Why Design Thinking?

It’s not uncommon when you walk the halls of Jean Augustine Secondary School to see students engaged in the design process. You will see design thinking in action in those spaces you might expect to see it, in the DesignLab, in a construction technology class, and the computer engineering lab. But it is particularly exciting when you see a grade 9 Healthy Active Living class engaging in design thinking to create innovative solutions to mental health challenges faced by their peers. Or when our grade 11 Social Innovation classes are using design thinking to find creative solutions to issues of poverty, hunger, and equity right in their own community.


We aren’t talking about the kind of work that ends up in the recycling bin at the end of the semester. It’s real, it has an impact, and the students see value in the work that they do. So, what is design thinking and why should it continue to be an integral part of what we do here at Jean Augustine Secondary School? Here are some resources to help explain it’s value.

What is Human-centered Design? from IDEO.org on Vimeo.

Why Design Thinking Works – Harvard Business Review

Why Design Thinking is Relevant – IDEO

Design Thinking: A Unified Framework For Innovation – Forbes

Way back in 2010, 1500 CEOs from around the world declared that Creativity is the most crucial factor for Future Success

What does innovation mean to me?

Grade 9 student Shifaa shares her thoughts about innovation at JASS:

What’s the first word that comes to mind when you hear ‘Innovation’? Actually. Think about it.

For me, I think of the word ‘Invention’. And for the longest time, I thought that the two were practically the same thing. I mean, they sound similar enough, right? After stumbling on an article while in English class and doing some further research, I found that the two are actually not the same at all.


An invention is usually a “thing”, while an innovation is usually an invention that causes change in behaviour or interactions.”

This phrase caught my eye and I thought for a while. To make things more simple, I created an example. The example might be that an invention is a special type of watch. An innovation would be that this watch would determine how many people interact with each other, for instance, if the watch showed the wearer’s Zodiac, blood and personality type, then two people may compare watches when looking for a spouse, a worker with specific personality, etc. etc. and this watch would therefore change the behaviour of someone and their interactions with another person.

Another example is the iPhone. It’s both an invention and an innovation. Clearly it’s an invention because it’s a new device that no one has created before. It is under legal protection, has been patented, etc. etc. But it’s also an innovation because it has changed the world. It has changed people’s behaviours (in negative ways as well, but that’s a different topic), interactions with each other, the business world, the entertainment world, the mental and health world…the list is huge.

So what does innovation mean to me, in a school setting?  In a new class called GLS (Guided Learning Strategies), originality and innovation were topics discussed.  So what is original?” Was the question. My personal conclusion was that: There is almost nothing human made that is original. But the fact that we copied and remixed those ideas, originally from nature (nature IS the origin), and remixed them again from our innovations. This is what created the success of the human species.

Issac Asimov (the author of the famous book I, Robot) said in one letter of his:

Rather than lecture sessions where the presenter proves how smart he is by showing his results and finished work products, the cerebration sessions are used to “group think” new ideas, new possibilities, and new combinations of knowledge and experience which could find new answers and new directions.”

Here at JASS, I believe that this is exactly what is attempted to be initiated in the students. Instead of our teachers presenting the information, we are split into groups and told to brainstorm using our current knowledge to complete the task, with the teacher giving us tips on how to do so.

As an ex-homeschooler, most of my previous work was very independent and I learned to think for myself and self-regulate, which are both important skills. But in school, I now have a chance to use the knowledge and experiences of other people and add to my current knowledge–something that did not happen on a daily basis while being homeschooled.

Now that we have identified what innovation is, this blog should conclude how to further implement this idea of innovation. Let’s once again look at the famous science-fiction writer’s words:

“First and foremost, there must be ease, relaxation, and a general sense of permissiveness. The world in general disapproves of creativity, and to be creative in public is particularly bad…The individuals must, therefore, have the feeling that the others won’t object.”

A similar system is implemented in businesses such as Google and other such organizations (Apple, Facebook, etc.). The first is the culture of cerebration, of promoting employees to share and internally market their ideas and projects. The second is that they realize that the working of the brain and group-think are key components to turning invention to innovation (turning a thing into it actually interacting in society).

If we as students are to succeed, they must be given an environment where innovation will occur naturally and often. Here at JASS, I believe that this is happening, and all that is left is for us to remove the barriers of reluctance and awkwardness and dive right in.

What does innovation mean to you?

Over the past two months the staff at Jean Augustine Secondary School has been engaged in discussions about innovation in the classroom while reading  The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros.

When we last met as a staff we discussed the evolving nature of innovation and the idea that innovation is a continuum, for both staff and students. In those discussions we realized that innovation meant different things to different teachers dependent upon our experiences, our passions, and our goals. In conversations with students we found the same to be true.

Our last meeting prompted the question: “what does innovation mean to you?”. Over the next few days watch for blog posts from both staff and students as we explore this question!


Student Services – Winter 2017 News

Meet the Counsellor

You are more than welcome to visit your child’s counsellor, Mr. Omar Zia, any time during the school day. Please make an appointment by calling (905) 796-4562 extension 411, or call Mrs. Green at extension 409. You may also ask your child to make an appointment using the Student Services Google Classroom.

Summer School

Registration for Summer School will start in April. Summer School will run Monday to Friday from 8:00 – 1:30 starting July 4th through July 31st. Students can take one new course or up to two make-up credits if they were unsuccessful, depending on their final grade. For more information, please visit: http://www.peelschools.org/conted and select Summer School from the side bar menu. Course listings will be posted in the Spring.

Course Selection for Next Year

The course selection process for the next academic year is now complete. Parents /Guardians are encouraged to review the choices that their children have made in order to ensure that appropriate courses have been selected. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the course selection, please contact your child’s guidance counsellor at extension 411. Students can still make course changes up until June 15th .

A verification form will be distributed to all students in mid-June so that they can have the opportunity to check that their courses for next year are correct and also to make any minor changes to these selections. Please be aware that timetables cannot be changed after this point except for the following 3 reasons:

  1. Student earns the credit in summer school
  2. Student has a change of direction in their career pathway
  3. Student selects a course but has not yet earned the pre-requisite course

Join the Student Services Google Classroom!

Parents and guardians can now be an integral part of their child’s post-secondary journey. Please email the counsellor at omar.zia@peelsb.com to get an invitation to join our google classroom. This website provides a series of brochures exploring different career choices, information on volunteering opportunities and summer jobs. Each time a new document is posted, you will get an email notification. Please email Omar Zia today!