Over the last two weeks I worked with Grade 7 and 8 students introducing them to Design Thinking. With all of their regular timetabled subjects suspended for the day, we were able to focus on essential concepts and skills they will need to develop prior to the commencement of a major design project.

This is a modified scope and sequence we are trialling as part of the Canadian International School of Hong Kong interdisciplinary approach to MYP Technology.


Our learning outcomes for students were to;

  • become conversant with the design cycle
  • develop an understanding of design principles and elements
  • set up a navigation system and create a header image for their iFolio
  • instill confidence with Adobe Photoshop as a professional design tool
  • have fun and support one another!

Setting the Scene

The challenge was to develop a header image using Photoshop for an iFolio powered by Thesis and WordPress. We asked students to choose one of the IB Learner profiles to focus on for the year and explained that a success header image design will embody the C.R.A.P design principles and reflect the learner profile they are focusing on.

What Makes a Great Design?

Having students answer this question using the lingua franca of design is one of our expectations for the program. We gave them a short video with emphasis learning how to fail better, then introduced the infamous C.R.A.P principles from Robin Williams and finally asked them to deconstruct a header image using these principles.

Developing Ideas

Students picked one of the IB Learner Profile traits to focus on for the year and then on one side of A4 paper placed the trait in the center and mind mapped for colors, sounds, signs and symbols that reflect the trait. On the other side were two spaces for a header image sketch. Mind mapping with pencil and paper is such a great way to foster ideation, minimizing distractions that computers tend to amplify. They then took photos of the designs using PhotoBooth indicated preferred choice and uploaded these to a Moodle forum for all important feedback.

Creating the Solution

This is were rookie designers get excited and distracted. It’s important to bring conversations about possibilities back to the paper design they have decided on.

We provided a Photoshop file on Moodle with a pre-defined canvas measurement and named layers (text, image, background). This enabled students to get on with creative process without distraction of the workspace. Getting students up to model the creation steps to the class gives students confidence they too can use this professional software.

It was here we also model the use of FlickrStorm for locating high quality creative commons images. Finally the files were ‘Saved for Web’ in JPEG format from Photoshop and then ‘dragged and dropped’ to the image header form on WordPress!

Evaluating the Solution

This is where Moodle blends in nicely! It’s better use of contact time to have students conduct peer evaluation and use online tools for self-evaluation. Often you will see that the quality of reflection is higher when done in an open online forum as students refine their thinking based on the thoughts of their peers. They can also write at their own pace without the pressure of the school bell. Many students gave honest and constructive evaluations of their work guided by the C.R.A.P principles and intended IB Learner profile.

Happy Days

This was a fantastic start to the year made possible by a great team of teachers, supportive administration, awesome resources and fantastic students. Feedback was very positive from both staff and students and we will continue to ‘practice what we preach’ by refining the process.

How are you imparting design thinking with your students and colleagues? What are your ‘secret ingredients’ for a successful design project? Love to hear from you.