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Why Design Thinking Has a Place in Your Classroom

February 13, 2019

Regular followers of the blog know how much I value my network of Apple Distinguished Educators. Just like many education communities, this group of enthusiastic educators share fantastic ideas, strategies, and tips for teachers. You might know Apple Distinguished Educator Michael Cohen as a keynote speaker at last year’s annual ISTE conference in Chicago. He is also a fellow Participate course author and has written a new book. It is titled, Educated by Design: Designing the Space to Experiment, Explore, and Extract Your Creative Potential.

Design Thinking in Schools

Design thinking is a popular topic among educators. Teachers and school leaders who are committed to innovative practices have been drawn to this topic. They want to prepare students to problem solve in a variety of contexts.

So when I heard about Michael Cohen’s new Participate course Creative Problem Solving in the Classroom, I was excited to chat more with him about his work. As you can see in the interview below, both Michael’s course and new book share the power of design thinking. He makes an argument for why it has a place in every classroom.

What brought you into the field of education?

I was working as a Creative Director in the non-profit sector. I had an opportunity to teach some foundational design courses at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. The feedback from student surveys at the end of the first semester left me, and my department chair shocked.

Students had left me some of the highest ratings and feedback they had seen. Students said that I helped them become stronger and more independent designers. They felt I gave each one of them the attention they needed to succeed. Fast forward to today, and I am entering my tenth year of education. I have been a teacher, Director of EdTech, and now Director of Innovation.

Tell us about your new book and what inspired you to create this new resource?

The inspiration behind my new book was both a desire to provide a new type of value for educators, as well as document and reflect on the past ten years of working in education. Especially the last five years have been filled with incredible growth for both myself, my schools, and those I support. I felt that I need to take a shot at documenting one journey towards becoming a more creative person.

What do you hope educators will take away from the book?

Belief in themselves and others is a huge component of this book. To reveal the creative potential in ourselves and others requires a shift in mindset but most importantly clear opportunities that lead to action.

Learn about design thinking in schools from Michael Cohen. In his new book and course you'll find the tools you need to get started with design thinking.

What is one thing a teacher can do tomorrow to put your ideas into action?

Read the book! In all seriousness I put a tremendous amount of effort into creating activities that address each of the ten principles that make up Educated By Design. The book culminate with a creativity tool kit as well. Lots of things to do in this book beyond reading the stories that make up my journey in education.

You have a new course from Participate, why is design thinking essential for educators to explore?

Creative Problem Solving in the Classroom gives you an incredible set of tools to problem solve with others in mind. As educators, we design every day. What is missing is the vernacular and framework to make our design decisions more strategic. Whether it is a lesson, classroom layout, or an individualized plan for a student, every educator is a designer for someone, including ourselves.

Learn about design thinking in schools from Michael Cohen. In his new book and course you'll find the tools you need to get started with design thinking.

Who would benefit from taking this course?

I have designed this course to support K-12 classroom teachers, teacher leaders, and administrators. The course is designed so everyone has something to bring back to their school to implement, as well as more awareness around their divergent thinking abilities.

What will someone find in your course?

The course contains intro videos, audio links (for those on the road), recommended readings, activities, and a private Facebook group that will hopefully create a powerful PLN for those engaged in the course.

What do you hope educators will walk away with after completing this course?

I want educators to walk away ready to implement the activities shared in the course as well as to design their own Design-Driven experiences. I have tried to make this course as hands-on and practical as possible to ensure participants are successful in their classroom.

Where can folks connect with you if they’d like to stay in touch?

If there is a social platform you’re on, search for @TheTechRabbi, and I will likely be there. The easiest way to connect to me is on Twitter, but I am putting more and more content on my YouTube Channel, Instagram, and Facebook page.

Michael Cohen’s new book is now available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. You can click here to get your copy of Educated by Design: Designing the Space to Experiment, Explore, and Extract Your Creative Potential. His self-paced course Creative Problem Solving in the Classroom is live now on the Participate platform. And you can watch one of his webinars too if you head over to this page on his website. I can’t wait for you to check out these design thinking resources!

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Dr. Monica Burns is a former classroom teacher, Author, Speaker, and Curriculum & EdTech Consultant. Visit her site ClassTechTips.com for more ideas on how to become a tech-savvy teacher.

2 Responses to “Why Design Thinking Has a Place in Your Classroom”

  1. Thank you for sharing this interview, Monica. I’ve been curious about “design thinking”, but I haven’t had the time to do any research on the topic. I’ll need to check out Micheal Cohen’s new book, for sure. The course sounds fascinating. I love it when professional development focuses on implementation. Great post!

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