Critical Reflection

As I reflect on how my views, knowledge and understanding I found myself further exploring ideas and notions yet comforted by day-to-day practice within the classroom. I never viewed myself as a designer nor entailing design-thinking skills, however through recent literature studies I recognised the array of elements I utilise on a daily basis. Design-thinking skills are skills that we need to allow our students the opportunity to explore and develop.


Throughout the course, I was challenged by what the future holds for education and learning institutions. Educators must embrace change, use new technologies, review our teaching pedagogy and collaborate with others. Administration, educators and academics must encompass a holistic thinking approach that views beyond the boundaries of the school. Education extends beyond the previously conceived perceptions and educators must provide students with opportunities to be challenged, collaborate and sense a level of connection.


My greatest learning of digital learning environments throughout the course was the use of the university portal. Within this one environment I was retrieving course content online, responding through forums online and researching online. This learning environment was very new to me as previous study I engaged in was face-to-face classes. Initially my eagerness to engage with new digital tools was overshadowed by some intimidating and confronting environments. I find switching role from teacher to learner is always a valuable experience as I reflect on my personal teaching practices.


Reflecting on my feelings of intimidation throughout the course I recognise that is not a learning environment I intend for my students. People are more likely to prevent themselves from feeling pain than they are to strive for pleasure. With this in mind I do my best to create an environment that is safe, and a place to make errors in which to learn from. Does a public forum create a safe environment? Is the person making the most comments online the only one who is working? Do people who have fabulous thoughts/ideas/resources not present these on the forum? Considering the responses to these questions, I pose the question:


How effective is this learning environment?


However, in this Information Age, people are required to partner up with learning skills, literacy skills and life skills. Today, people must be life learners. Being a learner of the 21st century, one must acquire the skills to think critically, work collaboratively, think creatively and be an effective communicator. Literacy skills are vital and in today’s world but being able to read is not enough. One must be able to connect with media and technology, as well as understand the various forms of information that is produced. Life skills are the traits that ensure people experience success both as a learner and in the world beyond. Living in the 21st century one needs to be flexible, show initiative, display social skills, be productive and demonstrate leadership. Digital environments have the potential to create opportunities, enhancing skill development provided that today’s educators manipulate the space appropriately.



A recent school initiative is to include a PBL (project based learning) each term. Last term, we allowed the students to create a prototype of a vehicle suitable for the Antarctic landscape. This term we are continuing on the building theme, as boys absolutely loved the previous activity. We don’t have a maker space as such, however, we are converting our art room and science lab to foster this activity. This term, as part of our Australian Identity unit, our students will be required to design a room, wall, foyer reflecting the Austalian Identity based on their knowledge and research throughout the term.

My thoughts ….

As I read through the readings I find my mind wandering off….

My first thoughts ….

I have been fortunate to be inside the office of 3P learning the home of Mathletics and Spelladrom. When inside the office you realise that the environment created allows for creativity, collaboration and creation. whilst in their meeting room I felt like I was in a fish bowl. The room is all glass, you were anole to write on any wall with whiteboard marker. Everyone within the office could look in. The furniture within was flexible. I happened to be in there for a course, so for that activity the chairs were set up like a lecture theatre. when returning from a break, the furniture had been rearranged for break out group sessions. As I peered out through the glass, I saw people brainstorming on a blackboard painted wall. Despite the furniture being fixed in other parts of the office, hubs had been created for an array of activities.


An additional thought…..

My previous school of employment.

During my time at the school a new building was built, and let me tell you, moving an entire school is a huge job. The actual building itself won numerous architectural awards. However, the architect was not a teacher. In my opinion the building had an array of issues. Firstly, teachers need resources to aid their teaching. These classrooms most certainly had insufficient storage space. Additionally, the classrooms were deep and the acoustics were dreadful, the teachers voice would be lost. The glass created glare and therefore the interactive whiteboard became useless.

Module 4.3 – Observation

A I strolled through the grounds at school and took myself back to my initial day at the school. Boy, was I lost! The school has several different entry points. That in itself would be confusing for anyone.

Walking along I noticed that I met with a map of the school indicating significant buildings within the school grounds. I certainly felt that this map needed to be a little clearer. Firstly, the map did not indicate my position. Secondly, I noticed that was turning my head to get my bearings.

As I continued my walk, I noticed a number of signs to assist navigation throughout the building. The grounds also have numerous grounds men who I would have asked if necessary.

Following on from here, I observed the use of space. The school is remarkable. There are a number of heritage listed buildings on the site mixed with modern structures. The grounds are well kept, the gardens are divine and a view overlooking the harbour. Keeping all of this in mind the space has been well used creating an inviting environment that is workable educational environment.

Afternoon Tea

An afternoon tea was kindly organised by Margo, who is also a student in this subject. The gathering was held at the recently developed Graythwaite site at the Shore School in Sydney. Over afternoon tea we explored the design process that took place in restoring this heritage listed property.

The project manager identified a myriad of challenges that they faced throughout the process. The biggest challenge throughout the process was achieving a workable space whilst maintaining the finesse of such a historic building. To fulfill such challenges a range of teams were employed, from architects to space consultants.  During the initial stages of the development, a team researched the history of the building and developed a timeline of alterations made to the  site over time. For further details, please view…334b…/23_Graythwaite.pdf . 

Once construction was underway, the plans were changed several times for different reasons. The school’s intention was  to ensure the building was restored as close to original as possible. When the school acquired the site, the building was dilapidated and in desperate need of TLC. The council then restricted the school’s attempts to preserve the building until given approval.During this time the building continued to deteriorate. Once given the ok, they discovered a number of structural problems that needed to be addressed prior to reconstructing. This included rotten floors, rising damp etc. As more light was shed on issues within the building more research was undertaken, and how the internet has changed our ability to source information. As an example, the floors in the entrance needed to be replaced so too did the tiles. A tile was lifted from the floor having the company name which continues to  manufacture tiles in the UK.

It’s worth looking at the following websites to an insight into the development.


It is admirable how the designers have created an inviting workable space, pieced together contemporary elements within such a historic building. Fascinating!



My comments are on the following links:

Blog Task # 3

A staff room is a vital area within a school.  One can quickly identify the school’s culture within moments of entering this room. It is a place that staff frequent between classes, where colleagues meet and discussions are both work related and unrelated. It is often either buzzing with talk or dead silent.  Staff rooms can be used in a variety of ways, however, in this case the main uses include:

  • A place to eat, drink
  • A place for the staff to connect/share/be inspired
  • A place where staff meetings are held
  • A place to escape
  • A place to find out information
  • A place to read (e.g. newspapers/education magazines)

I pondered on:

  • How effectively the room fulfilled these roles?
  • How could the room better serve these roles?
  • Which of these roles was most important?

Through immersion, as noted by Kumar, 2012, pp.87-127, I better understood the environment and absorbed the needs the area met. Moving into the synthesis stage, outlined by Melles, Howard, Thompson-Whiteside, 2012,  I became aware of the design thought that had gone in to setting up the room. The room has been specifically set up to influence the way staff interact with one another. The couches have been positioned in a circle. This encourages all staff to be included in conversations, and also eliminates the temptation of staff having private conversations.  Visually the room is aesthetically appealing, clean and tidy. The furniture is comfortable as well as light allowing flexibility in the layout.  Hanging in the middle of the main wall is the informative whiteboard listing date, timetable cycle, events and staff absentees.

During the ideation phase, noted by Procter, 2009, p51 I became more aware of the design positives, the negatives became more apparent. In particular, attention was brought to the kitchen area. Given that this staff area can service up to forty odd people, the current space is insufficient. There is approximately half a metre of bench space either side of sink. To the left of the sink on the bench rests a toaster and sandwich press leaving limited unused space. Hovering above these two items is the microwave. Over the sink are two shelves that house mugs, these shelves are wide between and the mugs are stacked one on top of the other leaving many with a chipped rim. Below the sink is the storage for the Zip Tap unit within the sink. To the right of the sink lives the coffee machine, a well-used appliance, again leaving limited bench space.  Above the coffee machine are cupboards which house plates, bowls and platters. Beneath the bench are drawers that store cutlery, towels, gladwrap, and odd bits and pieces.

The main objective seen at this point in time would be to transform the kitchen area. Areas for attention include:

  • The bench space would need to be extended to cater not only for the number of appliances but also ensure people have workspace when making their beverages/food.
  • Creating cupboards and shelves better suited to their needs  – e.g. enough shelving so that mugs are not stacked.
  • Moving the refrigerator to create more space and extend the bench and cupboard space.

Surely, this image is an indication of limited bench space …

SG holding toaster

 The room is restricted due to the nature of the building as it is heritage listed and that the externals of the building must be maintained. The building is sandstone having long narrow windows that limits certain areas from having benches.

Prior to designing this brief I had the opportunity to investigate an additional 2 other staffrooms areas as well as reflecting on previous schools of employment. Ironically, all areas researched and thought about all were flawed by a common problem, lack of bench space.  Staffroom designers should take into account that these areas are heavily used during certain times of the day e.g. recess and lunch. During discussions with the target audience, many commented on the need for greater bench space in the kitchen area.

Where to from here ….

The first step would be to formally connect with colleagues and gauge how they felt the area could be improved and what aspects of the area they felt worked.  Video the area and track the movements within the space. Analyse the video and make adjustments to design brief if necessary.

Design Ideas/Examples

As it stands today …

Staffroom panarama

Design Ideas …

Blog Task # 3 image 1

Blog Task # 3 image 2

Blog Task # 3 image 3

Blog Task # 3 image 4

Blog Task # 3 image 5


Kumar, V. (2012). 101 Design Methods : A structured approach for driving innovation in your organization. CSU Library

Melles, G., Howard, Z. & Thompson-Whiteside, S. (2012). Teaching design thinking: Expanding horizons in design education. Procedia: Social and Behavioral Sciences 31 162 – 166

Procter, J. (2009, December 18). Creative problem solving for managers. Taylor and Francis 49-80

Megan’s Blog

Graham’s Blog

Blog Task # 2




Observation Task

The area of my daily routine that might be up for improvements would be our Preparatory School staffroom.

Prior to school starting I entered the staffroom. I positioned myself to ensure I had a clear view of the area and kept a careful eye on the events, interactions and actions that took place. Given that the staffroom is a central place for all staff, the majority of staff members visit the room prior to starting their day. Within the room stands a large whiteboard where announcements are made, changes to daily routine are posted and absent staff members are recorded. As this board holds numerous details each person who entered the room initially look to identify events that interfere with their day. As the staff glance at the board its almost although they decipher the relevant to irrelevant and move on.

Often the next course of action is a visit to the fridge. The door is swung open, either items are moved, added or removed. Milk was most commonly removed and replaced item from the fridge as many staff members started their working day with a tea or coffee.

Following on from here, the dishwasher was opened and emptied from the previous day. Interestingly once the dishwasher door opened and a staff member began the process, other staff assisted. There was no request for assistance. I watched as cupboard doors swung open and closed, items were stacked and crockery clinked together.

The breakfast club enters towards the end of my observation. One hovers over the toaster waiting for their toast to spring up, another drowning his cereal with milk, and a final individual is pouring boiling water over his porridge and recklessly stirring to mix in the honey.  There is minimal bench space so individuals are waiting almost in line for their opportunity to rest a plate or bowl or to slide in to get the Zip tap.

Amongst all of this conversations were taking place. The conversations varied, some of work, some of individuals and others about personal life. Conversations regarding work led to note taking and follow up requests. Giggles came from others having personal life conversations riddle with sarcasm.

In the background sits one individual with his head down glued to the newspaper. Not a sound from him until he reads a point that moves him. He does not intentionally engage other staff, he is just commenting on what he has read. Some surrounding staff do quiz him with regards to his gestures and he happily responds.

Despite numerous conversations taking place, the room is reasonably quiet. The mood is upbeat and all staff display enthusiasm to start the day.

Margo’s Blog

Deborah’s Blog

Jo’s Blog

Blog Task # 1

Problem Space

The problem space in my teaching area is situated in the rear of my classroom. A bench, which lies in front of three windows, houses half a dozen desktop computers. Surrounding the windows is a large pin board, which at present displays Maths reference material. The computer desktops and monitors consume the majority of the bench space leaving very little room to manipulate the mouse.  This set up is also ergonomically incorrect as the monitors rest on the desktop and the students are looking up at the monitor rather than straight ahead.

Problem Space Image # 1 Problem Space Image # 2

Students today play and learn in a world saturated by technology.  Technology is the tool that hooks our students and allows them to take ownership of their learning, knowledge and understanding. We live in a world where we all need to adopt design thinking skills and we need to give our students the opportunity to develop these skills.   Educational institutions should encourage students to be independent learners who are eager to collaborate with each other. Yet the environment described above does not allow students the freedom to be creative and engaged in design thinking skills. Design begins with ideas and ideas flourish when we brainstorm. These design skills take time to develop ‘even the simplest appearing skills, such as brainstorming, take months or years of practice before being effective’ (Sutton & Hargon, 1996, p.693).


In the situation with the bench at the back of the classroom, the students are the consumers, and we, as educators, need to move beyond our traditional practices and create a learning environment that is stimulating, inspiring, encourages collegiality, as well as being ergonomic. ‘More recently, designers have begun applying design principles not just to physical products, but also to consumer experiences, to production and interaction processes, and to improvements that make existing products more appealing or functional.’ (Brown, T. 2009, Change by Design, p.2).

This task allowed me the opportunity to look beyond the bench and how the area could better serve the learning needs of the students in the class. My initial reaction was to create more space on the benches to allow students room to work. Often students need working space, which then led me to investigate students’ choice of material when working. All agreed that they felt confident using a product that they could manipulate and write with. The two most popular items listed were mini whiteboards and post-it notes. Given that above the computer monitors are windows, students would be able to record on these using whiteboard markers. Additionally, the notice board surrounding the windows is another obvious area requiring reflection for implementing design-thinking skills.

Problem Space Ideas # 1


Problem Space Ideas # 2



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

Sutton, R., & Hargadon, A. (1996). Brainstorming groups in context. Administrative Science Quarterly 41 (4), 685–718.


Peer Blog Comments

Lisa’s Thoughts :

Liz’s Blog:

Yvette’s Blog:

Reflection ….

Whilst on my early morning treadmill run I viewed back-to-back episodes of Selling Houses Australia followed by Better Homes and Garden and was inspired by the designers in action. Both shows were presented with problem spaces and required to develop the space to be of better use and aesthetically more appealing. It was during Better Homes and Gardens that I realised how relevant these programs were to my study. The producers had employed fashion designers Peter Morrisey, Camilla Franks and Charlie Brown. All three designers were required to work beyond their discipline and convert their designated area into a practical, aesthetically appealing space. These designers employed their design thinking skills to ensure they successfully completed the task at hand. Some of these skills were explicitly evident throughout the show.