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Month December 2012

Introducing the Design Thinking For Educators Toolkit 2.0 ~ Get Yours Now

Introducing the Design Thinking For Educators Toolkit 2


So pleased to announce that the second edition of the Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit is available for download. The toolkit contains a Design Thinking process overview, as well as methods and instructions that help you put Design Thinking into action. The updated toolkit includes the new Designer’s Workbook, more examples of teachers using Design Thinking, and updated methods to better suit your needs!

Get your free copy here!


Enjoy & rethink…*

Friday Link Fest {December 14 -21, 2012}

Friday Link Fest {December 14 -21, 2012} (Photograph by Elsa Fridman)

An enchanted tree grows in Brooklyn…*


The Power of Concentration ~ Mindfulness may have a prophylactic effect: it can strengthen the areas that are most susceptible to cognitive decline. via The New York Times, published December 15, 2012.

Meet Migaloo, World’s First “Archaeology Dog” ~ Australian dog trainer Gary Jackson of Multinational K9 has trained a black lab mix named Migaloo as the world’s first “archaeology dog,” able to locate bones that are hundreds of years old. via National Geographic, published December 10, 2012.

Creativity Happens When You Least Expect It ~ When you have to be creative, working at your non-optimal time of day may actually be optimal. via The Creativity Post, published December 7, 2012.

A Conversation with S. Matthew Liao: Studying Ethical Questions as the Brain’s Black Box Is Unlocked ~ In a world of proliferating professions, S. Matthew Liao has a singular title: neuroethicist. Dr. Liao, 40, the director of the bioethics program at New York University, deploys the tools of philosophy, history, psychology, religion and ethics to understand the impact of neuroscientific breakthroughs. via The New York Times, published December 17, 2012.

The New Nonprofit Is Transparent, Open, And Engaged ~ Beth Kanter, whose blog is a clearinghouse for information on how organizations can use new technology for good, is rethinking…* how a nonprofit acts in the digital world. via FastCo.Exist, published December 12, 2012.



What Architecture Has to Say About Education: Three New Hampshire Schools by HMFH Architects ~ How can architecture help children develop the early skills, creativity and inquisitiveness needed to become the independent and inspired adults of future generations? via Arch Daily, published December 18, 2012.

(via HMFHArch on Youtube, published November 29, 2012)

Jennifer Aaker: What Makes Us Happy? ~  via Stanford Business on Youtube. Published November 29, 2012.


Beetbox: a Musical Instrument Powered by Vegetables by Scott Garner ~ Conceived as an exploration of perspective and expectations by American designer Scott Garner, ‘Beetbox’ is an instrument that allows users to play drum beats by interacting with vegetables. powered by a raspberry Pi with a capacitive touch sensor and  an audio amplifier in a handmade wooden enclosure via Design Boom, published December 18, 2012.

(BeetBox from Scott Garner on Vimeo.)


A Table that Folds Out Like a Map ~ Swedish designers Sigrid Stromgren’s and Sanna Lindström’s collaborative work, the Grand Central Table. via Lost At E Minor, published December 17, 2012.

The Noun Project: Using Iconic Design Tools for Social Change ~ The Noun Project, a platform for creating and sharing a global symbolic language, hosts a library of ever-growing and iterating icons on their site that anybody can access, use, and contribute to. via GOOD, published December 16, 2012.

Brooklyn-Made Furniture Built From Sandy’s Scraps ~ Reclaim NYC invites local artists and designers to create furniture using material reclaimed from storm cleanup sites, then auctions off the work to benefit Sandy relief efforts. “We hope our fallen trees and storm-damaged building materials can be reborn as objects that represent the city’s recovery,” write the group’s founders. On December 19, Reclaim NYC will host its first auction, with work made by 24 artists and designers. via FastCo.Design, published December 14, 2012.

LEGO House by James May in the UK ~ via Design Milk, published September 1, 2009.

NASA’s New Spacesuit Looks Just Like Buzz Lightyear’s ~ via Design Taxi, published December 22, 2012.

A Behind the Scenes Look at How Hobbit Legos are Made ~ The extensive design required for producing specialized Legos, like the ones for “Star Wars” or this year’s “The Hobbit,” requires months of engineering. A behind-the-scenes look at the design and production process. via the Wall Street Journal, published December 19, 2012.

Learning Matters ~ Dominic Randolph, Paul Tough, Dave Levin & John Merrow on Teaching Character…*

Learning Matters ~ Dominic Randolph, Paul Tough, Dave Levin & John Merrow on Teaching Character..


On December 5th, our very own Dominic Randolph, along with Dave Levin (co-founder of Kipp), Paul Tough (author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character) and John Merrow (veteran reporter for PBS and NPR) gathered for an installment of the JCC’s Learning Matters series entitled Teaching Character. The discussion centered on the importance of teaching children skills such as perseverance, grit, optimism and curiosity–how to communicate and instill character strengths and how these characteristics relate to the short and long term success and happiness of our children.

You can view a 3 minute video excerpt of the conversation (on structured failure)  here or listen to the full podcast here.

Enjoy & rethink…*



Sign Up Now! Design Thinking For Educators Workshop ~ February 19, 2013

Sign Up Now! Design Thinking For Educators Workshop ~ February 19, 2013

Join IDEORiverdale Country School & Parsons School, in NY for a one day Design Thinking For Educators workshop where you will learn and use the design thinking process, connect with other educators and have the opportunity to create a project plan where you can apply this process to your own work. This is a great opportunity to experience the design thinking process first hand and see how it can be successfully applied to education challenges. **SPACE IS LIMITED: SIGN UP NOW***

(Please note: For those of you who had signed up to attend the workshop in October, before it was rescheduled, you must re-register if you would like to attend on February 19th)

In this 1-day workshop, you will:

  • Learn about Design Thinking through hands-on activities.
  • Explore the ways where Design Thinking can apply to your work.
  • Hear inspiring solutions other educators have developed.
  • Identify challenges you’d like to address, and develop a plan of action to do it.
  • Become more intentional about the way you design solutions for your classrooms, schools, and communities.

Check out the video below to learn more about Design Thinking for Educators, and be sure to head over to to get the updated toolkit, which  contains a Design Thinking process overview, methods and instructions that help you put Design Thinking into action, and the Designer’s Workbook to support your design challenges. Enjoy & rethink…*

Design Thinking for Educators Dominic Randolphrethinker…* extraordinaire and Head of Riverdale Country School, won a grant in 2012 from the E. Ford Foundation to teach Design Thinking to Educators and to spread its adaption and implementation across the country. This seven-minute film documents Dominic’s collaboration with legendary design firm, Ideo. A collaboration which resulted in the website and deep, collective rethinking about the nature of teaching, learning and design at the Riverdale Country School while amplifying and nurturing the global conversation about what it means to teach and learn in the 21st century.

(Design Thinking for Educators – Dominic Randolph from paul dewey on Vimeo.)


Friday Link Fest {December 7-14, 2012}

Friday Link Fest {December 7-14, 2012} (Photograph: Elsa Fridman)

(Dominic at last week’s Learning Matters panel discussion, Teaching Character, with Paul Tough, Dave Levin & John Merrow at the JCC in Manhattan)



Empathy in Creativity and Design Thinking ~ On the importance of empathy for creating. via The Creativity Post, published December 12, 2012.

20 Tech Trends That Will Define 2013, Selected By Frog ~ From automated cars to smarter smartphones, here are the ideas that will shape the future. via FastCo.Design, published December 13, 2012.

Manufacturing The Future: 10 Trends To Come In 3D Printing ~ Once considered science fiction, the ability to do 3D printing – to produce objects on demand at relatively low cost – has become a reality. And the trend is going to pick up steam in 2013. via Forbes, published December 7, 2012.

7 Young Entreprenuers Changing The World With Their Businesses ~ These companies’ founders are all members of a new generation of entrepreneurs who are looking to find disruptive ways of making money while also giving back. via FastCo.Exist, published December 10, 2012.

Children journey to the operating theatre through a magical forest ~ Jason Bruges Studio‘s interactive installation at Great Ormond Street features jumping rabbits and scurrying hedgehogs. via The Guardian, published December 12, 2012.

Toni Morrison Dispenses Writing Wisdom in 1993 Paris Review Interview ~ via Open Culture, published December 10, 2012.

Designers hold public office in Cape Town ~ Once a month designer Lourina Botha and her Studio Shelf colleagues marcate an area on a Cape Town street with yellow tape, setting up a temporary outdoor office in the public eye. In this space, the designers operate their business, design on-the-spot logos, take resumes from design students and give out free advice to local businesses. Studio Shelf call this their “Public Office” project. via SmartPlanet, published December 12, 2012.



Man drives 23 years around the world in the same car ~ via Lost at E Minor, published December 10, 2012.

(via memfise1 on YouTube, published July 25, 2012)


A Brief History of the GIF ~ via PSFK, published December 10, 2012.

(A Short History of the Gif | Moving the Still from FRIEND on Vimeo.)


Floating Schools Designed To Fight Floods In Bangladesh ~ via FastCo.Design, published December 10, 2012.

2012 WISE Awards Winner: Solar-Powered Floating Schools, Bangladesh

(via WISEQatar on YouTube, published November 12, 2012.)


Mohammed Rezwan: Floating schools

(Mohammed Rezwan: Floating schools from PopTech on Vimeo.)



A Wooden Light Bulb That Actually Illuminates ~ Kyoto-based product designer Ryosuke Fukusada has created a wooden light bulb that is capable of radiating light. via Design Taxi, published December 10, 2012.

Strangely Majestic Pictures Of Donated Clothes Show The Industrial Side Of Recycling ~ A photo project by Wesley Law called “Baled: Photographs of America’s Recyclables” captures piles of clothes at Goodwill, before they’re shipped away to the developing world. via FastCo.Exist, published December 13, 2012.

Animated Street Art That Jumps Off The Wall ~ INSA’s GIF-ITI Animated Street Art: Refuting the idea of needing to see a work of art in person to appreciate it. via Architizer, published December 12, 2012.

Amazing Paper Sculptures of Epic Scenes Spring Up From Open Books ~ Talented paper artist Jodi Harvey-Brown brings famous stories to life with her incredible paper sculptures of exciting scenes and popular book characters. via Design Taxi, published December 12, 2012.

Character vs. Virtue: On the Circular Journey of the Developing Self

                                    And the end of all our exploring
                                    Will be to arrive where we started
                                    And know the place for the first time.

– T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

How can we argue that “Making a living, economically speaking, will be at one with making a life that is worth living”[1]? And if we say a life worth living is one that is economically valuable as well, how can that life worth living be a life of art and ethics too, of tapping into “social creative forces” and continuing the unstoppable project of human invention?

The question of a life that is worth living seems to be one about both morality and imagination. I will save that topic for another discussion and focus on a point made by Paul Tough in his book How Children Succeed. Tough writes:

“In most societies, Seligman and Peterson wrote, character strengths were considered to have a moral valence, and in many cases they overlapped with religious laws and strictures. But moral laws were limiting when it came to character because they reduced virtuous conduct to a simple matter of obedience to a higher authority. ‘Virtues,’ they wrote, ‘are much more interesting than laws.’ According to Seligman and Peterson, the value of these twenty-four character strengths did not come from their relationship to any particular system of ethics but from their practical benefit—what you could actually gain by possessing and expressing them. Cultivating these strengths represented a reliable path to ‘the good life,’ a life that was not just happy but meaningful and fulfilling.”

The cultivation of virtue, and virtues as much more interesting than laws, is a long attended-to philosophical topic. I would say that in lieu of “interesting,” it is extremely important, because virtues are “metamarkers” that guide our journey. Laws are the habits and characteristics we create to help us stay on track, regulations that we break and remake as we move towards–but never fully realize–virtues.

I will draw on French philosopher Jacques Derrida to elucidate my point. Derrida, known for his impenetrability and complex discussion of language and society, is particularly clear, I think, on this point of the difference between “higher aims” and “habits/ rules/ institutions.” In his essay, “Force of Law: The Mystical Foundation of Authority,” Derrida writes about Justice and its relation to laws. Derrida’s conception of law in relation to Justice offers a way of understanding how something finite, such as a policy or law, can be thought of as operating under the umbrella of a greater purpose. Derrida writes about Justice as an overarching value that guides the making, interpretation, and application of laws.

Laws, as Derrida lays out, in an ideal sense ought to be made in the name of Justice, but then what is Justice? Whereas value may suggest something definable and finite, Justice is the opposite; it is indefinable and beyond the scope of comprehension, according to Derrida. Justice is a point of uncertainty that cannot be pinned down, though it is also a source of guidance because in resisting certainty it requires that we constantly question and reaffirm a purpose. Justice is not a means to an end, it is not in service of anything, but rather it is the guiding light by which we question all our actions and laws. Derrida writes, “one cannot speak directly about justice, thematize or objectivize justice” (Derrida, 1990, p. 936), and in this way he views Justice as something infinite and eternal that we must return to again and again in order to ensure we have not strayed off the path into injustice.

Justice is nondeconstructible, that is, something that is infinite, something that we cannot pull apart into composite parts in order to construct an all-encompassing definition. The deconstructible element, law, can help us to have experiences of Justice, but it does not in itself constitute and can never supplant Justice. In moving towards a true understanding of the nondeconstructible element, we must constantly return to the deconstructible elements, rethink them, reinvent them. Each time we come to a law or a policy, we must “assume it, approve it, confirm its value, by reinstituting act of interpretation as if ultimately nothing previously existed of the law, as if the judge himself invented the law in every case” (Derrida, 1990, p. 961). To do so, we must be attuned to the details of language, and we must reinstate meaning in the things under consideration in order to begin to understand them in the present situation. That is, in the localized context of a community, culture, socio-economic group, we must look again at a law or policy, pull it apart and ask whether it is in the service of a political or economic agenda, for example, and fundamentally whether it is in the name of truth or justice.

In this way, we are saying that laws and policy should not be in the service of a limited (and limiting) political agenda, but rather should aim toward a greater purpose of truth or justice. In the same way that we ought to recognize laws as something we must constantly rethink and reshape in the context of justice, so too we must rethink policies and curricula in the context of a greater purpose aiming to serve truth or justice. Laws and education policies are often made in the context of a particular and limiting political, social, economic, cultural climate, but our greater obligation to humanity, whether it be for Justice or education, calls us to deconstruct and examine those laws beyond the immediate interests driving political, social, economic, cultural agenda.

Attentiveness, or in Derrida’s terms understanding of difference, is essential for an ability to reconceive. Attentiveness can be understood as a rigorous process of noticing that can guide policy makers in their approach to the context of a proposed educational reform and can guide students in their approach to learning because it enables them to build an experience through deeper and more thoughtful engagement with the situations they encounter. The process of noticing can be thought of in terms of Stanley Fish’s “fresh judgment”(Derrida, 1990, p.950). The idea of fresh judgment connects to the idea of always approaching something as new. Approaching something as new inherently suggests that we cannot assume that any statement or meaning or definition (or law or policy or verdict) which we had concluded before was true is still true. If we approach something as though we did not understand it, then we return to a concept each time with fresh judgment.

This encounter allows us to see and understand something anew, discovering some nuance or variation, or perhaps something entirely the opposite of what we had seen before. Such recognition teaches us, since we come to realize that our previous understanding was limited or even wrong, that we have a responsibility, if we wish to truly understand, to return again and again to our experience and be attentive. Attentiveness means setting aside preconceptions and judgments. It is a supremely important process of thought and way of being, especially where localized and individual differences can vary greatly and where it is essential for policymakers and teachers to take into account such differences and to do so fairly rather than in the exercise of power for certain interests or social groups over others. Derrida states that laws should not be in “the service of a social force of power,” which he defines as “economic, political, ideological powers.”

This philosophical exploration  helps us to understand more deeply some of the problems Tough grappled with as he thought about, watched, and spoke with children trained to be grandmaster chess players. While the children Tough followed were trained to have character traits recognized as on the path to virtue, such as patience, attentiveness, self-assurance, and also work ethic, “grit,” and ability to overcome failure, they were not necessarily taught to look to see those traits as useful for developing knowledge, beauty, truth (or more simply to be just and empathetic with those around them). It is not that they could not find this on their own, but as the stories showed, the grandmaster chess players in middle school became somewhat handicapped when they could not apply their arguably superior character traits to a higher, unattainable purpose like thirst for knowledge and curiosity which would have the added benefit of helping them get into college. With life, the message here is, there are things we will never obtain in an absolute sense like a title of grandmaster—happiness, justice, virtue—and these are undeniably some of the more important things in life. Rather, we must learn to cognizantly apply our character traits to a variety of tasks at hand emerging to us throughout life.

So to move back out our discussion of virtue and character, we can say we can never precisely define in words The Good is or Imagination or Truth. What we can do is identify the character traits, or habits, that we can cultivate that would make us close to the Good (empathy) or Imagination (creativity) or Truth (reflection). The articulation of  the traits and  habits indicating character helps schools as they work to gain the more undefinable goal of Knowledge and Happiness (for Wittgenstein being happy is having values “in spite of the misery of the world”) engaged persons and citizens. Tough continues on to write:

“For many of us, character refers to something innate and unchanging: a core set of attributes that define one’s very essence. Seligman and Peterson defined character in a different way: a set of abilities or strengths that are very much changeable—entirely malleable, in fact. They are skills you can learn; they are skills you can practice and they are skills you can teach.” (59, Tough)

While Tough may be correct when he says “for many of us,” as I have not surveyed what people think when they hear the word character and I am sure he has, I can say that in the traditions of philosophy, psychology and many religions it is accepted that virtue and character are things worked at and developed and not something genetic or  innate. In these fields malleable character is interpreted in a variety of different ways. For some it is through activity (Aristotle), for others through reflection and love (Moore), and for Kant it is though universalizing concepts. The paths to the good are varied, but the notion across the board remains the same: the labor of virtue is not a linear progression to a finite moment of perfect and complete understanding. Rather, it is an orbiting around an ideal, a casting out and a reeling back in, that is perpetual and endless.

The ideal is to a be one who is developing character traits towards a higher end and being, as educational philosopher John Dewey says, “intelligently experimental”[2] in the process. Stay tuned for more on imagination, creativity and the process of being intelligently experimental.

[1] Dewey’s Reconstruction in Philosophy. It is a book based on series of lectures that Dewey gave at Tokyo’s Imperial University of Japan not long after World War I. “When the liberation of capacity no longer seems a menace to organization and established institutions, something that cannot be avoided practically and yet something that is a threat to conservation of the most previous values of the past, when the liberating human capacity operates as a socially creative force, art will not be a luxury, a stranger to the daily occupations of making a living. Making a living economically speaking, will be at one with making a life that is worth living. And when the emotional force, the mystic force on might say, of communication, of the miracle of shared life and shared experience is spontaneously felt, the hardness and crudeness of contemporary life will be bathed in the light that never was on land or sea.”
[2] “The conjunction of problematic and determinate characters in nature renders everyexistence, as well as every idea and human act, an experiment in fact, even though not in design.To be intelligently experimental is but to be conscious of this intersection of natural conditionsso as to profit by it instead of being at its mercy.”(Dewey, Experience and Nature, 63)

Friday Link Fest {November 30-December 7, 2012}


An Interactive Exhibit Chronicles The History Of Building Blocks ~ David Rockwell’s blue foam blocks serve as the lynchpin of a new exhibit on self-directed play at the National Building Museum. via FastCo.Design, published November 29, 2012.

Videogames Do Belong in the Museum of Modern Art ~ via Wired, published December 4, 2012.

These Five-Student Teams Could Change The World, With A Little Help From Microsoft ~ via FastCo.Exist, published December 5, 2012.

Exploring Humanity’s Evolving ‘Global Brain’ ~ via The New York Times, published December 3, 2012.

What Can Children Teach Us about Innovation? Everything, Says Stanford Design Guru ~ via Forbes, published December 6, 2012.

10 Techniques for Making Cities More Walkable ~ via Atlantic Cities, published December 3, 2012.

DIY History crowdsources the transcription of 17th century cookbooks ~ Launched by the University of Iowa, DIY History, a crowdsourcing initiative that allows volunteers to transcribe the Szathmary Culinary Archives, centuries’ worth of handwritten cookbooks from 1600s to the 1960s, making the content searchable and available online. via Wired UK, published December 3, 2012.

Curious About…Hierarchy. ~ via The Curiosity Chronicles, published November 29, 2012.



Self-Taught African Teenager Wows M.I.T. (and Other Innovators Changing Africa’s Fate) ~ via Open Culture, published December 3, 2012.

(via thnkrtv on YouTube, published Nov 16, 2012)


Sir Ken Robinson – Educating the Heart and Mind ~ via dalailamacenter on YouTube, published November 2, 2011.


A Real-Life Pixar Lamp That Interacts With The World Around It ~ via FastCo.Design, published December 4, 2012.

(via Pinokio from Pinokio on Vimeo.)

Artist Ken Butler Turns One Man’s Trash Into Another Man’s Quirky Stringed Instrument ~ via Open Culture, published December 3, 2012.


Remembering Jazz Legend Dave Brubeck (RIP) with a Very Touching Musical Moment ~ via Open Culture, published December 5, 2012.

(via afahsu on YouTube, published November 4 2007)


Strange, Beautiful and Unexpected: Planned Cities Seen From Space ~ via Wired, published November 29, 2012.

Feather Art by Chris Maynard ~ Washington-based artist Chris Maynard uses the forms and patterns of feathers to create intricate cutouts of large flocks of birds. Using fine eye surgery forceps, scalpels, and magnifiers, Chris carefully cuts and arranges the feathers guiding each piece to honor something about the feather and bird that grew it. via Junkculture, published December 4, 2012.

Amazing Photos Of Animals In The Wild, Snapped By Hidden Automatic Cameras ~ Rethinking…* animal specimens: The Smithsonian’s Wild project uses advanced automated cameras to capture images of animals in their natural habitats as they go about their day. It’s a much better kind of specimen than a dead, stuffed animal. via FastCo.Exist, published November 27, 2012.

 Infographic: 100 Leaders in Public Interest Design ~ via GOOD, published December 5, 2012.

Design as a process for navigating the ill-structured challenges of our times…*


Enjoy this delightful TEDxIndianapolis talk by Sami Nerenberg on several of Design for America‘s past projects and the power of autonomous interdisciplinary teams (ahem!) harnessing design to create empathetic student leaders eager and ready to collaborate with communities and individuals to rethink…* and redesign our world to be more human-centered.

Imagine interdisciplinary student teams and community members using design to create local, social impact. What about teaching human-centered design to young adults and collaborating community partners through extra-curricular, university-based, student-led design studios that tackle national challenges in education, health, economy and the environment? This year, two of these start-ups, SwipeSense and Jerry the Bear, have gone on to raise nearly $1.5 million in start-up capital, with more hot projects in the pipeline. Learn how game-changing approaches in higher education are developing innovative leaders ready to deliver social impact.

Sami Nerenberg: Developing Empathic Leaders Through Design

(via , published on YouTube, November 26, 2012)

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