Inspiring Spaces: The Possibilities



Sometimes it's hard to know where to start or what is possible while sitting in our 30 year old classrooms of desks in rows, fluorescent lighting, and beige paint. To be fair, anyone would struggle for imagination in that environment. Therefore we find it useful to preview the process with teachers before going full on into the Design process which takes a lot of time, is an intensive process, and is often unfamiliar to teachers.



The Edutopia video series below showcases a relatable middle school classroom which is transformed over the weekend with the help of a team of designers and community volunteers, all for $1000. It’s important to understand that a classroom redesign is not going to other schools or on Pinterest to see what other spaces look like and what solution you can import into yours. We are redesigning an experience and the space is a resource/tool to enhance that. Therefore the important thing we need understand is the current reality and future preferred state.

Critical to the redesign of a space is the understanding and execution of the Design process. While watching this video, do so through the lens of a designer and watch for the various stages of the process.

Courtesy of the d:School at Stanford

Courtesy of the d:School at Stanford


Discovery: Gaining insight into the user experience, divergent in nature. Central to this is gaining empathy for all members of the learning community of that space, students and teachers. We are redesigning a space to reflect the learning aspirations for learnings in 2018. The 19th century classrooms were build for direct teaching and classroom management and paid little or no attention to the student experience or how these environments made them feel.




Interpretation: Grouping the data from Discovery into Drivers and Constraints, convergent in nature. In this sample the drivers of collaboration, movement and ambience are translated into spatial concepts as drivers to support learning and you can see the impact immediately.




Ideation: Bringing the drivers to life and creatively solving for the constraints, divergent. In this example I like how the Christian and Melanie anchored the Solution Session to collaboration, comfort and movement as well as aspects such as storage, entry and furniture, each with a unique provocations. As result their ideas are directly focused on solving for the experience.




Prototyping: This is a tough aspect for schools to be able to really dive into. The goal is to bring to life various installations for the drivers and constraints but most schools do not have the resources to bring in various pieces of furniture nor have a construction crew to continually modify the space. Hence the importance of experience and low fidelity installations. The space needs be a living space, a space in progress, responsive to the needs of the learning experience.



Evolution: You can see immediately the impact the space has on the faces of the students. Capturing those initial reactions is important. If they reflect the your drivers, you are on the right track. The initial buzz will wear off and a more indepth evaluation is essential but the reveal reaction is what you strive to replicate.



Hopefully this gives you insight into the what is possible and the process necessary to redesign a learning space. The more you commit to the process, the more of a positive impact the space will have on the learning experience. Redesigning spaces is not going through the Ikea catalog with the teacher. It’s spending the time in the desk with the students, facilitating group empathy activities, listening to understand, and including the community in the process to create the optimal climate for your community’s learning aspirations. Think climate control, not command and control.

Collaboration Tools: Don't Forget to Hit Save.

Yes the “Save” button still exists. Who knew? Of course I knew that when publishing with Squarespace I needed to hit “Save”, but I didn’t really believe that you if you forgot to, that you would lose all your work. Well, you do and will if you don’t. Even tech support coldn't help, how demotivating. 

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Yes this still exists

For those of us who grew up in the pre-Google Docs world I am sure you can understand my frustration when I went to publish a new blog post and suddenly half my writing went missing. I was immediately transported back to 1999 when I pulled the plug on enrollment in Computer Sciences because of a similar frustration. Oh, how we forget.

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Now how does this relate to education? For me, this just reinforces the need for schools to give kids platforms which are easy to use and as stress-free as possible. I cannot believe the number of schools still not using the almost “Save Button Free” Google Suite for Education. When I think back to my pre-save button free teaching experience in the early 2000s, I recall with great clarity the student panic when they “forgot” to press send or save. Now I fully understand that this was a commonly acceptable and used excuse but I also understand the frustration and deflating feeling you get when it really happens.

Therefore, if we are going to ask students take risks, be creative, and solve real-world problems, let’s do our best to create the optimal climates for these experience and not lose them because of dated or obstructive technology. Especially when it’s free.

P.S. I know someone from my Google tribe is going to point out the places where Google has the Save button. Let’s hear it. I can only think of one places.

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e-Portfolios: Why Blog?

Over the past four years my blogging game has steadily declined and it’s usually one of two obstacles which get the better of me. My own perception that I don’t have the time and the what I have to say is of little value.

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I believe we make time for the things we value and that the “lack of time” argument is really a lack of value statement”. I haven’t missed more than a handful Manchester United games in about 25 years. This dedication to supporting my favorite football team has resulted in me dragging my friends and family in the doggiest of pubs in various corners of the globe.

Seth Godin is one of my favorite authors, bloggers, and podcasters and all around thought provocateurs. Almost daily we have Akimbo on in the background and it always offers food for thought. As a writer I love Seth's approach in a couple of ways. Firstly, his done is better than perfect mindset. Secondly, his "ship daily" challenge. But it is his clip on blogging below which nudged me to pick up my blogging game. 

Why Blog by Seth Godin and Tom Peters

To summarize, It doesn't matter who reads your blog, what matters is the humility that comes from writing it. As you can see from the analytics from this blog below, no one has been reading it over the past year. The main purpose of has been an as a resource site for sharing at events and an online resume of sorts.  As Seth continues, it is the metacognition of thinking about what your going to say, about summarizing your thought, decisions, interests into a few paragraphs that matters. What I love about blogs such as Seth Godin's, is the everyday frequency of the posts and the variety in length and investment. He posts every day. Some posts are mere couple sentences while others are paragraphs with images, links, media, etc. As a Designer this really reinforces the belief that to have good ideas, you need lots of ideas. 

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Ain't nobody got time for

I've had course sites, personal and student blogs for ages and it seems that people did once find them useful, see below, but I think what has changed has been the frequency of posting. So that's what is going to change. I'm going to do my best to embrace the "Ship Daily", "Done is better than perfect", Quantity is better than Quality" mindset, and commit to posting multiple times a week. So it begins. 

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People had time for

in 2013

Google Alerts, Alarms

For years I have been preaching the necessity of registering your name with Google Alerts to further emphasize the importance of purposefully developing a positive web presence which reflects how you want the world to see you. For those who don’t know, by using Google Alerts you can monitor the web for content as it's published. All you need to do is register an alert and you will be notified when content is published with those keywords. Simple and effective for business, education, and beyond.  


During this time however,  I have never come across an “Alert” which would anyone would mistake for being a misrepresentation of me. Most of the time the Alerts are notifying me of another Brian Hamm who is not in similar employment field or has done no harm and therefore of no interest to me.

Example 1      Example 2      Example 3

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Until January 1, 2018 when I received a Google Alert for “Brian Hamm” with the Headline, “Memphis man caught selling school laptops for $20 each, according to police.” As you can imagine my first thought was, Fox News really isn’t reliable or news, but I did find this alert a bit too close for comfort. Someone could easily mistake Memphis Brian Hamm for me if there was no other web content which they could check up on. But perhaps this would just be a once off. Unfortunately for myself and Memphis Brian Hamm, it wasn’t.

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In April 2018 it seems that my namesake was arrested again for the resale of school owned technology. Memphis Brian Hamm is said to be a 38 year old American Man who could easily be mistaken for being me, 36 year-old Canadian Brian Hamm who works in education as a Technology Director.  Now as an international educator who will probably change locations at some time, it is important that when a potential recruiter or school administrator searches me on Google, they come across a web presence which reinforces their school values which is probably aligned with felony burglary.

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So what can be done? Well as G.I. Joe says, “Knowing is Half the Battle”  and while the other half may have involved guns for G.I. Joe, for us who want to rebalance or control our web presence, it involves creating and posting content. Content which aligns with how you want the digital world to reflect who you are.   

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The reality is, when potential recruiters, colleagues, friends, partners, etc want to find out about who you are, they will go online first. More often than not, when I work with educators and students they have a digital presence which was not developed with intention and does not align with how they want the world to see them. The other half is to decide how you want to be seen by the world and then start creating content to reinforce that image.

How many of us take a moment to be conscious about how we want to be seen and actually summarize that into a statement, a 6-word memoir, or a few keywords?. Try doing so, then post content which reflects that.

For example, my drivers for life and how I want to be seen are; leading and loving with integrity. It shouldn't be a struggle to find content which reflects that online.  

Leading: I believe in relational leadership as opposed to a managerial approach and that by serving others I can best play a small part in helping us all create more inspirational, student owned learning experiences.

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Loving: I believe that if we anchor our thoughts, actions, and exchanges in love, we can achieve happiness ,fulfillment and more meaningful relationships. I am fully aware that when people meet me, or those who know me, would not think of me as an overly affectionate loving person but that is not what I am or intent to be. For me, acting from a mindset with “love” means investing whole-heartily in the things that matter the most to me. My family, my communities, my colleagues, etc. My friend Jeff Heil contrasts platitudes vs beliefs, and states that beliefs are the things we will work tirelessly and relentlessly to realize. Platitude are things we say to make ourselves feel better. For the things I “love”, I believe in, I work tirelessly for from mindset of understanding and devotion.

Saturday night Headband shenanigans!  Charlie’s first question: is it a pink pony? No Is it an animal? Yes Is it a pink pony?  No What colour is it? Grey Ooohhh! Is it a flamingo? No Big or small? Small Oh! It’s a dolphin! No Where does it live?  In fields, cupboards, roofs, walls, it eats cheese and has big ears.  A mouse! 

Saturday night Headband shenanigans!
Charlie’s first question: is it a pink pony?
Is it an animal?
Is it a pink pony? 
What colour is it?
Ooohhh! Is it a flamingo?
Big or small?
Oh! It’s a dolphin!
Where does it live? 
In fields, cupboards, roofs, walls, it eats cheese and has big ears. 
A mouse! 


Integrity: I believe that if we are genuine, fair, honest, and morally conscious in our lives and relationships that this can serve as a foundation for transformational relationships. Without integrity, trust and reliability, the foundations for real relationships is impossible to attain. 

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We are born into the physical world with a variety of traits, histories, genes etc which we have no control over. As my friend David Jakes says, "when we create ourselves online, we are literally building ourselves into existence." How provocative is that? More often than not our digital selves are created with little intension and do not reflect the real us or how we want to be portrayed. Think of yourself as a digital brand of you and be as bold as you like. 

Keep it Together: with Google Keep

Meet Google Keep, in my opinion, Google’s most underrated collaborative task management tool which embeds various forms of media including audio, photos, annotations, among others. Think collaborative Post-it notes with embeddable media. What really sets Keep apart is the syncing capabilities between other Google products, the mobile app, and of course the ability to search within Keep. 



If you have students working in collaborative teams Keep could be used to assign tasks with a checklist and due dates including integrated links to resources. All this in one place, in real time, and shared with all members of the group. Imagine this, in one place, amongst all your teams/groups. 

Try getting started by: 

  1. Creating a weekly to do list: 
  2. Adding notes from a conference, book, or YouTube Video you’re watching
  3. Expand on those notes by opening Keep in Google Docs
  4. Share a shopping list
  5. Add a photo to share with annotations 
  6. Record a voice recording. Keep will translate to text. 
  7. Translate Handwriting to text (Android Only) 
  8. Set a reminder based on a time and date
  9. Set a reminder based on a location 

For example: 
1. Create a list and click on the reminder icon at the bottom left of the list. 

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2. Select “Pick Place” 

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3. Add a location. Whenever you or collaborators on this list come within close proximity to the location, they will receive a notification which will remind them what is on the note/list. 

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4. When you’re finished, you should see the location at the bottom of the note/list. 

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If you would like to learn more about how to leverage Google Keep as a task management and idea capturing tool, check out my "Keep it Together: with Google Keep" workshop

10 tips to Conquer an Edu Conference

1. Follow topics not friends: If you are attending with a colleague from the same department or even school as you, divide and conquer. While learning is social and attending sessions with your BFF can make for a good experience, it might not be the most meaningful or efficient one from a learning perspective. If you have a common goal, think of attending as an opportunity to gather resources, after which you can compile later.

2. Follow the Event Hashtag: Often the best things you walk away with are the little tricks, tips, videos, quotes, ect which spark further exploration and insights. These can also be found on the digital platform of many conferences, Twitter. It’s amazing what 140 characters can provide. While you may only be able to attend 7 of the possible 100+ sessions offered any given conference, you can still learn from many of them. Take the time during down time or after the event to peruse the conference hashtag for hidden gems shared by attendees from other sessions. These can easily be compiled by liking or retweeting them on twitter, or by creating a Storify feed. This is also the first place most conferences post updates, so if you want to avoid showing up to an empty room, follow the hashtag.

3. Have a plan of attack: There is nothing worse than arriving to a conference and deciding on the spot where to go, arriving at your session to a full house, having to find another, only to find that one is full as well. Preview the schedule prior to arrival, arrive early, and have a second or even third option for each timeslot. I promise it is time well spent and will help alleviate anxiety on the day of the event, as well as help you focus on learning.



4. Vote with your feet: This is a common approach to Unconferences but needs to be adopted by all Edu Conference. If at anytime you are not actively learning during a session, get up and leave; vote with your feet. During Unconferences this is not offensive as all participant and presenters understand we all have different areas of interest, needs, and are all there to learn. Move to where the learning is happening, FOR YOU.



5. Build the fire: Often we attend conferences to light a fire, pack our schedules while there trying to fit in as much as possible, then return back to our lives as educators where we rarely have the time to feed that fire. Great inspiration, insights, and learning that took place have to wait for the next break to be developed. By this time, the landscape may have changed and you have forgotten application opportunities. Take a break during the conference to develop what you have learned. This is not skipping class or wasting your school's money; it is making the most of the moment. Don’t let great insights slip away. It’s better to come away with 1-2 great ideas or concepts that can change tomorrow, than an overload of information that has to wait. Launch early at the event.

6. Seek your Discomfort zone: Try attending a session or two that are out of your area of expertise. A couple of years ago I attended an IT strand at the massive EduTech Conference, and during sessions I felt as though they were speaking a different language. Throughout the event I was googling, asking simple questions, and felt lost the whole way through, but I learned. I threw myself in the deep end and may not have learned to swim in the IT world, but I at least I learned to tread.


7. Make a friend: We are social creatures, but often as educators we don’t get to make connections with others outside of our departments or divisions. Networking is common in business, and often critical to continued success and employment, but in education we retreat to our classrooms of isolation. Make a friend and open the door to collaboration. In 2016 it is possible to connect, as our friend Jeff Utecht promotes “across space and time”, so make a friend and start connecting.

8. Attend in Analog: There is nothing less engaging an audience behind laptop screens. Often, in the same day, I will run sessions that are techy with most people behind screens, then transition to facilitating a Design Thinking workshop where no laptops are present and attendees are up moving and thinking on their feet. Which sessions do you think people learn more from? Most conferences provide presenter’s resources on their website, or presenters share afterwards, so you don’t have to scramble to record or find everything being discussed. Attend with a simple notepad and pen and truly be present during the sessions. Even techy sessions are going to go at breakneck speed and you are going to feel that you are drinking from a firehose, so listen attentively, and jot down insights to follow up on later on your laptop.

9. Hack Monday: In each session, approach with the mindset of “Hacking Monday”. Ask yourself how can I apply this to something that can make meaningful gains in learning on Monday. Launch early, start small, and iterate throughout. Too often we wait to make a change until the conditions are perfect, or until we have more time, and that time never comes.


10. Bring a Water Bottle: Bottled water is wasteful and conferences tend to facilitate this consumption all too easily. Staying hydrated is also essential to being attentive and staving off fatigue so make sure you are ready to maximize your Edu conference experience in optimal condition all while making a minimal impact on the environment

Google Apps for Education Summit Bakersfield 2015 Take Aways

Google Apps for Education Summit Bakersfield Takeaways

I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to present at various Edtechteam Global Summits featuring Google Apps for Education and am continually impressed with the willingness of teachers to commit their weekends to learning for their students. They arrive with smiles on their faces and model what engaged learners look like. The most rewarding thing for me, though, is the opportunity to learn as well, and this reinforces my belief that learning is social. In efforts to remain social and collaborative, I am going to share my biggest takeaways from these events.

1.  This was shared at the demo slam via +Jamie Greason and instantly caught my attention. Mix Max “makes email awesome.Track, automate, and enhance your emails with the essential productivity suite for Gmail and Google Inbox.”

- Track emails accurately

- Set up meetings in an instant

- Save time with email templates

- Schedule emails to be sent later


2. Trying is Winning: I finally had the chance to experience Breakout Edu, facilitated by +Mark Hammonds, which is the brainchild of +James Sanders and applies the concept of Escape rooms to education. This was the only session which was run during every session slot at the GAFE Summit Bakersfield, and every session it was full. As you can see on the @BreakoutEDU twitter feed, everyone has a blast. The collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking needed to complete the challenge is exactly what our students need to prepare them for the real world. Immediately I ordered two BreakoutEdu kits to start exploring the concept with our teachers and to start developing beta kits.

3.Community is King: Whenever a group assembles, a community is formed and in the world today these are created and dissolved almost at the same rate. What is remarkable, though, is that like-minded people can connect and learn from each other immediately. Furthermore, through social media, we can continue the conversation beyond the time we're together. Although I am aware of this, and this is not a new concept, it is quite easily lost when you are presenting and participating at a Tech Conference with educators who are interested in the next big tool which will redefine their practice.