Evrim Baran, associate professor in the School of Education, implements "design thinking" modules in her classroom at Iowa State to stimulate innovative problem solving.

School of Education implements ‘design thinking’ modules to stimulate innovation

Learning technologies students in the School of Education are using “design thinking” to instill an entrepreneurial mindset into their teaching. New learning modules recently implemented in their classrooms which involve a process of empathizing, defining, ideating, prototyping, and testing encourage future teachers to use innovative problem solving in classrooms using technology.

The student-centered approach to creative problem solving can be used to innovate educational improvements, such as creating a classroom environment that optimizes learning.

Megan Reinke, senior in elementary education, used the new approach to design a solution to minimize students’ phone distractions while studying.

“I loved that [the modules] showed me design and creativity is more important than right answers,” Reinke said. “This idea is so lost in the classroom. It was so fun to truly show what I know and am passionate about by putting [effort] into creating something that could benefit others.”

Reinke’s and her student teammates pitched their final idea to the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center to gain practice of presentational skills and obtain feedback. The idea for a new app the team pitched would lock students’ phones while they were doing homework, but give them access to self-timers for time management. Reinke has the potential to use her phone lock prototype in her future elementary classroom.

“I loved creating,” Reinke said. “I loved the ‘Yes, and…’ mindset. We didn’t allow any ideas to be given a ‘no’ in our group. We constantly were thinking and improving our prototype. It was exciting that I found value and truly knew the ins-and-outs of my group’s design.”

The new modules were developed by Evrim Baran, associate professor in the School of Education, unifying collaboration between the Center for Learning Technologies, the College of Design and the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center.

“[The modules are] creating a community and going beyond the borders of the class to other spaces by making networks, making connections with [future] teachers and other key people.” Baran said. “[Students] are also learning how to present an idea, how to sell an idea, practice presentation skills and communication skills, and understand how to improve their work.”

Design thinking is becoming more important, especially in improving future teachers’ innovative mindsets. The design thinking modules are unique to Iowa State because it is one of the few programs that focuses design thinking to future teachers. They are currently being implemented in EDUC 302, Principles and Practices of Learning with Technology and EDUC 454, Emerging Topics in Educational Technologies, courses.

“[Students] experience this process here so when they go out and teach in their classrooms they can integrate whatever they learn here in their classrooms,” Baran said. “We should be modeling [the education program] to these future teachers.”