Learning + Teaching + Design Thinking Impact in K-12 with Rich Wiener — DT101 E104

Rich Wiener is an educator and consultant who works to engage K-12 learners at a high level, and has zeroed in on design thinking as a key component. Rich’s career has included being a school principal, Director of Curriculum for Ramsey Public School District in New Jersey, and an adjunct professor of education at Columbia University. We talk about the impact of design thinking in K-12 education.

Portrait of Rich Wiener

Listen to Learn About

  • The design thinking classroom program in the Ramsey public school district
  • How design thinking impacts Ramsey’s high school students and teachers
  • Advice to school districts wanting to start their own design thinking program
  • Some of the partner projects students worked on during the program

Our Guest

Rich Wiener has served the educational community as a teacher, principal, curriculum director, and adjunct professor of education. He received his Masters Degree from the University of Oregon and his Doctoral Degree from Teachers College, Columbia University. He taught the supervision course in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia and courses on change leadership and methods of teaching at Ramapo College of New Jersey. Rich is currently the CEO of the educational consulting firm, GEN Z Innovate.

Throughout his career, Rich has worked to develop educational programs and experiences that inspire student engagement, foster creativity and complex problem-solving, and promote deep understanding and insight. As a part of that journey, Rich and his colleagues in Ramsey, New Jersey established a high school level design thinking course, modeled after the Stanford University d. school. The Ramsey High School Design Lab established partnerships with American Express, Liberty Science Center, Boxed Wholesale, All Things Media, The Center for Social Innovation in New York City, Crisis Text Line, and the New Jersey Legislature, among others. The design thinking model has proven to be a successful approach to engaging high school students in an experience that successfully fosters the creative mindsets that underlie innovative, complex problem-solving.

Show Highlights

[01:47] Rich’s story begins at the Ramsey Public School District.
[02:32] How Time Magazine’s How to Build a Student for the 21st century article influenced and inspired the school district.
[04:10] Rich explains the concept of transfer in education.
[05:03] Performance assessments and complex problem solving.
[06:37] Rich’s thoughts on educational curriculum.
[07:10] Our curriculum overemphasizes content over creative thinking.
[08:39] Our curriculum doesn’t focus enough on teaching students how to respond to societal issues and problems.
[09:15] Our curriculum doesn’t help students understand themselves and their place in the world.
[10:17] Rich’s reaction to seeing the 2013 60 Minutes’ interview with IDEO’s David Kelley.
[11:37] The question Rich and his colleagues created for their design thinking project.
[12:45] The school district’s first foray into teaching design thinking to students.
[14:14] Lessons learned during that first project.
[16:18] The deeper goals and outcomes of the project.
[17:26] Helping kids embrace risk-taking and failure.
[18:06] The traditional classroom vs. the design thinking classroom.
[20:00] The students’ first project on the first day of class.
[21:22] Teaching empathy.
[22:25] Partnering the classroom with an outside organization to give students a real-world experience.
[24:51] The positive impact the design thinking course had on the teachers, and on teaching and learning outside of the classroom.
[28:48] Students tackling English curriculum revision using design thinking.
[30:25] Rich gives advice for other K-12 schools that may want to start their own design thinking course.
[32:44] How to find businesses and organizations to partner with.
[34:44] Rich talks about a student partner project with All Things Media.
[42:34] Another student partner project, with American Express.
[44:13] Where to learn more about Rich and his work.


Rich on Twitter
Rich on LinkedIn
Design Lab and Design Thinking Course at Ramsey High School
GenZ Innovate
Grant Wiggins on ACSD
60 Minutes David Kelley interview
Project Breaker

Book Recommendations

The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design, by IDEO.org

Design Thinking 101 Episodes You Might Like

Design Thinking + Learning Science with Adam Royalty — DT101 E18
A Short Introduction to Design Thinking with Dawan Stanford — DT101 E32
Design for America: Founding + Present + Future, Part 2 — DT101 E37

Resources — Thinking and Solving Like a Designer


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