Design Thinking

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This page hosts some Design Thinking-based activities that I have designed and implemented in the foreign language class (Spanish). Not only has this approach to teaching helped me fulfill the aims of the subject, but also to successfully conduct collaborative work that promotes critical thinking and the design of solutions.

Design Thinking 

In the past when design was discussed, one basically addressed the creation process of aesthetic visions that helped to sell products and to build ‘an image’. And then, when certain methodology in educational pedagogy started to be explored, the term ‘design’ acquired nuances that invited reflection on the learning and understandings that studying a concept yielded. This process allowed ‘creative thinkers’ to speculate about future ideas that found their roots in observations, considering that a certain balance had to be found between what ‘customer wanted’ and what ‘someone’s mind could produce’. Thus, acknowledging that the way in which society responds to what is perceived, it is impossible to deny that designers have always been architects of ideas and universes.

However, nowadays, possibly as a result of the Apple effect, the patterns designers follow to construct an innovating concept (one with timeless meaning and with a strong sense of impact), design thinking has been incorporated into modern pedagogy as an approach that allows practitioners to craft / find creative and innovative solutions to analyze complex aspects of behavior and learning.

I am quite fond of using the definition offered by Amalio A. Rey: The term ‘Design Thinking’ highlights the function of design as a way of thinking. Thus, with this description in mind, it can be seen how design thinking is a teaching and learning strategy that fosters the development and instauration of a personal way of thinking and a different mind framework that allows the designer/student to own his new understandings and learning. Therefore, design thinking is not solely limited to planning.

Thus, as foreign language teacher, it is important to keep in mind that a big part of my duties includes promoting critical thinking, collaboration, the use of language for real purposes that should cause students to question their world’s conceptions as well as their own convictions. My practices should also enable students to analyze their own ideas; to construct their own culture of learning and to evaluate the ways in which they learn.

Working in this manner has allowed my students to break learning paradigms and they have realized how what can initially seem complex can be quite simple and accessible when we utilize tools to organize information in a more visual and intuitive form. Undoubtedly, using design thinking in my classes has allowed me to develop projects from a triple perspective: fostering the use of the language for specific purposes, involving students in relevant discussions and asking them to explore all possibilities to innovate and learn while designing their own ways of learning and creating. And, evidently, all of this is done thinking of them as the center of the teaching-learning experience.

As we start a new conceptual unit and we find our initial inquiry questions, we:
a)   Identify opportunities to solve problems found in our context.
b)   Visualize ways of solving problems via a different way of thinking.
c)    Collaborate in the co-construction of learning experiences that follow this sequence:

  • Understand
  • Observe
  • Define
  • Generate ideas
  • Experiment with prototypes
  • Evaluate results.

In the following items, I would like to share some examples of the design thinking activities we have carried out in the Spanish as a foreign language class in various levels, stages of learning.

1. Sustainable Proyects / Proyectos sostenibles [ir].
2. Music and Identity / Musica e Identidad (colaborar para llegar a un consenso). [ir]
3. Developing a foreign concept in my context / Regionalización de un contexto (a partir de un filme). [ir]
4. Utopia and Censorship / Utopía y censura (debate). [ir]
5. Problem Design and Evaluation of Solutions / Diseño de un problema y evaluación de una solución.

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