Do we have an idea yet? (IDEATE)

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Students will be able to: 1) engage in a brainstorm session to collaboratively ideate solutions; 2) identify constraints that limit the ideation process; and 3) choose an idea to build out as a prototype solution that fits constraints.

Big Idea

Ideation, identification of constraints, and convergent thinking are processes that link understanding a problem to implementing a solution. How might students develop collaborative skills for ideating solutions and developing impactful prototypes?

FRAME: Cultivating ideation skills

What are some teacher dispositions that promotes students’ ideation?

One way to cultivate students' ideation skills to embody expected ideation behaviors.  This means that I will do my best to exude a positive attitude and “beginner’s mind” through my speech and behavior. I will ask questions, validate all answers, build on student ideas, actively listen, withold judgment, enthusiastically support curiosity, an so on.

Additionally, I will provide students with clear structures for purposeful collaboration and allow space for experimentation and "play."  Ideation works best when groups can reach a "flow state"--a state in which members are not self-conscious, ideas are actively built, and time seems to move quickly.  What this looks like in a classroom, is that I will step back and let students attempt to regulate their own process. We will debrief the process, but I want my students to have the experience first and then discuss how to improve.  I do not want to be overly prescriptive in how students collaborate with each other.  

What will the teacher be looking for during this lesson?

This is a chance for me to collect formative assessment data.  Who leads in groups?  Who is uncomfortable taking a risk within a group?  Who has trouble building on ideas?  Who has trouble identifying constraints?  Why?

If the slipper fits

6 minutes

What will students be doing?

Students engage in this opening activity in order to extend their thinking about the "how might we" questioning work from the previous lesson.  These questions are designed to give students practice with divergent and convergent thinking before more rigorously experiencing both through classroom activities later in the lesson ("brainstorming," "constraints and convergent thinking").

The following questions will be projected in the front of the room.  Students will answer each silently in their science and design journals. 

  1. What is the prince's problem?  Write as a "how might the prince" problem question.
  2. What are some obstacles that the prince faces in trying to find Cinderella?
  3. What solution does the prince develop?
  4. What other solutions could the prince have designed to his problem?
  5. BONUS: Write a "how might" question from the perspective of Cinderella's stepsisters, Cinderella, or the fairy godmother.

 Students are invited to share answers with an elbow partner when finished by passing journals.  

Why do students begin with a silent individual activity?

The previous lesson centered around collaborative group learning experiences.  The individual work allows my to assess students' individual mastery of targeted skills.  A group success can mask individual student's mastery of engineering design practices.  Therefore, individual work completion is necessary for me to identify next steps to take with each student. 


Divergent thinking versus convergent thinking

8 minutes

StandardsHS-ETS1-3, SP1

TEACHER RESOURCES: 1) The attached picture is an example of what the whiteboard might look like for this mini-lesson. 2)  A clip of Professor Paul Pangaro discussing the design process as well as divergent and convergent thinking. 3) Here is an article from Psychology Today that explores these types of thinking at length.

How will we transition from the opening to the mini-lesson?

I will facilitate a brief share-out of responses to questions.  This is primary to get students speaking in front of the group and to recall understanding from the previous lesson.  I will end with a few questions about the opening.  Are there any questions in the opening that we did not ask in the previous lesson?  Did I ask the class to do anything new?  Were any questions hard to answer?  I will transition to the mini-lesson by explicitly pointing out that generating new ideas is a powerful step in developing solutions.  I will thank students for being brave enough to think about what the prince could have done and tell them that today we will develop this skill more fully.

What are the goals of the mini-lesson?

The goals for this mini-lesson are to introduce the concepts of divergent and convergent thinking, define ideation, and to explain the brainstorming process.  Additionally, a goal is to connect theses ideas to real-life professional practice so that students have a non-teacher model of engineering design.  Finally, another goal for this mini-lesson is to model the behaviors that make for successful ideation.

What will the teacher do?

I will begin with a brief introduction of Paul Pangaro, a designer and professor in the MFA Interaction Design program at SVA in New York City.  As much as possible I want to bring real engineers, designers, and scientists into the classroom, either in person, through digital hangouts, or as short biographical presentation.  We will watch Pangaro's brief description of the design process and discuss what we think divergent and convergent thinking is.

I will explain that we will brainstorm in order to develop divergent thinking.  The attached picture frames my main discussion points.

Then I will model how we will identify constraints to help us develop convergent thinking.  

I will apply these ideas to the Prince's design thinking process in Cinderella:

  • Divergent thinking: call a search party, take out an ad, give up hope, see if the shoe fits

  • Constraints: does not exactly remember what Cinderella looks like, ads are not effective, without hope it is impossible to be successful, et cetera

  • Convergent thinking: given these constraints, the shoe is the best solution

  • Rapid prototype: Prince will take the shoe and have all the women in his kingdom try it on.

Finally, I will explain that the class goal for today is to choose an idea to use as the basis of something called a rapid prototype. This is the "product" that we will test to determine if it is a good solution to our problem.  It is what we will develop in the next lesson.  Today is about finding the idea that we will develop.

What will students be doing?

Students will be actively listening, taking notes, and participating in my modeling where possible.  I will be collecting journals to assess students' skills with taking notes at the end of the week.  First, I want to provide them with a few opportunities to take notes so that I have a larger sample size from which to draw conclusions about individual students' strengths and weakness so that I am in a better position to provide actionable feedback.



25 minutes

Standards: SL.11-12.1b,SP1

TEACHER RESOURCES: 1) Attached document of ideation scenarios for student groups 2) Divergent thinking video clip (to frame this activity) 3) Brainstorming rules (to provide norms for student behaviors) 4) Brainstorming behavior clips (positive and negative)

How does the teacher frame brainstorming?

Brainstorming is a method for accessing divergent thinking within a group.  Students will have experiences with brainstorming.  I will assess these experiences by asking the class about them? We will watch this clip to frame a key idea: brainstorming is an exercise in purposeful, structured divergent thinking.

What will students do?

Students will brainstorm by following rules within a structure.  Here is the protocol that students will use:

  1. Students choose a facilitator.  The facilitator ensures that rules are followed.
  2. Students also choose two recorders.  Recorders will scribe the ideas that emerge.
  3. Student groups will receive a design scenario.  There will be six groups in the room and three design scenarios: technology and blended learning, grades and assessments, and classroom culture and student behavior.  (Note: these scenarios should reflect students' problem statements from the previous lesson.  Generally, the problem statements fit into these categories, but teachers may need to adjust to match the needs of a given classroom.)  Each design scenario will have a few "how might" problem questions attached to it.
  4. Each student will ideate individually for five minutes.  Ideation means that students will write down a possible solution to one or all of the "how might" problem questions.  Each idea will be written on a single Post-it.
  5. Students have 15 minutes to brainstorm.  This is where they will use the rules to develop as many ideas as possible.  Any new idea introduced from a Post-it should be placed on provided poster paper.  Recorders will add additional ideas on Post-its as well.

How might a teacher check for student understanding of the brainstorming protocol?

This is a wordy protocol that students will not understand perfectly the first time.  The two following clips capture expected behaviors.  We will review both and norm our understanding of expected behaviors.  I will then cold call students in the class to explain the protocol for everybody before we begin.

How to brainstorm:


How not to brainstorm:

Constraints and convergent thinking

11 minutes

Standards: HS-ETS1-3SP1

TEACHER RESOURCE: Student will need to use the same scenarios from the brainstorming session for constraint ideas.

How will we transition from brainstorming to identifying feasible ideas that will become rapidly prototyped solutions?

First I will enthusiastic thank students for participating in the brainstorm session and positively narrate one behavior I saw from each student team that exemplified divergent thinking behavior. Students need to feel that the classroom is a safe and supportive environment for "wild thinking."  

What will students do?

I will explain to students that we will take all of these amazing ideas and pick one that we think is the most promising--and we will do this quickly!  I will name this move as convergent thinking. The goal will be to eliminate ideas that are not possible because they do not fit constraints.  I will provide an example of a constraint for Cinderella and use it to eliminate suggested ideas.  Example idea from brainstorming: Prince uses the internet to find Cinderella.  Constraint: the internet did not exist yet. Outcome: Idea is not possible.  By eliminating ideas, groups will get a clearer picture of ideas that are realistic.  

Once the team decides that an idea does not work, they will put an "X" through it.  

Teams have five minutes for this task.  There will be a timer at the front of the room.

What will students do with their results?

Once groups have converged on a single idea to prototype they will record this idea on publicly displayed T-chart at the front of the room.  They will record the following:

  • Problem as a "how might" question
  • Idea for prototyping

What will the teacher do?

I will circulate and encourage students to be ruthless in eliminating ideas.  I may even "X out" an idea if a team seems particularly reluctant to let go of ideas.  Additionally, I will use this time to assess students' ability to think convergently.

Individual reflection

6 minutes

What will students do?

Students answer any of the following prompts in their journals:

1) Do you notice any differences or similarities among the ideas chosen by each group in the previous activity?  Explain.

2) What activities today were easy for you?  Which activities were difficult?  Why?

3) What do you think your solution to the idea your group selected will look like.  Describe in as much detail as possible.

If time permits, students will share out responses.

What will the teacher look for in these responses?

How are students feeling about class?  Because engineering design thinking requires a set of new skills and because it is very student-centered, it is essential to pay attention to student feelings.  Student negativity and discomfort are valuable data.  How might we build an environment that reduces these feelings as much as possible while still expecting deep thinking, collaboration and risk taking? Additionally, I will be looking for students' baseline prototyping skills.