#INF536 – A Final Reflection

Participation in “Designing Learning Spaces”, #INF536, has positively impacted on my work as a professional in a positive way by deepening my understanding about the relationship between ‘design’, ‘learning’ and ‘space’, both digital and physical.

My practices as an educator, more specifically as a principal, influence the development of digital and physical spaces. I have long engaged with ‘learning’ and learning theory; however, it very quickly became obvious I knew little about ‘design’ and ‘space’.

‘Design’ and design thinking is an iterative process which is ongoing and supports long term possibilities of discovering the ‘unknown’. As a part of design thinking, it is useful to stop and observe the space. The Observation of Space Task re-inforced the need to stop, observe and reflect about the use of space. We need to do this far more often in education so space can align with purpose of learning and support the needs of future users.

I appreciated being introduced to design processes such as the Alpha Schools design scaffold (Figure 1) or the Stanford Institute of Design’s design thinking framework (Figure 2). Both enlightened me to the extensive and sustained requirements of leading effective design processes for digital and physical learning spaces.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 2

Furthermore, Ewan McIntosh’s Seven Spaces of Learning along with Rinquist’s Learning environments (Figure 3) affirmed the well-founded argument that the purpose of ‘space’, digital and physical, has to be known and understood for it to be effective in supporting student learning. 

Figure 3

Figure 3

By engaging with, and immersing myself in, the literature, I am more knowledgeable about thinking and processes which will align the learning needs of future users with the purpose of a space. Designers have been moving increasingly closer to the future users of what they design (Sanders and Stappers 2008) and there is enthusiasm within both education and architecture for the inclusion of students and other users of the school building in the design process (Woolner 2009). I engaged students and parents when hosting my Creative Afternoon Tea .

It is interesting to note this course has already impacted on my practice. As part of my learning in this course, I reflected on the process of developing a physical space, “G1” some ten months previously. It was a process lacking in design thinking with no user-centred, creative approaches to the conversion of “G1”. Concerns about That Problem Space became very clear, very quickly and can be explained by the rushed nature of the process. However, it is pleasing to report that at the time of writing, a review of the “G1” space has resulted in a new process which has adopted user-centred prototyping approaches involving students, teachers and parents, which seek creative ways to re-imagine the space.  I am confident the refurbishment of the space will be useful for student learning after a process which is characterised with design thinking principles.

“Thank you” Ewan for your input and “thank you” #INF536 colleagues. I have enjoyed learning that has come with this course.



Sanders, E. B.-N. and P. J. Stappers (2008). “Co-creation and the new landscapes of design.” Co-design 4(1): 5-18.

Woolner, P. (2009). Building Schools for the Future through a participatory design process: exploring the issues and investigating ways forward. BERA Manchester.





A Design Brief


The objective of this Design Brief is to provide the “inspiration,” and commence the “ideation” as part of Browne’s (2009) three phases for design thinking for the identified space known as Alex and Michelle’s Coffee Shop, Kooringal Mall, Wagga Wagga, NSW Australia.

With the understanding that it is best to continually make observations (Brown & Katz, 2011), this Design Brief was developed after two observations which took place on during the week commencing Monday 4 August. This immersion in the problem space allowed me to develop a deep understanding of the challenges associated with the space in alignment with the ‘Empathise Stage’ as per the Design Thinking Framework developed by Stanford Institute of Design.

Stanford Design Process http://www.blendmylearning.com/2014/05/28/using-design-thinking-to-develop-personalized-learning-pilots/

Defining the Problem From the observations, the following problems were identified:

  • over-crowding which can occur when take away customers are waiting for their coffees.
  • cramped conditions for employees working behind the counter.
  • the ‘disconnect’ between the indoor space and the outdoor space, further emphasized by extremes of weather.

Therefore, the problem I want to solve is framed as a question….. “How can Alex and Michelle’s Café be designed so that it is not crowded for patrons nor cramped for employees?”

Constraints “The introduction of constraints effectively pushed the solutions groups generated outside of the box” (Eden, Elliot et al. 2012). Therefore, with that in mind, I offer the following constraints:

  • Extensions of the space are not possible due to common space restrictions
  • Connecting the indoor and outdoor spaces is not permissible under the community space restrictions  as per shopping centre

Known Considerations:

  • cannot expand or extend the space due to restrictions of shopping precinct shared community space.
  • entrance to the café gets crowded during the early morning rush.

Unknown Considerations:

  • unclear budget
  • what has already been tried to address
    • the over-crowing for take away customers
    • the cramped conditions for employees

With the understanding that the user experience is crucial to resolving the identified problem (Pilloton 2010; Eden, Elliot et al. 2012) the following actions are required:

  1. Conduct surveys of patrons to obtain feedback regarding their ‘experience’ of the café space.
  2. Conduct Interviews with employees of the café
  3. Interview the owner/manager of the shopping precinct to establish clarify the parameters for possible refurbishment options.
  4. Introduce the problem to experts not familiar with the problem space and engage them in conversations about possible solutions.

Future Considerations

From these actions, there could be the use of  the How Might We (HWE) approach (D.School, Stanford) adopted by the Alpha Schools Project (Eden, Elliot et al. 2012) to prompt the “ideate” phase some alternative thinking: How Might We?????

  • create a more inviting space for people to wait for their coffee?
  • more effectively connect the indoor and outdoor spaces of the café?
  • reconfigure current or new furniture to create more space for customers and employees?
  • create a café experience which is for “local community purpose” (Pilloton 2010)?



Brown, T, & Katz, B. (2011). Change by design . Journal of Product Innovation Management, 28(3), 381-383. doi:10.1111

D.school, Stanford University, How might we?… Method Card:http://dschool.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/HMW-METHODCARD.pdf Accessed 13 August, 2014.

Eden, W., Elliot, A., et al. (2012). School Design with Design Thinking. San Jose, California.

Pilloton, E. (2010). Teaching Design for Change www.ted.com, Youtube. http://www.ted.com/talks/emily_pilloton_teaching_design_for_change



I have commented on the following blogs…..

Rochelle’s Blog at….. http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/rmasaoka/2014/08/16/c-k-theory/#comment-21

Deb’s Blog at…… http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/galloised/2014/08/15/175/#comment-27

Heather’s Blog at…. http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/jesoods5/2014/08/14/design-brief-blog-task-3/#comment-21

Observation of Space

Most mornings on the way to work I drop into the local coffee shop to get a take away large cappuccino, no sugar, and that’s because…… I’m sweet enough as it is! I repeat this action each and every Saturday morning whilst also getting a copy of the Sydney Morning Herald and a second coffee for my wife. Therefore, my observation is in two parts. Firstly, I recall my observations as part of the weekly 5 minute ‘drop in’ to collect my coffee before going back on a Saturday morning to sit in the coffee shop to engage in a 30 minute observation.

Morning ‘Drop in’

I walk from the car park and feel all of the three degrees weather at 7:45am. I walk past some shops that are located in the shopping precinct in which the cafe is located. As soon as I walk into the cafe the welcome feeling of warmth envelops me. I join a queue of 4 people waiting for take away coffee. As I make my order I am greeted by the owner, Alex. He is the only person working at this time. A few more people join the queue and we look for space between the tables and chairs located in the cafe. No-one is seated. All orders are ‘take-aways’. All people waiting (except for me because I am observing) get out their mobiles and look at them, occasionally using the key pad on their phone. One customer walks outside to take a call. I feel the rush of the cold air come through the door. Within a few moments Alex gives me my coffee and I leave enjoying the first few tastes in the cold air before getting to the car.

Saturday Morning Observation.

As I walk from the car park to the Cafe at 8:30am, I feel the cool air and immediately notice there are more people around than is the case during the week. As soon as I walk into the cafe the welcome feeling of warmth hits me. I am warmly greeted by two young ladies who are ex-students of the College. I order my breakfast and am asked where I am sitting, to which I respond accordingly. I notice the staff member ‘squeezing’ between the till, and coffee machine to write down the order. Located adjacent to till on the left is a display case with assosrted ‘delights’ such as croissants, cakes and buns.  On the right there is a standing fridge with various juices, sandwiches and wraps. Behind the counter the barista is placed immediately behind the person taking the order. They are located quite closely together and therefore the space behind the counter near the til, is limited and cramped.

Cafe External

I turn around to find a parent of the College waiting in line. We have a quick chat and discover we both recently spent time in Singapore as part of longer overseas trips.

I sit at my table and also notice

– that almost all tables are filled with people in their sixties or more. The décor is relatively plain, white tables, black chairs, lino on the floor. Ornate decorations fill the walls above the 2 metre high windows on two sides of the cafe.

– There is a lot of natural light which fills the cafe. The glass windows allows patrons to looks out onto a central courtyard that serves as a communal space for the shopping complex. Part of the courtyard has tables and chairs for the use of café. No-one is sitting there (due to the cold morning?). Some of the tables are located in the shade.

Cafe Internal


– Deliveries of milk arrive and they come through the front entrance door. The gentleman spends ten minutes packing the produce into fridges located at one end of the café.

– For those ordering take away coffees, there is soon a queue which fills the empty space between tables and chairs between the entrance to the counter.

I complete my breakfast, which was enjoyable and say my goodbyes to Alex and the ladies who so warmly welcomed me into the cafe.

Cafe Sketch 2Cafe Courtyad







I have commented on the following blogs


Blog Post #2

Blog task 2


Digital Learning, Connectivism and the Role of the Teacher.

Material authored by Louise Starkey (Starkey 2011), and the YouTube Interview with George Siemens (Siemens 2013), reinforces the obvious; that is, access to the World Wide Web has greatly increased the opportunities for students adopt multiple learning pathways when engaging with the curriculum. Learning is now an iterative process which requires moving back and forth across knowledge numerous digital networks including engagement with Google Groups, following a person on Twitter, viewing YouTube videos, accessing information via Flipboard and Zite, discovering forums on Pinterest, discussions via Online Forums and a multitude other knowledge nodes.

Siemens’ interview had most impact on me. He acknowledged that education can be personalized “but learning comes through discourse and conversation with peers”, highlighting the importance of collaboration. Furthermore, he affirms the constructionist approach to “generate knowledge through playing with it” which then allows for “different uses of that knowledge.” 

For me, the above supports my strong affection for student-centred learning where students are active agents who are engaged in collaborative projects that are relevant to their real word, or where they are involved with sustained investigations that generate new ideas by extending upon the ideas of others. However, for this to become a reality, teachers need to see themselves as a facilitator of learning with the approach of a coach (Wang 2006).

I am the first to acknowledge that one constraint of the mandated curriculum is that it limits the potential for teachers to adopt the role of facilitator. However, a shift in the teacher role to that of a facilitator assists with the development of contemporary skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving; all skills required for the 21st century learning (Fullan and Smith 2000; BECTA 2004; Lyons 2007). To do this, the teacher “supports the students in their search and supply of relevant material, coordinates the students’ presentations of individual milestones of their projects, moderates discussions, consults in all kinds of problem-solving and seeking for solutions, lectures on topics that are selected in plenary discussions with the students and conforms to the curriculum” (Motschnig-Pitrik and Holzinger 2002).

With this in mind, and after my engagement with the above-mentioned authors, it is not enough for teachers to become facilitators. Facilitators must now understand that ‘connectivism’ is an essential part of contemporary pedagogy. For me, connectivism in a digital world is when a learner accesses information through a number of connections and uses that information to construct knowledge, often through those same networks.

I am fortunate to work in a learning community where teachers understand, respect and capitlaise upon the relative advantages of connectivism in a digital world. Through them I witness students utilising a range of digital technologies to access information and share that information through various learning platforms. I then see students connecting and collaborating with each other in a seamless manner where they then demonstrate their learning with the use of new ‘apps’ that they (more than likely) have discovered through their virtual learning network.

The willingness of teachers to engage with the connectivism of digital technology assists students to create knowledge and understand concepts through their participation of the digitally enhanced learning environment they access each and every day.



BECTA (2004). A Review on the Research Literature on the Barriers to the take up of ICT by Teachers: 29.

Fullan, M. and G. Smith (2000). “Technology and the problem of change.” Curriculum Matters: 2-5.

Lyons, T. (2007). “The Professional Development, Resource and Support Needs of Rural and Urban ICT Teachers.” Australian Educational Computing 22(2) , p. 22-31.

Motschnig-Pitrik, R. and A. Holzinger (2002). “Student-centered teaching meets new media: Concept and case study. .” Educational Technology & Society 5(4): 160-172.

Siemens, G. (2013). “Changing Schools, Changing Knowledge.” The Agenda with Steve Paiken. Retrieved 30/03/2014, from http://youtu.be/JR_ziHA_8LY.

Starkey, L. (2011). “Evaluating learning in the 21st century: a digital age learning matrix.” Technology, Pedagogy and Education 20(1): 19-39.

Wang, Y. (2006). “Technology projects as a vehicle to empower students.” Educational Media International 43(4): 315-330.