Redesigning school

Based on these scenarios: Schoolville, Homework and schoolwork “flip”, Home-school communications

Inspiration for these learning activity packages: Observe and design

Design thinking hat: Spatial Design + Understanding People

I want to engage students in my class to think about the theories and concepts behind spatial design and different motivations of people using a space. I present my students with the following design brief, which I modified to suit my curriculum requirements:

Design brief: Design an adequate concept for the future school. Consider authentic and practical experiences. Keywords that may spark ideas: regular meetings, library, newspaper and a video news channel, student enterprises, cross-curricular projects: shops, services. Consider all people who will potentially use your design. As you go along narrow your context, objectives and challenges addressed with the design. You could create a spatial design, a concept and test of an activity or process, etc. You could consider the views of teachers, students, parents, principals, city employers, grandparents, alumni etc.

Contextual Inquiry: The students observe the activities in school critically and enrich their observations with deep reflections about their personal experiences. Their analysis for the information collected should include a list of What works in school (good practices that can present design opportunities) and what does not (design challenges, that their designs can address). For example, the students collect photographs of the spatial design of their school. Then they look at the photographs of different spatial designs and analyse and annotate characteristics of the designs together. After that they categorise these aspects into design challenges (stuff that does not work and why) and design opportunities (stuff that works and why). After the activity workshop I listen to their reflections and read their blogs to ensure that all students are still on track with the curriculum requirements. If some students went entirely off tangent, I mention suggestions for focus to them, for example through lectures and supplementary material.

As an additional task the students may consider looking at projects that address the questions of redesigning school, its function in society and the practices within from different perspectives. This can be an informal and volunteering activity. Examples projects include: Design for Change, Project H-Design, IDEO toolkit for educators, Computer Clubhouse, Brooklyn Un-school, Un-School movement

Product design: One team decided to redesign the library space and the way students can interact with the library. Another team is thinking about school hygiene, and yet another is planning how physical activities could be highlighted throughout the school. The teams visualise their design from different scales and angles, assess and edit designs. I demonstrate each team’s progress on the IWB throughout the activity workshop.


Participatory design: The team that decided to redesign the library space and the way students can interact with the library, suggested to bring together some students who are not frequently visiting the library and two librarians of the school. They share their designs with them and the participants annotate and assess them. After meeting the people, the team is eagerly discussing about the information the participants provided, deliberating how the mentioned ideas could be balanced and reflected in the design. The team is realizing that there are different motivations that the design needs to address and that need to be considered for the design to work for all people. This is a tricky challenges that they do not have a strategy for solving right away.

Final product design: While listening to their audio reflections and reading their design process blog posts again the students realize that the iterative approach of shaping, changing and editing their designs was their strategy of finding an appropriate balance between the different motivations and point of views of the people who the team considered to be the future users of their design. The team decides to take their project further and presents it to the principal, who is thinking of implementing parts of the design ideas by the students.

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This post is also available in: Turkish

4 Responses to Redesigning school

  1. Katalin Skultety says:

    Redisigning school can be very interesting for children, but there are some difficult tasks for younger ones. It is not simple to redesign the curriculum, maybe, some difficult parts could be dropped. I imagine this activity as a game similar to cityville or farmville, being played on the computer, and there is a danger of sitting in front of the computers for too much time.

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  2. Adil Tugyan says:

    As we all know children have a very large world of imagination and they have great capabilities of observing things otherwise so it is a great idea to let students redesign the places they commonly use at school.Doing this may bring very positive outcomes about such fostering students’ creativity,possesing school just as they do for their houses and they may feel confident pedagogically because their ideas and thoughts are valued at school.
    All these scenarios proposed for cycle 3 are planned to boost children’s imagination and creativity in a collabprative sense using technological tools. A well arranged timetable for defining duration of the working hours will prevent students from spending long hours sitting in front of computer.I think what is important here for us as teachers is to let students redesign things as they wish using their imagination,creativity keeping to instructions given by their teachers.As a result,timing ,clear instructions,encouragement and sharing are the key elements of these scenarios to be a certain success.I like it.

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  3. Sevgi SABANCI says:

    Redesigning School is very crucial to enrich students’ critisizing ability; they will need to have need analysis, search for solutions, evaluate those solutions and finally set up their own ideas for the final decision. moreover, they will prepare themselves for the skills required in future jobs.

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  4. Jinan says:

    I think we need to go much deeper to make any fundamental changes.

    The way future of education is predicted and is likely to follow is along the digital technology path which will be a mere extension of the existing paradigm. It really doesn’t challenge some basic fundamental truths about our beingness. It will only further increase the distance between man and nature and cause further alienation and fragmentation. In the modern educational paradigm there is no out of
    the box scenario. It can only move from one box to the other. Text codification is being replaced by digital codification. Knowledge still is kept outside of our being.
    The paradigm I am talking about is to understand the basics- the biological roots of our being. How cognition, beauty and value is rooted in biology and in nature.
    Modern educational paradigm with all its latest gadgetry contradicts the natural learning process on making sense or natural way of being in the world at all levels- content, process and context and it kills the original, authentic, spiritual quality of human beings.
    It questions the autonomy and independence of the learner, it denies the natural intelligence and the unfolding of the cognitive tools and processes of the child and it removes senses, body, experience, context, intuition, organic memory and replaces it with text, authority, belief, conscious reasoning and memory, de contextualized
    information thus turning the original, authentic and creative human
    being in to second hand imitators.
    In fact the very quality of being human is at stake and is evident from the destruction and the chaos that is happening due to the linear
    progress and development set in motion. As we are trapped in the illusion of ‘progress’

    Many of our misconceptions about knowledge is ingrained in our language due role of language played in the literate paradigm. It may
    help us to step outside our present cultural I challenge the two pillars of modern education as it precisely what
    kills creativity and damages the true cognitive process in people. 1. Language is used for transmitting knowledge. 2. Readymade knowledge is
    used. Language is a communication tool but is being used as cognitive source or knowledge source. When we deal with readymade knowledge our faculties for learning as well as qualities required for learning gets damaged.

    Reasoning and memory is used to process and store the readymade knowledge and we gets used to dealing with what is known. Illusion of
    having understood knowledge makes one egoistic and arrogant. Whereas natural knowing happens in the realm of the unknown which
    calls for the use of senses, observation, attention, engagement, experience, internal understanding, awakening of intelligence,
    intuition and insight. The value that gets awakened is one of humility, openness, awe and wonder. Creativity then becomes the way of
    their being instead of an esoteric skill which only the gifted have.
    Creativity is our natural condition like spirituality.

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