March 28, 2019

Evolving to Flex Learning Spaces™

In looking back, I started this educational blog site in 2009 and have been writing sporadic posts here ever since.

Today, I changed the blog title to my new venture to celebrate my partnership with Jerry Van Wey as he is the CEO, and I'm the Director of Learning Space Design at our startup, Flex Learning Spaces™.

I have kept many of the older blog posts to remind me of my progress as a technology and learning space specialist in my changing roles from public school teacher (35 years), to educational consultant (5 years), to now. These blogs connect a bit of history for me where I started my first personal website (and blog), Micro Learning Spaces in 2009.

In kicking off this 'new and improved' blog, I'll be promoting our passion for K-12 learning spaces from our new website domain - and will link many of our projects, products, and constructive learning philosophy together here. I will present trends in K-12 learning spaces as our country hopefully moves learning forward to more of an inquiry and project-based curriculum. As I write this post, our current Secretary of Education proposed this week to cut the Education Department's budget by 8.5 billion dollars (about 12%). Yes, my friends, there is work to be done.

But I'll leave educational politics for another day and begin with a little journey through the past with a cut and paste from the Flex Learning Spaces™ page website, called About Us.
A Little History
        PIE Process

In 2009, Doug McIntosh started this original website and named it, Micro Learning Spaces. In 2011, he renamed the site Collaborative Learning Spaces, and in 2014 again renamed the site, Groupwerk® as his educational consulting business.

During these years leading up to 2019, Doug's passion for creating progressive learning environments fueled the many iterations of content for his online book,
Learning Environment Design (LED), available free on this website[].

Back to 2009. Doug worked for the Educational Technology Department in San Diego Unified School District whose team created the i21 Learning Initiative. The District's five year Initiative (funded through a local bond) provided every classroom, library and lab an interactive whiteboard, sound system, doc cam and presentation station. Every student in the district also had 1:1 access to a laptop or tablet in their classroom(s).

It is during this time that Doug met Jerry Van Wey who was the Lead System Integrator for Logical Choice Technologies, one company awarded a District contract to install the complete AV system into the District's learning spaces.

In 2013, Jerry formed ITG (Integrated Technologies Group), an AV integration company with a focus in the K-12 education market. ITG quickly developed a stellar reputation across California school districts for their AV integration services.

In 2018, Jerry hired Doug to work at ITG. In January 2019, Jerry and Doug formed Flex Learning Spaces™ as a separate company and are furniture dealers for Mooreco/Vanerum and Luxor. See Jerry's and Doug's contact information below.

November 22, 2017

Maranatha 'Makery' Makerspace

The 'Makery' was designed as a team effort with Maranatha Christian Schools Elementary Principal, Mary Cook and teaching staff with Doug McIntosh from Groupwerk, Inc. Thanks to the many parents who donated funds for the Makery learning space and to D&D Learning as the vendor for this project.

Here is the link -

March 14, 2017

Bishop High School's new Learning Commons

Bishop High School
Bishop, California

From 20th Century Library to 21st Century Learning Commons
(click above to learn more and see the before and after slideshow pictures)

The Bishop High School Learning Commons was designed by a collaborative team that included: school and district administration, Rudolph Construction and D&D Resources sourced all the furniture. GROUPWERK's Doug McIntosh was the design lead for the interior layout of furniture and AV on this project. AV installation was performed by Melzak Media. The school's vision was to take the 1970's traditional library set up and transform it into a 21st century learning space divided into unique learning zones.

January 20, 2017

Groupwerk's TLC - The Learner's Cloud is a collection of content creation web apps, digital media tools and K-12 educational links. These hand-made directories are organized to assist students, parents and teachers personalize their own digital space experience. The criteria for these resources to be a cloud catch for the TLC are:

  • a FREE app, service, tool or link. If not free, the resource is highly recommended;
  • no advertisements, or the advertising from a free service is tolerable;
  • no software install required to a local hard drive; 
  • works across devices, operating systems and web browsers. 
Go to my new site as I'm excited to bring this free resource to people interested in project and inquiry-based learning.

The Learner's Cloud

December 7, 2016

IKEA Hack - Makerspace Butcher Block Table w/ adjustable legs and locking casters

For my complete diy step-by-step process for making and modifying this IKEA table for a K-5 Makerspace, go to my Groupwerk website link here -

November 4, 2016

Face-to-Face Learning Space diy Furniture Starter Kit

    1st Grade Teacher Stephanie Rossi, getting her new
    Reading Chair from Astoria Compass Furniture
So, you want to transform your 20th century learning space. Here are three models to follow:

1. Create a basic Action Plan as you start to transform your physical learning space.

A) Start with a short paragraph - Why you are changing your traditional space to a collaborative and personalized 21st century space. Here, you have to connect your physical learning space with your inquiry/project-based curriculum and philosophy.

B) Get your School Principal's buy-in to your plan before you begin. Your Principal (beside you), can be your first potential CHAMPION of your plan to create the transformation.

C) Hone your plan and work the long game to have one or more Champions who are closer to the money funding stream than you are, advocating your change!

2. Go to one or more local Home Furniture stores (that do not sell to the education market). Identify yourself with your school badge and ask to speak with the manager or owner. Tell the manager/owner about your school, your space and your plan. Ask if he or she would be interested in donating either furniture samples that they are about to get rid of or, any overstock items. I recommend that you only acquire newer type furniture that would meet all typical district fire retardant standards. Your Principal will also have a District donation form that the store can fill out for their tax deduction to your non-profit school. And, only except a piece of furniture that will work in your space and yes, use all your social skills in these interactions.

3. As you already know, you may have to start the process of change by spending your own money. I know, but this transformation of your learning space begins and ends with YOU and is a process based on your persistance.

4. I'm always casing out WalMart, Target, Ross (or TJ Maxx, Home Goods in your area) or the Dollar type stores. Here are some great starter furniture that I have found at a good discount -

5. Go to IKEA. Don't be afraid, not everything they sell kills your weekend putting it together. Here are some ideas.
6. Make a butcher block maker table with pipe for your Makerspace - see instructions

7. Does your District have a furniture and equipment boneyard? I’ve found some good stuff there!

8. Look for cafe style furniture that will work as a standing table in your learning space.

9. Make a Wafuu (a what) table from a school activity table - see instructions

10. Make a Lego Wall to create a very active wall space - see instructions

11. Start a KickStarter Fund online to buy several Hokki Chairs for example

12. Get your Principal to fund a magnetic whiteboard wall in your library to show everyone, you’ve got ideas and not only that, everyone can come to the Library as a brainstorming place!

Okay, so at least one of these ideas has got to be a winner here for you. Use your persistence and if you need someone to listen to your plan, you can write me at  -

June 28, 2016

The Transformation of a 20th Century Classroom into a Learning Studio

This post is linked from my Groupwerk website, you can click on it here -

Here, a learning studio is a hybrid of a classroom, a studio and a Starbucks® lounge.

For a typical K-12 classroom with a minimum requirement of 960 sq. ft., a learning studio morphs the same desks and chairs into an eclectic layout of furniture and technology. In effect, the 960 sq. ft. becomes a place of unique micro learning spaces.

June 20, 2016

Learning Studio Physical Space Design

This post is linked from my Groupwerk website, you can click on it here -

In this post, I discusss Learning Studio as the transformation of a traditional classroom, library or lab from a room designed with a singular purpose to a multipurpose space. It becomes a place for learning, making and moving. A learning studio often includes a mix of hard and soft furniture made for school, work or home spaces. It is also equipped with a variety of making materials and technology tools appropriate to the age group of students. A learning studio is crafted and orchestrated by a teacher to raise the level of creativity for all students within a face-to-face learning environment.

March 14, 2016

Lego Wall in a MakerSpace

This post is linked from my Groupwerk website, you can click on it here -

Here is an idea I first got from Chip and Joanna Gaines from their show Fixer Upper - The Barn House Episode. In one of the rooms, Joanna builds a lego wall in a child's bedroom using gray 10"x10" Lego plates. My daughter, Shawna McIntosh and Rodger Ashworth both thought this was a great idea for us to build a similar lego wall in the Washington Elementary STEAM MakerSpace.

Learn how to built a Lego Wall as we take you through the step-by-step process including the materials you will need.

October 19, 2013

Caring - Moving from thought to action

At Mission Bay High School this fall we are focusing on one of the IB Learner Profile attributes, Caring - "We show empathy, compassion and respect. We have a commitment to service, and we act to make a positive difference in the lives of others and the world around us."

Today, my brother shared with me this video of 30 dolphins that came aground on a Brazilian beach in 2012. Watch it carefully as the action unfolds on the beach as people start to gather as the dolphins come ashore. First, we see the group move from a passive state, to let's do something. For me, the real and very quiet hero first appears in the right frame at one minute and thirty-three seconds. He is our hero because at one minute and forty-five seconds he helps a man grab the tail fin of one dolphin and together they begin to pull it back into deeper water. Immediately, the rest of the caring helpers follow his problem-solving strategy and they all save the dolphins in a short time.

You may want to show this video to a group of students or anyone without saying much of a set up (like I have done here) and see if they pickup on the subtle man's actions that makes the whole group heroes on a beautiful beach on a beautiful day.