How can games help us to develop a more socially inclusive classroom?

In his Good video games and good learning Gee (2005) identifies a total of 16 learning principles that are incorporated into good games. In outlining his Risk Taking principle Gee states that players are encouraged to take risks, explore, and try new things (p. 35). Deyenberg (2013) states that video games are a viable option to explore for students with physical disabilities, allowing them the opportunity to move and explore in a virtual world that which they cannot in the physical world (p. 11).

There are several perceived affordances in the design of educational games. Traditionally, people with disabilities have not always been able to access the learning they need when they need it. Educational games have largely overcome that problem by providing a range of options whereby a player with a physical disability can interact with a game without having to use a joystick, a mouse or even a keyboard. In other words, depending upon the game they are playing, they can play the game by using voice commands and/or gestures. Similarly, a player with a mild cognitive disability such as Dyslexia or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may become highly motivated and engaged when playing a well designed educational game.

As well as that, according to Gee’s list of learning principles, players experience a sense of agency or control when playing games. In game-based learning environments, the player can customise many aspects of the game to fit their learning and playing styles (p. 35). This affordance means that whereas previously, learners had no input into their own learning, with the advent of educational games, players now have much more control. As an example, at the start of Civilization V: Brave New World a player will first need to decide whether to play the game as a single player or a multiplayer. After that, if they’ve chosen to play as a single player then they have the option of customising their experience of the game by selecting from a range of setup options including civilization, map size, and difficulty level. Once play is underway, the player will typically work towards a goal, choosing actions and experiencing the consequences of those actions along the way.

Gee (2005) outlines his learning principle of performance before competence and states that players can perform before they are competent, supported by the design of the game (p. 37). In other words, in a game, a player is free to make mistakes without fear of being judged and/or ridiculed. He or she can play the same level over and over until they finally gain the competence they need to level up. Conversely, in an educational setting, learners are rarely encouraged to gain competence in this way. They are normally tasked with gaining competence by reading texts. They’re not allowed to just experiment until they get it right. They have to do the prescribed reading so that, when given the order to do so, they can get it right on their first attempt.

In summary, educational games are a powerful tool to be used by the teacher to create a more socially inclusive classroom since they provide a safe environment for repeated practice without a sense of failure.



Deyenberg, J. (2013). Video games in an inclusive learning environment. Retrieved from

Gee, J. P. (2005). Good video games and good learning. Phi Kappa Phi Forum, 85(2), 33-37.

Digital games are most definitely still being overlooked in ‘digital education’ reform


I’ve been working in higher education for many years and I can honestly say that I don’t recall ever having encountered any form of game-based learning. Several years ago, as a challenge to myself, I created a guided, digital crossword puzzle but that was predicated on the students already knowing the answers. In other words, it didn’t involve the students learning by doing or learning from doing. In order to complete the puzzle, the students simply needed to know the answer to the question or the missing word.

As a professional educator, I’ve been hearing about game-based learning for some years. The 2011 Higher Ed Edition of the annual NMC Horizon Report predicted that game-based learning would gain widespread usage within two to three years, however that hasn’t really eventuated. I suspect there has been piecemeal takeup in secondary education but I’m struggling to think of a credible example of game-based learning in higher education that I’ve heard about through my Personal Learning Network (PLN).

In 2013 I had the pleasure of meeting Professor Jeffrey Brand from Bond University. Professor Brand has developed a career exploring the cognitive and behavioural effects of electronic media on young audiences and has been known to hold classes in Minecraft.

As highlighted by Josh Jennings in his excellent article titled Teachers re-evaluate value of video games, in Australia at least, there are distinct barriers to the widespread adoption of game-based learning. In particular, there’s a definite cultural barrier in the sense that many educators still think of playing games as time-wasting. In their view, students don’t play games to learn. They play games to avoid doing what they should be doing which is their homework.

Having read Jane McGonigal’s provocative book, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, I’m convinced there’s a place for game-based learning in higher education. I’m just not sure what that place will look like. Plus I think the jury is still out on the effectiveness (or otherwise) of game-based learning as an instructional strategy to engage students in higher education. As per the article, I think we need more longitudinal studies on the subject.

In fact, apart from the fact that I’m keen to learn more about game-based learning, my main reason for doing this particular subject is that I hope to be able to influence my peers both now and in the future to seriously consider game-based learning as a legitimate, sustainable instructional strategy.

For game-based learning to have any chance of succeeding we need to encourage innovative teaching practice. We need educators who are prepared to take risks both face-to-face and online in the hope that by doing so they will be able to engage their students and improve student outcomes.


Jennings, J. (2014, November 30). Teachers re-evaluate value of video games. In The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from

McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. Penguin.

To what extent has learning about design thinking changed me as a person?

This subject has had a significant impact on my knowledge and understanding of the work of an education professional in digital environments. Design thinking in particular, has had a profound impact on the way in which I go about my work. In the past, whilst operating in a digital learning space, I wouldn’t have thought twice about what I was doing whereas now I am acutely aware of the effect my actions may have on the user experience. I see this as a good thing in that I now know that a minor change to the design of any learning space can have a profound effect on student outcomes.

It would be fair to say that design thinking has become an important part of my life. I try to apply design thinking not just to my work but to my life in general. In saying that I have discovered that my world view already contained aspects of design thinking even before I started to learn about design thinking whilst studying this subject. In effect, as a professional educator, I have been practicing ethnography for years. In particular, I do a lot of collaborative work in digital learning spaces where I work extensively with key stakeholders who are often geographically dispersed. I try to involve the stakeholders as much as possible so that I can learn from them and not make assumptions about what their needs may or may not be.

Learning about design thinking has allowed me to question some of my long held assumptions. I now appreciate the value of serendipity in helping to create the pre-conditions necessary for innovation to occur. Moreover, to encourage serendipity which may or may not lead to innovation we need to ensure that the design of a physical learning space is flexible and can be easily re-configured. With a digital learning space, we need to encourage serendipity in other ways.

Without a doubt the highlight for me was the design thinking morning tea that I had the pleasure of co-hosting with Simon Keily. This event made me look beyond the confines of my immediate Personal Learning Network with the result being that I was exposed to a range of individuals who are designing with intent in the sense that they are attempting to incorporate some form of design thinking into what they do. Design thinking is by its very nature both nebulous and multi-faceted. It means different things to different people. I believe our design thinking morning tea was a good start but we only really succeeded in scratching the surface of design thinking.

I really enjoyed the observation blog task and the design brief blog task because both tasks gave me an opportunity to actually put design thinking into practice in the hope of solving a real-world problem. As well as that, I got to read books on design thinking by some of the key thinkers in this field including Tim Brown’s Change by Design and Roger Martin’s The Design of Business.


Brown, T. (2009). Change by design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. HarperCollins e-books.

Brown, T. (2014). The power of engineered serendipity. Retrieved from

Martin, R. (2009). The design of business: Why design thinking is the next competitive advantage. Harvard Business Press.

Coffee? Check. Chalkboard cookies? Check. Creative people? Check. OK then. Let’s get this party started.


On Sunday 14 September 2014, Simon Keily and I pooled resources and hosted a creative coffee morning at The Huddle which is located at the North Melbourne Football Club in North Melbourne, Australia. In the days leading up to this event we spent a lot of time on social media trying to get the message out. In fact, I don’t think our creative coffee morning would have been the success that it was if not for the fact that we both have a fairly extensive Personal Learning Network. Anyhow, during the week we attempted to engage with as many people as possible in the hope that people would sit up and take notice.

For three or four days we were on social media morning, noon and night. We were on a bit of a posting frenzy on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. We would get up in the morning and tweet about our creative coffee morning before we had even left for work. We did the same in the evening after we had had dinner. I even managed to do a bit of multitasking and sneak in a couple of posts during the day whilst I was hard at work. We were particularly active on Twitter where we tweeted at regular intervals about our upcoming creative coffee morning. As well as that in Twitter we sent direct messages to people we knew who we thought might be interested in joining us.

Where possible, we got people who were interested in coming along to fill out a ‘Creative Coffee Morning’ Google sheet so that we could get a bit of an idea as to the potential mix of backgrounds plus our good friend, Froggy from What Froggy Bakes was doing the catering and we needed to let him know the numbers. Slowly but surely names started to appear on our sheet. By Saturday night we had a really interesting mix of people including a writer, an educational designer and an architect. Suffice to say we were stoked. As Tim Brown would have it, we were “planning for serendipity” and it was looking very promising indeed.

The following morning we headed over to The Huddle to set up. I still wasn’t convinced that the people who’d put their names down would actually show up. I don’t know the exact number but I believe we had about 12 people who put in an appearance that morning including Charles Sturt University royalty in the form of one Judy O’Connell. By all accounts our creative coffee morning was a great success with some lively conversations over coffee around design, design thinking, makerspaces, learning spaces and Froggy’s delicious chalkboard cookies.

Although I was initially quite nervous (Isn’t that right Simon?) I ended up having a great time. I got to eaves drop and speak to some really interesting people some of whom have already expressed an interest in attending another creative coffee morning. So don’t be surprised if and when Simon and I decide to facilitate another creative coffee morning sooner rather than later…

My Literature Critique on Design Thinking

This literature critique examines the concept of design thinking as evidenced by the six pieces of literature listed below. My critique will highlight some of the key contradictions, tensions or discord in the pieces I have chosen. Furthermore, I will compare and contrast these highlights with real world design thinking.

Here are the pieces of literature I have chosen to examine:

  1. Brown, T. (2009). Change by design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. HarperCollins e-books.
  2. Buchanan, R. (1992). Wicked problems in design thinking. Design Issues, 8(2), 5–21.
  3. Kimbell, L. (2011). Rethinking design thinking: Part I. Design and Culture, 3(3), 285-306.
  4. Kumar, V. (2012). 101 design methods: A structured approach for driving innovation in your organization. John Wiley & Sons.
  5. Razzouk, R., & Shute, V. (2012). What is design thinking and why is it important? Review of Educational Research, September, 82 (3), 330–348.
  6. 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, 19–33.

Design thinking is a classic example of semantic discord in the sense that while there are plenty of people talking about the concept of design thinking there’s no real consensus around what it actually means. Moreover, just as there are many different types of design there are many different flavours of design thinking with each design studio defining design thinking according to their own terms and executing initiatives that are appropriate to their own internal cultures.

Design thinking has evolved into a fragmented discipline without a common meaning, a common vocabulary and a common language. Since there’s no commonality when it comes to the concept of design thinking many design thinking practitioners have simply had to go it alone. They have taken the somewhat nebulous concept of design thinking, interpreted the concept in their own way, developed their own vision of what design thinking might look like, then implemented their own vision thereof.

Although there have been a number of people who have made a significant contribution to the concept of design thinking two people in particular deserve a special mention, namely Tim Brown and Roger Martin. For Brown, design thinking has gone beyond being a theory; it has become a way of life. Where once design thinking would have been characterised as a designer sitting alone in a studio and meditating upon the relation between form and function now design thinking has left the studio and is starting to permeate every part of our lives. Brown is the ultimate optimist when it comes to the potential benefits of design thinking. In his view design thinking has a role to play in addressing the big challenges we face today from pediatric obesity to crime prevention to climate change (Brown, 2009, p. 7).

For Martin (2009a, p. 5) design thinking is a dynamic interplay between analytical mastery and intuitive originality. He states that most companies have an obsessive reliance on efficiency and predictability and as such implicitly favour exploitation over exploration. Furthermore, “A person or organization instilled with the discipline of design thinking is constantly seeking a fruitful balance between reliability and validity, between art and science, between intuition and analytics, and between exploration and exploitation” (Martin, 2009a, pp. 61-62).

Although Brown and Martin have quite different approaches to design thinking one of the things they share is their belief in the power of integrative thinking. Brown (2009, p. 85) states that “design thinking is neither art nor science nor religion. It is the capacity, ultimately, for integrative thinking”. Brown (2009, p. 85) posits that integrative thinkers “… resist the “either/or” in favor of the “both/and” and see nonlinear and multidirectional relationships as a source of inspiration, not contradiction”. Furthermore, Brown (2009, p. 229) writes that “Because design thinking balances the perspectives of users, technology and business, it is by its nature integrative”.

Martin (2009a, pp. 164-165) suggests that design thinking and integrative thinking have much in common. Integrative thinking as the metaskill of being able to face two (or more) opposing ideas or models and instead of choosing one versus the other, to generate a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a better model, which contains elements of each model but is superior to each (or all). Similarly, for Martin (2009a, p. 165), “Design thinking is the application of integrative thinking to the task of resolving the conflict between reliability and validity, between exploitation and exploration, and between analytical and intuitive thinking”.

Kimbell (2011, p. 133) reviews the origins of the term design thinking before going on to examine some of the claims made for design thinking. He emphasises the established dualisms that are inherent in design thinking including “… dualisms between subject/object, nature/culture and body/mind”.

On the other hand, some commentators are much less effusive about design thinking. Walters (2011) maintains that design thinking is nothing more than a tool that may be used to “… illuminate an answer but it is not the answer in and of itself”. Nussbaum (2011) describes design thinking as a failed experiment. In his view, the construction and framing of design thinking itself has become a key issue. He states that “Companies were comfortable and welcoming to Design Thinking because it was packaged as a process” (Nussbaum, 2011). However, the corporate world “… absorbed the process of design thinking all too well, turning it into a linear, gated, by-the-book methodology that delivered, at best, incremental change and innovation” (Nussbaum, 2011).

There are a range of key contradictions, tensions and discords resulting from a design thinking approach. According to Brown (2009, p. 176) one of the issues with design thinking is that of balancing “… management’s legitimate requirement for stability, efficiency, and predictability with the design thinker’s need for spontaneity, serendipity, and experimentation”. Similarly, Pariser (2011, loc. 462) argues that “the search for perfect relevance and the kind of serendipity that promotes creativity push in opposite directions”.

For innovation to occur we need to successfully integrate the two approaches so that they are held in perpetual tension. This tension between management and the designer is at the heart of the concept of conceiving spaces for learning. If either approach gains the upper hand then any learning space created will most likely be sterile, devoid of creativity and lacking in innovation. Siemens (2005) states that we need to design spaces for learning (or learning ecologies) that foster rich interaction between disparate fields of information, allowing growth and adaptation of ideas and concepts.

How might we create the right conditions for design thinking to occur? One of the ways we can do this is to provide the designer with “a well-constructed brief [that] will allow for serendipity, unpredictability, and the capricious whims of fate” (Brown, 2009, pp. 22-23). A design brief must be engineered for serendipity in the sense that it has just the right level of constraint so that the design thinker creating the learning space will hopefully come up with something that is truly innovative rather than something that is less than mediocre. In outlining his doctrine of placements, Buchanan (1992, p.13) states that designers will often describe “… the intuitive or serendipitous quality of their work”.

In design thinking there’s an inherent tension between reliability and validity. Martin (2009a, p. 4) outlines his concept of the knowledge funnel as being the “… route followed by successful business innovators in every domain”. He then states that “The challenge is how to balance the irresolvable tension between operating within the current knowledge stage and moving through the knowledge funnel” (2009a, p. 37). Another key contradiction in the literature is that some of the authors we have looked at have emphasised the value of multidisciplinary teamwork in the field of experience-focused innovation while others have been somewhat more guarded about the perceived value of such teamwork.

After analyzing some of the most innovative companies in the world, and studying hundreds of successful innovations, Kumar (2012) takes a structured approach to design thinking. He states (2012, Loc 422) that “Successful innovation can and should be planned and managed like any other organizational function”. He goes on to say that “Design-driven innovations start by understanding people, developing concepts, and then conceiving business around those concepts. Knowing when and where all these processes touch and interact is key to successful collaboration in organizations” (2012, Loc 422).

Kumar (2012, Loc 4726) states that “when multidisciplinary teams brainstorm, the outcome can be strongly influenced by the biases and preferences held by the different disciplines”. Similarly, Baldwin (2007, p. 27) states that “The most common challenges of collaborating revolve around cultural differences, finding common interests and goals, time, geographic constraints, and power differences present in the group”.

In a study of design thinking in novice multidisciplinary teams Seidel & Fixson (2013) employed a case-based research approach to gather data about group task reflexivity across the two main phases of concept development, namely concept generation and concept evaluation. When they looked at the data they discovered that “… increased group task reflexivity … was associated with more successful outcomes during concept generation but during concept selection the opposite was true” (Seidel & Fixson, 2013, p. 20).

After looking at the data, Seidel & Fixson (2013, p. 29) formulate two proposals. Firstly, they propose that successful novice teams combine methods, such that it is not the quantity of brainstorming sessions, but their linkage to other methods that matter. Secondly, they propose that brainstorming can serve the purpose of socializing new members, especially within teams in which new members are added midway through concept development. Seidel & Fixson conclude by suggesting further directions for research into design thinking. In particular, they suggest that other research “… could focus on team composition among novice teams and how the use of one or more experts alters the application of methods and practices” (Seidel & Fixson, 2013, p. 31).

Razzouk & Shute (2012) examine the nature of design thinking which they describe as an iterative and interactive process. They also summarize the differences between novice and expert design thinkers. After reviewing the literature and creating a design thinking competency model the authors come to the conclusion that expert designers are solution focussed rather than problem focussed. Razzouk & Shute (2012, p. 343) posit that “… schools continue to focus on increasing students’ proficiency in traditional subjects … which leaves many students disengaged”. They go on to argue that “We can and should move beyond that limited focus and consider new educationally valuable skills (e.g., including design thinking, multitasking and digital literacy) to value, assess and support” (pp. 343-344).

Buchanan (1992, p. 6) explores the differences between the old and new liberal arts with the former being concerned with the facts of a subject matter whilst the latter are centred around the use of new disciplines of integrative thinking. He posits that design thinking is a new liberal art: one that has been “a significant factor in shaping human experience” (Buchanan, 1992, p. 8). He argues however that there have been problems “… between designers and members of the scientific community …” over “… the broader nature of design and its relation to the arts and sciences, industry and manufacturing, marketing and distribution …” (Buchanan, 1992, p. 8).

Buchanan (1992, p. 14) states that we need “… to reach a clearer understanding of design as an integrative discipline”. He argues that design thinkers “… are not drawn together because they share a common definition of design, a common methodology, a common philosophy, or even a common set of objects to which everyone agrees that the term “design” should be applied. They are drawn together because they share a mutual interest in a common theme: the conception and planning of the artificial”.

Kimbell (2011, p. 141) identifies three strands of design thinking with the first strand being design thinking as a cognitive style, the second strand being design thinking as a general theory of design and the third strand being design thinking as a resource for organisations. She argues that there has been too much of an emphasis on individual designers and their cognitive styles. She goes on to advocate for the need to “… shift the conversation away from questions of individual cognition or organizational innovation” (Kimbell, 2011, p. 20).

In particular, according to Kimbell (2011, p. 17), “… it remains important to explore how political, socio-cultural and economic developments have shaped design practice over time”. She states “… that accounts of design thinking often rest on a dualism that makes a distinction between “thinking” and “doing’ and between designers and the worlds they do design in, rather than acknowledging the situated, embodied work of design thinking in practice” (Kimbell, 2011, p. 6).

In 2011 and 2012 I was fortunate to be involved in several collaborative design projects. One of these projects involved teaming up with others who were geographically dispersed in order to work on redesigning the TAFESA’s “21C Tools for Educators and Trainers” course which was starting to look a bit dated. At the outset it all sounded so easy but it wasn’t long before some challenges arose.

Our team consisted of four professional educators who barely knew each other. We had two people in Melbourne including myself, another two in Adelaide (including a representative of the client) and our team leader in regional Victoria. Obviously, we were not going to be able to meet face-to-face because of the tyranny of distance. However, we needed to find some way of managing the project so that we were all included and could get the work done in a timely manner.

We had our first meeting online via Skype. Since this was our first meeting we didn’t really achieve much. We simply got to know each other a bit and discussed the learning technologies we would be using over the next couple of months in order to complete this project. In particular, as a group it was decided that we would use Moodle, Popplet, Dropbox and Smartsheet.

To facilitate team collaboration it was decided that we would have weekly online team meetings via Skype since we were all familiar with Skype. We briefly discussed possibly holding our meetings in a Google Hangout but in the end we decided to go with Skype simply because its just so easy to use.

Once we’d come up with a solution to the problem of communication we then discussed what technologies we might use to manage the project. Our team leader had worked on many similar projects and suggested we should look at using Smartsheet. At the time, I’d never even heard of it however after taking a look at the Smartsheet website I was pretty confident I’d be able to get my head around it in no time at all.

Our team leader already had a paid account with Smartsheet but she was adamant that we would be able to use it for this project. In particular, she told us that she would create a project and invite each team member to work with her on the project as a collaborators. In other words, being collaborators would allow us to view and edit the project for free. As well as that we would get automatically generated email updates and reminders.

Martin (2009a, pp. 119-120) states that “Rather than waiting until the outcome is just right, the client is exposed to a succession of prototypes that grow more right and more elegant with every iteration”. This has been my experience over the period of time during which I have done course design work. Getting back to the example of the collaborative project this is exactly what we did. We started to redesign the course in Moodle and invited the representative from the College to take a look as we reached various milestones. The College person would have an online meeting with our team leader who would then give that feedback to the team at our next team meeting.

In outlining his “Seven Modes of the Design Innovation Process” Kumar (2012, loc. 540) states that the team members build on each other’s concepts while carefully postponing critical evaluation. With regards to the College project outlined earlier this is exactly what happened. At the start, we had a couple of structured brainstorming sessions around the concept of bringing the course up to date both in terms of the content as well as the look and feel. Lots of ideas were put forward which were incorporated into a shared Google doc.

Guided by the judgement of the team leader, the team then made a decision as to which ideas were worth pursuing. We each went away and whoever was charged with implementing any new idea/s would do so before inviting the rest of the team to provide critical feedback. In discussing task conflict and relationship conflict Seidel & Fixson (2013, p. 22) state that “ … not only do teams face various kinds of conflict in first establishing a concept and the process to follow, there can also be debate about later changes”. In terms of the group dynamics of the team when I worked on the College project, we were very much a novice multidisciplinary team. At all times, I had to be mindful of the fact that I was working closely with several people I had never even met. In doing so, I had to learn to be flexible about the design process. I had to learn to not take it personally.




Baldwin, R. G. (2007). Collaborating to learn, learning to collaborate. Peer Review, 9(4), 27-30.

Brown, T. (2009). Change by design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. HarperCollins e-books.

Brown, T. (2014). The power of engineered serendipity. Retrieved from

Buchanan, R. (1992). Wicked problems in design thinking. Design Issues, 8(2), 5–21.

Clark, G. (2014). Personalization, privacy and the filter bubble. Retrieved from

Ford, S. (2012, January 27). Reports of design thinking’s death were an exaggeration [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Hailes, M. (2012). Breaking barriers: Assessing the value of multidisciplinary teamwork for sustainable creative business. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Northumbria.

Kimbell, L. (2011). Rethinking design thinking: Part I. Design and Culture, 3(3), 285-306.

Kimbell, L. (2012). Rethinking design thinking: Part II. Design and Culture, 4(2), 129-148.

Kumar, V. (2012). 101 design methods: A structured approach for driving innovation in your organization. John Wiley & Sons.

Lee, A. (2014, May 23). The benefits of “healthy tension” [Blog post]. Retrieved from

McCracken, G. (2011, November 7). Is design thinking dead? Hell no [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Martin, R. (2009a). The design of business: Why design thinking is the next competitive advantage. Harvard Business Press.

Martin, R. (2009b). The opposable mind: Winning through integrative thinking. Harvard Business Press.

Nussbaum, B. (2011, April 5). Design thinking is a failed experiment. So what’s next? [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Pariser, E. (2011). The filter bubble: What the internet is hiding from you. London: Penguin Books.

Razzouk, R., & Shute, V. (2012). What is design thinking and why is it important? Review of Educational Research, September, 82 (3), 330–348.

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, 19–33.

Siemens, G. (2005, September 2). Designing ecosystems versus designing learning. Retrieved from

Tang, H. H., & Hsiao, E. (n.d.). The advantages and disadvantages of multidisciplinary collaboration in design education. National Taiwan University of Science and Technology

Walters, H. (2011, March 24). “Design thinking” isn’t a miracle cure, but here’s how it helps [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Wilson, V., & Pirrie, A. (2000). Multidisciplinary teamworking: Beyond the barriers? A review of the issues. Edinburgh: SCRE.

INF536 • Design Brief • Blog Task 3


The Student Services Reception area in the college where I work is not exactly fit for purpose. If you take a look at the photos in my previous post you will see that this space is utilitarian in the sense that it functions as it should (most of the time) but its not a thing of beauty. Suffice to say it could do with a makeover.


Knowns (What we know)

  • This space can get very crowded
  • This space can get cold due to cold air entering when one or other of the glass doors is opened
  • No disabled access
  • Students need to go through this space to get to their classes
  • We are renting the building such that we can only make minor changes to the floorplan
  • Similarly, we cannot change the access and egress


Unknowns (What we don’t know)

  • Are there specific building regulations which we must comply with before, during and after the remodelling?
  • How many students need to see someone from Student Services on any given week day?
  • What do students and staff think of the current configuration?
  • To what extent will key stakeholders including students and staff be inconvenienced by having the floor remodelled?
  • Will these stakeholders be prepared to put up with this inconvenience?
  • Do we have the budget to do this? If we do have the budget, how much will it cost and how long will it take?
  • To what extent will other stakeholders cooperate (or otherwise) during the refurbishment?



  • The campus is growing so we may need to move to another campus within the next few years
  • We are renting an old warehouse and cannot make any major changes to the design of the building without first consulting the owner of the property as well as local government


How might we redesign the Student Services Reception area so that…

  • it looks more inviting?
  • students are not held up when trying to get to class?
  • students with a physical disability are able to gain access?
  • the temperature is more moderate?
  • it functions more effectively?


Next steps (Ideation)

  • Observe flow of students in an effort to better understand patterns of use
  • Survey key stakeholders including students and staff in order to better understand their needs
  • Develop a structured competition (or design challenge) where rival teams are tasked with figuring out this problem


Ideas for redesign/implementation

  • Move the Student Services Reception area away from the stairs
  • Install a lift and suggestion box
  • Install a self service multimedia display so that students can get the information they need without having to speak to someone
  • Improve signage ie. display contact details including opening and closing hours as well as telephone number and email address
  • Play soothing music to help people to stay calm



Brown, T. (2009). Change by design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. Harper Business, Stanford University, How might we?… Method Card: Accessed August 17, 2014

The Design Council (2013). Design for public good. Retrieved from:

INF536 • Observation • Blog Task 2


The view from the counter at Student Services Reception towards the glass doors

For my observation task I’ve decided to take a critical look at the Student Services Reception area in the college where I work. I visit this space a number of times over the course of each week day as I have to go through Reception to get to my workstation.

The student lifecycle is such that this space can sometimes be totally empty or overflowing with students. Early in the trimester there’s usually a lot going on and Reception is a hive of activity. Once the trimester is underway things quieten down a bit and Reception becomes much more manageable. Towards the end of the trimester after students have sat their exams Reception starts to get busy again with students coming in to talk to their lecturer about their results and/or view their exams. Anyhow, the problem is that Reception can and does get congested very quickly. Students come to Reception and wait their turn. However, other people need to go through Reception to get to some of the classrooms.


The view from the counter at Student Services Reception towards the Student Lounge

Students come up or down the stairs then walk through the glass doors. As soon as they walk through the doors they are the Reception area. The layout is such that students have to go through Reception to get to their class. In other words, sometimes you’ll have students who are on their way somewhere else but who have to go through Reception to get there. At the same time you’ll have other students are standing in line waiting to see someone from Student Services. As well as that, sometimes you’ll have groups of students standing in or near Reception just chatting.

The end result of all of this is that the Reception area can sometimes be a bit of a bottleneck with students who are trying to go through getting a little frustrated. I don’t know if this situation is intentional or not on the part of the college but it seems to me that it detracts from the user experience in the sense that students who are simply trying to get to class are being inconvenienced due to the location of Student Services Reception.


The view from just inside the glass doors to the counter at Student Services Reception

Across from Reception is the Student Lounge where students are encouraged to take the weight of their feet and relax between classes. From what I have seen this area is considerably underutilised by students. This space consists of a large wooden table and a number of chairs which are arranged around the table and along the wall. There are also a series of posters on the wall containing information about the modalities on offer including Nutritional Medicine, Naturopathy and Western Herbal Medicine.

The Reception area is little more than a large window in the wall with a computer just inside the window. Staff members from Student Services are rostered to sit in Reception and field queries from students when required. On either side of the window are stands that contain multiple copies of forms that students sometimes need to complete in order to vary their studies.

Having these forms on either side of the window is not necessarily a good idea since what invariably happens is that a student will come along and look through the stand not because they’re actually looking for something in particular but just because they’re there. In other words, the forms are a bit of a distraction since students see them then they come over to investigate.

Using Design Thinking to Turn an Underutilized Alcove in a Second Bedroom into a Home Learning Space

Late last year my partner and I moved into a brand new apartment. Even before we moved in we knew that at some point we would probably need to give some thought to how we might make the best use of space in our apartment. In particular, we were both going to be working fulltime whilst studying part-time and we would need to come up with a system so that we could both study effectively without getting in each others way.

When we first moved in we weren’t studying so there was no issue. However, once March came around and we started our first subject we quickly realised we had a problem. In a nutshell, we simply didn’t have enough space for both of us to study at home at the same time. At that stage, we had hardly any furniture. This meant that on the weekends one of us would study at home on the bed whilst the other would go to the State Library. This went on for two or three months before we both got sick of it and decided we needed to come up with a better system.

Our Home Learning Space

Our Home Learning Space.

Anyhow, not long after we moved in it occurred to me that we could probably make good use of space by turning a small alcove in the second bedroom into a study space. This space was immediately in front of window and was a mere 1400mm wide by 1800mm long. Initially we had simply filled up this area with boxes that we had yet to unpack. However, after we’d finished unpacking we soon realised that with some design thinking we could quickly and easily turn this small space into a cosy learning space where one of us could study while the other could study at the kitchen table.

I tried to visualize how the learning space might look. I decided we would need a desk and in my mind’s eye I tried the desk up against one wall and then another. As well as a desk we would need a chair to sit on and a desk lamp. I also wanted to find a home for all of the technology we have charging at any given time including an iMac, a MacBook Air (x2), an iPad (x2) and a Galaxy S4 phone (x2).

How many gadgets do you see?

How many gadgets do you see?

In an effort to convert this alcove into a learning space I grabbed a measuring tape and took some measurements. I then had a look at the IKEA website to see if they had anything suitable. In particular, I wanted a desk with drawers so that I could hide stuff. In particular, I wanted to be able to hide the technology when we’re not using it. I also wanted a shelf on the wall above the desk so that we could put other bits and pieces away including spare charging chords, adapters, extensions, powerboards, etc, etc.

Luckily for me, IKEA had a desk that was just about the right size. Over the course of the next few weeks we purchased a desk and shelving system from IKEA, a chair from Officeworks, a black desklamp from a local home furnishings shop and a USB powerboard from Dick Smith. Our learning space is really starting to take shape. About the only thing left to do now is to organise for someone from the Grey Army to come over and put the shelves up.

Notice the clever use of a bulldog clip.

Notice the clever use of a bulldog clip.

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Latte Art at Vincent the Dog


Vincent The DogLocated in the heart of Carlton at 348 Drummond Street, Vincent the Dog is my coffee shop of choice during the week when I’m on my way to work and need a caffeine fix. I go there every week day morning except for Tuesdays when they’re closed. The staff at Vincent the Dog are so welcoming and go out of their way to provide a great service. Not only that but I love their coffee.

The coffee shop itself is really quite small but the owners appear to have gone to a lot of trouble to get it right. The entrance isn’t all that exciting but once you enter the interior is light and airy. The fixtures consist of polished wood and include a delightful painting of a dog which takes pride of place on the wall.

Once inside there are 2 large, rectangular tables in the middle of the room. These tables have been placed back to back and are surrounded by a total of 9 small, wooden stools. These stools are a perfect complement to the bulk of the table. In the middle of the table is a large vase which invariably contains a tall, floral display. As well as that, there are usually 6 or so bottles of water plus lots of glasses so that you can help yourself to the water whenever you want. The table also normally includes two or three copies of today’s edition of The Age and The Australian.

The lighting is modern and tasteful. The background music is always exactly that with the genre of music they play ranging from rnb to smooth jazz. The overall effect is to create an atmosphere which is warm and inviting. The customer is encouraged to linger over a coffee or two whilst reading a newspaper or chatting to friends.

Vincent the Dog is named after Vincent who is the owner and barista. Vincent is the consummate latte artist and has elevated making a coffee to an art form. His coffees are always designed for a purpose with that purpose being to present you the consumer with a thing of beauty both visually and via your taste buds.

Fasten Your Seat Belts. It’s Going to be a Bumpy Night.

All About Eve

Made available under Creative Commons Licence

Phew. What a ride. Compared to where I was at the start of this adventure I now have a much greater understanding of the concepts and technological trends that are inevitably shaping our lives from the semantic web to the internet of things. Until I started doing this course I didn’t really think much about the consequences of my actions in and on the digital economy.

Over the course of the last few months we’ve covered a wide range of concepts and practices. This has allowed me to focus on topics that are of particular interest to me. It gave me the opportunity to research web personalisation, the filter bubble and digital privacy. Whereas previously I was far from familiar with the range of concepts and practices we’ve covered over the last few months, I now have an understanding of many of these concepts and can quite comfortably hold an intelligent conversation about the digital world.

I’ve been interested in technology for many year now but I’ve never really had much of an opportunity to reflect on the extent to which technology is and has shaped our lives. In some ways, this subject has allowed me to reflect on some of the assumptions I have made over the years. I’ve done a phenomenal amount of reading over the last few months and the result of that reading has been to make me question some of the things I’ve been taking for granted for a very long time.

I had never really questioned my actions when searching for information on the internet using Google. It had never occurred to me that by using Gmail to send and receive emails I’m effectively giving my permission for Google to read my emails. The same goes for my use of Google Drive to store my stuff. By using Google for just about everything I do on the internet I’m making it really easy for them to build up a very detailed profile of me. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I know I’m not as paranoid about all of this as Eli Pariser in his The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You. I’m currently reading Robert Scoble and Shel Israel’s The Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy which references Pariser’s book but takes a totally different point of view to Pariser’s. Anyhow, I’m loving the fact that I’m being exposed to so many different points of view. You could even go so far as to say that I’m about to burst my filter bubble.

I find the concept of global connectedness as espoused by John Seely Brown to be quite revolutionary. Moreover, I am enthralled to think that huge changes are taking place in learning and education due to global connectedness and the idea that “data, information, information technology and knowledge are intertwined in our digital world. It seems to me that old-skool education (pardon the pun) has had its day and is quickly being replaced by something which is much more dynamic, flexible and fluid. Education is no longer a one size fits all product. 21st century education comes in many different shapes and sizes. Learning is no longer confined to the classroom. Today’s technology makes learning possible anywhere and everywhere 365 days a year from social learning and informal learning to eLearning and mLearning. There are absolutely no limits.

Finally, before embarking on this subject I knew about gamification but not the theory behind it. I had played several games over the years including Civilization and SimCity but I had never really given much thought as to why it was that I derived so much enjoyment from doing so. It wasn’t until I read Jane McGonigal’s book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World that I became aware of the psychology of gameplay as well as positive psychology and the developing field of cyberpsychology.

In summary, whilst I found doing two subjects concurrently and working fulltime to be really hard work, I’m thankful for all that I have learned over the last few months. It’s been an amazing journey and I can’t wait to get back on the bus.