Only Connecting Through Design

In many ways this blog is designed to represent the work my students have done through design-based learning and by employing design thinking to find and solve real world problems. In that, I’m tracking work that both my English students and students in my new Design-Lab class are doing.

Adobe Spark (1)But the name of the blog is “Only Connect” and E.M. Forster’s command to us applies not only to our mental frames of mind but also to our social connections. Indeed, the title of the blog derives not from my reading of Forster but from a masterful essay by Prof. William Cronon entitled, “Only Connect: The Goals of a Liberal Education” in which he reminds us that our learning, our education is never a solitary achievement.  We are always indebted to the larger communities in which we find ourselves and which provide us with our educational opportunities.

In fact, were it not for connection, this blog wouldn’t exist.   I am indebted to so many people and the internet itself—this massive connector—for introducing me to a network of designers and designerly-minded educators who have helped me grow and dive so deeply into the world of design and the potential it has for education.
People like Doris Wells-Papanek who first introduced me to the entire movement of design-based education and helped me see that what I had been doing for over a decade had a place and history. Doris’ work in creating the Design Learning Network has been instrumental in bringing this hands-on, minds-on learning with its bias towards action to so many districts and educators around the country.

And people like Joe Schwartz and Robin VandeZandee, two amazing educators whose influence bridges the high-school to university divide; whose drive helped create an entire consortium, Design-ed, that is bringing designerly-minded educators at all levels from all parts of the country and world into contact with each other in person and on the web.

And then there are people like Dr. Martin Rayala and Dr. Christina Alvarez, people whose vision to bring design thinking and design-based learning was backed by such energy that it enlivened an entire community, sparking them to action and eventually to the finals of the XQ Super School Project.

Yesterday evening, their school, it’s staff, and its students gathered to watch the winners of $100 million dollars in prizes revealed in Washington, D.C. And they were not to be denied. Their school, Design-Lab, in Christiana , Delaware, was one of ten, 10 million dollar winners.

Lauded for their vision to serve all students and to act as a laboratory for educational research into the efficacy and lasting power of design based thinking, Design-Lab has become a brilliant beacon of possibility and a leader in proving that Design Thinking is not a method meant only for privileged private school students. With its push for equity and its unshakeable belief in its students and their power to make a difference by learning how to design a better world for us all, Design-Lab is a clear proof of concept and a model, along with all the XQ Super Schools, that educators and communities with vision can succeed in creating powerful, meaningful change.

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