Views, knowledge and understanding: Growing and Changing with Design

2014: June – Library design changes – alone without consultation; October – Library design changes – a non-linear process: consultation, immersion, ideation, prototype.

Designing library space for lunch times is fundamentally different to classroom learning spaces: students voluntarily visit. Their participation is voluntary. They ‘vote with their feet.

From quick pop-up spaces to wider re-designing, the design thinking process (Brown, 2009, p. 16) has been utilised to bring industrial educational learning spaces forward to 2014. The impact of a quick pop-up change [Forum comment, 2014, July 28] was convincing: the space quickly revitalised. Weeks later, this first change was a prototype: students have been involved. They have moved the pop-up space to create a space more akin to a watering-hole rather than a sandpit. The students are working with the basket of knitting needles, crochet hooks and wool and exchanging ideas. From a ‘pared down’ viewpoint, these students are finding their moment of imagination?

The library at my workplace is due for refurbishment late 2015. (Lee, 2014). Design thinking regarding the space is underway: why wait? –  particularly as Wiliams (Wilby, 2011) believes it’s not the building, rather the capacity of the teacher that has the greatest impact. Hattie (2012) concurs, stressing that we, as teachers, must focus on our impact on the learners. With this background, the design brief: ‘the school library…a place to collaborate, create, communicate and [engage in] critical thinking’ [Forum comment, 2014, 17 August]. A cluttered unused space has had some design thinking applied, suggestions from Shannon and Sharon have been undertaken [blockout curtains are yet to be hung]. Students as users, have been included in the process (Brown, 2009; Patsarika, 2014; Plemmons, 2012), and their motivation is palpable. Digital makerspace and gaming space , supporting the work of Seymour Papert.  A ‘patch’ of potted edibles will be included on the verandah for the start of 2015. With each change, ‘play, watch and replay’ (Kuratko, Goldsworthy, & Hornsby, 2012, p. 117–119) is observed, ideation follows. “Fail early to succeed sooner.” (Brown, 2009, p. 17).

Play space for our kindergarten students is open and spacious, filled with preloved pieces arranged in an ad hoc fashion. (Lee, 2014). Our community has become immune to the space – it desperately needs redesigning.


The environment is the third teacher. Designing with children, Stonehouse (2011) and Patsarika (2014) add further argument to the natural involvement of student users. Immersion through ‘walking-a-mile-in-their-shoes’ is in action right now, as teachers write their observations. The design thinking process (IDEO, 2012; McIntosh, 2014, from p. 102), involving multidisciplinary teams (Brown, 2009, p. 27) [students, teachers, parents, maintenance man and office staff] has begun. Who knows, maybe, a touch of ‘Playground without rules’ will be added to the design … is this the ultimate ‘environment as the third teacher’? Play Space Guide will be offered as a reading, being mindful that inexperienced designers often approach design thinking through solution assumptions instead of analysis. (Razzouk & Shute, 2012, p. 340). If play is the basis of what schools can learn from google, IDEO and Pixar, then the redesigning of the kindergarten play space should be taken seriously.

Design thinking – Learning is meant to be messy! [Kathleen Maclean]. A final word from Bruner [aged 99!]: It’s  about  possibilities!


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

Hatchuel, A., Le Masson, P., & Weil, B. (2004). CK theory in practice: lessons from industrial applications. In DS 32: Proceedings of DESIGN 2004, the 8th International Design Conference, Dubrovnik, Croatia. Retrieved from

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. Abingdon: Routledge.

IDEO. (2012). Design thinking for Educators. 2nd Ed. Retrieved online from

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

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

OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture & Bruce Mau Design. (2010). The third teacher: 79 ways you can use design to transform teaching & learning. New York: Abrams.

Patsarika, M. (2014, August 26).  What architects can learn from designing with children. [Web log post.]. Retrieved from

Play Space guide: creating valuable places to play and learn outdoors in Western Australian schools. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Plemmons, A. (2012). Opening the space: Making the school library a site of participatory culture. Knowledge Quest, 41(1), 52-55. Retrieved from

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

Wilby, P. (2011, Nov 08). Education: The profile Sir Bruce Liddington: Emperor of academies: ‘our purpose is to improve the lot of the poorest and most deprived children in this country.’ so says the head of E-act schools: Pay package, pounds 280,000. The Guardian Retrieved from


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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