Empathy a window to understanding
Each program at Monash Tech School utilises the design thinking model. This model is made up of 5 steps: Research, Empathy, Ideation, Prototype and Pitch. This method of thinking is used by big global companies such as Apple to create solutions and is very beneficial for students too.
All of these steps are beneficial for creating an effective solution to a problem, but I believe that the empathy stage stands out amongst the rest. In the Superhumans program, students are tasked with finding solutions to help those suffering from a disease or crippling condition. During the empathy stage, students are asked to put themselves in the shoes of the person who needs this solution. They will feel what they feel, think what they think and do what they do. Only once they can empathise with the person, will they be able to truly understand why they need a solution. Additionally, by understanding the person’s point of view, the students will be more compelled to fix the client’s problem.
Monash Tech School makes sure to create both fun and creative empathy activities for the students. In the Superhumans program, students rotate through 4 different stations, simulating different diseases that one might have. There are stations for the hand, the eye, the kidney, and the heart. In each of these stations, students are made to feel what it is like to have these diseases or conditions.
In the hand station, students wear different types of gloves, each restricting movement in
their hands. There are objects to try and play with, such as footballs and foam. This station simulates how it may feel for people with arthritis. In the eye station, students are given different goggles to try on, each with different levels of visibility. While wearing these goggles, students have to try put pegs on a piece of string and try to read an eye chart on the wall. In the kidney station, students learn about how dialysis works and watch a video from Modern Family actress Sarah Hyland, who explains her kidney problems and how it has affected her life. Finally, in the heart station, students are tasked to play a game of Jenga. The catch is, they have to play it while looking through an iPad with a 2-second delay. This station simulates the lack of blood flow to the brain, which has an effect on motor skills.
Throughout all these stations, I believe that the students were able to feel how these
patients may feel. This empathy stage of design thinking not only gave the students insight into how people may feel but also motivated them to try to solve the problems for their patients, as they could understand the pain of living with them.
written by Aryeh Josefsberg