Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Design Thinking

I wanted to give my students the chance to try the Design Thinking process for at least one iteration.  As we struggled with packed schedules that prevented students in our paired sections from meeting in person, it made sense to me to get the students to work on this more intentionally than the usual discussion - try this, try that.  

The sources to familiarize the students with Design Thinking were:

7 Things You Should Know About Design Thinking

All about Learning. Design Thinking.

Stanford's Kelley Discusses `Design Thinking' 

I reviewed the steps briefly in class, giving examples of how we used many of the steps in other activities.

There were two half-periods in class to prep, plus the groups worked on the project outside of class.  An additional wrinkle is that I reconstituted the groups to try to get compatible introverts together and break up some pairs and trios that tended to exclude other group members and get off track.  The results were much better than I expected for a project that spanned Thanksgiving break and happened late in the semester with regard to the problem being worked on.  Each group did propose an idea, set up a prototype, and find some friends and roommates willing to help test.  From the test, they had ideas to refine their original solution.

In informal talks to the class(mostly from their seats, no PowerPoint, one or two speakers per group OK), the groups presented a variety of social media and ideas to enable in-person meetings of smaller groups within the two-section or multi-section grouping.  social media included Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and good old e-mail (anyone's QU e-mail address can be constructed from their name, and we all have it for academics).  In-person meeting should include food, be required, and could be lunches or dinners.  These and the social media would complement one another.  The Facebook group even had some dissenting opinions and respectful disagreement over course questions.  This brought up the idea that most students find it easier to express ideas on social media where they can think out what they have to say.  The dissenting opinion from the face-to-face group is that talking in person is more efficient and misunderstandings can be cleared up right away.  Another concern raised is the possibility of students from one section taking over the channel with section-specific things not relevant to the larger group.  In general, the student felt that they could set sufficient privacy levels and deal with spammers and trolls.

I learned that doing this very early in the semester would be better with this problem (no big surprise).  I was impressed by how much importance the students put on mobile, asynchronous media-rich communication channels, with the possibility of sharing outside the group. We noted the richness of Tumblr compared to the Blackboard class blog where you post a picture or video and readers have to click a bland title to see it.

With the timing of testing right around Thanksgiving, some teams didn't get a lot of response.  I was able to point out that this is one illustration of how "failing" is fine when you learn from what happened and go on to refine your solution or develop another.  I was happy with the enthusiasm and energy the students put into this project. 



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