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Stanford University’s design thinking model is a process that can be used to explore and develop solutions to some of the problems facing the world today.

Focused on problem solving, the design thinking model fits well with our global citizenship education framework, especially the big idea of responsibility

A framework for global citizenship education in Aotearoa New Zealand.

© Centres of Asia-Pacific Excellence

The design thinking process involves exploring the views of all stakeholders, establishing what they consider to be their core problem(s), ideating solutions, developing and testing prototypes and finding the best solutions to the problem.

This video gives an overview of the process.

Empathising with others

The empathise stage of this process is one factor that makes this model so effective. This stage is especially important as solutions to problems will nearly always impact on people, either positively or negatively. A good understanding of the impact of the problem and possible solutions is essential. The empathise stage will help ākonga understand the points of view of all stakeholders.

It is really important that ākonga are scaffolded when first using this process. Each step of the process has multiple skills that need to be explicitly taught within the context of an authentic issue. Before starting, examine each step and list the skills that will be needed. Decide which ones you will focus on this time for explicit teaching. Other skills can be scaffolded – for example, by using a shared approach where the class works through that step together. The Stanford University Design Thinking Bootleg tools give lots of detail about each stage of the process.

Try not to introduce too many new skills at a time or this can lead to cognitive overload. As you work through the process in different contexts, you can gradually introduce the new skills as ākonga develop independence with previously learned skills. While initially the amount of skills to be taught may seem overwhelming, take your time and focus on a good understanding of one skill before moving to another. These skills will have multiple different applications and will be incredibly valuable additions to ākonga toolkits.

Our recent webinar explores this process and how it might be applied to problems within your own school and community. You can watch the video and explore the accompanying presentation here.

Getting started on issues and challenges

You might want to start with an issue in your school or local community so ākonga can learn to use the process before exploring global issues. 

  • Your local curriculum should give ideas for where to begin. 

  • The Ministry of Education site Pūtātara is another place to look for issues relating to sustainability and global citizenship across the curriculum in Aotearoa New Zealand. The site uses its own inquiry process but the design thinking tools could easily be incorporated. 

  • The UN Sustainable Development Goals can provide a starting point when looking at global issues.

This video shows an example of how students applied the design thinking process to the issue of clean drinking water.

Publishing to inform others

In the video, you may have noticed a publish stage they have added to the process where students can share what they have done. In the classroom, students could keep a record of their process and reflections and could share their findings and solutions to an outside audience such as through a blog. See the design thinking digital tools section below for suggestions on tools to use.

Try these digital tools to support design thinking

Tools to support empathising

  • Surveys –use Google forms to collect information. 

  • Video – use a tablet or phone to video interviews (with permission) so you can review them later.

  • Flip – post a question and gather responses via video.

Tools to define, ideate, prototype and test

  • Jamboard – digital interactive whiteboard. Post-it notes and drawings can be added.

  • Padlet or Lino.it - post-it note boards.

  • Popplet – mind-mapping tool.

  • Google Drawings – add images and text or draw.

  • Google Keep – add notes, photos, voice notes and images.

  • Trello – a project management tool.

  • OneNote – digital note-taking app – useful for keeping track of ideas and results – can add a variety of media.

Tools for publishing

  • Seesaw– a free blogging tool with lots of functionality. The audience posts about their process, and reflections can be limited to those invited via email. The blog option can be used to publish findings either publicly or to a controlled audience using a password.

  • Book Creator– students can easily create multimedia books sharing their findings, then publish them to the web. 

  • Google Slides– can add multimedia information. Easy to use and collaborate. Share the link or embed in a website like Google Sites.

Design Thinking Provocations

  • What are some problems in your school or community where you could use this process? 

  • Thinking of a local problem, who might the stakeholders be and how might you find out their points of view?

  • What skills will your ākonga need to learn in order to use this process? Which skills will you prioritise for teaching?

  • How might ideas from the GCED and design thinking webinar be applied in your classroom?

  • How could the Introduction to Design Thinking Process Guide be integrated in your students’ learning?

  • How might you use the Design Thinking Bootleg tools from Stanford University to support ākonga to learn the skills associated with the process?

  • Pūtātara – how might you use this resource to develop learning opportunities that are place-based, inquiry-led and focused on participation for change? 

Find out more how you can get involved, and discover what Aotearoa New Zealand is doing to make the world a more equitable, just and sustainable place.

Get in touch with the Centres of Asia-Pacific Excellent education team about professional development in your educational setting by visiting the Te Whai Toi Tangata website.

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