When Empathy Transforms Education


April 11, 2017
SDCT Assistant Dean Doreen Lorenzo speaking at SXSWEdu 2017

By Doreen Lorenzo, Executive Director of the Center for Integrated Design

In March, I had the pleasure of speaking at a SXSW EDU panel titled Design Thinking as a Core Fundamental in Education. When most people think of SXSW they probably think about parties, concerts and elaborate marketing installations from companies and brands from around the world – but there is a lot more to the conference than that. 

In 2011, SWSX EDU launched its inaugural event focusing on innovations in K-12 learning. Now, six years later, it’s a 3 day event with over six thousand attendees discussing education successes, failures and how to challenge and improve education conventions at both at the K-12 level and within higher education. 

I obviously spoke about design thinking and how this field of study is making strides across the country and at The University of Texas. I shared that while the human-centric approach is often taught at the graduate level, for me, it was a priority to make it accessible for all students and most specifically for undergraduates. It was then that I had an aha moment. 

So many attendees at our gathering represented the most passionate and dedicated leaders in education. They saw how design thinking could impact students at almost every level, and especially within the K-12 system. This isn’t just for graduate and undergraduate students but rather a necessary skill and understanding for students of all ages. Many educators were so eager to find a way to better serve children and for them, teaching design thinking provided an opportunity for positive change. 

Change doesn’t happen overnight but we certainly have opportunities to inspire and teach new concepts in the classroom, and at all levels. Teaching and problem solving with a human-centered approach means bringing empathy to the forefront of  learning, and that’s just the beginning. We can go one step further and model collaborations and cross functional work by encouraging the uniqueness of students’ skills and their ability to teach each other. 

It’s always such a pleasure sharing how design thinking has influenced and shaped many of my personal and professional experiences. I left the conference feeling inspired and moved at the thought of children, adolescents and teens being taught the value of the human-centered approach. 

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