#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.

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