It may be stretching the definition of changing a space “for learning” but it has been bugging me for a while and, if nothing else emerges from INF536, it motivated me to make a long overdue change to my and the College’s working space. This is a long and bitter story (cue violin solo) about changing offices and a lack of meeting and conference spaces. It’s interesting that, as my school developed a policy of increasing parental contact regarding our students progress and well being, no one considered that we would need more of such spaces. So…having recently been appointed as the Assistant Principal (having acted in the role for a number of years) I felt the sense of ownership of my personal space required to make changes. I began by individualising my office (drawings from children, sufficiently impressive curriculum documentation on my noticeboard, etc.) but didn’t make any changes that used the space effectively or considered the emotional journey of those who interacted with me. My desk (like Batwing’s wings) was like a shield of screens and, anyone coming to see me had to sit at my desk and we would talk over the screens (often discussing suitably weighty matters with the top of the heads of shorter students and members of staff).
My Principal (a previous Graphic Design teacher who was clearly more sensitive to such things than I with a Humanities qualification – a “novice” designer) would regularly point out what message this was sending to people who wanted to see me. In considering Brown’s concept of “ideation”, here was an opportunity to eliminate this less than welcoming environment and create another working/meeting/conference space for the school.
But how to reclaim the space? First of all I considered the constraints. There was a finite space in my office (with many of my overtures for knocking down walls and, quite frankly, annexing other staff member’s offices being, quite rudely I thought, rebuffed). The desk was immovable and, as hard as I tried, the things sitting atop it (printer, phone, desktop) couldn’t be moved anywhere and I needed the bookshelf. Secondly, I considered what was within my power to change. The filing cabinet in the corner of my office was traditional but barely used now. Materials that were once placed in such iron clad space eaters have moved to more convenient electronic storage. I rationalised the files (i.e. threw them all out!) and had the cabinet removed.
The space created by the removal of the filing cabinet allowed me to move it into the corner. Suddenly I had space to work with.
I searched high and low for a table that would fit the space I’d created (There’s now a homeless pot plant) and stole a chair from our Conference room (I’m genuinely interested to see how long it takes for anyone to notice).
Over the last couple of days, as I (the user?) have modified my working habits to fit the new space, I’ve noticed an almost immediate change in the way communication occurs. There seems to be more open ended discussion and less pontification. Is the change in me or the space?
 Brown, T. (2009) Change by design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. Summary by Get Abstract. Retrieved from: http://www.getabstract.com