Learning Spaces

head image

“It is the learning space between the ears that makes the difference” Pru

There has been much talk recently of learning spaces – many schools are doing amazing things – really thinking outside the square when it comes to designing the places we work in and we send our children to.

Another Elluminate session in Helen Otway’s “It takes a village” program continues the discussion on Learning spaces, Learning Paradigms and Learning Cultures.  This time, it was Greg Whitby (Executive Director of Schools, Catholic Education Office, Diocese of Parramatta) turn to lead the discussion and inspire thoughts about defining the business of schooling.
Once again, it was thought provoking and I struggle to paraphrase or summarise the discussion successfully. I have been re-thinking the following key phrase from Greg’s presentation.

“Who learns what, with whom, when and where” basically, this refers to the altering nature of the relationship between learners, teachers and the wider world.

Other points of note from Greg’s presentation which tie into the above statement:
• School is no longer the centre of learning
• Teaching in the 21st century is more difficult than in the 20th century
• We can no longer rely on a ‘one size fits all’ mentality
• Teachers need to improve their reflective practices and constantly review and react. They need to step back and ask questions of the learners. What do you want to learn and how?
• Teaching needs to be de-privatised and learning needs to personalised

The aspect of de-privatising teachers is interesting – I believe that the numbers of teachers who are blogging and tweeting shows that many are already on that path. Indeed, the attendance at an Elluminate session is evidence of this too. They (we) have realised that there are enormous benefits to be gained by exposing ourselves (be nice) to the world beyond our classrooms and indeed beyond our schools. The power of the PLN – much written about is expanding exponentially. Personally, I will admit that despite attendance at a variety of professional development courses and ‘network’ meetings, these face to face opportunities pale when compared with the value of my on-line network. I know, face to face is important, but in reality, I will never be face to face with a Principal in Canada, wonderful teachers in other part of my city or state or a volunteer teacher in Sri Lanka. Therefore, our learning spaces have changed as to those of the children we teach.

Once again, I posed the question to the group. “How do we embark on the learner centred, open style classroom when we are confined by the bricks walls surrounding one teacher and 25 kids model?” The response came from the chat from Pru “It is the learning space between the ears that makes the difference”

Thanks, I think you summed it up – but of course that leaves the question “How do change people’s thinking when they don’t see the need to change or are too restrained by fear to look around?”

What if your classroom was a stage?

I just participated in another wonderful Elluminate session – part of a series titled ‘It takes a Village – learning cultures, paradigms and spaces”
Today’s presenter was Steve Collis (Twitter ID @steve_collis) from Northern Beaches Christian School, in Terrey Hills, Sydney, Australia.   I apologise if I paraphrase incorrectly.

Steve believes that the learning spaces in schools should invite students to be creative and speak out.  The teacher’s role is as facilitator in the de-regulated space.  After showing us his amazing new learning space he asked us to consider classrooms in a different light –   What if your classroom was a stage ?


My first thought was – “If it was a stage – we can be whoever we want to be”
Others contributed :
CW: “If a stage, students are expected to improve, not just do their best job the first time…they practice and practice until they get it right and are ready for the “performance””
GM: “There should be a sense of expectation, excitement, anticipation”
I loved this analogy – Steve believes that classrooms need disrupting. He talked about how the use of Virtual spaces (online learning and publishing) can disrupt the real space.
I think this is the key to the people who say that they can’t alter their teaching while they are restrained by the old-fashioned classroom buildings, which are the reality for many of us. Even if we are not all blessed with the infrastructure of NBCS, we can make inroads into change that open the doors to the world outside. The opportunities are enormous –from simple publishing poems on-line to tweeting and skyping and much more complicated on-line projects.
In the chat conversation, I asked how to gain an audience for children’s work and it was mentioned that if only 3 people read a poem published on a blog it was probably one or two more than would have read the poem if it sat in an exercise book in the classroom.  So true – and imagine the strength of the experience when that child knows that someone else read their work and liked it.
I look forward to the rest of this series –‘ It takes a village’ and thank Helen Otway the organiser.