Updating Today’s Learning Spaces

Welcome back. This week I’d like to discuss learning spaces and how they contribute to student learning. In his book, Sheninger (2019) describes an innovate school named Clark Hall which was setup more like modern office building than a typical American high school. The main objectives for the school were to:

  • “Provide an open, bright, and flexible space for learning.
  • Provide student choice.
  • Integrate technology to engage students.
  • Be flexible with time to focus on learning.
  • Provide students with opportunities to express their natural creativity.
  • Utilize teachers as facilitators.
  • Promote interdisciplinary and interconnected projects.
  • Make learning fun!” (Sheninger, 2019, p. 118).

The school contributes to student learning “with flexibility built into the daily schedule, [that allows] teachers have more time to interact with students on an individual basis, students feel more relaxed and more compelled to engage in the learning process, and collaboration among students just seems natural” (Sheninger, 2019, p. 118).

If I were designing a new educational space, I would probably model my school like Clark Hall. I would want to incorporate soft seating spaces that allow students to work collaboratively or individually on assignments. I would also include bright colors and artistic designs that engage creative minds and are more comfortable for the students. In place of traditional desks in the classrooms, I would like to see tables and chairs, or small group areas. I would also want to incorporate creative and maker spaces in the school to engage students and give them a safe space to seek solutions to problems they are trying to solve.

Along with comfortable seating and spaces, I would incorporate 21st century technology that enables the students to work in a space similar to what they will face in the workforce. I would want to make sure that my school “building contains high-powered wireless internet connections, natural light, a laptop for every student, and collaborative spaces in the hallways” (Sheninger, 2019, p. 119). I would also want the teachers to be equipped with smart boards and laptops in their classrooms. There should be plenty of whiteboards for student brainstorming and teaching. There would also be designated quiet areas for those students who need a quieter environment in which to learn.

Funding for a new school building is not easy to come by, however I would approach school administrators and stakeholders to gain this funding. I would propose partnerships with organizations in the community – such as the one Clark Hall made with their local YMCA – to help offset some of the costs. I would remind these key stakeholders that reform to education needs to take place in the spaces, not just in curriculum. Many of today’s professional offices have evolved to incorporate many of these ideas. Sheninger (2019) described his trip to the Google offices which included gaming, napping, and massage rooms. While today’s high school student probably don’t need massage rooms, they do need innovative and creative spaces in which to learn if they are going to be competitive in the new workforce and world of tomorrow

Resources

Sheninger, E. C. (2019). Digital leadership: changing paradigms for changing times (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

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