65: HCD Ideation: Synthesis Phase


Class 3 Readings in “Design Kit_The Course for Human-Centered Design.” Dropbox. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.

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Key Terms:
  • Learnings:
    • highlights from interviews, observations, and anecdotal notes from Inspiration Phase
    • communicated in full sentences to capture whole stories
  • Themes:
    • categories that organize learnings
    • capture similarities in multiple data sources
    • headlines for clusters of similar learnings
  • Insights:
    • succinct expressions of what was learned
    • offer both new and expected perspectives
  • How Might We …?:
    • generative questions based on insights that trigger brainstorming
  • Ideas:
    • brainstormed items that answer How Might We … ? questions
    • during brainstorming these ideas are not judged
    • can be represented by quick sketches
HCD Ideation Phase: Synthesis Steps
  1. Capture Your Learnings:
    • Set up a download space: space with lots of room for displaying Post-Its
    • Download learnings: 
      • document key findings on Post-Its
      • print out key photos
      • what to capture?
        • personal details – who? age? location? profession?
        • interesting stories
        • motivations
        • barriers, frustrations
        • interesting interactions with people and the environment
        • lingering questions
    • Share inspiring stories:
      • tell compelling stories
      • be descriptive and specific
      • share the who, what, when, where, why, how
      • identify resonant stores
      • Tips:
        • actively listen – compare / contrast stories, identify recurring themes
        • capture information in small pieces – quotes, succinct stories
        • display notes – display and organize Post-Its on wall by data source details
  2. Search for meaning: identify themes that can inform design
    • Don’t feel shy about retelling key stories
    • Cluster related information:
      • each picks top 3
      • cluster Post-Its in categories such as: consistent problems, shared significance, surprise elements
    • Find themes
      • name clusters
      • rearrange until all themes have been identified
    • Turn themes into insight statements
      • each theme can have multiple insights
      • express as complete sentences
    • Revisit your challenge
      • revisit initial design challenge using insights
      • narrow insights using design challenge to top 3 – 5
  3. Create “How Might We … ?” Questions (generative questions)
    • multiple questions per insight
    • use plain simple language
    • aim for proper scoping
      • too narrow – hinders creativity
      • too broad – not actionable
    • suggests starting points
    • suggests key logistics
    • select Top 3
      • trust gut
      • select most generative questions, not necessarily the easiest ones


The Human Centered Design (HCD) Process is an approach that can be used to develop projects that engage students AND teach content & 21st Century skills. The Ideation: Synthesis phase converts research into meaningful actionable insights.  It converts learnings into design opportunities.  These are skills that students and teachers can develop in order to learn how to better interpret and leverage data.


Preparation Steps
  • HCD Inspiration Steps applied to Solving Student Learning Design Challenge
    • Select a design problem that relates to student learning and complete the Inspiration phase
    • Recruit a design team that will help you document and identify key insights that you gathered during the Ideation: Synthesis phase
  • Scaffolding HCD Inspiration Steps for Students
    • Experience HCD process prior to facilitating it to learn how to better scaffold it
    • Let students in design teams select a worthy design challenge (or assign one)
    • Guide them through a student friendly, time effective version of the  Inspiration phase
    • Develop visuals and assign readings that teach students key steps in student-friendly version of the Ideation: Prototyping phase
    • Secure A LOT of Post-Its or teach them how to use a post-it app
Early Implementation Steps
  • HCD Ideation: Synthesis Steps applied to solve student learning design challenge
    • Meet with design team in a space with lots of Post Its and wall space.
    • Record these learnings on Post-Its.  See above for details.
    • Work with data team to identify recurring themes. See above for details.
    • Work with data team to identify key insights. See above for details.
    • Work with data team to formulate and prioritize “How Might We … “ questions. See above for details.
  • Scaffolding HCD Inspiration Steps for Students
    • Facilitate student design teams through a student friendly version of the steps listed above
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • HCD Ideation: Synthesis Steps applied to solving a student learning design challenge
    • Gather more research on lingering questions
    • Repeat early implementation steps again
    • Then move unto to Prototyping phase
  • Scaffolding HCD Inspiration Steps for Students
    • Let students reflect on how HCD_ Inspiration Steps can be used to develop better insights to problems in other courses and in their own lives
    • Facilitate students through Prototyping phase

51: Amping Up the Authenticity



Note: This link will only work if you’re logged into Echo.  Sorry, non-New Tech readers.  If you’d like to get access to more related information, check out Kevin Gant’s blog at https://intrepidedblog.wordpress.com/




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Evolution of projects from towards more authenticity:  scenario based -> project world = real world


Characteristics & Challenges of Most Authentic Projects:
  • Project work = work of the world
  • Student products are used by people outside school
  • Students have more choice to define products
  • Not all standards can appear in all products
  • Can give all students opportunities to gain mastery of all learning targets in project scaffolding
  • Involves a provocative driving question that acts as a call to action for students to solve a real problem
  • Driving question can be resolved  by a wide variety of end products
  • Content authority ceded to experts outside the classroom
  • Time frame can get mushy for some products due to interactions with real clients running on schedules different from the school schedule


Related Useful tools:
  • Nepris 
    • Web-based tool that connects experts to classroom, teachers can post requests and repris matches experts to request
    • Heard that wait time is about 3 weeks
  • IGNITE by DiscoverSTEAM
    • Online platform that sets up secure communication platform between companies that want to interact with students and schools
    • Companies present projects to students that they want solved; if students develop solutions the companies can use, they can pay students
    • Teachers can work with companies to develop rubrics aligned to standards
    • All communication between students and companies is recorded and reviewed for quality and research purposes
    • IGNITE is FREE to schools because companies pay for it as a way to recruit American talent and to market their companies
    • Companies prefer to have a yearlong relationship with students – my idea to extend the interaction time with companies is to relay the company project through different courses;  project could start in ELA for initial research and writing processes, then move to a Science course for designing data studies and gathering data, then move to a Math class to analyze the data, then move to a Social Studies class or Audio Visual class to finalize conclusions and create products, etc
    • NOTE: This company is looking for PBL teachers to pilot their tool.  Contact them if you’re interested

The more time teachers and students spend doing PBL projects, the more difficult it gets to make projects feel fresh and meaningful.   Facilitating real world projects is one way for advanced PBL teachers and advanced PBL students to frame learning within more relevant contexts and challenges.  Authentic problems can also give students exposure to careers they have not yet considered and give them a better idea of how real experts solve problems.

Preparation Steps
  • Extend your network – contact companies, university groups, and local groups of experts who do things that relate to your course
  • Build a database that contains potential contacts – see above
  • Contact them early – in the summer if possible – to see if there are problems they’d like students to solve or explore that could align to standards
  • Check if school has partnered with companies like Nepris or DiscoverSTEAM – if the partnership is there, learn how to use those tools and start using them expand your network
  • Plan Year at a Glance (Scope and Sequence)
  • Contact experts early to see if they can interact with students at the appropriate times in the year (or adjust your scopes & sequence as needed)
  • Develop templates (email and phone call) for students to contact experts
  • Develop tools that students can use to document their unique projects and their ties to key content and problem solving processes that are being uncovered in the classroom
  • Design scaffolding that supports real world project work and aligns to standards
  • Research and commit to a design process (or similar problem solving processes) that will organize the project and that students will use to solve project problems
Early Implementation Steps
  • Work with experts to support students with content knowledge and with formative feedback they can use to improve their understandings and products
  • Organize project around a common design process (or similar problem solving processes) that students will apply to develop different products of their choice
  • Implement class-wide scaffolding that ensures that all students have opportunities to learn targeted content
  • Be flexible with final product completion and final presentation dates as these may vary depending on their solutions and their clients
  • If possible – set a common proposal presentation date to review and give critical friends feedback on proposed solutions
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Develop sustaining relationships with experts that enable different cohorts of students to gain exposure to real world problems that have better and better project design (if the opportunity arises to interact with same experts on similar projects form year to year)
  • Arrange for field trips that allow students to get close hand  exposure to experts and to gain experiences that can help them gather useful data related to their projects
  • For experts that like prolonged relationships with students, collaborate with other courses to extend project over time (see relay idea above)

12: HCD: Inspiration Phase


Class 2 Readings in “Design Kit_The Course for Human-Centered Design.” Dropbox. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.




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  1. Choose a design challenge:
    • define what you know and don’t know
    • review constraints and barriers
    • brainstorm how to overcome barriers
  2. Plan research methods:
    • Learn from the people: define your audience, investigate outliers and mainstream examples, capture evidence (videos, photos, quotes), investigate environments, build trust, build recruiting tools
    • Learn from an expert: interview experts to learn about systems levels frameworks, technical advice, and new & innovative related solutions, plan/research smart interview questions, use secondary research to explore recent innovations & solutions
    • Immerse yourself in context: choose observational experiences that will yield key quantitative and qualitative data, capture many details of what’s seen, reflect on what’s observed
    • Analogous solutions: brainstorm analogous solutions and experiences, immerse oneself in experience
  3. Build Interview Guide:
    • Brainstorm questions related to objectives
    • Organize questions: start general and then go deep
    • Use open-ended questions to get more information
    • Sketch conversations – include conversation starters and interview questions
    • Assign key roles – interview, note taker
    • Establish trust with interviewee
    • Use 5 Why’s to get to root cause
    • Encourage interviewee to show as well as tell
    • Capture what you see and hear
  4. Additional Research Methods
    • Personal diaries
    • Photo essays
    • Card sort – prioritize and explain
    • Feedback on concept drawings
    • See Research & Design links at page bottom.
  5. Capture Learnings
    • Share interesting findings without interpreting them
    • Illustrate new ideas


The steps in the inspiration phase of the human-centered design process can be used to investigate student experiences and needs in order to design better processes.  These steps can also be taught to students so that they can investigate the needs and experiences of project clients.  Many of the steps in this process are similar to steps in project such as: list knows and need-to-knows, gather and interpret data, and design solutions that meet constraints.  The detail in the steps in the inspiration phase can be used to deepen students’ investigations of their audiences and stakeholders prior to designing products.


Preparation Steps
  • HCD Inspiration Steps applied to Designing Better Projects
    • Apply steps in Inspiration phase (see above) to develop a deeper understanding of students who are not being reached by mainstream projects (could be struggling students or bored, gifted students)
    • Design questions that gather information on student experiences, interests, and needs
    • Develop culture of trust and experimentation that helps students feel safe while you research their experiences
  • Scaffolding HCD Inspiration Steps for Students
    • Research / design activities and tools that scaffold steps (see above and articles linked below) for students
    • Design informal / formal assessments that can assess how well students are applying steps
    • Develop empathy and scaffolding ideas by trialing inspiration steps to solve a problem (example: use steps to learn more information about students that can be used to design better projects)
Early Implementation Steps
  • HCD Inspiration Steps applied to Designing Better Projects
    • Be transparent with students on how research will be used to design better learning experiences
    • Interview students to develop deeper understanding of their needs and experiences; can also get similar information by studying responses to reflection prompts
    • Observe how students act, speak, and write during project activities and take notes
    • Can do a card sort activity to identify student preferences in activity types
    • Can investigate student journals/blog entries to learn about their thinking, needs and experiences
    • Can use challenge vs. support chart to guide students to evaluate project activities
  • Scaffolding HCD Inspiration Steps for Students
    • Implement scaffolding activities related to inspiration steps
    • Use assessments to provide timely feedback to students on their implementation of inspiration steps and to refine activities
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • HCD Inspiration Steps applied to Designing Better Projects
    • Analyze student reflections and responses over time to evaluate various project activities
    • Use student data to identify strong practices and practices in need of revision
    • Use gathering / interpreting student data as a model to scaffold how students implement similar processes in their projects
  • Scaffolding HCD Inspiration Steps for Students
    • Use assessments to determine what scaffolding activities and tools are helping students effectively apply inspiration steps
    • Convert high yield tools and practices into standardized tools and routines that students use in several projects
    • Use student reflections to refine tools and practices
    • Use tools such as Ignite by DiscoverSTEAM to create more authentic contexts & to create more access to experts

11: Human-Centered Design (HCD)





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  • What is Human-Centered Design? design process + empathy
  • The Design Process Phases:
    • Inspiration: How do I ask questions and stay human-centered? What key constraints can I use to set benchmarks and objectives? How can I balance concrete constraints while staying open to exploration? What research studies can I conduct to identify what my clients truly need?
    • Ideation: How to I interpret what I’ve learned in order to develop concrete ideas and prototypes? How can I keep my mind open to generate many ideas?  How can I evaluate ideas to determine best solutions?
    • Implementation: How can I develop sustainable solutions?  How can I assess whether or not solutions are working? How can I use prototypes to reveal unforeseen consequences and constraints?
  • Design Process Implementation:
    • Phases often overlap
    • Cycling between convergent and divergent thinking is normal
    • Find solutions that relate to needs of community
    • Postive deviance – use positive outliners for inspiration
    • Do not forget to consider distribution systems while designing sustainable solutions
  • Mindsets of a Human-Centered Designer:
    • Learn from failure
    • Make it – tangibility is good
    • Creative confidence – everyone has ideas and the power to implement them
    • Empathy – clients are roadmaps to innovative solutions
    • Embrace ambiguity – not knowing creates opportunities to explore
    • Be optimistic – the solution exists
    • Iterate often – use feedback to revise often



Human-centered design (HCD) is an approach that can be used to develop projects that engage students AND teach content & 21st Century skills.  This approach is also a problem solving model that can be scaffolded for students to develop better products.  The HCD phases can be used to organize projects into phases – especially projects aimed at designing products for specific clients.  The mindsets of a human-centered designer can be cultivated within teachers and students in order to make them better problem solvers.

Preparation Steps
  • HCD Applied to Designing & Implementing Projects:
    • Use multiple data sources to identify needs of students
    • Use needs of students to develop criteria/constraints for evaluation of project design
    • Design assessments based on student needs for assessing success of project activities
    • Develop ideas based on constraints for scaffolding content and 21st century skills
  • HCD Applied to Developing Project Scaffolding:
    • Develop scaffolding ideas and empathy by going through HCD cycle first – can apply it to designing and implementing a project
    • Research methods for teaching phases of HCD process.  See Design Process articles for ideas.
    • Develop activities and tools that scaffold student application of HCD phases.  See Design Process articles for ideas.
    • Design activities and tools that focus on HCD mindset(s) that will be honed and applied in upcoming project
    • Develop assessments for determining whether or not students are successfully learning content and applying HCD steps
Early Implementation Steps
  • HCD Applied to Designing & Implementing Projects:
    • Implement project and use assessments and constraints to measure success of project and make adjustments as needed
    • Use student input throughout the project to assess project effectiveness and to fine tune project
  • HCD Applied to Developing Project Scaffolding:
    • Implement scaffolding tools and activities that guide students to apply HCD processes
    • Use assessments to determine if HCD is helping students develop better understandings and better products
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • HCD Applied to Designing & Implementing Projects:
    • Uses experiences from implementing HCD to design scaffolding that helps students apply HCD
    • Reuse effective HCD practices to design other projects
  • HCD Applied to Developing Project Scaffolding:
    • Use student input to refine HCD tools and processes
    • Use programs such as Ignite by DiscoverSTEAM to connect students with corporate clients to make HCD applications more relevant
    • Develop routines that give students opportunities to deliberately practice HCD steps

08: Exploring the Challenge Zone





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  • Characteristics of Activities with High Intellectual Quality:
    • Higher order thinking
    • Disciplined inquiry
    • Construction of knowledge
    • Deeper knowledge & understanding
    • Transfer of knowledge to novel contexts
    • Analyze & synthesize information
    • Explaining ideas
    • Asking questions
    • Thinking creatively and critically
    • Designing and planning
    • Self assessing and reflecting
    • Cross curricular connections
    • Adult-like roles and tasks
    • Connect concrete and abstract knowledge
  • 7 Intellectual Practices
    1. Mimic thinking and reasoning patterns of content experts
    2. Transform learning for different audiences and contexts
    3. Sustained academic conversations
    4. Connect concrete and abstract knowledge
    5. Connect written, spoken and other forms of communication to make meaning
    6. Critique knowledge and information
    7. Use meta-language while learning (talking about language)
.Characteristics of high intellectual quality and 7 intellectual practices can be used to create checklists to evaluate and revise a portfolio of scaffolding activities associated with a project.  The characteristics of high intellectual quality describe components of a good PBL unit.  This validates the work that goes into designing and implementing projects.


Preparation Steps
  • Develop checklists based on the characteristics of high intellectual quality and the 7 intellectual practices to evaluate groupings of scaffolding activities
  • Use checklists to identify what characteristics and practices are critical to scaffolding specific project products
  • Research strategies that relate to specific intellectual characteristics and practices
  • Design scaffolding that aligns to identified intellectual characteristics and practices
  • Design assessments that provide evidence that students are developing critical intellectual skills
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement scaffolding activities that demonstrate intellectual characteristics and utilize intellectual practices that support specific project products
  • Use assessments to determine whether or not students are learning targeted intellectual skills
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Identify key characteristics and practices that need to be spiraled throughout the curriculum because they are vital to the discipline
  • Develop standardized routines and checklists that describe the critical skills and characteristics identified in previous bullet point
  • Use prompts to get students to reflect on the development of key intellectual skills over several projects
  • Create student friendly learning targets that describe various levels of intellectual skills
  • Communicate learning targets and use prompts to have students provide evidence that they are progressing towards the learning targets