Getting Started with Design Thinking

Getting Started with Design Thinking


Last month, you may remember that a term that was discussed in my blog post about Ready To Code was design thinking. Design thinking is a problem-solving process. It includes five-steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test (Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford n.d.). Challenges are addressed through a humanistic approach that encourages designers to think of the needs of others. Moreover, design thinking implements an intuitive process that encourages individuals to solve real-world problems.

Diana Colby

Diana Colby

This month I interviewed Diana Colby about design thinking. I visited her at her school and noticed a couple of puppets that the students were working with. When I inquired about the puppets, she told me that they were for a design thinking activity.

Diana is the elementary lead librarian for Keller ISD and works as a library media technology specialist in one of the schools. She has been a librarian for eight years. Before being a librarian, she taught Texas history in a middle school. This interview is just a short introduction to design thinking. After reading the interview, you probably will have more questions. You can learn more about how she uses design thinking by going to her website: You will see how many wonderful projects she has implemented. She has several resources, such as a PowerPoint that details how to get started with design thinking in the school library. The PowerPoint includes her puppet food truck lesson.

The Interview

How long have you been using design thinking in your library?

I first learned about design thinking in 2016. I was using Genius Hour in my library because I was trying to get my students to find their passions. I did not want research to be burdensome. Kids do not like research because they are always required to research things for class. I wanted them to learn research skills to help them in everyday life.

The two people that I follow for Genius Hour are John Spencer and A.J. Juliani. They have a book called “Launch.” The book is a great place to start because it goes through a lot of questions to help adults see the students’ point of view. This was the first book that I read to get ideas. Then I went to South by Southwest (SXSW) and saw John Spencer’s presentation. That is when design thinking took off for me.

What types of projects have you done with students?

A Puppet in the Library

A Puppet in the Library

I work with another librarian Suzanne Ross. We came back from SXSW and used the “Launch” book to create lessons. We did a quick lesson for the third and fourth grades that used design thinking for a food truck project. Then the teachers and coaches came by and ranked the projects and gave out awards to the students. We also used the “I Need a Monster” book, and the students designed a mean monster. When the students started the lessons, they had a client to tell them what they wanted. You can look at our website to see how we use puppets as the clients for some of our lessons.

Why is design thinking a good method to use for teaching research?

The design thinking process teaches how to listen, how to collaborate, and how to share out. Design thinking teaches the human part of listening because you have to look at other peoples’ point of view to understand what they need. When I use the design thinking process with my students, they work through the project step by step until they have a final product. I find that design thinking helps because it is step by step. We often start with a research question, but sometimes we never get to a finished product. I get a finished product with the design thinking projects. Students learn the research process. A lot of times we tell them to collaborate or here is a project. But they don’t learn the steps to do the project. I personally like it better than the Big6.

How do you use design thinking with teachers?

KISD Book Bus

KISD Book Bus

Last year we started using it with the librarians in the school district to come up with ways to complete projects or change thinking. That is how we came up with the idea for the student book bus. One of our blogs talks about our summer book bus and shows our presentation.

At the beginning of the year, I used design thinking with my teachers. We discussed solutions for the library schedule, makerspace, collaboration, and workshops. The workshop that we did not schedule impacted the school the most because the teachers came up with a schedule. The teachers wanted to have each grade level to visit the library on one day of the week. If I had proposed the schedule myself, no one would have wanted to do it. Because the teachers used design thinking to look at scheduling, now if a class misses a day, I don’t have to fit them in at another time. Also, I can focus on a grade level per day. When the grade levels don’t come to the library, I can go to the classrooms and talk with the students. I will have more time to collaborate with the teachers.

Do you have anything else to add about design thinking?

Design thinking is not just about me trying to create a library program. Using design thinking is not about what is convenient for me in the library. I’m trying to see what my students, teachers, and families need. And so, I think empathy is the biggest part of it.


Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford. n.d. “An Introduction to Design Thinking Process Guide.”  https://dschool- 2010L.pdf.

June 2019 Professional Development Schedule

Organization Date & Time Professional Development Title June 5, 2019 – 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm EST Navigating the Digital Shift: Equitable Learning Opportunities for All Learners
June 5, 2019 – 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm EST 5 Evidence-Based Literacy Strategies for English Learners
June 10, 2019 – 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm EST Closing the Homework Gap: Digital Equity for All Students
June 11, 2019 – 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm EST Achieve Transformative Results by Teaching Academic Language
June 26, 2019 – 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EST Why Readers Fail and How to Break the Cycle
Simple K12 June 1, 2019 – 12:00 pm – 12:30 pm EST Great Ways to Use Google Drive for Student Driven Learning Projects
June 1, 2019 – 1:00 pm – 1:30 pm EST Using Google Maps for Virtual Journeys
June 15, 2019 – 10:00 pm – 10:30 pm EST Engage Students and Enhance Learning with Innovative STEAM Activities from Google
June 15, 2019 – 11:00 pm – 11:30 pm EST STEM, STEAM, Maker Space 2.0 – Are you there yet?
June 15, 2019 – 12:00 pm – 12:30 pm EST STEAM with 3D Modeling: Inspire Students’ Career Pathways
June 15, 2019 – 1:00 pm – 1:30 pm EST What’s in Your STEAM Toy Box?
June 15, 2019 – 2:00 pm – 2:30 pm EST Movie-making in the STEM/STEAM Classroom
June 27, 2019 – 12:00 pm – 12:30 pm EST Redesign Your Classroom Learning Spaces and Make Room for Makerspaces
TeachersFirst June 4, 2019 – 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm CST Strategies for Supporting ELL Students June 4, 2019 – 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm EST Family Literacy on the Wild, Wild e-Frontier: Strategies for Raising Digitally Savvy Families June 11, 2019 – 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EST Creative and Innovative Recognition Strategies for Today’s Volunteers
June 13, 2019 – 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EST Developing a Strategic Plan for Volunteer Engagement
Booklist June 11, 2019 – 1:00 pm CST Big-Picture Reading





Author: Daniella Smith

Daniella Smith, PhD. is a former school and public librarian. She is currently the Hazel Harvey Peace Professor in Children’s Library Services at the University of North Texas.

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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