by Cami Yates
Gray Garmon, an assistant professor of practice and director of the Center for Integrated Design in the School of Design and Creative Technologies, recently collaborated with the Aga Kahn Foundation to use design thinking to improve teaching and learning in schools around the world. With a globally informed and locally rooted lens, the Schools 2030 program supports 1,000 pioneering preschools, primary schools and secondary schools across 10 countries on four continents.
“We believe that educators are instinctively designers because they create experiences for students every day,” Garmon said. “Our goal is to provide a robust set of tools that are adaptable to many global contexts and are valuable for educators to improve their classrooms, schools and campuses so that students achieve improved learning outcomes.”
Design thinking is a human-centered practice that uses empathy-based qualitative research to understand people’s needs to guide design solutions that meet those needs.
Garmon and his longtime collaborator Katie Krummeck, a Global Design Advisor and Strategist, created a human-centered design toolkit and a set of facilitations and trainings to help educators and schools around the world use design as a tool for improving the holistic learning outcomes of their students.
“It’s a global push for improving learning outcomes, and design thinking is a core part of work,” Garmon said. The Design Thinking Toolkit for educators is adaptable to any cultural, national and language context.
“Design is a unique and powerful practice with applicable methods and mindsets that anyone can integrate in their life,” Garmon said.
The team originally planned to host four in-person, weeklong trainings around the world, and they launched their first training in Nairobi, Kenya just before COVID hit. With post-COVID travel restrictions, they had to re-imagine what the trainings could look like in the virtual realm.
“We transitioned everything into a 13-week, Zoom-based design, online workshop series,” Garmon said. “It included 10 countries at the same time, so there was a team from every country that was involved.”
The teams included national directors, global education coordinators and individuals from different Aga Khan teams around the world. Participants logged in once a week to learn how to use design thinking process to re-imagine schools in the time of COVID-19.
The ultimate goal of this initiative over the next 10 years is to have a big impact with local communities and individuals around the world. The toolkit is free and will be distributed to anybody that wants to use it.
The initiative is funded by a coalition of nine private education philanthropic partners to support teachers, school leaders and students to develop and design solutions that promote holistic quality learning for all. This effort is inspired by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals set to be reached over the next decade by 2030.
Learn more about Schools2030 here.
Learn more about Aga Khan Foundation’s Education work here.