When it comes to designing learning spaces, you would think that students and their instructors were included in the design process along with architects, interiors designers, construction heads and of course the education institution’s administration. Not so.
Very often teachers have to deal with the existing design of their teaching rooms and tailor their lessons to it. The traditional school layout is often based around classrooms with each room designed for 1 teacher to teach 30 students in a particular subject. Classrooms with similar classes are located in the same part of the building.
Nicholas Provenzano, a teacher from Michigan who writes The Nerdy Teacher blog is passionate about design spaces in schools. He enjoys visiting some of the newer companies—Evernote, YouTube—in California and observing their working space design. The one constant that he has seen in practically all of them: the ‘offices’ are all flexible and can be moved as per requirements.
Mr. Provenzano rightly wishes schools were also designed this way to fit the modern methods of teaching. “Too often, teachers are stuck designing lessons based around a very rigid physical environment,” he laments. Flexible open spaces instead are more conducive for idea generation and collaboration, or for working independently should a student choose to do so. It’s a more democratic and innovative way to learn.
“The more flexible the classroom can become, the more creative students and teachers can be because they can now create in environments that foster that innovative spirit.”
When students are allowed to own a space, instructors have often noticed that the alchemy is amped up several notches. Students engage in conversations and debates. Partnerships lead to more exchange of ideas. And in this digital age who needs a teacher to be physically present in a classroom when you can hook up with them via your mobile device thanks to Google Hangout.
We need to do away with the outdated architectural and design models for schools and instead create space that allows people to create and collaborate. And it’s about time we let students be the architects of their schools and have a hand in charting out the blueprints of their learning spaces. (image courtesy Steelcase)
Also, check out this helpful infographic on Learning Zones:
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