Brainstorming, Problem Solving, and Design Thinking

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We’re about to graduate from the OCDI curriculum, which has focused mainly on the technology and tools of online classroom planning, and move into what we could think of as a “conceptual” design phase, where we will be brainstorming and discussing some of the bigger conceptual concepts of the courses we’re designing. Many of these larger concepts have been written about in this blog:

As we begin to try to tackle these complicated pedagogy problems, I thought it might be useful to take a step back from the course design work we’ve been immersed in and do a little research on general problem-solving strategies that we can apply to our project. I have been aware of Stanford’s d.school and their “design thinking” method for about a year now, and I think their approach to out-of-the-box problem solving might be useful to us.

Design thinking is defined as a “structured approach to generating and developing ideas.” The problem-solving steps they recommend can be summarized as follows:

  1.  DISCOVERY. I have a challenge—how do I approach it?
  2. INTERPRETATION. I learned something—how do I interpret it?
  3. IDEATION. I see an opportunity—what do I create?
  4. EXPERIMENTATION. I have an idea—how do I build it?
  5. EVOLUTION. I tried something—how do I evolve it?

I discovered while researching this post that the d.school has developed a free toolkit for educators that’s specifically intended to help teachers design innovative solutions to educational problems. Though technically it seems to be aimed at K-12 educators, I’ve read through the toolkit and think it might be useful for our group as we move into the brainstorming phase of our work. It offers a lot of very specific guidance, including how to break up the problem-solving process into appropriate phases; specific activities for brainstorming and research; and useful modes of organization for an otherwise amorphous task.

For example, one of the early phases of the process involves defining the challenge you want to solve. They give the following example:

‘How might we create a teachers’ lounge with large couches?’ implies the solution is a room with large couches. ‘Why do we want to do that?’ surfaces the actual need of a space for teachers to be able to wind down in between classes. The brainstorm question would then be: ‘How might we create a space for teachers to unwind between classes?’ This expands possible solutions beyond the idea of a room with couches.”

If we apply that strategy to some of the questions we’ve been discussing in our group—’How might we develop meaningful online discussions,’ for example—the exercise might help us articulate the goal behind our teaching practices in a way that allows us to see them with new eyes, opening up the door to innovative solutions. (At least, that’s the idea :).

There might be some good reasons not to approach our project this way, but I wanted to see what you all think of the suggestion to download the toolkit and discuss whether it might be helpful to our work as we begin to plan for our next group meeting next week. Please feel free to comment with your thoughts!

 

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2 Responses to Brainstorming, Problem Solving, and Design Thinking

  1. Pingback: Design Thinking for Educators | Librarian-Instructor Partnerships

  2. Ben Brezner says:

    Interesting ideas, Kerry. It can be a good idea to get back to the basics and the root of the problem with a large task like this.

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