But I’m not a designer…changing a problem space!

At the beginning of the year, I set up a Google Site to replace our old staff intranet. The site has served its purpose well- a landing page which provides quick access to the most necessary links for staff at my school. At the time, I thought it would be a good idea to add some pages to document, share, discuss and reflect on the professional learning we undertake as a staff each week. I still think this is a good idea…but it hasn’t happened, and I definitely have not facilitated it well. As you can see from the screen shots below the pages have just become stagnant, and some were empty! As a result, they serve no purpose at all for developing and sharing professional learning amongst staff.

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 This space is in need of some thinking on the design as it is currently serving no function for learning at all! Temple (2010) explains that design shapes ideas into practical solutions for users. The process of design converts an idea into form (Kuratko, Goldsworthy & Hornsby, 2012). I think I had a good idea when I put this in place, but it is obvious that my idea has not been successful, and it the current form it is not helping the learning of anyone.

The important take away for me during this task was connecting the concept of problem-solving to design- a natural and ubiquitous activity (Razzouk & Shute, 2012). For me, this meant that I could be (a little) more logical and enquiring than what I originally perceived as ‘design’. Razzouk & Shute (2012) describe design thinking as the analytic and creative process that one engages in to create new opportunities, experiment, prototype, attain feedback and redesign. With this design thinking process in mind, I felt a little more at ease with the task.

I defined the problem space-

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Thinking like a designer requires inspiration, being inspired to change up this space was easy! In my research from #INF530, I looked into social learning and the use of social media and online environments to create new learning opportunities and experiences. Knowing the value of this type of learning and how online tools and spaces can have a direct impact on developing employee learning potential, building communities, developing a positive learning culture and growing collective intelligence (Bingham & Conner, 2010), I knew that the changes to the current professional learning space could engage staff in a social element. I decided to come up with a generative topic title as discussed by Ford (2013).

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Once this was decided, I started thinking about solutions and jotted them down. As soon as I did this, my thinking automatically turned to ‘but’ statements. But…I don’t have time to spend hours designing a new site, but…staff already have a lot on their plates, but…it is hard to encourage some staff to talk about their learning, but…I am not a designer, this subject hurts my brain, but…and so it continued.

I persevered and started thinking of a few ideas. I put my solution ideas on a pink Post-It and a couple of thoughts (positive or negative) on a yellow Post-It, then I left it alone and came back to it later. I needed to think aloud and ended up chatting to some staff about it.

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After chatting to a few staff members, I decided to go with option three. Even though it would most likely be a completely different tool to a Google Site. It meant that my time was freed up, I didn’t have to spend much time creating something from scratch, staff could sign up using their existing school email, it is private- staff are not required to sign up to Google+ and they know it is a network for our school staff only. After some research into the right tool for the job, I decided on Yammer.

I have already begun to set up some groups to share resources and reflect on professional learning- but at this stage I don’t want to overload it. I just want staff to get in and have a look and get a’feel’ for the space. The design of Yammer is similar to other social networking tools so I think that will enable ease of use- especially for reluctant staff. 

I emailed staff:

FCE89449-47AC-4C89-A9B2-7A0D2C708EA7 I am hoping that this new virtual space for teachers will enable them to recognise that the idea of social learning is not something that is considered an ‘add-on’ or an extra. I hope that over time, as staff engage with each other and their ongoing professional learning in this online space, they develop a greater depth of knowledge, build on their insights and reflect on and interpret information (Bingham and Conner, 2010).


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So as it stands the Google Site  for our staff landing page is still there, I just deleted the ‘professional learning’ pages and added a link to our Yammer on the front page. I’m looking forward to seeing how it pans out and if the changes I have made do in fact impact on the learning. 

Comments to other student blogs-

Katie’s Learning Journey

Ford, P. (2013). NoTosh – Design Thinking: Immersion 1 | Develop a generative topic title. Retrieved, from http://notosh.com/lab/develop-a-generative-topic/
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
Razzouk, R., Shute, V. (2012). What is design thinking and why is it important? Review of Educational Research, September, 82 (3), 330–348.  http://rer.sagepub.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/content/82/3/330
Temple, M. (2010). The design council: A review. Department for Business, Industry and Skills (UK). Retrieved from:  https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/32441/10-1178-design-council-review.pdf


  1. Hi Bec,

    This is an insightful reflection and I can identify with your attempt to get staff sharing their learning. We set up a similar page on our website for staff to share their blogs with the hope of increase professional discourse. Despite the same usual suspects, it has been rarely used as well. I really like your idea of setting up a community and think I might “borrow” this one. I think though that I probably will use Google community as our staff are comfortable in Google environments. I will also follow your lead though and canvas opinions first. Thanks for the tips, Helen
    PS. This subject hurts my brain too.


    1. Hi Helen,

      Thanks for commenting…glad I am not the only one with a sore brain! 😉

      I think the community idea is definitely better than what I had…I just hope it works!

      Will be interesting to see how things go!

      Good luck with yours- keep me updated on your progress and we can compare notes!



  2. Hi Bec

    This is an area that I too am struggling with – finding a tool that is user friendly that staff will want to contribute to so that it doesn’t become a white elephant. Interested staff are meeting before school next week to share their wisdom around Edmodo, so I have set up a STAFF class on that. Some staff are already making great use of Edmodo with their classes, while others are keen to learn. One staff member said to me last week that he doesn’t want to learn about any other apps just yet, he wants to consolidate his learning around what he has just learnt to use. Taking this into consideration, I am hoping that staff will start to explore EDMODO with their classes as a teacher, and experience it as a “student” in the staff class. Another reason for developing the staff class in Edmodo is to put up what we share at our regular TECHY Breaky meetings there, so people who for one reason or another are unable to physically attend our meetings can still access the conversations and resources that are shared in them. I just keep thinking of that saying “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. How can we make those horses thirstier so they can’t imagine NOT drinking?


    1. Hi Jo,

      Thanks for your comment…I too am continuously perplexed by those ‘horses’ who will not drink! haha

      I do not have a solution- If I did, I think education as it stands would look very different.

      I like your ideas for using Edmodo. I had that one on my list…but went with Yammer as it was less ‘educational’- it seems backwards I know…but trying to develop the social networking and connection side of learning for many teachers at my school is hard. Many of them are not ready, a few have dipped their toes in and one or two are well on the way. Yammer is so similar to FB and I know they are all proficient in that so thought it would be an easy transition- that way they are just focusing on that and not concerning themselves with…’How do I use this in the classroom?’ type thoughts. However if they do start asking I will push Edmodo more.



  3. Hi Bec,
    Sometimes it is when we are really challenged that we come up with the best ideas. Your process indicates a good example of design thinking (at least from my developing understanding) – you have not pushed your users into something they are not comfortable with, but rather considered their needs and ways to move forward in small steps to ensure others are comfortable. You have worked backwards from your end goal and established options and steps to get there, consulted your colleagues to get their feedback and you are implementing an iterative process where you will assess the success of your design in order to continue the forward progression. I hope your colleagues are able to embrace your new ideas 🙂


  4. Hello Bec,

    I really enjoyed the read. I, like others who have commented, have struggled to have teachers engage with blogs and online social learning.

    I have made it really simple, that is have Google Docs as a point of reference for professional learning meetings. Whilst it is not connecting with people external to our PLC, it has promoted the idea of professional dialogue among teachers and the Docs are added to by some after meetings (anywhere/anytime).

    It has developed a ‘comfort level’ among teachers with a spin off being that Shared Google docs are use within classes to assist with collaboration among students and across classes.

    It is not massive, but it is a start!


  5. I love this: “a natural and ubiquitous activity”. Most teacher professional development is anything but, despite all our best efforts. I’d love to hear how this gets on in the next four weeks or so, a fairly critical period to test an idea of this nature. You might like this quick read (maybe after the course is over, maybe for next week even, as it relates to teacher learning quality – Module 4 stuff):


    It might help you tweak small changes, too.


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