A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to present my inquiry work on 'flexible learning spaces' at the NZ Festival of Education in Christchurch. It was just a short slot in a panel discussion of 3.
The key points I made were the following (you may agree or not):
- The term Modern Learning Environment: Modern Learning Environments are not new. I remember attending a modern learning environment primary school in the UK. The school had a large open plan layout with multiple flexible learning groups. Instead I have settled on the term 'Flexible Learning Environment'. This is a term that is well used in relation to online learning but works just as well for the classroom. I want the classroom to be flexible in what students learn and the equipment they use.
- Integrity of the school: It is, in my opinion, important to maintain the integrity of the school. This is especially important in the private sector but still applies to the integrated and public sector. Staff tend to apply to schools for a variety of reasons and many parents do choose to send their children to a specific school based on the school vision or what it has to offer. Radically changing the structure or learning environment too quickly could cause problems with not only staff but students and their families
- Time: There is so much pressure to change, and change quickly, to jump on the band wagon and make drastic changes, purchase new equipment or knock down walls. There is nothing wrong with investigating what school locally and internationally are doing. What problems they have encountered and solutions they have discovered. Trialing a particular layout or furniture on a small scale for a period of time could be more beneficial than making a lot of changed quickly. I found a lot of schools where willing to share what they are doing and respond to emails without having to go on expensive organised tours. Take some time.
- The learning/teaching: The shift needed to change how teachers teach and how students lean takes a different amount of time and depends on the willingness of the teacher to change. You can have a new learning environment and old teaching practice or traditional classroom with dynamic teaching practice. There is a lot that needs to come together to change how students learn and what they learn. It is important that as teachers change their pedagogy and classroom practice to meet the new demands that they are supported through this change and are given opportunities to learn, try and evolve. I very much believe in the design prototype model that I have mentioned before: