Design Thinking is a methodology used to solve complex problems. It is not only used by designers but is relevant for use by anyone in a situation where a problem requires a solution.
Course/SkillsBuild for Student Module: SkillsBuild Lab: Design Thinking Learning Plan
Topic: Design Thinking
Length of class: Most activities can easily accommodate a 40-minute class period if broken into sections.
Learning Outcomes: What learners will be able to know, do, or value by the end of the lesson.
- Students will be able to define design thinking
- Students will be able to identify steps in the design thinking process.
- Students will understand the importance of user-centered design.
- Students will strengthen empathy skills to understand users and their needs.
- Students will build a prototype to address a school or community problem.
- (Optional) Students will build an app OR create a website.
Workplace learning skills:
- Analytical thinking
- Agility & cognitive flexibility
Required Learning Materials/ Resources
- Laptop or mobile device for accessing online courses and videos and for (optional) Activity 3
- Post-it notes in different colors (3”x3”), black markers, chart paper, and other supplies for ideation
- A variety of colored stickers (dots) for voting
- Materials for constructing the prototype (Activity Part 2) can include construction paper in a variety of colors, lightweight cardboard, scissors, glue sticks, colored markers, and clear tape
Mobile App capabilities
Learning Environment Needs
Initial steps in the design thinking process requires space (on a wall, on a whiteboard, on poster boards, etc.) for post-its or written submissions.
Prework for Educators
Instructors should review and become familiar with these materials prior to teaching:
- Design Thinking for Complex Environments (TED X Talk) (video): (17:01 min)
- What is design thinking and why is it so popular?
- 5 stages in the design thinking process
- What is Design Thinking? (video): (4:20 min)
- What is human-centered design – and why does it matter? (video): (3:18 min)
- Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit: (free download; available in a variety of languages)
- Design Thinking – Paper Prototypes (video): (2:36 min)
Activity Part 1
- Show the videos: What is Design Thinking? (4:20 min) and What is human-centered design – and why does it matter? (3:18 min)
- Students complete the What is design thinking? lesson on SkillsBuild for Students (40 min)
- Discuss with students the definition of social entrepreneurship as defined in the Duke article: https://centers.fuqua.duke.edu/case/about/what-is-social-entrepreneurship/
- Students will apply the design thinking process to identify a problem in their school or community they would like to solve.
- Arrange students into small groups to work together. Each group must select a specific problem to offer a solution. Some examples of community or school problems could be recycling, school lunches, school attendance, bullying, graffiti, littering, youth unemployment, access to public transportation, safe neighborhoods, etc. Each group should write their problem down on a post-it note and keep it in a designated location.
- Groups would next need to identify and empathize with the user. Students should sketch an empathy map (see below) on chart paper with 4 quadrants, labeled “says”, “thinks”, “feels”, and “does”, bordering a circle in the center. They would sketch their user in the center of the map, give them a name, and identify some details about them.
- OPTIONAL: If time allows, students could spend time surveying their intended user, to gain insights that can assist them in reaching a more targeted solution.
- Each student within their group should begin ideating (brainstorming), using post-it notes (one idea per note), to identify what the user might say, think, feel, or do in relation to the problem. These would then be placed within the appropriate quadrants. Hint: inform students to “write more and talk less”as discussion will follow ideating.
- After all the ideas have been placed, students should then group them by identified themes and discuss.
- Based on their brainstorm and groupings, groups should be able to identify their user’s needs. At the top of a new piece of chart paper, each group should write: “Our user needs a way to [address the need] so that they [benefit in this way]”. Students should then vote on the ideas they like best to solve their user’s problem. This can be done by placing a sticker, or post-it note with a star drawn on it, to vote for their favorite idea. The top 3-4 need statements will then be placed below this heading (e.g., Marie needs a, b, c so that she can x, y, z.)
- Again, each student within the group should brainstorm possible solutions to the user’s needs, using post-it notes, (one idea per note), placing their ideas on the chart paper. Remind students to focus on quantity over quality.
- As a group, students should determine pros and cons of the ideas to eventually decide on one solution whose development might be feasible (Activity Part 2). The group can use the same voting method as they did above, using stickers or post-it notes to determine one idea they will build out in Parts 2 and 3.
Activity Part 2: Prototyping Phase
In this activity, students will build a prototype to address the issue they identified in Part 1.
- Show this short video that gives an overview of creating paper prototypes: Design Thinking Paper Prototypes(2:36 min)
- Students will build a prototype to represent a solution to the problem they identified in part 1.
- Reinforce the idea to students that this prototype is not meant to be perfect and not to focus on the details. They should keep the user problem in mind while they build. They may first want to start by sketching out their prototype on paper and exploring what materials will be best to use.
- Allow students to get creative using the materials provided. As teams are creating, help them think through their prototypes: How will each feature help solve the problem they identified in Part 1 of the activity? How will the prototype work?
- Completed prototypes can be presented to the other groups. Groups should be encouraged to empathize with the identified user in each presentation and determine if the prototype solves the identified problem. Questioning should be encouraged.
Activity Part 3: Optional Extension
This optional activity provides an opportunity for students to take their prototype and build upon it using a digital aspect of an app or a website (if prototype design is applicable).
- Option 1: App
- Some questions to ask: How can their prototype benefit from an app? What type of background or images would be appropriate? What would make the app interesting to the intended user? How would this app help the user identified in Part 1?
- Students will first create detailed drawings of their app by drawing sample screens, taking into consideration any buttons or other user interface elements needed. (If an app was prototyped in Activity Part 2, the basics of the app would have already been established.) Students can use this template to complete this step.
- Imagine users interfacing with your app; does it promote the socially useful activity from your initial idea? What could be changed in the app to make it more so?
- Students building an app can now use the Mobincube site to build a working version of their app. (Mobincube requires pre-registration but is free to use.)
- Once their app is built out, it can be shared with other student groups for testing and evaluation.
- Option 2: Webpage or Website
- Some questions to ask: How can their prototype benefit from a webpage/ website? What type of background or images would be appropriate? What would make these pages interesting to the intended user? How would this website help the user identified in Part 1?
- Students will first create detailed drawings of their webpage(s) by drawing sample pages, taking into consideration any user interface elements needed. (If a website was prototyped in Activity Part 2, the basics of a homepage may have already been established.) Imagine users exploring your website; does it promote the socially useful activity from your initial idea? What could be changed on the site to make it more so?
- Students can now use com. (Wix requires pre-registration but is free to use) or Google Sites (requires a Google account) to build their webpage. They can choose from a prebuilt template or spend more time starting from scratch.
- Once their website is built out, it can be shared with other student groups for testing and evaluation.
- 5 Game-changing Examples of Design Thinking (and What We Can Learn from Them)
- P-TECH Presents: Design Thinking – Human Centered Problem Solving (video) (from Summer Skill Up): (53:58 min)
- IBM Activity Kit – Design Thinking Workshop: (1-2 hours)
- Enterprise Design Thinking Field Guide: (30 min)
- Enterprise Design Thinking Practitioner (Course and Badge): (6 hours)
- Design Thinking Activity Directions PowerPoint
- Design Thinking in Industries Graphic Organizer