TEACHING IN BETA

This past April, the Newschool team participated in and helped facilitate a three-day Design Thinking Workshop at the University of Western Macedonia in Florina, Greece. Other participants were teachers from across Europe: Spain, Portugal, Greece, Belgium, and Norway.

By providing a way to solve problems, Design Thinking is the nexus between learning, feeling and making. The ability to create and innovate is inside of any person willing to search, question and envision the future. During this three-day workshop, we explored the instructional philosophy, tools and activities that nurture essential innovative thinking. Each facilitator presented different strategies and skills necessary to build creative, collaborative, and design-minded classrooms.

The looming question for teachers in regards to Design Thinking is often, “How do I incorporate this into my classroom?” This workshop’s purpose was to convey Design Thinking in an educational environment: a workflow. Teachers learned how to use the same processes designers use to creatively solve problems in the curriculum, and were provided with guidelines for developing and testing ideas, then shown how to put those principles into practice.

The way that we introduce Design Thinking in the classroom is through a game called “Empatheia,” where each player is challenged to build a carriage for the King & Queen of a medieval village. In order to complete the game successfully, however, players can’t simply “play” the game. Instead, with the Design Thinking approach at the helm, they have to “build” the game. The Design Thinking process is iterative and user-centered, by supporting creativity and innovation. This combination of problem-solving roots and deep empathy for the player is successful at showcasing relevant solutions for problems encountered along the way.  

The ChangeMaker’s Game is now in its beta form. In the tech world, the term beta refers to software or other products that have not yet been perfected, but are launched to the public for a sort of trial run.

Aside from the game being a learning experience, discoveries can also be made using offline activities that ground students into the Design Thinking process. Thus, students learn to be flexible, approachable, and responsive to requests made of them. Success depends on it. This means they learn how to be outward-looking instead of inward-looking. They learn to fulfill the emotional needs of the “people” they are building the carriage for.

The value of “getting your hands dirty” comes especially during the final and in-depth analysis of the finished carriage. Students are encouraged to discover that there is a non-linear, non-sequential process in delivering their final product. Each stage can be conducted in any order, concurrently or even parallel to one another.

Participating in this workshop extended beyond preaching the perks of Design Thinking as a learning approach alone. It also shed light on how teaching within those same parameters supports the thought, “Perfect is the enemy of good enough.”

Perfection the first time around has long been the expectation within the educational sphere. When educators “don’t get it,” they brush aside the idea, try out the next, and repeat the cycle. It’s vicious and de-motivating, adding an extra layer to what is already a challenging profession.

Imagine if educators worldwide adopted Design Thinking, if every attempt at something new were treated as the first in a series of iterations - repetitions of a process with the goal of making improvements each time around. In layman’s terms, “teaching in beta.”

Our hypothesis: Teaching quality and job fulfillment would both improve.

At Newschool, we believe educators are designers. Changemakers. They design and influence spaces, materials and experiences. And we believe it’s time we start thinking of them that way.

“Compassion in tandem with a beginner’s mind helps us translate empathy into action. If we instill a sense of duty toward users in our designs, we can align our products with the humans who use them - and perhaps improve their lives along the way.” Eli Woolery, DesignBetter.Co

Edee is Social Communicator @ Newschool.