Redesigning Design Thinking

Deconstructing to Reconstruct Education (Part 4 of 4)

There is a key word in education today: innovation.  The design thinking model of the D School at Stanford is centered on it, bringing worthwhile ideas to education, however it is missing something critically important.  For true creativity in reinventing our institutions and ways of life that trailblaze our shared future we must intentionally cultivate a broad and deep repertoire of knowledge.  

In order to create something new, we must begin with what already exists or has existed.  If we start from the present and a specific context in which to empathize, as design thinking proposes, we will lose the breadth of vision of what has happened in the past and what is happening across different contexts to respond to the same problem.  For this reason, it is fundamentally important that students research how human beings have faced similar challenges over time and across cultures, thus building up a broad and deep repertoire of knowledge resources, both practically and theoretically, in order to design creative new approaches to the problems we face in the 21st century.  

Equally important, if not more so, we need to understand not only how people act, but why, the meaning embedded in their actions. We need to question assumptions, underlying bias and core understandings that underscore how people frame problems and propose solutions to them.  We must research the myriad of diverse practices people have toward any human activity and the underlying beliefs that sustain them, then use this knowledge as tool to design the future.  

If we empower children at school to make meaningful decisions and build up the understanding that in each decision there is a design, then there is the possibility to innovate.  They do not need to reproduce the past or the present, although they do need to know what exists and what has existed in the realm of possibility for action and belief.  

Rather than harping endlessly about the uncertain future that children in school today face, we should be empowering them to make meaningful choices in their lives that reflect an understanding of the wide range of possibilities for action and, importantly, where the beliefs that underscore those actions come from and what their implications are.  In this way, the children of today do not need to be held hostage by the uncertainty of tomorrow, they can be empowered to be the innovators of our shared future.
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To transform education in order to move humanity forward to face the challenges of the 21st century, increasingly globalized world in a collaborative, creative, critical, connected and caring way.

The founder and primary contributor to Education for Contemporary Times is Sarah O. Weiler, long-time educator with a M.A. in Global Education from the University of Illinois and a M.A. in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Education at the prestigious Institute of Education at the University of London in the UK.
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