What if students could design their own learning spaces?
I’ve been traveling the country speaking on the power of a student’s voice in his or her own educational experience along with the need for transforming learning spaces in today’s schools. Both topics are very important to me not only for my own passion as an educator, but as a parent of two children. I’ve personally seen the impact a learning space can have on a child’s experience within the classroom. Additionally, I’ve been fortunate to have my children surrounded by caring educators who value the importance listening to students. This week I have the pleasure of speaking at Blackboard World in D.C.
When I arrived at Blackboard World, I knew the first stop I had to make, the student maker space. Blackboard invited students from all ages to participate in a day of creating their ideal learning environments. The company partnered with the Smithsonian to provide resources and guides to help facilitate the activities. Children would rotate between 5 stations throughout the day – each station lasting roughly thirty minutes.
Students were over the moon to be able to design and create together using 3-D printing capabilities. One boy especially caught my attention. I think seven-year old Joshua said it best, “I like 3-D printing because I get to take something from my imagination and make it come to life.”
I was thrilled to see that all mediums were being utilized… not simply digital devices. The craft station encouraged students to gather inspiration for their learning spaces from books, magazines, and other print materials. It was interesting to see that snacks, animals, choice, and comfort were among the priorities for these kids. I couldn’t agree more!
Many children expressed a desire to listen to music as they worked with one another. This was a station that took me a bit by surprise. I have never really considered sound in relation to design. Of course, I’ve considered sound regarding special needs and audio resources. However, for productivity and enjoyment, I haven’t thought too much about this regarding classroom design. Yet… when I think of myself as a learner, one of the first things I do to get ready as I set up my laptop is to grab a cup of coffee and turn on Pandora. So, I could see the importance of creating a holistic creative space that meets all desires when developing an ideal learning space. These learners were working together in Garage Band to create sounds for their spaces.
The LEGO station was certainly one of the favorites for all the children. There’s something about just being able to play and design. They loved seeing their designs come to life as they worked with one another. What I loved seeing was the vast amounts of open floor space they left in their design. They expressed the need for flexibility in their learning environment – yes!
Students were given cameras and asked to walk around the conference venue capturing vignettes and ideas that were inspiring when considering their design. What a great idea!
How would your students design their spaces?