Teaching about the Innovation Mindset, you come to see the importance of problem solving, brainstorming, planning, testing, creating prototypes, retesting, redesigning & iterating, then finally sharing. We discuss the key feature of "failing forward" (and I often refer to "fail" as "First Attempt In Learning.") It governed us as we learned to walk, ride a bike, and do many new things in our lives. We can only get better by trying and retrying something, modifying as we go. As Lily Barnett wrote in Peninsula Press' "Design-Thinking Trickling Into Elementary School Classrooms," it's a key feature in Carol Dweck's growth mindset. It builds confidence through the creation and ability to tackle challenges.
Empathy too is an important part, because it helps with the tie-in of real world problems. By trying to take on the vantage point of another, students can see the importance of trying to solve a problem that serves the needs of others. Empathy is a piece that is significantly missing in today's world. Just check out social media or today's partisan politics!
Interaction Design Foundation's "Design Thinking: New Innovative Thinking for New Problems," it is through new ways of thinking that problems are solved. We need to be able to think outside the box. As educators, we need to help shape our students to be the next generation of people to bring about better solutions to our global problems. It becomes the merging of both logic and imagination, science and creativity, empathy and analysis. Usually collaboration and critical thinking are also woven in there as well. All the essential skills future employers will want from our current students--even those that are still very young. The power of play in the elementary school environment is not all that different from what innovative companies like Google or Apple are doing to craft a creative workspace.
So for my teacher friends out there who are designing both lessons and students: here's a list of engineering challenges & resources for grades K-12. I made sure to curate this list with both general engineering challenges and also design challenges with a "green lean!"
- The K12 Lab Wiki's Design Thinking Projects & Challenges (there's a wealth of resources here at this website, with ties to Stanford's d.school)
- Open Ideo's "Open Challenges" (A global community to design change for world problems)
- A.J. Juliani's "10 Design Thinking Activities to Get Your Group Creating" (A.J. Juliani is the co-author of the book Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity & Bring Out the Maker In Every Student)
Video from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxJWin195kU, design process diagram from http://slideplayer.com/slide/9058715/ and https://youtu.be/MAhpfFt_mWM, Think Outside the Box image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/artjonak/6250513028