Professional Development | News

Edutopia Offers Free Design Workshop

K-12 teachers will have an opportunity to attend a free five-week design workshop offered by Edutopia as part of Connected Educators Month, a project sponsored by the United States Department of Education.

The workshop is intended to encourage teachers to use design thinking in the schools and is the result of a collaboration between Edutopia, an outreach of The George Lucas Educational Foundation, IDEO, a global design firm, and New York City-based Riverdale Country School, an independent preK-12 school.

Design thinking is an approach that attempts to take into consideration people and environments to yield new solutions.

Five key steps of the process include:

  • Discovery;
  • Interpretation;
  • Ideation;
  • Experimentation; and
  • Evolution.

Organized as an introduction to design thinking, the workshop will devote its first four weeks to videos featuring different steps in design thinking, design challenges, and online brainstorming among the community members. During the final week of the workshop, participants will have a chance to tackle a design challenge within their own schools.

"Strong online communities and networks, at their most effective, foster collaborative problem solving and the co-creation of new knowledge, and design thinking provides a powerful guiding framework for enabling that," said Karen Cator, director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education. "Problem solving in education needs to be informed by a clear picture of reality on the ground but also with an openness to distinctively different ways of approaching problems. Design thinking offers a process to better understand the environment and develop novel solutions in an iterative, cost effective, and inclusive way."

The workshop began July 30 and is scheduled to end August 31 with all content available on-demand.

"I draw on design process all of the time now in thinking about
almost every system you can imagine, from how to archive student records to how to involve parents in our new student assessment strategies," said Karen Fierst, a learning specialist at Riverdale Country School and part of the first grade literacy program redesign team. "Investing time and energy in learning a versatile approach to tackle old challenges and to bring new ideas to fruition will pay us back manifold, no matter the educational setting you're in or the magnitude of your challenge."

"Educators are designing every day--from lesson plans to interactions with students to solutions for their schools" said Sandy Speicher, education lead at IDEO. "Design thinking is really about having a set of methods by which you can intentionally design new solutions that help you achieve new outcomes, and feel inspired and energized in the process."

More information is available at

Editor's note: This article has been modified since its original publication to correct a factual error. We erroneously stated that the Department of Education was sponsoring the workshop. Connected Educators Month is sponsored by ED; the workshop is not. [Last updated July 31, 2012 at 2:22 p.m.] --David Nagel