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…

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.