Killing two birds with one stone (using design thinking)

Faire d’un pierre deux coups.

We have been working with design thinking at our school thanks to @Think_teach and of course here at Cohort 21. I felt pretty comfortable and enamored with the process, and had dabbled using it with my guinea pig class as a reflective assessment as learning tool.

At a Round Square conference I attended over the March Break, my student delegates dove into design thinking led by . The students from all over the world gained empathy as they listened to their partners’ challenges through extensive interviews and designed a solution for them.

I decided to bring this back to my classroom.

Prior to the last few assessments being doled out, I wanted my FSF4U students to step back and reflect on what it was they wanted to accomplish before the end of the year, especially since this might be the last time they ever study French in a classroom. From previous conversations, I knew that for the vast majority of them, improving their spoken French was top of their list, if not a very close second. I was hoping that working with design thinking would allow them to use their speaking skills all the while working out possible solutions to getting oral practice. And it did!

The handouts from  were so well organized that it took minimal prep on my part, just photocopying. I could look further into this and see which French resources exist because the questions were in English, although my students were at a level where they could freely express their ideas in French about the topic at hand.

Copy of File_009

The students switched roles during the interviews, gaining empathy for what fears and challenges their peers faced, all the while keeping in mind how they might help them.

Copy of File_000(2)

The final part of this process was to design something to help their partner. I opened up my cupboard and took out supplies and tools for this part (note that this doesn’t require anything fancy):

Copy of File_003

The students had 7 minutes to design a prototype which addressed their partner’s needs:

Copy of File_006 Copy of File_004

They then presented to the class. Here are a couple of examples:

A headband which would link directly to WordReference in case the student forgot a word:

Copy of File_001

An attachment for a phone which would record the user’s conversations:

Copy of File_000

The workshop was originally intended to last one hour, which makes it perfect to integrate into an 80-minute class. My students were presenting current events, though, so I spread it out over 2 classes. The only challenge then was that a couple of students were away the first day, so we had to figure out a time for them to make up the interview part. I wanted everyone at the same point to make the time management easier.

En conclusion, the students loved it. They had a great time discussing their ideas, having a definitive time in which to speak, and most of all, designing their inventions. I enjoyed the freedom it provided me to walk about and listen in on the conversations, the equitable discussion time, and the opportunity it provided for students to truly reflect on what their goals are for the rest of the year.

  • How have you used design thinking in your classroom?
  • Have you used design thinking for assessments of learning? How so?




6 thoughts on “Killing two birds with one stone (using design thinking)

  1. @vkraus You are on fire! First the harkness table innovation and now DT in FSL. I am going to share this with my French teachers as I love the idea of our students grappling with DT language in French.

    @ddoucet Have you tried using DT in your FSL classes?

  2. Vivienne, this is so exciting! To see you take up DT and Harkness to add meaning and value on top of the excellent teaching that you do is a great thing to witness. I would encourage you now to take that next step with Design Thinking (if you haven’t already). Get the students, en francais, to reflect on their thinking, to reflect on their process. Much like a Harkness discussion, an important part of the learning is to step back and learn more about oneself as a learner (dare I say “assessment as learning”). This next step can give you more touchpoints on how the students are learning.

    Congrats! @jenbibby @ddoucet and you are doing such wonderful things to deepen the experience of language learners.

    See you soon,

  3. Hey Vivienne,
    Wow! What an experience for your students – it’s surely one they will not soon forget! @jmedved I have used #designthinking in my classes and I have found that it works very well. Students get to learn about what interests them and the vehicle is French. It’s a personalized DT experience, and we just finished the first part of our ideation stage today. I’ve asked them to choose a world issue and they’re exploring solutions – then we’ll prototype!

    I love that you focused on how they will move forward with their French! It’s so important, as many of our students won’t take French beyond school but they will likely travel! It’s so great that they are focusing on keeping their skills they have acquired. Have you looked at Stanford D school? I was thinking of taking the online course – could be fun! There’s also DT for Educators which we introduced at the 1st face to face – doesn’t that seem like years ago!?

    I love the work you’re doing with languages – I’d love to visit your classroom sometime. #CISDELF is lucky to have such an inspired and dedicated teacher to help make language real and authentic in the classroom! I hope you’ll continue to blog next year, so that we can all keep track of the great things you’re doing!

    I’d love to chat about your Harkness – I was going through my blog posts and noticed that @gnichols told me to check out the app for French during my very first action plan. I didn’t because I was doing round tables – I think we should discuss!

    1. Derek,

      Thank you for your comments. I, too, would love to visit your classes and figure out how you run your round tables and use Diigo. I was so glad that you were board this year as a coach with Cohort21. It’s very common for French teachers to feel isolated; it’s not a subject to which many other teachers can relate.

      The presenter for our design thinking workshop was actually from Stanford. I should certainly check out their website along with the DT for Educators one (wow – I don’t even remember ‘hearing’ about that during our first F2F – I was so overwhelmed!).

      Looking forward to catching up this week in our last F2F.

      A vendredi!

  4. Congratulations on your experiments and success with the protocols! A lot of times, teachers feel like they need to reinvent the wheel (which is true, and so we do, often) but you’re spreading the word about these thinking routines, and rules for learning conversations, and they’re working! Among other things, it frees you up to spend time interacting directly with the students, providing encouragement and facilitating those interactions that lead to deeper, stickier, more precise learning experiences.

    Thanks also for sharing your post in such a visually-compelling format!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *