My name is Vishnu Raj Maniyil. I am a MSc Human computer Interaction student at School of digital technologies at Tallinn University.
Firstly, I would like to share that it was a privilege to be part of Proovikivi and conduct my research part of my masters degree thesis and contribute to the team and the community. My journey started with engaging in platform design and development as a Designer as part of my Internship completed Spring ‘20. My previous experiences and interest in design thinking and social responsibility projects were the motivating factors to join Proovikivi and to collaborate with Maarja Hallik.
My research ‘Bringing design thinking to a project based learning programme’ was started in Spring ‘20 with the teachers, youth workers and Proovikivi programme leaders. The goal of this research project was to find out in which way stakeholders can be engaged while designing a DT toolkit that could support the project based learning (PBL) process in classrooms and youth centres.
As part of my initial research I came across the possibilities on how Design thinking can be used as a scaffolding aid in PBL projects. The guidance and collaboration with Maarja , who was also my co-supervisor in my research helped me learn more about Project based learning and its learning benefits in developing 21st century skills in schools.
The various case studies and research papers I read contributed to strengthen my understanding about the PBL process and identify the potential scope for a Design Thinking tool for Proovikivi which could help teachers, youth workers and students to equip themselves with better problem solving skills.
I would like to discuss briefly about how design thinking can help PBL.
Why is design thinking an effective tool in PBL?
Design thinking is a non-linear, iterative process that helps in creative problem solving. The five step model that include – empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test as described by The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford helps in tackling ill-defined problems aka wicked problems in the innovation process and is widely used in the industry as well as in learning environment.
Figure: Design Thinking process model (D.School, 2015)
The potential of design thinking as a scaffolding aid has been already explored by some of the studies. These studies suggest that Design thinking is generally considered as an effective tool to build creative confidence and problem solving skills in students with its potential to create impactful change. While teachers facilitate such processes, the mentor-mentee relationship built in the learning environment during the scaffolding phase is also considered as a benefit of using DT. The development of prototype and experimentation mindset in students while participating in project based learning as an important benefit mediated by design thinking.
The experience while involving teachers and youth workers from the teacher training programme in designing the toolkit, helped me in identifying their needs and pain points in facilitating such projects in their context. Later, the process moved on discussing challenges and at last to a developed toolkit. The teachers pointed out that the toolkit and Design thinking has helped them in understanding their ‘challenge’ clearly and in gaining problem- solution maturity in their problem solving sessions conducted.
Even though some of the teachers couldn’t evaluate the entire tools and toolkit in their classroom because of the challenges posed by Covid-19 pandemic, they expressed their interest in using most of the tools in the upcoming school sessions.
Nevertheless, the challenges including difficulties in collaborating remotely with others, the difficulties the remote classroom sessions posed on teachers in using the tools are worth sharing.
Despite these challenges, we as a team collectively communicated and shared our design insights throughout the process to design the toolkit successfully. Being said, the toolkit is planned to be refined and iterated in the upcoming months with more participation of the users.
It is worth mentioning the support I received from Maarja Hallik from the beginning of the project till the delivery, and it was amazing! The entire Proovikivi team collectively worked together in evangelising, coordinating and onboarding teachers for the projects. No matter the practical difficulties like finding suitable time for co-creation workshops or mentoring sessions, Maarja was always there coordinating and supporting the entire process.
Now it’s summer time, and we are looking forward to spending some time with the team. 🙂