May 12

Ideation is Fun, but Can Be Challenging for Students

In the previous two posts of this series, we looked at the first two steps of the Design Thinking process and how they can be implemented in the classroom. Today, we’re going to explore the third (and potentially most fun!) step of the process: Ideation.

Following the steps of the Empathize and Define stages, students are ready to jump into Ideation. Using a defined ‘How Might We’ question to anchor the process, students spend time in the divergent thinking mindset, working to generate as many varied ideas as possible. 

Ideation is simply the formation of ideas. In the design thinking process, it’s much like brainstorming on steroids. This type of thinking process focuses on generating as many new and varied ideas as possible. This is where the innovation, the creation of fresh and novel ideas, happens. 

Let’s follow along as students continue the challenge they were given: to improve the experience for new students at their school. (Check out our previous post to see how students empathized with new students and defined the problem). 

What’s fun about this stage is that students (or anyone going through the process) are encouraged to push their thinking. Oftentimes called 10x or Moonshot thinking, participants spend a solid chunk of time getting all of their ideas out, no matter how crazy or impossible they may seem. Depending on the age of the student, anywhere from 10 minutes to 20 minutes is probably best. 

During this phase, there are no limits! So students should be reminded:

  • Do not limit yourself! 
  • Shoot for the moon!
  • Write the whole time. Even if you have to say “I do not know what to write” for a minute, do not stop.  
  • Write everything down, no matter how crazy it might seem.

While this step can be quite fun, it can also be rather difficult for some people, especially students who might not be used to pushing their brains quite so far.  

After the timed period of individual brainstorming, students share all of their ideas with their small group. This could be done one of two ways: 

  1. Passing their brainstorm list to each group member for a timed review and allowing the reader a minute to add building comments to the list. 
  2. Sharing the ideas out loud with the group while the rest of the group members listen and encourage the speaker. 

At this point, all ideas are good and plausible ideas (even when they’re not!). After all group members have shared, they should look for patterns and common ideas. This will help them determine which solution(s) they want to pursue as a group. 

Ideation naturally produces innovative ideas by removing barriers and pushing thinking to its limits. The stamina required for this activity, as well as the creative thinking. are both valuable skills for students to build. No matter what they pursue after school, being able to stick with a task, push their reasoning, and think creatively will serve them well. 

After students have chosen their solution, they research, plan, and build their solution as a prototype, which we’ll talk about in the next and final post in this series!

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.


creativity, Design Thinking

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