Making every seat the best seat in the house

how do you want students to feel when they enter your learning space?

That was one of the provocations Maija Ruokanen asked our Learning Spaces committee at UWCSEA East today.

As the former director of professional learning at NIST, Maija has a wealth of experience when it comes to transforming environments.  Take a look at her blog to see the phenomenal work she did in Thailand. Here’s quote from her design philosophy:

Many of today’s learners are self-directed, sophisticated global citizens with opinions and experiences beyond their years – and they want their views and voices to be heard! When designing modern learning environments, pedagogical research and students’ voice need to lead the way. For the spaces to meet the needs of the learners, the design needs to be based on latest research on learning.

We made space and time to think about the story our school tells through the lens of structure, space, and furniture.  We also completed a classroom makeover in an hour, processed through Maija’s formula of looking for collaboration, culture, community, agency, and alignment with our learning principles.

Many schools are familiar with LOOKING FOR LEARNING…but how often do we look for learning spaces?

Image Courtesy of Pexels

Image Courtesy of Pexels

During the learning with Maija, I’ve been inspired to develop the following checklist to use with high school colleagues:

1) What words would you MOST like students to associate with a learning space for your course and why?noun_878495_C82606

2) Where do you see a reflection of student wellbeing within your classroom design?

3) What unites the space? What could pull the room together? (for more on this, listen to this interview with Paula Guinto)

4) Do the students have access to carefully curated resources which are regularly updated? (Is there a TOK mobile library which links best to your content?) (Do you feature an article of the month?) (Which learning extensions could you rotate within your department?)

5) Does the ‘teacher space’ dominate too much of the physical space in the room?

6) If you asked another teacher to look at your learning space, what would most ‘wow’ them, and why?

7) If you asked a team of colleagues to make-over your room, what two pieces of furniture would they likely remove? Why?

8) Which learning space on your campus MOST inspires you and why?

Maija says all teachers are experts on learning spaces

And to a certain extent, she is right.  Most people reading this have spent thousands of hours inside learning environments.  One of the things that MOST inspired me from our session with Maija is her reminding us that each and every space on campus has the potential to be a learning space. Instead of seeing ‘hallways’ try to shape rivers where learning can flow in and out of your classroom.  She prompted us to see the emotional spark that can happen when we intentionally model our spaces after our learning values and principles.

For a small sampling of Maija’s brilliance, here’s a 17-minute podcast episode which brings her from our space to yours:

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  1. Paula Baxter
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