Monday 17 April 2017

Redesigning our Learning Spaces

Our Learning spaces at IGBIS need an update
 Even though we are a new school many of our classes still look like a classroom from 20 years ago. We don't have any really innovative teaching spaces. Some of our rooms including the library and art room are very cool, functional and flexible. 

Some of them are just plain drab and boring.

Learning spaces are something I have been thinking about a lot lately.  I have lots of ideas, I read lots of articles and have visited (and photographed) schools with innovative and cool learning spaces. hopefully we can  move forward with getting some 21st century learning spaces at IGBIS. The new boss is very receptive to looking at our learning spaces, after chatting with him we thought any redesign should be a collaborative process, including all stakeholders.  The challenge was how to go about collaborating to plan new learning spaces.

I attended a workshop at Learning 2 last year led by Victor Boulanger on using the Stanford Design Thinking Process in schools to solve problems. I also attended a session at Deep Learning (KL) on using the Design thinking Process to design curriculum. I also would have liked to attend this session by Sarah Phoenix at Deep Learning on learning spaces, but circumstances didn't allow it. While talking to a few people at school, we thought we would try using the design process with a group of students and teachers to plan some new learning spaces.

We invited interested staff and asked them to nominate two students each to form a working teams to redesign a learning space in the school. It could be a classroom, hall way or common area. We sold the process as a brainstorming process that could actually happen. We then planned out five sessions / workshops / working times

1. Introduction to the Stamford Design Process 
2. Revisit the Process focussing on empathy and creating a problem / challenge statement
3. Work in teams to ideate a new learning space
4. Prepare the presentation / pitch of the new learning space
5. Pitch the learning space to a panel of peers and stakeholders

These sessions are to be held during school lesson times and after school.

So far we have completed part 1 and 2

I gave a bit of content on what to look for when thinking about learning spaces including the three metaphors for learning spaces
For a more detailed explanation see this document from Thornburg campfires in cyberspace

Then using the crash course guide from the Stamford Design Process website, we worked through this document  in pairs with participants designing a new learning space. Participants had to pair up with someone who was not from their team.

It worked really well, this is the second time I have used this crash course with staff and the first time I used it with students, both time I was impressed with the response from the participants. I empathised the importance of the empathy stage multiple times. 

People really like being listened to and having just 3-4 minutes of someone really listening to you and focusing on your wants and needs is very empowering with lots of positive feedback from teachers and students.

We didn't finish the design process (we ran out of time) but the participants had a good introduction and got a feel for what was coming up.

Session 2
Revisit the Process focussing on empathy and creating a problem / challenge statement

Here we split into our teams one teacher and two students per team and used the same document to work through the design process.

We then revisited the three metaphors for learning spaces.
Each team chose a learning space that they wanted to change, they worked through the first two steps of the Design Process, Empathy and Define.

Here teams interviewed each other and then chose a few other people (outside of the team) to interview with the intention of really empathising with the client (person they were interviewing). We gave them a list of open ended questions and emphasised the point of telling stories and listening. They then had to generate their problem / challenge statement and bring it to the next session.
This was a shortened session, but there was a lot of passion and energy once the teams finally picked a learning space (one team we had to guide and offer suggestions for their learning space). We could have done with more time but teams really started to get a feel for what sort of things   

Next week we will be researching and working in our teams to start designing our new learning spaces.

We have made lots of progress and the design process is working well, it gives us a structure and a way to collaborate where everyone is an equal (can sometimes be hard when students work with teachers) and gives us focus for our end product.

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