How does a learning space inspire the creative and collaborative learning needs of Generation C? The traditional “brick and mortar” defined space, furniture, and flexibility of learning time does not align with the idea of mobile learning, personalized learning schedules, and opportunities to learn beyond the classroom walls.
What is quickly emerging is the definition of space — not as the action of what will occur in it, and not for just the academic subject. I recently read an article describing the redefining of library spaces as “collaboratories” in New York around the theme that tools, teaming, and physical layout would create a zone of innovative, higher-order thinking and learning with others — physically or virtually present in the space.
Years ago when I attended the Microsoft Innovative Teachers forum, a guest speaker from the Institute of Design at Stanford spoke about the portability and flexibility of learning spaces. What was interesting was their learning laboratory — including moveable white board walls, stacks of sticky notes ready to be used for moments of brilliance, moveable learning spaces and side spaces for teaming. But what also was stressed was that learning was portable and defined by the space, and that learning was not driven by tools but the ability to promote higher order thinking skills.
Emerging Trends in Learning Space Design
Most recently two great examples appeared on the Web that truly inspired my thinking about what is a learning space. I look around my own classroom and realize one-half of the furniture and instructional space are rarely used by students. The recent highlight of Colorado’s Virtual Learning Cafe really inspired me — because of not only the layout and flexibility but also the idea that blended and virtual instructional strategies will empower students to maximize collaboration and innovation.
In the article, Sweden’s Latest Classrooms Don’t Have Walls, the key descriptors include the concepts of collaborative, independent, and project-based spaces to identify how the work will be done. The images reflect involved and engaged students with technology and their peers, not with teachers drilling instruction. The exploratory and productive nature of these spaces inspires me to think of instructional spaces just like the modern work spaces of tech companies such as Google: The openness and mobility to do work are the keystones to inspire innovation, higher-order thinking, and ideas to impact society beyond the classroom walls.
When I look at the newly defined spaces and think about my role as instructor, the emerging story of how we can learn with fewer restrictions and more mobility may be keys to preserving innovation in schools. Mobility is the work that continues to resonate in my mind around the ideas that is may be by device, person, tools, or learning experience.
So my role as the facilitator of learning is to foster the the process of learning around my cited six essential learning elements of Generation C that can occur in any space. The recent article on How To Turn Your Classroom Into an Idea Factory really struck me that the learning process and higher-order thinking expectations are the root of how we can effectively prepare Generation C for the world they will enter.
Five Forward-Thinking Ideas to Promote Innovative Learning Spaces and Processes
- Learning is not space dependent.
- Flexible learning spaces include access and furniture.
- Spaces should allow access to virtual networks via Internet access and tools to maximize the use of Generation C’s network.
- Learning is not time-dependent, because personalized learning schedules are breaking the molds of traditional school days.
- Blended, virtual learning and project-based learning will become the new norm; spaces need to meet the needs of collaboration and flexibility beyond the computer.
My final blog entry will address ideas about preparing Generation C for the “world of work.” The original coining of this phrase was based on the new workforce of connected age 18-35 employees, but the redefining of Generation C as the 5 to 18-year-old students pushing the envelope of education will further redefine the “world of work” they will enter.