I had a preconceived notion of what my project was going to be when I first started the course, CEP 817: Learning Technology through Design. I went into the class thinking I was going to create an online course for school counselors. Geez, did that change after going through the Stanford Design Thinking model! Looking back I started out thinking I had a great plan and I was going to change the world of school counseling by offering my informative online course. By going through the d. bootcamp bootleg document (2011) I found that the problem was not that school counselors didn’t know how to implement a comprehensive program but that restraints within the system where not allowing them to have a comprehensive program. I had a new problem to solve! So began the five modes of Design Thinking.
One of the first lab activities we were asked to create was to capture someone else’s view in a 2-minute video by just listening and looking through the video camera. This was to help understand the Empathize mode. Because I had worked with high school students, I wanted to do something to understand them better. I decided to capture a high school student’s walk to school. This was exactly what empathy is…to walk in someone else’s shoes. The video, Design is in the Details by Paul Bennett, (2007) inspired me to look from the view of the user. The user in Bennett’s empathy research was a hospital patient. The design team used a camera to record what it was like for a hospital patient to be in bed all day. The camera showed a monotonous recording of the ceiling tiles. My findings of the walk to school gave me surprising results. I thought I would be persuading others to look at how awful this walk would be but instead I came to realize this walk had considerable benefits. How resilient that student waking up and walking in the snow, figuring out the terrain and traffic. How refreshing to get that fresh air and exercise in the morning before school. What an active world happening before school begins. To walk in someone else’s shoes can show great perspective….and maybe change your view of someone else’s world. I know it did for me and this was one of my favorite lab activities.
The Define mode was the most challenging for me. In our module, Dr. Henriksen (2015) suggested that, “problems may not be what they initially appear to be. Or at least to see that problems may be deeper and more complex when you start to investigate root causes. And most notably for designers – this act of refining or redefining the problem leads to a specific and different solution.” What she said is exactly what happen when I went to define my problem. I found a deeper issue and had to redefine the problem. I took longer to reach this conclusion then the two weeks I was given. But I kept going in my research and found the deeper problem.
One of my favorite modes was Ideate. Reading Michalko’s (2001) Strategy 5: Connecting the Unconnected, pulled me in right away with, “If one particular thinking strategy stands out for creative geniuses, it is the ability to make juxtapositions that elude most people”. Simply put, being able to recognize or figure out what seems unconnected. At first I thought how can these techniques even be possible? But then I started trying the techniques and my ideas developed. The strategy also explained how drawing triggers one part of the brain and then writing out the ideas triggers another to combine forces in making connections. I really loved this technique and naturally doodle and draw when I am writing. These guided exercises helped lead me to my final solution.
During the Prototype mode, d.bootcamp bootleg (2011) suggests, “Inspire others by showing your vision.” I really wanted to show my vision and first tried to create my mobile app in PowerPoint. PowerPoint has hyperlinks that could mimic clicking into an app. I shared my prototype early with my group and found that it was not easy to use. I then found other tools that I could use to create my mobile app where the prototype felt more like an actual app. I found two free tools to create my app but for the next prototype I would like to try a tool that will have voice search availability.
I really connected with Chi’s (2013) video example of the Google glass prototype called Rapid Prototyping Google Glass. I liked how they used cheap prototypes (hair bands and fishing line) to discover what worked and what didn’t. I kept this in mind when developing my mobile app. At one point I tried testing a voice search feature by putting a microphone prop in front of the ipad. This was distracting and didn’t really work. Next, I just used the voice search on my phone and then went to the link. The kids loved voice search but I need to figure out how to get this into the next prototype without being distracting to the overall features of the app.
From the Blikstein (2013) reading this line resonated with me, “Schools manifest how they value a particular activity by building a space for it.” One of my original ideas was to build a physical Counseling Center. This would be wonderful but unfortunately school budgets usually don’t provide for such places. I thought maybe even securing one classroom and turning it into a Counseling Center but not all schools have room to do this. By thinking how all schools could have a counseling center I then thought of a Cyber Counseling Center.
The d.bootcamp bootleg document (2011) really clarified what needed to be done in the Test mode, “Prototype as if you know you’re right, but test as if you know you’re wrong.” I really connected with this phrase because you need to be confident in your design but know that failing is learning. Be ready for users to critique your creation. Then listen to what needs to be changed or know when you need to start over.
I felt like I was on a roller coaster of emotions going through the process. I would discover a truth in the research and it would disappoint me to the point that I wanted to give up. But I would keep going and find an epiphany in the design process and get so excited I could hardly sleep at night. Then I would hit another truth and feel deflated again. I realized you need a cheering section to keep you going. You will need encouragement and a belief that the process will work. Just keep going!
This course has, also, solidified the strengths I had coming into the class. I never knew the terminology to the Design Thinking process but I have naturally been doing some of the modes on my own. A technique in the ideate mode that I had already learned was to focus on a question or problem right before you go to sleep. Your brain will try to solve your problem through connecting unconsciously all you have learned. Surprisingly, it does work!
By formally learning all of the modes it highlighted my natural tendencies towards Design Thinking. As I went through the course, I wished I had went into this field but didn’t even know it existed. I even started researching programs for possible career options.
An area of growth for me is to be patient in letting the process take its course. I would get so excited with a discovery that I would want to hurry through or make a final conclusion. I found that if I had stopped with my first solution I may have missed a better one that was ready to be discovered.
I love coming up with new ideas but I needed to work on the formal process to fully utilize what the Design Thinking model can do for a product. I was missing the beginning piece when I would create lessons which now I feel confident in using the entire process to create any type of design.
At first I thought, how could Design Thinking apply to education? When I thought of design I thought of the aesthetic design of an object. After taking this course, I learned design was the usefulness of a product to a user through solving a problem. I found it can be applied to education and successfully enrich education. I, also, found this great Design Thinking resource for educators from Saga Briggs (2013) called, 45 Design Thinking Resources for Educators. There are many examples of how educators are using Design Thinking to improve education. I found it inspiring and motivating to see how others in our own class and from around the world are using Design Thinking in education.
For lesson plan development the article, Why Formative Assessments Matter, by Alber (2011) inspired me! What came to mind was that formative assessment could be the “Testing” phase in Design Thinking model. Your lesson plan is the prototype and as you present your materials you create “Checks for Understanding” (formative assessment). These checks tell you if your prototype needs modifying. Your students are the users who will “TEST” your materials. You will then be able to modify each time the lesson is presented. When designing lesson plans or curriculum I created a formula based on the Design Thinking model to guide this process:
Empathize: pre-test, understand your students, research, collect similar lesson plans and curriculum
Ideate: brainstorm ideas of how to present materials, ask students
Prototype: develop lesson plan or curriculum
Test: formative assessments, post-test
By using this formula in the Design Thinking process you are thoughtful in your planning, which in turn, could make you the most effective teacher for your students. By “Testing” throughout your lesson you can adapt and modify based on student feedback.
Overall, I strongly believe the Design Thinking model can apply to any creative process that produces a product. A product could be a business plan, mobile app, presentation, or lesson plan. These are the areas I am exploring for my future endeavors. I feel very confident in creating a product now that I have the Stanford Design Thinking model skills to use in product development. This class has been a true inspiration and I am excited to see what I can do with my new-found Design Thinking skills!
Please find the formal paper here!
Alber, R. (2011). “Why Formative Assessments Matter“ Edutopia, Feb. 15, 2011. Retrieved from
Blikstein, P. (2013). Digital Fabrication and ’Making’ in Education: The Democratization
of Invention. In J. Walter-Herrmann & C. Büching (Eds.), FabLabs: Of Machines,
Makers and Inventors. Bielefeld: Transcript Publishers.
Bennett, P. (2007). Design is in the Details. (Video) Retrieved from
Briggs, S. (2013). 45 Design Thinking Resources for Educators. Retrieved from
Chi, T. (2013) Rapid Prototyping Google Glass. (Video). Retrieved from
Henriksen, D., Good, J., & Richardson, C. (2015). CEP 817: Learning Technology through
Design. Michigan State University: East Lansing.
Institute of Design at Stanford. (2011). d.school bootcamp bootleg. Retrieved from
Michalko, M. (2001). Cracking Creativity. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.