Since launching ‘Design Thinking for Educators’ in April 2010, the toolkit developed by IDEO, in partnership with Riverdale Country School, a private elementary school in New York has been downloaded over tens of thousands of times all over the world. This tool, freely available for download includes the 80-page toolkit, a quick start guide that gets educators thinking about incorporating design thinking into their classroom in as little as an hour and a workbook that can be easily printed for distribution in a group environment.

IDEO has been a champion of design thinking for a decade and with this toolkit, offers teachers a new perspective when confronted by a particular obstacle in the classroom.

As teachers and students return to the classroom for a new school year, Icsid approached Emily Boren, Business Development, Systems Design at IDEO with a few questions about the toolkit and the organisation’s mission to bring design and design thinking to the classroom.

Q: Why did you start this toolkit? Where did the need come from? 

A few years ago we were doing work with teachers, helping them consider how they could redesign their school to be more effective for today’s learner. One of the things we realised is how pressured teachers are – with so many students each having different needs, with time being such a constraint, with the need to connect with parents, and the many other pressures of the system – that it was incredibly challenging for them to consider designing new solutions. But when we walked them through a design process, it was amazing to see how quickly they were able to access their creativity and their confidence. At that point, not only did new, relevant solutions emerge, but the teachers really enjoyed the process. We wanted to figure out something we could do to help teachers develop the mindset of a designer, so they could feel that joy and enthusiasm as they create new solutions everyday in their classrooms.

Around the same time, we began to talk with Dominic Randolph, the headmaster at Riverdale Country School in New York. He was very excited by the potential of design thinking to improve education and interested in testing it within the school. For a year, our team worked with his teachers, introducing them to design thinking and discovering the potential outcomes for the school.

It was from this collaboration that the Design Thinking for Educators toolkit was developed and produced as an open and free resource for all educators around the globe.

Q: Who is the Design Thinking for Educators toolkit intended for? Can you describe the type of educator/person who would be using this toolkit?

The toolkit was designed for K-12 teachers. The core idea is to help teachers see that they are already unconsciously using design principles. They are designing solutions every single day from finding new ways to teach more effectively, making decisions about classroom space, or developing approaches to connecting with parents. Having a process for design can help teachers be more intentional about this process.

Q: What has the feedback been like since the release of the toolkit? 

The first toolkit was released in April 2010, and it spread across all continents within the first 24 hours. We had a tremendous response on all social channels and got great feedback, but it took a while until we actually received stories from educators that had adopted the toolkit in their classroom.

Q: Version 2 of the toolkit is currently available on your website. What are the most significant changes from version 1? Is a version 3 on its way?

Version 2 took into account the feedback we received from educators who had downloaded and used the first version. We incorporated more stories, used cases to provide more concrete examples and created a workbook. We don’t currently have plans for a third iteration.

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