#TMSpaces Review Part Three

“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.”
– Attributed to Jiddu Krishnamurti

This, the third part of my review of #TMSpaces from Thursday 15th October picks up with Re-imagining Oakhill College Library, presented by Lyn Revai. Lyn echoed much of what had been said previously, emphasising that rushing in to change, particularly large-scale change, was not a helpful move, and that the desire to shift pedagogy was a helpful driver. Lyn also made the point that it was necessary to provide support for both teachers and students in learning how to use and conceptualise new or changed learning spaces, particularly when the conceptualiation of the learning space by those at the centre of the change involve a new way of thinking about the use of the space.

Kim Kofod (@kim_kofod) spoke next from the perspective of thinking about the intersection between education and industry. As a teacher involved in in secondary teaching of subjects with a strong basis in professional industry, a need was observed to match the learning space and the equipment to what is commonly used and expected in the specific industry. The space was effectively turned into a Makerspace, with industry-standard equipment including woodworking, CAD, textiles and graphic design equipment in the same space. Kim noted that a trend is appearing whereby learning spaces are being designed  skin to tertiary or professional industrial spaces more and more, which is an interesting observation given this tweet from earlier in the evening.

It was interesting to hear that the space doubled as theory and practical use, however I suspect that without the intersection between learning and industry that has occurred with the equipment available for use in the space, this would be much more difficult than it is.

John Goh (@johnqgoh), the energetic principal of Merrylands East PS (@merrylandseast) spoke next under the title Less is best. John spoke about being in a community with significant change occurring, with a number of students living in apartment buildings, with more apartment buildings being constructed. John made some very interesting comments. When they were looking for new furniture for the new space they looked to industry. They wanted more intimacy and more comfort in their small groups so they looked to the casinos. There were some quiet gasps of shock at that statement, but the reasoning makes sense. Casinos utilise the horseshoe shape for their gaming tables to create a sense of intimacy with the operator of that game, and the chairs are designed to be able to be sat in, comfortably, for long periods of time. They wanted to demarcate different spaces without using furniture, so they ended up utilising carpet to do this.

John also stressed that we need to use our space far better than we do at the moment, and showed images of students around a table coffee-shop style. He pointed out that when we go to a coffee shop with friends, that three or four people will gather around very small tables, each with our coffee and often a plate with food on it with no issues. Yet the same  table in a classroom would be used for only one or maybe two students as it would be too small for any more than that. John’s view is that tables are full of redundant space; storage for our students’ pencil case, drink bottle or other things which are not needed moment to moment and thus can be stored elsewhere for access as needed, such as under the chair. I came across this great example (top left image in panel below) while in conversation with someone at FlipConAus last week.

John made the point, as had others, that we need to change how we conceptualise the purpose of learning spaces, and that when re-furnishing after a change, that it is easier and better to start with less and add more in as it is directly needed. He also mentioned that this is significantly cheaper as you are not paying for furniture that you end up not using and putting into storage. He reminded us that it is important to allow our students the opportunity to work outside when practicable as well. They utilise vertical gardens in the school and also local outside spaces, such as parks.

John’s final point, which I think is critical, was that the pedagogy should drive the learning, which should in turn drive the space.

I will leave you with some more PicCollage’s that I put together from the school tour I was given at St. Stephen’s College, Coomera, last week. St Stephen’s was the host venue for the very first FlipConAus, and is a remarkable premises. The first is a collection of images from around the school, including the library. The second is the staffroom and attached office annexes for staff.

Thank you for reading, and I would love to hear from anyone who has changed their learning space, and see some before and after photos.

#TMSpaces Review Part One

“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s we rob them of tomorrow.”
– John Dewey, Schools of Tomorrow, 1915.

Last Thursday (15th October) I attended my very first Teach Meet which was hosted at Bradfield Senior College (@BradfieldSC). Phillip Cooke (@sailpip) organised the event with a focus on learning spaces, which for me is timely given the school rebuild that is ongoing in my current school. Naturally the back-channel was #TMSpaces and Phillip has already posted the link to the Storify of the Teach Meet. My thanks to Lily Young (@lilypilly) for posting a photo of the agenda which included a list of the speakers and their Twitter handles:

The first speaker was was Mark Liddell (@MarkLiddell) under the heading Seventy seats for fifty students and other related stories which he described as being an explanation of a range of train wrecks in changing learning space arrangements, layouts and uses.

Mark related that his experience with learning spaces has demonstrated that the key component for success in changing learning spaces is the culture of the school, beginning with the leadership culture. Mark continued by outlining that in one particular context, they began by working with Year Eleven students in 2011 and were looking to change the way they learned and provide more autonomy. They set out to break the timetable, allowing students the autonomy to choose when they wanted to do their learning. This challenged teachers to think about the best way they could manage the interactions with their students, as they now had to negotiate their teaching both in person and online. Mark said that this particular initiative failed as the culture of the school was not in the right place for such a move to be stable over a lengthy period of time.

The next initiative was a move with a Year Seven cohort to implement team teaching which enabled a re-imagining of the physical space. This change of the learning space did work and the following year it was rolled out for the new Year Seven, and the (now) Year Eight cohort. This threw up additional challenges for the school and the teachers. They found they needed more time for planning and negotiating who would teach what, without their being any more time available. The culture of the school and the leadership within the school was such that a rearranging of the timetable was able to be negotiated that allowed for this team teaching arrangement to continue to function.

Mark then talked about the need to re-imagine the way that we see and use learning spaces. Just because you have a single open learning space does not mean that it needs to be utilised as a single open learning space. A large learning space can be divided into multiple smaller spaces through a variety of methods. John Goh (@johnqgoh) echoed this point when he showed some photos of the way that spaces in the library at Merrylands East (@merrylandseast)had been divided up, without furniture, through the use of different coloured carpets and other cues:

Mark spoke about how the use of campfire spaces to disseminate information to students, or for class discussions has begun and that they have also been used as a launchpad for the day quite effectively.

Mark’s final point was that there is a relationship between learning spaces and John Hattie’s Eight Frames of Mind and that we should think about the learning spaces we place our students in by considering how the learning space will allow the mind frames to have an impact.

Retrieved from https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BelDUikCcAEJcbw.jpg on 20 October, 2015

Following Mark, we heard from Lily Young (@lilypilly) who is a Teacher Librarian at Newington College (@library_nc) who spoke under the title The science behind standing and the way in which the amount of sitting (or standing) we do on a day to day basis impacts the health of our students. Lily began by asking us all to stand up, which she reminded us is what we do for the majority of the day, as teachers, but not what our students do. and that having a high level of sedentarism has been repeatedly shown, in both Australian and International literature, to have negative implications for health, including increased risk of high levels of bad cholesterol, obesity and heart disease. Lily indicated that sedentarism has been called the new cancer. A brief search on Google Scholar turned up this article from 2010 which indicates in the abstract that

“The literature review identified 18 articles pertaining to sedentary behavior and cancer risk, or to sedentary behavior and health outcomes in cancer survivors. Ten of these studies found statistically significant, positive associations between sedentary behavior and cancer outcomes. Sedentary behavior was associated with increased colorectal, endometrial, ovarian, and prostate cancer risk; cancer mortality in women; and weight gain in colorectal cancer survivors”

This article seems to back up Lily’s provocative statement. Lily indicated that we need to flip the model and have our students standing more and utilise standing desks or other appropriate methods to achieve this. I am a big fan of standing desks, and have been considering purchasing one for myself at home as between writing these blog articles, recording videos for school, research, and gaming, I spend a significant amount of time at the computer and am conscious of the lack of inactivity and how it makes me feel, given that I am normally a relatively active person, being a teacher notwithstanding. Unfortunately, they do not come cheaply. At least none of the ones I’ve been able to find do, though I would appreciate any links to reasonably priced standing tables.

Lily closed by asking if anyone had spent a day shadowing a student before. She spoke about a teacher who had done just that, for two days, and discovered how utterly draining it was. Fortunately, Mark Liddell posted a link to it.

I commend the article to you, as it is a thought provoking article that will make you re-evaluate how you teach and how much movement occurs in your class. I plan to ask my Stage Three students some questions around this very issue, namely, do I talk too much and expect them to be quiet, and still, too often.

I will halt there for this article, as it is already reasonably lengthy, and there are still a number of presenters to go. I hope that this article has caused you to look with fresh eyes at your learning space and how you utilise it, and to consider alternative ways that it can be set up to benefit the students. I would like to hear any feedback or thoughts on the topic as it is an area where there is still some contention amongst educators.