dear reader, and allow me to spin you a yarn about a magical concept called Design Thinking.

Design Thinking isn't some hot, new trendy coffee at Starbucks. It's a mindset, a process, and a delicious recipe for creating solutions that, in their very essence, are human-centric. Yep, you heard it right - human-centric! Because let's face it, we're designing for people, not pigeons (unless, of course, you're a pigeon trainer, then by all means, please proceed!).

So, you ask, how did a gal like me fall in love with Design Thinking? Easy. I had an aha moment! It was a gorgeous summer's day and there I was, mulling over a new lesson plan, when it hit me like a whack-a-mole mallet. A sudden epiphany! My educational experiences were missing one crucial ingredient - the human factor. Sure, they had structure, content, and a dash of entertainment, but were they addressing the needs, wants, and the whims of my learners? Nope, not so much.

And thus began my whirlwind romance with Design Thinking, a passionate tryst that would transform the way I approach education. I began devouring any design thinking book I could get my hands on (here's a list of my favorite), not to mention the countless TedTalks and podcasts.

And when I began applying the concepts into my teaching...that's when things really took off!

Because let's be real, why would we craft lessons for our learners without considering their needs, their realities, and most importantly, their incredible potential? This is where my two passions - education and design - got hitched, what a beautiful union it's been!

Now that I've confessed our love for Design Thinking, it's high time I talk about how we can integrate this into our classrooms or training rooms, to create experiences that nurture the human spirit. Buckle up, folks, for here come my top tips:

  1. Begin with Empathy: This is your secret weapon. The best ideas come from a deep understanding of your learner's needs and wants. Listen to them, observe them, and immerse yourself in their world. Pro tip: Forget you're an educator for a moment and pretend you're Sherlock Holmes. It's fun, trust me!

  2. Define the Problem: Armed with your newfound insights, it's time to nail down the problem you're trying to solve. Remember, problems are not roadblocks. They're challenges with glittering potential, like unicorns in disguise.

  3. Ideate Like a Mad Scientist: Let those creative juices flow! The more ideas you generate, the more likely you are to stumble upon a game-changing solution.

  4. Prototype: Think of it as making a mini-version of your solution. It doesn't have to be perfect; it just needs to embody your idea. Think paper mache volcano from 5th grade, but hopefully less messy.

  5. Test, Test, and Test Some More: Gather feedback, adjust, improve, rinse, and repeat. Remember, perfection is a journey, not a destination.

Design Thinking is like a pair of stylish, custom-made sneakers - unique, comfortable, and perfectly suited to the individual. So let's infuse our classrooms with empathy, innovation, and a human-centric approach. Because at the end of the day, we're not just educating minds, we're nurturing spirits and shaping the leaders of tomorrow. Now, isn't that a lesson worth learning?

Follow along for more tips, tricks, and musings on design thinking and human-centered approaches to enhance learning experiences.


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