Magazine article District Administration

Problem-Solving and Design Thinking Drive Tech School

Magazine article District Administration

Problem-Solving and Design Thinking Drive Tech School

Article excerpt

Ken Montgomery knows what his school looks like to outsiders.

"We have people who come in and say, 'Oh, we could never do that,'" says Montgomery, executive director of Design Tech High School, or d.tech for short. But he says looks can be deceiving.

The charter school, which opened in 2014 and is authorized by California's San Mateo Union High School District, commits to the concept of design thinking: Students learn to look for problems, understand the cause and empathize with people involved. Then they develop and test solutions, refine, try again, and share their findings.

Along the way they would likely pick up other skills, such as in engineering, entrepreneurship, coding, electronics and data analysis.

The students take a design lab all four years, but they also encounter design thinking in content-specific classes--the method lends itself well to science and humanities classes, though it can be a tougher fit in math classes, Montgomery says.

Teachers and staff at the school also use design thinking as a way to solve problems or makes changes.

The school has attracted a lot of attention, most notably from Oracle, which is building a permanent home for the school on its Redwood City campus, to open in 2018. d.tech also receives funding from the Oracle Education Foundation.

Students at the school develop a strong sense of self-efficacy, says Colleen Cassity, executive director of the foundation. "You are helping them develop creative confidence so that when they see an unmet need or a problem, they default to, 'OK, let me do that,"' she says. …

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