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What is Design Thinking?


                                                                      "We're design thinkers.  We make things better."  
                                                                             - DT Philly students at Laura H. Carnell School

Design thinking is a creative and structured approach to problem solving that helps people understand and address complex needs.  It is taught at leading universities and used by cutting-edge companies.  In K-12 education, design thinking offers students an engaging and hands-on opportunity to develop 21st century skills--including creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication--while actively connecting what they do in school to what goes on in the world around them.

Design thinking as we use it is a five-step process.  Moving through those steps, students hone competencies such as understanding the perspectives of others, information synthesis, big-picture thinking, risk taking, visual literacy, modeling, reflection, and analysis.  Here's what happens in each of the five steps:

Empathize:  Interact with and closely observe people and situations to identify an unmet need.

Define:  Analyze, organize, and interpret research findings to develop meaningful and actionable insights.

Ideate:  Brainstorm to generate many ideas about how to approach the problem you defined.

Prototype:  Bring potential solutions to life by creating physical or virtual models that test the viability and desirability of the design ideas.

Test:  Obtain feedback on the prototypes in order to select and refine a solution.

For a brief description of the types of activities students engage in as they use design thinking, please see the How We DT section under the DT Philly Challenge menu.