“Elementary,” said he — Using Design Thinking with Elementary Students

I must make a confession. I’ve fallen into a common trap in my line of work. After seeing all the amazing things graduate students, college students, and high school students have accomplished with Design Thinking, I have returned to my elementary students and thought, “How can I achieve something similar with my younger, less experienced students?”

Right away, several of you have already noticed my misstep. Besides the obvious miswording (“How might we…” not “How can I…” ), I approached the situation from the wrong mindset. Call it the “deficit model,” call it “ignoring post-modern and deconstructionist approaches to education,” or just call it “the green-eyed monster of Design Thinking envy (#DTenvy);” I expected my elementary students to act and perform like their older counterparts. I should have known better.

Here’s why:

  1. Young children are not miniature adults. (This very smart guy said so.)

  1. Kindergarteners have some unique gifts (like building marshmallow towers).

Tom Wujec TED talk, “Build a tower, build a team”

  1. Design Thinking taps into young students’ innate creative abilities. Therefore, I shouldn’t approach my students’ work with DT as “watered-down” versions of “adult work.”

Ok. There. That’s the end of it. I will never commit such an egregious mistake again. I promise.

photo credit: Katie Tegtmeyer via photopin cc

For more on how to tap into Elementary Students’ unique abilities using Design Thinking, check out #dtk12chat on Twitter, Wednesday, 19 February at 8 pm CT. The topic is:

HMW use Design Thinking to tap into the unique abilities of elementary students?


4 responses to ““Elementary,” said he — Using Design Thinking with Elementary Students

  1. Pingback: Caring is Sharing | The Incidental Techie·

  2. Thank you for this great paper.
    I think someone will have to come up with a way to make DT appear as the other half of linear thinking, until the most people will consider DT as a change for a change and will become more reluctant to see DT as a solution of various problems in education!
    When I tried talking about DT at work, most listened politely due to my position, then used to smile still politely, and later they were directly facing me with “Oh! You are a philosopher we need tangible solutions!” I noted they weren’t yet prepared to such opening!

    • I completely agree on DT being a possible solution to multiple problems in education. My main challenge with getting educators on board is that many of the teachers I work with are overwhelmed with requirements that are not necessary for effectively creating a learning community. Grading, paperwork, and unnecessary meetings tend to take time away from thinking about what’s best for our students.

      HMW recover wasted time and redirect our energies to, at least, thinking and discussing positive change?

      • I know and fully feel aware of the “bureaucracy” (Should I politely say bureaucrazy) challenges a teacher is facing.
        I feel lucky I always worked in the private sector, whether it was for global adult education, technical for high schools or corporate training… I was also privileged to be given a certain liberty to engage into new approaches. I knew the stakes were too high but always able to provide what people (learners) needed the best which was the #1 argument for organisations to let me act and work as I estimated was right… But I honestly do understand what teachers have to go through..
        In regards to DT, I learned to put in place its principles without even mentioning they were inspired from the DT approach. As a matter of fact it worked, especially the management who endorsed it!
        So sometimes little “white lies” are necessary for a good cause 😉

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