"Design is intelligence made visible"
- Alina Wheeler
Design Thinking involves students developing the capacity to view problems and opportunities as challenges that can be solved through the application of their understanding of technology processes.
Technology processes allow students to create solutions for themselves or others (end user, client or consumer). They involve the purposeful use of resources including materials, data, systems, tools and equipment when creating, designing, producing and using products, services and environments. They may involve identifying, exploring, critiquing, formulating and investigating a problem or opportunity; generating, researching and developing ideas; analysing, creating, designing, planning, producing, representing, constructing and evaluating solutions in a sustainable way, giving appropriate thought to impact. These processes typically require one or more of the following types of thinking: computational, critical, creative, design, futures or systems.
Design Thinking frames Design and Technology studies, complement these other thinking processes, and contribute to the development in students of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS).
Dr Jason Zagami
Systems Thinking is the process of understanding how things, regarded as systems, influence one another within a whole. In nature, systems thinking examples include ecosystems in which various elements such as air, water, movement, plants, and animals work together to survive or perish. In organisations, such as schools or classrooms, systems consist of people, structures, and processes that work together to make an organisation "healthy" or "unhealthy".
Systems thinking has been defined as an approach to problem solving, by viewing "problems" as parts of an overall system, rather than reacting to specific part, outcomes or events. Systems thinking is not however one thing but a set of habits or practices[ within a framework that is based on the belief that the component parts of a system can best be understood in the context of relationships with each other and with other systems, rather than in isolation. This approach to systems thinking focuses on cyclical or repeating rather than linear cause and effect.
The several ways to think of and define a system include:
An example of systems thinking would be understanding a problem with a bicycle not braking fast enough. Rather than trying to improve the brake by looking in great detail at the material composition of the brake pads (a reductionist approach), the boundary of the braking system may be extended to include the interactions between the:
By considering the various systems involved, innovative solutions to the problem may emerge that may not have been thought of when considering just the aspect that is seemingly the most relevant.
Design Thinking (or Solution Based Thinking) is a method for the practical, creative resolution of problems or opportunities that looks for an improved future result. It differs from the scientific method, which starts by defining all of the parameters of a problem in order to define the solution. Rather, the design way of problem solving starts with a solution in order to define enough of the parameters to optimise a path to the goal. The solution, then, is actually the starting point.
The teaching of Design Thinking involves the use of strategies for understanding design problems and opportunities, visualising and generating creative and innovative ideas, and analysing, synthesising and evaluating those ideas that best meet the criteria for success.
The terms analysis and synthesis come from (classical) Greek and mean literally "to loosen up" and "to put together" respectively. In general, analysis is defined as the procedure by which we break down a whole into parts or components. Synthesis is defined as the opposite procedure: to combine separate elements or components in order to form a coherent whole. However, analysis and synthesis, always go hand in hand; they complement one another. Every synthesis is built upon the results of a preceding analysis, and every analysis requires a subsequent synthesis in order to verify and correct its results. (Ritchey, 1991)
The analysis of problems can involve two similar but distinct processes: Decomposition and Deconstruction.
Involves separating a complex problem into parts to allow a problem to be more easily understood; and
Is the systematic dismantling process to identify and analyse the components that make up a product or service and their relationships.
Design Thinking processes involve defining (identifying), researching (exploring), ideating (brainstorming), prototyping, choosing, implementing, and learning (Testing and Evaluation), to solve problems related to needs or opportunities that also consider social, cultural and environmental factors.
Design thinking is a solution-based approach to solving problems, and is especially useful when addressing what design thinkers refer to as Wicked Problems. Wicked problems are wicked in the sense that they are ill-defined or tricky, not wicked in the sense of malicious. For ill-defined problems, both the problem and the solution are unknown at the outset of the problem-solving exercise. This is as opposed to "tame" or "well-defined" problems where the problem is clear, and the solution is available through some technical knowledge.
For wicked problems, the general thrust of the problem may be clear, however considerable time and effort is spent in order to clarify the requirements. A large part of the problem solving activity, then, consists of problem definition and problem shaping.
The "A-Ha Moment" is the moment where there is suddenly a clear forward path. It is the point in the cycle where synthesis and divergent thinking, analysis and convergent thinking, and the nature of the problem all come together and an appropriate resolution has been captured. Prior to this point, the process seems nebulous, hazy and inexact. At this point, the path forward is so obvious that in retrospect it seems odd that it took so long to recognize it. After this point, the focus becomes more and more clear as the final product is constructed.
The A-Ha Moment is usually described as a gut feeling. As designers move from novice to expert in their field, the exact point where the A-Ha Moment occurs is increasingly recognisable. This happens through the practice of actual doing and the reflection upon their personal design process.
For Design Thinking, there are several factors who can stop the process. These enemies of Design Thinking are Fear, Resistance and the Devil's Advocate. They distract from design thinking by stopping creative processes through unconstructive negativity.
Fear keeps a designer from using their methods and process to achieve goals. Both are internal psychological hesitations that can distract the designer from creating or focusing on solutions by shifting the focus, instead, to doubts of self-worth, anxieties of "will it be good enough," or procrastinations.
Resistance can be encountered through internal psychological disruptions. Resistance stops design thinking by confusing the goal with all sorts of other things that need to be done first. Resistance shifts the focus from solutions and ways to get to those solutions to anything other than realisation.
Design methods and design process are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference between the two.
Design methods are all the techniques and ways of thinking when designing a solution. Some of these methods include looking at and understanding other designer's solutions, creating prototypes, mind-mapping, asking the five-whys to get to a crux of the problem, etc.
Design Processes are the way in which the methods come together through a series of actions, events or steps. There are many different design processes but they all have somewhat similar characteristics. The model developed by Koberg and Bagnall (1981) outlined 7 steps that can be completed cyclically or just one after the other (linearly).
The 7 Stages of the Universal Travel Model of the Creative Process:
The model developed by the Stanford University d School has five steps:
Stanford d School design process
These are addressed from three perspectives:
Bryan Lawson (1980) took the three fundamental design steps and argues that Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation should be constantly developed in a three-step simplified triangular process in which:
When a design process uses a combination of each of these three elements, its chances for success are greatly improved.
There are many other design process models (Dubberly, 2005) but the three fundamental steps of Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation are fundamental to all approaches.
Futures Thinking or Futures Studies involves considering possible futures in order to increase the likelihood of a preferred future occurring. The Australian Curriculum: Technologies has the creation of preferred futures as the overarching idea for the learning area and teachers are expected to guide student learning at all levels towards predicting outcomes and considering the impacts of technological discussions for current and future generations and their environments.
Futures Thinking promotes the knowledge, skills and understanding that are needed in order to think more critically and creatively about the future. It:
In developing preferred futures, students should learn skills in:
1. Anticipating the future;
3. Envisioning alternatives;
4. Making wise choices; and
5. Taking responsible action.
Thinking about the future can be considered in both spatial and temporal dimensions, both of which can be developmentally nurtured in students as they progress through studies in the Technologies learning area. Students should increasingly learn to consider those beyond their immediate self, family, friends, class, school, local, national and eventually global communities. Likewise they should develop an appreciation of needs and consequences beyond the immediate, gradually extending these consideration to future generations.
A maker subculture has recently emerged around design and technology DIY (do it yourself) experimentation and invention. Groups gather online and at Maker Faire's to share and explain their innovations. They are exploring electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, etc., as well as more traditional activities such as metalworking, woodworking, and traditional arts and crafts. The subculture stresses new and unique applications of technologies, and encourages invention and prototyping. There is a strong focus on using and learning practical skills and applying them creatively, with a culture of sharing and teaching new skills to others.
Much as occurred with artist colonies in previous generation, Hackerspaces and Makerspaces are being established where like-minded individuals gather to share ideas, tools, and skill sets. Hacking is redefined to including any re-conceptualising and repurposing of ideas and technologies to new, sometimes to mildly subversive, purposes. HSBNE in Brisbane was the first established in Australia and includes topics such as electronics, metal work, photography, blacksmithing, home brewing, sewing, bonsai, and glassblowing. There is also Techspace on the Gold Coast and hundreds of other Hackerspaces around the globe. Sometime groups gather for specific events such as Hackerthons and many libraries are becoming Hackerspaces.
Schools and universities are establishing their own Hackerspaces and Maker groups to encourage students to experiment and develop skills in design and technology. Similar to computer and electronics clubs, these spaces provide the resources, collective expertise, and shared experiences and attitudes to foster a creative and innovative environment for student experimentation.
The Maker Education Initiative is promoting a Maker Corps to create more opportunities for young people to make, and, by making, build confidence, foster creativity, and spark interest in science, technology, engineering, math, the arts - and learning as a whole. The aim is for young people to join and eventually lead the growing Maker Movement, building community networks of families, leaders, educators, mentors, and organisations to nurture young makers.
A guidebook is in development to help start a group.
Project Based Learning (PBL) is different from Problem Based Learning which is a specialisation of Inquiry Learning that describes approaches to learning where students are presented with a scenario or problem and assisted by teachers, identify and research issues and questions to develop their knowledge or solutions. Through this process of problem solving, students learn both thinking strategies and about the domain of knowledge involved in the problem.
Project Based Learning however is the use of in-depth and rigorous projects to facilitate learning. PBL provides students with complex tasks based on challenging questions or problems that involve the students' problem solving, decision making, investigative skills, and reflection that includes teacher facilitation, but not direction.
Project-based learning emphasises learning activities that are long-term, interdisciplinary and student-centered. Unlike traditional, teacher-led classroom activities, students often must organize their own work and manage their own time in a project-based class. Project-based instruction differs from traditional inquiry by its emphasis on students' collaborative or individual artifact construction to represent what is being learned.
The core idea of project-based learning is that real-world problems capture students' interest and provoke serious thinking as the students acquire and apply new knowledge in a problem-solving context. The teacher plays the role of facilitator, working with students to frame worthwhile questions, structuring meaningful tasks, coaching both knowledge development and social skills, and carefully assessing what students have learned from the experience. Typical projects present a problem to solve (What is the best way to reduce the pollution in the schoolyard pond?) or a phenomenon to investigate (What causes rain?).
PBL is focused on questions that drive students to encounter the central concepts and principles of a subject in a hands-on method. Students form their own investigation of a guiding question, allowing students to develop valuable research skills as students engage in design, problem solving, decision making, and investigative activities. Through Project-based learning, students learn from these experiences and apply them to the world outside their classroom. PBL emphasizes creative thinking skills by allowing students to find that there are many ways to solve a problem.
Comprehensive Project-based Learning:
A Design Challenge is a situation, problem or task that provides a meaningful context in which students can ‘work technologically’ to demonstrate learning outcomes in technology through project based learning.
Design Challenges should involve 1. Students going through a design process, and 2. a challenge appropriate for their current capability.
Students should be given (or decide on their own) problem or opportunity for which to develop a solution. They should then use a Design Thinking Process. Younger students should use simplified models such as Design/Develop/Evaluate or Design/Make/Appraise, through models such as the Technology Practice model that has four stages of Investigation, Ideation, Production, Evaluation, then to more complex and specialised models for older students.
Whatever the model, the process of design should always be at least as highly valued in terms of student thought process and teacher assessment, as the final solution e.g.. product. This process is where the learning occurs, the problem and the solution simply provide the context for this learning.
Where ever practical, students should be given opportunities to include all stages of the design process in their projects but this has consequences:
Design Challenges should also be of sufficient challenge to individual students to be of benefit to their learning. Vyotsky (1935) developed the concept of a Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) in which in order to learn, students need to be challenged by something they cannot currently do, but not so difficult that they cannot at present attempt.
More recently, the concept of Flow has been used to set challenges that are of sufficient challenge to engage students but within their skill level so that students are not overly anxious. A state of flow can be then entered in which students become entire engrossed in an activity.
Design Briefs are concise statements clarifying the project task and defining the need or opportunity to be resolved after some analysis, investigation and research. It usually identifies the users (client), criteria for success, constraints, available resources, timeframe for the project, and may include possible consequences and impacts.
Many organisation sponsor design challenge competitions to encourage students in their study of various fields of learning and these can provide quality resources and motivation for student engagement in design challenges.
Egg drop challenges are popular design challenges at all ages and involve developing a solution to prevent an uncooked egg from cracking when dropped from a set height. The height and available materials can be modified to make the activity challenging at different age levels.
Challenges can develop the full range of curriculum outcomes from the Technologies Learning area, including skills and concept development.
Challenges often use recycled and low cost materials, but some challenges can include the use of 3D printers, model rockets, various foods, fibres, metals, woods, etc. and associated tools including ovens, lathes, sewing machines, CAD/CAM, etc.
Many competitions provide access to expensive tools. The F1 in Schools challenge for example provides wind tunneling and CAM machining tools to produce model drag racing cars and where schools cannot afford the equipment themselves, will link schools to schools, universities or companies that have the equipment.
Challenge Based Learning (CBL) was developed by Apple and focuses on increasing student engagement through a collaborative learning experience in which teachers and students work together to learn about compelling issues, propose solutions to real problems, and take action. The approach asks students to reflect on their learning and the impact of their actions, and publish their solutions to a worldwide audience. CBL has the following framework:
Challenges start with the selection of a big idea — a broad topic that has importance to students and their community. Topics like democracy, the environment, or sustainability. Students research to define and better understand their big idea. Let’s use food as an example.
Students explore their big idea by asking questions that reflect their individual interests and community’s needs. How does food impact our health? How do our diets impact the environment? What are the benefits of organic farming?
From the essential questions a challenge is developed to guide students toward a real-world solution. Like, let’s improve what we eat. Students collaborate and communicate throughout the challenge and document the process.
To meet their challenge, students need to ask guiding questions. What exactly do we eat? What nutrients do we need? What foods can we grow locally? To find answers, teachers work with students to identify guiding activities they can do at school and in their community. Students can interview people about their diets and analyze nutritional data.
Students take advantage of resources to help answer guiding questions and develop solutions.
With their research complete, students choose one solution to develop. In this example, creating a school garden. To showcase their thinking, they can make presentations and videos to showcase their solution to help deepen their learning and enrich future projects.
Various guides and reports (CBL Classroom Guide, CBL An approach for our time, CBL Executive Summary, and NMC Report) explain CBL in more detail, including how to implement CBL in the classroom, and a range of video clips have been developed to example the use of CBL in different contexts.
Creativity is the process of producing something that is both original and worthwhile. Wallas (1926) presented one of the first models of the creative process where creative insights and illuminations may be explained by a process consisting of 5 stages:
There are three groups of creativity techniques:
Problem solving creativity techniques include:
More general approaches in inspiring creativity include:
Schools are often criticized for not being environments that support creativity and free thinking, and establishing the trust and mindsets in teachers and students that support creative thinking can be challenging in institutionalised environments.
Innovation is the development of new solutions, products, services, and ways of doing.
Innovation is not just improvement but doing something different rather than doing the same thing better.
Through Technologies education, students develop the ability to be innovative, using their design thinking processes and creativity to develop novel innovations to solve problems and develop opportunities.