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Human-Centered Design Helps Drive Innovation
Human-Centered Design Helps Drive Innovation

Nicole Snedden, District Innovation Coordinator, discusses how human-centered design influences innovation and helps both students and staff address problems quickly and efficiently:

What is Human-Centered Design?

It's a creative approach to problem-solving, basically. It's about really understanding and empathizing with the people you are designing for and then generating ideas and prototypes to test your new and innovative solution to whatever problem it is you are trying to solve.

Why Do We Use this Approach to Problem-Solving?

We're teaching what it means to truly empathize. Giving our teachers and students those tools has been empowering. For teachers, it evokes that passion to foster students' learning and to share that love with their students. For students, it gives them more tools to solve problems quickly and in a way that is collaborative, thoughtful, and inclusive.

How Did it Start in Minnetonka?

Four years ago, when I was teaching fifth grade, I thought it would be a great opportunity for my students to take what they were learning in our curriculum and partner with architects, designers, and engineers to propose a redesign of their own learning space. Thus, Design for Learning was born and the start of Human-Centered Design began to grow in our District. Later we realized this process isn't just about space. Students, teachers and staff can use this process for any big problem they are trying to tackle that includes several perspectives so that when they're in classrooms and teaching or learning curriculum, they're empathizing, collaborating, and problem-solving.

Example of Use Today?

There are little pockets around the District where this kind of design for learning happens. For example, I recently witnessed a lesson at the high school with a group of ninth-grade physics students who were designing a toy structure for a company. They had to build a prototype that addressed a variety of parameters and requirements. The teacher redesigned the unit so that students first had to go through the Human-Centered Design process. They interviewed each other and then defined what the user really needed in this toy. It's not just what they thought they needed, it's what the user needed. From there, they were able to brainstorm and then create a prototype.

What About Our Younger Students?

Even our kindergarteners are weighing-in on the kind of space they need to learn best throughout the school year. This empowers them to be advocates of their own learning and to have an investment and a voice in what works best for them. Those are things that kids learn over the years, but to be able to know it intrinsically and advocate for themselves, this helps students know who they are.

Why is Human-Centered Design such a Powerful, Impactful Approach to Learning?

When using Human-Centered Design, we embrace the belief that all problems can be solved and that the people who face the problems are the ones who hold the key to the best solutions. This helps us to be deeply invested in others' points of view, to work together, to think critically, to drive toward action and a solution and to take risks in prototyping and presenting new possibilities.

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