Human-Centered Design

District leaders have a lot of questions about what school might look like now and into the future, and they are going to their students, staff and community  looking for creative answers. 
“Public schools have been slow to change over the past one hundred years,” said Superintendent Denise Pontrelli. “Yet the world we’re preparing our students for looks drastically different. It’s exciting to see our staff, students and community begin to wonder what we might do differently to better serve our students and more fully engage them in their learning.”
The district has adopted human-centered design as a framework, and is using the process on everything from strategic planning to curriculum development. Human-centered design is all about building a deep empathy with the people you’re designing for; generating tons of ideas; building prototypes; sharing those prototypes with the people you’re designing for; and eventually implementing innovative new solutions. It provides opportunities for staff to think creatively and challenges them to always start with the question, “How might we …” as they consider new opportunities for the user - which could be students, parents, or staff members.
Last year a small group of district administrators were trained in human-centered design and used the process to help guide strategic planning in the district. This year, the district is going even deeper and using human-centered design as it develops new opportunities for students. 
Here are just a few ways human-centered design is helping Stillwater re-think what school can be:
Shadow a Student: District leaders select a student and follow them around for a day as a way to learn what it is like to be a learner in our schools. They observe the school experience through the eyes of their student and reflect on what they see that is working or not working.
Student innovation teams: Elementary and secondary students are being trained in the human-centered design process and given the opportunity to define a problem they’ve encountered within the system and ultimately submit their innovation solutions to district leaders for implementation. 
Pony IdeaQuest: Staff members participate in a “crowd-based innovation” process that allows them to submit the next great idea to solve an issue they have encountered either personally as an employee, or that they’ve observed for our students or families. The entire staff can view all of the submitted ideas, and then vote for the ones they think should move forward. Last year, five ideas were selected to be further developed and piloted. The next idea quest begins in October.
High school innovation team: A group of teachers, counselors, and administrators are setting out to rethink high school to better engage students and provide more relevant learning experiences. They’ll be using design thinking to build deep empathy for the students they’re designing for and use student voice to help re-create the high school experience. Rather then replicate what’s being done in other places, they’re focused on designing something unique to Stillwater to meet the specific needs of our students and our communities.
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