INF536 Critical Relection

            When I first read the course outline for INF536 – Designing Spaces for Learning, I wondered whether I signed up to learn not only about designing learning spaces, but also about a new lingo used by educators in Australia and Scotland (the location of the authors of the course outline), but I soon realized that my views, knowledge and understanding of the work of education professionals, no matter where they were teaching, were changing.  The person I would have historically called “Professor” or “Instructor” was now labeled “Subject Coordinator”.  The course syllabus “Your Subject Outline” and discussed “your studies”.  The Student or Learner learned together with the teacher, not just from the teacher.  In short, I sensed a shift in focus from a teacher-centered directed tour of a single discipline to a learner-centered guided journey investigating a multitude of disciplines.

            As class started, I wondered about the logic of studying design, as I saw design as a topic for the architects, artists, engineers, and other creative types of the world, but I soon realized the benefit of design thinking in other professional endeavors.  I could relate to the iterative process from my computer science days, and the benefits of doing and prototyping.  Then came our creative coffee morning, and enter Michael Manoogian, a successful designer who trained at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).  He admits that RISD never “taught” him a thing, but rather the professors knew how to bring out of you whatever creativity you had inside.

            Then came our section on experimental spaces – how experimental could you get with a classroom? Enter Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, creator of the Academy for Global Citizenship (“ACG”), and her holistic approach to learning, including designing green.  After reading about Sarah in McIntosh (2013), and watching Sarah’s Ted Talks, I remarked to a friend that he was way ahead of his time growing up — tinkering with bicycles and rockets, traveling the country and world, and learning tangentially in school.  (At the time, he was reprimanded for not following the rules.)   

            I’ve come to realize high quality learning is transformational — a metamorphosis occurs.  You leave a different person than when you arrived.  You sense the change.  First comes the disorienting feeling of the unfamiliar (you wonder what’s happening to you), followed by some sense making (you put a couple pieces of the puzzle together), and eventually some real magic happens (ideas start popping in your head, you get lost in thought, lose sense of time, and if you’re lucky, enter a state of flow). 

            I arrived in class with some known unknowns (I knew nothing about designing classroom spaces) and hoped to impart some knowledge from an expert in the field.  I soon found myself overwhelmed with unknown unknowns (the distance learning platform, design thinking, pedagogies, critical analysis, etc.), felt way over my head, and wondered how I could escape.  I struggled with identifying a learning space project in which I could identify some key contradictions.  I now leave believing the world is the new classroom (both virtual and physical), learning opportunities are everywhere, and if you are willing to embrace the unknown unknowns, the unfamiliar, the constraints (as frightening as that may be), then you are well positioned for some real learning.


McIntosh, E. (2010). Clicks and bricks: How school buildings influence future practice and technology adoption, Educational Facility Planner, Volume 45, Issues 1 & 2. CEFPI. Retrieved from

Thomas, J. (2014).  Creative Coffee Morning.  Retrieved from 

Thomas, J. (2014).  ACG – Designing Green.  Retrieved from

LFA’s Redesigned Academic Spaces: Rants and Raves.

LFA recently completed a academic space initiative, a multi-phased project a multi-phase project that created a new Science Center, transformed existing academic spaces, and “revolutionized the way students access and use technology”.   Now that the project is complete, let’s take a look at feedback from various stakeholders to see what they think.

Pictures of the redesign are posted here:


Tech in the classroom:

Apple TV helpful to show presentations but not in all the classrooms;

integrates well with student iPads – but not all classrooms are equipped with Apple TV.


Not as many sitting options (soft seating areas too low);

Node chairs – feels more like 12 individuals than 1 whole group of 12

– one size doesn’t fit all

— Lots of body types (small female swimmers to large male football players)  (Thomas, 2014)


chrome/glass/node chairs/white walls – makes it look sterile, increasingly impersonal

-Lacks spirit and ambiance

+ more cohesive look, more uniform

Media Commons:

underutilized expensive PCs


more windows, lights, brighter


wider hallways, more space to hand out, collaborate


+ feels more secure, less interruptions

-More distractions, awkward


Media Commons: 

–          high tech future (as technology advances, so to will the way students learn)

–          need more than quiet spaces – need interactive spaces

–          it’s more than a computer lab – it’s a blended learning, collaborative space

Science Center:

Promote environmentally sustainable practices by planting native, drought resistant plants outside Science Center (Halverson, 2013).

Community partnership to plant indigenous plants


Hot spots on the wall when overhead projector is too far back

Idea paint smears; Fuze works better for less cost


Continue traditions of the school and be at the forefront of improving the teaching system . (Thomas, 2014)

Former headmaster John Wayne Richards wanted a learning environment “where classrooms may be free from the formal ranks of desks fastened to the floor and made more appealing with chairs and tables.”  (Time, 1930)

Pulls students into class.

Positive survey results from the students.  (Schwartz, 2013).


Time Magazine (1930).  Education:  Big Dick’s Plans, retrieved from,33009,882032,00.html

Shapiro, Y. (2013).  Caxy Rant:  The New LFA Look.  Retrieved from

Spectator Editorial (2013).  Apple TV is a useful classroom tool.  Retrieved from

Thomas, J. (2014).  Interview with CFO Andrew Kerr about the new academic spaces at LFA.   Lake Forest Academy, September 18, 2014.

Lake Forest Academy: Focus on Academy Fund (2014).   Be a Part of Something Big Campaign Update.  Retrieved from

Lake Forest Academy:  Academic Space Initiative.  (ca. 2012).  Retrieved from

LFA Faces Problems with Apple TV (2014).  Retrieved from

Chopra, R. (2013).  New Media Commons Brings Future of Learning to LFA:  Retrieved from

Corbin Construction Divides Students.  Retrieved from

Phillips, M.  (2014).  Mission accomplished:  renovation of Corbin and Korhumel cap Lake Forest Academy’s redesign.  Retrieved from

Halverson, A. (2013).  Plants Indigenous to Illinois placed outside of Science Center.  Retrieved from

Schwartz, P. (2013).  Why Mobile Technology.  Retrieved from

Blog Post 8.1 – community partnerships for makerspaces

What partnerships might be possible in your own community to create an “alternative” makerspace?

Local business could be the source of after-school internships and summer jobs, or sources of expertise in areas like technology, media, the arts.

What learnings might be had from observing existing spaces, talking with educators about the limits of those traditional models, and the potential of designing something that lies outside the schooling environment, in a common, shared, community space?

Students from within the school will be the future employees of local business outside the school.  Partnering in the local environment before students graduate will have a positive influence on employment rates and business success in the local community.

ACG – Designing Green

I visited the Academy of Global Citizenship (“ACG”) on Friday and witnessed a school using nature to create a more sustainable learning space.  Check out the pictures on Flickr to get a sense of a school situated in an industrial area in the city of Chicago:

What might be the role of nature in helping create a more sustainable learning space?

– growing vegetables in an organic garden

– equiping a playground that produces renewable energy

– growing food for the community

– using recycleable products and reducing waste

– recylcing water with the use of rain barrels

 How does designing “green” change the very nature of learning in our spaces?

Attending school which is self sustaining teaches students how to be self sufficient in their own lives.    ACG’s goal is to show that world that schools can be net energy positive and has plans to build the first net energy positive school.



The Seven Spaces at LFA

I thought I would take a look at various spaces at Lake Forest Academy (LFA), the school I’m focusing on for my final project.

1) Secret spaces include

individual study rooms and

isolated locatios around campus where kids can go to be alone. *

2) Group spaces:

My favorite physical group space is the formal gardens where the annual start of school all school handshake takes place. (usually the first picture that pops up on the website)

I would suggest that a digital group space is Twitter:

3)  Publishing spaces:



4) Performing spaces:

Volleyball court *

hockey rink *

5) Participation spaces:

science center garden,

robotics lab *

6) Watching spaces:

arts center,

tv monitors in academic hallways *

7) Data spaces:

historical sports rosters/stats on the school website?

student gmail accounts used for school?

* Posted on the Flickr INF536 group site are the following pictures:

* volleyball

* hockey

* robotics lab – participating space

* watching space – tv monitors in the hallways playing new channels

* secret space – soft chairs overlooking the parking lot on a fall day