Top Pick

Design-Thinking Tools for Students

Solving problems creatively and iterating on those solutions is at the core of design thinking. What could be better suited to the 21st-century classroom, right? Check out this collection of great apps, websites, and games for design thinking. We've separated these picks into three categories: ideation and collaboration tools students can use during the design process, creation platforms that will foster design-thinking skills, and web-based resources that students can use to find their next design project.

Ideation and Design Tools

Popplet Visit Website: https://popplet.com/
A compact, simple organizational tool for minimalist presentation
Grades 1-12
Type Website
Price Free, Paid
Common Sense Rating 3
Teacher Rating 4
Paper by FiftyThree Publisher: FiftyThree
Beautifully designed digital sketchbook for any age
Grades 3-12
Type App
Price Free
Platforms iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4
MindMeister Visit Website: http://www.mindmeister.com
Powerful mind mapper aimed at adults, simple enough for older kids
Grades 5-12
Type Website
Price Free, Paid
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4
Stormboard Visit Website: www.stormboard.com
Collaborate, brainstorm in real time with easy-to-use online whiteboard
Grades 5-12
Type Website
Price Free, Free to Try, Paid
Common Sense Rating 3
Teacher Rating 5
Explee Visit Website: https://explee.com/
Build slick, engaging whiteboard animations with Web-based tool
Grades 6-12
Type Website
Price Free, Paid
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4
Grafio 3 - Diagrams & ideas Publisher: Ten Touch Ltd.
Flexible app transforms sketches into pro-level designs and diagrams
Grades 9-12
Type App
Price $7.99
Platforms iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating Not Yet Rated

Creation Tools That Build Design-Thinking Skills

ScratchJr Publisher: DevTech Research Group at Tufts University, Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT Media Lab, and Playful Invention Company
Drag-and-drop programming is an effective intro for budding programmers
Grades K-2
Type App
Price Free
Platforms Android, iPad
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4
Robot Factory Publisher: Tinybop
Improve designs, collect favorites in robot creation sandbox
Grades K-8
Type App
Price $3.99
Platforms iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4
Curiosity Machine Visit Website: https://www.curiositymachine.org
Kids build, share, receive pro feedback with awesome engineering site
Grades 2-12
Type Website
Price Free
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4
3D Slash Visit Website: http://www.3dslash.net
Minecraft-like 3D modeling (and printing) made super easy for all ages
Grades 2-12
Type Website
Price Free, Paid
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating Not Yet Rated
Minecraft Publisher: Mojang
Spiraling sandbox of adventure and creation gets kids to dig deep
Grades 3-12
Type Game
Price $26.95 for desktop, $19.99 for consoles (except Wii U at $29.99)
Platforms Linux, Mac, Wii U, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Common Sense Rating 5
Teacher Rating 4
Gamestar Mechanic Publisher: Institute of Play and E-Line Media
Captivating manga romp teaches kids game design
Grades 4-9
Type Game
Price Free, Paid
Platforms Mac, Windows
Common Sense Rating 5
Teacher Rating 4
LittleBigPlanet 2 Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Accessible yet deep game creator will dazzle and challenge
Grades 4-12
Type Game
Price 19.99
Platforms PS3
Common Sense Rating 5
Teacher Rating 4
GameMaker: Studio Publisher: YoYo Games Ltd.
One of the best creation tools available for aspiring game developers
Grades 5-12
Type Game
Price Free, Paid
Platforms Mac, Windows
Common Sense Rating 5
Teacher Rating 5
Stencyl Publisher: Stencyl, LLC
Code-free game development tool helps kids program and publish
Grades 5-12
Type Game
Price Free, Paid
Platforms Mac
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4
Appinventor.org Visit Website: http://www.appinventor.org/
Great mobile app creation site has solid teacher resources
Grades 6-12
Type Website
Price Free
Common Sense Rating 5
Teacher Rating 4
SketchUp Visit Website: http://www.sketchup.com/
Make learning meaningful through 3D design
Grades 6-12
Type Website
Price Free, Paid
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4
Textadventures.co.uk Visit Website: http://textadventures.co.uk/
Play or design text adventures, but creation can get technical
Grades 6-12
Type Website
Price Free
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating Not Yet Rated
Thunkable Visit Website: https://thunkable.com/#/
Build a working iOS or Android app, even without coding experience
Grades 6-12
Type Website
Price Free
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating Not Yet Rated
Tinkercad Visit Website: http://www.tinkercad.com
Amazingly simple yet powerful and flexible online CAD tool
Grades 6-12
Type Website
Price Free
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4
Bloxmob Visit Website: https://www.bloxmob.com/home/
Create and share apps even without the coding know-how
Grades 8-12
Type Website
Price Free to Try, Paid
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4

Websites With Design Resources, Activities, and Inspiration

Design Squad Nation Visit Website: http://pbskids.org/designsquad
Classmates can compete to solve fun engineering problems
Grades 3-8
Type Website
Price Free
Common Sense Rating 5
Teacher Rating 4
DIY Visit Website: http://www.diy.org
Design, build, and share new things offline and online
Grades 3-8
Type Website
Price Free
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4
KidsThinkDesign Visit Website: http://www.kidsthinkdesign.org/index.html
Projects inspire creativity; a place for kids' sharing would boost fun
Grades 4-12
Type Website
Price Free
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 3
Autodesk Design Academy Visit Website: http://academy.autodesk.com
Outstanding project-based tutorials for popular engineering software
Grades 6-12
Type Website
Price Free
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating Not Yet Rated