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Understanding the Phases
               The  first  two  phases  of  design  thinking  involve  understanding  the  problem
            or  challenge  and  understanding  the  user.  Design  thinking  redefines  problems  as
            challenges rather than seeing every issue as a problem. Design thinking differs from
            traditional problem-solving because the process starts with “What if?” rather than
            “What’s wrong?”
               One common way to frame design challenges is by asking “How might we”
            questions that help define the issue. These questions should be broad enough to  Dr. Amie Cieminski
            allow for possibilities and narrow enough to focus on the issue at hand. Educators   is currently an
            can use the design-thinking process for numerous challenges, including            associate professor
                                                                                              in educational
              • How might we incorporate new technology into our courses?                     leadership at the
              • How might we build strong student-student relationships in an online course?  University of Northern
              • How might we be more student-centered in our approach to student advising?    Colorado. She has
              • How might we support new faculty, especially faculty of color?                been a Spanish
              • How might we retain the most talented teachers in our school?                 teacher, elementary
              • How might we reimagine our teacher workroom to encourage collaboration?       principal, and director
                                                                                              of professional
              • How might we engage students in solving issues within our community?          learning in addition
              • How might we engage parents from diverse backgrounds in our school?           to holding other
              • How might we rethink our traditional projects to get better results?          leadership positions
               A key to designing solutions with potential is understanding the users. Users are  within K–12 education.
            the people who will benefit from the innovation, such as students, teachers, parents,   She is passionate
            clients, group members, or community members. There are many ways to understand   about educator
                                                                                              and leadership
            the users and their needs. Activities in the empathize phase include reading first-hand   development. A
            narratives,  conducting  focus  groups,  asking  experts,  visiting  analogous  settings,   member and current
            conducting empathy interviews, and observing the users. For example, designers  president of Delta
            might interview children before designing new playground equipment or observe  Chapter in Colorado
            hotel guests registering and checking in before redesigning the registration process   State Organization,
            at a high school. One powerful approach is the empathy interview. Designers listen to   she initiated a
                                                                                              chapter project
            the users to gain a deep understanding of their needs, wishes, feelings, motivations,   to support early-
            and  desires  while  putting  their  own  assumptions  aside.  In  empathy  interviews,   career educators in
            designers explore issues through open-ended questions about users’ best and worst  a local elementary
            experiences, asking them to explain more.                                         school. Cieminski
               Once designers better understand their users and their challenge, they are ready   is an optimist and
            to generate solutions through ideation. Ideation is usually a fast-paced part of the   a maximizer who
                                                                                              is always looking
            process. Designers use techniques such as brainstorming, mind mapping, sketching,   for ways to make
            and storyboarding so that the team members can generate ideas quickly, build on   teaching and learning
            each  other’s  ideas,  and  refine  ideas.  Team  members  share  multiple  and  diverse  more effective.
            perspectives that create synergy and unique solutions. Nobel Prize Chemist Linus
            Pauling stated, “The best way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the   amie.cieminski@
            bad ones away” (Pauling, n.d.). This principle can guide a team as they encourage
            wild ideas, go for quantity of ideas over quality, and think, “Yes, and” rather than
            “No, but.”
               In prototyping, designers hone in on a few solutions that they want to explore
            more thoroughly and flesh out. They may combine several of the ideas from the
            ideate phase. Designers do not worry about getting all the details correct in rapid
            prototyping. They make their ideas tangible by creating simple mock-ups and models
            from craft supplies, role-playing, or writing out their ideas in more detail. They often
            share their emerging solutions with other designers and users to get feedback before
            finalizing their plans.

            Changing Perspectives on Teaching and Learning                                                      7
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