INF536: Blog Task #1

VC's Office

VC’s Office

The 'Great Hall'

The ‘Great Hall’

These two impressive buildings are often the first buildings visitors will see when arriving at the university where I work. They evoke feelings of a place steeped in tradition and old-world grandeur (relatively speaking that is – as in global terms our city and State have not been around that long). Behind these buildings are the Student Hub and the Library, a central focus for staff and students. My previous post is a gallery of photos from that area showing an example of how the Unversity is responding to the needs and desires of students for ‘learning spaces’.

Within this area there is also a ‘technology lounge’ being established where staff can drop in and ‘play’ with some new technologies and get some assistance on how or why they might like to use these to enhance their teaching and learning experiences.  Here are some images of how that’s looking at the moment:

Training rooms and informal discussion areas

Training rooms and informal discussion areas

Big Screens, touch screens, screen sharing etc

Big Screens, touch screens, screen sharing etc

Apple Store inspired

Apple Store inspired

It looks great and I am sure it will be when its finished and ready to launch. As part of my learning for this course I put myself into the mindset of an academic staff member wandering in for the first time wondering what it’s all about. A few of us will be based here and are also starting to get a feel for how the space works and it is illuminating. As it stands it is hard to know where to start when walking in, what to do and why might I do that. It’s also hard to work out who is there to help me and who is trying to get some work done. Given this, and my readings to date, here are my thoughts:

Part of the design process for this initiative involved brainstorming activities with academic staff members.  The ideas of coffee shop and Apple Store were popular.  In an Apple Store there is always someone to greet you and help you if needed.  Brown (2009) talks about the importance of brainstorming and storytelling.  Through trying to experience the ‘lounge’ there seems to me to be great evidence of brainstorming but not storytelling.  The experience is lacking some sort of cohesive flow and at the moment, recognises the multiple purposes of the area but only from one set of stakeholders perspectives.  There are a number of occupants including trainers, academic staff, technology people, pedagogical experts and librarians occupying the space but the focus is concentrated on a subset of these stakeholders.  A further challenge here was that only one group of stakeholders (academic staff) were involved in the brainstorming activities rather than having multi-disciplinary teams (Seidel & Fixson, 2013), and the other groups left to carry out the implementation of those activities.

Thinking through my developing understanding of design-thinking processes, I believe we could have benefited from prototyping (in multi-discipline teams) and building models of the space.  These could have been quite simple cardboard cutouts as in the Deutsche Bank video (Deutsche Bank Group, 2012) however I am also thinking about how we should continue to learn and build on the lessons learned from the successful Student Hub space.  They continue to refine and improve the space working with students, recognising each cohort coming through has different needs etc. Ensuring we have a mix of people with personal attributes mentioned in Kuratko et al’s paper (Kuratko, 2012) will certainly help as well.  While we are still only part way through the process of bringing this initiative to bear, it is starting to look really positive.

As for changes that I will be promoting, here are a few:

  • I’d like to see obvious self-help tutorials and images associated with each area/technology and suggestions for what I might like to start thinking about and trying.
  • A self-paced tour (virtual?) through the area would be great.
  • signage and imagery (obviously a lot of this will come)
  • visible cues as to who is working and who is there to support me.

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

Deutsche Bank Group. (2012). Innovation through Design Thinking.   Retrieved 31/7/2014, from

Kelley, D. (2012). How to build your creative confidence.   Retrieved 31/7/2014, from

Kuratko, D., Goldsworthy, M., & Hornsby, G. (2012). The design-thinking process in Innovation acceleration : transforming organizational thinking. Boston: Pearson.

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.

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7 thoughts on “INF536: Blog Task #1

  1. Hi Jerry. Thanks for the interesting, reflective post! You mention that you had to put yourself “into the mindset” of the people who were to be using the space. If one thing is ringing through so far in this course, it’s this – the value of empathy building and seeing things from a different perspective.

    You also mention you could have benefitted from early explorations into your designs in interdisciplinary teams. What other disciplines do you think would have added value to the designs in particular?

    Also – In one of the photos it shows a free standing monitor / screen on a black mounting with wheels. That’s exactly what I was after but have never found what I was looking for! Do you mind replying with the link to a supplier / tweet me it at @hunch_box?


  2. HI Matt,
    Thanks for reading and commenting. In the early brainstorming sessions, teaching staff were invited to a couple of focus groups for some great discussion however the support teams (learning technologies, IT, Trainers, Library) were only allowed to observe and take notes. Given these other teams will be working in the area supporting teachers (and coupled with what I am learning through this course), it would have been great to at least have some combined brainstorming or prototyping. Right outside the area is the student hub which provides similar support, services and learning spaces. It is viewed by all as a huge success and members from the team responsible for that (including students) could really make great contributions.
    As for the free-standing monitor, there are some great things happening with them. The monitors are actually touch screens and can be swivelled to a horizontal (table top orientation too). They are used for (small) group work. They run Windows but have software on them for collaboration where students and staff can mirror what’s on their mobile/tablet or other devices too. The software application that does that is called Solstice. I am not at work at the moment so can’t give you the details of the hardware but I will check it out tomorrow and get back to you.

  3. Hi Jerry,
    Your space is amazing and leaves room for even more potential, given the great ‘bones’. I am in love with the idea of a ‘technology lounge or playroom’ for staff to have the opportunity to play, learn and get help. Time to figure out how/where i can implement this at school.
    That free-standing monitor is fabulous too and you obviously have access to a range of furniture options for the different spaces and purposes. How does this space fair in terms of natural light? And what are your ideas for the self paced tour? Do you think it could work on something like an iPad, so that you physically move through the space while taking the virtual tour?

    • HI Chantal,
      natural light is a bit of a problem for us. The space we are using is set into the side of a hill so is basement-level at one end and ground-level at the other. It only has one side with any windows and these are quire small. I should try and post some more images.
      With the self-paced tour I am thinking of a couple of approaches, one which involves very little technology (posters, information sheets etc) and one which uses tablets/mobiles. Eventually it would be great to have it easily accessible through BYOD’s. I have even thought about augmented reality or using rfids/QR codes etc but we need to cater for staff with very varying levels of comfort with technology.
      Thanks for commenting.

  4. Hi Jerry,
    The space looks fabulous! I love the idea that it’s a place designed for “play”, for experimentation and growing. Like Matt, I was also wondering who else you would have consulted in the design process? Was there any reason the support staff were left out, or was it just oversight?
    A question I had was how does it function when the different zones are all used at the one time? It’s quite an open space, with “chat zones” vs areas designed for small groups and individual work. Does it handle multiple uses at the one time, or is that not an issue?
    It will be fascinating to see how you reflect on the space as it is further used, particularly as it moves from being novel to part of workplace routine.

  5. Thanks for this post and your great follow-up comments. I was wondering, though, if you could make an immediate change yourself to this. I know that there will be politics in play, so maybe this space itself can’t be experimented upon quite yet. But is there a change elsewhere in your learning environment where you could steal an idea from this room and apply it elsewhere? I’d like to see some immediate changes made, and some idea of the impact that they’ve had.

  6. Hi Ewan,
    Thanks for your comments. We are starting to experiment with the space a bit and through observation on how people are using the spaces, are making some changes. It is really interesting to see how people adapt the space to their needs. At the moment, there is a limit to what we can do as there is still infrastructure work happening (heating, cooling, airflow problems, networking, signage etc). As for other spaces, I am not a teacher and am in the final two weeks of my contract here managing the learning technologies team while the real manager was on an extended leave for 12 months so I am quite limited in what I can do. I will probably need to apply what I am learning in a quite different context.


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