Friday, July 25, 2014

Transforming Learning Spaces (2 of 2)

Our society typically views bigger as better.  We also prefer more, rather than less.  What am I referring to?

I often meet educators that think money and space are the key factors in creating the most optimal learning environment.  I believe this mentality is off base.  I will admit that I've had that belief in the past, but I have learned through the years that even small spaces can lead to amazing outcomes.

Last week I shared some takeaways from #NerdCampMI and I began discussing learning spaces in this post Transforming Learning Spaces (1 of 2).  It should come as no surprise that Learning Spaces is a hot topic.  Educators around the country have adjusted their thinking about student learning.  The focus is centered on relationships, teamwork, student choice and movement. Essentially the space should reflect the culture and learning you aim for in your classroom.

Classroom Design is not a new topic.  What I'm sharing is not groundbreaking, but I will say that I have witnessed a profound shift in classroom design over the past few years.  The shift has coincided with three things:

1.  The Common Core:  As educators around the country shift to CCSS the importance of differentiation takes on a greater significance.

2.  Technology:  Increased classroom technology has brought the need of flexible spaces to the forefront.

3.  Project Based Learning/Genius Hour:  Teachers are transitioning to Facilitators, the "teacher-centric" way of conducting class no longer fits the demands of the current classroom.  Many educators are re-designing with a focus on collaboration and movement.

With all that being the foundation, now let's get to the challenge.  Several weeks ago I began working with +Erin Klein and +A.J. Juliani in an effort to inspire and motivate educators to transform learning spaces. The intent is truly student-centered.  Our students crave a new learning environment.  One that will allow freedom, exploration and creativity. 

Here is the challenge, if you choose to accept!

We have launched the website ClassroomCribs
Check out the website and then...

Between August 14th and September 14th - 
Create and Share a 3-minute (or less) video of your learning space detailing the setup, aesthetics, function and overall rationale.

This is what is preferred:

*  Before & After pics/video - please have the video in a URL so it can be posted
*  250 word (or less) rationale of the space
*  Bio of the teacher

We also encourage educators to share pics and videos on twitter using the hashtag #classroomcribs

Your videos will be on the website and Youtube channel to help inspire educators!

You may be wondering, what is in it for me?  First and foremost it is a chance to reshape learning.  If you are anything like me your classroom is a second home.  Shouldn't you feel happy and proud of your space?  Second, there is a panel of judges that will choose the best designs. Check out the website for more information on this aspect.  Third, this isn't just for teachers.  We strongly encourage all educators to re-design their spaces.  That includes librarians, administrators, name it! The goal is to focus on pedagogy and brain based theories...not just the cutesy stuff.

Still have questions?  Check out Erin's video for the #SummerLS

Finally, I can't say it enough...our students desire learning environments that promote creativity.  I challenge you to sit in your classroom, if you were a student how would you feel?  Is it time to re-design?

Articles Worth Reading:

Do You Wanna Play? @Jonharper70bd

Videos Worth Watching:

For the Heroes! (4 min) shared by @bethhill2829

Meet Mighty George! (7 min)

Food Labels?  This will make you laugh! (5 min)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Transforming Learning Spaces (1 of 2)

Last week I attended #nErDcampMI and the electric atmosphere was contagious!  I was working one of the check-in areas on the first day and at approximately 11:30am I looked up to witness dozens of educators collaborating, connecting and sharing stories.  I was proud to be an educator and I was also proud to be a part of #nErDcampMI.  This year #nErDcampMI moved to the Western School District where I am an administrator.  The event took place in our newly re-designed high school.  I was impressed with the use of space and the opportunities for people to gather in groups.  Some of the best parts of #nErDcampMI were the scenes of educators gathering together.

During #nErDcampMI inevitably I reflected on what I was hearing and learning.  Several topics came up frequently.  These were my big takeaways from #nErDcampMI:
1)  The importance of building relationships with your students and tapping into their interests as learners and readers.
2)  Incorporating some level of choice in student reading, writing and learning.  As educators we can still narrow the scope, but choice creates intrinsic learning.
3)  Educators should be modeling and sharing more.  Let students see what you are reading and talk to your students about the book.  
4)  Embrace technology in the learning environment...unfortunately this still exists in our classrooms...

All of that was wonderful, the discussions were engaging, productive and thoughtful.  But there was one more topic that really caught my interest...

5)  Classroom Learning Spaces!  Teachers were openly discussing getting rid of student desks, teacher desks and transforming learning spaces to best meet the needs of students.

What I enjoyed most about these conversations was the simple fact, it wasn't about the cutesy was centered on pedagogy and student learning.  I consistently heard educators talking about open spaces and having the ability to meet the changing needs of their students.  The conversations were fantastic!  As an administrator I enter several classrooms each day and I see the benefits of well organized, student friendly learning spaces.

What happened after #nErDcampMI was ironic.  Within days I was contacted by +Erin Klein and +A.J. Juliani about doing a post on Classroom Learning Spaces.  Then I read a post by my friend +Nicholas Provenzano his post is titled: NerdySpaces 

This really got my wheels spinning.  This is the ideal time of the year for educators to redesign classroom learning spaces.  As I wrap up this post I will leave you with a couple of things to think about - 

First, classrooms must be hinged around student learning.  Is the space student-friendly and flexible in meeting the diverse needs of our students?

Second, classrooms should be interactive, creative and adaptive.  Does the space allow for communication and collaboration?

Finally, is your learning space teacher-centric or student-centric?  Have you ever asked the students how they feel in the space?

Next week I will be focused squarely on Learning Spaces and I will share an exciting challenge that begins in August.  Stay tuned for part two...

Articles Worth Reading:

Videos Worth Watching:

Re-Designing the Classroom Experience (8 min)

Finish Line... (8 min)

RE2PECT! (2 min)