Digital Futures Colloquium: Critical Reflection

As I started to think about this reflection, I found myself intrigued by the metaphor of a tag acting as “wormhole” between the present and my past self, (Ross, 2012, p. 263), so I jumped back to my thinking at the end of #inf530, summarized in seven thoughts and sketched out in the image below (Brookes, 2016):

My Thinking Journey from Feb – May 2016 #inf530

Now, almost two years later, a number of these thoughts continue to resonate with me:

#5.1: Learning resides in a community

#6.1: Learning by doing. Learning through doing. Learning through failing (Kapur, 2014)

#7.1: Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions (Siemens, 2004)

#5.1: Learning resides in a community

I can’t say that the number of my Twitter followers has soared over the past two years; in fact, I suggest that my Twitter follower population is teetering (correct spelling this time) between Stage 4 (Low Fluctuating) and Stage 5 (Declining) of the Demographic Transitions model* (Bar & Leukhina, 2010) in that the birth rate (new followers) may be less than the death rate (unfollowers) (see graphic).

*I use this example because I was recently thrown into a massive proof-read of an essay on Population Growth, such is the unwelcome curveball one is sent as a mother, often when the clock is ticking on our own assignments.

However, this is where the analogy ends, as my Twitter population has become my essential and primary Professional Learning Network (PLN). I have worked hard to filter out the vaguebookers and those that re-post viral memes of profound but frequently unsubstantiated feel-good quotes from the latest light read.


I have worked even harder to develop relationships with those who have interesting things to share, provoke discourse and have the desire to support and be supported, and in doing do, I have been able to hold a dialogue with a number of  scholars whose work I have discovered on this journey (Arnab et al., 2012; Couros, 2009; e.g. Weller, 2011)

Exchange with @courosa about #connectivism


Thank you to @mweller and @courosa


Connecting with Sylvester Arnab, an author of a paper I studied for GBL, I bumped into in London (as we waited for Sir Ken Robinson to speak).

The conversations and collaborations that have been initiated through Twitter have extended way beyond the scope of each subject. In #inf530, I began to dig into blogging by exploring the role of blogs in a Connectivist K-12 environment which resulted connective learning blog framework that @junewall encouraged me to to share:

Congrats! I hope you are sharing this work with your PLN and at conferences – well done and worth sharing.

And so came along an opportunity:

I’m so grateful to @kayoddne, (who I discovered through the #connectivism wormhole), who critiqued my presentation after I sent out a general plea for help.  I see her as a mentor, as one that I regularly reach out to for advice and support (she’s a fabulous proof-reader). Having now presented my findings at two international conferences, I’m often asked about the role of blogging as a learning tool, as this continues to be an enigma in many schools. This journey led me to explore the affordances of blogging in digital scholarship for the interpretive discussion paper in this final subject and so the learning journey continues as I continue to share my findings.

#7.1: Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions (Siemens, 2004)

For both of my assignments in this final subject, I looked for conceptual frameworks or models to narrow, deepen and contain my academic focus, while attempting to maintain a critical eye in uncovering and acknowledging the possible limitations of the model. This is highlighted in the case study, where I initially focused on Knowles’ (1975) process for self-directed learning.

However, it wasn’t until after I had completed two rounds of interviews and started to code and analyse the data, I realised that this model did not explicitly acknowledge the dispositions of the learner, and therefore I had to revisit and extend my literature review. Of course I was not the first to discover this and that many researchers had pointed this out (e.g. Brookfield, 1985; Garrison, 1991; Hiemstra & Brockett, 2012; Oddi, 1987). Had I widened my search initially, I may have not lost days backtracking. Nevertheless, it was a valuable lesson that I almost missed out on (#6.1: Learning by doing. Learning through doing. Learning through failing (Kapur, 2014). I had clearly had not transferred a  key concept in design thinking from #inf536 (Designing Spaces for Learning), where divergent thinking precedes convergent thinking (Brown & Katz, 2011; Kimbell, 2011).

I now have an appreciation of conducting wide and thorough academic research at the start of a new investigation.  In addition, I have much deeper understanding of self-directed learning, which I am already applying in my professional context and very thankful for the time that I spent developing the graphics in my assignment to help me communicate my thinking to students, teachers and parents.


And so, in closing, I refine my thoughts one more from #inf530, and offer the following iteration to my peers in #inf537, who really have demonstrated that:

Learning resides in a community and rests in diversity of opinions. 

And finally, I want to share this insightful reflection from an accomplished self-directed learner, my digital art student, interviewed for the case study:

Me: If you make a real mess, does that matter?

Student: No, because I learn something. So failure is not a problem.



Arnab, S., Berta, R., Earp, J., Sara, F. de, Popescu, M., Romero, M., … Usart, M. (2012). Framing the adoption of serious games in formal education. Electronic Journal of E-Learning, 10(2), 159–171.

Bar, M., & Leukhina, O. (2010). Demographic transition and industrial revolution: A macroeconomic investigation. Review of Economic Dynamics, 13(2), 424–451.

Brookfield, S. (1985). Self-directed learning: A critical review of research. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 25(March), 5–16.

Brookes, M. (2016, June 30). Concepts & Practices in a Digital Age: Critical Reflection. [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Brown, T., & Katz, B. (2011). Change by Design. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 28(3), 381–383.

Couros, A. (2009). Open, connected, social – implications for educational design. Campus-Wide Information Systems, 26(3), 232–239.

Garrison, D. R. (1991). Critical thinking and adult education: A conceptual model for developing critical thinking in adult learners. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 10(4), 287–303.

Hiemstra, R., & Brockett, R. G. (2012). Reframing the Meaning of Self-Directed Learning: An Updated Model. Proceedings of the 54th Annual Adult Education Research Conference, 155–161.

Kapur, M. (2014). Productive Failure in Learning Math. Cognitive Science, 38(5), 1008–1022.

Kimbell, L. (2011). Rethinking Design Thinking: Part I. Design and Culture, 3(3), 285–306.

Knowles, M. S. (1975). Self-directed learning: A guide for learners and teachers. Selfdirected Learning A Guide for Learners and Teachers. New York: Association Press.

Oddi, L. F. (1987). Perspectives On Self-Directed Learning. Adult Education Quarterly, 38(1), 21–31.

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism. Retrieved from

Weller, M. (2011). The Digital Scholar. Basingstoke: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.

Case Study Proposal: The Affordances of Digital Tools for the Self-Directed Learner


The Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) defines self-directed learning as ‘teaching students how to learn for themselves . . . [where] learners take responsibility to set goals, access resources and choose strategies for learning’ (2016, para. 2). To support the shift towards a culture of self-directed learning (SDL), high school students are provided with many opportunities for SDL experiences such as three 70-minute blocks of non-contract time in school each week. McLoughlin & Lee (2010) suggest learning technologies in conjunction with appropriate strategies afford greater agency to the student by allowing autonomy, a key characteristic of SDL (Du Toit-Brits & Van Zyl, 2017) through, for example, the promotion of social and participatory learning experiences and the use of rich digital media. WAB is technology-rich school where students and faculty have access to a wide range of digital tools and systems, many of which could or have already been purposely configured to support self-directed learning experiences.

Research Question

How, and to what extent, can digital tools support self-directed learning experiences in a high school?

Expected Outcomes

  1. Insight into the characteristics and attitudes of a self-directed learner (Du Toit-Brits & Van Zyl, 2017).
  2. An understanding of the types of digital tools, in conjunction with appropriate strategies, that support self directed learning experiences (McLoughlin & Lee, 2010; Robertson, 2011; Song & Hill, 2007) leading to the creation of a SDL Digital Tools & Strategies Map.
  3. Exploration of what and how digital tools currently support students involved in SDL at WAB.
  4. Insight into the challenges and barriers faced by students in using digital tools to support SDL in general and specifically at WAB (Lee, Tsai, Chai, & Koh, 2014).
  5. Recommendations to promote the use of digital tools at WAB, and potentially for high schools in general, to support self-directed learning that may include new tools, coaching and training for teachers and students, repurposing existing tools, training guides.

Proposed Research Plan

Dates Tasks Resources
Aug 11 Submit case study proposal submission

Continue literature review/scan to define self-directed learning and the general features, skills and/or characteristics.

Journals, blogs
Aug 20 Continue literature review/scan

Formulate draft of SDL definition and skills for SDL

Discuss with WAB curriculum leaders (f2f) and with PLN (online)

Refine SDL definition and skills.

Participatory research may include: use of Twitter for discussion, posting of blog post for feedback from PLN, face-to-face interviews.
Aug 27 Create SDL Digital Tool & Strategies Map: Use secondary research and consult with PLN to create map of types of digital tools and strategies to support skills for SDL

Compile list of digital tools at WAB that support SDL Digital Tool & Strategies Map.

Consult literature and PLN for SDL Digital Tool & Strategies Map.

At WAB: Interview(s) with eLearning team, IT support and other experts

Sep 3 Conduct interviews with 3-4 students to confirm/test WAB digital tool kit and to add further suggestions from students.

Analyse data to create a survey

Students TBD
Sep 10 – 17 Disseminate survey to student group and collect data Student group TBD

O365 forms

Sep 24 CHINA STUDIES WEEK – No students on campus
Oct 1 – 11 Analyse data, write up findings and after discussions with experts, determine the recommendations

Final edit and proofing of report

Oct 11 Submit Case Study Report


Du Toit-Brits, C., & Van Zyl, C.-M. (2017). Self-directed learning characteristics: making learning personal, empowering and successful. Africa Education Review, 1–20.

Lee, K., Tsai, P.-S., Chai, C. S., & Koh, J. H. L. (2014). Students’ perceptions of self-directed learning and collaborative learning with and without technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 30(5), 425–437.

McLoughlin, C., & Lee, M. J. W. (2010). Personalised and self-regulated learning in the Web2.0 era: International exemplars of innovative pedagogy using social software. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(1), 28–43.

Robertson, J. (2011). The educational affordances of blogs for self-directed learning. Computers and Education, 57(2), 1628–1644.

Song, L., & Hill, J. R. (2007). A Conceptual Model for Understanding Self-Directed Learning in Online Environments. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 6(1), 27–42.

Western Academy of Beijing (Ed.). (2016). Targets. Retrieved August 10, 2017, from

Image from:

Embarking on a Case Study: Looking at Self-Directed Learning (SDL)

For my case study I will be examining the extent to which our students entering the High School are prepared for self-directed learning (SDL). The following are some of my reflections as I start this journey.

Interpretation: an essential component of research

One of the first preparation readings provides good examples to show what research is and, more importantly, what it isn’t. I know that I need to learn more about SDL and as tempted as I am to suggest that a quick scan of journals and websites might be described as research, in reality this is just a quick dive or perhaps ‘information discovery’ (Leedy P. & Ormrod, 2013, p. 1). As I rummage around further in the readings to cobble together a better understanding of SDL, this is still not research but an ‘exercise in self-enlightenment’ (p. 2). Even when I pull out and begin to form a list of characteristic and features of a self-directed learner, this is still not research but perhaps more aptly described as ‘fact organisation’ (p. 2). According to Leedy & Ormrod (2013), the essence of research is the interpretation which is something I have yet to do with this data.

Cognation vs Metacognition

In my readings, I discover that both cognitive and metacognitive strategies are both important characteristics of SDL. What, therefore, is the difference between these two terms? A great example is given here on a website (Cognition vs. Metacognition) that does lack authority (see the citation below); however this example was somewhat supported after a another quick scan (Anderson, Betts, Ferris, & Fincham, 2011). A cognitive task may be to use find the sum of a set of numbers. A metacognitive task may be to add the numbers up again. The cognitive task is knowing how to reach the goal, in this case add up the numbers, whereas the metacognitive task is to check that the goal has been reached, in this case check the answer. Therefore, for my case study, I may need to gather data on both cognitive and metacognitive strategies which I will then need to analyse and interpret to determine the level of readiness for SDL.


Anderson, J. R., Betts, S., Ferris, J. L., & Fincham, J. M. (2011). Cognitive and Metacognitive Activity in Mathematical Problem Solving: Prefrontal and Parietal Patterns. Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience, 11(1), 52–67.

Cognition vs. Metacognition. (n.d.). Retrieved August 09, 2017, from

Leedy P., & Ormrod, J. (2013). The nature and tools of research. In Practical research : planning and design (pp. 1–26).

Featured Image:


Making sense: digging deeper, classifying & visualising

Creative Commons:

This week in the readings, the online discussions and the colloquium with Bruce Dixon, I came across a range of terms, concepts and practices that initially seemed unfamiliar to me. It was like these were jigsaw pieces that seemed to have strayed from other puzzles.  So I’ve been doing some digging to try to fit these pieces into my evolving connected jigsaw as I find that many of these were known to me albeit in other guises or ‘unnamed’. Here are some examples:

Socratic Circles Augmented with Technology

The readings touch on Twitter as Socratic method and the use of Twitter in socratic circles, using the tool as a shared platform for ‘back channel’ device for wider commentary. This was certainly something we experienced with in Monday’s colloquium where there was a lot of commentary and questions posed; however, one point to note was from @hunch_box ( about the potential distraction of the back channel in that we may lose our focus on the discussion.

Matt: Backchanneling is hard for me, I can only focus on one thing at once. I think research supports this on multitasking?
With socratic circles, the learning experience comes from the inner circle and the discussion in the outer circle moves the class forward through the stages of reflection, self-assessment and goal setting (Copeland, 2005, p. 77). As we experienced in our colloquium, a shift occurs when technology is introduced. Of course this experience was not set up as a traditional socratic seminar; however, we can note that the outer circle discussion was in real time and simultaneous with the inner circle discussion and the inner circle was a mix of slides, oral debate/comments and questions and comments added to the chat. Therefore the chat tool, a key tool for the outer circle, allowed the communication to be synchronous and visible to all participants with far more agility in moving the conversations forward, branching in different directions and, most importantly, perhaps, responding to the needs and questions of the participants. Circling back to the distraction element, if we experienced this in a more traditional setting would the conversation move more quickly? Would we have more or less take-aways? Would our learning experience be more or less richer? This is something I would like to explore with my students in the future.

Visualising Learning

To make connections and make sense of the learning experiences presented to me, I often have to reformat, remix or mash up elements. I wanted to see if there were any central or recurring concepts in our back channel and so took the rtf of the dialogue from the chat of our colloquium with Bruce, removed all the names and any keywords that dealt with the mechanics of the session (for example, sound, thanks, mic) and then put into a word cloud (below). I’m not sure if there is anything significant that stands out in the cloud. Besides the obvious LEARNING, STUDENTS, TEACHERS and SCHOOL, SCAFFOLD prompted me to revisit that non-linear discussion of the challenges of over-scaffolding versus providing new directions for students; likewise, the term FAILURE prompted me to revisit the discussion (just search for FAIL in the rtf and you will see the discussion intermingled with other threads and themes) where the tension was raised between students’ negative perception of failure versus the positive role of failure in the learning process. Overall, for me, sometimes making a conversation visible using a cloud generation tool, such as tagcrowd, can often trigger further thought and connections.

created at

Open Learning

This is a new term for me and was posed in the colloquium and in the discussion forum:
The term ‘open learners’ is replacing the term  ‘21st century learners’.  What does the term ‘open learners’ mean to you – and is it a useful term?

As I noted on the forum,

This is a new term for me so I am wondering if this is a term that is used widely in Australia or I have missed/ignored it up until now. These are my initial questions:

  • What is an ‘open learner’?
  • What are the characteristics of an open learner?
  • Where did the term come from?
  • Where is the term being used?
  • What is the connection (if any) between an open learner and/or open learner models and/or open learning?

Interestingly, others jumped in with some confirming that they too were unclear. Although it’s early days, this certainly is a lively and responsive group and so it’s interesting to note the lack of immediate replies with the exception of a reference to the paper Beyond Learning- as-Usual: Connected Learning among open Learners passed by @lisanash9. Although there was no explicit definition, the initial mini-case study revealed open learning through this example:

Molly accessed content through various online and offline resources, then remixed them into shareable digital products that she featured for free on her neatly curated blog and Pinterest page. Through social media, she created a virtual community of educators that helped her and new resources and refine her thinking (Carfagna, 2014, p. 4).

Reflective Blogging

The paper from Ross was an interesting but quite challenging read as I struggle with the rich scholarly vocabulary and I want to explore her work further to get a better understanding of the concepts of spectacle and placeholder in reflection. What resonated with me was how she linked tags to wormholes:

Each time I reuse a tag – knowingly or unknowingly – I am producing a link, a wormhole between my experiences and present and someone else’s (which might be a past self) (Ross, 2012, p. 263).

I have had a blog since 2010 but rarely have I used tags effectively although I do revisit posts to see how my thinking has developed or changed over the years.  In #inf530, my final assignment looked at the role of blogs in a K-12 connectivist learning environment and have since presented this in two k-12 conferences; however, despite the availability of blogs and online environments for learning (in international schools, which is my area of practice), I do think that blogging has a long way to go before we see it as an embedded and sustainable practice with students. As I prepare for the new academic year, I really do want to rethink the approach to blogging with students, by exploring further.


Carfagna, L. (2014). Beyond Learning-As-Usual: Connected Learning Among Open Learners. Irvine, Ca. Retrieved from

Copeland, M. (2005). Socratic circles : fostering critical and creative thinking in middle and high school. Retrieved from

Ross, J. (2012). The spectacle and the placeholder: digital futures for reflective practices in higher education. {…} of the 8th International Conference on {…}, 260–265.

#INF536 Critical Reflection

This subject has really pushed my thinking in terms of how best to tackle the process of design of both physical and virtual learning spaces.

I have had a number of experiences with design thinking prior to the course at conferences and running workshops. However, the academic and practitioner readings have certainly challenged, deepened and extended my understanding of the process, with human-centeredness at it’s very core. The book that I found most accessible and recommend to future #inf536ers is Change by Design by Tom Brown. Although listed in the earlier modules, I continue to revisit the work of Kimbell (2011), Razzouk & Shute (2012), Buchanan (1992) and Kuratko, Goldsworthy, & Hornsby (2012).

I enjoyed the practical nature of the first blog post assignment where the connections between the readings and the practice started to converge along with the exchanges in the forums and through the comments. I found that mapping out ideas through sketching a valuable process in order to explain my ideas/findings and, by the positive comments from peers, now appreciate the need and value in sketching as a valuable communication device for prototyping.


The drawings were really useful aids for me to visualise the process (Lisa H)

I also found value in exploring design thinking routines when mapping out my thinking.


The literature critique was a challenge; the dearth of current research forced me to make explicit connections between space, design and learning and while this was initially a daunting task, this challenge certainly allowed me to dig deeper and make my own explorations. Consequently, I am able to examine objectively the practices within my own professional environment and appreciate both the good and poor designs that I encounter each day. Most significantly, I was able to examine the process that our school is currently undertaking in the design of a new building through a new lens of knowledge as outlined in this post. The paper by Seidel & Fixson (2013) continues to resonate with me as I lead with teams within my workplace; I now have a deeper appreciation of the positive impact of novice teams and the potential pitfalls that I am now working on to avoid.


This was a subject where interaction and discussion was an essential component to explore my thinking. As with all communities of practice, the more you put in, the more you get out. The twitter #inf536 community, however, was a light on traffic compared with other subjects although there was some valuable sharing and great banter from @daniellepurdy3, @lisanash9 and @lisaChampshire.



Brown, T. (2009). Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. Director 00123242 (Vol. 31).

Buchanan, R. (1992). Wicked Problems in Design Thinking. Design Issues, 8(2), 5.

Kimbell, L. (2011). Rethinking Design Thinking: Part I. Design and Culture, 3(3), 285–306.

Kuratko, D., Goldsworthy, M., & Hornsby, G. (2012). Innovation acceleration : transforming organizational thinking (pp. 103–123). MULTI, Boston: Pearson.

Razzouk, R., & Shute, V. (2012). What Is Design Thinking and Why Is It Important? Review of Educational Research, 82(3), 330–348.

Seidel, V. P., & Fixson, S. K. (2013). Adopting design thinking in novice multidisciplinary teams: The application and limits of design methods and reflexive practices. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 30(SUPPL 1), 19–33.


Designing the New Middle School

This post supports the assignment #3 as a short example of the need-finding stage of a large design project.

After a number of years in the existing facility, a new Middle School is being planned.

Initially the Middle School was to be developed in the same location using a transitional facility to house the Middle School during construction. However, this initial plan has been changed and the school will now built in a new location on the school grounds. This change in physical location, while only 100m away from the original location, has inevitably led to significant re-designs to accommodate the new aspect of the building, the new footprint and the locality closer to other buildings.

M Moser Associates, a global architectural firm well known for designing workplaces and educational training centers, was selected to design the new school. The design process was driven by a design team from the firm and supported by the Middle School Building Steering Committee, a team comprising the school founder, the board chair, the school Director,  the Middle School Principal and the school appointed project manager.

The following is a summary of the first stage of design process from the initial consultation to the present day based on an interview in with Marina Frias, the Middle School Principal (August 19, 2016.

Consultation Phase/Gathering Data (time frame – 1 week)

The team comprised approximately 10 designers including the lead architect, engineers and interior designers.

Focus Groups:

The design team facilitated a concept generating exercise for each of the three groups of key stakeholders:  parents, teachers and student groups.

In each session, the group was divided initially into small groups, where each participant was asked to conceptually explain what they needed from a building. Using a range of images, such as students in forests, high tech, as prompts, the participants were asked to select the images to help explain what they thought was important for the building. For example, “I chose this picture because….”.  A process of ranking the concepts was undertaken resulting in the top three concepts from each group of stakeholders.

Additionally, the teachers were asked for detailed specifications of what the spaces needed. By asking questions such as “What does learning look like?”, “What do you need from the space?”, teachers discussed the types of spaces, for example flexible spaces or fixed spaces.

MYP Design Classes

The students were given far more time and the design team visited the Design classes to learn more about how Design is taught and ways that the team could work with the Design teachers to incorporate the design and building process into the curriculum.

Additional Observations

The design team also spent time observing how the spaces was utilized and the flow of movement during busy times: between classes, breaks and lunchtimes.

The team spent time discussing work spaces for teachers and gaining insights into the curriculum, the teaching philosophy as well as how the school mission and core values were visible and interpreted within the school.



Making the Makerspace: Then and Now

This post is an outline of a real world design in our school back in 2013. The informal design process that we followed was more intuitive based on our collective past experiences from creating spaces (both virtual and physical) although it bears some resemblance to the Three Spaces of Innovation: inspiration (identifying a problem or opportunity), ideation (generating, developing and testing ideas), implementation (Brown & Katz, 2011).


The idea of creating a makerspace in the High School was first raised by our librarian in 2013 and after a few informal discussions with some of the stakeholders, a proposal was pitched to the admin term.

Library Makerspace Proposal by jerihurd on Scribd


Once the initial idea was approved, then a small team of three educators: the librarian, the HS Technology Integrator and the Film teacher got together to plan how best to use the space and what it would contain. There were a number of constraints that limited the number of functions/activities that could be accommodated leading us to determine what our priorities were.

  • Size of space was very small and could only accommodate a small number of students at one time
  • The Design department, located in a different part of the school, already had a number of tools and spaces that the students could use to explore ideas
  • We had a budget!
  • Filming student reflections and interviews were deemed to be a priority after the success we had experienced with students publishing online

Once we had clarified our needs/priorities, we then decided what equipment we could purchase or repurpose from other spaces to populate the room. This included lights, backdrops (green, blue and white screens), wall and floor coverings changed, addition of a whiteboard for brainstorming, notice board, two high end computers primarily for for film and photo editing but with lots of other software for tinkering, for example sound editing and simple CAD.


Our final stage was plan how we were going to introduce the space to the students and teachers and and set the ground rules about booking the space. The following were some of the questions we brainstormed:

  1. How are we going to organise it?
  2. What can it do now and what do we need to add?
  3. What training/orientation needs to be done?
  4. Who can book it and how can that happen?
  5. What workshops do we need to organise?
  6. Who will be responsible overall for the space?

Reflection on Process

Stakeholders: although students would be our main users of the space, we only really consulted with them on their thoughts of our implementation plan. We didn’t really include students in the other stages of the design process – and perhaps we should have done as this might have given us insight into their needs and if these matched our perception of the needs. Conversely, one might also argue that the space is set up as a surprise for students to engage with, similar to Reggio Emilia concept of the 3rd teacher where space is considered as a key source of educational provocation and insight (Strong-Wilson & Ellis, 2007).
Novice Teams:
Seidel & Fixson (2013) suggest that high performing novice multidisciplinary teams:
  • come from a diverse set of backgrounds – which is questionable in our case.
  • are successful when they combine formal methods in both concept generation and concept selection (eg combine prototyping with brainstorming) – again, we seemed to have skipped the prototyping stage – and so now question if we missed significant ideas and insights
  • add team members at different stages which in turn may have allowed for use to continue needfinding in the concept selection. We only consulted students at the end as their help in the implementation and had we empowered them by inviting a few students onto the team, would we have been more successful?

A problem has many solutions and I wonder if we had used a more rigorous formal process, would we have had the same solution? Would our solution be more sustainable? Offer other functionality that we did not consider?


The Makerspace Today:

Three years on, the makerspace is still there with no major changes to the arrangement. Have we achieved the goals that we set out in the initial proposal? We question if the space is actually a makerspace (as originally intended) or simply a photo-studio and therefore does not have the diversity of features for creative thinking. We have noted that the use of the space is not nearly as high as it was and assume that as many of the students who invested their time in training others and using the space have now graduated. It’s still a space that is used but maybe we can find more uses or just promote it more to ensure that students and teachers are aware that this is a learning space. Perhaps it’s now time to re-think the (maker)space?




Brown, T., & Katz, B. (2011). Change by Design. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 28(3), 381–383.

Seidel, V. P., & Fixson, S. K. (2013). Adopting design thinking in novice multidisciplinary teams: The application and limits of design methods and reflexive practices. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 30(SUPPL 1), 19–33.

Strong-Wilson, T., & Ellis, J. (2007). Children and Place: Reggio Emilia’s Environment As Third Teacher. Theory Into Practice, 46(November), 40–47.

Observation Task – 30 Minutes with Asian Wings Airlines

This July we explored Myanmar which included two internal flights: one from Heho to Yangon (which I have written about the experiences here) and one from Yangon to Mandalay. The following image is a representation of the second experience in 4 segments: the departure lounge, boarding the plane, take-off procedures and the meal.

30 Minutes with Asian Wings

Here are some supporting notes:


First things first: our flight was rescheduled from mid-morning to early morning and so we found ourselves in a very busy departure lounge.

The travellers comprised roughly three groups:

  1. Tourists: distinguishable by comfortable travel clothes, some with backpacks and some with small day packs. Most were lounging, napping/yawning and some looking for coffee. Some families and some couples. Some young and some older. Some seemed very relaxed while others were busy trying to find out details such as the departure times and gates.
  2. More smartly dressed foreigners, mainly single travellers with laptops. I observed a number working on presentations and surmised that many were NGO workers, most likely off for a day or overnight trip to check on a project. Note: inside information, I have a friend who is an NGO in Myanmar and most offices are in Yangon and people tend to fly out for short trips around the country.
  3. Locals: distinguishable by the local dress (men in longyi – a sort of skirt), many women in smart clothes and very well groomed.


  • Passengers each had airline stickers s sticker making it easier for ground staff to direct to the right bus.
  • Pretty confusing as many flights leaving at same time.
  • Very crowded bus as much hand luggage and backpacks – so a tight squeeze.
  • A short trip to the plane so all OK although it was getting warmer!


  • The flight attendants and the local staff lined the way from the exit of the bus to the entrance of the plane (no connecting walkways here).
  • The flight attendants were very welcoming and quickly helped show everyone their seats and put the luggage in overhead lockers.
  • Overall the service from the flight attendants was excellent: welcoming, polite, attentive. Some international airlines may benefit from this training!


Not long after take-off, when the seat belt signs turned off, as it was a short flight, the meal was brought out in boxes – very quick to give out and as it was breakfast, it was a vegetarian option which was quick to distribute. Coffee and tea was hot and adequate.


These mostly were in the departure lounge and identified as:

  1. Poor signage and directions for departure information
  2. Lack of seats while waiting for departure
  3. Busy toilets
  4. Hot and crowded bus


Trying to stick to the rules of observation is hard. Observing and empathizing is different to jumping to conclusions and judging. Prior experiences can help with the observations, for example, knowing that signage is poor compared with other airlines; however it can also lead to mis-interpretations or a false analysis of observations, for example, the restrooms were crowded, old and not Western but that did not imply that they were unclean.


Links to Comments

Hyacinth’s Bread In Common

Lisa Hampshire’s Woollies Check Out Observation

Lisa H’s Cycleway

1.3 Departing Heho Airport – designed with purpose – or not..

We have just returned from a 10 day family exploration/holiday in Myanmar. Typically we book flights in and out and maybe a bed for the first night (so we have an address on the entry forms) but that’s about it until we get there. Thank goodness for apps such as trip advisor, and books like Lonely Planet. Thank goodness also for Myanmar’s 4G network!

Due to the rains in Yangon, we decided to fly down from Inle Lake the day before we were due to fly back to Beijing (where we live). With less than 24 hours to spare (we were lucky to get 3 seats!), we booked tickets from Helo to Yangon and turned up to the airport about an hour before departure. Here’s the experience:

Arrival at the terminal

We were dropped off in the car part across the road from the terminal and directed by the driver as signs were not in English – actually at have no idea if this sign is actually anything to do with getting into the terminal.

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We entered the terminal and then looked around at the different check-in counters to find our flight/airline. There are about six domestic airlines and some codeshare so despite the signage, you really have to ask. Fortunately, there is some English spoken and most airport workers are easily identifiable with hi-vis clothing; however, I can’t help but think that we were not the first set of tourists to ask as we were show’s where to go before we had finished asking.

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Once we found our counter, we were given stickers to show which airline we were on – a good design aspect as the boarding passes were generic and handwritten.




Asking about the flight status – is it on time? We were not quite sure what the response was…



Next, although we were on a domestic flight, we were required to show our documentation to immigration – a small counter just before the security to the departure lounge. Again, no signs but just airport workers waving us through.

Through security into the departure lounge:





After a wait, we boarded the plane. Note that the TV screens were not working with the times of the plane departures so you just wait and see.


And finally walk onto the plane (ahhh…unable to insert video…working on that).

Link to playlist on YouTube of 3 very short videos Of the experience of getting onto the plane.

Design Features

So what experiences have been designed for a purpose? Do all travellers get through easily and stress-free? Not just tourists but local travellers? At this point I need to emphasise that as a family we have travelled extensively and therefore we are quite used to being in situations where we have no clue as to what is going on – just our prior experiences to guide us,  lots of sign language and trust that we will get there in the end. However, I’m not sure if others share our experience. What do you think? If you would like to collaborate and share ideas please add to this Googledoc here.