Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Next Generation Learning Spaces & Meaningful Learning Experiences


"The classroom remains a location of possibility."

The HipHopEd Manifesto


Does this learning space facilitate meaningful learning experiences? 

How many of our learning spaces resemble this Philadelphia classroom from 1897? 

Yesterday, David Jakes, a highly respected educational thought change leader, led a three-hour session to help us stretch and validate our thinking in creating "next-generation" learning spaces. 

"Why do you want to change your learning spaces?", asked Mr. Jakes.

Our district has made a strong commitment to 1:1 enhanced learning. Teachers and students are realizing that many aspects of the traditional classroom "container" no longer provide the "flexibility, agility, and adaptability" offered in digital learning spaces.

During his introduction, Mr. Jakes referred to the book, The Third Teacher. The authors state children learn and develop through their interactions with adults, peers, and their environment. (1) 

Are we designing and creating future-ready environments supportive of personal, connected learning? Are we providing a third teacher worthy of our next-gen learners?  


"How can we include students in these modernization processes?"





Mr. Jakes then asked the critical question... 


"What do you want the learning experiences at your school to be?" 

While school missions and vision statements can sound rather generic. Learning spaces can impact school climate and student empowerment profoundly. Learning, it was said, is a series of stories. The collection and sharing of these stories contribute to the school's culture. School climate was described as a tone or feel of the environment while school culture is made up of norms, beliefs, and values. We acknowledged simply moving, or removing, existing furniture influences classroom climate. It seems safe to assume that improved climate yields better stories, and meaningful learning experiences.

"The first step in redesigning the classroom is to discard the notion that it has to be a classroom..." - David Jakes



Following the introductory comments, teams of educators wrote descriptors of ideal learning experiences on sticky notes. These were posted around the meeting room. The large group identified trends to help focus discussions of classroom design. Our trending descriptors included; capacity for connecting, space for movement, space for building and creating, and a space that is inviting, comfortable, and welcoming.




Nine boards containing a variety of learning spaces were posted around the meeting room. For our second activity, we were asked to put stickers (green, yellow, and red) on the pictures. The colored dots indicated a degree of personal preference of the pictured learning space. Once again, common trends were identified and discussed. The follow-up conversation reinforced common language while adding perspective to the discussion. David helped focus our terms to technological. interconnected, and intentional use of physical space supportive of increasingly virtual learning. This exercise helped us visualize the creative possibilities for our learning spaces.


With time winding down, we discussed potential goals and metrics to help us identify and measure the impact of innovative spaces on our learners. Mr. Jakes shared slides showing how schools creatively used levels, corners, and surfaces to influence engagement, empowerment, and climate. If we had more time, I would have liked to work with my team in creating a map of an innovative classroom based upon our identified trends and preferences.


Our session with David Jakes proved to be a valuable use of time as we were able to identify reasons for changing our learning spaces, we acknowledged the role of climate and culture in designing learning spaces, and we were able to use a common language in describing key criteria for moving forward from ideation to planning. Our plans include bringing more teachers and students into the conversation of designing prototype classrooms. We will also do our own "space inventory" with the intention of converting non-instructional areas into next-generation learning spaces.

The key takeaway, it's difficult to expect innovative instruction and learning without innovating the learning environment, as well. Our thanks to David Jakes for stretching our thinking and listening to our ideas. It's time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Are you updating your classroom or school to accommodate next generation learning? Please accept this invitation to share your ideas, plans, and examples of creative and innovative learning spaces.

Related Resources & Reading


Active Learning Spaces; Insights, Applications, & Solutions - Steelcase Education

2014 Classroom Cribs Finalists - AJ Juliani, Erin Klein, Tom Murray



(1) The Third Teacher; CannonDesign, VS Furniture, & Bruce Mau, 2010


Photo (1) By John Trevor Custis [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo (2) Whitiora School, Flexible Learning Spaces (CC Image)
Photo (5) credit: mleiboff via photopin cc

3 comments:

Joy Kirr said...

Bob, there is so much information here, I'm going to have to read it again! I saw this article this morning as well - same premise - http://www.fastcoexist.com/3038207/5-ways-classroom-design-can-improve-what-we-learn-and-who-learns-it

And this yesterday, from Arin Kress - a grant offer from Steelcase!! http://www.steelcase.com/en/products/Category/Educational/Pages/active-learning-center-grant.aspx I have a "snow/cold" day today... I might get started writing a grant! Thanks for this post - very intriguing!

Robert Schuetz said...

Happy New Year Joy - I hope you are keeping warm on this frigid day. Thank you for reading and sharing these resources. Steelcase grant - I'm with you on this! Thanks again for contributing to our learning. Bob

Ashley said...

All learning experiences at schools should be fun so that kids can fall in love with the learning process. It creates a habit for life.