#INF541 Critical Reflection

As a gamer myself, entering #INF541 felt a bit like being a pig in mud – splashing about in my own backyard.

What is interesting though is that I came into the course with two quite strong opinions – games are entertaining, they are fun, and you can learn so much from them (as I did growing up) but also that games can indeed become addictive if you are not careful (as I found out when I was younger playing World of Warcraft). I was torn then, as I could see the promise in digital games for learning, but also cautious as to their use, especially with youngsters.

I began to reconcile these opinions within the first few weeks however, as Module One directed us to look at games as possibly misunderstood and under-estimated. Games are not just the AAA titles you see plastered through the newspapers and on shelves. There exists numerous genres and cultures and types, from serious games to social action games. Games are texts, multimodal, arguably more complex than traditional texts as the interplay between narrative, social elements, music and sound, and embodiment of different identities, and how these weave together, can construct deep meaning (as I mentioned in my Remediation and Storytelling forum post). They are emblems of our multimodal, complex times, and should have a much more prominent position as contexts to develop literacies – both traditional, information, transmedia, and visual literacies (Connolly, Stansfield & Boyle, 2009). I explored this ideas in later blog posts – Got the Manual, Can’t Play the Game and Designed Information Behaviour.

One “aha!” moment I had (amongst many others) was that, obviously, very few games are out-of-the-box aligned with curriculum, which places the role of the teacher in framing the use of the game as central. Games are not “set and forget” affairs – they need to be used critically and judiciously by educators – just like any text, tool, or activity in class. Pre, during and post game reflections can be used (Van Eck, 2006) or characters and settings extended from the game into other areas, for example. What is interesting in this case is that game designers and school instructional designers come from very different realms of understanding, so game integration therefore needs an intermediary (like a teacher) to pull from both sides, drawing out good learning experiences.

Furthermore, the benefits of students designing their own games, and the kinds of competencies this develops (Navarrete, 2013), struck a chord with me too, as did how to inject elements from effective games into offline, classroom life (Salen & Zimmerman, 2004).

One aspect of this course I found personally and professionally appealing was the wiggle room to explore tangents in my thinking. This occurred early on when an element of a reading piqued my interest, the benefits of cross-functional teams. I wrote a blog post on that topic, and really found it meaningful to reflect on my own experiences and link them with what I was reading.

The assignments also gave me the opportunity to “go down deep” into areas of game-based learning which I found to be personally relevant and interesting. While the broadness and “openness” of the second assignment was initially daunting, the collaborative nature of the proposal and wiki submission process helped magnificently in tightening my focus. Helping others with their submissions, as I did with Jo, Penny, Jon, Graham, and Miriam was an effective way to “walk the talk”, as a part of the participatory nature of this Masters. It’s something which I will persevere more with next semester though as to be honest, it’s not something I’m particularly great at yet, as is engaging with a wider range of the cohort, not just the people I know quite well from other courses. Twitter, as always, provided fast and furious methods of communication through the #INF541 hashtag – although I’d like to try to question and probe more over this network, as it can sometimes become a bit of an echo-chamber.

Getting caught up in the play, rather than the regular reflection, is also something which I probably could have done a bit better with. While I contributed to most of the forum posts, my reflective blog posting was probably not up to scratch. I should have spent less time immersing myself in game! This though, is another self-identified goal for next semester.

Overall, I’ve really relished the opportunity to put something I’m personally passionate about into an academic, critical frame. I’ve learned a lot, and will be taking much of my new knowledge and understandings with me to my new job posting in China, as an IT coach at a big international school. I’ll be in the perfect position chip away at the lingering notion that games are somehow only for social recluses, and to use games as powerful contexts for great learning. Onwards and upwards!


Connolly, T., Stansfield, M., & Boyle, L. (Eds.). (2009). Games-Based Learning Advancements for Multi-Sensory Human Computer Interfaces: Techniques and Effective Practices. IGI Global.

Navarrete, C. C. (2013). Creative thinking in digital game design and development: A case study. Computers & Education, 69, 320–331.

Salen, K. & Zimmerman, E., (2004). Rules of play: Game design fundamentals. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Van Eck, Richard. (2006). Digital game-based learning: It’s not just the digital natives who are restless. EDUCAUSE Review, (20), 16-18.

Designed Information Behaviour

From a reflective prompt in Module 4:

Can you identify critical elements of information behaviour, and how those elements would apply to game narrative and construction?

When we talk about knowledge networks, it’s often in relation to social networks, collaborative authoring, curation, Web 2.0 tools, meta-data etc; our massive web of connections and information flow, as enabled through technology. As the scale of these networks grow and more nodes become connected and connecting, so the value of the network increases – the information is amplified, the learning possibilities exponentially growing (although not without it’s quality, copyright, and privacy issues).

The information is worth accessing, therefore. It allows old information to be paired in new ways, and creativity to flourish amidst the torrent of burgeoning connections while taking advantage of the “wisdom of the crowds”. It’s a new way to look at knowledge, and your role in it, and therefore requires new kinds of literacies to make sense of, access, critically appraise, and contribute to this information web.

It’s getting harder and harder to justify an independent, transmission based, written word based, education model, as students are growing up into a knowledge ecology which is collaborative, participatory, and multimodal.

Apologies – I digress…

What I really wanted to talk about was the additional layer of information behaviour which digital games activate, in addition to the ones we normally talk about – the social networks / knowledge tools and platforms both in and out of games / Web 2.0 stuff. Actually, we probably don’t talk about those enough, but regardless, I want to venture into this “designed” aspect of digital games.

The mechanics of a game add to the information ecology circulating around the experience. The game designers want you to learn as you progress, and there are particular ways this is designed into games – either diegetically or non-diegetically (I’m pretty sure those are proper words). Gradually drip-feeding in more challenging content is the classic way this occurs; players become overwhelmed with information if it is all just introduced at the start. Smart design of challenges and encounters allows you to naturally learn what you need to do to progress, whereas (in my opinion) a more cumbersome approach is through popups and tooltips and tutorials running you through things, breaking the immersion.

When you think about it like this, you can make parallels with what “good learning” can look like in schools – naturally introduced, purposeful, part of a bigger picture, intergrated, not siloed, part of an authentic experience.

Teachers have a role to play, just as game designers do – to “tilt the landscape” of learning towards discovery rather than overt knowledge transmission. We can choose to set the learning amidst natural, authentic, purposeful progression, or be the kinds of teachers which break immersion by constantly “popping up” and giving unneeded tutorials.

What I’m saying is that I think it’s always better to learn something yourself or go out and seek it yourself, rather than a higher power teaching you it, and good teachers can make this happen, just like good game designers can in effective, immersive digital games.

Got the Manual, Can’t Play the Game

Kids have game manuals, but no opportunity to play the games, says James Paul Gee.

In other words, students are learning discreet pockets of knowledge and skills without the opportunity to use them purposefully and authentically.

You can spell the words, but you can’t string together a good conversation.
You know the scientific method, but haven’t done a proper investigation.
You know what an adverb is, but can’t write a lovely description (see what I did there…)
You can define collaboration, but don’t work well in a group.
You know your addition strategies but can’t use them at the supermarket.

Basically, you can talk the talk, but can’t walk the walk. And while the above examples are a bit tounge-in-cheek (there are lots of scientific investigations and lovely descriptive writing going on everywhere), when looking at the big picture, education probably does skew itself the way of knowledge, rather than knowledge + application. Hell, it’s easier to assess right? If all assessment was real life, collaborative, impactful, rich projects how on earth could the Government ever gather the data they need to justify their political and economic decisions? It would be chaos!

This, for me, is one of the great affordances of digital games. They can bridge that gap between learning something and stopping right there, or learning something and then applying it. Games or simulations offer a context in which you can embody your learning – you can BE a scientist, an entrepreneur, an explorer, a historical figure. The experience of actually using learned knowledge and skills makes learning stick and makes sure it’s helpful. It’s a safe place to practise the application of knowledge and skills too – games make it OK to fail.

We don’t need to stop teaching content, knowledge and skills. What we do need to do is start embedding it within rich, experiential learning scenarios. Games offer a chance to do this.

Digital Games: Cross Functional Teams and Collaboration

#INF541 Online Reflective Journal – Blog Task 2

There are a class of digital games which require the formation of “cross functional teams” (Gee, 2005). Cross functional teams are “a group of people with different functional expertise working toward a common goal.” The ability to take on and respect these different roles is a sign of good, healthy collaboration rather than simple “group work” where participants work side-by-side but not together.

To access the best gear in World of Warcraft, for example, groups need to be formed in order for certain content (raids or dungeons) to be successfully completed. The kinds of challenges the groups face demand there be a character up front sucking up all the damage from the big bad guy (a tank), someone staying out of trouble healing (a healer) and three other characters doing damage to the big bad guy (DPS – damage per second characters). Characters specialise in their areas and need to stick to their role if the encounter is to be successful; you cannot win a dungeon if your group comprises solely of one class or of people not sticking to their assigned roles (read: a Leroy Jenkins).

Players must understand their character’s abilities and roles, but also integrate and coordinate smoothly with the group as a whole, embodying what James Gee calls “cross-functional understanding” (2005). What you get then is a group coming together in a shared endeavour, each character an integral part of the puzzle. These dungeons constitute an “Affinity Space” – a place where experimental learning happens, where newbies and masters unite, knowledge is dispersed and leadership is flexible. In a World of Warcraft raid group you learn and grow together; fail and succeed together.

A group of people working together, taking different roles, communicating and collaborating? This is good stuff – stuff which indeed hits on many aspects of what we consider to be elements of good learning experiences:

  • It flexes many of Guy Claxton’s characteristics of powerful learners, most notably that of experimentation and the virtue of sociability (Claxton, 2013).
  • It takes a cue from not only a constructivist view of learning, where learning emerges from experiences, but also a connectivist approach where learning is strengthened and enhanced when nodes of knowledge (players) connect and diffuse knowledge.
  • It is an interactive approach to learning, not one in which learners are passive receptacles (Becker, 2011).

What is interesting is considering these informal, affinity based groups alongside the idea of identity and social inclusion as well. It allows students to experiment with different roles and identities, ones which could be altogether different from those they embody on a day-to-day basis. It doesn’t matter how fast you run or what clothes you wear or what your recent writing sample was scored at – in a MMO (massive multiplayer online game) it comes down to how well you know your class, how well you can work together, communicate, collaborate and trust each other. Participation in affinity spaces can bridge barriers and bring people together.

Setting up experiences where students get to be a part of a cross functional team can therefore lead to great learning in and of itself, but can also be used as a springboard or scaffold into offline collaboration too. Cross functional teams are valued hugely in many areas because they can flexibly meet challenges and deliver creative outcomes. Helping students to be active participants in these kinds of groups – to be able to take on different roles (a leader or a follower, a devil’s advocate, an experimenter, or a dreamer) – is good stuff. The importance then would shift into reflecting deeply on your online experiences and taking those learnings into group projects, social interactions, and collaborative learning IRL. Thankfully there are strategies and tools that can assist this – de Bono’s Thinking Hats and NoTosh’s Design Thinking tools spring to mind.

Digital Games are not just the past-time popular media would have you believe, but powerful spaces for learning and powerful prompts into other learning. Using cross functional teams as a training ground for offline collaboration and social inclusion is one of these.

So – who do you want to be today? A tank, a healer or a DPS?


Becker, K. (2011). Distinctions between games and learning: A review of current literature on games in education. In Gaming and Simulations: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools and Applications (pp. 75-107). Hershey, PA: . doi:10.4018/978-1-60960-195-9.ch105

Claxton, G. (2013). What’s the point of school?: Rediscovering the heart of education. Oneworld Publications.

Gee, J.P. (2005). Good video games and good learning. Phi Kappa Phi Forum, 85(2), 33-37.http://dmlcentral.net/sites/dmlcentral/files/resource_files/GoodVideoGamesLearning.pdf

Game Based Learning – Game On!

I’m a gamer at heart. Have been since Dad bought home a brand new Apple Mac IIe sometime in the late 80’s. I played everything from Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, to Oregon Trail, to Lemmings, to the original Prince of Persia, and haven’t stopped since. After high-school I took a tumble into World of Warcraft and spent a good (read: very good) amount of time in Azeroth. I was in a serious raiding guild, even. I’ve since moved away from the MMORPG scene and am enjoying my PS4. I’ve just finished playing The Last of Us, which was a brilliant, captivating story and enjoy pwning n00bs via epic headshotz in Battlefield 4.

I’m also an educator, passionate about leveraging the affordances of the digital age for good learning.

Naturally then, I have come to this most recent paper in my Masters programme, “Game Based Learning”. Here is where my current thinking is at regarding gaming and education and it’s challenges and opportunities…

Games have the ability to be platforms for great learning or platforms for mindless consumption. I’m not saying that mindless consumption is a bad thing – I do it all the time, but only at home after a hard days work and when the 2 year old is asleep. School is for learning and challenging and growing the skills, knowledge, and dispositions people need for an increasingly digital future-world. Games are risky, perhaps, at school, because game-design is based on elements which immerse the gamer into the game world, keeping them wired in and playing. Educators need to be careful, critical, and judicious when selecting how to best use games for good, solid, helpful learning.

You can ham-fistedly, haphazardly introduce games into the classroom without considering their effect. Much like app selection, it’s important to choose games with a critical eye. Is this just fluffy, round the edges learning, or will the experience of the game truly bring about deeper understandings and authentic learning. Is the game a skill and drill game (which has it’s place) or a sandbox game? Games such as Minecraft and apps such as Explain Everything are powerful platforms where students can be flexing their creative muscles and producing innovative, personality-filled learning, for example.

But where might games fit? The technology is here, the will is here, but if we are mandated by the Government to be focusing heavily on reading, writing and maths, and being judged by the public and the Ministry on our reading, writing, and maths data in league tables and such, is there room for the judicious use of games? I certainly hope so, but can’t quite see how they might fit together just yet.

It’s my intention in this paper to find where the two may meet – gaming and traditional school stuff we have to do.

There is the other side of the coin here too – building the skills, knowledge, and mindset a programmer / creator of games requires. This is amazing, authentic learning, so rich in both skill development and dispositional development. To have students growing up understanding the world around them is created and create-able by themselves, not just there to be consumed, is powerful learning.

I’m also interested in this lingering notion that gaming is for socially-inept weirdos. I’ve felt it myself when explaining to people how I spent a few hours playing a certain game on the weekend. They don’t quite get it. The only people I can really talk with about gaming is my 7 – 11 year old students! What cultural, social pressures would gaming in a classroom face? Quite a hefty amount, I presume.

So that’s where my current thinking is at regarding gaming in education. A slight inch of sceptiscism which I’m finding odd considering my years and years of gaming experience, but mostly curiosity and interest and a true desire to find out how games could fit into the multitude of other competing considerations which swirl around schools. I’m really looking forward to exploring these challenging questions further.

Game on!

#INF536 Critical Reflection

The prompt for this blog post is a reflection on how my views, knowledge and understanding of the work of an education professional in digital environments has changed and/or developed. I think however, a lot of my most tangible learnings have not been in the digital realm at all – they have been on me, as a person, and in the physical world.

Here are some of the ways I’ve grown, my knowledge has grown, and my professional understandings have grown. It’s a highlights reel of my most key learnings from this course:

  • A rekindling of my creative confidence! Being creative is rarely that one off “lightbulb” moment, where you are struck with inspiration – you need to work hard to be creative (Gladwell, 2008; Dyson, 2011). Knowing that I didn’t need to get creative pursuits right, or perfect the first time really opened me up to just giving things a go and getting started. Creativity is an amorphous beast though, and takes many forms for many different people.

  • Bringing more ideas out into the real world – making them visual, moveable, actual items – frees them from a range of digital and mental constraints. Elements of thinking can be collected in a Project War Room, where the whole picture, rather than individual snippets can be seen (Kolko, 2010). Links can be made, and patterns can be found. Different organisations or sorting of the elements can occur (such as in a hexagonal thinking activity).

  • Growing a bias towards action (Kelley, 2012). Design is about turning ideas into action (Brown, 2009). I feel empowered now that I understand, and have had practise with, the process.

  • An affinity for collaboration. Much of creative culture, and the Design Thinking process, is enhanced when with, or around others (Siedel & Fixson, 2013). Connect with others, talk things through, share your ideas. But also, don’t be afraid to go it alone when you need to (Thornburg, 2001).

  • Welcoming feedback. Feedback is the gold dust of learning and improving (Hattie, 2013). Be open to feedback, get it early and often, and when giving feedback, make sure it is kind, specific, and helpful (Berger, 2003).

  • Keeping the ‘user’ at the centre. Teaching isn’t about you, it’s about the students. Co-design, and involving students at every stage in learning will lead to more meaningful outcomes. In contrast though, your role as a knowledgeable expert is no less important (Hatte, 2013).

  • Setting my eyes on the horizon. Let your big, audacious, Moonshot ideas out. Experimenting allows unexpected outcomes to emerge, rather than sticking with the same old status quo. Frame your thinking on what could be possible; don’t be daunted by the blocks in the way. At the same time, don’t be afraid to start small (Doorley & Whithoft, 2012).

  • Knowing space is a powerful change agent. It communicates the kinds of relationships you value (Kelley, 2012) and facilitates the kinds of learning experiences – collaborative, creative, flexible, real-life, feedback-laden that are the pillars of effective learning (Claxton, 2009; Hattie, 2013).

In reflection, this is probably the first time over my whole academic career that a paper or course I’ve taken has been so shifting. Mostly, in my experience, papers throughout University are the ‘regurgitate in your own words’ style of showing your learning. Actual, brain-chomping learning however, comes from tackling weighty issues, not pseudo ones (Claxton, 2009). It involves those intense moments of confusion and chaos when everything seems to be too much and you can’t see light at the end of the tunnel. But then you stop, you reflect, you start making connections and finding patterns and a glimmer of hope appears. The sense of accomplishment, at knowing you’ve waded into complexity and turned up on the other side is very fulfilling. And there is NO way this isn’t good learning. And that is one of my central takeaways from Designing Spaces For Learning – the power of this kind of learning process. It’s hard, it’s exhausting, but so much learning comes from the struggle.



Berger, R. (2003). An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students. Heinemann, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc., 361 Hanover Street, Portsmouth.

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

Claxton, G. (2009). What’s the point of school?: Rediscovering the heart of education. Oneworld Publications.

Doorley, S. & Whithoft, S. (2012). Make space: How to set the stage for creative collaboration. John Wiley & Sons.

Dyson, J. (2011, August 4). No innovator’s dilemma here: in praise of failure. Wired.com. Retrieved from: http://www.wired.com/business/2011/04/in-praise-of-failure/

Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The story of success. Penguin UK.

Hattie, J. (2013). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge.

Kelley, D. (2012). IDEO Founder David Kelley: Bias Toward Action. Retrieved 12th October, 2014 from http://washingtonexaminer.com/ideo-founder-david-kelley-bias-toward-action/video/gm-4965755

Kolko, J. (2010). Abductive thinking and sensemaking: The drivers of design synthesis. Design Issues, 26(1), 15-28.

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.

Thornburg, D. D. (2001). Campfires in Cyberspace: Primordial Metaphors for Learning in the 21st Century. Ed at a Distance, 15(6), n6.

Creative Coffee (and Croissant) Morning

It was an intimate, inaugural Creative Coffee (and Croissant) Morning that I hosted on Tuesday morning this week. I did “put the word out” into the community, posting on our school blog, but not many people, as you can see, turned out. Fortunately, those that did really brought their A Game. We had a wonderful chat about all things creativity, and I was buzzing the whole day afterwards. What a great start to the day!

I was curious as to the reasonably low turnout. Perhaps it speaks to the timing, although I tried to make it doable for parents – drop off your kids half an hour early for school, stay a bit and chat, have a bite of breakfast. Perhaps I didn’t follow-up enough and push people more to attend. Perhaps it highlights an interesting lack of creative confidence with adults – maybe people thought they didn’t have much to share?

We touched upon some of the above issues as well as a whole lot more during our conversations. Here are some of the tidbits:

  • Why do adults seem to lose their creative mojo? How can we resurrect our creative confidence?
  • Some businesses or workplaces are allowing more creativity to flow
  • The traditional conception of a ‘creative’ – is it just the painters and architects and musicians?
  • Baking can be creative!
  • There is such a thing as non-creative artists…
  • Creativity is better together
  • You need access to good quality stuff, not cheap and cheerful
  • Some feel that spaces need to have a minimal, simplified, pared-down environment. Others highlighted how some of the most creative people work in absolute chaos
  • It’s about pride and care in your endeavours
  • Boundaries / constraints can enhance creativity
  • Creativity requires positive feedback. It’s a sensitive thing, especially for adults getting back into the swing of creativity.
  • Not enough time…
  • Spaces need to be flexible – open for the clash of ideas, but spaces for some quiet focus
  • “Stand-Ups”, agile meetings, rethinking ways of teams working together
  • Low stakes prototyping in Minecraft
  • Post-it notes, doodling, drawing…
  • Food. It can bring communities / people together and provide the lubricant for collaboration

 Link to Evernote notes



Comments on other blogs:




Design Brief

Dear Architect,

New World Supermarket is not a particularly nice place to visit.

  • Shoppers with a particular product in mind have to wind their way through many an aisle to get what they need
  • Shoppers who just want bread and milk (popular products) are treated as second class citizens, the bread and milk being as far away from the only entry as possible
  • Shoppers cannot stop for a chat lest they brave the angry glares and muttered comments of the people this backs up behind them
  • Everyday, shoppers become frustrated and stressed as they enter or exit the supermarket – the blind corners and tight passages creating congestion
  • Shoppers with children are not helped, they are hindered.

A supermarket is one of the only places the majority of humans need to visit on a regular basis. While the businessmen rub their hands with glee at this, why can’t it be something more? It’s fair that the owners of supermarkets need to make a buck, no doubt, but why can’t we make the supermarket experience something to look forward to? Something which tugs at the core of our human need to come together – of food and company. Can our relationship with food be closer, like it was thousands of years ago? Can our trips be personalised?

Supermarket 2.0

Where a profit is made, but people are not treated like walking dollar signs
Where people can stop for a chat
Where you can go straight for the item(s) you want
Where you never have to deal with congestion
Where parents or caregivers can tread without fear
Where the people entering and exiting are not clashing together constantly

And what if…

The supermarket became a central hub in the community – like a watering hole in the Savannah…
People can learn more about their food – where it came from: it’s story, it’s exact place of growth or manufacture…
People could pick their fruit and vegetables straight from the vine, or dig them up from the soil…
Your supermarket list syncs with a device on the trolly, guiding you to the items you need and the fastest route…
Foods were grouped in different ways…
There were no aisles…
Wanting bread and milk no longer required you to navigate the twists and turns of the whole supermarket…
Supermarkets had nice views, with lots of windows and natural light…
Played live bands instead of cheesy pop hits…

Supermarket 2.0 would attract more customers. People would feel drawn to the place, as it would morph from a exercise in consumerism to a celebration of human nature. It could become a meeting place in the community, a social event even. At the very least, a painless, easy, enjoyable experience for all users.

We want you to design Supermarket 2.0.


Blogs I’ve commented on:

Greg: A Design Brief

Heather: Blog task 3 – Design brief – Macleod station



This is a part of my everyday routine that is up for improvement – the entrance area to my local supermarket. I went to observe the area during rush hour the other day and took some notes, then went home and brought it all together on paper. It’s pretty rough and ready, but this is what I came up with:

I discovered that it’s a source of congestion. Primarily I guess that is because the entrance and exit are in the same areas, and they are both funnelled through quite a small place. You can’t stop at all or have any kind of delay as both the customers entering and customers exiting don’t like to be held up one bit. I heard people say “come on!” and many a frustrated face as they tried to navigate through this area. To compile the issue, people had to pull out their trolley or pick up their basket, some stopped to donate to a charity, some to buy a Lotto ticket. It was a busy place – not one that deals kindly to slower people, people with kids, people seeing other people they know and wanting to chat, or people who just want to get in and out again ASAP.

An interesting sub-set of this I found were the people who nipped through the one-way door when it opened for the exiting customers. I suppose they wanted something on the other side of the supermarket, and didn’t want to weave their way through all the aisles you have to if you use the main entrance. Still for them though, they had to go halfway down the side to then find an open way into the supermarket, as all the others were blocked by checkouts and people.

The nature of a supermarket means there will be a range of people visiting – some doing their big weekly shop, some picking up particular speciality bits and bobs, some just wanting the staples. Some people rushed and some people took their time. This caused tension as many of the “rushers” were getting frustrated and walking around the “slowers”. Those people just wanted to get in and out.

It was a nice day when I observed, but I’ve been there on cold days and the wind rips through that entrance – it can get cold and dark and drafty. Then as soon as you step into the supermarket it’s regulated, bright, colourful, with safe music playing. There are no windows in the supermarket, no clocks, no easy to get to bathrooms.

I’ve already got a few ideas buzzing around about potential improvements but I’m looking forward to sitting down and getting into some distraction free ideation time. Then I’m going to send it the supermarket owners and keep moaning about the area until it gets changed!

Other blog posts I’ve commented on:

Bec – ‘Observation Task’

Liz – ‘Blog Task 2: Observation’

Shannon – ‘Blog Task 2’

Designing Spaces for Learning

My school is quite new, us being in our third year open. It’s a purpose built “modern learning environment” with open plan, flexible spaces and a variety of furniture which can be formed and reformed in various configurations.

While it’s a wonderful space, we’ve found in some respects it’s almost too open. Maybe more accurately, it does not perhaps, provide an adequate amount of spaces and places students can “breakout” from the general melee of hub life to concentrate in a quiet spot. We are a large group of multi-level students, with four teachers, who at any time could be in workshops, independent tasks, or any numbers of things. It’s a bustling, busy, buzzy space – one which, when you put yourself in the shoes of the students, may be somewhat distracting. I don’t think it would work for me as a student, and it frequently doesn’t for me as an adult when I need to get work done.

 Our spaces might benefit from some thinking on its design because there are things we could do to the spaces which may impact student learning. I can see a need not being met and through the design thinking process may be able to provide some solutions.

Having a process to work through is important because it makes sure we are “seeing things through” and moving from hunches and gut feelings (heuristic thoughts) to something more concrete and replicable. It ensures something comes out of that gut space instead of languishing in the mind, half-baked. And as Bennett, in his Ted Talk says, even small changes can have a big impact.

To begin thinking like a designer, one must have certain core competencies. I’m still learning what it takes to do this, but I can already see (and from what I’ve read) you need to be very open – open in terms of putting yourself in a mental space to ideate, open to others’ points of view (to empathise) and open to trying things out, getting feedback, and not being so precious about ideas that you wouldn’t think of changing them (Razzouk).

So I had a tricky design problem as stated above. I defined the problem in my own mind, thought back over some of the issues we’ve had over the years with distractions and incomplete work, took some time to observe the students, and came up with a few ideas.

I broke it down into:

– New things I could add

– Existing things I could remix

– Things I could help others do

 This helped me to come up with a few ideas which I then put into practise:


I introduced two small dome tents into the hub. These wouldn’t cut out much sound, but they would lessen the amount of visual stimulus. I thought about a student in there and realised that you’d probably have other students poking in to see if it was in use or not, so I made up a sign saying “In Use” that students using it could hang up on outside. These were so popular that we had to have a sign up system on the back of the “In Use” sign!


I ran a session with a group of about 25 students about the places and spaces they could use for different purposes. This was originally to explain what I was doing with the tents, but it snowballed into how we could use the existing furniture to signal we were in “flow” and didn’t want to be disturbed. We talked about how our positions (ie body language) could tell people we were “in” our learning (how we could face the wall or window, for example) and about different spaces around the school we could go to do our work they may not have thought of.


After that session I did two further things. I repurposed some cafe table numbers to use as visual signals that people could use if they didn’t want to be disturbed (in case they couldn’t read the body language or positioning). And, with the help of my co-teachers, we made up a “where are you” board which students update through the day. We thought if kids are going to be finding little cracks and crevices around the school during the day, we needed to know where they were in case they were needed.


So that was my first foray into design thinking. I found it tough at the start, but once I put myself in the kids’ shoes, I was able to see what they might require from our spaces, and the ideas flowed from there (albeit slowly at the start).

Blogs I commented on:

Jerry at Thinkspace

Margo’s Reflective Journal

Leading Learning