Christian Long was the final keynote for the CEFPI conference. He was such an inspirational speaker. Below are some TEDx talks that he has done - Empowering Learners to Redesign the Classroom and Reimagining Students as agents of change. Worth a watch!
At the conference, Christian's topic was "Designing Agile Learning Ecologies for Complex Futures." Christian discussed how we have the privilege of "disrupting" because of our time in education. School's hadn't fundamentally changed in over a century, yet the rapid introduction of technology has enabled us to be part of a new future. His advice? Don't react - EMBRACE! His question? How do we disrupt and transform with PURPOSE?
Christian challenged us to be brave enough to build the schools that will serve our students. He encouraged the audience to think of a different design pattern. By developing effective pedagogies, we can then create schools to match. Don't start with the school.
Christian is part of a forward thinking organisation, The Third Teacher +. You can also find them on facebook and twitter. The book, "The Third Teacher," is a must read for those who are interested in environments and education.
I have seen Dr Julia Atkin speak several times, and always leave with my brain buzzing. Her keynote at the conference was no different. Julia discussed how the disruption caused by natural disasters around the world, leaves us with an obligation to create something better. Transformation doesn't occur without disruption, not just disruption to our physical environment, but also disruption with our thinking.
When developing new learning environments, teachers and designers are battling their own upbringings. We are struggling to develop clarity for a new way of seeing things. School design has changed little in the past hundred years. It is easy for us to go "back to what we know" and struggle to imagine new futures or ways of doing things.
Julia reiterated that piloting and trialling of ideas is extremely important. Time and energy is required for teacher change.
Julia encouraged the audience to foster innovation and listen to student voice. Innovation has to make things better. This will lead to unexpected and startling results. She urged us to disrupt entrenched pattern and prevent the domestication of innovation.
Design needs to reflect the nature of learners and the nature of learning. We need to constantly ask ourselves; "What is exemplary practice?", "What do we believe about learning?" Collaboration will be the key to creating better learning environments for everyone.
Julia challenged the use of the term "Modern Learning Environment" , urging us to not get sidetracked by the word "Modern". Not everyone will get a new school building, but everyone can make changes to create "Better Learning Environments".
Stephen Harris is the principal of Northern Beaches Christian School and director of the Sydney Centre for Learning Innovation, in New South Wales, Australia. The topic of his keynote was, "Factories No More: They key role design and furniture has in enabling teachers to change pedagogy." Stephen discussed how education innovation breaks through disengagement and re-engages students into learning.
His keynote was thought provoking and challenged the audience's preconceptions and ideas.
The important ideas that will stay with me from this presentation are:
School buildings will probably be out of date in twenty years.
Architects should not draw furniture on their plans. This starts to set the pedagogy.
Key questions for learning spaces - "How do I learn?","How do I want to learn?", "Where do I want to learn?"
What implications does mobile technology have for education? How do you keep technology as the pedagogic tool, not the driver?
How will economies affect learning? For example, will it be feasible to maintain and operate educational facilities like universities at the current level we have now?
We need to unlearn and relearn pedagogic design. We need to disrupt our mental models, or teachers will revert to what they have always done, not relearn.
The end product of education has to have a purpose. This could be social cohesion, community development or job creation. This means our designs need to have purpose and meaning, be future oriented, sustainable and allow for growth.
School designs need to be agile, perpetual blank canvases, that can be continually reconfigured.
There are buildings less than ten years old, that are already requiring modifications and alterations to meet purpose. How can we minimise this?
Stephen had some recommended reading for educators:
Check out "
Michael Barber discusses his essay, "Oceans of Innovation" about the rise of the Asia Pacific region. (Available free from Amazon.)
The 13th Annual CEFPI (Council of Educational Facilities Planners International) was held for the first time in New Zealand this year. A mix of architects, planners, teachers, principals and government officials, this was an amazing opportunity to participate and learn about the future direction of teaching and learning. There were amazing speakers each day, workshops and site visits to schools around Auckland.
The theme of the conference was "Disruption" and this theme was a cohesive link throughout the whole conference. Whether it was disruption because of natural disasters such as the Canterbury Earthquake or Australian bush fires, or disrupting your thinking about school design, environments, teaching and learning, the theme was prevalent, challenging you to innovate and be part of the future.
It was great to meet people who were not just teachers! It was so interesting to hear their thoughts and how they see education and learning spaces. Now to start making sense of my notes and sharing the main messages from the conference.
Wondering: Research shows that you can't just build a new learning space and expect changes to pedagogy without significant teacher development. ((Temple, 2007; Higgins et al., 2005; DEECD, 2008; Fisher, 2002). Yet it is difficult for teachers to be involved in a design process, as they have to break out of what is known and imagine new futures. By default, we go back to what we know. How can educationalists and designers work together in effective, efficient ways to create better learning environments for all learners?
The opening keynote for the conference was presented by Mike Anderson, Principal of Waimairi School and John Leonard, Principal of Freeville School, both located in Christchurch. They described the aftermath of the February Earthquake, which devasted Christchurch and changed it forever.
It was a harrowing journey that they took us on, describing panic and students and communities who were broken. Throughout this, staff remained calm and the schools became a focal point for the community.
Although both schools still face some uncertainty with rebuilding projects and the possibility of merger, Mike and John had several key messages.
Schools and communities need to feel ownership over decisions about their school.
They don't want repairs, they want transformation.
New buildings should match effective pedagogy.
Staff, students and the community should have input into new school design.
Mark Treadwell also added to these ideas in a later keynote: "In times of change, we have huge opportunities for innovation. Risk taking is risky, but no risk taking is catastrophic. Buildings need to be in sync with learning."
John discussed how a key change for his school had been the redefining of what a community is and where schools sit in the community. In the days and weeks after the earthquake, schools provided a community space, a return to normality and a place for people to meet and support each other.
"Ka pu te ruha ka hao te rangatahi"
As an old net withers, another is remade.
Kia Kaha Christchurch.
What is the most effective way for government, schools, communities and stake holders to work together to create an amazing future for education in our area? How can we ensure that innovate and transform, rather than rebuild?
Nikki Kaye, Associate Minister for Education, welcomed delegates to the conference. During her speech, she discussed:
How the theme of "disruption" is so relevant world wide.
The changing nature of education. This change is not just the physical environment.
How innovation will be required to meet the educational needs of the future.
Ways in which the government will contribute - significant investment in building, high speed internet and online environments.
The provision of equitable opportunities for all.
The development of appropriate learning environments for communities and the need for communities to be involved and have ownership.
How students can be involved in the design process and decision making.
Safety challenges - both physical and online.
Raising the profile of digital literacy and online environments.
The Ministry of Education is certainly facing interesting times, with the Canterbury rebuild, intensification in Auckland and the movement of our population due to these factors. Nikki's key message was that our learning environments need to be flexible, connected spaces that inspire, as schools are the centre of our community.
You can read Nikki's complete speech here.
At Clearview Primary, we have two different types of buildings. We have our Stage 1 build, which opened in 2010 and our Stage 2 build, which opened in 2013.
Today I spent some time in the Stage 1 classrooms. These blocks consist of 6 classrooms, with small breakout rooms between each class. There is also a full length learning studio, which runs beside the classrooms. There is a teacher workroom, wet area and technology area.
The teachers in these blocks are experimenting with collaborative teaching methods. Our school this year is working towards pedagogical changes, to enhance the learning experiences for our students. The teachers are working either in teams of 2 or 3. They are very much trialing differents pedagogical approaches, and constantly refining to see what works best for their students.
I spent some time with two of our Year 2 teachers, observing the way they are running their reading programme in a collaborative way. There was some amazing learning taking place.
These teachers are using their 2 classrooms, learning studio area and breakout room.
The students are grouped for reading according to ability.
One teacher works in a classroom, taking reading groups. The next day the other teacher takes the reading groups.
One teacher roves. Students might be working on follow up activities, literacy games, reading or other word study type activities. They have Interactive White Board games and reading eggs to access on the student laptops.
The teachers plan for their reading groups together.
The teachers running this programme are noticing many benefits for their teaching and student's learning.
They both know the students really well, as they take turns with group teaching. This has meant excellent professional discussions about student progress and intervention plans. When making overall teacher judgements, they can discuss a student confidently, and have support with their assessment. The teacher who is roving is able to interact and question students about what they are learning. They are on hand to provide support and immediate feedback and feedforward. The teachers feel that independent activities have become so much more purposeful and are reinforcing the learning, rather than just being fillers while the teacher takes reading groups.
I definitely noticed how engaged the students were in these classes. They were focused and on task. I also noticed students teaching each other. The set up for reading is also being replicated in Maths, so I look forward to observing that session also.
In the Year 3/4 block, they are getting underway with team teaching in Maths. Although just getting started, I could already notice how well the different spaces are being used, with students selecting work areas based on the learning styles and preferences. It will be interesting to see how this develops over the term.
Reading some of the work by Dr Kenn Fisher has been truly inspiring this week. I came across these excellent diagrams that he presented as part of his work with the Education Department in the state of Victoria, Australia. I thought they summarised information about space and pedagogy in a very effective way.
I especially liked how Dr Fisher had matched pedagogical activities with a spatial icon. Reading over the linking of principles to place, I was pleased to see that our MLE design at Clearview Primary provides opportunities for the pedagogical approaches and activities that Dr Fisher describes. To read the full article click here.
Today I paid a visit to the Year 5-8 classroom block at my school, Clearview Primary. It was great to see the buzz of activity with some quality teaching and learning taking place. I had visited briefly in Term 1 and could really see a difference in the way the students and teachers were using the space. There were a lot of different things going on - art, literacy, buddy time, inquiry learning.
I noticed that the layout of the spaces has evolved. There are some areas with wide open spaces. Students can work on the floor, in bean bags, use the floor desks or sit at a low table. There are other areas that have tables and chairs available.
Upon chatting to students, it became clear that they had preferences about where they worked. Several students told me they liked to work at the tables and chairs in the large breakout room. They said they could also block some of the noise from others in here. Others told me they loved the beanbags and that was their favourite place to be.
Presently, there in only one teaching space that is full to capacity. All the others have 2 classes operating in a 3 class space. Those areas were noticeably quieter and the students were able to arrange themselves in different ways.
It was fantastic to have the opportunity to be an observer and to interact with the students and talk about their learning. I can't wait to go back and look at how the teachers are planning and organising the day in their classes.
How different is it when 2 teachers collaborate or 3 teachers collaborate? I noticed with 2 teachers there were a lot of teacher interactions. Teachers were giving directions together, commenting or reiterating, and often supporting each other. How is that different with a larger number of teachers? Does the dynamic change and one teacher is leading more often, rather than being co-leaders?
How do you manage the noise level? All the teachers and students commented that it is a lot noisier in this new block than in their old stand alone classroom. You could definitely hear other classes. What strategies and routines are vital for respectful learning?
So, what's all the buzz about Modern Learning Environments (MLE)?
What exactly is a MLE?
I found this definition on Core Education's website that I thought explained the idea brilliantly:
An opportunity to design and build a Modern Learning Environment is an opportunity to create spaces fit for 21st century learners. As much as it’s about buildings and furnishings, it’s about creating spaces that promote learning that is personalised, student-centred, engaging and connected to real problems and the real world.
Modern Learning Environments can help create the environment, mindsets and human capacity to help our young people make the most of their talents on the local and global stage. For them to be confident and capable to lead change, be creative, innovative and, above all, great citizens.
There is much research taking place, but indications are that a well designed learning environment has a positive impact on student outcomes. As educators, we have spent much of the last ten years focused on 21st century learning. The developing of MLE's is adding another element to support and nurture the learning of our digital natives. Of course, a building alone will not meet the needs of today's learners. Hand in hand with MLE's comes effective pedagogies. The transition from a stand alone classroom to a MLE brings many challenges for both teachers and students. It is vital that there is support and professional development.
From: "Research into the connection between built learning spaces and student outcomes." Literature Review. Paper No. 22, June 2011. Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victoria, Australia.
" the review highlighted the critical role of teacher professional learning and pedagogy as key mediating factors. Unless teachers are prepared and are provided with the necessary professional skills, tools and resources to change their practices, then new built spaces will not move them to innovative pedagogies."
To view the complete report, click here.
My sabbatical project aims to investigate the impact of modern learning environments on pedagogical practice and student learning experiences. I am planning to spend time in my own school and visit others to question, explore and investigate these wonderings:
What are the challenges when transitioning to a MLE for both teachers and students?
What changes to pedagogy are required?
What are the benefits to both teachers and students from teaching and learning in a MLE?
It should be quite a journey!
My name is Ngaire Shepherd-Wills. This website is a record of my TeachNZ sabbatical, Term 2, 2013 and then I have continued to share my wonderings and discoveries about Innovative Learning Practices. I now work for CORE Education. Views are my own.