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d.tech’s Ever-Changing Approach to Design Thinking

By Nick Hom

Photo by Victoria Khaw

At the heart of everything d.tech values, is the design thinking process. Over the past three years, the way design thinking has been presented to students has been revised. This brings up the questions, how much has it changed? Have students learned a lot about the process? How much do students value design thinking?

Samantha Tse, a junior that has been at d.tech since the hallway, says that the way design thinking is being taught has changed drastically. She was recently in the “Teach for d.tech” design lab, and was surprised to find that the current freshman know a lot more about the process than she did in her first year. “I think it’s because of the deep dive that they do,” Tse said. She continued saying, “We didn’t have to explain the process [to them]. When the challenge started, they already knew what to do, and they were a lot more prepared than we expected.” When the juniors were freshmen, they conducted full design challenges. You could say they were thrown into the deep end of the pool. Now, students take “deep dives” into specific parts of the design thinking process for two weeks at a time. From my perspective, when I was a freshman, design challenges felt rushed, and we never discussed the core concepts in depth. I think that by having the freshman zero in on individual steps, they are able to grasp the core concepts of the design thinking process better.

There has been a lot of debate over whether or not moving design lab to intersession was the right move. Nicole Cerra, d.tech’s Director of Learning, explained one of the reasons why it was switched: “It makes the quality of design lab classes better when it is during intersession. It’s hard for teachers to balance both design lab curriculum and regular school work at the same time.” The flip side, is that students no longer have exposure to design thinking all year long.

Photo by Victoria Khaw

A common complaint people had, was that putting design lab in intersession takes away one of the intersession class slots. “It’s terrible. All this year, I can only have d.lab and then Photography. I want to be able to experience two different intersession classes, so I don’t have to only do one all year for VAPA credit. I liked having it during regular curriculum,” says junior, Ashley Phan. Some people actually have no preference, such as Wayne Brock, the engineering teacher. “I do not have strong feelings either way. I incorporate design thinking into my classroom curriculum, so either way has its benefits and downsides.” he says.

Others complain that design lab should be taught throughout the entire year to give students more exposure to it. Tracey Morley, a freshman parent, said, “I think it would be better to have design lab during the regular class schedule so it can be practiced and real problems can be solved.” She also said that, “It doesn’t seem to be woven through the curriculum the way that I was expecting it to be.” With d.tech’s heavy emphasis on design thinking, incorporating the concepts that students learn in design lab would help students practice their skills. Matthew Cooley, second year math teacher, agreed: “We should consider how we can incorporate d.thinking into the everyday d.Tech experience better.”

As for future improvements, it seems that the general consensus is to throw the students back into the deep end of the pool. Students, parents, and teachers all said that solving real life problems would help engage students. Ally Shirman, a sophomore, said that she wants design labs that, “Use real problems, and not just ones made up in d.tech. Students will be able to see how to really use [design thinking] outside of d.tech’s community. Seeing it used in the real world creates a new connection and idea of how useful design thinking really is.”


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