Design Thinking in Reykjavik:
New Collaboration between the University of Minnesota and University of Iceland

The University of Minnesota’s College of Design and the University of Iceland’s School of Education collaborated on two events this month. The collaboration emerged from design thinking events hosted by the University of Minnesota’s College of Design, the College of Education and Human Development and their partners that staff from the University of Iceland had attended in 2012.

Talk on design thinking

The first event, held on Nov. 19, 2013, was a talk on Design Thinking and its applications by Virajita Singh, senior research fellow and adjunct assistant professor, who leads the University of Minnesota’s Design Thinking @ College of Design. It was held at the University of Iceland’s School of Education in Reykjavik. The talk was attended by the School of Education’s academic community with some participation from the policy/government sector.

Design thinking is an emerging field that involves application of tools and processes from the design disciplines to problem solving in complex systems and in fields such as business, healthcare and education.

Design thinking workshopWorkshop with the education community

The second event, held on Wednesday, November 20th, was an all-day design thinking workshop in Reykjavik for the educational community in Iceland co-facilitated bilingually in English and Icelandic by Virajita Singh and Tryggvi Thayer, program manager in the School of Education, University of Iceland. Members of the academic community, graduate students, practicing educators from preschool through upper secondary levels, administrators, regional policymakers, and industry professionals attended the workshop. The 49 participants were mostly from the Reykjavik region with some participants from other parts of Iceland, including Akuryeyri, Arborg, Mosfellsbaer, Kopavogur and Hafnarfjordur. The seven teams selected one of four design challenges currently faced by the local educational community:

  • How might we help educators learn about anticipated technological developments?
  • How might we use technology in education so that it is aligned with the technological reality of our youth?
  • How might we create maximum access to state-of-the-art professional development opportunities for educators?
  • How might we foster open collaborati on between educators and encourage embracing of change?

Many creative ideas and solutions were proposed by each of the teams. The ideas generated are in the process of being documented. Selected ideas will be explored further for implementation in a pilot phase. 

Future collaboration

Design thinking workshop ideas on post-itsBoth the University of Iceland and the University of Minnesota see great potential in continued collaboration connecting design thinking to the field of education in a culture-specific way to meet the needs of the Icelandic educational community, and intend to seek funding from sources both in Iceland and Minnesota to continue this work.  The benefits of this work are two-fold: for the Icelandic educational community it will help spur the work of applied innovation on the  ground, and for the University Minnesota it will deepen the learning in outreach and research about how applied design thinking works in a variety of cultural contexts and how the field might evolve to better meet needs of our global society. It will add to a growing body of applied work in Minnesota by Design Thinking @ College of Design and will allow for comparative learning and discourse across both educational institutions.

Posted 11/27/13