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Modern learning spaces & collaboration

Albany Senior High School (1)

I read this blog post from the CORE Education blog Modern Learning Environments: Not ‘any colour as long as it’s black’ and the second part of it headed up Teacher learning really got me thinking.

Firstly, a disclaimer: I have never taught in a modern learning space. These are simply my thoughts and observations from what I have seen, read and heard.

I imagine, although I cannot be certain that probably 95% or more of schools in New Zealand do not have modern learning spaces (I would love someone to tell me that I’m very wrong about this!). There could be a number of reasons for this, but I imagine that the most likely is that most of our schools are aging, and the funding that they receive for building and maintenance does not enable them to modernise across the school very quickly – they either have to do one or two classrooms or a block at a time, or try to do a little bit across all/many classrooms. I have a little bit of experience as a Board of Trustees member and when it comes to buildings there seems to be a balancing act between these classrooms must be replaced now and let’s be fair across everyone and upgrade a part of every classroom so that it’s consistent across the school. I believe many of our schools simply haven’t been given a real opportunity to update themselves, so unless you’re in a brand new school, chances are high that you’re teaching or learning in silos – in individual classrooms separated from one another by four walls.

It has been my observation that sometimes (certainly not always the case) these classrooms become a certain teachers domain, and although some are willing to collaborate, often collaboration does not occur at the level perhaps needed/desired.

Interestingly, I have also observed in online “classrooms”, in what could be considered a modern learning space, that we talk a lot about how collaboration and interaction can occur with students but seem to do little of it with teachers. The technology we are using to run these online classes is set up for communication and interaction but it appears often that only goes as far as our students. Yes, I am generalising, and I’m sure those that are reading this blog are collaborating with other teachers in a variety of ways, however I know this is not always the case.

I strongly believe that if we have these expectations of our students, then we as teachers need to be doing it too. We need to collaborate with teachers in our schools and build professional networks to learn, to grow and to inspire us. We need to do what we can to move out of the comfortable silos that we we have grown accustomed to and share our experiences with our colleagues.

This year I have started team-teaching online with two other teachers. It’s going to be an interesting journey as we bare all in how we teach and interact online. I think it will be good for all of us because we are having to be open and because we are able to learn from each other. We have no choice but to work together.

 

BTW: The CORE Ed blog is well worth following if you don’t already.

Image: Albany Senior High School By 4nitsirkKristina D.C. Hoeppner – flickr.com

5 thoughts on “Modern learning spaces & collaboration

  1. Like what you are saying, Nathaniel, and collaboration is they key. We all need PLNs, personal learning networks.It does require a mindshift away from the old systems.
    Very first thing to do is join the VLN ….Facebook for teachers!

  2. Great post Nathaniel,
    I agree that many schools have not had the opportunity to update themselves or in some cases the updating has been done for schools by an architect and the school has had little impact. I have had the opportunity to see a couple of the newer schools in Auckland in action (Albany Senior College and Stonefields) and was truly inspired. The two things that they had, which most schools do not have, is the new environment, furniture and bells and whistles, but more importantly, they also have a staff who are all on the same page and are 21st century learning focused.
    I believe that you can create a modern learning environment in any classroom if you really want to by using furniture creatively, rooms within rooms, breakout spaces and such, but the thing that is not easy to create is the shift in teaching mindset that you need to take in order for these spaces to make a difference to the learning of the students.
    It is a really tricky question and I do not know if there is an easy answer. My plan of attack is to start small with me and hopefully prove that it is effective and get others to begin to make changes too.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I think your method of working with what you’ve got and showing others what can be done is a very good move. That shift in mindset is very difficult to do even for young/new teachers I believe. It’s often easy to fall back into what was modeled when we were at school because that’s what we know.

      As a science teacher (although not currently in a face-to-face classroom) I wonder how a traditional lab situation could be adapted into a modern learning space when we have fixed lab benches etc around the room.

      Cheers
      Nathaniel

  3. …and also strict lab safety precautions. Maybe the lab environment might not change so much, but the learning walls could be removed. It has been half my life since I sat in a High School science lab, but remember that It was not all experiments and explosions. If I remember one teacher it was OHP after OHP and 2 hours a week were spent copying. I know that things have changed since then, but maybe the learning environment could take a cyber twist? Edmodo for learning discussions or Google sites to share lesson plans and notes with students so that lessons are about doing and making connections?

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