Social Media can Play Numerous Meaningful Roles in the “Design Thinking” Classroom
Many educators believe that their primary purpose isn’t necessarily to teach their students facts and figures, but to teach them how to think and solve problems. As part of the process of “learning to think,” the concept of design thinking has been gaining traction in classrooms from the early elementary level all the way through college and beyond.
The concept of design thinking is deceptively simple. In essence, it’s an approach to problem-solving in which students identify the challenge, learn more about their challenge, come up with ideas to solve the problem, and then refine the solution based on feedback and testing.
In some circles, the process is even more simplified: a problem and a potential solution are identified, a prototype solution is created, and then refined based on feedback. The idea behind this type of thinking in education is to not only encourage creativity and find new ways to approach challenges, but also to encourage interdisciplinary thinking and collaboration among students.
Another key aspect of design thinking is the concept of empathy. Design thinking requires problem-solvers to consider the end users of their solutions throughout the entire process. Rather than focusing on problem solving for its own sake, design thinking instead focuses on the people who need solutions, and keeps their needs and desires in the forefront of the design process.
Studies show that in recent decades, empathy among college students in particular has declined sharply — but that teaching processes like design thinking encourages students to learn to listen to others and fully understand their needs to design solutions that truly work for them.
Design Thinking In The Classroom
So what does design thinking actually look like in the classroom environment? As it turns out, it can take a nearly infinite number of forms.
For example, one elementary school teacher used the concept to design a classroom space that encouraged her young students to become more comfortable and engaged in the classroom. She requested input from the class on the problems and challenges they saw in the room, and used their suggestions to design a space that better met their needs. After refining some of the suggestions, the students are now more engaged with learning, in a space that works for them.
At higher levels, students are using the design thinking process to develop business or product ideas that not only reinforce important business concepts, but also support them as future leaders and innovators. By learning such skills as user-focused thinking, collaboration, and creating prototypes, students are able to develop their skills of empathy as it relates to problem-solving — and in the process, learn to take more risks and not fear failure.
While younger children aren’t always fully aware of the effect that design thinking has on their learning, starting the process young fosters the important concepts as a foundation to future learning.
And while the process doesn’t require any special tools or technology to be effective — design thinking can be accomplished with little more than pen and paper — collaboration tools like Google Apps, animation creators, wikis, and more allow for more creative solutions, improved teamwork, and a more in-depth feedback process. In fact, one of the most useful tools in the design thinking process is social media, which by its very nature encourages listening, empathy, and useful feedback.
Social Media’s Role in Design Thinking
Many educators struggle with how — or even if — to include social media in the classroom. However, social media is almost unavoidable in everyday life, and it can be argued that students need to learn how to use it responsibly and how it can be used as a tool for their exploration of the world, and it’s invaluable to educators using a design thinking approach.
Social media allows classrooms to extend beyond its physical boundaries and connect with other classrooms, communities, and cultures. From class blogs to social media feeds where students can share what they are working on and get feedback and ideas from other classrooms.
Classrooms can take cues from major businesses, who have found success with the idea of “rapid prototyping,” in which they seek feedback via social tools and use the information gathered to refine and improve their products and marketing. The idea is not to identify what students are doing “wrong,” but instead reveal aspects that can be improved.
Through social media, students can create new conversations, ask and answer questions, and discover new possibilities to help refine their solutions.
As educators look for new ways to inspire their students and encourage them to approach problems creatively, design thinking holds significant potential. Incorporating technology, particularly social media, allows for more collaboration and conversation, allowing for the development of empathy and stronger leadership skills.
If education is designed to teach students how to think, then the design thinking process is undoubtedly an important part of the classroom experience.