INF536 – Blog Entry 1

Our primary school library has been recognized as in need of renovation, however, the renovation is included in stage 3 redevelopment of our school. In the meantime, problem spaces abound, and waiting for the renovation is an opportunity. The design process can convert problems into opportunities! (Kimbell, 2011, p. 294, precis of Brown, 2009) The problem space that I have chosen includes where iMacs are located, facing a TV + Apple TV. The area is cluttered, unappealing and underutilized [especially during lunchtime when students are ‘overflowing’ in the library]. Being underutilized seems to have emerged as an excuse for the space to regularly become a dumping ground. The time is right for some design thinking.

A learning space in need of design thinking

A learning space in need of design thinking

This learning space has been a general traditional designed teaching space , with added technology [an interactive whiteboard has been replaced by an Apple TV + TV]. Despite this, the “dynamics of the design” of this type of learning spaces has not altered as noted in JISC (n.d., p. 10). The learning space design should support the development of the ‘4Cs’ of 21st century skills of creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication. However, with students by-passing this space when given the choice, it is clear that some thinking on its design is paramount. Challenges in space design have changed: Brown (2009, p. 29-30) notes the rapid technological changes and the increased complexity of issues. This is in direct contrast to the design of the space in this library, where time-lapse photography would only show minor tweaking.

Having a design process puts design thinking into action through giving a structured approach to generating and developing ideas. From my reading, I have taken these points to underly my design thinking:

  • Brown (2009, p. 16) describes the process as a system rather than steps, as the process is non-linear: inspiration [problem or opportunity]; ideation [generating, developing and testing]; implementation [‘project room’ to the ‘market’].
  • Design thinkers know that there isn’t a correct answer to a problem/opportunity (Kimbell, 2011, p. 294), and a non-linear process supports this.
  • Razzouk & Shute (2012, p. 182) suggest that the process can sometimes be chaotic. Applying design thinking to this problem space firstly means generating lots of ideas, through divergent (Brown, 2009, p. 56).
  • Brown (TED Talk, 2009) discusses the divergent choice, as a new way of tackling problems, as opposed to convergent thinking, as in times of change new choices are needed because the existing ones are obsolete.
  • Kuratko,  Goldsworthy, & Hornsby (2012, p. 117 – 119) discuss their secret sauce: play – display – watch the replay.

With this in mind, how to begin? How to begin to think like a designer? Brown (2009, p. 5) sees the power of design “not as a link in a chain, but as a hub in a wheel”. That hub could be considered as the human-centred approach, and the core capacities that Brown (2009, p. 4) believes are often overlooked: being intuitive, recognize patterns, construct ideas with emotional meaning and functionality and the capacity to express via media other than words or symbols. Razzouk & Shute (2012, p. 340) suggest that inexperienced designers approach the task through solution assumptions instead of analysis. This is applicable in this case, as I am a raw novice!

My initial generated list of changes are mine alone, as consultation with the student stakeholders has not yet occurred. Their involvement is necessary to ensure the design thinking process is human centred. However, the initial changes can occur prior to consultation because they are obvious and have been met favourably by senior leadership.

  • First step – de-clutter the space, remove excess technology and recycle what is no longer required.
  • Next, remove the old and dirty/dusty vertical blinds. [Problem – what solution to remove the winter glare?!].
  • What if this space   for our Makerspace?
  • What if  it overflowed to the verandah? [visibility and supervision will increase with the removal of the blinds].
  • Signage – ideas and possibilities? Furniture – ideas and possibilities?
  • Limited/non-existant budget – ideas and possibilities?
  • Investigate the notion of the “third teacher” – ideas and possibilities?
  • Layout and limitations – ideas and possibilities?

The process will continue.


Brown, T. (2009). Change by design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. HarperCollins: New York.

Brown, J. S. & Duguid, P. (2000). The social life of information. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

JISC. (n.d.). Designing spaces for effective learning: a guide for 21st century learning space design. Retrieved from

Kimbell, L. (2011). Rethinking design thinking: Part 1. Design and Culture, 3(3), p. 285 – 306. Retrieved from

Kimbell, L. (2012). Rethinking design thinking: Part 2. Design and Culture, 4(2), p. 129 – 148. Retrieved from

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

Razzouk, R. & Shute, V. (2012). What is design thinking and why is it important? Review of Educational Research, 82(3), p. 330 – 348. DOI: 10.3102/0034654312457429

Stonehouse, A. (2011). The ‘third teacher’ – creating child-friendly spaces. Putting Children First, Issue 38, p. 12 – 14. Retrieved from


Comments on other blogs

On Monique’s blog –

On Katie’s blog –

On Margo’s blog –



About plee

I am a Teacher Librarian and Learning Technologies Co-ordinator at a Catholic Primary School in Sydney's Hills District.
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6 Responses to INF536 – Blog Entry 1

  1. Shannon Campbell says:

    This space definitely sounds like it could use some design thinking! The nice thing is that you have a lot of things working in your favor: a nice sized space, lots of usable technology, the natural lighting, and YOU! I agree with you that this space needs to be de-cluttered- it can be really overwhelming. As far as the natural lighting problem, I wonder if rotating the computers and TV 90 degrees* would help. Looking into the sun to see the TV certainly isn’t easy… but it’s hard to tell which direction to rotate them in- that would depend on which way the sun streams in the windows. Of course, if it still poses too much of a problem, probably cheap dark fabric can solve it temporarily. I imagine there is a lot of do-it-yourself curtain making directions out there that hopefully aren’t too complicated.

    *I did get this idea from Liz’s blog who had a safety issue with cords @

  2. Ronnie says:

    Wow Patricia, bit of a task – and not an unfamiliar one. Many of the Primary Schools I have subbed in have had this random library space! Is it a bit out of the main foot traffic? I only ask because its the norm that you have to fight the students off with a big stick usually when there is access to some computers up for grabs!
    I’m wondering if you would consider opening the redesign up to the students themselves in the form of a competition?

  3. Heather says:

    We seem to have found similar spaces to improve! Library as dumping ground is a common thing it seems!
    Like you I’m a novice in “thinking like a designer” but I am really struggling with relating what I read in the modules to developing plans for improvement. Your referencing to some of the readings is helping me to apply them to my own circumstances too – thank you!
    I would love to see some more photos, particularly to show where the verandah you mention fits in. Having an indoor/outdoor space would certainly open up the possibilities for the types of activities that could go on.
    Go you on getting rid of the vertical blinds – they are one of my personal bugbears! The kindest assumption I can make is that anyone who ever selected them for any space did so because they are cheap!

  4. says:

    I really like Ronnie’s idea: “I’m wondering if you would consider opening the redesign up to the students themselves in the form of a competition?”

    This is an excellent idea for a variety of reasons. For one thing, competitions can be advertised, which in turn markets the space which will be helpful in getting students to use the space. In addition, students are more likely to frequent a space they feel like they have some agency over, or have a hand in the ultimate design of.

    The idea of letting students have a say in the design of your space also ties into Tim Brown’s concept of a “human-centered design approach.” Excited to see how this design project progresses!

  5. plee says:

    Thanks Shannon, Ronnie, Heather and Elizabeth – the power of collaboration!

    I have noted rotating the computers 90 degrees, removing the blinds [they are the last to ‘go’ – I dislike them too – dust traps and ugly cords] and hanging simple black blackout style curtains … and a competition! It’s a work in progress – photos to come.

  6. says:

    This IS, as you identify, a fairly large task, but I’d like you to make ONE small change quickly, and note its impact. Maybe you could then post a follow-up blog here? The lessons to be learned will help so many others, too – it’s such a frequent problem.

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