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Dream big, start small

August, 2014

  1. Blog task #3 – reimagining the staff common room

    August 18, 2014 by meghastie

    The context

    The High school common room at my Pre-K – 12 independent school is used every morning for brief staff meetings (with Pre-K – 12 staff and the whole school support staff) and for weekly after-school high school meetings.  It is also used as a general staff break-out room for recess / lunch, and for some staff functions.  There are several noticeboards with information for staff eg rosters, daily staff coverage for absences, health alerts etc.

    This room also has the capacity to enhance learning, as it provides a large space for staff to collaborate across the curriculum (a significant requirement in the International Baccalaureate program which is one of the two courses we teach from Pre-K – 12).

    Two core components of the school’s Vision Statement are to –

    • “Engage, value, develop  and retain staff”
    • “Enable collaborative and vibrant staff and student learning through provision of excellent resources.”

    and creating an environment that reflects those values is central to the mission of the school.

    Three principles guide this process  –

    • Understanding needs within our unique context
    • A community-driven approach
    • Escaping the “system”

    (Eden,Elliott, Matzke & Wu 2012)

    Common room

    What needs to be solved

    • The layout of the room is rigid  and reflects an attempt to meet the range of functions the room has to fulfil.
      • A series of large and heavy tables sit along the back wall , with backless benches on either side.
      • There are also four double rows facing each other of “comfy” (not really!!) armchairs. If you sit in the armchairs during meetings you have to either turn to the side, or, depending where they are, turn right around.  This is not comfortable for a 15 minute session (even worse if it’s 1 1/2 hrs!). There is also a large gap between the rows of “comfy” seating facing each other, so if you wanted to  hat to someone opposite you, you would have to lean forward to talk easily.
      • At the front is the space where messages are presented and people talk from.  There’s a large flat screen there that can be used during meeting times, and a movable lectern that people use as appropriate.
      • There is no way to navigate from one side of the room to the other apart from across the front section (where presenters stand).
    • There are 3 sets of noticeboards, all covered with documents.  2 are about 2m x 1m, the other covers most of the back wall – 4-5m x 1m.  There’s a lot of dense writing on all of them, they are located on walls, so on opposite sides of the room.  No titles / headings saying what is on what wall.
    • Lighting is bare double fluorescent tubes.

    Design pillars

    The need for a common staff meeting area

    The need for a space for a big group of staff to relax and meet

    The need to communicate information to a wide range of staff

    The need for this space to be welcoming and comfortable, enhancing staff morale as well as effective communication

    The need for collaborative space for staff across faculties and across the schools (Junior School, Middle School and High School)

    Constraints

    • The need to have a common staff room that is able to fulfil a number of functions
    • The shape of the room – including the placement of the doors – could not change without major renovations
    • Need to communicate to groups
    • Need to communicate about various administrative and safety issues to the staff
    • Budget – next to nothing – would need to rework what we have, with limited expenditure on new furniture etc (although more superficial changes might be able to be made)

    The Design challenge

    How do we make the high school staff common room respond more effectively to the range of different functions it fulfils within the whole school?

    How might we…?

    How might we make the room fulfill the vision statement of the school?

    How might we create a story for this space?

    How might we make the space more welcoming and relaxing?

    How might we make the space more effective for communicating to large groups?

    Can we move some of these functions to other spaces?

    Can communication of some information be moved to digital (or other) forums?

    Can the aesthetics of the room be changed to be more friendly?

    How might we make this a more effective space for staff to collaborate on learning and community building?

    In order to fulfill this we need to consider our approaches

    How can we help staff reimagine their spaces and how they use them?

    How can we generate engagement (“buy-in”) with this issue?

    How can we help executive staff and decision-makers see the value inherent in community-building by connecting this process to the school’s stated vision?

    How can we create opportunities for staff and other stakeholders in the common room to get together to brainstorm and ideate?

    How can we provide opportunities to then prototype and experiment with solutions?

    How can we seek feedback and further exploration that leads to solutions?

    (IDEO LLC 2012)

    My comments –

    Monique http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/monique/2014/08/15/blog-task-3-design-brief/#comment-25

    Helen Stower http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/ipractice/2014/08/15/assessment-blog-3/#comment-28

    Deborah Welsh – http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/galloised/2014/08/15/175/#comment-29

    REFERENCES:

    Bennett, Paul, 2007  Design is in the Details  TEDTalks Retrieved from: http://youtu.be/7g0O003kufA

    Brown, T, 2009 Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. Summary by Get Abstract. Retrieved from: http://www.getabstract.com; also http://rethinked.org/?page_id=747

    Eden, W.,   Elliott, A., Matzke, J., & Wu, J.  School design With design thinking: Alpha Cindy Avitia High School. Retrieved August 12, 2014, from  http://www.alphapublicschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/ALPHAPublicSchoolsCaseStudy.Final_.pdf

    IDEO LLC, 2012 Design thinking for Educators , http://www.designthinkingforeducators.com/ retrieved 27th July 2014

    Design School  Stanford, (n.d.) Method Card: How Might We Questions. Retrieved August 12, 2014, from: http://dschool.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/HMW-METHODCARD.pdf

    Engine Service Design & Walker Technology College. Dear Architect: The Vision Of Our Future School: Walker Technology College http://www.ournewschool.org/assets/pdf/Dear_Architect.pdf Retrieved 3rd August 2014


  2. Blog task 2 – observations of a common room

    August 8, 2014 by meghastie

    As I lead a decidely boring life, and don’t have the leisure of a morning coffee shop trip (jealous, moi??), the space I’ve chosen is my school’s high school common room.

    This room is used every morning for brief staff meetings (with Pre-K – 12 staff and the whole school support staff), for general high school meetings.  It is also used as a general staff break-out room for recess / lunch, and for some staff functions.

    I’ve done two observations this week, based on two of the different needs – the daily morning meeting time and “relaxation”{ time (ie lunch)

    My drawing of the common room

    My drawing of the common room

    Morning meeting                        

    • Staff come in through one of four doors – two at the “back” of the  space, where most staff come in. These come from the general school / playground area. Two doors come from inside the reception / office area.  Executive staff tend to come through there and casual staff / visitors
    • As you walk in the door at the left back, you can see right through to the admin area – specifically you see the office where  the casual staff are coming in and getting keys / laptops etc for the day.  This area is often quite busy and glancing down there it can seem quite chaotic.  Executive staff come out of their offices and through this corridor and into the staffroom;  so do the casual staff.  If I was a casual staff walking out there, you have to walk past the person presenting (usually the principal or an executive member), into a sea of faces looking at you – a little scary as you’re often coming in, in the middle of the morning presentation.
    • view from one of the back doors through the common room area and up into the front office area

      The iew from one of the back doors through the common room area and up into the front office area

    • If you walk in through the other back door, you walk into the wall of staff pigeonholes, and can see down the corridor towards the principal’s office.
    • With both doorways there is a slight wall that you walk past and then make a decision as to where to sit – either in the armchair seating, or on the tables at the back.
    • At the front is the space where messages are presented and people talk from.  There’s a large flat screen there that can be used during meeting times, and a movable lectern that people use as appropriate
    • There is no way to navigate from one side of the room to the other apart from across the front section (where presenters stand).  If staff come in late, as there is no clear passage through, and someone is already talking they will sit on the floor, leaning again a wall or the pigeonholes
    • Seating – a series of large tables at the back of the space, with benches.  No backs to the benches (although if on the “wall side”, people can lean against it).  Also, four double rows facing each other of “comfy” (not really!!) armchairs.
    • Table seats are coveted as they mean you can look at the speaker without having to twist or turn in your seat.  The arm chairs you have to either turn to the side, or, depending where they are, turn right around.  This is not comfortable for a 15 minute session.
    • There is also a large gap between the rows of “comfy” seating facing each other, so if you wanted to chat to someone opposite, you would have to lean forward to talk comfortably.
    • There are 3 sets of noticeboards, all covered with documents.  2 are about 2m x 1m, the other covers most of the back wall – 4-5m x 1m.  There’s a lot of dense writing on all of them, they are located on walls, so on opposite sides of the room.  No titles / headings saying what is on what wall. 
    • Lighting is bare double fluorescent tubes.
    general view of the common room from front / side

    General view of the common room from front / side, just before the morning meeting

     Lunch                                                                       

    • Not many people sit here for lunch.  From a staff of about 95 in the high school area (this includes teaching and non-teaching staff), the number fluctuates between 4 and 13 during the lunch break I am there.  This is about normal (I asked the regulars).
    • People tend to sit in small groups at the table – as stated before the chairs are too far apart to sit comfortably, leaning back, and to eat / chat.  Everyone is at a table.
    • Some of them do the cryptic crossword together.

      view into kitchen off the side

      The view into kitchen off the side of the common room

    • Lots of people pass through the area – on the way to the toilets, the front office area, to grab a “walkie talkie” for playground duty, or going to the photocopier.
    • A couple of people sit in there and eat their lunch and do work / are on their computers or just reading a newspaper / magazine.  The daily papers are there, plus some teaching and other magazines.

     I’ve commented on

    Bec

    http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/becspink/2014/08/04/observation-task/#comment-41

    Heather

    http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/hbailie/2014/08/07/blog-task-2/#comment-54

     plee

    http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/plee4/2014/08/07/blog-task-2-observation/#comment-7


  3. Designing for the unknown – further thoughts

    August 4, 2014 by meghastie

    Having commented on the forum, and feeling the need not to rave too much, I wanted to develop some of the ideas a little more – they may seem rather slapdash otherwise.

    My two key points were –

    • 1. That design is not a solitary occupation. 
    • The importance of involving others.  Firstly,  whether it be the “stranger” for the new ideas and new ways of thinking and understanding they can bring to a need / desire being addressed. And secondly the actual people whose needs / desires are being addressed.  Seeing things from their perspective, seeing how they experience the situation rather than assuming we know it.  I loved the hospital filming from Bennet’s TEDtalk – the pain and agony of lying there was all so clear!   I also loved that in that example it was the nurses who jumped straight in and found several really practical solutions quickly – they are used to sitting with the patients, and they so often empathise and understand the experience of the hospital.

    Team work and collaboration are essential, drawing in those multidisciplinary teams we looked at in the last module to strengthen and broaden the Knowledge and open up the horizons of new Concepts.

    My second observation is

    2. It takes time to develop a design brief.

    The Walker school project did not happen overnight! Extensive consultation across a number of different stakeholders occurred.  They had games and quizzes set up to help engage people, then formed teams to collaborate in order to do some needfinding, as well as bring new ideas in. their process was staged and deliberate.

    I loved the wholistic approach – that it was not just about the building budget, but the school had drilled right back to look at the key educational concepts and frameworks they wanted to take their students through, in two year brackets – from beginning to the end of their high school journey and beyond.

    Lots of thought had gone into the core business of the school – how do we meet the educational needs of this particular group of students (boys, high vocational needs etc).  this was not a simplistic or cookie-cutter approach to education, but a thoughtful contextualised engagement with student, staff and community needs and requirements.

    I think this highlights one of the inherent difficulties in meeting the needs of both BIG and SMALL – BIG wants solutions, wants systems and wants actions and results, whereas to draw that out of the SMALL takes more time and work.  I think there is also frequently (in schools anyway), a distinction between the stated “vision” of the organisation (eg  lifelong learners, whole child-focussed, etc etc), and their unspoken desires (high marks at key exit points to further enhance marketability).

    Whilst these concepts are not mutually exclusive, it involves taking the school into new ways of seeing education, new ways of “doing things”, and a willingness to stand against the status quo and the pressurised world of standardised testing that increasingly dominates media discussion of education.  This difference between stated and hidden outcomes problematises the design paradigm.  It  is a complex scenario and takes sensitivity and –  yet again – time to draw out and work through what can be seen as competing ideas.


  4. Design for learning – Blog task #1

    August 1, 2014 by meghastie

    “Every committed educator wants better learning and more thoughtful students. ”

    Harvard Project Zero

     

    Fundamental changes in the way we educate, the way we perceive the acquisition of knowledge has meant that educators must engage with new ways of thinking about space. As we have moved away from the “teacher-centred 20th century factory model” of education (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development 2011) , we must face the challenge that the crucial role our spaces play in influencing the affective domain of learning  (Brown 2008).

    With this in mind I have approached my first adventure into designing a learning space under the impetus “Find [a space], take it and transform it, quickly”

     

    Needfinding or inspiration

    (Seidel  & Fixson 2013, Brown 2009)

    So, I chose a space at the back of my classroom.

    The room itself is cavernous and looks outdated.  This year I have been teaching Year 7 for the first time in many years.  In a class of thirty students, I have a wide range of abilities and issues – from two students with moderate intellectual disabilities who are integrated into the mainstream classroom but on individualised “Life skills” programs, 5 more on the Autism Spectrum, and another four who are extremely bright.  I have limited assistance from teacher’s aides – I have one for about 70% of my lessons.

    As Head of the English department in the high school, I have been working with my staff on differentiation over the last few years, and integrating a range of pedagogical approaches from Harvard’s Project Zero, The Marzano Project and Hattie’s work on Visible Learning.

    So to summarise my “design pillars” (Kuratko, Goldsworthy and Hornsby 2012):

    1. Highly diverse group of students
    2. Need for breakout spaces for Learning Enrichment – both extension and support
    3. Desire to stimulate in all students inquiry and metacognitive skills

     

    My desire was to “interpret” the classroom dynamics, and the cultural shift (Kimbell 2011), both in terms of the particular group of students within what has mainly been a classroom for senior students (and still largely is), as well as the broader pedagogical paradigms that I was trying to implement. I needed the space to be dynamic and able to be used in multiple ways concurrently (Jamieson et al., 2000: 6-7).

     

    Ideation

    Watching student movements, activities and relationships in two of my classes with this group this week was crucial in helping form a plan (Brown 2009).  I utilised divergent thinking and then a basic prototyping process of shifting objects around the space helped me first brainstorm a range of options then choose what seemed to be the simplest solution, conforming to the concept of “doing more with less” (Brown 2009).  Whilst acknowledging the importance of using a multipdisciplinary group as well as group ownership of  the design process  (Seidel & Fixson2013, Brown 2009), it was not feasible for the nature of this task. Similarly, acknowledging the pragmatic constraints – financial (ie a budget of $0), and time (the parameters placed around the project itself) all the resources had to quickly and readily sourced (Kuratko, Goldsworthy and Hornsby 2012).

     

    Implementation

    I have shifted the tables around to allow students to work in range of configurations –  as part of a small group, with a teacher’s aide (if appropriate), or individually.
    Using preexisting pinboards, I created a “wonder wall” to help inspire deeper thinking, mainly for the students working in this area.  The questions are taken from the visible thinking routines (Hardvard Project Zero 2011). The unit’s inquiry question is at the centre and a range of visual / textual prompts that had been used for provocation at the beginning of the unit were also displayed, along with one of the units supplementary focus questions about poetry.

    I played with positioning at the back of the classroom and looked at the balance, the colours, and also some of the things that would upset some of the children (eg posters being placed not quite straight – deliberately crooked is considered OK!).  Taking photos helped me get a more objective sense of what it looked like and led to further changes, as did sitting in the actual student seats and checking for visibility etc.

     

    This current set-up may only last for this term, or a few weeks. Whilst the broader educational paradigms will stay, how they “take form” will continue to develop as we test how it actually works.  It will continue to “loop-back” and evolve.

    Bring it on!

     

     

    Brown, T. (2009) Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. Summary by Get Abstract. Retrieved from: http://www.getabstract.com; also http://rethinked.org/?page_id=747

    Education Policy and Research Division, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, 2011

    Research into the connection between built learning spaces and student outcomes: Literature review

    Paper No. 22 accessed via https://www.deakin.edu.au/arts-ed/efi/pubs/deecd-reports-blackmore-learning-spaces.pdf

    Harvard Project Zero, 2011 Visible thinking routines accessed via <http://www.visiblethinkingpz.org/VisibleThinking_html_files/03_ThinkingRoutines/03d_UnderstandingRoutines/ThinkPuzzleExplore/ThinkPuzzleExplore_Routine.html>

    http://www.visiblethinkingpz.org/VisibleThinking_html_files/03_ThinkingRoutines/03g_CreativityRoutines/CreativeQuestions/CreativeQuestions_Routine.html

    Hattie John, 2008, Visible learning, Routledge, London

    Jamieson, P., Fisher, K., Gilding, T., Taylor, P.G. & Trevitt, A.C.F.2000, ‘Place and space in the design of new learning environments’, Higher Education Research & Development, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 221-237. Available at: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/41/62/2675768.pdf

    Kimbell, L. (2011). Rethinking design thinking: Part I. Design and Culture, 3(3), 285-306. http://www.lucykimbell.com/stuff/DesignPractices_Kimbell_DC_final_public.pdf

    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

    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,

     


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