#INF536 – Critical Reflection

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At the beginning of this subject, I need to be honest and note that my understanding of Designing Spaces for Learning was more focused on the layout of the furniture and I thought, considering this Masters is called Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovations, maybe it was going to demonstrate the layout of various digital learning platforms.  How wrong could I be?

I had deemed my efforts in putting the furniture together in a workable configuration as a success and had used a basic understanding of Thornburg’s article (2007) to have a space for explicit teaching – campfire, spaces for collaboration – round tables for the watering hole and breakaway spaces for caves.  My understanding now is that the learning environment is the third teacher, in that it connects the learner to the curriculum, the curriculum to the learner and the learner to the learner (Hughes, Bland, Willis & Burns, 2015).  I had gained an understanding of the challenges in setting up the library space to accommodate the multiple users with their multiple purposes but I had in fact designed the library “to serve the furniture, not the students” (Graboyes, 2011) and their learning.

My understanding grew as I read the various design theories.  It was the exercise of spending half an hour at my local coffee shop, however, that brought the concepts of this literature to some understanding.  The ideas of “need finding”, “immersion” and “putting people first” (Brown & Katz, 2011, p.382)  as a way of developing empathy for the users (customers and staff) provided me with understanding because I was detached but engaged in the space.  I was not invested in this space and all I did was make observations.  The ah-ha moment happened and I began to change my thinking that while I was saying my pedagogy was one of collaboration, active, inquiry-driven learning using the affordances of the technologies available, the space I was the leader of was not reflecting this.

As Deed, Lesko & Lovejoy (2014) state, “architecture can create an impression or be symbolic of the type of learning environment likely to be experienced” (p. 370).  I had taken control of this learning space and when the students walked in they became aware of a teacher-directed learning environment.  It was set up and established what went where.  The infrastructure determined where they could work on their devices.  I also realised that while promoting the library as informal learning space and formal learning space, it seemed I was much more comfortable involving the student voices in designing their informal learning opportunities as evidenced by the first  reflection of my learning in this subject.

This subject has definitely furthered my understanding of space as an important element for learning.  It is not just an incidental happening but a conscious and purposeful decision that needs to be made.  Schools are losing their appeal as learning spaces as I identified last session so it is important now that a reimagining of learning spaces occurs.  To reimagine our learning spaces to be spaces of innovation though, we need to collaborate (Sanders, 2008; Willis, 2014; Hughes et al., 2015), empathise (Brown & Katz, 2011; Seidel & Fixson, 2013; Perrault & Levesque, 2012)  and constantly monitor (Graboyes, 2011; Wilson & Randall, 2012; Kuratko, Goldsworthy & Hornsby, 2012))  so that we can keep these spaces as relevant.  The learning space needs to be flexible, agile and responsive ( Hughes et al., 2015; Sullivan, 2011; Harland, 2011)at all times to the context of the learning and the learners needs.

After all the literature read, the discussions undertaken and the reflection, the final word for learning spaces is that they are never final.  Now, it’s time to apply what has been learned and to continue to learn as I “play, display and watch the replay” (Kuratko, Goldsworthy and Hornsby, 2012, pp, 116 – 119).


Brown, T., & Katz, B. (2011). Change by design. Journal Of Product Innovation Management, 28(3), 381-383.

Deed, C., Lesko, T. M. & Lovejoy, V. (2014) Teacher adaptation to personalized learning spaces. Teacher Development: An International Journal of Teachers’ Professional Development, 18(3), 369-383.

Graboyes, A. S. (2011). A 21st Century Library in a 20th Century Space. Educational Leadership, 69(4), 74.

Harland, P. (2011). Learning Commons, The : Seven Simple Steps to Transform Your Library. Retrieved from http://www.eblib.com

Hatchuel, A., Le Masson, P., & Weil, B. (2004). CK theory in practice: lessons from industrial applications. In DS 32: Proceedings of DESIGN 2004, the 8th International Design Conference, Dubrovnik, Croatia. http://www.designsociety.org/download-publication/19760/c-k_theory_in_practice_lessons_from_industrial_applications

Hughes, H., Bland, D., Willis, J. & Burns, R. E. (2015) A happy compromise: collaborative approaches to school library designing. The Australian Library Journal http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00049670.2015.1033380

Kuratko, D., Goldsworthy, M., & Hornsby, G. (2012). The design-thinking process in innovation acceleration : Transforming organizational thinking. (pp.103-123). Boston : Pearson. https://www.csu.edu.au/division/library/ereserve/pdf/kuratko-d1.pdf

Perrault, A. M., & Levesque, A. M. (2012). Caring for all students. Knowledge Quest, 40(5), 16-17

Sanders, E. (2008). Co-creation and the new landscapes of design. CoDesign, (1), 5-18. http://primo.unilinc.edu.au/CSU:TN_tayfranc10.1080/15710880701875068

Seidel, V., & Fixson, S. (2013). Adopting design thinking in novice multidisciplinary teams: The application and limits of design methods and reflexive practices. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 30, 19–33. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jpim.12061 or http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/doi/10.1111/jpim.12061/pdf

Sullivan, M. (2011). Divine Design. School Library Journal, 57(4), 26-32.

Thornburg, D. (2007). Campfires in cyberspace: Primordial metaphors for learning in the 21st century. Thornburg Center for Professional Development. Retrieved from: http://tcpd.org/Thornburg/Handouts/Campfires.pdf

Willis, J. (2014) Making space to learn: Leading collaborative classroom design [online]. Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice, 29 (1), 3-16

Wilson, G. & Randall, M. (2012) The implementation and evaluation of a new learning space: a pilot study. Research in Learning Technology Vol. 20, 1-17

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