#INF536 Critical Reflection

I have found this subject very challenging. Whilst comfortable working as an educator in both digital and physical environments my knowledge and understanding of how those spaces are constructed and the impact of design (good or bad) upon them was minimal. Sure, I could recognise when something didn’t work, possibly due to bad design, but I would have been hard-pressed to articulate why or even come up with an alternative. I hadn’t really considered how the design of space actually impacted on learning.

Through the activities, readings and tasks I have developed new capacities in observation, ideation, constructing and deconstructing knowledge, and new confidence in my own opinions. The task to make a small change to a learning space has inspired me to keep seeking and acting upon opportunities for other small changes. I had been content to wait till we move to our new spaces over the next 1-2 years but these are learning spaces now! If they can be improved now then they should be. The idea of library as Fab Lab (Belbin & Newcombe, 2013) or Makerspace is something I will be exploring further.

One of the most challenging readings was Hatchuel, Le Masson and Weil (2004). It literally made me cry as I started doubting my capacity to make sense of the written word. Strangely it was the anti-depressive toothbrush  that helped me turn the corner on this one and I was quite pleased I was able to reference C-K theory in my case report.

Being taken through a design thinking process observing, empathising and developing a design brief for my local station was a revelation to me and excellent preparation for the Google Teacher Academy I was fortunate enough to attend recently (facilitated by Ewan’s NoTosh colleagues Tom Barrett and Hamish Curry). From this experience I now add “It’s not right that…” as an excellent prompt when struggling with framing “How might we…?” questions.How might we?

I learned that a design brief is not a list of demands and now wish I could persuade the powers that be at my school that developing a document like Dear Architect (Engine Service Design & Walker Technology College, n.d.) for our major consolidation and rebuilding project could have enormous benefits for the school in the long term. Unfortunately it is too late for that. The architects have visited for “consultation” bringing with them their already drawn-up plans. At least I now have some solid research behind me when I start ranting to whoever will listen about what a disaster having the year 8 lockers in the middle of the library will be.

I have discovered the value of a war room and sticky notes. Last semester I prided myself on not printing anything; this semester not only have I printed, I’ve cut up, re-arranged, stuck back together and (cue drum roll) hand written.

Sticky notes

Scissors and sticky-tape

Attending Simon and Graham’s creative coffee morning revealed the value of semi-structured conversation between people of different backgrounds but common interests.

Participants at the TeachMeet Bec and I hijacked as a pseudo creative coffee morning appreciated the opportunity for focused discussion as an alternative to the usual presentations.

Once again the support of this network (the class) has been phenomenal – I can’t imagine what it’d be like without the forums, tweets and hangouts. Thanks everyone, it’s been one helluva ride!



Belbin, N., & Newcombe, P. (2013). Fab Labs at the Library. Education Digest78(7), 65-68.

Engine Service Design & Walker Technology College. (n.d.). Dear Architect: A Vision Of Our Future School: Walker Technology College.

Hatchuel, A., Le Masson, P., & Weil, B. (2004). CK theory in practice: lessons from industrial applications. In DS 32: Proceedings of DESIGN 2004, the 8th International Design Conference, Dubrovnik, Croatia. http://www.designsociety.org/download-publication/19760/c-k_theory_in_practice_lessons_from_industrial_applications



Blog task 3 – Design brief – Macleod station

Macleod station, facing south. Image retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macleod_railway_station


Macleod is a leafy middle suburb, approximately 15 kilometres from Melbourne CBD. The station is located on the opposite side of a park from the small village-like shopping strip. Macleod College (P-12), kindergarten, YMCA and Banyule Nets Stadium are all adjacent. During the weekday morning peak platform 1 (to the city) sees approximately 8 trains per hour (24 departures between 5.51am and 9.01am). At least 1200 people (50 – 80 for each train) pass through the waiting area each morning. Smaller, but not insignificant, numbers of people alight at Macleod also passing through the waiting area.The waiting area at the station has been described in Designed for a purpose.

The problem

As it stands the waiting area almost certainly fulfils the needs of its owner (PTV) in that it provides the means for travellers to pay for their travel; space to display relevant information and warnings for customers; a basic level of amenity with seating, heating and cooling, and could be hosed out if necessary. But as Brown and Katz (2011) remind us we should start with the experience and needs of the user who in this case is certainly not a faceless bureaucracy (p. 382); a sentiment echoed in Design for public good (The Design Council, 2013) – promoting both design for basic need, and the understanding of citizen need.

Problems with this space can be viewed from two different user perspectives.

  1. The commuter for whom it does not provide a pleasant waiting experience
  2. The kiosk operator whose business must be bordering on unviable based on the observed lack of sales of coffee, snacks and reading material.

Specific problems observed:

  1. Congestion at the door to the platform
  2. Cold air entering the waiting area from the platform door frequently opening and closing (would equally be a problem in warm weather when the waiting area is air-conditioned)
  3. Kiosk not selling much coffee or anything else
  4. Not a pleasant environment for waiting, hard surfaces, cold lighting and colours, rarely changing information displays.

It is possible that responses to this brief which focus on the needs of only one of the users will, through abductive logic (Kolko, 2012), benefit the other as well. If the commuters find the waiting area an enjoyable, comfortable place to be they will be more motivated to spend time and money there, benefitting the kiosk operator. If the kiosk operator makes changes to his service the commuters may find the waiting experience more pleasant.


  • Improve the waiting area experience for commuters
  • Increase the viability of the kiosk


The “How might we” questions (D.School, Stanford) document was used to prompt some alternative thinking:

How might we…

…make the waiting area more like a cafe?

…make the wait time more productive?

…make the environment more inviting?

…make the wait time something to be enjoyed rather than endured?

…give “ownership” of the space to the users? Could it contribute to community engagement?


  • Any changes to the physical environment would have to be approved by a bureaucracy.
  • Changes to the Myki machinery could be costly and require the input of expert technicians.
  • Unknown support for change from the facility owner.


Suggestions arising from the brainstorm:

  • Commuters may choose not to order coffee because they are worried that the train would arrive before it is ready – explore how commuters could be better provided with real-time information regarding when the next train will arrive (currently have to exit to platform to view display) and how many coffees the kiosk operator could make in this time.

  • Consider the location of the Myki readers – currently outside the waiting area on the platform, many commuters go outside to scan on then come back in creating congestion and adding to the frequency of the doors opening and closing. Alternatively, they don’t come back in at all, meaning that they do not consider purchasing from the kiosk.

  • Physical environment – could softer furnishings and warmer colours and lighting improve the environment?

  • Entertainment – could visual entertainment be provided? Televisions showing news channel or live sporting events (sound off, with captions)? Would local musicians be able to busk in the waiting area or on the platform? Could the kiosk operator provide music?

  • Displays – could local schools, sporting and community groups provide regularly changing displays of artwork, photographs of events and community information?

  • Could the kiosk provide some cafe-style furniture – stand-up table, stools which double as small tables etc. – to enhance the cafe experience?

The brief

Macleod station is an essential but almost invisible part of the daily routine for many people. How might we make the physical and experiential space valuable and valued by all?


Brown, T., & Katz, B. (2011). Change by Design. Journal Of Product Innovation Management, 28(3), 381-383.

D.school, Stanford University, How might we?… Method Card: http://dschool.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/HMW-METHODCARD.pdf Accessed 3 August, 2014

The Design Council (2013). Design for public good. Retrieved from:http://www.designcouncil.org.uk/knowledge-resources/report/design-public-good Accessed 3 August, 2014

Kolko, J. (2012). Abductive thinking and sensemaking: The drivers of design synthesis.http://www.jonkolko.com/writingAbductiveThinking.php Accessed 14 August, 2014

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