American School Board Journal October 2014 : Page 24

storyboard l ecia Sp E FACILITIES ISSU Space Age Can classrooms be reimagined beyond the walls of the school building? David Jakes The School Booker T. Washington STEM Academy is the 2013 James D. MacConnell CEFPI Award Winner for facility planning. " T he classroom remains a location of possibili-ty.” This quote from the HipHopEd Manifesto describes the essence of what classrooms have represented for years — a location for prepar-ing students for the opportunity of possibility. The statement also suggests that the classroom remains a relevant entity, even in a time when the opportunities for rethinking the traditional educational experience seem boundless. Today, learning can occur anytime, anywhere, and with anyone — in the same place or throughout the world. Students can use technologies that engage and empower them to not only consume and process informa-tion, but also to create and share with a global audience. Given those opportunities, now is a good time to rethink and reshape what the typical “classroom” is and what it represents. What will it take to make the class-room a mission-critical learning location? How can we transform classrooms into spaces that support a contem-porary education? Can the very notion of a “classroom” be rethought to provide a new context for learning, one that enhances the capacity of technology to connect to people, ideas, conversation, and resources beyond the walls of schools? • OCTOBER 2014 Interconnected spaces Physical space connects with cloud-based learning environ-ments to form an expansive learning space ecology. 24 asbj.com

Space Age

David Jakes

Can classrooms be reimagined beyond the walls of the school building?

“The classroom remains a location of possibility.” This quote from the HipHopEd Manifesto describes the essence of what classrooms have represented for years — a location for preparing students for the opportunity of possibility. The statement also suggests that the classroom remains a relevant entity, even in a time when the opportunities for rethinking the traditional educational experience seem boundless.

Today, learning can occur anytime, anywhere, and with anyone — in the same place or throughout the world. Students can use technologies that engage and empower them to not only consume and process information, but also to create and share with a global audience.

Given those opportunities, now is a good time to rethink and reshape what the typical “classroom” is and what it represents. What will it take to make the classroom a mission-critical learning location? How can we transform classrooms into spaces that support a contemporary education? Can the very notion of a “classroom” be rethought to provide a new context for learning, one that enhances the capacity of technology to connect to people, ideas, conversation, and resources beyond the walls of schools?

A new design for new needs

Rethinking space begins with adopting a new mindset about the relationship of space to learning.

First, redesigning a classroom begins with rejecting the notion that it has to be a room. The word “classroom” evokes a mental image: 800 square feet of space, with rows of steel-frame desks that face the front of the room, along with a whiteboard, screen, digital projector, and teacher desk. While that setup has served learning for years, it’s outdated and incapable of realistically supporting new dimensions of learning.

Second, any space change should be based on what educators and school leaders want the student learning experience in their schools to be. This vision should specifically describe what they want students to experience. It should be developed through an inclusive process that represents the wants and needs of the community.

This vision — or manifesto — should reintroduce wonder and creativity back into learning. It should state how schools intend to develop student learning skills (what learners do) and habits (how learners think), and express how they will create the conditions for the development of learning dispositions (how learners act).

As you might expect, the development of this focus, and the mindset and approach it declares, has implications for how spaces are designed.

Catalyst for space change

School boards must consider how the explosion of technology impacts the development of new spaces for learning.

Almost all schools now are more closely considering the role that technology has in a new more expansive type of learning experience. With the current explosion of smaller, faster, more affordable, and more powerful technology, many schools now are engaged in the conversation about ubiquitous technology and its impact on learning. This conversation usually leads to consideration of one-to-one programs that provide devices to each student.

By using ubiquitous technology, schools have the opportunity to create learning experiences that:

• are not constrained by the physical location of school.

• are accessible across a wide range of technology and are always “on.”

• are more connective and social, making learning a networked experience beyond the walls of school.

• are an opportunity to access support resources.

• use school as a part of a larger ecology of learning opportunities available in the school’s community, and globally, as well.

• place value on informal learning opportunities beyond the formal school curriculum.

• are blended, making use of learning in physical spaces, but also using digital spaces that contribute as much as the physical spaces.

• offer online courses for learning.

Given this, the questions that school boards should consider are: Can the current spaces in their schools support a different type of learning experience created by the inclusion of contemporary technology? Can schools become a place where every student has access to a worldwide network of information and creative capacity?

Most likely, the traditional classroom described earlier will not meet these expectations.

So, should school boards make the development of learning spaces a priority? The answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Learning spaces should be a critical consideration of school change and improvement, and what school boards consider when supporting new directions in teaching and learning.

Ultimately, school boards need to be able to answer a very important question: How can the spaces where students learn become multidimensional?

Toward a new ecology of space

The process of rethinking, improving, and creating spaces begins with developing a language that is capable of supporting space change. The following definitions are essential to understanding how to change spaces:

• Flexible: The space can be reshaped to support different learning experiences.

• Agile: The space can be reshaped quickly and efficiently.

• Adaptive: The space can support an evolving perspective of the student learning experience.

• Intentional: The space is designed in accordance with the expectations of the student learning experience.

• Interconnected: Physical spaces such as classrooms are connected to other learning locations, including digital locations for learning.

• Technological: Spaces support the use of school-issued and personally owned technology.

Steps to reshape space

With these ideas as a foundation, it is important to begin thinking of what school learning spaces can become, and consider moving towards a model that recognizes that learning now happens in both physical and digital spaces.

Let’s begin with the physical spaces. Most likely, you aren’t tearing down your school anytime soon, so how can you begin to reshape physical spaces? Here are some practical steps to take to begin:

1. Begin by developing a manifesto as described above. What does learning look like? Include everyone in this process, including your students.

2. Take a learning space inventory. What types of spaces do you have currently that support your declaration of the student learning experience? This inventory will identify your starting point and alert you to gaps that you can address.

3. Locate “magnet spaces” where students gather in your school. Figure out why they attract students and, if possible, replicate those conditions in other locations. Visit spaces outside of school where students congregate, and use those ideas in the redesign of school spaces.

4. In the classrooms, remove steel-frame desks and replace them with tables or furniture that support a more flexible and collaborative experience.

5. Reclaim space in classrooms by eliminating the teacher desk and replacing it with several chairs and a table that can be used for conferencing by students and the teacher.

6. Rethink classroom wall space and “declutter” the walls. Many classroom walls have too much on them, creating excessive visual stimulation for students with materials that do very little to support learning.

7. Provide writing surfaces in your classrooms. This can be accomplished with portable whiteboards, by creating writing surfaces on walls with a wall treatment, or by purchasing tables with writing surfaces.

8. Develop an incubator area where teachers can experiment with different space configurations and how they support student learning. Offer professional development on learning spaces.

In addition to changes in physical locations for learning, school boards should consider supporting the development of digital spaces for learning, especially if there are one-to-one programs starting or already in place. Such spaces add increased capacity for learning, make learning accessible beyond the typical day, and provide a location for learning online where students can work safely and productively.

A contemporary school digital space for learning can be composed of the following elements:

• A digital location for each teacher’s course. This “virtual” space is predominately owned by teachers and provides all of the resources students need to be successful in the course. The digital space provides access to resources, calendars, discussion forums, and other tools that create a central location for a student’s work.

• A digital location for students. This space is predominately owned by students and gives them access to a wide range of tools for creating and collaborating. Students use this space while they are at the school and can take the contents with them when they graduate. The space provides tools that support learning in a variety of ways and promotes student choice in how they use the space.

It is essential that students and teachers can access these spaces on any type of device— ranging from a desktop computer to a laptop—as well as on tablet devices and smartphones.

David Jakes (djakes@cannondesign.com) is a digital designer and strategist with CannonDesign and The ThirdTeacher+ in Chicago.

Read the full article at http://mydigimag.rrd.com/article/Space+Age/1803616/223733/article.html.

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