Learning Lab with Duncan of Jordanstone

I love Dundee, always have and always will. I teamed up with Hazel White, Mike Press and Gillian Easson to deliver a Hyper Island Learning Lab with Duncan of Jordonstone in Dundee. You can read about our other Learning Labs here and here. 


The world is changing and at Hyper Island we talk a lot about how this is affecting how and why we learn. We believe in the idea of ‘learning how to learn’ and we use a framework called The Learning Spiral.


​The Learning Spiral ​ is the process of learning new skills, knowledge, behaviours where knowledge is continuously gained through both personal and environmental experiences. This is captured in the framework of Act, Think, Reflect.
The first activity of the event was sketching out our ideal day of creative learning.  To help the participants gain genuine knowledge from the experience they were reflecting on, we posed the following questions:

What are you learning?

Who are you with?

Where are you?

How do you feel?

How did your day end?

How did your day begin?

What can you see, feel, hear and touch?

What actions are you taking?

What tools are you using ( digital and / or analogue? )

What talents and skills are you using?

Who will you share this learning with?

Who inspires you to learn?

What did you learn today and what will you differently tomorrow?


By following a framework for learning your ability to learn and share your learning increases. It helps you to achieve a higher level of creativity and productivity. The Learning Spiral is made up of:

A new experience of situation is encountered, or a reinterpretation of existing experience

REFLECT (Observation Reflection)

Reflection upon the new experience; of particular importance are any inconsistencies between experience and understanding.

GENERALIZE (Abstract Conceptualization)

Reflection gives rise to a new idea, or a modification of an existing abstract concept.

APPLY (Active Experimentation)

The learner applies them to the world around them to see what results.



We then heard from Hazel White who is the former course director of Master of Design for Service and is now the Director of Open Change. She talked through what she has learned from teaching design for the past 20 years.


My biggest take away was Hazel’s advice to anyone on a learning journey to stay strong if you are referred to as a ‘trouble maker’ and realise that you are in fact a radical.

Check out her slides below…

Mike Press is a Professor of Design at Duncan of Jordonstone and also works at Open Change, he talked us through his vision for the future of education and shared powerful stories from this year’s Global Service Jam.


My biggest take away was Mike’s description of designers: tomorrow’s design leader is a resourceful social expert who crafts change co-operatively. Check out his slides below…

Gillian Easson, who is the founder of Creative Dundee, talked us through how she is using design and creativity as a tool to make change happen in the city of Dundee.


My biggest take away was Gillian’s reminder of how important it is to be a translator between sectors, spaces, disciplines, worlds… barriers are harmful. Oh, and always stay in touch with those who help you out in the beginning. Amen to that! You can see Gillian’s slides below:

We then introduced the participants to a tool we use at Hyper Island called the 5 steps. This encourages you to map out five concrete action steps you are going to take to reach your ultimate goal. In this instance, the ultimate goal was the one thing we wanted to learn.



The room was full of a wide range of goals: from developing communication skills, learning basic coding, type design and java script. We initiated some skill sharing too as there were people in the room with the skills that others wanted to learn.

Our session ended with Stinky Fish. What’s a stinky fish?  We invited everyone to write down the one thing they know is stopping them from taking one of their five steps.


The students are running a project with a dinosaur called Baxter, so it seemed fitting to end our day with a group picture for Baxter!


A massive thank you to each and every one of you who took part. Our check out at the end was full of energy, motivation and optimism which made me very happy. Hat tip to Gillian, Mike and Hazel for making it awesome and being such a pleasure to work with.

P.S Readers please don’t hesitate to let me know if you’d like to run a Learning Lab with me.