June 9

Getting Creative with Prototyping and Testing

Over the past couple months, we’ve shared a series of blog posts about tapping into the benefits of Design Thinking in the classroom. We’ve reviewed the Empathize, Define, and Ideate steps using an example challenge asking students “to improve the experience for new students at their school.”

At this point, students have gone through the first three of the five phases and are now onto the final two steps: Prototype and Test.

After students have brainstormed all of the solutions they can during the Ideate step, they choose one to pursue. From this idea, they will create their prototype. 

As students prepare to move their idea to a prototype, they will need to research, draft, sketch, and plan it out. Before students begin the creation process, it’s a good idea for groups to share their ideas and plan with the rest of the class. 

Sharing and peer feedback is incredibly valuable to the process at this stage. To ensure that peer feedback sessions are as productive as possible, consider making use of a collaborative protocol to structure the process. The Critical Friends Protocol is a great example that can be used to effectively support the feedback session. With this protocol, each group shares their solution while their classmates listen. Incorporating feedback strategies employed during remote learning can be a great way to make sure all students are a part of the process, regardless of their comfort-level or if they are in-person or learning virtually. Using commenting features, audio notes, and chats can help all students provide valuable feedback. Afterwards, the rest of the class shares ideas they like, questions they have, and suggestions for improving the solution. Groups take this feedback, debrief, and make improvements. It is now time to create the prototype. 

Designing and creating prototypes is fun! If students are doing this process in a face-to-face situation, teachers can provide creative and inexpensive building supplies, such as playdoh, legos, construction paper, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, etc. (You’d be surprised how students as old as 12th grade react to this smorgasbord of fun creation materials!) If students are creating digital prototypes, they should be taught and encouraged to use presentation software like PowerPoint or Google Slides, graphic design programs like Canva, or Adobe Creative Cloud.

If possible, teachers should try to provide an authentic audience with whom students can share their prototypes. This is a great motivator for students and can surface some amazing and otherwise unheard ideas for school stakeholders.

During the prototype phase 

  • students are encouraged to be creative in a potentially new medium,
  • students research information to support their solution,
  • groups collaborate to develop their plan,
  • students practice listening, giving feedback, receiving feedback, and acting on feedback.

In many classrooms or student situations, the process may end with the prototype step. Oftentimes, students create a prototype of their idea or solution and present it to the class or an authentic audience. After they present their idea/solution/etc., they may move on to other projects or units. In some cases, their idea may be moved “up the ladder” to be implemented by other stakeholders. For example, with the students addressing our challenge about improving the experience for new students, the solution they present to administrators, counselors, or other stakeholders will probably be developed and implemented by those stakeholders, not by the students themselves. The students who developed the ideas may create an evaluation tool for end-users, in this case new students, to give feedback on the solution. This feedback could then be used to adjust and improve the solution. In some situations, like in a STEM classroom for example, students may test their prototypes and, depending on the outcome, return to the ideate step throughout the course of a unit.

Overall, Design Thinking is a great way to give students space and support for creative problem solving. Oftentimes, they are used to having a “right answer”, so this process can push them outside of that comfort zone and encourage them to think differently while working collaboratively with their peers. 

This process, or parts of it, can be used in the first days of school, throughout the year, or as a way to finish the year strong. Whether you choose to use parts or the whole process, Design Thinking provides a framework for supporting all learners in thinking creatively, working together, solving problems and learning deeply and with enthusiasm.


About Kristy Louden

Kristy was a high school English teacher in Alabama before joining the Eduscape team as a Senior Learning Leader. During her 15 years in the classroom, she discovered a passion for building relationships with students and colleagues and mentoring new teachers, which led to a transition into an instructional coaching role. As her district went 1:1 in 2014, Kristy found a passion for finding ways to integrate technology to engage learners. She has led many professional development workshops in her district and online across the US.

Kristy earned her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Missouri in 2011 and her B.A. in Education from Western Michigan University. When Kristy isn’t reading blogs or books about learning and education, she is probably devouring novels, riding her horse, or cuddling her two dogs.


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Design Thinking


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