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)


  1. Great blog post, Ben, and something that I have been thinking about for a while. I've got a blog post rattling around in my head... I guess it's time to write it! I've been thinking about high school classrooms, specifically, and how some are student-centered, some are teacher-centered, and some have literally nothing in the room to inspire students (or the teacher, for that matter.) I believe that a person's surroundings influence creativity, mood, learning, and more. I think there is more work to be done in this area! Thanks for sharing, and I'm looking forward to reading Part 2!

  2. Great post, as always, Ben! I have to be honest: the first 4 points you raise as recurring themes are ones I feel pretty confident about discussing. The final point is one we are just now tackling, in my opinion, and one I need to start thinking--and learning--way more about---kudos to you for leading the way on this! I look forward to Part 2.

  3. Ben I think this is so important and yet so often we neglect to make it a priority. I know that I myself work better depending upon the environment and I'm certain children do as well. The edcamp experience you had sounds awesome and I can't wait to attend my first one in October. I just finally read Teach Like A Pirate last week and I love the way Dave uses the environment in his classroom to generate enthusiasm! Great piece and I look forward to part 2.

  4. Excellent post, Ben! We need to consider alternative learning spaces. We stick to traditional school furniture because it is what we have always done. Thinking out of the box and getting student input can assist us in creating stronger learning environments where all kids feel comfortable.