Social School Design

New learning spaces for a new generation

During my recent stateside mini-tour I delivered a couple of sessions at the CEFPI World Conference for leading school design, in San Jose (got the highest feedback rating for all speakers—whoop whoop) plus an internal masterclass in Santa Monica for DLR Group, a school design architectural firm.

Been thinking about this sector from a social media perspective ever since and wanted to offer a mind-dump of thoughts and insights plus some curated content to extend the conversation (note : for the purpose of this post school design means the physical buildings plus the pedagogical approaches in those spaces as well) :

Social Media. So What?

Social media augments and embellishes your current operations.

It’s a tool (or a set of) to not only save time and money but also to enable practitioners build better learning spaces.

How? Read on…

Conversational design

Conversations drive social media spaces.

Conversations drive design processes.

Not one of the school architectural firms or companies I met had a blog. Now I’m not claiming a blog is a panacea for all social media efforts but if I ran a design firm in this space a blog would provide an opportunity to feature stuff like Joshua Prince-Ramus TED talk. Here he details the processes behind the building of the Central Library in Seattle, thus producing a perfect catalyst for discussion (internally and/or externally) :

Of course I would be featuring and talking about our own designs and the process relating to them, but the blog would also feature stuff like’s: The 6 Best Blogs For Architectural & Interior Design Ideas and’s: Architecture resource to broaden the debate and inform myself and others that there are more examples of innovation outside the industry than in it .

During the previous mentioned sessions I also showed the participants many online conversations about their specific school designs which none of them knew about. Highlighted how architectural students, studying today, were featuring and discussing the agencies work on their own study blogs. How random people were taking photos of their buildings and adding them to related learning environment groups on Flickr. Illustrating that students were making videos about their learning spaces. This video from the UTSA College of Architecture on Why My School Rocks illustrates the point perfectly.

All online. Transparent. Sharable. With lots of opportunities for conversation and engagement (through the commenting functions of these spaces).

Technology Is Disappearing

Into itself.

Most of the gadgets we have around us today will merge into the fabric of our surroundings, such as the walls, the furniture, the mirrors, windows etc. and when that happens, our offices, homes and school spaces will look very different :

And here’s those clever chaps / lasses at IDEO and their take on the future of the humble book :

This is not a show and tell about the future but more a reminding kick in the pants as it’s happening now. Augmented reality apps like the one below will quickly start to make interactive whiteboards obsolete (are we still going to ask the kids to put their phones away for classes when it can do things like this?) :

Multiple Uses For Online Spaces

Watch The Seven Spaces of Technology in School Environments :

As he brilliantly describes in his ‘extra space’, data is becoming a new fertile ground for exploration and creation. To illustrate this check out the Education Nation Scorecard which allows parents in America to check out how different K-12 schools measure up in their area :

And what happens when someone develops a similar site to that of Rate My Teacher, this time focussing on the school environment, with the students themselves crowdsourcing the content with pictures and videos and insights into the spaces they are using five days a week plus rating it? (Anybody want to partner in making this a reality?)

Internal vs External

Again, from talking with many industry folk hardly any of them are using platforms such as Google Docs, Skype, Wikis, internal / private blogs (as digital scrapbooks or team development spaces) etc.

All potential collaborative spaces to work more effectively.

Schools Are Interfering With Education

Bold claim?

Watch :

(Maybe I should’ve just embedded this video as the whole blog post and be done with it).

The end users of the school design process have the means and mechanisms to communicate their thoughts and create content globally and instantly. They can access vast amounts of information through devices they have in their pockets and it’s only going to get more ubiquitous, cheaper and quicker.

That’s the line in the sand. That’s your starting point. That’s the challenge.

It’s Not All Doom And Gloom

There is an amazing amount of good stuff happening out there, like Bosch & Fjord’s 21st Century School on the Cutting Edge of Learning and plus our previous podcastee Sir Ken Robinson doing his thing with a little help from RSAnimate:

And the British Council for School Environments recently launching their Free Schools Thinking: Places and Spaces for Teaching and Learning report (below), co-developed and supported by five of the UK’s leading architect firms :


We can all agree that not including the end users (students) in the design process is bonkers (what, in my old youth work days, they called ‘participation’ and which we now call conversation), this blog post does not argue this case as most school design agencies are all over it.

Instead it’s more a rallying cry around the emergence and continual shift social spaces and technology now offers. An ever moving target for school designers to lock their targets on.

We’ve already seem some noticeable adoptees : universities are using geo-location apps to better acquiant new students to their campus, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation getting involved in prepare high school students for college.

The biggest takeaway from the recent stateside sessions was a school design architect saying : “wouldn’t it be cool if we blogged the whole process of designing and building a school, like every bit of it”—YES IT WOULD but more importantly why wouldn’t you?!?!?

The final and last word goes to scifi writer source) :

I think that our grandchildren will probably regard the distinction we make between what we call the real world and what they think of as simply the world as the quaintest and most incomprehensible thing about us.

What do you think?

Related post : School Design And Digital Content Strategies

How Social Media ROI Materialises

The digital breadcrumbs in action

Here I am speaking via skype at the TEDxAmsterdam event back in July 2010.

I was invited by Pim Betist (the more handsome chap in the photo) to suggest and introduce my favourite TED talk which was then played (it was Simon Sinek and his Start With Why talk which has had a huge impact on us).

The opportunity arose after Pim tweeted out the day before that he was looking for anyone to fulfil this request—I basically put my digital handup with a reply as was free.

Pim and I met at the Trends In Kids and Youth Marketing conference in Amsterdam where we both spoke. I also did a vodcast with him about his funky company Africa Unsigned.

Got the conference gig after Ab Kujer suggested me as a speaker plus the agency exploring booking me read our little publication Zen And The Heart Of Social Media.

Ab runs Junior Senior whom we’ve done a little work with (and who’s just about to publish his first book, Think Small, Grow Big).

Ab first contacted me after seeing our MediaSnackers explained video years ago and we’ve stayed in contact since forming a great friendship over these past couple of years.

Cool, huh?

The digital world is overlapping the real world, offering us loads of digital breadcrumbs to follow and creating opportunities to connect to others like no other time in our history.

And still people doubt the ROI on it…

Asking The Right (Social Media) Questions

To get the right answers

We get asked a lot of questions about social media.

Quite rightly so.

Most of them are simply reframed to refocus the thought and to enable a new approach in thinking.

Here are the top five frequently asked questions :

  • What’s the ROI of spending time on social networks?

  • What does a good social media policy look like?

  • Have you got any examples related to my industry?

  • How does social media usage differ from B2C to B2B?

  • How much time do I need to set aside to play around with these new websites as I’ve got a job to do?

Our response :

  • What’s the ROI of connecting with existing customers / clients (or even potential ones)?

  • Do we know enough about social media to create a policy around its use yet?

  • Have you got any models which can be adapted and adopted?

  • How does social media enable me to connect with the specific people in businesses/organisations/communities who buy our products/services?

  • How much time do we invest in developing our professional learning to ensure we keep up to date with new developments in our field?

Feel free to ‘borrow’ the above to reframe the questions usually asked in internal meetings about social media investments and let us know how you get on.

Any other questions which are in need of repositioning you can think of?

Foundation for International Education


A couple of weeks ago I was humbly delivering a session to a group of students at the Foundation for International Education—the international class has the fantastic title of “Creative Leadership and Innovation in UK Media” and I was sharing what we do with our clients plus offering other hopefully insightful stuff.

Below is some feedback from the students themselves (plus professor who invited me)—not posting it here to brag but more to demonstrate the reason why I / we / MediaSnackers do what I / we / MediaSnackers do:

To inspire people to learn, work & live differently.

Stuff like this reinforces that focus and makes us work all the more harder to get better at it. How do you get your motivation shot?


Over the years I’ve been teaching I’ve always sought out guest speakers to help students get a feel for the “real world”. Although almost all guest speakers can provide some real world information, it’s the rare guest speaker that truly inspires the students, gets them charged up about the topic and engages them to learn more.

But that’s what you did!

You can see from the feedback cards that you accomplished each of those goals.

“DK was amazing” “I loved listening to DK” “I never thought about social media the way DK talked about it.”—those are just some of the sentiments.

Your energy and enthusiasm for the topic are a given. But it’s your knowledge and experience, your willingness to share personal experiences, and your understanding of how social media fits within the goals of a company or organization that made the learning truly worthwhile.

Sherri Hope Culver, Assistant Professor, Temple University

Thank you for the opportunity to come and deliver and for your energy in the session guys, means a lot.

Related post : Starting With Why

MediaSnackers Speaking/Masterclass

How To Use Social Media (According to 6th Graders)

Keeping it simple

A big thank you to Kyoo Slides for creating the above and for illustrating how easy all this social media stuff can be.

We spend a lot of our time deconstructing the reasons, the semantics, the needs and strategies behind social media use for our clients, and most of it comes down the five points made above (which could be boiled down into the one golden rule of social media use).

Originally seen on Barking Robot

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