Riverdale Country School

Riverdale Country School: Design Thinking for Educators

Since the publication of Dan Pink's book, A Whole New Mind, suggested that we should become better "design thinkers", there has been an interest in all sectors in "design thinking". In 2007, Riverdale Country School began a partnership with IDEO (www.ideo.com) - an international design firm that has formalized a rigorous process of design thinking to solve complex design challenges - to work on translating "design thinking" into educational environments. The initial phase of this work included workshops with teachers, and in 2011 resulted in the Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit (www.designthinkingforeducators.com), a free 94-page guide to the design process specifically intended for use by educators. This toolkit has been downloaded more than 15,000 times in over 100 countries.

The next phase of this work, which will be supported significantly by the E.E. Ford Foundation grant, is to help spread the concept of design thinking to other school settings, both independent and public, and to build more case studies of design thinking being used robustly in schools to help solve educational design challenges such as curriculum development, professional improvement, and schools' use of space.

To that end, we hosted an initial workshop with educators and designers from Riverdale, other independent schools, public schools, and universities in June of this year. We also started a weblog to document ongoing work (www.dt4e.org). This June workshop prepared us to offer a free online design thinking for educators workshop with Edutopia (www.edutopia.org) and IDEO this summer, open to educators across the nation and the world (from July 30 to August 31).

As a follow up to these two initial events, we are going to hold a national conference on design thinking for educators in October. Held in New York City at Riverdale and Parsons School of Design, the conference will offer educators from all sectors an opportunity to do design thinking together. Participants will be able to connect with other practitioners and share their work. Over the course of this next year we are developing several teams of teachers, students, and designers to work on and document various case studies of the use of design thinking in schools to improve learning and the student experience. We hope to continue sharing design thinking experiences in the years ahead, both at annual conferences at Riverdale and other sites. We have already developed a set of partners: IDEO, Parsons School of Design, the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, Edutopia, and Cannon Design. We are hopeful that with the support of the E.E. Ford Foundation we can help broaden the effective use of the design thinking process, improving education and empowering learners - both teachers and students - to become designers of their own learning and teaching.