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  1. What have I learned – creating remarkable learning experiences

    October 14, 2014 by meghastie

      • Everyone can be a designer , when they’ve learned a few tools from the masters and work together (Brown 2009, Cross 2006, Seidel & Fixson , Sutton & Hargadon 1996, McIntosh 2014, Hastie, blog comment 44)
      • However, it’s easy to oversimplify the design process and assume that design thinking will always succeed and will work for everyone (Badke-Schaub, Roozenburg, & Cardoso 2010, Nussbaum 2011.)
      • Other design models especially ecological design, have great potential to further strengthen our understanding of learners, learning and their range of environments
      • Change needs to be focussed on the user, in their environment (Brown 2009, Hastie August 1, 2014, Hastie, Blog comment 22)
      • Think big, start small  – change does not need to be spectacular or expensive, it needs to be a contextually appropriate solution (Hastie August 8, 15 2014, Hastie 2014 blog comment 28)
      • Spending time thinking about the “big picture” the big ideas is exhilarating, but needs to then go somewhere – collaborating, engaging, planning, reiterating and implementation is needed (Robertson, Webb and Fluck 2007, Brown 2009, Kuratko, Goldsworthy & Hornsby 2012).
      • Learning how to innovate and experiment, and being willing for that innovation to fail is a crucial part of being a designer (Adams 2001, Brown 2009, Dyson, 2009, Cross 2006, McIntosh 2014, Hastie August 1 2014, Hastie )
      • However, quantifying both innovation and creativity is also complex and needs appropriateness (Atkinson 2000; Howard et al. 2008; Howard-Jones 2002; Mayer 1999)
      • Being creative does not doom you to a life of poverty – although if you are poor but happy that’s ok! (Graham 2006, Google, Pixar, Rees 2007)
      • We need creativity and innovation to not only solve the problems of the world but to live fulfilling lives.  Being makers is central to who we are as people (Parvin 2013, Pilloton 2009, Leadbeater 2010, Dougherty 2009).
      • Space has the capacity to inspire, to challenge, to excite us (OWP Architects 2010, Oblinger 2006)
      • Understanding the role of space in learning is contested; it’s a complex and dynamic concept (Woolner et al 2012, Kuuskorpi & González 2011)  – from McIntosh’s seven spaces to Wang & Chen’s (2011) 5 spaces of the online community, concepts of communities, niches and privacy must be explored
      • Changing space without innovation in pedagogy is expensive, (Woolner et al 2012, JISC 2006), more significantly innovation in pedagogy without careful staff training and change management is pointless (Owens 2012, Sutherland et al. 2013, Fullan 1991, García 2010)
      • As the built architecture reflects a range of pedagogical assumptions, there are times when teachers in traditional learning spaces have to work harder to change  the dominant discourse of the environment and the accompanying  student expectations (Woolner 2009, OWP Architects 2010, JISC 2006, Barrett, Zhang, Moffat, & Kobbacy 2012)
      • There are lots of ideas coalescing around education at the moment, that all seem to reverberate around metacognition, authentic, active meaningful learning, and learning how to learn, placing students in the centre of the learning equation (Hattie, 2008, 2011, 2013; Fullan 2011, 2013, Ritchart, Ron, Church, Mark & Morrison, Karin 2011, McTighe & Wiggins 2010, Marzano 2013, Ito et al.)
      • Getting lots of people involved in the creative process to challenge ideas around what learning looks like in response to this is crucial (Heppel 2004, Seidel & Fixson 2013, Yee, Jeffries & Tan 2013, McIntosh 2014, Hastie September 2014, Hastie comment 25, 25a)
      • It would be amazing to “do school”, do learning differently from what we currently can in Australia – to think active, real authentic alive and compassionate (eg Tully 2009, Dougherty 2013, Leadbeater & Wong 2010
      • There is a crucial clash in education between the desire to innovate, to explore and experiment with new ways of thinking, and government’s increasing tendency towards standardised testing to validate their own agendas (Campbell, Saltmarsh, Chapman & Drew 2013, Hastie October 2014).
      • Change can be exhilarating, or change can be frustrating and fail – it’s all in the way it’s managed (Fullan 2001, 1991, Stoll 1998, Blasé 1999)
      • Leaders have a big responsibility in framing school cultures, exploring ideas, setting goals, inviting everyone in and facilitating those around them to do amazing things (Fullan 2001, 1991, Stoll 1998, Blasé 1999)
      • Neither design nor education can lose sight of their focus – the people they serve.
      • FINALLY, 500 words aint much for a whole course – take out the in-text referencing and you’re about there…

      References… perhaps not in alphabetical order, but all there…

      • Rees, E. (2011.) The lean startup: How constant innovation creates radically successful businesses. London: Portfolio Penguin pp. 56-72
      • Brown, T. (2009.) Change by design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. Harper Business
      • Woolner, P. (2009), Building schools for the future through a participatory design process: exploring the issues and investigating ways forward. Presented at BERA 2009, 2-5 September, Manchester UK. Retrieved from:
      • Barrett, P.S., Zhang, Y. , Moffat J., & Kobbacy, K. (2012). An holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on pupils’ learning. Building and Environment.
      • Blackmore, J., Bateman, D., Loughlin, J., O’Mara, J., & Aranda, G. (2011), Research into the connection between built learning spaces and student outcomes, Literature review, Paper No. 22 June 2011, State Government of Victoria (Australia). Retrieved
      • Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. London:Routledge.
      • Hattie, J & Yates G. C. R. (2013). Visible learning and the science of how we learn. Routledge.
      • Herrington, Jan & Reeves, Thomas C (2011)  Using design principles to improve pedagogical practice and promote student engagement, Ascilite conference Hobart, 2011
      • JISC, 2006, Designing Spaces for Effective Learning: A guide to 21st century learning space design, accessed 1st September 2014
      • Leadbeater, C. & Wong, A. (2010). Learning from the Extremes. Cisco. Retrieved from:
      • Pilloton, Emily (2010) Teaching Design for Change, TED talk accessed 31st July 2014
      • Ritchart, Ron, Church, Mark & Morrison, Karin (2011) Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners, Jossey-Bass Teacher, Chichester
      • Rshaid, Gabriel (2011) Learning for the future: Rethinking schools for the 21st century, Lead & Learn Press, Englewood
      • Tulley, G. (2009). The tinkering school, Retrieved from:
      • Yee, Joyce, Jefferies, Emma & Tan Lauren (2013) Design transitions, BIS Publishers, Amsterdam
      • Stoll, Louise, 1999, School culture: black hole or fertile garden for school improvement? In School culture / edited by Jon Prosser, London : Paul Chapman Pub, 1999.
      • Blasé Joseph 1998.Micropolitics of Educational Change joseph blasé in A.Hargreaves et al. (Eds.) International Handbook of Educational Change, 544-557 Boston, Mass. : Kluwer Academic Publishers,
      • Thornburg, D. (2014). From the Campfire to the Holodeck, How Place Matters in Education. AACE Conference. Retrieved from:
      • Thornburg, D. (1995). Student-centered learning. Electronic Learning, 14(7), 18. Retrieved from
      • McIntosh, E. (2010). Clicks and bricks: How school buildings influence future practice and technology adoption, Educational Facility Planner, Volume 45, Issues 1 & 2. CEFPI. Retrieved from
      • Wang Yu-Mei & Chen Derthanq Victor 2011, Instructors as Architects- Designing Learning Spaces for Discussion-Based Online Courses Journel of educational Technology Systems, Vol. 39(3) 281-294, 2010-2011
      • Woolner, P., McCarter, S., Wall, K., & Higgins, S. (2012). Changed learning through changed space: When can a participatory approach to the learning environment challenge preconceptions and alter practice Improving Schools, 15(1), 45–60.
      • Monahan Torin  2000 Built Pedagogies & Technology Practices: Designing for Participatory Learning,Proceedings of the Participatory Design Conference , ed by T. Cherkasky, J . Greenbaum, P. Mambrey, and J.K. Pors. Palo Alto, CA:
      • Kuuskorpi, M. and N. Cabellos González (2011), “The Future of the Physical Learning Environment: School Facilities that Support the User”, CELE Exchange, Centre for Effective Learning Environments, 2011/11, OECD Publishing.
      • Campbell, M., Saltmarsh, S.,Chapman, A. & Drew, C. (2013). Issues of teacher professional learning within ‘non-traditional’ classroom environments.I
      • Kuratko, D., Goldsworthy, M., & Hornsby, G. (2012). The design-thinking process in Innovation acceleration : transforming organizational thinking. (pp.103-123). Boston : Pearson.
      • Ito, Mizuko, Gutiérrez, , Livingstone, Sonia, Penuel, Bill, Rhodes, Jean Salen, Katie, Schor, Juliet, Sefton-Green, Julian, Watkins S. Craig,. (2013). Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design. Digital Media and Learning Research Hub, Accessed September 1st 2014
      • Owens, Tessa (2012) Hitting the nail on the head: the importance of specific staff development for effective blended learning, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 49:4, 389-400. The online version of this article can be found at: Accessed 5th September 2014
      • Pata  Kai 2009 Revising the Framework of Knowledge Ecologies: How Activity Patterns Define Learning Spaces
      • Normak, P., Pata, K., & Kaipainen, M. (2012). An Ecological Approach to Learning Dynamics. Educational Technology & Society, 15 (3), 262–274.
      • Buchan, J. (2009). Putting ourselves in the big picture: a sustainable approach to project management for e-learning. The Journal of Distance Education
    • Hastie M 2014 1:1 hammer rollout
    •                                 Anew adventure in virtual learning a work in progress

                                          Creative chat and celebratory consumables

  2. 1:1 hammer rollout

    October 14, 2014 by meghastie

    One of the most enjoyable aspects of this course has been exploring those who push the edges or challenge contemporary understanding of what learning can be.

    Whether it’s the beautiful design of the Lovett School’s story studio, or the practical and highliy engaging work of people like Emily Pilloton who has reinvigorated a rural community through her innovative approach, design has a lot to answer for.

    However, it can be seen that when design thinking comes from within the schooling context, there is the heightened capacity for successful convergence.  Pilloton’s work in North Carolina (TED 2010), the Lovett School Story Studio (as documented on their website and The Unquiet Librarian blog) in Georgia, and The Walker school in the UK evidence success (Engine Service Design & Walker Technology College).  Here, the design thinking process has been successfully implemented – in both Pilloton’s and the Lovett School’s circumstances, enacting the redevelopment of both learning spaces and curriculum, and in the case of the Walker school in the development of a design brief to guide the building of the school to support the educational aims.  Too frequently, however, there is a lack of coherency and strategic development across the three areas of pedagogical design to improving student performance, the development or reinvigoration of learning spaces, and public policy.

    More recently, it’s been reading and viewing DAle Dougherty on Makerspaces at ISTE EdTekTalks 2014.  His vision as making being central to our humanity, being a core part of who we are, in opposition to the media’ portrayal of our society as being merely consumers.  his challenge is not just about being adversarial, it captures who we are.

    Similary, those who dapture a new or different idea of what schools could be – Hardy’s dream school dream or Leadbeater’s learning from the poorest of the poor, we need to rethink what learning looks like.

    But standing in our way is the never-ending judgements and calls for measurability and accountability that increasingly stifles creativity, making schools and teachers afraid of innovation and risk-taking, because in the search for beauty and excellence there will be inevitable failures?

    Within the Australian context, as in other countries such as the United Kingdom and United States,education is being shaped by agendas of national testing programs, such as NAPLAN in Australia, discourses of teacher accountability and quality and greater expectations from employers and economic rationalist perspectives that aim for employment relevance within education. Much school change and development is being driven in response to the increasing quanta of data and measures of elements such as teacher quality, effectiveness and learner improvement (Hardy & Boyle, 2011).

    How we balance these competing agendas, where on the one hand as teachers we want to explore how we can help our students become remarkable creative problem solvers who care deeply about the people around them?

    How can we help them learn to be flexible, and able to adapt to the increasing rate of technological and social change?

    How can we help them fall in love with the world around them, and the joy of innovation?

    Give ’em a hammer



    Campbell, M., Saltmarsh, S.,Chapman, A. & Drew, C. (2013). Issues of teacher professional learning within ‘non-traditional’ classroom environments.I

    Hardy, I., & Boyle, C. (2011). My School? Critiquing the abstraction and quantification of education. Asia-
    Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 39(3), 211–222.

    The Lovett School, The Story Studio, (2013) accessed August 31st 2014

    Pilloton, Emily (2010) Teaching Design for Change, TED talk accessed 31st July 2014 

  3. A new adventure in virtual learning – a work in progress…

    October 11, 2014 by meghastie

    work in progress 

    The paradigmatic shift from teacher-centred to student-centred learning is a hallmark of contemporary education. It is been equally accompanied by both a desire to engage in the rich offerings afforded by the development of information and digital technology (IT) tools, and the emergence of e-learning has further assisted the implementation of a range of learner-centred learning processes.  Straddling these factors, however, is the increased need to re-educate teachers and to re-examine concepts of what a learning space might be, shifting the focus from the physical space to a greater awareness of the broader learning environment, and increasingly virtual spaces.

    But what does this look like?  Engagement with new technologies and media is a significant step in a school moving to contemporary practices and learning. I’m going to start exploring this delicate and sometimes unpredictable dance through one school’s journey along the road towards implementing a new Learning Management System (LMS).  This journey is one that has only just begun.  It’s a journey fraught with possibilities and pitfalls.  However, this post will look at one aspect – the background and then original plan for implementation. As this journey continues, more will follow…

    The school in question is an independent dual-credentialled (local state curriculum and the International Baccalaureate) school of approximately 850 students from Pre-K – 12.  It operates on the outskirts of a major capital city, in an environment that has clientele from semi-rural through to the outer suburbs, and a number of International students.  The school has a reputation of achieving excellent results in its matriculation results and is highly regarded in the surrounding community.  It has high ideals and is keen to adopt new pedagogies, as well as to keep abreast of educational advancements and social expectations regarding new media and technologies.

    However, the school itself has struggled to adapt to know how to authentically engage with new ideas regarding pedagogy and digital technologies.  Increasing demands regarding the documentation and compliance of the two credentialling study programs has affected staff capacity to engage in innovative practice, and the school has not managed the change to newer ideas effectively.  A shift in management style and structure has led to a movement away from in-house staff development or training. The large executive body in the school has increasingly taken over the decision-making roles of the school, so that a school that was once reasonably collaborative, is now more tightly controlled.

    In May 2012, in response to a whole-school parental survey that pinpointed the need for more effective communication with the school and more transparent ideas of teaching and assessment. the school’s executive leadership decided to change the school’s LMS.  It that was seen to be outdated and difficult to use, with low staff confidence, and to explore options for a new LMS that would support the school’s recently developed vision and mission that posited the education provided by the school would be “rigorous, contemporary and positive”.  Although this was not fleshed out, the process of developing the pedagogical  paradigm and practices was included in the school’s overall strategic plan.

    At this stage, the reworking the technological architecture was driving change, rather than the broader learning frameworks within the school. However, it was hoped that the introduction of the new LMS would act as a motivator to shift the pedagogical paradigm into the 21st century.   Consequently, there was no overarching discussion as to what learning should look like at the institution, or how that could be achieved.  One of the executive members with a personal interest in the area was to lead the exploration and implementation of the process. There was no surveying of staff or students to support the supposition, nor involvement in the selection process. THere was a limited showcasing of several potential LMS’s, However, a detailed implementation schedule was developed, that sought to delineate the process of introducing and adopting the new LMS

     Project planning

    To effectively implement the new LMS, a careful and planned effort in aligning processes, information and people into the new direction the LMS introduces is the key to success. Investment into a coherent planning program will aid in the achievement of the projects goals.

    Deployment (April to July)

    • Create roles & responsibilities (names/dates/milestones/controls/work breakdown etc)
    • Create HR plan auditing internal, vendor and key stakeholders
    • Create Communication Plan (focusing on key stakeholders/audiences)
    • Create Change Management, Risk & Security Plan
    • Hold Executive Review to monitor School needs
      • What leadership is needed to deliver project that meet expectations? 
      • What controls are needed to create a reasonable assurance of outcomes?

     Team of Champions (July to August)

    • Nominate Team of Champions (TOC) who following attributes:
    1. Understanding that ICT is integral as teaching/learning tool
    2. Confidence and competence in using web-based technology
    3. A desire to raise awareness of the system amongst other staff and share personal experiences
    4. A high level of personal credibility among colleagues
    5. The desire to make a difference
    •  Enable Team of Champions to fulfil role of:
    1. Generating confidence in the use of system
    2. Provide practical resources for using system
    3. Model innovation using system and leading pedagogy
    4. Provide first level support (i.e. setting up a page, uploading docs)
    • Provide your Champions support and an opportunity to:
    1. receive comprehensive training
    2. test and successfully incorporate LMS into their daily routine
    3. encourage and support other members of the School community to use the system extensively
    4. resources and time to run ‘Train the Trainer’ sessions to train other staff

     Training & resource development (July to September)

    • Create and populate Resource Manager
    1. Create structure
    2. Create some initial demo resources
    3. Create self-help videos for staff
    • Staff training schedule
    1. Create training schedule (P to 12 / JS & HS/ Faculty)
    2. Enabling/resourcing support mentors (i.e. staff teaching staff)

    Pilot program & Rollout (August to October)

    • Pilot program discussion with TOC – enable them to set goals and directions of pilot within broader aims of project
    • Provide data for initial LMS configuration, for pilot
    • Developing use case examples as a guide for broader implementation
    • Gathering feedback following the initial pilot
    • Evolve strategy following pilot based on feedback
    • Clearly communication (early and often) project aims, dates, expectations, and provide support for middle leaders for success of project
    • Management structure, leadership to enabling ongoing drive and direction of implementation
    • Continuous staff training & focus from learning leaders re: centrality
    • Showcases with students & staff for reasons for change and positives of LMS
    • Allow open feedback and flexibility, adIT Deptg to ongoing changes

    Rollout/ Implementation (October to January 2014)

    Clearly communication (early and often) project aims, dates, expectations, and provide support for middle leaders for success of project

    • Management structure, leadership to enabling ongoing drive and direction of implementation
    • Continuous staff training & focus from learning leaders re: centrality
    • Showcases with students & staff for reasons for change and positives of LMS
    • Allow open feedback and flexibility, adding to ongoing changes

    Ongoing Communication of Project (August to January 2014)

     Articulating aims of projects / benefits of LMS

    Establish clear and consistent message throughout Executive and Middle management regarding benefits of LMS project/LMS (ability to streamline processes, enable collaboration, improve teaching learning) focusing on the following positives:

    • Engages the whole School community through improved, online communication
    • Engagement of students in new and innovative ways
    • Provision of a safe and controlled online environment in which students can collaborate and learn with their peers
    • Students have a technology platform to display their best works using ePortfolio
    • Provides students their own personal learning environment
    • Offer teachers and easy to use, streamlined ways to communicate to support student learning
    • Placement of innovation and creativity back into teachers’ hands
    • Offers a consistent and accessible tool for teacher collaboration
    • Encourages parents to become involved in their students’ learning

    Awareness raising

    • Demonstrations to staff
    • Sharing good practice days
    • Use LMS as the place to go for other staff development like ‘Understanding Bullying’ or ‘OH&S updates’.
    • Use of online training or computer-based training to show people how to do things with LMS – handouts

     Campaign – Term 4 2013

    • Launch my.stpauls to students – last month of 2013 (posters/emails/demonstrations)
    • Direct mail/email communication from Principal
    • Online sub-site with information
    • Online information videos launching projects (aimed at parents & students)

    Some issues under still consideration…

    Calendar workflow    

    1. 1.         The LMS product allows teachers/faculties to construct class/subject calendars where students can see a range of dates applicable for their area of study. Currently we maintain an assessment calendar where HoH/teachers nominate assessment dates which are approved regarding assessment load and overall School calendar. The benefits of having these ‘micro’ calendars allow teachers to post and manage ongoing class related events.
      Questions were expressed regarding correlation of these calendars against the whole school academic calendar (i.e. teachers not keeping these up to date to reflect assessment calendar).

    Actions                    Executive                , IT Dept

    1. Auditing of current calendar audiences (who can read+write), functions (what is the calendar for) and data (what information does the calendar communicate)
    2. Decide if added calendar functions are to be enabled & if so, processes to be enacted


    Content approval

    1. Staff will be communicating with students (thus parents) using blogs and other news based items.
      Questions were expressed regarding ensuring simple grammar/spelling mistakes that poorly reflect on education product of School’s.

      Actions                            Executive

      1. Implementation of publishing protocols (procedures regarding expected checks/proofing)
      2. Implementation of spelling/grammar checks in LMS input editor




    Structures of the LMS

    1. 3.        For staff, data will be shared across in a folder structure so that year groups/faculties/class teachers can share learning activities & resources.

     Questions were raised regarding:

    1. structure of this data (whether we separate in Faculties/Yeargroups/Terms or Years/Faculties/Terms).

    Our School has used as is plagiarism application for over 6 years. The LMS provides a similar built in service ( ).

    Questions were raised regarding:

    1. feasibility in moving to new system (integrity of new system + change with staff vs workflow issues in coming out of LMS and into ‘Turnitin’

    LMS is a P to 12 LMS – however the application will look different in Infants to Upper Primary to High School.

    Questions were raised regarding:

    1. c.        Delivering content by class or by year, and the content / activity required at the levels of education

     Actions                              Executive, IT Dept

    1. Decide how staff best share learning activities & resources

    i.      Implement this in database

    1. Decide if ‘plagscan’ suits needs of School

    i.      Approve this integration in LMS

    1. Discuss needs in Infants, Middle & Upper Primary & High School

    i.      Resolve structure accordingly


    Expectations on staff

    1. 4.        Implementing the LMS involves the automatic population of class pages across the School.  Students will have access to a class page regardless of use/action by teacher. Risk of inconsistent use between classes/teachers could lead to difficulties with students & parents. Questions were raised regarding minimum requirements of staff using LMS in 2014.


    Actions                            Executive

    1. Discussion of ‘thin end of wedge’ opportunity for pedagogical change re: use of collaborative structures of LMS

    i.      Work through deliverables of desired classroom practice 2014/2015/2016 with expectations set for each year (Strategic Plan 1.i, 2i & 2ii).

    1. Decide expectations for staff for use of LMS for 2014


    Resourcing & Training

    1. 5.        To meet proposed deadlines of implementation School wide for 2014 (see attached chart), resources will need to be allocated in both training middle leaders (already invoiced and paid for 8 hours training of 30 people)


    Actions                              Executive

    1. Decide and nominate date and structure of LMS led training day

    i.      Nominate suitable staff to be trained (team of Champions)

    ii.      Nominate suitable date & venue

    1. Decide staff leadership of project

    i.      Nominate 2-3 staff to lead project across school

    1. Decide ongoing support

    i.      Nominate desired training days in Term 3 & 4 and Term 1 2014


    Where to from here?…

    This year has been a year of “play”, albeit live, and experimentation.

    Having come this far, we are at a critical stage in the project development. Most of the LMS has been rolled out – or will be in the next few months.  But more importantly, next year is our year for staff “getting serious”, and having to meet benchmarks for usage.

    Two critical events have occurred over the last three months that may have a significant impact on our immediate directions.  The project officer – the main driver of the LMS introduction and in charge of processes – has since left the school.  Secondly, the current leader of learning is also leaving at the end of the year.  This leaves opens many possibilities for the next phase of implementation.


    The initial hopes regarding pedagogical shift and effective implementation of the LMS may yet be achieved…


  4. creative chat and celebratory consumables

    September 22, 2014 by meghastie

    Like many of us in schools, trying to organise a social event at this time of the term is a difficult thing!  It’s not only the end of term but graduation time for Yr 12 – and my eldest son is amongst the throng! As our school is in a semi-rural area on the fringe of Sydney, the capacity to invite folk was a little limited by the timing and our location.  Having said that, I work in a Pre-K – 12 school that is independent, so we are completely self-sufficient, and every task that has to be fulfilled within the school is completed by someone employed by the school.  We have not only teachers, teacher aides and admin support, but a full accounts, team, builders, designers, international recruiting agents and advertising folk all ready and waiting to be drawn on.

    Despite the fact that I ended up having to put our function on the last day of school, as an afternoon “tea” (let me just say advertising that there will be “celebratory consumables” goes a long way in a school!), we had quote good support – 13 people through joined me all up from across the schooling community.  Not bad in week where there’s 3 after-hours functions! I also had about 13 responses from people who could not make it, but were very supportive of the idea and keen to be involved in future events.  The school is full of passionate people, who are ripe for more creative involvement in decision-making!

    The goal was to start the conversation about a specific space in the high school, known as the “fishbowl”.  The room is so named as it sits between two classes, and has windows for supervision.  Up until 2 months ago there were a small number of desktop computers (about 8) that students could use.  But with the introduction of a 1:1 laptop program, and the lease running out on the desktops, it’s now an unused space, mainly used for storing old junk and with the remnants of the laptop stands.

    Attendees were invited to enter through the main door and imagine the space as if they were students – what did they see, what did the space say about our school about learning? We sat and chatted for a while about this, and then moved into one of the rooms next door and using the Stanford’s d-school “How might we” model, and  brainstormed a range of ways we could use the room creatively for learning.

    As we nibbled and talked through the possibilities, I introduced the  ideas of creative culture, of design thinking and Browns’ concept of human-centred design and crucially for us – doing more with less!  How we could transform the room with little financial input from the school?  Ideas about chalkboard paint (someone had some left over), a weekend working bee, the power of paint to change a mood, and then some more wide-ranging and more extravagant  ideas were all discussed.

    Although I had prepared a powerpoint to show people that outlined design thinking and had images of a range of innovate learning spaces, I only talked through the first few slides, then left it running throughout the afternoon so that it didn’t dominate the discussion.  I was very aware of turning the final Friday of term  – and hopefully the first in a series of such events – into a lecture! One of the teachers also asked if students had been involved – a great question, as one of the key threads through our discussion had been collaborating and including a wide range of voices in innovation.  I had considered asking students to attend, but it would have restricted the “consumables’ allowed!  It will happen early next term – they will be plied with age=-appropriate nibblies!!

    One of the key themes that recurred throughout our meeting was the idea of making it a creative space for staff – the retreat room that all sorts of people could come to and chat – and this largely came out of the discussion on creative culture.

    Although the group ended up being less diverse than I would have liked, I was very excited by the beginnings of conversations within my school that demonstrated the capacity to creatively give voice to staff.  It was an opportunity to engage people directly with the small but significant ways we can design education to be more collaborative and more engaging.   It was a great time, and especially significant for my school as there’s been a lot of change of the last 2 years, and the sense of community has been slightly fractured.  It was a real first to create a sense of a “creative voice” in the school, and to create a positive vibe around learning and innovation.


    My plan for next time is to utilise social media – I didn’t have the time nor space to push for a broader invitation this time, but having seen the success of other people’s events who did so, will definitely do this!  It will always be hard considering where my school is to get people to come to it, but next time I’m going to be braver and invest more into stepping outside the “schoolzone.”

    I have also commented on –

    Simon Kelly –

     Liz Crowder –

     Deb Welsh –

  5. Blog task #3 – reimagining the staff common room

    August 18, 2014 by meghastie

    The context

    The High school common room at my Pre-K – 12 independent school is used every morning for brief staff meetings (with Pre-K – 12 staff and the whole school support staff) and for weekly after-school high school meetings.  It is also used as a general staff break-out room for recess / lunch, and for some staff functions.  There are several noticeboards with information for staff eg rosters, daily staff coverage for absences, health alerts etc.

    This room also has the capacity to enhance learning, as it provides a large space for staff to collaborate across the curriculum (a significant requirement in the International Baccalaureate program which is one of the two courses we teach from Pre-K – 12).

    Two core components of the school’s Vision Statement are to –

    • “Engage, value, develop  and retain staff”
    • “Enable collaborative and vibrant staff and student learning through provision of excellent resources.”

    and creating an environment that reflects those values is central to the mission of the school.

    Three principles guide this process  –

    • Understanding needs within our unique context
    • A community-driven approach
    • Escaping the “system”

    (Eden,Elliott, Matzke & Wu 2012)

    Common room

    What needs to be solved

    • The layout of the room is rigid  and reflects an attempt to meet the range of functions the room has to fulfil.
      • A series of large and heavy tables sit along the back wall , with backless benches on either side.
      • There are also four double rows facing each other of “comfy” (not really!!) armchairs. If you sit in the armchairs during meetings you have to either turn to the side, or, depending where they are, turn right around.  This is not comfortable for a 15 minute session (even worse if it’s 1 1/2 hrs!). There is also a large gap between the rows of “comfy” seating facing each other, so if you wanted to  hat to someone opposite you, you would have to lean forward to talk easily.
      • At the front is the space where messages are presented and people talk from.  There’s a large flat screen there that can be used during meeting times, and a movable lectern that people use as appropriate.
      • There is no way to navigate from one side of the room to the other apart from across the front section (where presenters stand).
    • There are 3 sets of noticeboards, all covered with documents.  2 are about 2m x 1m, the other covers most of the back wall – 4-5m x 1m.  There’s a lot of dense writing on all of them, they are located on walls, so on opposite sides of the room.  No titles / headings saying what is on what wall.
    • Lighting is bare double fluorescent tubes.

    Design pillars

    The need for a common staff meeting area

    The need for a space for a big group of staff to relax and meet

    The need to communicate information to a wide range of staff

    The need for this space to be welcoming and comfortable, enhancing staff morale as well as effective communication

    The need for collaborative space for staff across faculties and across the schools (Junior School, Middle School and High School)


    • The need to have a common staff room that is able to fulfil a number of functions
    • The shape of the room – including the placement of the doors – could not change without major renovations
    • Need to communicate to groups
    • Need to communicate about various administrative and safety issues to the staff
    • Budget – next to nothing – would need to rework what we have, with limited expenditure on new furniture etc (although more superficial changes might be able to be made)

    The Design challenge

    How do we make the high school staff common room respond more effectively to the range of different functions it fulfils within the whole school?

    How might we…?

    How might we make the room fulfill the vision statement of the school?

    How might we create a story for this space?

    How might we make the space more welcoming and relaxing?

    How might we make the space more effective for communicating to large groups?

    Can we move some of these functions to other spaces?

    Can communication of some information be moved to digital (or other) forums?

    Can the aesthetics of the room be changed to be more friendly?

    How might we make this a more effective space for staff to collaborate on learning and community building?

    In order to fulfill this we need to consider our approaches

    How can we help staff reimagine their spaces and how they use them?

    How can we generate engagement (“buy-in”) with this issue?

    How can we help executive staff and decision-makers see the value inherent in community-building by connecting this process to the school’s stated vision?

    How can we create opportunities for staff and other stakeholders in the common room to get together to brainstorm and ideate?

    How can we provide opportunities to then prototype and experiment with solutions?

    How can we seek feedback and further exploration that leads to solutions?

    (IDEO LLC 2012)

    My comments –


    Helen Stower

    Deborah Welsh –


    Bennett, Paul, 2007  Design is in the Details  TEDTalks Retrieved from:

    Brown, T, 2009 Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. Summary by Get Abstract. Retrieved from:; also

    Eden, W.,   Elliott, A., Matzke, J., & Wu, J.  School design With design thinking: Alpha Cindy Avitia High School. Retrieved August 12, 2014, from

    IDEO LLC, 2012 Design thinking for Educators , retrieved 27th July 2014

    Design School  Stanford, (n.d.) Method Card: How Might We Questions. Retrieved August 12, 2014, from:

    Engine Service Design & Walker Technology College. Dear Architect: The Vision Of Our Future School: Walker Technology College Retrieved 3rd August 2014

  6. Blog task 2 – observations of a common room

    August 8, 2014 by meghastie

    As I lead a decidely boring life, and don’t have the leisure of a morning coffee shop trip (jealous, moi??), the space I’ve chosen is my school’s high school common room.

    This room is used every morning for brief staff meetings (with Pre-K – 12 staff and the whole school support staff), for general high school meetings.  It is also used as a general staff break-out room for recess / lunch, and for some staff functions.

    I’ve done two observations this week, based on two of the different needs – the daily morning meeting time and “relaxation”{ time (ie lunch)

    My drawing of the common room

    My drawing of the common room

    Morning meeting                        

    • Staff come in through one of four doors – two at the “back” of the  space, where most staff come in. These come from the general school / playground area. Two doors come from inside the reception / office area.  Executive staff tend to come through there and casual staff / visitors
    • As you walk in the door at the left back, you can see right through to the admin area – specifically you see the office where  the casual staff are coming in and getting keys / laptops etc for the day.  This area is often quite busy and glancing down there it can seem quite chaotic.  Executive staff come out of their offices and through this corridor and into the staffroom;  so do the casual staff.  If I was a casual staff walking out there, you have to walk past the person presenting (usually the principal or an executive member), into a sea of faces looking at you – a little scary as you’re often coming in, in the middle of the morning presentation.
    • view from one of the back doors through the common room area and up into the front office area

      The iew from one of the back doors through the common room area and up into the front office area

    • If you walk in through the other back door, you walk into the wall of staff pigeonholes, and can see down the corridor towards the principal’s office.
    • With both doorways there is a slight wall that you walk past and then make a decision as to where to sit – either in the armchair seating, or on the tables at the back.
    • At the front is the space where messages are presented and people talk from.  There’s a large flat screen there that can be used during meeting times, and a movable lectern that people use as appropriate
    • There is no way to navigate from one side of the room to the other apart from across the front section (where presenters stand).  If staff come in late, as there is no clear passage through, and someone is already talking they will sit on the floor, leaning again a wall or the pigeonholes
    • Seating – a series of large tables at the back of the space, with benches.  No backs to the benches (although if on the “wall side”, people can lean against it).  Also, four double rows facing each other of “comfy” (not really!!) armchairs.
    • Table seats are coveted as they mean you can look at the speaker without having to twist or turn in your seat.  The arm chairs you have to either turn to the side, or, depending where they are, turn right around.  This is not comfortable for a 15 minute session.
    • There is also a large gap between the rows of “comfy” seating facing each other, so if you wanted to chat to someone opposite, you would have to lean forward to talk comfortably.
    • There are 3 sets of noticeboards, all covered with documents.  2 are about 2m x 1m, the other covers most of the back wall – 4-5m x 1m.  There’s a lot of dense writing on all of them, they are located on walls, so on opposite sides of the room.  No titles / headings saying what is on what wall. 
    • Lighting is bare double fluorescent tubes.
    general view of the common room from front / side

    General view of the common room from front / side, just before the morning meeting


    • Not many people sit here for lunch.  From a staff of about 95 in the high school area (this includes teaching and non-teaching staff), the number fluctuates between 4 and 13 during the lunch break I am there.  This is about normal (I asked the regulars).
    • People tend to sit in small groups at the table – as stated before the chairs are too far apart to sit comfortably, leaning back, and to eat / chat.  Everyone is at a table.
    • Some of them do the cryptic crossword together.

      view into kitchen off the side

      The view into kitchen off the side of the common room

    • Lots of people pass through the area – on the way to the toilets, the front office area, to grab a “walkie talkie” for playground duty, or going to the photocopier.
    • A couple of people sit in there and eat their lunch and do work / are on their computers or just reading a newspaper / magazine.  The daily papers are there, plus some teaching and other magazines.

     I’ve commented on




  7. Designing for the unknown – further thoughts

    August 4, 2014 by meghastie

    Having commented on the forum, and feeling the need not to rave too much, I wanted to develop some of the ideas a little more – they may seem rather slapdash otherwise.

    My two key points were –

    • 1. That design is not a solitary occupation. 
    • The importance of involving others.  Firstly,  whether it be the “stranger” for the new ideas and new ways of thinking and understanding they can bring to a need / desire being addressed. And secondly the actual people whose needs / desires are being addressed.  Seeing things from their perspective, seeing how they experience the situation rather than assuming we know it.  I loved the hospital filming from Bennet’s TEDtalk – the pain and agony of lying there was all so clear!   I also loved that in that example it was the nurses who jumped straight in and found several really practical solutions quickly – they are used to sitting with the patients, and they so often empathise and understand the experience of the hospital.

    Team work and collaboration are essential, drawing in those multidisciplinary teams we looked at in the last module to strengthen and broaden the Knowledge and open up the horizons of new Concepts.

    My second observation is

    2. It takes time to develop a design brief.

    The Walker school project did not happen overnight! Extensive consultation across a number of different stakeholders occurred.  They had games and quizzes set up to help engage people, then formed teams to collaborate in order to do some needfinding, as well as bring new ideas in. their process was staged and deliberate.

    I loved the wholistic approach – that it was not just about the building budget, but the school had drilled right back to look at the key educational concepts and frameworks they wanted to take their students through, in two year brackets – from beginning to the end of their high school journey and beyond.

    Lots of thought had gone into the core business of the school – how do we meet the educational needs of this particular group of students (boys, high vocational needs etc).  this was not a simplistic or cookie-cutter approach to education, but a thoughtful contextualised engagement with student, staff and community needs and requirements.

    I think this highlights one of the inherent difficulties in meeting the needs of both BIG and SMALL – BIG wants solutions, wants systems and wants actions and results, whereas to draw that out of the SMALL takes more time and work.  I think there is also frequently (in schools anyway), a distinction between the stated “vision” of the organisation (eg  lifelong learners, whole child-focussed, etc etc), and their unspoken desires (high marks at key exit points to further enhance marketability).

    Whilst these concepts are not mutually exclusive, it involves taking the school into new ways of seeing education, new ways of “doing things”, and a willingness to stand against the status quo and the pressurised world of standardised testing that increasingly dominates media discussion of education.  This difference between stated and hidden outcomes problematises the design paradigm.  It  is a complex scenario and takes sensitivity and –  yet again – time to draw out and work through what can be seen as competing ideas.

  8. Design for learning – Blog task #1

    August 1, 2014 by meghastie

    “Every committed educator wants better learning and more thoughtful students. ”

    Harvard Project Zero


    Fundamental changes in the way we educate, the way we perceive the acquisition of knowledge has meant that educators must engage with new ways of thinking about space. As we have moved away from the “teacher-centred 20th century factory model” of education (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development 2011) , we must face the challenge that the crucial role our spaces play in influencing the affective domain of learning  (Brown 2008).

    With this in mind I have approached my first adventure into designing a learning space under the impetus “Find [a space], take it and transform it, quickly”


    Needfinding or inspiration

    (Seidel  & Fixson 2013, Brown 2009)

    So, I chose a space at the back of my classroom.

    The room itself is cavernous and looks outdated.  This year I have been teaching Year 7 for the first time in many years.  In a class of thirty students, I have a wide range of abilities and issues – from two students with moderate intellectual disabilities who are integrated into the mainstream classroom but on individualised “Life skills” programs, 5 more on the Autism Spectrum, and another four who are extremely bright.  I have limited assistance from teacher’s aides – I have one for about 70% of my lessons.

    As Head of the English department in the high school, I have been working with my staff on differentiation over the last few years, and integrating a range of pedagogical approaches from Harvard’s Project Zero, The Marzano Project and Hattie’s work on Visible Learning.

    So to summarise my “design pillars” (Kuratko, Goldsworthy and Hornsby 2012):

    1. Highly diverse group of students
    2. Need for breakout spaces for Learning Enrichment – both extension and support
    3. Desire to stimulate in all students inquiry and metacognitive skills


    My desire was to “interpret” the classroom dynamics, and the cultural shift (Kimbell 2011), both in terms of the particular group of students within what has mainly been a classroom for senior students (and still largely is), as well as the broader pedagogical paradigms that I was trying to implement. I needed the space to be dynamic and able to be used in multiple ways concurrently (Jamieson et al., 2000: 6-7).



    Watching student movements, activities and relationships in two of my classes with this group this week was crucial in helping form a plan (Brown 2009).  I utilised divergent thinking and then a basic prototyping process of shifting objects around the space helped me first brainstorm a range of options then choose what seemed to be the simplest solution, conforming to the concept of “doing more with less” (Brown 2009).  Whilst acknowledging the importance of using a multipdisciplinary group as well as group ownership of  the design process  (Seidel & Fixson2013, Brown 2009), it was not feasible for the nature of this task. Similarly, acknowledging the pragmatic constraints – financial (ie a budget of $0), and time (the parameters placed around the project itself) all the resources had to quickly and readily sourced (Kuratko, Goldsworthy and Hornsby 2012).



    I have shifted the tables around to allow students to work in range of configurations –  as part of a small group, with a teacher’s aide (if appropriate), or individually.
    Using preexisting pinboards, I created a “wonder wall” to help inspire deeper thinking, mainly for the students working in this area.  The questions are taken from the visible thinking routines (Hardvard Project Zero 2011). The unit’s inquiry question is at the centre and a range of visual / textual prompts that had been used for provocation at the beginning of the unit were also displayed, along with one of the units supplementary focus questions about poetry.

    I played with positioning at the back of the classroom and looked at the balance, the colours, and also some of the things that would upset some of the children (eg posters being placed not quite straight – deliberately crooked is considered OK!).  Taking photos helped me get a more objective sense of what it looked like and led to further changes, as did sitting in the actual student seats and checking for visibility etc.


    This current set-up may only last for this term, or a few weeks. Whilst the broader educational paradigms will stay, how they “take form” will continue to develop as we test how it actually works.  It will continue to “loop-back” and evolve.

    Bring it on!



    Brown, T. (2009) Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. Summary by Get Abstract. Retrieved from:; also

    Education Policy and Research Division, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, 2011

    Research into the connection between built learning spaces and student outcomes: Literature review

    Paper No. 22 accessed via

    Harvard Project Zero, 2011 Visible thinking routines accessed via <>

    Hattie John, 2008, Visible learning, Routledge, London

    Jamieson, P., Fisher, K., Gilding, T., Taylor, P.G. & Trevitt, A.C.F.2000, ‘Place and space in the design of new learning environments’, Higher Education Research & Development, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 221-237. Available at:

    Kimbell, L. (2011). Rethinking design thinking: Part I. Design and Culture, 3(3), 285-306.

    Kuratko, D., Goldsworthy, M., & Hornsby, G. (2012). The design-thinking process in Innovation acceleration : transforming organizational thinking. (pp.103-123). 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,


  9. Jumping off the edge of a cliff…

    July 23, 2014 by meghastie

    Ok! Here goes!

    Back at uni for the first time in forever, and am feeling distinctly overwhelmed as I work out what site is for what!!

    Am loving the idea of exploring design within the learning context, if slightly freaked out by the workload ahead!

    I’m Head of English in a Pre-K – 12 school on the edge of Sydney, Australia.  We are dual-credentialled in both the International Baccalaureate and the state-based BOSTES curriculum.

    Looking forward to the exciting changes i can make around me.  Already excited by the Emily Pilloton TEDtalk that makes it clear it’s not about having bucketloads of money, but about engaging those involved, locating the needs and desires, and being creative!  of course all this will work much better when i have a better understanding of what design is. It’s all ahead of me!


  10. Hello world!

    July 23, 2014 by meghastie

    Welcome to your brand new blog at CSU Thinkspace .

    To get started, simply log in, edit or delete this post and check out all the other options available to you.

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