Design thinking for professional practice problems in Education

Today I am writing about my professional development and the direct outcomes that were present in the school as a result of working through the stages of Design Thinking (DT).
DT allowed me to find and test a befitting solution for a problem area in my school environment. Here I endeavour to record a precedent of how DT can be used for solving problems in education.
One of my roles at the ASMS was to set up a ‘FABLAB/Innovation-space’ which had already been started in a dark underground space and used with exclusivity. I first identified the varied requisites that the space would need to address. Aside from integrating the physical ‘Maker Space’ into the building, the space needed to be accessible to all ASMS community, be used to integrate Design and Technology curriculum into interdisciplinary and project-based learning and not be limited to curricular activities.
The new Ideation Studio has been placed in a centric and accessible area of the building and was flexible enough to evolve organically with its users as they changed with ‘the times’ and as student generations evolve. However there was a problem. We surveyed and found data suggesting that the space was not being used as much by teachers or female students. To help me come up with a solution to this issue I utilised the “Frame your design Challenge” from Design Kit as follows:

Design Challenge

1) Framing the design challenge:
How might we entice non-users (teachers and female students) of the ‘Ideation Studio’ to be involved?

2) Now, state the ultimate impact you’re trying to have:
The space being is used by the whole school community to create altruistic learning experiences that equip users with 21st century technological literacies.

3) What are some possible solutions to your problem:
– Redesign the space
– Find out what areas are ‘failing’
– Go down the ‘compulsory’ road as a first step
– Marketing stand-out precedents of effective results from the use of the space.

4) Finally, write down some of the context and constraints that you’re facing.
– Highlighting relevance for disinterested users
– Time poor staff
– Ingrained fear of technology predominantly in female students
– Cultural perceptions of technology being associated with nerds and sophisticated concepts.

5) Does your original question need a tweak:
Yes,
– How can we entice non-users of the ‘Ideation Studio’ to be involved and enthusiastic about the technology available to them?
– What can be done to encourage technologically-unengaged members of the ASMS to use the ‘Ideation Studio’?

Reflection

Initially I suspected the solution would have more to do with the spatial arrangement of the space rather than anything to do with marketing. Through this process I have been able to see the problem with a new light. This exercise has enabled me to open up the problem enough to capture more possible solutions.
As problems are naturally evident through one’s own lens and through one’s perspective only, design thinking provides a platform for grasping the challenge as independently as one can view it from our own restrictive mindsets (which is already full of pre-constructed notions about the issue). This process enables us to view creatively and give but a glimpse of the wider scene, therefore providing an opportunity to objectively target a design.

To view the space, click this link: ASMS Ideation Studio Video.

Use of the Space

As I had initially identified the problem as an issue with the space itself. I designed an activity that would help me map the current users of the space. I have since realised that this might not address the identified problem after having gone through the “frame your design challenge activity’.
Here is the conceptual plan of the Ideation Studio and how it was utilised over two consecutive Mondays. Analysis and exploration of the differences between the space when used by everyone, then segregating the information to visualise its use by staff, or females alone. The majority of the furniture in the room is on lockable wheels as to allow flexibility to re-arrange the space to fit different purposes or to fulfil the growing needs of the users.

In this first image, the circulation map highlights the spaces that are not being used and the effectiveness of the plan layout. It shows that there are predominantly three effective areas which are centric to the space.

  

The last circulation map highlights the role teachers are playing in the space. It appears that they use the space as supervisors rather than users themselves. It might have to do with the policies of using the space where students require at least one staff member to be present before being allowed to use the equipment in the space.

Reflection

Although this exercise was designed before I re-framed my problem and identified that it might not have to do solely with the room layout, it has still assisted me to view the wider picture and have another outlook on the problem. I anticipate that this will still provide me with a more befitting solution to the re-identified challenge.

Beneficial Disposition to this Exercise

Objectivism, being impartial and objective has allowed me to receive the information with a greater opportunity of seeing it in new lights. Being objective in the design thinking process has helped me become a little freer from the associations my mind has created through past experiences. With this disposition I can explore the issue creatively.

Step Forward Through EMPATHY

Given that I often have the opportunity to facilitate staff professional development sessions, I have decided to design teacher up-skill PD sessions. This will raise our capacity at the ASMS to use the technology available in ‘Ideation Studio’ and support students to utilise it too. I aim to utilise empathy to observe, gauge and obtain information from teachers to improve participation in the ideation studio. Hopefully these PD opportunities will help teachers in integrating subjects through technology, as well as allow them to create teaching resources around it.
After these PD sessions are undertaken, teachers will be encouraged to fill in a feedback survey to help me identify where the gaps lie.

Reflection

It is hard not to jump in straight away and fix the obvious hurdles that my brain keeps superficially solving. I could design a diagrammatic online process to guide staff through the use of any of the available technologies in the space, but as identified through the design kit ‘frame your design challenge’, this is merely a symptom or ramification of the bigger issue.

Beneficial Disposition to this exercise

Detachment is one of the dispositions I have found to be beneficial to acquire during design thinking. Detachment not only allows you to be open minded and release any possession you have over your ideas but it also enables you to adopt other’s perspectives more freely (especially when trying to empathise).

Defining my Challenge

Through the “Frame your design Challenge” I identified two better suited questions to target.
I have decided to modify them by adding ‘how might we’ (Berger, W. et.al, 2012).
• How might we entice non-users of the ‘Ideation Studio’ to be involved and enthusiastic about the technology available to them?
• How might we encourage technologically- unengaged members of the ASMS to use the ‘Ideation Studio’?


Beneficial Disposition to this exercise

To determine the best suitable question I need to switch my thinking from the previous dispositions of detachment and being impartial, to a more analytical frame of mind. One that will enable me to make decisions based on the process undertaken.

Problem Statement

Examining the data collected through different empathy tools, I have arrived at the best question to enable me to explore a variety of possibilities without inhibiting creative solutions;
• How might we entice non-users of the ‘Ideation Studio’ to be involved and enthusiastic about the technology available to them?

To be continued…

Now I will proceed to the following Design Thinking stage of ‘IDEATION’ which will shortly be presented and published as another BLOG entry.

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