New Spaces for Learning

by Jean Tower

I am looking forward to the Annual Regional Conference of CEFPI, on April 28-30, 2011, at the Omni Parker House in Boston. The event title is: 21st Century Skills: 21st Century Learning Environments.

agile learning space

Annamaria Schrimpf and I are presenting a breakout session, New Spaces for Learning.
Our session description (below) promises to pack lots of learning into a short time – I hope people come fired up to lean in and participate, rather than sit back and listen. It really is the participation of attendees that make these sessions come alive. Often, it is the networking and sharing that spark conversations and help everyone to learn better. Hope to see you there.

Session Description:

Ask people what they envision when you say “classroom.” Most adults will recall classrooms that were pretty basic – four walls, a blackboard in the front, bulletin boards in the back, and rows of desks. As we reimagine learning in the 21st century, we are also beginning to design innovative learning spaces. The design of school facilities should incorporate the values and vision of the entire community. Unfortunately, the educational technology staff is often not brought into the conversation about these changes. That means that the voices of Technology Directors and Instructional Technology staff are often missing from these important discussions. In the 21st century, architects and designers cannot create adequate learning spaces without hearing and embracing the viewpoints of all stakeholders. If your community is planning a new school, there should be plenty of opportunities for all stakeholders to get involved, be informed, and to be heard. Are you ready to advocate for a school that has learning spaces that encourage learning that is interactive, collaborative, engaging, learner-driven, and project-based? Can you picture a space that facilitates virtual as well as face-to-face instruction; collaboration online as well as in physical groups; a space filled with enthusiastic and excited learners? In this session, we will provide resources and exercises for discovering and articulating your own views about how the modern schoolhouse should serve its daily inhabitants. The presenters believe that learning occurs in a variety of situations. We learn through formal lessons, in casual and social interactions, through teamwork, in online research and interactions, and in quiet moments when we read or reflect individually. The 1950’s classroom does not provide spaces that are conducive to the diversity of learning that happens in schools today. In creating a school designed for the 21st century, in addition to learning spaces, stakeholders cannot overlook the administrative and technical requirements that ensure progressive change. The educational environment that supports 21st century learning requires office spaces, shared spaces (for professional development and collaboration), wiring and storage closets that house a modern technical infrastructure. During this session, participants will reflect on their current learning infrastructure and begin to build a working knowledge of what needs to be in place to ensure school facilities that meet the needs of today’s educators and students.

Our session addresses the goals of the conference in several ways. We approach the design of new learning spaces as a highly collaborative community initiative that requires all voices to participate. The presenters are both Directors of Technology and bring that sensibility to the session. We have many resources to share and the session will be very interactive. For example, participants will view 2 very brief videos and then work in groups to describe:

  1. the learning taking place, and
  2. the environment in which it takes place.

These observations and discussions will fuel a later group tabletop activity in which groups of participants will develop a description of a particular learning area or professional work space in a new school.

Learning Objectives:

  1. be able to describe different learning situations and a space that would be appropriate
  2. be able to understand and describe the space needs for technology in a building
  3. to be able to take a learning scenario and design a learning space that meets the needs of learners
  4. be able to find and use the resources shared at the session

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