You want to prepare your students for the future with skills that will last a lifetime? But are you adequately preparing them in your current classroom learning environment? My journey will show you just how easy it is to transform your learning space into one that is designed for the twenty-first century!
How Schools Started
Have you ever really thought about why traditional classrooms were set up the way they were and whether it is actually relevant to students now? Sir Ken Robinson’s Changing Education Paradigms RSA animate, changed my world as a teacher forever. I came to realise that the current system of education was designed and modelled on the Industrial Revolution - where manufacturing processes led to economic growth. Bell times, specialised areas/subjects and children educated in ‘batches’ by ‘date of manufacture’.
Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod describe our digital twenty-first century world as “exponential” in their original video Shift Happens. “We are currently preparing students for jobs and technologies that don’t yet exist . . . in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.” In this fast paced technologically driven society, as Jan Owen explains, employers increasingly demand workers who can communicate, collaborate, think critically and creatively, solve challenging problems and who are digitally literate. Yet employers are finding it more and more difficult to find the right graduates. Why is that? Paul Corrigan emphasises the need “to shift from facilitating learning to developing learners.”
Don’t get me wrong, teachers know how essential it is to develop twenty-first century skills in order to succeed in an information age, but transforming a classroom into a flexible learning space makes it a whole lot easier for students to develop these skills! We all know that most great learning happens in groups, so why not transform classrooms to allow students to build essential skills that will ensure their success? High flying companies seemed to have worked it out. The Commonwealth Bank and Google are leaders in this area. Flexible learning spaces increase productivity, engagement and creativity. So why not schools?
My Journey My Classroom
Step 1: Understanding the Purpose for Change
So what inspired me to make a change to my classroom? Understanding why classrooms were set up the way they were was my first step and it really left me asking myself some tough questions:
* How does my classroom learning environment promote collaboration?
* Do my students communicate effectively during group tasks?
* Are they using their creativity to their full potential?
* Are they flexible and adaptable learners?
When I began to observe my students and reflect on my teaching practices to answer these questions honestly, I realised that I had some work to do. Yes, I was providing them with opportunities to work more closely with technology. Yes, I assigned group projects and provided problem solving tasks, but something wasn’t right. After carefully observing my students, I realised that they weren’t really communicating or working collaboratively to build on each other’s ideas. Give or take the odd few, they were just sitting together at tables, all working on their own, absolutely oblivious to what their team mates were doing. No group strategy or communication behind it! I couldn’t believe it! It was a total time waster!
Then it hit me like a tonne of bricks! My mind was racing. How can these kids communicate and collaborate when they can’t even see what their peers are working on? How can they hear, share, show, model and explain when they are across the other side of the table? The desks! The chairs! They were acting as barriers! I knew it had to change but I didn’t know how to do it. So I did what all good teachers do - network! I asked around and found some schools that were embracing flexible learning spaces and asked my principal if I could visit to see them in action. There began my journey.
Step 2: Visiting Classrooms with Transformed Learning Spaces