Design Thinking in PYP and the Genius Hour – supporting Student Agency

This year we introduced a new framework for our PYP students: Design thinking. Our students engage with Design Thinking principles on a daily basis across the transdisciplinary curriculum, both during the dedicated Genius Hour time and especially during their Units of Inquiry.

“Articulating a model or framework for the process of inquiry is a helpful way to support and guide our practice. The intention of the ‘cycle’ is to guide the teacher’s (and learner’s ) thinking beyond simply coming up with ‘activities’ and towards a more thoughtful process that assists students to move from the known to the new. The need to ‘name’ some kind of process was first revealed to me as a young teacher by my fabulous mentors Marilyn Woolley and Keith Pigdon. They helped me move beyond thematic planning and into a more rigorous way of thinking about how to guide learning.”

Kath Murdoch

The immersion in Design Thinking and engineering at ISM

With our new partnerships with FHSW robotics and engineering faculty, HST, and generous donations from local and international companies; Dr. Wahler & Kollegen and Horton, our extracurricular clubs have been able to add Lego Serious Play, specifically Mindstorms EV3 robots into the eager hands of our students. This year we aim to integrate more STEAM (MINT in German) opportunities for our students with a dedicated Design Lab. Our students will have an opportunity to practice their technology skills literally hands-on!

By asking “What do we need next?”, design thinkers craft a unique process for each particular project. As students become more mindful of the process they have used on previous projects, they build confidence in their ability to successfully navigate open-ended challenges.

Inquiry and Design

Design thinking is a non-linear, iterative process that seeks to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems, and create innovative solutions to prototype and test. Here at ISM, we embed Design Thinking into our Units of Inquiry to create authentic learning experiences and to integrate Approaches to Learning into our core curriculum.

ISM students have two authentic opportunities to utilize and implement design thinking in their learning. As I already mentioned we use design thinking in our units of inquiry but we also support our students in Genius Hour

​What is Genius Hour?

Also known as “passion projects” or “20% time,” Google is credited for making “the 20% project” what it is today. They asked their employees to spend 20% of their work time on a pet project…anything. As a result of the 20% project at Google, we now have Gmail, AdSense, and Google News. Innovative ideas and projects are allowed to flourish and/or fail without the bureaucracy of committees and budgets.

In school, Genius Hour is for all learners! Every week students and teachers will have self-directed time to pursue their passions, choose what they will master, inquire about their own curiosities. Over the course of “Genius Hour,” learners will choose their passion, guide their learning, and develop a project of their choosing. Along the way, we will enhance information and digital literacy skills, as well as curiosity, connectivity, and creativity.

In the end each of you will be a genius, contributing to the world and teaching all of us!

Genius Hour & 3 Factors that Lead to Motivation and Personal Satisfaction

​1.) Autonomy: Our desire to be self-directed, to direct our own lives. Through autonomy, you will produce things that may have never emerged.

2.) Mastery: Our urge to become better in some area or skill. Challenge, mastery and a sense of contribution are more motivating than successful fulfillment of any prescribed criteria.

3.) Purpose: We are more invested and creative when we are guided by a purpose. For example, Steve Jobs said his guiding purpose was to “make a Ding in the universe,” not money, not fulfill prescribed steps, but to make a “Ding,” and it’s clear that he has. What “Ding” will you make? What will be your purpose?

What are our Learning Goals?

1.) We are going to develop and practice a variety of skills as we each pursue a topic of our own interest.

2.) We will practice researching, note-taking, and synthesis of ideas, citation, critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, presentation skills, reading, writing, and digital literacy.

​3.) We will share our completed work with the world through our webpages and blogs, in addition to being the genius that teaches the class what you learned, built, and created.

4 Rules to Genius Hour

You must research

You must create

You must present

​ You must reflect

John spencer

With these changes and opportunities students have more authentic options to use their own choices, follow their interest and learn about the world around them.

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