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Design-Thinking Tools for Students

Identifying problems, solving them creatively, and iterating on those solutions are the core activities of design thinking. It's a way of thinking and creating that'll help students tackle the ever-evolving challenges of school and life. To help students solve problems big and small through design thinking, we've collected resources on this list in two categories. The first offers ideation and collaboration tools students can use during the design process. The second offers mostly free, web-based resources that students can use to find their next design project, or that teachers can use to build lessons.

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Ideation and Design Tools

Popplet

A compact, simple organizational tool for minimalist presentation

Bottom line: Great web-based presentation tool for beginners.

MURAL

Multifaceted message boards help kids collaborate

Bottom line: MURAL can encourage individual team members to contribute to a project by making idea sharing and presentation a simple, visual process.

Paper by FiftyThree

Beautifully designed digital sketchbook for any age

Bottom line: The simplicity and effectiveness of the app make this a powerful sketch and note-taking tool for the iPad.

The Noun Project

Think in pictures with vibrant visual language everyone can understand

Bottom line: It's a neat, well-executed concept with lots of possibilities for learning, imagining, and creating.

MindMeister

Powerful mind mapper aimed at adults, simple enough for older kids

Bottom line: Sophisticated productivity tool enhances learning and organization with simple dashboard and slick workspace.

Stormboard

Collaborate, brainstorm in real time with easy-to-use online whiteboard

Bottom line: A versatile, full-featured online brainstorming collaboration tool that can facilitate small-group projects.

Explee

Build slick, engaging whiteboard animations with Web-based tool

Bottom line: A stellar -- if somewhat pricey -- creation tool for the classroom.

SketchUp

Make learning meaningful through 3D design

Bottom line: SketchUp is a fantastic, subject-agnostic tool that does take time to learn but helps students gain truly useful, transferable skills.

Autodesk Sketchbook

Impressive creation tool for teens serious about art

Bottom line: Gives students easy access to professional tools for creating digital art.

Grafio 3 - Diagrams & ideas

Flexible app transforms sketches into pro-level designs and diagrams

Bottom line: A terrific choice for creating simple diagrams or presentations on iOS.

Websites With Design Resources, Activities, and Inspiration

Makers Empire

Stellar 3D design hub promotes innovation, collaboration, and creation

Bottom line: This is a great design and creation tool that teachers and students can use to be innovative and share ideas with a vibrant community of makers.

Design Squad Global

Fun engineering problems encourage classroom competition, innovation

Bottom line: Design Squad Global makes learning STEAM concepts fun through hands-on activities and easy-to-understand scientific explanations.

DIY

Design, build, and share new things offline and online

Bottom line: DIY motivates kids to tackle a wide range of problems with independent and scientific thinking.

Tinkercad

Amazingly simple yet powerful online CAD tool turns kids into makers

Bottom line: A big step forward in making iterative 3D design more accessible and social.

Google CS First

Middle school CS platform offers stellar resources, organizing tools

Bottom line: If your middle school doesn't have a CS program or club, now you do!

KidsThinkDesign

Projects inspire creativity; a place for kids' sharing would boost fun

Bottom line: A go-to site for teachers looking for well-presented project ideas; kids will need opportunities to share work locally.

Autodesk Design Academy

Outstanding project-based tutorials for popular engineering software

Bottom line: The projects found here are a great way to teach and learn digital design; all are truly fantastic (and free!), with everything you need ready to go.

WhiteBox Learning

Design, analyze, and then build STEM applications

Bottom line: Complete learning modules include simple CAD design simulation tools, a digital competition, and options for hands-on building.

Instructables

Slick DIY app with projects that have classroom potential

Bottom line: Cool project ideas and let tweens and teens showcase their creativity and instruction-writing skills; supervision required.

Get tips for using these tools in the classroom

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