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Experiencing Design Thinking Ed Camp

On Saturday, October 5th, a group of teachers and administrators from Richland Academy made their way downtown to Bitmaker Labs to participate in the first ever Ed Camp Design Thinking open model “unconference”.  We arrived armed with our individual questions, prepared to seek the answers to each.Upon entering the spacious, open and inviting environment at Bitmaker Labs, we immediately knew that we were in the right place – A place that embraced intelligence, creativity, innovation, communication and collaboration.  The culture in this learning space encourages flow to transition and communicate, all while feeling the comforts of home.  From the warm welcome we received at the registration desk, to the moment we made our way to a table to begin our day, we mingled and conversed with strangers, long lost colleagues and people in our immediate circles. The energy was high, the questions were thought provoking, and conversations were deep and stimulating. It was inspirational to be among like-minded individuals who shared a passion and an interest in creating meaningful educational change.

This event brought together teachers, professors, and academics that represented all levels of education.  The diversity in the group brought new perspectives to discussions, and for many gave us pause to think about education’s purpose.  How can we prepare today’s youth for what lies ahead? Empathy for others and self-knowledge seemed to be reoccurring themes. Many felt students need to experience failure so that they will better learn to problem solve, and this is built into the Design Thinking model.

What is Design Thinking and how does it impact education?

Jennifer Chan, founder of Exhibit Change and EdCamp committee organizer launched the day by setting the stage and presenting a visual of the design thinking model. “It is a structured approach to generating and developing new ideas, solving real life problems and where problem finding is as important as problem solving.  Design Thinking is a practice and a mindset. It is human-centred, collaborative, optimistic and experimental.”

Design Thinking asks us to engage with a problem dynamically and non-linearly.  At the core of Design Thinking is empathy.  How can we solve a problem without being able to really empathize first? Only after we empathize, can we define the problem and work to solve it.In going with the spirit of Design Thinking, the day that followed was human-centred, collaborative, optimistic and experimental. We guided our own learning through active discussion, active listening and active questioning.  Deep questions stimulated conversations amongst the participants which lead to asking more questions, formulating theories and conclusions.  Our intellectual capacities were stretched as we steered our day forward.  This unconference was participant driven, intrinsically motivated, and deeply engaging.  The day could have gone well past 4:00pm but our mental exhaustion, despite feelings of exhilaration, invited us to call it a day.  It was now time to begin reflecting on what we had gleaned from this unconventional form of professional development, and the impact it would have in transforming our teaching practices.  We certainly left wanting more, and having more questions than when we first arrived that same morning.“Design thinking is about believing we can make a difference, and having an intentional process in order to get to new, relevant solutions that create positive impact.  It gives you faith with your creative abilities and a process for transforming difficult challenges into opportunities for design.” (DT for educators)

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