February, 2017

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UArts and Design Thinking

A couple of Saturdays ago I attended the Alumni and Friends workshop series offered at University of the Arts. It was a fantastic learning day overall, even though I was battling some serious post nasal drip (TMI?)…

I was most intrigued with the keynote when learning about the Design Lab School in Delaware, and how they are 1 in 10 schools to have been awarded a prestigious Super School grant, which you can read about in the below article.

Super School

I have been acclimating myself to design thinking for a few years now. I am a part of the Design Issues Group in the NAEA (you should be too!) and I find a lot of inspiration in this way of thinking. And truthfully, it’s not far off from what we already do, but there seems to more more intentional thought and focus that goes into the process for problem solving design issues.

But back to the keynote… This blurb taken from the UArts event page gives a description of the talk:

Can Design Thinking Transform Schools in the 21st Century?
Design Thinking is a way to bring K-12 schools into the 21st century. Schools haven’t changed much from the factory model developed for efficiency a century ago. We need to take education from the Model T to the Tesla. Talk with design leaders from the $100 million XQ Super School award winners and become part of the conversation about transforming education through Design Thinking. “

A quote they shared at the beginning of the keynote that really resonated with me:

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”― R. Buckminster Fuller

…That is what Design Lab has aimed to do…


So, Design Lab is not specifically an art school. They are a school that engages students in design thinking to every aspect of their learning in the school. They engage students in visual communication making it a more universal way of learning, and use the design thinking process to evolve students ideas into amazing results.

The process is similar to the Scientific Method, with the exception that the Scientific Method tests the “known”. With Design thinking, one is solving for the unknown, or the X-quotient (XQ). It involves a process to get to a result we do not know about… a “what if??”

The leaders of the school spoke of Meliorism, that is, the belief that the world can be made better through human effort. The intention of these super schools is to build a school model that does not fight the existing reality of how schools currently operate, but to build a new model which could be applicable to schools across the country. To me this is absolutely revolutionary. I got goosebumps thinking about the progress and impact we could make in our students lives… but I also feel concern.

How do we create this change? How could a new model of schooling and learning get effectively implemented in our schools and districts without damaging the systems that are already in place. As an advocate for public schools, I do feel some apprehension here. I feel there are larger conversations that need to take place regarding this. But I also see the promise in this sort of system… I just don’t know how we evolve without leaving some people or students at a disadvantage. How could we implement a model like this to work effectively in our public schools? Is it possible? I am just spit balling questions here now? I am by no means an expert on this? Nor am I saying this is the answer to all our education issues. I just see this as an innovation in education, and I wonder, what next?

What do you think? What questions does this bring up for you? Do you think this is a sustainable idea?

I do hope my line of thought is clear in this post. It’s a heavy topic. I am concerned for where education is headed in our country and I suppose I am searching for hope, for answers, and for direction.

Last lil bit here… I was made aware of a book I plan to read next… maybe you will be interested in it also Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind. 

Just need to finish this book first…

A taste of Tyler

FYI art teachers:

​This is the link to the Tyler Web site with all the info.
Workshops are:



PAEA Conference Info

Please use the slide out links to the right.