Monday, June 10, 2013

Modern learning environments open day expo and speakers

On Saturday, i attended the CORE education open day on modern learning environments. The event had a schools focus but as always, good ideas are generalisable across sectors. About a dozen booths featuring various hardware, infrastructure and furniture feature in the trade booths. I was interested in the various half hourly presentations featuring a range of overseas and local speakers. The presentations featured a few researchers in the area of learning spaces and various school principles and teachers sharing case studies of how their schools have developed and established new learning environments.

Speakers programme opened by Derek Wenmoth.

Professor Stephen Heppel on the international perspective on modern learning environments. Stephen is based in in the UK and Spain, Madrid. Some good ideas from a range of other countries who have either been far sighted enough to change not only the pedagogy but also purpose-built schools to support new learning approaches OR had to reconstruct due to disaster, natural or other. 
A smorgasbord of ideas presented in an engaging manner.
Large group teaching in shared learning spaces have many advantages including catering to mixed learning abilities / stages. Ideas to change shared spaces into continuous learning environments include computer screens on all walls with a folder allocated to each learner to archive exemplars. When screens not used, learners' work is displayed. Also, importance of taking acoustics, and allow students to use free decibel meter app to measure and moderate classroom noise!
Important to adapt the best ideas that have been tried out by other people. For instance, one day timetable so students concentrate on one subject each day. Vertical divisions removed so students can accelerate or be retained as required. 
Staff rooms that allow staff to share readings, ideas etc. Need to have students drive the learning environment design. Use colours of furniture for formation of groups or to mark activity areas or zones. Writable surfaces need to be supported with capture system I.e. phone!
Design for learning not just for energy, resource efficiency.

Hamish Whyte from furnware with a shortened presentation on how they gathered ideas from students to help produce furniture designed to meet the needs of primary age learners. The bodyfurn in desk storage system was used as an example of a participatory action research project to produce the most practical shelving to be fixed to the side of student desks.

Chris Bradbeer, Charlotte Hinge and Sheena Campbell from Stonefields School in Auckland via live Video conference. A video taken on a school day to show how the learning hub is used begins the session. Learning hubs are composite classes all working within one large space.  Asnet product allows video conferencing via iPad set up from Chch and through to Auckland. 
The school has 4 days school curriculum 1 day for students to work on their own interests. Both physical and virtual environments help teachers, students and parents work on visible learning. Chris provided overview of school philosophy and the two teachers provide a guided tour of the learning hubs and their change in teaching practice. 

James Petronelli, Clearview School, Rolleston, present on a before and after story. How can schools change to keep up with rapid technological and social change. Classrooms need to support learning and provide the environment with resources that fit students ergonomic and learning needs. Open out and break down class level and room barriers. Provided the story of moving from quite an open learning centred approach to a modern learning environment. Combining studio learning approaches with flexible learning spaces. 
Inspiration from northern beach Christian school in Sydney.
Collaborative teaching can be supportive, parallel, complementary and team. All of these forms of teaching afforded by MLE to teach and learn in purposeful spaces. Connected to delivery style, small group withdrawal, knowledge grouping, student choice, peer teaching, whole group teaching. 

Ministry of Education provided the research background informing the MLE. The site provides access to resources, exemplars,moderation tool and research papers.

Dr. Julia Atkin - designing from the inside out: the complexity of transforming spaces for learning. People who are going to work with MLE need to learn from the actual implementation so that they take ownership. Therefore learning spaces need to be build from the aspirations of learners and the community they live in. Provided examples of how learning environments based on understandings of the nature learning are designed from the inside out. Whole package design needs to occur, taking in the influences and work through them. The work of Mary featherston design used in many Australian schools.
Learning spaces need to have purpose and be activated, otherwise they become storage added ons and not complementary learning spaces. Do not start from floor plan but from what will be the learning experience. Transformation in pedagogy needs to be complemented by supportive learning environments. 

Paula Eskett from National Library of NZ on moving school libraries from transactional to transformational. Provided an overview of how library services have changed to assist learners and teachers to create and archive knowledge asnitnis being created. Collaboration, co creation, networking. Therefore a change from transactions with physical resources to facilitators of learning. Change in thinking to assist students, teachers and librarian to work together to assist learning. No longer a set time for library but a place to drop in to access learning resources including hardware, apps, multimedia etc. resources from this presentation available on national library excellence in practice site. Think of the library as a colaboratory.

Jasmax shared the work they are been involved with in the design of new schools and redevelopment and rejuvenation of existing schools. How where and when we learn. Used workplaces and the changes taking place there in moving to collaborative teams. Primary schools include Elim Junior campus, Stonefields, Ngatea ( a repurposed older school). Secondary schools include Awatea ( with 10 community bases), Te Whanua O Tupuranga, Ormiston, Santa Maria, Avondale, Albany Senior, Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate. 

Rhonda Duncraft provided the early childhood perspective on post quake changes, challenges and opportunities. Her story was based on where they were (top down management), how they had to change due to earthquake forced move and where they now hope to get to. New premises precipitated a rethink and change to more collaborative participation between management, parents committee and staff. 

Neil O'Reilly from Windsor School presented on the relationship between MLEs and modern learning pedagogies. We now know much about how learning takes place but classrooms and how teaching occurs still unchanged from last 100 years. School should be where learning takes place. Teachers need to be proactive as changing the learning environment does not create any change. Rules and regulations should be replaced by responsibility and respect. NZ curriculum enables change but we need to grab the opportunity. Recommended flipping the curriculum to base learning on real life problem solving, using technology, drive learning on ecology and human sustainability and community supported learning - learning when ever and where ever, not just at school. Flexible learning, environments and resources. 

On the walls, description of the studio concept of learning and spaces that allow creativity (sandpit), meditation (cave), celebration (mountain top), sharing (camp fire) and meeting (water hole).

My thoughts on the bike ride home was that we need to maximise our current 'situated learning' environments', the workrooms, workshops and simulated restaurants / clinics etc. that form much of CPIT based learning environments. We tend to use the workplace as the baseline and research shows that workplace learning can be challenging! So how do we evaluate the efficacy of our current situated learning spaces and ensure that are learning environments? The NZ Ministry of Education provides an 'assessment tool' that could be a useful starting point for adaptation to our context. Providing the environment can be seen to be a beginning, structured and planned active learning approaches still need to be implemented. We still have much to do with regards to building staff capability to maximise notional hours through flipping the classroom, flexible learning and assessment activities based on students' work (especially for our part-time students who are already working in the industry they are studying for qualifications in) and distance delivery.