Education as a Common Good
Winter School

About the School

The school will bring together design students from the Universities of Trento, Bolzano, and Innsbruck to explore applying the ideas of Commons to Education. Over the span of 3 days, the students will work on group design projects to create the conditions for a particular kind of commons, Educational Commons, which are community-supported and community-benefiting methods for knowledge co-creation and sharing. The school will combine a theoretical introduction to socially-valuable design with a practical application of design methods. The students will be lectured and mentored by researchers and professionals in the areas of Sociology, Educational Research, Architecture, and Interactive Design.


University of Trento
Prof. Antonella De Angeli
Dr. Aliaksei Miniukovich

Free University of Bolzano
Prof. Alvise Mattozzi

University of Innsbruck
Prof. Andreas Flora
DI Alexander Gogl


Department of Information Engineering and Computer Science (via Sommarive 9, Trento, Italy) of the University of Trento will host the main tutoring and academic activities (meeting rooms Yoram Ofek and Lamar).
Social dinners will be hosted by Birreria Pedavena, piazza Fiera 13, Trento.


  • Day 1
  • 10.45 – 11.15 - School Introduction
  • 11.15 – 12.00 - Introduction to Commons and Education, by prof. Vincenzo D'Andrea
  • 12.00 – 12.45 - Introduction to Ecologies of Learning, by prof. Liam Bannon
  • 12.45 – 13.00 - Student group formation
  • 13.00 – 14.00 - Lunch
  • 14.00 – 16.00 - Learning with Five Senses, by Beate Weyland
  • 16.00 – 16.30 - Coffee break
  • 16.30 – 17.10 - Continuing: Learning with Five Senses, by prof. Beate Weyland
  • 17.10 – 18.00 - Group Work: domain analysis and preparation for the poster session of Day 2
  • 18.00 – 19.30 - Free time
  • 19.30 – 21.00 - Social Dinner

  • Day 2
  • 09.00 – 09.30 – Poster session by students
  • 09.30 – 10.00 – Coffee break
  • 10.00 - 11.00 - Guest Seminar: Industry and UX Design Research Projects @ UCLAN, by Dr. Peggy Gregory
  • 11.00 – 13.00 – Introduction to Conceptual Design and Prototyping, by Dr. Maria Menendez
  • 13.00 – 14.00 – Lunch
  • 14.00 – 16.00 – Group Work: Conceptual Design and Prototyping, relying on the feedback from before lunch
  • 16.00 – 16.30 – Coffee break
  • 16.30 – 18.00 - Group Work: effectiveness, efficiency and usability, and the 1st Prototypes
  • 18.00 – 19.30 - Free time
  • 19.30 – 21.00 - Social Dinner

  • Day 3
  • 09.00 – 10.30 – Group Work: visual, audio or tangible prototype creation
  • 10.30 – 11.00 – Coffee break
  • 11.00 – 13.00 – Group Work: describing projects and accompanying prototypes online
  • 13.00 – 14.00 – Lunch
  • 14.00 – 15.20 – Project evaluation by the teams and tutors (online)
  • 15.20 – 16.00 – Project defense, 5min per team
  • 16.15 – 16.40 – The best projects are announced
  • 16.40 – 16.45 - School closing

Participatory Lectures

The lectures will outline concepts, frameworks, methods, or tools that the students could rely on to build designs to solve problems, and engage the students in hands-on activities and exercises to consolidate and practice the newly-acquired knowledge. Day 1 lectures will provide students with missing domain knowledge (about Commons, Public Spaces and Learning) and inspire them to choose a Commons&Education-related design problem to tackle; Day 2 lecture will overview the good practices and methods of prototyping to help students tackle their design problems.

Commons and Education, Day 1A

Speaker: Vincenzo D'Andrea, a social sciences researcher and associate professor at the University of Trento, Italy.

The lecture will start from the concept of Commons, its role and relationship with communities and society. The lecture will also discuss traditional Commons versus Educational Commons and focus on the digital ones, giving also some examples. In the closing part of the lecture, instructor and students will speculate how Commons can apply to education – both online and offline – and what could be the preconditions for successful codesign of Educational Commons.

Ecologies of Learning - People, Places, Practices, Tools & Media, Day 1B

Speaker: Liam J. Bannon, a researcher in interaction design, computer-supported cooperative work, and technology-enhanced learning, and professor emeritus at the University of Limerick, Ireland.

As a researcher in interaction design, technology-enhanced learning and computer supported cooperative work (CSCW) and learning (CSCL), I have an interest in creating mixed physical-digital spaces for people to work and play. This includes how particular spaces can support or hinder people’s creativity and learning, and the ways in which information and communication technologies (ICTs) can provide new opportunities for learning, or simply become fetishized. In the context of educational systems, the issue of learning is a vexed one. Schooling is but one form of education, and in many cases a far from ideal framework for enabling learning today. Many people succeed in learning despite their schooling, not because of it. In more recent times, the importance of playgrounds, community halls, sports clubs, public libraries, museums and galleries has come to be recognized – as sites for learning activities. The most fundamental issue in creating effective learning spaces is to have engaged and motivated students and teachers. Neither technology nor the built environment alone can motivate people, but they certainly can support or disrupt learning activities. Also, despite the claims about virtual worlds, virtual offices and virtual classrooms, I would argue that the importance of place to people remains. New technology can augment our spaces, but we remain grounded in place.

Most educational bodies today are aware of the need to provide more flexible environments for learning – in terms of curricula, resources, and spaces. However, I would argue that there is often still a tendency for public bodies to fund the “grand gesture” - be it a new building, or a new technology-filled space, without sufficient input from those who might actually use the space – the students and teachers. Key themes such as personalization of the educational system, the importance of informal learning – which occurs outside the classroom, peer and collaborative learning practices, life-long learning practices, opportunities to reconfigure spaces and move seamlessly between spaces – all present an interesting set of challenges for educational bodies, technology researchers, and architects. There have been some interesting initiatives in this regard, e.g. the UK FutureLab reports What if?...... Reimagining Learning Spaces (2006) and Reimagining outdoor learning spaces (2008) and the UK Joint Information Systems Committee’s (JISC) Report Designing Spaces for Effective Learning: - A guide to 21st century Learning Space Design (2006), as well as the edited book by Diana Oblinger : Learning Spaces (2006) which provides both arguments for new forms of mixed physical-digital spaces, as well as a set of case studies (mostly US-based). However, there is still a need for more discussion and interaction between all the parties, and more careful longitudinal studies to evaluate the effectiveness of these new learning spaces.

Learning with Five Senses - Learning Artefacts from in-between Education and Design, Day 1C

Speaker: Beate Christine Weyland, a researcher in education and architecture, and associate professor at the Free University of Bolzano, Italy.

Modern learning approaches rely on all five senses by bringing the tangible aspect of the world back in learning and using the sensory qualities and aesthetics of the objects around us. This lecture will define the theoretical bases, fundamental criteria and practical aspects, through which artefacts for learning can be developed via a dialogue between the sciences of the education and the design sciences. I will also review the examples of such artefacts for learning: learning toys. The toys were collaboratively developed by designers and educators, and combine the best of the worlds of design and school education.
Such collaborative intersection of education and design allows one to develop "objects-for-learning" - the learning toys being one example - which can sustain open and diversified learning forms and stimulate exploration and creativity. The lecture will involve a discussion of potential of the learning toys to find the appropriate balance among various educational issues and to develop new cultural ways of planning objects-for-learning.

Conceptual Design and Prototyping, Day 2A

Speaker: Maria Menendez Blanco, a researcher in interaction design, critical design and formation of publics, and postdoc at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

This participatory lecture is a combination of presentations and hands-on activities. This format seeks to support students to move from ideating - which will be facilitated in Day 1 lectures - to creating digital artefacts by building on interaction design techniques. In concrete, students will be introduced to interaction design with a concrete focus on prototyping. In interaction design, prototypes often refer to artefacts that represent a proposed solution with the aim of iteratively testing or validating ideas. In this lecture, we will explore prototypes not only as a representation of a solution but also as artefacts that can open spaces for discussion. Students will be guided through different prototyping activities and invited to engage in a collaborative design critique.

Groupwork Activities

School participants will be randomly split in 8 teams of mixed background, 5-6 participants per teams. Each team will define and work on its design project related to the theme of the workshop (see below). School mentors and lecturers will select the best projects for special recognition at the end of the school.

The specific design theme of the school is teaching languages. The teams will either create new commons for language teaching, augment existing commons with educational elements, or expand existing educational commons, adding language teaching to their capabilities. Improving effectiveness or comfort-of-use of existing educational commons can also be an appropriate project topic.

The teams will begin by deciding on, defining, and brainstorming on the community that they would design for, and the kind of community's needs they would address. The community can be 'general public' or a narrower group facing a specific issue, e.g., foreigners who don't speak a local language, language enthusiasts, locals who'd like to connect with foreign newcomers, or travelers preparing for immersion in a different culture. The teams will then decide on the aspects of commons they'd need to create or improve: new or existing shared resources and infrastructure (e.g., buildings, learning tools, online forums, shared expertise etc.), comfort and joy of use (exploring why, e.g., an available shared resource may be not used), management structure and self-sustaining mechanisms (drawing on Lecture 1), and educational method(s) for effective or effortless learning (drawing on Lecture 2).

After defining these aspects - which constitute a design context, with its set of limitations and opportunities - the teams will focus on one or several aspects of their chosen Commons that they would need to create or improve. The teams are free to choose and work on any aspect they would like, be it a public space (e.g., a library, train station, or prison) combined with an app for learning, set of artefacts for engaging in collective learning (by physically bringing people together), a device for finding all libraries in a neighborhood, an online platform for managing commons, or space/tool for collecting knowledge artefacts (e.g., unused books or failed designs). The teams will generate and prototype (on paper or digitally) several concepts, and iterate them in the final design solution for learning in their commons. All team members should rely on their expertise to contribute to the solution.

The final solution will need to be described online for the school mentors and other-team students to evaluate and comment on. The descriptions should include two parts: 1) a general description of the commons (community, shared resources, self-sustainability mechanisms) and its learning aspect, and 2) a detailed description of designed artefacts, including prototypes. The detailed drescription should include a rationalle behind various design decisions, and their link to educational effectiveness, efficiency, and comfortable and high-quality use experience.

Importantly, the detailed descriptions are expected to be detailed. For example, if a team focuses on a community center, their description should go beyond "there is a building" and describe the actual building; if a team focuses on personalized information communication, the description should go beyond "an app does everything" and describe app design.

The final solutions will need to be described online, on the platform, using one or several interactive-content tools. The suitable tools include Interactive Video, Interactive Timeline, Image Hotspots, or conventional Interactive Presentations. If a team desires to use another online service to describe their project, an Iframe Embedder could be used to add the service output on Spaziod.Education. If a team is unfamiliar with H5P, it can post a conventional presentation to or upload a video on YouTube. The teams choose a presentation tool they prefer.


The School is sponsored by the University of Trento, Free University of Bolzano, and University of Innsbruck within the EUREGIO collaboration framework under the project DaGW (Design as GroupWork).


miniukovich at