Marry Cantwell of Mount Vernon Presbyterian School in Sandy Springs, Georgia, is the director of the first Designed Thinking K-12 initiative in Atlanta, and one of the few in the country. Grown from the Mount Vernon Center for Designed Thinking the i.Design Lab is modeled after the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, or commonly known as d.school, wherein 21st century learners are not only encouraged to solve problems, but to define them. Cantwell has taken the d.school’s approach for designed thinking and applied it to develop her own new and unique “going D.E.E.P.” process, (Discover, Empathy, Experiment and Produce), and used this model to help students think about problems in new ways.

The program has been a success so far, beginning with the first project given to the lower school students last year, which was to design the 25th century classroom. Since then, MVCDT built that classroom and invited an Atlanta based CEO to help develop with another project in designing apps. i.Design then paired high school and lower school students together to build the apps which the students designed together, combining designed thinking and digital learning.

Melody Cannon, Language Arts teacher at MVPS has fears, though that 21st century learners unavoidable pitfall will occur as the role of technology turns into a crutch. Cannon bills digital learning not as a be all and end all.

“You need to be able to walk outside and find out what clouds are made of. Learn what a birds song sounds like,” says Cannon.

Cannon says digital learning can be a “distraction” and people are used to “googling.” Cannon believes tablets and laptops pose a threat when games and other distractions are readily available, but hand held web-driven devices such as Kindles or Nooks can transform the way educators and students interact, but criticizes them for not having e-textbooks readily available when the iPad has programs such as Inkling and Our Choice.

Doctor Hite, 9th grade World History teacher at MVPS believes that there is a gap in understanding how digital learning is done though.

“There’s a common misconception that young people understand technology right off the bat… that old people don’t know how to use technology,“ says Hite.

Hite believes learning how to use a laptop in the classroom is no different than learning the fundamentals of note taking.

Hite says, “A pen and a pad don’t make you a good writer” and the same can be applied to digital learning since, “just because you have a blog doesn’t mean you can write well.”

Technology is a tool, but without the proper training it’s useless, however Hite asserts technology’s ability to aid student’s organization skills, general performance and output in school is boundless.

The outlook of 21st century learners rely on innovative processes much like Kennesaw, Georgia based iSchool Initiative. iSchool, founded by Kennesaw State University student Travis Allen, aims to empower students through revolutionizing the way we learn using all technology. The iSchool Initiative has gathered that buying an iPad can save money versus total costs of textbooks etc. in the long run and predicated that within the next 10 years, textbooks will be gone from the classroom. From Designed Thinking to Digital Learning, It is the voice of Allen’s and every other 21st century learner that will shape the way we learn in the future.

Allen says, “Technology is compared to Oxygen, ubiquitous and invisible,” and much like learning it’s all around us, but it isn’t until we start to think about the way we learn that change occurs.

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