Monday, 13 August 2018

I Used Design Thinking to Transform my Learning Space - Part 4 - Prototyping

I’ve reached that point in the design process where I get to experiment with everything I have been thinking about and planning. It’s when I get my hands dirty and start to get a real insight into what will work, what won’t, students’ thoughts and opinions and develop my own ideas of how successful I have been. I have found the prototyping process very engaging, stimulating and somewhat cathartic (they say ‘a change is as good as a holiday’). I have been able to quickly test out all of my ideas, analyse them and improve them in a short amount of time (Dam & Siang, 2018).

I Used Design Thinking to Transform my Learning Space - Part 3 - Ideation

I spent quite a long time trying to understand what my biggest problem was in my classroom. I mean, STEAM is fun and kids love it but I kept wondering if I was doing everything I could to fully engage all of my students and if the working environment was really promoting this engagement. This lead me to decide on my problem statement: How might we design the learning space to better engage all students?

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

I Used Design Thinking to Transform my Learning Space - Part 2 - Synthesising

I previously wrote about my new understandings of Empathy in the Design Thinking process and in this post I am going to discuss the importance of synthesising information gathered in the Empathy phase, what this means and a practical approach to synthesising that anyone can try.

Monday, 30 July 2018

Coding Our Own Computer Games

Nothing makes me feel more proud than when I see my students happily showing off their hard work to an audience. What makes it better is when these kids have never done anything like it before and have developed a love for it. This is how coding went down with my Year 4 students this year when they presented their first ever GameCon.

I Used Design Thinking to Transform my Learning Space - Part 1 - Empathy

Embarking upon my understanding of the Design Thinking process, I have come to learn more about the importance of Empathy. I had always considered myself an empathetic person but had I ever really taken this approach to solving problems? Maybe, subconsciously.

empathy is

Empathy can be best described as “feeling with people” (The RSA, 2013) and in the realm of Design Thinking, it plays an important role because it allows us to try and truly understand the people for whom we are trying to solve a problem. It is no good to try and make something better without truly understanding the end user.
One of the tasks I completed to deepen my understanding of this phase of the design process was an Empathy Map. An Empathy Map is a brainstorming tool and according to Bland (2016), helps you to “immerse yourself in a user’s environment”. The user’s in this instance being my students and the environment being my classroom.

To complete the Empathy Map, I removed myself from teaching for one session and spent the time being an observer. I chose a child to focus on and took notes on what I saw happening with them in relation to the learning environment. I paid particular attention to what the student was saying and doing and made inferred judgements on their thinking and feeling. This allowed me time to try and identify needs that may or may not be being met or that are difficult for my students to articulate (Fox, 2014). It was important for me to understand the learning environment better in order to find ways that I can improve it.

Empathy Map

Changing from being the teacher to an observer in my own classroom involved a change in mindset. Firstly, I had to release control to my team teacher and become ‘invisible’. This sounds easy but when you’re used to being at the front giving instructions it can be quite frustrating. Frustrating in the sense that you want to clarify things, help behaviour manage, assist with modelling the lesson, etc. I needed to be able to see the learning from the student’s perspective in order to understand any problems that I previously hadn’t perceived.

if you haven't found it yetI feel that my experience with this Empathy task has allowed me to understand at a deeper level, the fundamental importance of this stage in the Design Thinking process. To consider the end user of your product, environment or service, gives you greater chance at success.
One quote that has resonated with me in my search to understand Empathy is from (n.d.) who said, “it keeps the people you’re designing for squarely grounded in the centre of your work”.  As a teacher, my students are always the centre of what I do and in order for them to be successful in my classroom, I need to empathetically consider all their learning styles and habits. I wouldn’t be a good teacher if I didn’t do this.

Moving forward, potential applications for my new knowledge include:
  • better planning and development of learning tasks
  • improved design of my learning space and ways that changes in the design can be managed easily and efficiently (for example, flexibility of the furniture and resources depending on the tasks being completed)
  • thoughtful choices of different uses of technology in the classroom (including new purchases)
  • considering Empathy as a major factor in coaching sessions with other staff and in staff training opportunities that I facilitate
With all this potential, it’s important to consider any limitations to Empathy. My own research discovered a few articles listing things such as core vulnerability (Stosny, 2013) and bias and prejudice (Cameron, Inzlicht, & Cunningham, 2017) as possible limitations. However, the biggest thing that stood out to me as a serious limitation was what Waytes (2016) describes as ‘compassion fatigue’. Essentially, what the author describes is that when a person is constantly using their energy to be empathetic, it can become exhausting. To the point where they struggle to be empathetic any longer. ‘Compassion fatigue’ is very common in the medical profession and I can also see how it could be a problem in teaching. With students emotional wellbeing a major factor in any teachers planning, it is easy to see how exhaustion could possibly occur.
Learning more about this phase in the Design Thinking process has opened up new potential to create better learning experiences for my students. For me, I think the limitations are minimal or at the least, easily manageable. I can now move forward and spend more time unpacking my classroom in a way to better understand all of my student’s needs.


Bland, D. (21 Apr. 2016.). Agile Coaching Tip: What is an Empathy Map? Retrieved July 3, 2018, from
Cameron, C. D., Inzlicht, M., & Cunningham, W. A. (2 Mar. 2017.). Does Empathy Have Limits? Retrieved July 11, 2018, from The Conversation :
Design Kit. (n.d.). Mindset: Empathy. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from
Fox, N. (27 Jun. 2014.). How to Use Persona Empathy Mapping. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from
Stosny, S. (2 Feb. 2013.). Limitations of Empathy - Core Vulnerability. Retrieved July 11, 2018, from Psychology Today:
The RSA. (15 Aug. 2013.). The Power of Vulnerability - Brene Brown. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from YouTube:
Waytz, A. (Jan - Feb. 2016.). The Limits of Empathy. Retrieved July 11, 2018, from Harvard Business Review:

Saturday, 16 June 2018

10 Reasons to Try Coding in Your Classroom

Coding has been the centrepiece of my classroom this year. Everything we have done revolves around it in some way, shape or form. We have introduced it to our Prep students all the way up to our Year 4's. When I talk about coding to other teachers, I always sense a fear that they too would have to one day do this in their classroom. The reason I have created this list is to help those teachers that are new to coding to relax a little and to just give it a go. These are the ten reasons I think everyone should give coding a go in their classroom (in no particular order):

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Getting Started with One Note

I feel like I have been quite slow to jump on board the OneNote bandwagon. I had previously exclusively used Evernote for most things but found that there were other, equally great options out there that cost far less that I should try.

I started out by using OneNote for taking notes when attending Professional Development. I liked that I could quickly type them up if needed or hand write them on my Samsung Galaxy Tablet with the dedicated S Pen (which I LOVE!). I soon learned that

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Using Seesaw Activities for Assessment

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to present this week on Episode 40 of TeachTech Play with the incredible Eleni Kyritsis (follow her on Twitter - @elenikyritsis).  I was given 4 minutes to discuss how I have been using Seesaw for student assessment in my specialist classroom. 

It's no secret that Seesaw has become the most important digital tool that I use. I'm like a giddy school kid; I can't stop talking about it whenever I get the chance. Lately, I have discovered the benefits to using the Activities part of Seesaw along with Skills View for assessment in my STEAM classes. It has become a huge time saver for me and my students but it has also allowed me to explore new ways to modify and redefine the way we use learn using technology in the classroom.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Getting to know Seesaw

When I began using Seesaw last year, I didn't really understand much about it except that it was 'like Facebook but for kids and parents'. It was such a misguided response of which would not be my answer today. I liked how we could use it and the platform it gave the students for sharing their work. I never really delved too deep though and I'm kind of kicking myself for not trying more whilst I still had my own class.

It's now my second year of using Seesaw and my first as a specialist teacher (STEAM) and I am understanding the capabilities even more and starting to see a greater benefit. My team teaching partner and I have recently discovered

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

The Education System According to a 14 Year Old

I picked my 14 year old son up from school today and I was not expecting the enlightened discussion that we would have whilst waiting to pick up my daughter. He mentioned that the day prior, he had watched a YouTube video about education (see below) and how 'the education system is outdated and designed to train factory workers'. I was very intrigued to find out more of what he thought, especially considering his age and current school experiences. His perspective (and that of all students) is vitally important. Being a secondary school student, it's easy for him to form opinions about what he does or doesn't like about school and I'm used to him saying "it's boring". Today was the first time I think that even he had cause to really question the system he is part of.

The video in question was this one: