Design Thinking

#INF536 Changing The Way Things Have Always Been

Because “Isolation is often the enemy of innovation” George Couros

The secondary library at the School In Question (SIQ) was refurbished in 2005, as part of the Building Education Revolution (BER). The library staff, teachers and students at the time were not consulted during the planning stage. The refurbishment occurred during the Christmas holidays and the changes presented in the new year as a fait accompli. No changes were made during the following 4 years.

 Following meetings discussing the roles of teacher librarians, the three TLs decided to make some relatively small, inexpensive changes, based on four observations.

  1. The library was underused and library borrowing, particularly fiction, was at an all-time low.
  2. When students did use the library, when assignments were due, the noise levels were quite high.
  3. The library did not have a 24/7 online presence.
  4. The library was essentially a joint-use library for academic research and reading for leisure, and needed to cater to both.

Each point was addressed as follows:

  1. Increasing reading for pleasure-

Informal surveys were conducted asking boys what they would like the library to stock to increase borrowing, resulting in a Visual Literature section being created containing graphic novels, manga and picture books, as well as a Biography collection. A magazine rack was purchased and new high interest magazines purchased.


Observations identified that there was insufficient comfortable seating for readers. New comfortable reading chairs were purchased and placed in close proximity to the magazine rack and Visual Literature collection, with a sign “Parking for book lovers only”.

Reading loungeparking

The TLs decided to actively market fiction, using constantly changing themed book displays, book talks, author visits and book trailers on a large TV screen.



  1. Noise levels-
    1. Students, particularly the seniors, valued the ability to collaborate and talk in the library, but also needed a space where they could work quietly and focus.
    2. The glassed in lab space was the easiest area to change to a quiet space, and the boys were reminded that it was now a quiet flow space, at the beginning of each break and signs were created.
    3. A dead space at the back of the library, previously unused because of lack of visibility, was designated a quiet space by adding chairs and dividers.
  2. Online presence-
    1. The TLs negotiated with the IT department to develop a library online presence, linked to every page on the school LMS.
    2. They ran information literacy classes across key learning areas (KLAs) and developed web pages, in collaboration with Heads of Department, to support the units of work.
    3. A Year 11 Information Processing Technologies class was invited to critique the web pages, surveying students and staff, as part of an assignment on webpage design.


The TLs were really pleased with the results of the changes made, particularly given the small costs involved, and have plans to build on them further.


Creative Coffee Meets x 2

Minder Chen, 2013

Setting up a Creative Coffee meet or two in a relatively short space time, leading up to the pointy end of term 3, was certainly challenging. Despite posting an invite on my personal Facebook page (hoping to entice an architect friend or two) and a Twitter post in #INF536, I was not able to get anyone to attend in time. And it was interesting to see that Brisbane does not have any Creative Coffee Meetups happening yet, and Teach Meets are few and far between, so it was time to get really creative.




Despite the fact that it was exam block, several Year 11s and 12s offered to attend a coffee meetup outside our Cafe Edmund before school, with  half a dozen Yr 10s. An email was sent out to members of our Tech department and to our maintenance guys, with one member from each area attending. I found out, quite serendipitously that our Head of Geography was meeting with the Head of eLearning and our IT manager later that morning to discuss options for designing the Geography rooms, so those three staff members were invited and attended for most of the meeting. A past student who tutors in the library in the afternoon, and is studying design this year at uni, also attended.

I posed the question to them all that if a stranger were to walk into any of our spaces, what would they think was being valued, to get the conversation started. The consensus was that the spaces demonstrated that the boys’ social interaction was not valued, nor their need to play, be physical or engage in idea sharing.


The boys were very engaged and eager to share ideas for areas that they believed we needed around the school. The Head of Geography raised the fact that our departments are all silos, with negligible interaction or sharing of innovative ideas, designs or thinking and especially minimal funding. The Head of eLearning was keen to arrange opportunities for staff to share their ideas about spaces and technology and the maintenance guy felt that we needed more social spaces for the boys to gather and physical spaces for them to interact with.

I tried tweeting ideas during the gathering, but the ideas were flowing so fast, that in the end, we shared pens and paper and everyone jotted down ideas as they flowed. Each of us contributed one thing that we would like to see in our school. The IT manager said one of the most interesting things…he wanted to remove the internet filter as it was too expensive, time-consuming and slowed everything down.



Because the requirement was to include others from outside the school community, I found a Jelly Meetup at The Edge at State Library of Queensland.


Despite only 4 people, myself included, responding to attend on the Friday afternoon, I found 11 guys already settled in working and talking, when I arrived. Being the only female was a little daunting at first, but once the conversation about the design of the new Apple phone and watch started, it was easy to discuss the design of spaces in schools. The guys (who came from a range of careers, including IT guys, computer programmers, university students, researcher and a sociologist) all agreed that they never experienced spaces at their schools, where their interests (gamer and maker spaces) or social needs were met, and were eager to contribute ideas and suggestions based on their experiences at school, uni and work.

When I fed back to the students the following week about the suggestions made by the Edge group, the boys were keen to visit some of the spaces suggested, to see them for themselves. They have also asked if we could have another creative coffee meetup next term, as several boys and staff members gathered around to hear what we were discussing, wanted to participate further.

I will definitely be taking the Creative Coffee Meet idea to my next school in 2015. This has been an amazing experience, which seriously took me out of my comfort zone.

#INF536 – Literature Critique Reflection

Well, it has been almost a week since I have been able to get back to INF536 for more than a cursory scan (why is it that every time I commence study, the balance of my world tips and suddenly instead of juggling full-time work, study and a bit of life, it becomes a circus tightrope act, whilst juggling, blindfolded, metres above the ground without a safety net?) My major stressor at present is to find a new home and move, in the next three weeks…or yes, and ensure that there is suitable accommodation for my 70 year old mom.

That aside, after reviewing my Task #4, I find myself in much the same state of mind as many of my peers and colleagues…not satisfied with my efforts, but accepting that a pass is sufficient. This is so totally at odds with 1. my Type A personality; 2. how totally enamoured I am with the whole concept of design thinking and the role of design in, well, EVERYTHING! and 3. my absolute NEED to constantly improve EVERYTHING. *sigh*

So here I am, stepping into the chasm that is 21 Century learning, putting my work out there knowing that I could have done so much better and yet, it was the best that I could do at the time. Knowledge Networks & Digital Innovations has resulted in my viewing learning through new lenses. I ‘knew’ that this generation use social media for an incredible amount of learning, and thought I was pretty social media savvy ūüôā but had never really considered using it for LEARNING or for the opportunities that we don’t allow our students to access, in schools. My seniors, past and present, have been astounded by the fact that so many of my peers share their work…

  • online,
  • before it is marked,
  • beyond the class group,
  • and (Heather Baillie, this one is for you! and all the rest, who have already made the leap) are willing to tweet the link and then watch as it is viewed by thousands around the world.

This truly is a remarkable course and an even more remarkable tribe of 21st Century learners, especially when you consider that most of us were born before the internet (that one always raises a gasp from students).

So, despite my anxiety (my relatively recent pacemaker is kicking in with each heart-stopping moment in #INF536), I have decided that I too need to take the kinds of risks that I would love to see my students take. I will post my Critique (even though it doesn’t really meet ‘critique’ criteria) and share it with my peers and whomever else chooses to read it.

Knowledge Networks & Digital Innovations is helping me take risks I never even considered taking before.

#INF536 is opening my eyes to a world I hadn’t really ‘seen’ before.

I have always loved the ‘creative types’. You know the ones… the genius in the Philipines who uses coke bottles, water and Clorox to bring light into shanty towns; the Dutch guy who loves rats and Africa so much, that entire communities are now living free of landmines and tuberculosis; the advertising campaigns that raise social awareness and more. I thought these people were just creative, but now I know that they are designers, thinking outside the box to problem-solve, in ingenious ways.

We are all designers, if we just open our minds and our hearts. THIS is the type of citizen that each and every one of us (and our students) has the potential to be, no matter the scale of the problem. To this amazing tribe of peers in #INF536, you inspire me!

I am so excited to be learning about design thinking, as I commence a new journey, at a new school, in a new role. The 21st Century is truly a remarkable time to be alive, if we could only see the opportunities it offers and grab them with both hands.


By Felipe Ascencio. 2012

By Felipe Ascencio. 2012


#INF536 – Re-imagining from the inside out

Building from the inside out epitomises the application of the current view of user-centred design thinking in corporations. Yet the reality has failed when undertaking this methodology in schools.

After being involved in the refurbishment of 4 school libraries in the state and private sectors, as well as undertaking extensive professional development and visiting library spaces across the country, it is evident that there is a chasm between what the design theory and instructional  theory research says we should be doing and what we actually do. More importantly, there is a discord between the creation of innovative learning spaces and the learning modalities that were expected to occur there.

Even during the BER, the professional development that was provided (Staines & O’Neill, 2009) made reference to having a learning vision and a learning pedagogy, before beginning the design process, yet the majority of the PD focused on furniture and layout, within the selection of templates that we had to choose from. And despite having to take a member of the leadership team to the PD (principal or deputy), no reference was made again to considering the learning vision or instructional theory when planning the library design. In fact, those TLs who were involved in the process were in the minority.

This appears to be driven by the fact that:

  • Few innovative spaces are created in consultation with those who will be using the space.
  • Often, the design ideas, technology requirements and teaching and learning requirements are not all taken into account, resulting in one discipline taking priority over the others.
  • There is a misconception that once a space has been ‘designed’ it requires no further funding or change for up to 10 years (or more). This is despite the fact that an entire series of unknowns may occur during such a length of time.
  • Few spaces are designed with a learning pedagogy in mind.
  • Those spaces which are designed with a learning pedagogy in mind, fail if there is not a specific and concerted effort to provide training and up-skilling in the use of these innovative spaces and the practices that are consequently available.

An example at my current school, is that the library was built 7 years ago, and a little funding has been made available every few years to tweak furniture, when requested. However, since the library was designed, with two lab spaces and some desk seating to accommodate around 90 students, there have been some major technological changes. These include going one-to-0ne and requiring that all tablets are used inside. This means that potentially we could have 300 plus boys needing a space in the library outside of class times.

This change in technology usage will require a considerable change to the spaces, in that we will no longer require fixed benches for computers, yet still will need space for access to use their own devices. We will require substantially more seating, and after reviewing our non-fiction collection, we have found a large percentage of the collection is excessively old and underused, enabling us to weed, remove some shelving and make room for more seating.

In keeping with the research on learning and instructional theory, we will still need to consider providing spaces to cater to all learning modalities (perhaps even adopting Thornburg’s ‘Campfires to Holodecks’ model).

Should we make these changes, without consulting a considerable cross-section of our current users, or considering the possibility of other unknown users and how they will be skilled in the potential of these spaces, or even how technology may change again in the next few years; we too would be failing to work with the evidence provided by such design research as Le Bont (2013); Elliot Burns (2011), Radcliffe (2013) and the DT Toolkit (2014).

We need to understand that any changes that we implement are transitory, intended to remain only as long as we reflect and review them on a regular basis, and can be influenced, at a moments notice,  by our users, technology and pedagogical changes in the near future.

To succeed with implementing design theory and design thinking into our learning spaces, we must first ask a lot of questions, identify what we are trying to achieve in terms of changing behaviour, teaching and learning and outcomes and then constantly review and evaluate (at least on an annual basis).

To quote Fischer (2013) “We are educating students for jobs that do not exist yet, using technology that has not been invented yet, to solve problems that we do not know are problems yet.” Our physical and digital spaces must change regularly, to keep pace with these changes…these unknown unknowns.

SHIFT HAPPENS, and we need to constantly be shifting with it.

INF536 Blog Task #3 – Design brief – How might we?

Design brief

OBSERVATION & DISCOVERY: The entry into the Secondary library is through a large covered concrete area (and our students deserve inspiring spaces (Baudett cited in Elliott Burnes, 2005), and the doors are flanked by security gates and then opens into a large space broken into display areas, the circulation desk and the two teacher-librarians desks. The external area serves as a thoroughfare, social gathering place and bag drop. The internal space is the only way into and out of the library and is not used for anything other than pausing to watch the TV display or browsing the book displays.

Links to sketches, previous blog for background and photos of the spaces involved.

INF536 Blog3


Known unknowns:

  • Cost of enclosing the outer area may not be feasible for the next 1-2 years, given other building works currently under way and in the pipeline.


Known knowns:

  • The impending one-to-one program requires that students use their devices inside and the current library only has seating for around 100 boys (secondary numbers 1500)
  • ¬†The school does not provide a social space for games, cards etc
  • The large external and reasonably large internal spaces are not utilised to maximise seating numbers, and some staff are concerned about the increased supervision that will accompany increased student numbers.

CHALLENGE: To redesign the entry into the secondary library in order to:

  • better utilise the space to accommodate more boys and their devices
  • welcome in boys who otherwise would be unlikely to make use of the library space
  • provide a service that is unique within the school (a welcoming social space)
  • ensure that access to, and the library itself, is user-friendly

POINT OF VIEW: With the view that imagination makes empathy possible (Green, 1995, cited in Bland, Hughes & Willis, 2013) the aim is to see the space, positives and negatives, from the point of view of all users, including students, teachers, TLs, library officers and visitors, to create a sense of belonging, be user-friendly and practical.

So,¬†How Might We …?

Amp up the good so that these spaces provide students with one or more of the required social, collaborative, focused or shared spaces?

Remove the bad by providing adequate options for bags, so that both the boys and their bags are protected from the weather?

Explore the opposite so that the external and internal spaces can be repurposed in a variety of ways, as the need arises?

Question the assumption¬†that the library is a ‘work’ space only and those who are not ‘working’ are not welcome? Change perspectives (Bont, 2013)

Go after adjectives such as welcoming, social, focussed, flexible, enticing?

Identify unexpected resources such as some of our library staff, who value social interaction or furniture that is available to support such an environment?

Create an analogy from need or context such as a coffee shop or cafe booth atmosphere in the external entry by enclosing the space, using furniture and plants or screening?

Play Point of View against the challenge of considering all stakeholders Рstudents, teachers, TLs, library staff and visitors, such as tutors?

Change the status quo¬†that the library is for ‘work’ only?

Break the Point of View into pieces of being welcoming; being social and being practical?


  1. Costly option – enclose the front external entry with a large (two storey) pane of glass, glass display cabinets and new wide glass sliding doors. Possibility of cafe or coffee shop style furnishings. Repositioning the current doors, security gates and circulation desk would also be worthwhile, if considering this option.
  2. The most costly option – enclose the northern front entry as above, creating a reading lounge entry with the social space to be created on a verandah/deck on the south side of the library, so that students have to pass through the library to reach the social space. (Rawstorne, 2014)
  3. Continue with the cafe style option, without enclosing the space, using outdoor furniture and plants, and investigating a mobile circulation desk.
  4. Any of the above prototypes would include the smaller changes brainstormed in the OneNote, including using staff as a valuable resource.


Bland, D., Hughes, H. and Willis, J. (2013). Reimagining Learning Spaces. Queensland University of Technology. Retrieved from

Bont, C. de, Ouden, P.H. den, Schifferstein, R., Smulders, F.E.H.M. & Voort, M. van der (Eds.). (2013). Advanced design methods for successful innovation. Den Haag: Design United. Retrieved from

Brown, T. (2009). Change by design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. HarperBusiness.

Elliott Burns, R. (2005). Designing Spaces for Learning and Living in Schools: perspectives of a ‘flaneuse’. . In Proceedings 2005 Australian Curriculum Studies Association Biennial Conference ‘Blurring the Boundaries, Sharpening the Focus’, University of the Sunshine Coast [Queensland, Australia]. Retrieved from¬†

IDEO. (2014). Design Thinking for Educators. Retrieved from

Kumar, V. (2012). 101 Design Methods: A structured approach for driving innovation in your organisation. Wiley. Retrieved from

Rawstorne, T. (2014). From floor tiles that slow your trolley down to beer next to the nappies: We show you the supermarket games that make you spend more. Daily Mail. Retrieved from


INF536 Blog Task #2 – First we observe…

Observation Task¬†–¬†

Entry to senior library, covered area and the space immediately inside the doors.

Outer entry

Covered area:

right side with group

right side with group

Left view of ramp and raised platform

Left view of ramp and raised platform

  • students gather at the step to sit on the concrete and play Yu-gio.
  • some boys sit on the raised platform.
  • bags left outside, some carefully placed and others dropped in haste to enter the library.
  • boys collect in pairs outside the doors, standing or squatting, to check mobile phones or tablets.
  • 1/3 of the boys wipe their feet on the way into the library.
  1.  The boys playing Yu-gio selected the area for some level of protection from the weather and because they are not allowed to play in the library.
  2. the space has a lovely light and open feel as the roof is two stories high up, but noisy and exposed.
  3. boys have expressed a desire for tables or benches and bag racks.

The doorway:

Internal entry

Doors and security gates

Doors and security gates

Display area

Display area

Circulation desk

Circulation desk

  • ¬†¬†The doorway with the security gates is quite narrow and boys can only enter or leave in single file.
  • Most boys keep left, but failing to causes issues/traffic jams.
  • some boys who rush in or out, move more quickly than the automatic doors, resulting in them either running into the doors or having to stop suddenly to wait for them.
  1. comments that gates/doors are too narrow when multiple boys access; and the doors open too slowly sometimes.

Circulation desk:

  • The circulation was not staffed for the first 10 minutes. Boys glanced in the direction of the desk and then away or ignored it completely.
  • When it was staffed or a staff member was on the floor, most boys made eye contact and greeted the adult/s.
  • The library officer most often faced away from the door, facing the computer or assisting students.
  • Some boys browsed or slowed at the displays, before moving through. Others ignored the displays completely.
  • The returns box was obscured by a small stand displaying student art. Those boys who had to return books could not see it and had to negotiate around the stand quite sharply.
  • Many boys sought out the teacher librarians who were on the floor, rather than the library officer at the circulation desk. Those who did go to the desk, had to wait for a bit before being served.
  1.  Being greeted creates a lovely welcoming feel, and the boys will come over for a chat.
  2. The boys who browsed the displays expressed an interest in them, sought out the one that related to their unit of work, borrowed from the display or asked questions (especially about the banned book display).

INF536 Blog Task #1 – Centre on the customer and shake well!

Design thinking

Problem space:

Library Lab Space 1 has evolved into a silent lab, at the request of students seeking a quiet space to study. During class time, it is used either as a lab space for years 9-12, or a TL teaching space, when we work with classes or subject areas, to support specific units.

Lab space 1

The current furniture and layout is unsuited to these uses:

  1. Fixed benches facing the wall are not conducive to teaching and learning;
  2. The corners are very squished, particularly for the older grades;
  3. The round tables are more suited to a collaborative  space and this space is for quiet independent work;
  4. The furniture makes the space very cluttered and there is little opportunity to rearrange the space to suit different needs;
  5. The furniture and layout is not suited to the 1-to-1 tablet program that will be in place for all students in 2015.

Why design?

According to Ursrey (2014),¬†the creative/critical thinking that is design thinking, leads us to a solution rather than problem mindset. It is our passionate focus and awareness of our ‘clients’ (teachers and students) that enables us to best identify problems and solve them. Being customer-centric allows us to move into design thinking, where we are better able to define our problems, ideate a large number of solutions, fine-tune our ideas, pick a winner and execute the idea.

Previously, classroom spaces had the sage at the blackboard, filling empty vessels facing the front of the room. Technology then seemed to dictate that seeing our clients was less important than seeing their computer screens; and the need to access power etc, meant that rooms were ‘designed’ around the perimeter. Unfortunately, this led to students fending for themselves or needing to constantly turn to the front, making this ‘new design’ less than satisfactory.

Of the 14 things that Ursrey (2014) lists to begin designer thinking, it is being customer-centric and team focused that are the stand-outs for me. Dorst’s (2010) definitions of the Master designer as taking¬†their way of working to a level of innovation that questions the established way of working; and the work of a Visionary, as explicitly developing or redefining their field, exemplify the target that we should be aiming for.

Design in learning spaces helps users:

  • consider the relationship between learning technologies and physical space design (Radliffe, 2009)
  • develop a flexible, engaging, creative, bold environment with potential for a variety of modes of teaching and learning;
  • understand how the space is currently being used and how it can better serve the community;
  • change users’ behaviour
  • and have a sense of ownership.

Changes based on survey-

  1. Space to be renamed “Flow space”, with explanation on why it is necessary to be able to focus in order to get into the flow. Expectation that entry and exit will have minimal disruption on others.
  2. Furniture to be removed, including benches and desktops, and replaced with mobile tablet chairs (examples under consideration below).

3.  Round tables and chairs to be reused in a new collaborative space elsewhere in the library. New spaces for new purposes will be developed around social, collaborative, share and focus concepts (IDEO, 2012).

4. Projector to be replaced with either a touch table/board or wireless projector, dependant on technology budget.

5. Access to the windows and provision of glass pens for mind-mapping and brain-storming.

Other additions to be kept to a minimum, whilst clients discover the new space and make requests as needs arise, based on Brown’s (2009) minimal mapping ahead, as we test the viability, feasibility and desirability of the new space.


Brown, T. (2009). Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. HarperBusiness. p.37.

Dorst, K. (2010). The Nature of Design Thinking. University of Technology Sydney.

IDEO (2012). Design Thinking for Educators.

Radcliffe, D., Wilson, H., Powell, D. and Tibbetts, B. (2008). Learning spaces in higher education: Positive outcomes by design space. University of Queensland.

Ursrey, L. (2014). Why design thinking should be at the core of your business strategy development.

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