#TMSpaces Review Part Four

“I realized if you can change a classroom, you can change a community, and if you change enough communities you can change the world.”
– Attributed to Erin Gruwell

Thank you for following this series reviewing #TMSpaces back on the 15th of October. This will be the final part in the series, and will look at the presentations by Dan Bowen (@dan_bowen), Michelle Jensen (@bibliothecare3), Alan Allison (@adscall) and Monique Dalli (@1moniqued). I include here links to the #TMSpaces Storify put up by the event organiser, Phillip Cooke (@sailpip) as well as the links to the previous articles in the series

  1. Part One
  2. Part Two
  3. Part Three

Dan introduced himself by explaining that he was coming from a corporate viewpoint, and that the way that the offices at Microsoft are, are arranged in what could very much be termed an open learning space, if transplanted into a school. From there, he reminded us that while learning is important, it does not stop at the school fence. I feel like this is a point which needs to be drummed into our heads in the current age of ubiquitous technology, where, although I do hear the phrase learning any time and anywhere, or some variation thereof, I do not feel that it has been absorbed into the fabric of schools as yet.

Dan, under the heading Spaces’ Secrets to Success, made the observation that Kindergarten learning spaces are, typically, fantastic with a variety of seating modes, regular activity rotations to afford students the opportunity to get up and move and refresh or reset mentally and that it gets progressively worse as students get older, prompting the exchange of observations on learning spaces seen below.

Dan explained that they have taken simple things like rooms names and changed them, with offices and meeting/conference rooms being named after various people or places. His view is that while they do utilise the open space principal, that it is important to provide places where privacy can be obtained as there are times in both the corporate world and in education where privacy is required for sensitive conversations, and that the busy staff room is often inappropriate for those phone calls. The privacy can be provided by furniture, not just by walls and he showed some examples of this type of furniture.

He also reminded us that the most important place in the room is wherever the power points are. You only need to visit an airport or a conference to see this in action. Returning from FlipConAus just recently, I had a wait of a few hours at Brisbane airport before my flight, and there were clusters of people huddled around the power points that were accessible by the public, with an array of phones and tablets plugged in to charge. Interestingly enough, he indicated that in conversations with students that visit, a regular occurrence he says, that when asked what the most frustrating part of the school is, that students invariably respond with it being the toilets. This is an area that staff rarely think about, with the exception perhaps, of kindergarten teachers. Dan concluded by showing a bit.ly to the School Edition of the Makerspace Playbook

Michelle Jensen spoke next, under the heading The twenty-first century library and began by saying that libraries are key. I expected to be hearing about the use of space within a library for learning, however this was not what Michelle spoke about. Or rather, it was, but a very different perspective was taken. Michelle spoke to the fact that learning should be any time, anywhere, and that maker spaces fell into this, as they are targeted to learning by doing. She reminded us that maker spaces can, and should be, a combination of both high and low-technology and that a library is often a great spot for them to occur in as there is generally someone present.

Michelle’s view is that maker space should be flexible and should evolve to suit the needs, desire and constraints within which they operate, which may mean running workshops at recess and/or lunchtime, for students and staff alike. I can see substantial benefits for those teachers whom are willing to get involved. The relationships that would form between students and teachers, as they co-learn the skills and techniques needed, as they collaboratively make, and the respect and understanding for each other through the process of learning together, and of the teacher being open to being taught by students more skilled in various facets of making, would reap significant boons in the classroom, as the intersection between content, curiosity and relationship would be easier to meet in the classroom.

The point was also made that a maker space can be virtual through the use of software such as Minecraft, JoyKadia,Sim-on-a-stick. Furthermore, these virtual maker spaces can be managed by students and for students in order to give ownership of the maker space to the students that will be using the space. I have written previously about maker spaces and I can see the benefits to them. I am still working out how to embed them authentically in my classroom, and to do so without a budget. Additionally, I agree that there are significant benefits to using Minecraft in the classroom, if it is implemented authentically, as I wrote about here, however at this point in time, I am not sure that I would be able to embed it authentically in my students learning; and I would rather wait until I have built up a better range of teaching strategies to support the use of Minecraft, something seen as a game with no educational value by many teachers.

Michelle also spoke about her utilisation of the NSW State Library as a resource bank as well as the Information Skills Process, a Web 2.0 tool summarised in the below graphic put together by NSW Department of Education and Training:

Retrieved from http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/schoollibraries/teachingideas/info_skills/assets/infoprocesscycle.pdf 29 October 2015
Retrieved from http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/schoollibraries/teachingideas/info_skills/assets/infoprocesscycle.pdf 29 October 2015

Michelle closed by mentioning the FAIR Campaign, an initiative by the Australian Library and Information Association “…campaigning for a fair, open, democratic society where information can be accessed by everyone.” I would encourage you to visit their site to learn more about their specific campaigns, including  “…copyright law reform, cybersafety and the problems with internet filtering, digitising our nation’s history, encouraging children to read, evidence-based decisions in law, health and business, evidence-based policy making, learning at any age,qualified library staff in schools, supporting Australia’s book industry and well funded public libraries.”

The penultimate speaker was Alan Allison (@adscoll) of Granville College, speaking under the title Eclectic Tech for Years Eleven and Twelve. Alan spoke very quickly, as we were running well behind schedule due to some speakers speaking over time, and his focus was on emphasising a high-quality on-line learning space and the various tools that he uses to achieve this.Alan indicated that, primarily, he utilised Moodles to record work and Wikispaces to for content delivery. Within WIkispaces, Alan explained that using the Projects function as spaces for providing feedback to students, as well as a place for students to store their notes on-line in a secure location.

This seems to my thinking to be a version of a flipped classroom with a mix of in-flip and out-flip, though Alan made no mention of flipped learning in any explicit way. In addition to Moodle and Wikispaces, Alan mentioned Quizlet, Alan was also adamant that A3 whiteboards were a better option for classrooms than A3 due to the larger amount of usable space, and the fact that when students utilised them for note taking, or brainstorming ideas, that they provided for better photos as students naturally wrote larger on the larger space. Alan indicated that his students take and then upload photos of their notes to their Wikispace. I really like this idea of conserving the students’ learning, as it is a resource they have created and could utilise again in the future.

The final speaker was Monique Dalli (@1moniqued), who also spoke very quickly for the same reasons as Alan. Monique had some thought-provoking things to say, reminding us that we are the converts in our schools for alternative learning spaces and that the biggest challenge is moving what we currently have to what we want, both in our own learning spaces and in the mindset of our colleagues. She exhorted us to question who the converts are not and what can be done to interest them in alternative learning spaces and in changed pedagogy. Monique challenged us to remember that if we are going to change the learning space, then we must also change the pedagogy, otherwise we have changed for change’s sake.

The typical classroom has not changed a great deal in the last few decades, other than perhaps the movement away from the rigid requirement for all desks to be in rows, and was developed during the industrial revolution. Research into how students learn conducted over the last thirty years has lead to changes, as has the rise to prominence of the individual.

As part of the change, it is important to take small steps, a point echoed made many times throughout the night. Monique indicated that as much as change can create anxiety amongst teachers, “…change can fear out the students as well.” The baby-steps approach affords students, as well as teachers, the opportunity to adjust to changes and evaluate the effectiveness of the change before making another change. Monique finished by commenting that Ebay is a valid source of furniture, and that much can be acquired, for decent prices, via Ebay.

It was a long night, but worthwhile attending. Given the impending move to open learning spaces at my school, and my desire to begin flipping, thinking about the classroom ecology is something that I need to begin doing. There were some great ideas presented during the evening, and I am glad that I went. My thanks to Phillip Cooke for organising the night and to Bradfield SC for hosting the event.