Category Archives: Field Notes

Online Learning Spaces Field Notes

Author Michael Pope
Event MOOCs in-class presentation
Date of event Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Time of event 1:15pm until 3:05pm
Place School of Education 313, Stanford University
Date of record Wednesday, May 29, 2013
People present Marc Sanders (presenter)

This week’s presentation focused on Online Learning spaces.  Included in Marc’s definition of online learning spaces were:

  • Basic Webpages (Wikipedia, etc)
  • YouTube, iTunes (these allow for some community interaction and discussion)
  • Virtual classrooms (run like a normal physical classroom, just in the virtual space)
  • Course/learning management systems (CourseWork, Sakai, ecollege, Blackboard, etc.)
  • Open Learning Initiative (OLI) at Carnegie Mellon University
  • Coursera
  • NovoEd/Venture Lab
  • edX/Stanford’s version of edX
  • Udacity, Google Course Builder


The bulk of Marc’s lecture focused on the MOOC platforms Coursera, NovoEd, and edX.  Each of these has slightly different approaches, but most basically they offer a variety of courses taught by professors from well-known universities.  Like a typical college course, they all include lectures, assignments, deadlines, and some form of assessment.  Unlike a typical college course, these courses have students from all over the world enrolled.

One significant difference between Coursera and edX is that edX is an open platform, which allows for much more development and customization.  Additionally, the founding group of edX is extremely interested in the research element of the platform, so they’re using it to test new ideas (for example, Marc mentioned they’re looking at things like Artificial Intelligence as a grading aid.) Another difference that at first seems minor but could really impact the experience is that Coursera divides its course material into separate sections for lectures, quizzes, etc. while edX groups all the material for one lesson together.

NovoEd/Venture Lab seems to be the most different of the three.  It focuses on project based learning, and each student is assigned to a project teams.  The platform is designed to foster tight communication and interaction amongst people on a project team, so even small details – like requiring students to upload a picture to their profile – are considered.  Additionally, unlike Coursera, the lectures are not necessarily the main conduits for content, so they tend to be shorter.



One of the major topics that always comes up with MOOCs is the attrition rate, and to this end Marc had some very interesting points.  First, he drew the analogy between MOOCs and Amazon: if Amazon announced that you could download any kindle title for free, many people would probably download quite a few books, but how many of those books would be read?  Even if they’re not all read, would the overall amount of reading go up?  In the same way, people are signing up for many, many classes and only completing a few, but still the overall amount of learning is probably increasing.

The second point that Marc made about attrition was one that resonated particularly strongly with me.  He argued that calling these “courses” is really misleading, saying, “The terminology that we use has framed the conversation in a way that is uninteresting and unproductive.”  In other words, by calling them courses, we establish a certain expectation of what a course really is and so instead of focusing on the massive amount of information and knowledge that is being shared, we choose to focus on the number of people who fail to complete a “course.”  To me this makes a lot of sense because I think the power of these platforms is that they give us a great set of resources to use as we see fit – often, I’m not looking to take a full college course on something, I just want to know more about a specific thing.  If we can start to shift the discussion of MOOCs in this direction, I think they hold a ton of potential.


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MOOCs presentation Field Notes

Author Ryan Braner
Event MOOCs in-class presentation
Date of event Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Time of event 1:15pm until 3:05pm
Place School of Education 313, Stanford University
Date of record Wednesday, May 29, 2013
People present Marc Sanders (presenter)
Related artifacts None

The contrast between physical and virtual space could not be more drastic. Similar to each building we visited, each MOOC or online learning tool had its own user interface (UI), layout, and emphasis of importance. While Coursera groups its material by media, edX groups it as a learning flow, and Khan Academy (not discussed in the presentation) groups by subject.

The online spaces, however, benefit from the ability to rapidly modify their appearance, revert to any previous state with ease, and appear differently to each user according to personal preference; a feature even the most flexible of furniture arrangements will have difficulty mimicking. This dynamism is the strength of online education, and I see it contributing greatly to pedagogy. Iterative testing (a.k.a A/B testing and multivariate testing) will allow instructors and researchers to experiment with content, presentation, and pacing in these environments.

These sites are reaching incredibly large audiences. The Child Nutrition and Cooking class has nearly 30,000 studentsstudents with 20,000 of them active and 10,000 of them active within the last week. That scale simply does not translate to a physical classroom. The quiz embedded in the video had 27,000 unique submissions. To add some perspective, there are only 18,217 Stanford students, graduate and submissionsundergraduate, as of October 2012. The range of students using these libraries of knowledge is also quite wide. EPGY delivers collegiate math to advanced students still in high school. Khan Academy is aimed at helping students from middle school to college.

I am speculating that the amount of data these sites collect in a week dwarfs what was able to be collected previously for any research project. Currently, the type of data collected is limited to tracking student quizdataperformance, but plans are to expand data collection. Marc discussed expanding collection to paired data, data that not only records student performance, but also tracks what videos and resources the pupil had accessed, for example. Such measures allow a more robust analysis of what students are learning and how effectively variants of material are aiding that knowledge acquisition.

Every MOOC-type platform does not have the same philosophy. While edX is contributing to the Free and Open Source Software ideals, Coursera is developing its own, private platform. Personally, I would like to see the open platforms flourish, especially when considering how tools like Git, a version control system, can be leveraged to improve the source content, going beyond the assessment of students and applying a TPCK model to the online instructional process.

There is, however, a huge impotence with all of the remote/online knowledge sites presented, and that is human interaction. Despite claims, made by Marc and those in the industry, that the platform can simulate the presence of being physically located in the classroom, I remain unconvinced of any semblance of meaningful social interaction is taking place. The SEQ had the ‘together alone’ study spaces, the GSB focused on creating a social space in the courtyard, and the med students had access to a gym overlooking a great view of Stanford in general (once the power plant is torn down). Brick and mortar institutions excel at creating communities for their students, and not just academic communities.

Additional Media

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Cantor Arts Center – Stanford University (Field Notes)

Author: Ashley Sarracino

Event: Site Visit to Cantor Arts Center

Date of event: Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Time of event: 1:15pm – 3:05pm

Place: Cantor Arts Center, Stanford, CA

Date of record: Wednesday, May 22, 2013

People Present: Patience (Art Historian & Museum Education Specialist) + Class

Note:  My phone is decided to go on strike yesterday afternoon, unfortunately I will not be able to post the entirety of my photos until later, sorry.


The Iris & B. Gerald Cantor CENTER for VISUAL ARTS is a two story museum located on the Stanford University Campus.  The museum opened its doors in 1894 and is considered to be the largest memorial to a 15 yr. old boy (Leland Stanford, Jr.), son of Jane and Leland Stanford Sr. – founders of Leland Stanford Junior University.  Cantor is a neo-classical building modeled after Leland, Jr.’s favorite 19th century archaeological museum in Athens, Greece.   After multiple earthquakes the museum was reinforced with railroad ties, it’s the largest reinforced building of its day.  The museum is equipped with a highly technical Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning system (HVAC), required for controlling the climate in the museum 24/7.  The HVAC system is essential for the preservation of artifacts situated in the museum.  Additionally, the museum has a security system, when details were solicited the subsequent quote was provided, “the best museum security is not talking about it.”




Cantor has the following  spaces with concrete and wood floors:

First Floor

  • Main Lobby with two stair cases, one on each side of the building.
  • Stanford Family Room
  • Auditorium
  • Pigott Family Gallery: Changing Exhibitions
  • Bookshop
  • Cafe
  • J. Sanford Miller Family Gallery:  Oceania
  • Madeleine H. Russell Gallery: Asia
  • Thomas K. Seligman Gallery: Africa
  • Susan & John Diekman/Eugenie B. Taylor Galleries: Rodin

Second Floor

  • Ruth Levison Halperin Gallery: Changing Exhibitions
  • Freidenrich Family/Oshman Family/McMurty Galleries: Contemporary Art
  • Robert Mondavi Family Gallery: Europe & America – 19th Century
  • Marie Stauffer Sigall Gallery: Europe & America – Early 20th Century
  • Rowland K. Rebele: Stanford Projects
  • Europe 1500-1800 Ancient Greece & Rome
  • Rehmus Family Gallery: Native American Art
  • Carolyn Wiedmann Reller Gallery: Ancient Americas

In the aforementioned spaces Cantor presents:

  • 1,500 artworks on view in 24 galleries
  • Collections spanning 5,000 years and the world’s cultures
  • Special changing exhibitions
  • Largest collection of Rodin Bronze outside Paris
  • More than 75 outdoor sculptures throughout campus



Our tour guide mentioned Cantor is a place with, “a little bit of everything for a little bit of everyone”.  She made an effort to highlight a specific point, “this museum is primarily for adults, not children.”  The story lines for exhibits are written for three adult audiences: 1) The Novice, 2) The Knows Something, and 3) The Knows A Lot.  Cantor organizes programs for area families in the form of films, lectures, concerts, and other types of programming.  Additionally, she mentioned the museum was built to educate Stanford students about The Stanford Family.

Modes of Learning @ Cantor:

  • Passive Recipient Learning via exhibitions and story labels.IMG_20130521_134205 IMG_20130521_230604 (1)
  • Learning through the use of technology.



  • Learning by Interaction with Museum Docent/Specialist.IMG_20130521_134938 IMG_20130521_145142
  • Learning by way of the ART PACK


REFLECTIONS:  I have visited Cantor approximately four times in the last 10 years, and with the exception of the Changing Exhibitions I remember identical displays.  Cantor is quite large, comparable in size to many famous museums around the country.  While I appreciate the eclectic nature of this museum I cannot ignore the issues regarding authenticity when s0 many artifacts are on display.  The Museum Education Specialist stated that Cantor employs five curators and 5-6 preparators who assist with the process of Exhibit Installation.  Five distinct continents with hundreds of diverse cultures are represented in Cantor, not to mention the occasional traveling exhibits.  Is it possible for an institution with a staff of approximately 13 museum personnel to possess the encyclopedic knowledge required to personify hundreds of artifacts and cultures?  Museums are interesting learning spaces often lacking the appropriate resources for basic needs, and much less funding for creative and thought-provoking learning.  Furthermore, what gets displayed and whose stories are told in museums is narrowly determined by select few (Boards of Trustees and Donors).  I continue to have mixed feelings about museums small and large.

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Cantor Arts Center Visit – Field Notes

Author:  Su Huang
Event:  Site Visit to Cantor Arts Center
Date of event:  Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Time of event:  1:15pm-3:00pm
Place:  Cantor Arts Center on Stanford University campus
Date of record:  Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Physical layout:  The Cantor Arts Center is an art museum constructed in the neo-classical style that opened to the public in 1894.  Situated on the Stanford University campus, the museum was originally meant to house and showcase objects of artistic and cultural interest collected by the Stanford family, especially Leland Jr.  The building was updated and extended throughout the 1900s after earthquakes, with the most recent restoration and new wing added in 1995.  The main entrance of the museum opens onto a large white marble atrium topped by a huge ceiling skylight through which natural light streams into the atrium.  Deborah Butterfield’s statue of a mare (cast in bronze that’s made to look like driftwood) stands in the far right corner of the atrium, and represents a fitting introduction to the eclectic and thought-provoking pieces in the museum.  The atrium leads into many different spaces where collections are organized by theme (Stanford Family Collections, Richard Misrach’s haunting photographs of the South, Rodin statues, African and Egyptian art, etc).  While each room is organized by theme, there seems to be no organized way in which the rooms flow into each other – for instance, the Stanford Family Collection flows into the more modern photography of Misrach; a room housing Rodin statues abuts a wing housing Arts of Africa.  Indeed, there is a surprise around every corner and the ad hoc feel of the physical layout supports the learning goal and strength of the museum as having “a little something for everyone.”  Outside of the museum, the layout seems much more deliberate as the front doors of Cantor open to look onto Bing Concert Hall, with the whole area intended as a world-class performing arts center at Stanford.

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Users of the space:  The eclectic nature of the museum’s items is purposeful; it is a way for the museum to appeal to a wide audience from adults to children.  Unlike other museums, Cantor Arts Center has a distinct “lack of rules” feel – there are no audio guides to explain pieces, objects are not numbered, textual descriptions are brief, and the flow of the rooms suggests a fluidity to art as classic flows into modern into antiquity and back to modern again.  As our guide explained, “we don’t like to tell people what to see and how to interpret it.”  As a first-time user in the space, I certainly found this lack of organization and definition refreshing – the sheer surprise of turning a corner and seeing Robert Arneson’s Assassination of a Famous Nut Artist made me stop dead in my tracks and slllooowwww dowwwnnn, as is the goal of the museum.  Does this fluidity to the layout, this somewhat discombobulated arrangement of art work for everyone though?  I find it hard to imagine that it works for one set of users – the children whom the museum recently started targeting after hiring a family programs coordinator.  Do teachers and parents really appreciate Arneson’s piece suggesting divorce, depression and suicide starring little elementary school kids in the face?  Does the lack of textual explanation and audio guides sufficiently serve the purpose of teachers bringing in groups of students to learn about different disciplines in art?  I understand the museum’s position on no censorship, but it does bring questions to my mind about whether the museum has really thought through the needs of the users that it says it intends to serve, or perhaps the museum is making its own point – that the meaning of art should be in the eye of the beholder! 


Activities in the space:  Besides observing art, other activities that occur in the space include various family programs for Stanford as well as the general public, art classes (in the studio workshop) for Stanford students, and performances (Party on the Edge).  I also loved all the spaces in the museum clearly designated for sitting and pondering such as the library nook in the Stanford Family Collection room and the table and chairs in the Misrach photography room.  Interactive learning also happens in the space as I noticed computers in the African and Egyptian arts room.  In that same room, there was also a wall of newspaper clippings on archeology in the same room.

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How the space supports learning:  As discussed above, I believe that the space supports learning through the ad hoc layout of rooms and the eclectic nature of the collection (which generated an element of “surprise” that slowed down my journey throughout the museum).  Many of the pieces were very unique and thought-provoking encouraging further observation.  It is also important to note what wasn’t in the space (guides, lengthy textual descriptions) as well as what was (nooks and areas for sitting) to encourage self-reflection on the museum’s eclectic collection. 

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Author: Tyler Fitzgerald

Event: SUL North Site Visit

Date of event: 5.14.2013

Time of event: 1:15 PM – 3:00 PM

Place: Former GSB and future SUL North construction site

Date of record: 5.15.2013

Encina Hall and the just rising tower of Toyon Hall.

Encina Hall and the just rising tower of Toyon Hall.


At some point in our tour of the emerging Stanford Libraries North, amid the clang of hard work, our guide made a remark along these lines. When doing a renovation you work with things that can’t be changed, walls that can’t be moved.

Stanford ca 2009 (before the new engineering quad)

Stanford ca 2009 (before the new engineering quad)

    Inheriting Old Structures
A wall which cannot be torn down.

A wall which cannot be torn down.

There are in fact literal walls inside of the shell of the old GSB building that cannot be moved without costing millions of dollars, which is yet another type of wall. Certainly there are many restrictions on Stanford Libraries’ new acquired building: large concrete columns that are hauntingly reminiscent of Meyer, solid walls which block all passage of light, an amphitheater with a flexible floor, a slew of building codes, safety concerns, and little surprises (like unexpected pipes) left off the building plans.

Pipes which were not listed in the building plans but were found hidden in walls by the main entrance.

Pipes which were not listed in the building plans but were found hidden in walls by the main entrance.

These concerns are not just aesthetic but some are tied to critical design choices like furniture placement and location of electrical outlets that can potentially create a welcoming and useful study place. How does SUL deal with this rigid inflexibility of prior structures?

    Forming New Meaning
Somewhere between plans for the old GSB and SUL North.

Somewhere between plans for the old GSB and SUL North.

To combat the baggage brought on by inheritance I believe that the Stanford Libraries have taken a page from the School of Design.

The resilience and tenacity of our guide, Beth, seemed to rise over even the loudest machinery. She spoke carefully and fluidly, often punctuating a sentence or two with “I think”. She did not make normative assessments about her choice to have open study spaces with few closed off offices. She often just merely highlighted features.

Beth believes that living in an inherited space means learning to be flexible. She showed clear and earnest interest in tracking the results of her changes and recounted how she dealt fluidly with a company’s choice to add a storage place, reducing the size of one the planned study rooms by a third.

She remembered the phone booth people often used to take phone calls in Meyer (cell phone calls of course). She decided some of the extra space would be for storage and the rest of it would be for a small room to take phone calls and was also ADA compliant.

Though not the ideal solution, or the planned one, it is clear that the design adjusts to the needs of both students and building codes. While some might claim that this might be impossible (a huge research and communication burden), I would ask if they could name any other process that would guarantee student and university stakeholders in a building.

One of the flexible classrooms in Meyer with a good deal of natural light and furniture that is not locked to the wall.

One of the flexible classrooms in Meyer with a good deal of natural light and furniture that is not locked to the wall.

    A Focus on the Natural (At the Risk of Tearing Down a Few Walls)
Making Windows in a concrete wall, the power of construction.

Making Windows in a concrete wall, the power of construction.

The design of the new Stanford Libraries North does not only hinge on the ability to flexibly inherit the space but also a genuine drive to create a naturalistic and not closed off space. Beth wants to create a safe study space which has a design influenced by contemporary research on the influence of natural light. It was clear that even the walls surrounding the GSB would have to come down in some places for this natural light.


With these two distinct goals, a desire to be fluid and a strong pedagogical belief (that is: natural environments encourage studying and comfort) the design of SUL North is a work that attempts to marry change and tradition. It seeks to find how to use old material to make new and compelling structures. This is only accomplished through clear communication and transparency between those who are building something and those who are designing it. I think that I saw this type of synthesis much more at the SUL North site than any of the other buildings.

The DevCon project manager explaining some of the structural logistics.

The DevCon project manager explaining some of the structural logistics.

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D.School Field Notes (Katie)

Author: Katie O’Mahoney
Event: D. School Site Visit
Date of event: 5.8.2013
Time of event: 1:30pm-3:15pm
Place: D. School, Stanford University
Date of record: 5.9.2013

Booth Noir and Booth Blanc

These two rooms are set back in a corner of the and are one of the few places that encourage and accomodate to working independently.  The rooms are small and are meant to make you feel as if you are entering a separate space from the rest of the building, a “micro-retreat space.”  Green footprints on the floor encourage you to take off your shoes, pushing you to take a deliberate action to stop, think, and be aware that you’re entering a new space, and new mindset.

Although we weren’t able to see inside Booth Noir, it was described as having no whiteboards, no outlets, and low lighting.  The retreat-like space is further emphasized by heavy cedar furniture, (which also adds a relaxed aroma) and has frosted glass doors, making it difficult to see inside.  It’s meant to evoke a quiet study space, which is in drastic contrast to the collaborative, energetic and communal spaces of the rest of the building.

Booth Blanc is a completely white room, that invokes ideation and creation.  The white floor blends with the three walls that are floor to ceiling whiteboards; the fourth wall contains an exterior window letting in natural light.  The furniture is light, movable, and playful, and includes a large red ball for sitting/bouncing.  The space would only comfortably fit one to two people, again emphasizing the independent nature of these spaces.  These escapes provide a place to reflect and think on your own, outside of your team and class.

Huddle Rooms 

There are three “huddle rooms” located on the first floor of the building and are adjacent to the workspace for permanent employees of the  These rooms have at least one glass wall that looks out onto this workspace, creating a juxtaposition between the workspace and active space of the classrooms.  This emphasizes the continual visual interaction and engagement between different spaces in the building, while still creating acoustic barriers that allow for focus and separation.

The room we were in had one whiteboard partitioned wall (that could be collapsed to create a larger space), one glass wall (with the door), a glass garage door that could open up to the larger lobby space, and a final wall with an interior window to the atrium.  The floor is concrete, keeping with the industrial aesthetic of the building and the focus on ideation and creation, rather than cleanliness and permanency.

A variety of high and low benches are clustered throughout the room.  These padded benches are red, blue, and green, and stand in stark contrast to the glass/white walls of the room.  These splashes of color follow the theme of the, of placing “small amounts of highly saturated color” throughout the building to “perk people up.”  The benches are light and movable, allowing for users to quickly rearrange the room to accommodate its immediate use.  They also provided flexibility in how the users choose to be in the room; up high with feet dangling off the edge, low down with feet steady on the floor, kneeling, or standing, leaning against the benches.  However, they do not seem to be designed for extended periods of sitting, playing into the active nature of the class.  I suspect that the room could comfortable fit about 30 people, although this is a rough estimation.


The furniture of the is very deliberate.  In most spaces (such as the Studios and Huddle Rooms) the furniture is light and easy to move (even the couches have wheels).  Before each class, it is stowed, or rearranged in a position that forces the instructor to engage with the room and be thoughtful about the classroom setup.  The furniture is meant to “challenge the behavior of instructors and students,” providing them with everything they need in in the most efficient way possible.  In the studios, there are collection of stools and chairs, totaling 52, in order to accomodate the professors, as well as the 12 teams of four that the pedagogy informs.  The furniture allows for many transitions, activities, and group work to occur both inside and outside of class time.  It adapts to the pedagogical style of working on teams, doing activities and learning through exploration.  The furniture also encourages student interaction and movement, as it is not incredibly comfortable, and the table tops will not accomodate multiple computers.  Therefore, students are forced to move, talk and work with another, creating a dynamic classroom experience.  However, this is in great contrast to the common areas, where the furniture is heavier because it is not meant to be moved or rearranged to the same degree.

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D.School Field Notes (Althea)

Notes by Althea Wallop

Educ303X Designing Learning Spaces Class Tour

D.School at Stanford University

1:30-3:30pm on 5/8/2013

Date of Record: 5/9/2013

Since Katie, Taryn, and I partitioned out the field notes, I’ll be talking about the Atrium and the Signage aspects of the tour. Upon walking into the, one of the first things you’ll notice is the minimalist approach. However, unlike the (also minimalist) GSB, the feels more like a mix between a warehouse, a garage, and an architecture studio — it’s a place designed for collaboration, thinking, and getting your hands dirty. The concrete floors, neutral stone walls, metal staircase, modern, steel (rather than plush) furniture, unfinished ceilings, and cheeky signage all foster this vibe.

The culture of the is present implicitly and explicitly immediately in the atrium. Our guide, Scott, spent a significant amount of time discussing this culture. One phrase he used that seemed to be exceptionally suitable was “prototype, pivot, iterate,” which really seems to encompass the space’s cyclical environment. It seems like the space, the people, and the ideas in the are always updating; it’s a “here is not done” mentality. This notion is even present in the fact that the is on its 5th iteration as a space already — and still not finished. Scott described the space as a picnic as opposed to fine dining.

In order to sustain this constantly changing environment, it is vital that the space be as flexible as possible. Scott mentioned finding the minimum number of “props” (things in the space like furniture, whiteboards, etc.) that allow for the maximum number of permutations for use. In other words, students, researchers, professors, and visitors (the main users of the space) need to have sufficient tools to work, but not too much “stuff” that they don’t know how to use it, and they need the flexibility to use it for different purposes (which may be quite varied).

A good example of this multi-purpose mentality is the projector in the atrium. The atrium serves mainly as a preliminary meeting spot, an entry into the atmosphere (both physically and culturally), and a large space with a giant projector against the concrete wall (see picture).

The deliberate signage is also multi-purpose: it reflects the’s productive and creative culture, helps to make the space less formal, is easily changed/updated, and helps guide behavior in the such a flexible space. The signage is usually in the strongest contrasting pair, black and white, with bold, square font usually expressing motivational mottos or instructions (or both!). For example, Scott discussed how the has used the “reset before you go” signage to encourage people using the space to clean-up after their work, enforcing a behavioral norm that may not be evident given the studio atmosphere. Scott also discussed how signs like these serve as a confrontational buffer, allowing users to feel justified in their complaints if a space is messy and have the confidence to say something directly to the perpetrator. Similarly, the signage, in contrast with the Stanford Standard Signage, is cut in vinyl allowing for flexibility, customizability, and efficiency in this constantly changing space. See pictures below for more examples.

So far, I’ve mostly discussed ways in which the culture was designed to facilitate learning, and how this is reflected in the space. Despite this effort, there are a few things left about the space that could potentially inhibit learning. The warehouse feel could come across as too bare, which might stifle creativity to some of the more artistic types. Furthermore, some people may find the pressure to collaborate, the constant movement, and not-so-subtle motivation to be moving and making at all times overwhelming, which may actually inhibit learning for those sensitive types prone to overstimulation. On a final note, though, in an attempt to help d.schoolers feel ownership of their space, certain areas have been given their own, though slightly hidden, personal touch (read: disco-themed women’s restroom, complete with hot pink walls and mirror-balls).

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D.School Field Notes (Studio 1, Bay Studio, Prototyping/Makery)

Author: Taryn Peacock
Event: D. School Site Visit
Date of event: 5.8.2013
Time of event: 1:30pm-3:15pm
Place: D. School, Stanford University
Date of record: 5.9.2013

­Studio 1

photo 1

Physical Layout: During the site visit we were only able to view Studio 1 from the adjacent hallway. On the other side of the large wall of windows was a group of students, centered in the room among 4 medium-sized red couches positioned to face each other. The room looked quite large, though we were informed that it actually had a lower ceiling and a more “cozy, theatrical” feel than it’s sister studio, Studio 2. The same hard, un-carpeted floor existed in Studio 1 making it feel like a genuine continutation of the rest of the D.School. One wall, painted a bright, bold, orange, contrasted with the other muted grey walls. On one side of the room lived several movable vertical whiteboards and the opposing side was home to some T-walls, purple walls that look like a “T” from an overhead view that consist of one purple surface and two whiteboards that form the bottom stem of the “T”. Also found amongst the wall were a stack of lightweight, plastic, white chairs and a few square tables as horizontal work surfaces. Also in the room was a large “Reset” sign which outlined the protocol for how to reset the room to it’s original state before leaving the studio.

People & Activities: Both Studios are used mostly as classroom spaces in the d.School. D.School faculty and professors, as well as professors from other departments and disciplines can enter and space and set up the seating and work spaces as they see fit for the students. Many classes in the d.School are team taught so there may be several professors occupying the studio at any one class time. The students who use this space come from a variety of disciplines, as well. Both undergraduate and graduate students can be found taking courses in this room.

The studio space is intended to be flexible to allow for the different types of activities that take place in the room. At one point during the class there may be a traditional lecture taking place with the professor standing in front of the students speaking. Later there may be individual or, more likely, team-based activities that require students to work together and use the whiteboards.

Aside from professors and students, this studio is sometimes used as a breakout room for conferences or other large events happening in the d.School.

Reflections: Studio 1 supports learning in a variety of ways. The simple layout and set-up of the room allow for it to be configured in ways to accommodate different sizes of groups and different types of activities. One thing that really stood out to me was when the tour guide mentioned specifically the lack of focus on technology in Studio 1, which forces both professors and students to work together and consider other types of solutions for problems.

Bay Studio

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Physical Layout: First walking into the Bay Studio are can be both exciting and overwhelming at the same time. The first thing the eye sees are whiteboards EVERYWHERE. They are decorated with sketches and brightly colored post-it notes. The Bay Studio is a large, rectangular studio. Along one side is a large, open walkway. The other side is student work space. The Bay Studio was described by our tour guide as a pop-up studio, of sorts. It consists of several high tables and backless stools. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the physical layout is the use of whiteboards. Whiteboards on movable rails allow for both vertical workspace as well as barriers to divide the large studio space into more intimate work spaces. Wooden jacks attached to the ceiling can also be used to hang whiteboards. Small signs exist with memes showing students how to label and store their work so that it is available to them in the future. Dividing the tables from the walkway is an area used to stow and display yet even more white boards. There is also a large wall of windows overlooking the Atrium below.

People & Activities: The Bay Studio is used mainly as a student workspace. Our guide informed us that over 700 students use the d.School throughout the year. It would be impossible to create space for each individual student, class, or project group in the building. Thus, the Bay Studio is a space for individual students or groups to come, brainstorm, begin prototyping, do need-finding, etc.

Reflections: This room has everything that a team centered on brainstorming and conversation could need. I absolutely love how bright and colorful the room is. I think that all of the white board space and the concept of displaying and storing student work at the same time is fascinating. Perhaps, however, to a student who is not used to taking classes in the d.School this space could be overwhelming; I did not notice any large explicit signage for protocol on how to “reset” the room as there was in Studio 1. This could potentially make the space too messy or chaotic to work in if individuals are not responsible in cleaning up their own space.

Prototyping Room/Makery

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Physical Layout: The Prototyping Room/Makery is almost a small subset of the Bay Studio. Half of it actually seems to be a part of the larger studio space, whereas the other half—the Makery—exists behind another glass wall and door. It is a smaller area but has a very active, high-energy vibe. In the space are several high-tables for working, but very few stools. The highlight of the room are several movable racks of prototyping materials. These racks contain white buckets, each filled with cardboard, foam board, foil, scissors, staplers, glue, paper, cotton balls, pipe cleaners, and a multitude of other craft supplies.

Behind the glass door, the Makery is a smaller, square shaped room. It feels very wooden and crafty. Along the wall are wooden shelves stacked with different tools—hammers, drills, goggles, etc. In the middle of the room are several tables and chairs for students to sit and work at. There appeared to be another small room with even more prototyping materials, but we were unable to see this area on the tour.

People & Activities: Much like the Bay Studio, the Prototyping Room/Makery is used as a student workspace. The same students who might begin working together in the Bay Studio may at some point move to the Prototyping Room/Makery. As the name suggests, this is an area designed specifically for the process of prototyping and making items/ideas/products. Students use all of the supplies in the area to create and re-create very basic prototypes of their designs before further exploring the viability of their design.

Reflections: Simply seeing all of the materials, crafts, and supplies in this room made me want to create something. The students who were using this space were energetic and interactive with each other, rarely sitting down and always adding or taking away from their prototypes. At first I found the lack of chairs in the room to be problematic, but I believe that it influences students to be more hands-on with their approach and less concerned with perfection.

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Field Notes: Li Ka Shing Center, 4/30

Author: Alex Kindel
Event: LKSC site visit
Date of event: 4/30/13
Time of event: 1:15pm to 3:15pm
Place: Li Ka Shing Center, Stanford School of Medicine
Date of record: 4/30/13

LKSC image

LKSC (image from Stanford RD&E)

First impressions

My first thought was that the building really stands out as you approach it. It’s set in the middle of two older-looking buildings, which are about the same height but don’t have nearly the same presence as LKSC. I attributed that to the oversized red roof hanging over the top, which casts a significant shadow on the side of the building facing the sun. I also noticed more people hanging out outside near LKSC than at any of the surrounding buildings, and I overheard a couple of conversations about (what I assumed was) medical research in passing as I entered the building.


Room LK120

The first room we sat in was the smaller lecture hall. (We spent half of our time in here, so I took a lot of notes on the particulars of the space.) It was arranged in a case study format:

LK120 image

LK120 (image from

The color selection stood out to me—I wasn’t sure if I liked it. The room was lined with blue-gray soundproofing; similarly, the tables, carpet, and ceiling were all some shade of gray. The only color to speak of (besides the exit signs) was on the seat cushions, which were mostly red-orange. On a related note, the lighting was a little harsh. There were no windows, and the artificial lights were bright white; this contributed to the overall lack of warmth in the room’s color scheme. This room strongly contrasted the GSB case study room we visited earlier, down to the presence of trash cans in the back of the room. It felt like the room was designed for focus: it was very easy to pay attention to the presentation because there was virtually nothing else in sight. The embedded microphones and relatively low ceiling also contributed to that feeling for me.

I was intrigued by the similarities between the room control interfaces at LKSC and the GSB. There was a strong emphasis on “ease of use,” which seemed to be related to their struggles with getting professors to update to newer technologies. The interface only had 5 or 6 well-labeled buttons, and the desktop for the display had its wallpaper set to a list of instructions, which I found intriguing.  I was astounded that they’d only switched to Power Point presentations in 2004. On the topic of technology: the emphasis on facilitating distance learning was extremely interesting to me. We were told that video feeds from any classroom could be routed to any other classroom, and that all classrooms were set up for easy video recording; I found that choice reflective of their emphasis on the hybrid learning approach.


Room LK130

We moved in and out of this room pretty quickly, but it was fairly similar to LK120. Some notable differences included the color of the walls (orange, not blue-gray) and the length of the room (standing in the back, I felt very separate from the lectern and boards in the front).


Bookstore/Cafe and Hallways

The café/bookstore area on the first floor was a refreshing change from the closed-in classrooms: there were entire walls of windows that let in a lot of natural light, and the spaces were lined with seating and tables. I was surprised by the number of people who were actually using these spaces for studying and relaxing. The building and its spaces felt well-used. The spaces were also prominently filled with varying kinds of visual art, including sculptures and paintings/reproductions. The variety was highly eclectic, especially on the student floor.


Room LK102

We peeked into one of the seminar rooms briefly—the lighting looked warmer than the lecture rooms, and the projections on two walls seemed to take attention off of the professor and onto the content (It was hard to tell if my intuitions about what the space was like were accurate because we couldn’t actually go inside—it was a little bit like watching a video.)


Room LK208

The second seminar room we saw had enormous windows and a ceiling I estimated at 12 feet tall. The chairs and tables were arranged in a miniature case style (in two rings), although the inner ring seemed a little awkward because there were only a few chairs (the majority of the ~30 seats were in the outer ring). They had gone through extra trouble to mount and stabilize the projector due to the design of the room. The room was lined with whiteboards, and was stocked with pens.


Conference Room

The conference room was enormous—it could be partitioned into three sections, each around twice as large as LK208. Each section had retractable bleachers and a number of movable tables/chairs. The rooms were filled with artificial foliage (bushes, trees). There was someone in one of the sections when we were in there; he appeared to be studying, which contributed to the feeling of usage in the room.


Fourth Floor

The student spaces on the fourth floor were very well-used as well. There were a number of students eating and/or working outside on the patio, which was surprisingly cool considering the heat outside. There was an expansive view of campus and the surrounding hills from the balcony, and the rooms next to the balcony all had windows, presumably to take advantage of the view. The spaces indoors were fairly quiet, and most of the students seemed to be either quietly working or taking a break by resting or eating. There were some spaces where a couple of students were having a conversation or studying collaboratively, although it was hard to tell because most of the group activities were happening in study rooms behind closed doors. The vending machines were filled with somewhat healthier snacks than the usual vending machine fare; I immediately associated this with an emphasis on health, but it’s equally possible that the students simply preferred these kinds of snacks.


Immersive Learning Center

My first impression of the ILC was that I was walking into an actual clinic: walking into the “waiting room” immediately immersed me in the scene. There were some teaching dummies on display (I recognized one of them from a Radiohead album cover, which was a weird experience). We walked into the exam room, which was strikingly similar to a real exam room, including its smell and the furniture. The only differences were strictly related to pedagogical purposes: a second door with a two-way mirror, cameras on the ceiling, and a copy of the honor code posted on the door. The inclusion of the honor code was interesting to me—it didn’t seem likely that anyone would really read it during a simulated lesson, so I inferred that it was there as a reminder for how students are expected to conduct themselves in the space.

Sim OR image

Simulation OR (image from

The control room and green room appeared highly sophisticated, although I wish I could have seen them in use. There was a very detailed script on a whiteboard in the control room that had instructions/cues for actors and students, and there were computers for instructors to observe and tag learning as it was occurring in the exam rooms. We also saw the simulation operating room, which was a lifelike (?) replica of the real thing (I’ve never been in a real operating room, so I can’t say for sure). Interestingly, this simulation room afforded many kinds of situations for many kinds of medical professional; a student could be playing the role of an anesthesiologist in a situation where the oxygen supply was cut off, or they could be responsible for monitoring vital signs on a display and communicating what they were seeing to other professionals (confederates) in the operating room. We were told that a virtual reality computer lab had been planned for the ILC, but it seemed to me that the simulation OR was more interesting regardless.

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The visit to the school was an eye opener –we spent ~45 min walking around the school grounds, then ~45 minutes chatting with the principal of the school. To recap: the school had gotten coverted to “alternative” status in the 1970s, and is now drawn around a few core philosophies: kids are not “subordinates” but partner in learning, mistakes are teachable moments, focus on whole child and social emotional learning (both reactive and proactive), students making conscious decisions (e.g. no bells), multi-age classroom where the older kids can teach the younger, strong professional development, and in general: bringing the joy back into learning. The school runs on the APA funding formula, and is heavily funded by grants through Partners in Education.
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The physical space struck me as surprisingly similar to other elementary schools that are more “traditional” -the layout of the place looks familiar: classrooms on the side, open field with sports and outdoor space, auditorium meeting room…etc. There is a school garden that is integrated into the curriculum, though that is not uncommon in many Bay Area elementary schools now following a surge in grants in this area (though Ohlone is unique in how much the curriculum is tied in to project-based learning at the garden, and in the more elaborate kids-owned projects such as the “Redwood City” concept).
It is perhaps the human system overlay over the space that is unique: no bells, first names, students taking care of the place and making conscious choices. Having multi-use spaces such as the auditorium or the garden gazebo help maximize spaces could be turned intowhere people sit in a circle facing each other for maximum social-emotional engagement.
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During the visit, I also thought about a few tensions:


  • Often times progressive education gets criticized for creating a “bubble” in which people get sheltered. Invariably they will need to get out at some point and meet other people who did not grow up the way the whole-child students did
  • Do the social-emotional training these kids received help them navigate the larger world? or do they retreat into niche communities? are they better-adjusted or maladjusted for the real world?


  • It make sense that this would work for a self-selecting group of highly educated, high-income parents in Palo Alto. If a kid at Ohlone falls behind in basic reading and math, you can bet that the parent(s) will drill with the kid at home to get them ready. It takes a certain level of socio-economic status to live in Palo Alto, and an even higher bar of level of conscientiousness in the parent to make a choice to send their kid to a school with this particular philosophy
  • Can this work in a community where 99% of this learning must happen in school, or it wont happen at all? Can you take a kid who doesnt get read to at home and still take a whole child approach at school?
  • Ultimately: is whole-child education a luxury for the well-to-do parents who are looking to get their kids even further ahead with socioemotional skills while keeping them happy and thriving, or is it an option that can be and should be realistically extended to all kids?

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