flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license
Space has been something that I have wondered about for a long time. If I am honest, it is probably the last thing that I consider when planning. Maybe because it feels like it is given, already dictated by someone else, or maybe because I lack the imagination to think about what it could be and why. Some people have challenged me, suggesting that I simply need to ask the students. This may well be the case and there are often times when I allow students to move things around depending on what they are doing. However I think that when it comes to wholesale change, that even students are limited at times by what they know.
In a recent chat on Voxer, Jon Corripo provided his suggestions for redesigning a classroom space which again sparked my imagination. His list included:
Better Lighting: Blow out the T-Bars and get down lights, which you can get in LED format now making them a lot more cost efficient.
A Stage for Students: Does not have to be much, just something that allows them to stand above everyone else when needs to.
Built-in Green Wall: Every room needs a green wall and with this built in lighting.
360 Whiteboard: Removing the focus on ‘the front’ by having whiteboards all around the room. This can be interrupted with versatile slat walls.
Flexible Furniture: Get a mixture of skinny flippy flop tables which can be nested when needed, as well as standing cafe tables.
Versatile Power: Instead of disrupting the floor space, get electric cord reels that you pull down from the roof.
Project onto the Floor: Rather than projecting onto a whiteboard or IWB, mount an interactive projector so that it projects onto the floor and students can sit around it. For example, Epsom now have an LED projector which is only $350.
Moving beyond ‘flexible’ spaces, Corripo provides a clear vision for a different learning space that is still within the confines of solitary classroom that for too many is still the norm.
Although this vision would not necessarily be the answer for every classroom, what Corripo’s list does do is provide a picture for how classrooms can be different. Another interesting perspective is that of Michelle Hostrup who provided a reflection on how she went about changing up her early years space on the TER Podcast. Such examples help develop an idea of how things could be different. What is most important is that in today’s culture of changing work spaces, we owe it to our students to iterate and develop the learning spaces that in some environments I would imagine have become stagnant over time. This starts by asking the question, is the best possible set-up and if not, then what?
So what about you, how are you restructuring your spaces? What steps do you take to extend your imagination beyond the usual. As always, I would love to know. Feel free to comment below.
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Imagining Different Learning Spaces by Aaron Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Been a while. Great post and great ideas that you’ve listed via Jon Corripo. It’s no secret that I am also a fan of Heppell’s work around learning space design, or redesign, over the years i’ve been able to implement and try quite a few different things to varied levels of success. Notably, flexible seating options such as stools, chairs, bean bags, crates, couches, etc… Also the notion of writable surfaces, using whiteboard paint, was a great inclusion, as is also mentioned in your post above! A splash on walls and tables allows for greater collaboration between students (and staff)! After having visited Google in Sydney a few times, I have taken quite a bit from their spaces as well, although I have not been able to convince any of the powers to be to let me put a ‘ball pit’ in a learning space! One thing however that I look forward to including from my Google visits is standing height benches in learning spaces. I recently have seen that kogan.com are selling desk stands for desktops and laptops that convert from a seated position to a standing one. Cheap too! I am keen to hear what you’ve done in your learning spaces also that has made a difference for your students! 🙂
Sadly Corrie I am not necessarily in the position to have much say over learning spaces. I agree about Google and Heppell, but sometimes it feels that there needs to be something in-between these spaces. What I like about Corripo’s list is that in many respects it is a revision and reimagining of what many schools already have in regards to general structures.
I must admit, that I could do more and probably should.
Hope all is well and been really inspired following your journey.
“This starts by asking the question, is the best possible set-up and if not, then what?”
Great post, Aaron and thanks for the reminder to re-visit it. This quote sums it up for me – that’s what I’m constantly asking myself and why I tweak things all the time. It’s also a reminder that there will never be (and should never be) one ideal learning space – it will be dependent on so many things and should be constantly being reassessed and evolve as necessary.
My students have had good suggestions but I also find that they are constrained by ‘what we’ve always done’ so find it hard to imagine anything else. I feel like part of the process at the moment is retraining them in what it possible.
It can be hard breaking with the status quo Gillian, especially when it is all around you.