John Nash on Design Thinking and Education

This week, I had the good fortune to meet Dr. John Nash, founding director of the dlab at the University of Kentucky. He is working on how design thinking methods can be used to support innovation in learning in K-12 and higher education contexts. You can hear him talk about it here.

You might also be interested in his TEDx presentation.


Design Thinking for Strategic Planning

markers, sticky notes, scissors, etc.

I recently led a Design Thinking Crash Course at Trinity Lutheran College as a part of our strategic planning process. Through the training, we wanted to help leaders in our strategic planning process to experience and learn more about design thinking. The crash course introduced primary concepts in human centered design such as:

  • Developing empathy for users through interviews.
  • Using divergent thinking before moving to convergent thinking.
  • Sketching to develop and communicate ideas.
  • Developing prototypes.
  • User Testing.

For the crash course, we used the structure and materials developed by Stanford’s d.school. This enabled us to complete the crash course and have a debrief discussion in about 2 hours. The d.school toolkit is well developed and easy to use.

Space was a major consideration in planning the crash course. We didn’t want the course to take place in a regular conference room or classroom; we wanted to provide a space where people felt free to interact and work differently than they normally might in a work meeting. We chose an open gathering space with great window views for our event. In the space we set up groups of small tables filled with sticky notes, pens, markers, colored pencils, and craft paper. We also had music playing in the background. For the music we used a Pandora jazz station, however the commercial interruptions were very distracting, next time we will play music from a device to eliminate the commercials. The space worked well and people got into the creative spirit of the work.

In a happy last minute addition, we invited our project management class to join the crash course, since their class was meeting at the same time as our event. Having students and school leaders work together in the crash course worked really well. The student and staff interactions brought great energy and multiple perspectives to the conversation. We are planning to invite both students and staff to our next crash course.

The event was a success; participants were excited about design thinking and had a several ideas on how the framework could be used to support work in the strategic planning process. One of the big ideas that came out of the discussion was an idea to develop personas, brief biographies of aggregate student groups, to help us better understand who our prospective students are now and who they might be in 2020. The crash course succeeded in launching a discussion on design thinking as a part of our strategic plan and we are planning another crash course for others who want to know more about the process.


Crowdfunding Higher Education

Dr. Leslie Jensen-Inman and Jared Spool, of the Unicorn Institute, have started a Kickstarter campaign to help fund their startup User Experience Design School, Center Centre. The campaign surpassed its initial target within a few hours and within several days it has raised more than $65,000 from more than 650 backers.

Seeking donations to support programs is nothing new to higher education institutions. However in this case, the school is foregoing traditional fundraising pathways, using instead technology supported social networks and crowdfunding tools to mobilize support for the program.