This year, my students are learning about the design thinking process: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

My teaching team decided to begin the year with a low stakes high-interest challenge: design a water park for our community.

The first step in the design thinking process is empathy. Too often my students want to jump right to a solution without really understanding the problem. However, “empathy is the centerpiece of a human-centered design process. The Empathize mode is the work you do to understand people, within the context of your design challenge. It is your effort to understand the way they do things and why, their physical and emotional needs, how they think about the world, and what is meaningful to them.”

During the empathize stage, students walked downtown to interview business owners. They wanted to find how business owners would feel about a new water park opening in our town. They wanted to understand their concerns and learn from their experience.

Our students interviewed a class of kindergarten students to understand what young kids would find appealing about a water park. These conversations were invaluable because kindergarten-aged children are less concerned with what’s realistic, so their ideas were incredibly creative and “outside of the box.”

I wanted to connect my students with even more stakeholders, so I used FlipGrid–a video discussion platform–to post this question.

Then I sent a request out on Twitter asking other teachers to have their students record a 90-second video message for my class. We wanted to know if they had been to a water park before and what they thought my students should consider including in their water parks. The response was overwhelming! We received 127 video messages from classrooms all over the United States sharing their thoughts on what would make a water park appealing.

As we watched the videos, I was impressed by the issues students raised about sanitation, food vendors, rental equipment, etc. This FlipGrid connected my students to voices they otherwise would never have heard.

Technology offers teachers a growing number of options when it comes to connecting classrooms, but I love that FlipGrid is video based. It’s easy to create a discussion topic, share it on social media, and use the responses in class. For those teachers who have resisted social media, like Twitter, and view it as one more thing to do, I have to emphasize the power of having a social media presence as an educator. My engagement on Twitter made it so much easier for me to connect with other teachers and ask for help. I am so grateful to all of the educators who sacrificed precious class time to allow their students to record messages for my class!


10 Responses

  1. Love this idea! We are starting to play with Flipgrid in our district, and this idea of connecting out beyond the building walls is right in line with the PBL and Design Thinking work we are doing!

  2. Hi, Catlin. I love your ideas! Can you tell me if you’ve purchased FlipGrid for your classroom or if you went with the free trial. Please keep these outside of the box ideas coming – your lurkers truly appreciate them!

  3. I have loved watching Flipgrid grow and grow. It is such a unique platform and I LOVE watching my fellow educators come up with amazing ideas like this. I love this! This could be used for formative assessment, book reports, character studies, biography re-enactments, historical figures debating, students could personify different pieces of grammar and syntax – the possibilities are endless.

    Thanks for the post!

  4. Oh come on Catlin, you have such great ideas… I would love to spend a year by your side to learn about your teaching style, it must be unforgettable…
    One more fantastic idea to keep in mind!!!

    Thank you

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