Tuesday 11 Aug, 2015

Design Thinking, Creativity and Passion: A Student’s Ingredients to Revolutionizing Education

This article is from EF’s Global Student Leaders Summit intern, Annie Vento. The EF Global Student Leaders Summit Internship Program gives high school students a chance to deepen their experience at EF Summits by gaining valuable real-life skills through public speaking, journalism, social media and photography.

“Imagination is the source of every form of human achievement, and it’s the one thing that I believe we are systematically jeopardizing in the way we educate our children and ourselves.” – Sir Ken Robinson, 2015 Europe Summit Keynote

Channeling Sir Ken Robinson, I believe that our schools today lack creative opportunities. When we are given a chance to utilize our creativity, it’s often forced into a time frame and evaluated by a grade. Because of this, we focus too much on finding the right answer, rather than letting our minds innovate and push academic boundaries.ETUS_GSLS_Davos_062715_1174While traveling through France several days before the Summit, one of my teachers asked us what ideas we had in mind for changing the future of education that we wanted to share with other students in Davos. I immediately panicked; although I had been thinking about what my idea would be, I had no idea where to start. Once I arrived at the Summit though, my creativity immediately started flowing.

On the first day of the Summit, EF facilitators gave us an introduction to design thinking using several different activities. We played a game that got us out of our comfort zones meeting as many of the hundreds of people in attendance in the shortest amount of time, and put our creativity to the test competing to build a giant shoe tower in the room. While I enjoyed these activities, I struggled to understand how they would help me generate new ideas.ETUS_GSLS_Davos_062715_2533The following day, we met with our groups and officially kicked off our design thinking projects. The first stage revolved around talking with other students about a time in their lives when they had an “a-ha!” learning moment, and what they gained from that experience. These conversations led to us discussing challenges we see in education today and how they could be solved. It wasn’t until we crossed this bridge that I began to see why design thinking worked so well: design thinking helped me creatively and passionately generate new ideas without even realizing that I was doing it.

The Summit’s design thinking challenge did not force a right or wrong answer. Instead of adhering to a set list of instructions and trying to reach one correct answer, it gave us the opportunity to talk out a variety of ideas and thoroughly discuss why they may or may not work. It also allowed for us to feel comfortable with failure, while seeking the best possible solution.ETUS_GSLS_Davos_062715_3101My group’s design thinking challenge stemmed from Victoria, a high school student at the Summit. She wanted to learn different languages – more than just the one language she was already learning in the classroom – on her own, but her school did not provide any individual foreign language books or software. Even though our thoughts varied, we could all relate to one of our academic interests not being fully represented within our schools. In Europe we had come into contact with several different languages – Spanish, French and German, for instance– so first hand, we all saw the value in being able to learn not just one, but several foreign languages. We all connected with this, and started sharing and discussing new ways students could not only access foreign language learning materials, but be encouraged to use them on a daily basis, as well.ETUS_GSLS_Davos_062815_1831I’ll be honest – I’m proud of the grades I receive on school projects, but rarely do I feel passionate about them.

The Summit was a completely different ball game; rather than being given an abstract prompt such as “change the future of education,” the design thinking process enabled us to talk about educational challenges from brand new, personal perspectives. For once, our critical thinking was driven by our own interests and passion. We were empowered to act on our ideas, and success wasn’t about being right, but having the confidence to recognize a problem and creatively seek a solution.

Annie Vento is a rising junior. She was born in Ontario, Canada, and currently lives in Memphis, TN, but her experience living around the United States and Canada, combined with her travel experience in Europe and South America, has left her hungry to see more of the world. Within her school and local communities, she fights for women’s rights and education for all as a writing center tutor, a Youth in Government coordinator for middle school children, and a Planned Parenthood volunteer.

Get a glimpse into the Summit’s Design Thinking Challenge through the student lens, from Summit intern Adam Burke’s student-made video on the 6 stages of design thinking.

These extraordinary events combine educational tours and a two–day leadership conference, tackling significant global issues in places where they come to life. You and your students learn from experts such as Al Gore, Jane Goodall and Sir Ken Robinson, and U.S. and local students work together to design and present their own solutions to the issue. Each Summit empowers your students today to start becoming the leaders of tomorrow. Upcoming Summits will tackle the Future of Energy in Iceland, and Human Rights in Europe.