Redesign a Common Space
Objective: Students will use observation and user interviews to redesign a common space in their school.
Tools/Materials Required: Minecraft or Paint 3D; Use other tools as necessary
Depth of Knowledge: Strategic Thinking
Teacher’s notes are in purple. For the student’s version, see Redesign a Common Space Student Guide.
Prepare: Learn about the key ideas in this project
In this activity, you will use observation and user interviews to redesign a common space in your school. You will start by selecting a common space and deconstructing its parts and interactions. You will then interview users to discover on how they interact with the space. Finally, you will use your findings from both examining the common space and the user interviews to prototype a version of the space that meets the needs of those who use it.
This activity is inspired by the design thinking routine Parts, People, Interactions, and the global movement of young people using Minecraft to redesign public spaces in their communities. Minecraft is a game in which you can build block-based infrastructure, spaces, and environments in virtual worlds (the education edition is linked here. Some students may have access to the enterprise version at home). If you do not have Minecraft, you can do this activity with Paint 3D.
Prepare for this activity by reflecting on what makes a common space welcoming and user-friendly for everyone who interacts with it. Are there common spaces in your school that can be made friendlier for all of its users?
Practice: Try as many activities to as you would like to build your skills
Practice the Parts, People, Interactions thinking routine to familiarize yourself with the questions in this activity.
Exercise your interviewing skills in the activity What Makes You Happy?
Explore building in Minecraft. If you are new to Minecraft, download a free trial here. Once you have entered the game, Minecraft will take you through a beginner’s tutorial.
Produce: Dig into the project and make it your own!
Redesign a common space in your school, such as the school playground, library, cafeteria, gym, auditorium or any other common space with a variety of people using it.
Find a common space and answer the following questions to deconstruct it:
- What are the parts of the common space?
- Who are the people connected to the common space?
- How do the people in the common space interact with each other and with the parts of the space?
- How does a change in one element of the common space affect the various parts and people connected to the space?
Record your observations and answers to the questions above.
Be sure to interview users to understand their experiences in the common space. Brainstorm questions that will help reveal the way people feel in the space, what they use it for, how they interact with others in the space, any pain points in use of the space, and so on. The people you interview can also validate any assumptions made from your observations in the deconstruction exercise. Remind students they should speak with students outside of their friend group, teachers, faculty, and other users to get a comprehensive view of how the space is used.
Once you have collected notes from the deconstruction exercise and from user interviews, brainstorm how you might redesign the common space. You can focus on redesigning one aspect of the space or many aspects. It may be helpful to have students create a problem statement similar to step four in the Backpack Project to figure out what they want to design.
Then, go out and make your prototype! Emphasize to students that their prototypes do not need to be high fidelity. It is more important that students understand and communicate what they are redesigning, why they are redesigning it, and the impact the redesign will have on the space and its users. When you are happy with what you have created, share your design with the users of the space. What feedback do they have to offer on your prototype? Interview them to discover what works and what could be designed differently, then revise your prototype as needed.
Once students complete their prototypes, ask them to reflect on this activity. A few questions for reflection:
- What was the most challenging part of this activity?
- How was the information you gained from the deconstruction exercise different from or similar to the information you learned from the user interviews?
- Did you learn new information that surprised you? If so, what was it?
- Do you have ideas for how this activity could be applied to other spaces and environments in your community?
Produced by Digital Promise Global, with thanks to the Open Educational Resources listed throughout this guide. Distributed to Learning Studios schools as part of HP, Inc. and Microsoft’s Reinvent the Classroom.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. You may share this project or modified versions of it under this same license.