The Disconnect and the Disinterest

A problem is a disconnect between two things. It’s this itch of, “That’s not right.” It’s, “This could be better,” or “This isn’t complete.”

Over the last year, I’ve noticed a problem between how adults experience design thinking at my school, and how students experience it. We have fuse, CoI, EdLeader21, and other events were adults get to learn about design thinking and go through the experience, but the students often don’t get to do the same.

In the past, sometimes students do get to participate in these events and the feedback and conversations I hear afterwards are often, “I thought that was going to be super boring and I was going to hate it, but that was actually really cool. I had fun!”

But most of the student body doesn’t see it that way. I think one of the biggest struggles of being in Innovation Diploma – and actually being invested – is having to hear your classmates and friends insulting it and making jokes about it and completely not understanding what we do, and for them to not believe you nor want to listen when you try to say that it’s really pretty cool. For all we talk about communicating what we’re doing to people outside of the school, I think one of the biggest problems we face is communicating what we’re doing to people inside of the school. There’s this huge amount of tension between iD and the rest of the school, and there’s definitely some annoyance when we miss class because we’re working off campus or helping with an event. The other day, I heard a student comment that he thinks iD students get out of so much of the work other students have to do, and I don’t at all think that’s true (many of us are balancing APs/honors classes, spending time with friends, sports, other hobbies and activities, and this work, not to mention any bumps in the road that come up in our personal lives): we have to make up any work we miss and sometimes have to find time in our already busy lives to take tests or quizzes we missed, which isn’t easy with how busy the teachers are, too. But this boy doesn’t know that, and doesn’t know enough about what we’re doing to realize the extra lengths we have to go to do it all.

All of the students at my school do a passion project, and it’s a pretty common occurrence to hear them complaining about it (much to the teachers’ annoyance: “You all basically get free time to explore whatever interests you want to and change your community: use it!”). They make sarcastic jokes about design thinking and about how this work will help them later in life, and the hardest part is that I’ve done the research and I know, but if I was to tell them they would just laugh and wouldn’t believe me.

By sharp contrast, we get to CoI and fuse and I’m surrounded by people having fun: their high energy and their laughter. They might be confused and curious and cautious, but at the end of the day (or 3 days, in fuse’s case) I get to hear their stories about what they learned and pulled from this experiences and it’s fulfilling and interesting to hear the different takeaways. But as one fellow iD member pointed out once, “It’s like, you’re at fuse and CoI and everyone’s having fun and they’re invested and the energy is so high and you’re just thinking, ‘Yes, this is great. This is what it should always be,’ and then you get back to school and it’s just like, ‘Bleh,’ because you’re around all this negativity about it all.”

I have an idea in mind to solve this, but I would actually like to turn this one over to all of you and I would love to hear what you think:

How might we create a fun experience for the students to learn about design thinking that leaves them invested and interested in continuing the work and skills they learn?

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