What is your school’s innovation strategy?

Along with four other teachers from my school, I was lucky enough to attend the Ewan McIntosh Masterclass run by Pearson and held in Melbourne last May. We were selected primarily because our middle years (Years 6 – 8) students were about to move into a brand new building which our school is naming the Positive Education Centre. We didn’t really have an opportunity for a briefing before we came and no -one really knew what to expect or what we were intended to bring back to school. Ewan conducted the PL as a design activity, showing us some examples of what is being done in a variety of settings, and the type of outcomes that are being achieved. He then worked us through a range of activities: story telling to consider different mind sets; needfinding issues with education;  ideating using hexagons, sticky noting concepts et cetera. To complete these tasks we were divided into groups and worked with people we had not met before, some of whom were not based in schools. The processes were interesting and thought provoking and the themes that arose were common across all groups. When we got to the hexagon stage of telling the story of how we could innovate and what blocks were preventing innovation in our workplaces a few things became really clear. Individual teachers in most schools have very little chance of being able to innovate unless their concept is adopted by those in the high level positions of authority. I was in  a group with someone in such a position, who said they would never undertake this type of activity with their whole staff, only with selected personnel.

Innovating with Ewan

This, to me is the nub of the problem with design thinking application. By excluding people from such a process you don’t know what you might be missing. The wider the variety of brainstormers, the less likely you are to miss an important factor in the product or service you are trying to create. Brown and IDEO both refer to the power of the brainstorming process (Brown, 2009, IDEO, 2012) and The Works at Walker (The Works At Walker n.d) benefits from engaging in such a practice. In the latter case students past and present, parents, employers, local community, teachers and architects developed a holistic vision for the building and the learning that will take place within it, both face to face and virtually. Too often, finished buildings fall short of educational needs and practical inclusions: a bench designed to hold computers has two power points where four are necessary; laptop storage spaces built into student lockers cannot accommodate charging facilities; an orchestra pit designed for musical performances has no lighting capacity to illuminate the music on stands during a production. Virtual spaces contain content but do not link to belief systems or consider learning needs.

The world is full of unknowns and the best way to avoid missing things that may be known to some people in any process is to involve more people. How might we questions enable breadth of thinking, and broadening the knowledge base should be seen as positive. Resolving any design requirement is more likely to please more people and there should be fewer “how did they miss that?” moments.

What did we five get from our experience with Ewan’s professional learning session? For us as a group, it might have been of more immediate value if part of the day had been spent together so we could prepare some work on a specific issue relevant to us. We did  learn some great ideas for using with our students, a sense of what could be if we were allowed to try the process “for real” and an experience which we are still processing months later.


Brown, T. (2009). Change by Design How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. New York: Harper Collins.

IDEO. (2012). Design Thinking For Educators 2nd Edition. Retrieved August 9, 2014, from Ideo: http://www.ideo.com/by-ideo/design-thinking-for-educators

The Works At Walker. (n.d.). Dear Architect: A Vision Of Our Future School. Retrieved July 25, 2014, from http://www.ournewschool.org/assets/pdf/Dear_Architect.pdf

Collaborative Ideation and Design Brief

Design thinking is best effected as a team activity and building the team is valuable (Eden, Elliott, Matzke, & Wu, p. 3). Sharing immersion notes with two Teacher-Librarian colleagues, and considering the observations recorded to date, has enabled identification of a couple of “rich seams” waiting for further investigation and ultimately improvement. The observations have been translated into insights, then into alterations and services and thence to the following design brief (Brown T. K., 2011, p. 382).Pilloton describes a ready (context) set (toolbox) go (actions) style of design brief  (Pilloton, 2009, pp. 11-12).

the context in which the brief is set
the context in which the brief is set

Ready – Context:

A more user-centric physical environment is required. Things requiring adjustment relate to replacing the old-fashioned layout and styles of seating and work space and addressing a lack of possession storage available to students.


the tool box applied to the context
the tool box applied to the context

Set: the toolbox:

To ascertain a design brief it has been important to experience the physical space through the eyes of the students, teachers and parents who access our building.  Unlike the example of crawling under tables to see a child’s eye view (Bennett, 2007), a range of methods has been applied to the task, commencing with an observation http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2014/08/06/observation-entering-our-library/ . Using discussion, usually with small groups and individuals, as well as ideating with my CSU team members, there has been an attempt to ascertain what needs to occur, as well as tapping into co-creation processes (McIntosh & O’Connell, 2014).

As our Library does not operate in isolation of other services and environments, members of the Library team have spent time walking through the two newest buildings on our campus. Positive notes reflect colour schemes, some of the furnishings, and the degree of natural light in these newer buildings. Comparing our forty plus year-old surroundings has led to a degree of envy, a list of aspirations, and noting short comings that would need to be avoided when our planned renovation and extension is designed.

Within the constraints of budget, staffing and building, the four rules of designing have been considered: human, ambiguity, re-design and tangible (McIntosh & O’Connell, 2014).

“How Might We” (HMW) questions were applied: (Method Card: How Might We Questions).HMW make immediate change to  improve engagement?

HMW raise curiousity?

HMW stay within the financial constraints?

Ways researched for this design brief
Ways researched for this design brief













Conclusions acknowledged that some alterations can be effected now with little cost, and several of these have been implemented already as can be seen at http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2014/08/05/further-changes-to-our-school-library/.  Change must result in improvement of teaching and learning outcomes similar to that described by 360 Steelcase in their white paper on engagement in new classroom settings (360 Degrees, n.d)

Comparing new spaces to old in terms of engagement by stakeholders
Comparing new spaces to old in terms of engagement by stakeholders


Source: (360 Degrees, p. 4)

actionable tactics
actionable tactics

Go – actions:

Steelcase offers a range of furniture solutions allowing for flexibility. Their Node furnishings, as shown in the image below centre, seem to offer much,including somewhere for the problematic possessions bags, which students sometimes need to bring with them (360 Degrees, n.d). The cost of this specific furniture currently prohibitive.

Chair, desk and bag storage all in one!
Chair, desk and bag storage all in one!



This is what needs to be done first


Low cost measures have been implemented involving:

Purchasing “ghost stools” from Aldi.

Repurposing a bench table by adding 300mm to its height to suit the stools. (This releases the foyer for bag racks, which can be built on site).

Moving tables to a combination of clusters, individual and communal spaces.

Swapping a block shelf that was used for reference material with 5 spinners that housed biographies  – freeing up floor space.

While most of the consideration to date has related to physical spaces, there is also a need for the virtual spaces set up by as part of our information services, as this is one way of supporting all stakeholders anywhere and anytime. Prototyping for service solutions, which rely on more complex social interactions, is far more difficult (Brown T. , 2009, p. 98). Iterations have the advantage of zero budget implications (Brown T. , 2009, p. 99).

At times the volumes of necessary changes seem overwhelming but one just needs to stop and consider the potential of our students to become passionate learners through the avenues we create for them as part of their educational journey (Ripp, 2014, p. 118).


360 Degrees.   (n.d.). How classroom Design Affects Student Engagement: Active learning   Post-Occupancy Engagement. White Paper. Retrieved August 12, 2014, from http://www.steelcase.com/en/products/Category/Educational/Documents/Post%20Occupancy%20Whitepaper.FINAL.pdf

Bennett, P.   (2007, May 16). Design is in the Details. Retrieved August 9, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7g0O003kufA&feature=youtu.be

Brown, T. (2009).   Change by Design How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires   Innovation. New York: Harper Collins.

Brown, T. K.   (2011). Change by Design. Journal Of Product Innovation Management,(28(3),   ), 381-383. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5885.2011.00806.x

Eden, W.,   Elliott, A., Matzke, J., & Wu, J. (n.d.). School design With design   thinking: Aplha Cindy Avitia High School. Retrieved August 12, 2014, from   http://www.alphapublicschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/ALPHAPublicSchoolsCaseStudy.Final_.pdf

McIntosh, E.,   & O’Connell, J. (2014). Design Thinking Process [module 3.5]. Retrieved   August 9, 2014, from http://digital.csu.edu.au/inf536/module-3-studio-teaching-and-space-design/3-5-design-thinking-process/

Method Card: How   Might We Questions. (n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2014, from Design School   Stanford: http://dschool.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/HMW-METHODCARD.pdf

Pilloton, E. (2009). Design Revolution:100 Products That Empower People. New York: Metropolis Books.

Ripp, P. (2014). Passionate   Learners: Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Learners . Virginia Beach   Powerful Learning Press.

Vision Statement: A Taxonomy of Innovation . (2014, January). Retrieved from Harvard Business Review: http://hbr.org/2014/01/a-taxonomy-of-innovation/ar/1



Ideation team: Sara Rapp and Helen Stower

Library Team

     Staff: Sue Smith and Erica James

    Teachers: Belinda Nichols and Neil MacLean

     Student: Krystal Parrish

I have left a comment on: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/meghastieinf536/2014/08/18/blog-task-3-reimagining-the-staff-common-room/#comment-7

and: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/yvette/2014/08/15/assessment-3-design-brief/#comment-11





Designing Thinking Tasks

Much of our reading to date has been about physical space, but there are also circumstances where we may be revamping virtual spaces. For example I have two blogs, one for each campus of the school, which we started several years ago. We have had several new staff members for short terms so the workload has fallen on my shoulders – hence the sites are well out of date.  I am very conscious that I need to revamp them and ensure that the design meets the learning needs.

The Primary Campus Blog is in the worst condition because I don’t actually teach there any more. The Secondary Campus Blog is marginally better. I also have a wiki for our staff where I collect and very loosely curate information to assist with teaching, which has been neglected lately. Once the physical space has been dealt with to the best of the budgetary and time constraints, I am aiming to apply some of our design processes from this course to these.

Simultaneously with the physical space I am implementing some ideation into my Year 12 History Revolutions class. I have been concerned since my professional learning session with Ewan earlier this year about the amount of paper that can be used ideating for design. After testing a number of solutions I stumbled onto a really good one which had spin off learning that was completely unexpected, and could not have been planned.

I bought a box of 40 big plastic blocks from the local toyshop. I grabbed a pile of whiteboard markers and I headed for class. Once the excitement settled, this is what we did:

Write events from the timeline
Write events from the timeline

In two groups (I only have 7 students) they were given half the set of blocks. They were told to write on one face of the blocks only, and to use the bigger block (the size shown in the image above) for major events and the smaller blocks (half the size) for less significant events. They were then told to make a timeline like their typed timeline with the chronological basis of first event at the top and last at the bottom. One group used all their blocks, the other one didn’t.

this group used all their blocks
this group used all their blocks

And this group didn’t:

the other timeline (which needed some blank, stabilising bricks to stand

This group also wrote on the other side (naughty!) by putting the social pyramid onto the block, with the Tsar at the top and the peasants at the bottom.

The next task was to re-order the blocks so that the most significant events leading to the 1917 revolution were at the top and the least significant at the bottom. The group that used all their blocks then asked if the combined impact of a number of smaller events (smaller blocks) was greater than the impact of some of the bigger one off events.

Their second construction looked like this:

Note the rows of small blocks deemed more significant than some of the bigger blocks
Note the rows of small blocks deemed more significant than some of the bigger blocks











The other group found when they reordered their chronological constructions that the social pyramid, which should not have been on the other side, ended up with the tsar on the bottom! Sheer fluke but very true. I will be using this again with my Year 12 class. I think it would have application for processes that can be linear. In terms of Library lessons we’re thinking we might use it to teach basic Dewey.

Inspirational sites

In my reading across a wide range of media I have found some images that are truly inspiring:

The Museum Istanbul Modern has books hanging from the ceiling: http://inzumi.com/en/travel/point-of-interest/d_id/Istanbul/c_id/Sightseeing/p_id/Museum-%C4%B0stanbul-Modern

The Ordrup School is described in terms of innovative design in the educational design section of Design Revolution (Pilloton, 2009, p. 176).

At about the 1 minute mark in this clip there is reference to “the type of school where knowledge and wisdom has to be pushed into students’ heads.” Knowledge and Wisdom is our school motto!

The challenges I am facing with the layout of the Senior Campus Library are to convert spaces that were designed for the days when teachers did try to push knowledge and wisdom in one direction, when connection to wireless was unheard of, and there was little need to connect to electricity beyond lighting the space, into spaces that foster curiosity, creativity and collaboration, while maintaining the integrity of the collections and the current usage needs.

I have revisited Rethink! and mentally noted what has been achieved in the last ten years, and thought deeply about where to go next (La Marca, 2007). More inspiration was gleaned from Anne Waever’s blog http://readingpower.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/library-renovation-presentation-6-august-2014/

I have also been frustrated by the large number of video clips included in each module of this subject given generally slow (sometime no) Internet connectivity. Even at school there is a noticeable slow down at about 1pm every day.

When I can get a clip to run I have been able to use VideoAnt  http://ant.umn.edu/   to annotate, and would welcome any addition to my comments on these two:



I have also blogged about my library at:





Now I am getting ready to share some immersion notes with colleagues Sara Rapp and Helen Stower and practise some collaborative ideation!



Danish School   That Thinks About Thinking; A Case Study of Ordrup School, Gentofte, Denmark. (n.d.). Retrieved   August 9, 2014, from Design Share: Designing For Learning:   http://www.designshare.com/index.php/case-studies/ordrup-school/

La Marca, S.   (Ed.). (2007). Rethink! Ideas For Inspiring Library Design. Carlton:   School Library Association of Australia.

Pilloton, E.   (2009). Design Revolution:100 Products That Empower People. New York:   Metropolis Books.

Weaver, A. (2014,   August 6). Library Renovation Presentation, 6 August 2014. Retrieved   from Reading Power Learning Blog: http://readingpower.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/library-renovation-presentation-6-august-2014/



Observation – entering our Library

A visitor is given no directional signage to reception or anywhere else from the gate on the main driveway. There is no path through the “walk” gate and between the gateway and the edge of the library is slushy at this time of the year. I pass a large glass door before I reach the “main” entrance. It has two doors, and it is not clear which door is the one that opens. Parent visitor arrived during my observations and kept pushing the wrong door (and it’s a pull door).


Observations on the way to work
Observations on the way to work


The entry foyer is in many ways dead space. Junior students, who should enter with their teacher during class time, often wait here out of the weather – which blocks the entry. Sometimes it is a place for finishing lunch as the current policy is no food. Is it welcoming?

Next entry space fronts the visitor with lap top charging lockers, and a book display.

The path to the “Reading” area is obvious, warm and inviting.

The “Reference” area has a less obvious a pathway.

A welcoming face at the circulation desk would be nice addition, but staffing circumstances make that difficult to achieve.

Potential family tour groups are brought through another door, which brings them straight into the “Reading” area;  first impression is warm, welcoming and easy to navigate.

Limited options for collaborative space in reference end; no individual options in reading area.

Information screens generally appropriately sited except for 24 hour news screen.

Where most traffic flow goes
Where most traffic flow goes


Further changes to our school library

On Friday, I approached the workmen about moving shelves for me. This was greeted with “Not again!” Then they came and had a look, and within 2 hours all the shifting was done. Still not quite sure about what we call the “Reference” area but it will evolve as different groups offer feedback. The VCE Drama class working in period 1 were complimentary, so that’s a start.

I have been inspired by Matt Ives to film a walk through – I don’t think I have as steady a hand, but it will give you an impression of the space and the improved openness. Any comments will be very welcome.

The film clip can be found here: Reorganisation stage 1 2014.

The entry foyer is an anomaly – what can I actually put in there – it is out of sight?

The laptop charging lockers are an eyesore and get very little use. I am hoping to get rid of some of them asap.

Once my 3D printers and 3Doodler pens arrive, I need to put a maker space where the magazine racks are because that’s where the power point is!

Onwards and upwards.