Category Archives: Instructions

Details for course assignments

Observe a learning space

Before class on Thursday, go to some space on campus where people learn. Observe, and if possible/appropriate, take pictures and talk to learners. Answer the following questions on a blog post:

What do learners do there?

What is the environment like?

How does it help people learn?

(Add photos if you can.)

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Final Reflection Paper (June 11)

Please reflect on your insights from this class about the design of spaces for learning.  Make specific reference to the readings, tours, and what you learned while doing the project.  Please address the following questions.

  1. Create a framework that organizes your understanding of the different ways that learning can be defined, and the activities that support each type of learning.  How can spaces support the learning that takes place in them?

  2. Create 3-5 overarching principles designing learning spaces.  For each, explain

    • What are important implications of this principle?
    • What design activities would be help you to meet this principle?
    • What are potential challenges in following this principle?
  3. How do we know if the design is effective?  Describe a specific space, and discuss the measures you would want to explore as evidence that it supported learning.

This individual reflection should be approximately 5 pages long (~1250 words). Visual representations welcome, but they should be accompanied by clear explanations in the text.  Ask Karin if you have questions or would like clarification of these instructions.  The reflection is due to Daniel by 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 11, 2013.

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Design Proposal (June 4)

Design Proposal

At the end of the course, students will apply the ideas of this course to a real space. The design will involve a series of smaller deliverables. Design proposals will be presented to the class and to potential stakeholders for feedback on June 4 (please invite at least one stakeholder to be present for presentations).


  • 10 minute presentation, any effective media
  • Give overview of the larger context, and how this design challenge fits within it.
  • Who are you designing for?
  • What sort of activities does this space need to support?
  • What were the constraints of the project?
  • What would you propose if the budget were
    • Zero (only free/available resources)
    • Modest (amount depends on location)
    • Unlimited
  • How would you assess the success of the design (think learning)?
  • There will be time for questions and answers

Proposal should also be provided to stakeholders in a quality, stand-alone format, with representations of the big ideas, rationale, and budget included.  Most likely, this is best done as a report with attachments.

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Design Project Posts (weekly starting April 21)

Your turn!  One of the ways we learn is by applying the ideas discussed in class to a real-world project.  In this class, you will choose a real-world learning space and propose three redesigns, based on budget (no money, modest, and infinite budget).

You may reach out to any space that interests you, but we also have several interested parties who have mentioned that they would welcome a project. For example, you could design

  • a middle school staff lounge/workroom space,
  • shared informal learning space for doctoral students in MS&E,
  • a makerspace in Meyer with the idea of creating such a space in the renovated GSB South,
  • a group work ‘studio’ that could be used for a variety of project-based activities, such as video shoots.

The advantage of working on partner projects is that they facilitate access to stakeholders, and there’s a real chance some part of the design will be implemented.

Projects can be done alone or in pairs.  Each project will post updates to help us monitor and discuss your progress in developing these designs.  Please post these by Sunday night so that we can review them before class.

Sunday April 21: Where is your space? Who are the stakeholders who have an interest in your design, and how will you connect with them?

Sunday April 28: What is special about this place, and the learning that happens in it?  What “aha’s” or insights help to constrain your design?

Sunday May 5: Who are the learners? Post 1-3 personas that will help focus your efforts to meet their learning needs.  What special needs do they have that create a special point of view?

Sunday May 12: Post a storyboard of at least one interaction for a learner in this space.

Sunday May 19: List some of the assumptions you are making about the ways learners interact with this space.  Which of these could you explore through an experience prototype? How might that look?

Sunday May 26: How would you know if it’s working?  Describe an assessment plan, addressing the unit of analysis, intervention, observations/measures, and assessment context.

Sunday June 2: Share your designs with at least one stakeholder.  What was their response?

Questions?  Ask us!

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Field Notes (1-2 times)

Field notes are used in a variety of professions to offer a text-based account of observations made in a setting. During this course, all students will create field notes as a part of recording relevant information about the external sites that we visit.  These notes will be posted to the course WordPress site (see here for tips on updating WordPress). The notes will then be used to inform course discussions, final projects, and presentations.

Each student will sign up to take field notes for one site visit. During many weeks, we will likely have two or more students signed up to take field notes for one site. In the event that this happens, students should coordinate to produce field notes that target different aspects of the space. The turnaround time for field notes is FAST.  Notes should be posted to the course WordPress site by 5pm on the Wednesday after the site visit (which occurs on Tuesday afternoon). This gives you approximately 24 hours to record, edit, and post the notes.

About the content of the notes

The field notes for this course should create a detailed record of observations, insights, and critiques directed at the sites that we visit during our class.  Your field notes will consist of three parts:

  • Header information: Including the name of the field note author, the event, time and date information, etc. (see below)

  • Body of the notes: The primary content of the notes should include

    • A description of the physical layout of the space(s) (sketch?)

    • Information about the people who typically come to the space (use pseudonyms or initials only)

    • Information about the activities that happen in the space

    • Reflections on the ways that the activities and material components of the space may support or inhibit learning.

Feel free to use these guidelines as headers in your notes.

  • Additional media: We encourage field notes to include, either interspersed within the notes or as appendices, photographs of the site, sketches of the site, or other illustrations that help to expand and understanding of the site’s structure and the activities that occur there.

We recommend that notes be between 500 and 750 words.

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Participation (Every day)

Participation is critical.  Tours of various learning spaces are a key experience in the course. Students are expected to speak and listen actively in class; build on the ideas of others; challenge their own thinking and that of others; and seek to make connections between concepts in class and to outside experiences. Students will be asked to think what they observe in a variety of settings, and to generate questions; “stupid” questions are encouraged. All students will be expected to be able to engage their classmates’ questions.

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